postcolonialism
East is East
post(-)colonialism
• With or without a hyphen
– post-colonialism (chronological separation)
– postcolonialism (no chronological separation)
• –ity or –ism
– postcoloniality (the object of study)
– postcolonialism (the theory)
colonialism
• “The historical process whereby the ‘West’ attempts
systematically to cancel or negate the cultural difference
and value of the ‘non-West’” (Leela Gandhi, 1998)
– colonial critique  deals with imperialistic views
– post-colonial criticism  examines the effects of
imperialistic views in postcolonial societies
• Postcolonial criticism  a set of theoretical and critical
strategies used to examine the culture, literature, politics,
history, of former colonies
– it embraces no single method or school
postcolonialism
• questions the effects of empire
• raises issues such as racism and exploitation
• assesses the position of the colonial or postcolonial subject
• offers a counter-narrative to the long tradition
of European imperial narratives
postcolonialism  poststructuralist
questioning
• How did the experience of colonization affect those who were colonized
while also influencing the colonizers?
• How were colonial powers able to gain control over so large a portion of
the non-Western world?
• What traces have been left by colonial education, science and technology
in postcolonial societies?
• What were the forms of resistance against colonial control?
• How did colonial education and language influence the culture and
identity of the colonized?
• What are the emergent forms of postcolonial identity after the departure
of the colonizers?
• To what extent has decolonization (a reconstruction free from colonial
influence) been possible?
• Should decolonization proceed through an aggressive return to the precolonial past
• How do gender, race, and class function in colonial and postcolonial
discourse?
• Are new forms of imperialism replacing colonization and how?
two sides of colonialism
• the militaristic side (the physical conquest and
occupation of territories)
• the civilizational side (the conquest and
occupation of minds, selves, and cultures)
→ Colonialism does not end with the end of
colonial occupation
→ Resistance begins before the end of colonial
occupation
when, where, and why
“When exactly does the postcolonial begin? ‘When third world
intellectuals have arrived in the first world academe’” (Arif Dirlik)
The diaspora experience
Edward Said
• moved colonial discourse into the
first world academy and into
literary and cultural theory
• was also very influential in third
world universities (esp. in India)
Gayatri Spivak
• “Can the Subaltern Speak” (1988)
• “My position is generally a
reactive one. I am viewed by
Marxists as too codic, by
feminists as too male-identified,
by indigenous theorists as too
committed to Western Theory. I
am uneasily pleased about this.
Said: Orientalism (1978)
• “Orientals or Arabs are thereafter shown to be
gullible, “devoid of energy and initiative, “much given
to “fulsome flattery, “intrigue, cunning and
unkindness to animals; Orientals cannot walk on
either a road or pavement (their disordered minds fail
to understand what the clever European grasps
immediately, that roads and pavements are made for
walking); Orientals are inveterate liars, they are
“lethargic and suspicious,” and in everything oppose
the clarity, directness, and nobility of the Anglo-Saxon
race.” (38-39)
Said: Orientalism
• “These contemporary Orientalist attitudes flood the
press and the popular mind. Arabs, for example, are
thought of as camel-riding, terroristic, hook-nosed, venal
lechers whose undeserved wealth is an affront to real
civilization. Always there lurks the assumption that
although the Western consumer belongs to a numerical
minority, he is entitled either to own or expend (or both)
the majority of the world’s resources. Why? Because he,
unlike the Oriental, is a true human being.” (108)
emergence
• An aftermath of the end of colonial
occupation after WW2 and the emergence of
independent states
• A result of the focus on marginality in
academic discourse (poststructuralism,
deconstruction, postmodernism)
theoretical background
• Marxism
– critique of society
– base/superstructure and ideology
– literature and the humanities as related to
economic structures
• Poststructuralism
– Foucault (‘discourse’ as a structure of power,
power is everywhere, knowledge is power)
methods
• Challenging the canon
– re-reading Western literature
– emergent literatures
– focus on difference
• Essentialism is most commonly understood as a belief in
the real, true essence of things, the invariably and fixed
properties which define the ‘whatness’ of a given entity…
Importantly, essentialism is typically defined in
opposition to difference (Diana Fuss, Essentially
Speaking, xi, xii)
methods
• read Western literature from the colonial
period
• study how texts construct authority →
authority is artificial
• articulate a political aim
Stuart Hall
• born in Jamaica,
Kingston, 1932
• studied at Oxford
• professor of sociology
at the Open University,
UK
• Race: the Floating
Signifier
– on race (cut)
identity (S. Hall)
• “Identity is the narrative, the stories which
cultures tell themselves about who they are
and where they came from”
(S. Hall, “Negotiating Caribbean Identity”).
(see East is East trailer)
identity (S. Hall)
• “…identity is not only a story, a narrative which we tell
ourselves about ourselves, it is stories which change with
historical circumstances. And identity shifts with the way in
which we think and hear them and experience them. Far from
only coming from the still small point of truth inside us,
identities actually come from outside, they are the way in
which we are recognized and then come to step into the place
of the recognitions which others give us. Without the others
there is no self, there is no self-recognition”
(Negotiating Caribbean Identity, 8).
