This complex work explores "constellations of encounters and evidence of import in various contexts, ranging from Oxford to the popular stage in Bombay and from North America's various negotiations of its putative European ancestries to Shakespeare's reception in Africa as compared with that in Europe and the Americas". "The esthetics and ethics involved in the collecting of (other) people's cultural property", cautions the author, "can be a complicated business. The rites and the rights of such collections are complex.... The power of any master(ing) text, and of its translatability, can therefore become occasion for faith or else for agnosticism, if not outright apostasy -- and this within as well as across cultural boundaries". Along the way, Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka's "Shakespeare and the Living Dramatist" no less than criticism from the pages of Shakespeare Quarterly are used "to foreground the ways of certain folk with Shakespeare, and Shakespeare's with them". Not the least of such concerns is the gender-infected question, "Whatever Happened to Caliban's Mother? Or, The Problem With Othello's", which "resonates in Shakespeare studies no less than in 'postcolonial' refigurations". It is within such contexts that "import is shown to matter in the esthetics of copy-writing, the economy of copyrighting, and the politics of reconstituting other people's cultural icons and monuments". We engage in such activities "under the threat of an erasure of identity", says Johnson; but then, "we also do so on a gradient of dissimilarity...along which we are forever falling away from or else toward each other". Finally, we engage in "attempts at transfiguration, in (the perhapsdesperate) anticipation that some measure of parity of esteem among cultures would at least be seen to have taken place". In the end, and whatever the issues, "they are likely to be urgently textured where one is inclined to find value in that Walter Benjamin 'philosophy of history' thesis: that 'cultural treasures' form part of 'the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate, ' since 'there is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism'".
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