GAPS is the Gesellschaft für Anglophone Postkoloniale Studien (Association for Anglophone Postcolonial Studies). GAPS provides a network and professional forum for researchers, students, and teachers in the field, whether they are based at universities, schools, colleges, or other institutions. With a range of activities, events, publications, and communication platforms, GAPS offers support, information, research co-operation, and contacts for anyone interested in postcolonial issues across the disciplines, around the world.
Research and teaching of the New Literatures in English have been established at German-speaking universities since the 1970s. Since its formation in the late 1980s, the main focus of the Association has been on Anglophone literatures produced outside Britain and the United States but also in Britain in the context of Black and Asian British Studies. Hence its initial name: Association for the Study of the New Literatures in English (ASNEL). The range of World Englishes and the locations from which they operate have contributed to a more expansive understanding of English-speaking cultures and cultural productions which have acquired transnational contours, by virtue of colonial and postcolonial activities.
Due to the rising interest not only in literatures but also in postcolonial cultures, cultural productions and theorizing, the Association’s purview has encompassed transcultural, translocal, transdisciplinary and historical perspectives, initiated by more recent developments in Postcolonial Studies, which has made considerable inroads into traditional and canonical disciplines like English and American Studies.
This has raised, and continues to raise, new questions and perspectives about received knowledges and concepts in familiar, canonized literary fields and genres such as travel writing, autobiography, narrative theory, and even medieval English literature and Shakespeare studies, to name but a few. In view of this more complex understanding of postcolonial paradigms, the Association chose to rename itself in 2014 to Gesellschaft für Anglophone Postkoloniale Studien, or GAPS.
The Association’s main concerns involve the study of literary and cultural productions from numerous countries, cultures, and societies across the globe which have been shaped by historically divergent experiences of colonialism. With the rise and overseas expansion of European empires, entire regions or continents were dominated by foreign powers whose impact and influence often persisted beyond formal rule, and arguably continue, with transcultural and transnational changes. These developments extend into present-day globalized economies and cultures. Most notably, European cultural contexts and languages such as English have been transported to, imposed on and translated across non-European territories, where they have subsequently been adopted, transformed, or appropriated — often as one idiom among others — for communicative purposes, for literary production and other forms of cultural expression.
Scholars in the field of Postcolonial Studies recognize colonial, anti-colonial, neo-colonial and decolonial dimensions and contexts and are committed to investigating the premises and consequences of these. They explore transcultural negotiations in spaces which are, or have been at some point in their histories, contact zones. These come together in quite unpredictable patterns of consensus, cooperation, and conflict.
While this is particularly pertinent in Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific as well as the United States, European regions are no exception, especially at the margins of a dominant British culture as in Ireland, Wales or Scotland. In addition, emphasis and interest have grown in more specific spatial and political areas, for instance in urban and suburban spaces with social and ethnic minorities, in metropolitan locations like London — where, in the wake of post-independence migration from former colonies, diasporic communities constitute sites of cultural negotiation and translation — and more recently, in the refugee flows from the Global South into Global North spaces. In these contexts, Postcolonial Studies furnishes paradigms to interrogate questions of citizenship, social justice and cultural exclusion or integration, among others.
In terms of academic disciplines, postcolonial paradigms have proven highly relevant for the fields of linguistics, history, geography, ethnology, cultural anthropology, politics, religion, ecology, sociology, critical diversity and cultural studies. Through considerable overlaps with these fields, Postcolonial Studies shares their remit with regard to exploring power ideologies, differentials and operations, with respect to: diaspora studies, class and poverty studies, critical race and intersectionality theories, critical whiteness studies, gender and queer theories, as well as Indigenous and Global South studies.
Since 1989, GAPS has contributed to the consolidation and continued growth of Postcolonial Studies and cognate university programs by creating opportunities for dialogue through:
- annual conferences with the participation of numerous academics (international and homegrown) and writers from abroad;
- the publication of selected conference papers in the Association’s yearbook series;
- the Association’s newsletter Acolit, which informs members about new publications, lists university programs in Postcolonial Studies from German-speaking countries, alongside updates on conferences and other academic events and gatherings.
By facilitating dialogue between academics, students and authors/practitioners at its international forums, GAPS contributes to large-scale intercultural exchange and international interest in postcolonial cultures.
In its aims to continue enhancing its outreach and communicative exchanges, the Association is invested in fostering dialogue between researchers, students, teachers, authors, and artists from postcolonial contexts. In this, GAPS places equal emphasis on the politics as well as the poetics of Anglophone postcolonial literary and cultural productions.