White Mythologies: Writing History and the West

White Mythologies: Writing History and the West

White Mythologies: Writing History and the West

White Mythologies: Writing History and the West

Synopsis

In 1990, Robert Young's White Mythologies set out to question the very concepts of history and the West. Is it possible, he asked, to write history that avoids the trap of Eurocentrism? Is history simply a Western myth? His reflections on these topics provided some of the most important new directions in postcolonial studies and continue to exert a huge influence on the field. This new edition reprints what has quickly become a classic text, along with a substantial new essay reflecting on changes in the field and in the author's own position since publication.

An essential read for all those working in postcolonial theory, literature and history, this book cemented Young's reputation as one of the country's most influential scholars and, as a new preface by Homi Bhabha comments, made an original and invaluable intervention in the field, leading even the most established figures to rethink their own positions. Provoking further re-evaluation with the new introductory essay, this second edition will like its predecessor be a key text for every academic and student in the field.

Excerpt

A book emerges into the world, bow drawn and arrow taut, seeking to take a stand, focus on a point, and strike a target. Its analysis may be informed by a deep archive, its perspective shaped by the longue durée of history and theory, but at the moment of publication, the author wants to engage the critical circumstances of the 'present' and transform the balance of intellectual and ideological forces. We often acknowledge the efficacy of such an intervention by commenting on the 'originality' of the work, on the way it seems to 'seize the time' and confirm its conceptual mastery of the field. How does a book survive the passing of time? In our attention to novelty we tend to ignore another more sustaining quality of a work, something closer to its 'character'. For character often shows itself in ways that properly deflect attention from the 'uniqueness' of a work in order to point towards a writer's inclusive vision of historical and conceptual solidarity - the making of a field, the curating of a historical or theoretical archive, and the creation of a collaborative climate of opinion.

Robert J.C. Young's White Mythologies has splendidly survived the decade since it was first published because of its fine character. Having made a significant contribution to establishing the historical genealogy of postcolonial thinking, the book is now itself a document of historical and contemporary interest. Its strength of character lies, first, in its steadfast commitment to emphasizing the place of the colonial and post-colonial experience as central to the moral, textual and political economies of modernity and postmodernity. From such a radical, revisionary perspective emerges another quality of character which is Young's desire to create an affiliative community of interpretation and intervention such that 'postcolonialism as a theoretical discourse can operate as a kind of popular front for a whole range of different inter-related political movements…a new tricontinentalism or socialism of the South' (p. 30). The force of Young's argument - the foundational force of his work - comes from his critique of the historical and ideological prejudices of Eurocentric values that are concealed in formal, philosophical claims to 'universal'

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