Matters of Concern in V. S. Naipaul’s Enigma of Arrival

  • Sophy Kohler (Speaker)

Activity: Talks and presentationsConference presentations


This paper introduces some of my current research on how actor-network theory (ANT) may be used to better understand the complexity of transnational literary relations. Through a close reading of a selection of twelve novels of migration and a look at the networks in which these novels circulate, the greater project aims to show, pace Bruno Latour, how literature is able to translate “matters of fact” into “matters of concern”. This paper will consider just one of these novels: V. S. Naipaul’s semi-autobiographical Enigma of Arrival. Taking up Rita Felski’s suggestion that ANT can be effectively introduced to practices of comparison to avoid “imposing false equivalences and oppressive forms of homogenization” and responding to Meg Samuelson’s recognition of the need to “learn to read, again”, I will argue that Naipaul’s focus on land and landscape in the novel, as forms of attachment, illuminates one of the uses of literature: providing a way for the reader to access a particular (often foreign) experience. A rereading of Naipaul is therefore able to shed light on “how we read now” in a global context framed by a discourse that emphasises – and frequently maligns – difference, whether a difference in critical method or a difference of culture and identity.
Period4. Jun 2018
Event titleUses of Art and Culture
Event typeConference
LocationSønderborg, DenmarkShow on map


  • V. S. Naipaul
  • The Enigma of Arrival
  • Actor-network theory
  • Transnational literature
  • Postcritism
  • Migration