The European Encounter with the Americas
Western
• Clothed
• Fashion
• Labour
• Ethics
• Masculine
• Reason
• Culture
Americas
• Naked
• Adornment
• Leisure
• Pleasure
• Feminine
• Emotion
• Nature
Key points from Hall’s:
“The West and the Rest” in
Formations of Modernity, 1992
• ‘West’ and ‘non-West’ are concepts with histories;
they are not natural kinds
• The idea of the ‘West’ emerged because of contact
with ‘non-West’; therefore these ideas also have
geographies related to real places
• ‘West’ and ‘non-West’ are ideas that are part of
discourses
• These geohistorical discourses inform our everyday
thinking today
Homi Bhabha (1949)
• there is always ambivalence at the site of
colonial dominance.
• ambivalence constructed through: mimicry,
interstice, hybridity, liminality
• cultural production is always most
productive where it is most ambivalent. (The
Location of Culture (1994)
• the complex construction of difference and
sameness in the colonial relationship
centrally involves identification as well as the
crisis of identification, a complex, ambivalent
and often contradictory mode of
representation.
“mimicry”
• metaphor for a process of acculturation and
adaptation of imposed cultural concepts and
patterns by the colonized;
• a strategic adaptation by the colonized as a
subtle act of resistance.
• In its contradictions it unfolds the whole
ambivalence of the colonial discourse.
Of Mimicry and Man (Bhabha)
• “The discourse of mimicry is constructed around an
ambivalence; in order to be effective, mimicry must
continually produce its slippage, its excess, its
difference. Mimicry is, thus, the sign of a double
articulation; a complex strategy of reform,
regulation, and discipline, which 'appropriates' the
Other as it visualizes power.
• Mimicry is also the sign of the inappropriate,
however, a difference or recalcitrance which coheres
the dominant strategic function of colonial power,
intensifies surveillance and poses an immanent
threat to both 'normalized' knowledges and
disciplinary powers.“ (122-123).
“Listen Mr Oxford don”
Me not no Oxford don
me a simple immigrant
from Clapham Common
I didn't graduate
I immigrate
But listen Mr Oxford don
I'm a man on de run
and a man on de run
is a dangerous one
I ent have no gun
I ent have no knife
but mugging de Queen's English
is the story of my life
I dont need no axe
to split/ up yu syntax
I dont need no hammer
to mash up yu grammar
I warning you Mr Oxford don
I'm a wanted man
and a wanted man
is a dangerous one
Dem accuse me of assault
on de Oxford dictionary/
imagin a concise peaceful man like me/
dem want me serve time
for inciting rhyme to riot
but I tekking it quiet
down here in Clapham Common
I'm not a violent man Mr Oxford don
I only armed wit mih human breath
but human breath
is a dangerous weapon
So mek dem send one big word after me
I ent serving no jail sentence
I slashing suffix in self-defence
I bashing future wit present tense
and if necessary
I making de Queen's English accessory/to my offence
John Agard
cultural identity
• collective
– shared history among individuals affiliated by race
or ethnicity is stable or fixed
• unstable, metamorphic, contradictory
– marked by multiple points of similarity and
difference
– strongest in its hybrid mode
culture & globalization
•
the culture and experience of the diaspora – “in
the West but not of it” (Paul Gilroy)
–
•
•
•
•
•
focuses on the doubleness or double consciousness of
black subjectivity
doubleness
hybridity (Hall)
‘cultural intermixture’ (Gilroy)
“We’re all ethnics – to be American is to possess a
hyphenated identity” (Henry Louis Gates)
nations have no stable identity
theory
• Text: ‘Nomadic writing’ (Richard Stamelman) unstable, always
on the move, always in conversation with other texts
–
–
–
–
–
–
narrative (of) displacement and unfinishedness
narrative (of) imaginary home and symbolic re-turn
narrative (of) otherness
narrative (of) hybridity
dialogic, carnivalistic,
non-essentialist and non-logocentric narrative
• Text-context:
– the historical embeddedness of texts
– ‘(re)positioning’ of text in relation to context (Stuart Hall)
methods
• study of the literatures of displaced groups and
emerging diasporic communities, focussing on the
notions of ‘home’ and ‘foreignness’
• study of the relationship between ‘silenced’ and
‘hegemonic’ discourses in diasporic literary texts
• study of the forms of ‘resistance’ and ‘complicity’
within diasporic literature – e.g., Signifyin(g) (Henry
Louis Gates), strategic essentialism (Gayatri Spivak),
the new mestiza (Gloria Anzaldúa), double
consciousness (W.E.B. du Bois/Paul Gilroy)
concerns
• politics of position (Hall)
• politics of fulfilment (Gilroy): a future society
will realize what’s left unfulfilled by a present
society
• politics of transfiguration: the emergence of
new desires, social relations, and modes of
association
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