Rethinking the Specter: Ama Ata Aidoo's Anowa

By Karavanta, Assimina | Mosaic (Winnipeg), December 2001 | Go to article overview

Rethinking the Specter: Ama Ata Aidoo's Anowa


Karavanta, Assimina, Mosaic (Winnipeg)


Il faut parler du Fantome, voire au fantome et avec lui, des lors qu'aucune ethique, aucune politique, revolutionnaire ou non, ne parait possible et pensable et juste, qui ne reconnaisse son principe le respectsur ces autres qui ne sont plus ou pur ces autres qui ne sont pas encore la, presentement vivants, qu'ils soient deja morts ou qu'ils ne soient pas encore nes.

Jacques Derrida, Spectres de Marx

The contemporary momentum is informed by the celebrated prophecy of a "global coming" that ensures peace in the world--with a few "necessary" interruptions of violence against the barbarian "others," who must be "corrected" for not abiding by the requirements of the global market. The paradox of global peace relying upon regional wars (the events in Kosovo and Bosnia constitute one of the most recent examples) demands that we, both the people living in "safe" territories as well as the ones living in "fragile areas," listen to the spectral silence becoming painfully audible in the thousands of the refugees, exiles, and displaced "others" who are proliferating out of the merciless fulfillment of capitalist and imperialist logic. These "others," presently absent and absently present, escaping representation at the same time that they are represented, repeat the problematic of belonging at a global moment that calls itself "post" (i.e., after the violence of the colonial mechanisms), revealing that this "post," this after, is an illusion. Thus, the "absent presence" of these "radical others" haunts the politics of our global "post" moment by unconcealing the failures of its unfulfilled prophecies with their spectral silence.

What is important in all the theoretical attempts to think the potential dynamics of the specter and to listen to its deluging silence is the impossibility of escaping the language of the centre, which sets the standards for the processes of representation and identification. To speak about the specter, therefore, is an impossible task. For the specter is "the marginal--the radical Other--that is either accommodated to or banished from the totalizing circle articulated by the concentering logos of Imperial metaphysics" (Spanos, Anatomy 195); it is what escapes representation (even when it appears to be fully represented) and is the performance of silence; it is the body of the unwanted "other," the body of the "unanswerable" one, who haunts the logic of the centre, demanding a rethinking of thinking, a rethinking of difference. Therefore, forgetting the silence of the specter means forgetting the "other," forgetting being itself. This forgetting implies the tendency to relax in the comfort that our "post" so euphorically promises and not contemplate the "other," whose exclusion, accommodation, or even violation feeds the illusion of this comfort.

But how does silence speak, and how can "we," the represented ones, listen to the "residue" of language, to what is not spoken but haunts the speaking in this age, which strives to portray the "all" in the "one"? The contemporary Western "post," manifested in the international liaisons of political, like the Economic Community, or strictly economic goals, like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, is so ubiquitous and the politics of portraying so pervasive that one wonders how a peripheral constituency--which does not belong but oscillates between presence and absence, not always acknowledged even when used as a tool by the centre--can continue to tiptoe on the fragile borders of being in the world. The question of silence cannot be answered but must be engaged with care, for an all-embracing answer can reduce the term "peripheral constituency" to another "umbrella" discourse for the non-represented.

In this essay, I contemplate the present global, postcolonial occasion in view of Ama Ata Aidoo's Anowa, and I do so in order to rethink the question of belonging, representation, and silence that the haunting politics of the specter provokes. …

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