TEXT AND SIGN. CAMELIA ELIAS Dept of Culture and Identity, English Program. postcolonialist/diaspora theories. session 4. post(-)colonialism. With or without a hyphen post-colonialism (chronological separation) postcolonialism (no chronological separation) –ity or –ism
TEXT AND SIGN CAMELIA ELIAS Dept of Culture and Identity, English Program
postcolonialist/diaspora theories session 4
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 post-colonial 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 pre-colonial 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. (TheLocation 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 immigrantfrom Clapham Common I didn't graduate I immigrate But listen Mr Oxford donI'm a man on de run and a man on de run is a dangerous one I ent have no gunI ent have no knife but mugging de Queen's Englishis the story of my life I dont need no axeto split/ up yu syntax I dont need no hammerto 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 assaulton 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 CommonI'm not a violent man Mr Oxford donI 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-defenceI 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