Multilingual Journal 'Traces' Reviews `Western Specter'

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), February 14, 2001 | Go to article overview

Multilingual Journal 'Traces' Reviews `Western Specter'


A multilingual academic journal, ``Traces,'' has been issued in Korean this month with the subtitle of ``the Western Specter and the Politics of Translation.''

The Japanese edition of the journal was published last October by Iwanami Shoten Publishers, and its English edition is due to be issued by Cornell University Press in March.

The underlying theme of the inaugural edition is, as its title and subtitle imply, how to understand the ``traces'' of Western culture and review the meaning of ``translation'' in the perspective of the comparative cultural theory.

For the contributors to the journal, including such internationally prominent scholars as Jacques Derrida of France, Gayatry Spivak of Columbia University and Karatani Kojin of Japan, there exists no West as a political, social, cultural and even cartographic reality, but ``traces, specters or imaginaries'' of the West.

One of the writers put the word ``West'' in quotes as a way of questioning its meaning.

``What we have customarily comprehended in terms of modernity and the `West' must be called into question precisely because the historicist schema of the world collapses and reduces the multiple emergence of modernities to the single overarching process of homogenization, of modernization that is immediately taken to be Westernization,'' says Prof.

Naoki Sakai of Cornell University in his introductory note to the nascent journal.

For Sakai, modernization is also an illusive term, ``The time of modernity is never unitary; it is always in multiplicity. Modernity always appears in multiple histories.''

He also criticizes the modernization theory on the grounds that it ``reduces modernity to modernization and equates modernization to Westernization, concluding that the ``representation of the world such schemata prescribe is hierarchically organized into the West and the rest, the modern and its others, and the white and colored.''

Such a perspective, similar to that of Jacques Derrida in refusing to admit the existence of the origin, is based on the recognition that cultural imperialism has distorted the relationship between the West and rest of the world.

``As a result of the centrifugal flow of information or civilization from the West to the rest under the imperialism, Westernization came to be wrongly recognized as modernization, itself. The main purpose of our project is to map out a fairer relationship between the West and the rest,'' said Prof. Kang Nai-hui of Chungang University in Seoul, one of the collective editors of the journal, in an interview with The Korea Times.

Prof. Kang, on the other hand, explores the ``traces'' of the modernization in terms of colonialism.

In his article, ``Mimicry and Difference: A Spectralogy for the Neo- Colonial Intellectual,'' Kang asserts that Korea is still haunted by the specter of colonialism and is now in a ``neo-colonial state.''

``South Korea has yet to overcome the trauma of its past as a Japanese colony, with the removal of the colonial legacy yet to be completed. …

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Multilingual Journal 'Traces' Reviews `Western Specter'
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