A Poetics of Place in the World-System: West Coast Modernism and the Integration of Vancouver into the Global Economy


  • Stephen Morton University of Southampton


Poetics of place, Vancouver, TISH, Kootenay School of Writing, world-systems analysis, Peripheral modernism


Considerations of place and the local can help to shed light on the specific ways in which literature and culture have mediated the global process of accumulation and dispossession associated with the capitalist world-system. If social geography and world-systems analysis can help to map and historicise space and place in terms of a global history of capitalist expansion, literature can also help to make sense of the ways in which the unequal and uneven development of capitalist modernity is experienced, understood and contested in specific locations. By situating the West Coast avant-garde poetics associated with the literary magazine TISH and the Kootenay School of Writing in relation to Vancouver’s place in the changing global economic system, this essay considers how the local provides a provisional site for an anti-imperialist poetics that defamiliarizes global processes of capital accumulation and its economies of dispossession and exclusion. In so doing, it suggests that contemporary West Coast experimental writing can be read as a form of peripheral modernism that interrupts the uneven and unequal logic of capitalist modernity and invites readers to reflect on the historical forms of dispossession and exploitation associated with globalization.

Author Biography

Stephen Morton, University of Southampton

Stephen Morton is Professor in English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Southampton. He has taught and published articles on postcolonial literature, film and critical theory. His publications include States of Emergency: Colonialism, Literature, and Law (Liverpool University Press, 2013); Terror and the Postcolonial, co-edited with Elleke Boehmer (Blackwell 2009); Foucault in an Age of Terror (Palgrave 2008) co-edited with Stephen Bygrave; Salman Rushdie: Fictions of Postcolonial Modernity (Palgrave 2007); Gayatri Spivak: Ethics, Subalternity and the Critique of Postcolonial Reason (Polity 2006); and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Routledge 2003); as well as articles in Textual Practice, Public Culture, New Formations, Parallax, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Canadian Literature, The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory and Interventions: An International Journal of Postcolonial Studies.