Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Colonial Gazing: The Production of the Body as "Other"

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Colonial Gazing: The Production of the Body as "Other"

Article excerpt

My turn to state an equation: colonization = "thingification."

--Aime Cesaire

Colonial power produces the colonized as a fixed reality which is at once an "other" and yet entirely knowable and visible.

--Homi K. Bhabha

The European has only been able to become a man through creating slaves and monsters.

--Jean-Paul Sartre

Some themes are written about as a way of countering various forms of historical elision. The process of remembering the horrors of colonial racism reminds us that, as Fanon (1963) argued, "When [we] search for Man in the technique and style of Europe, [we] see only a succession of negations of man, and an avalanche of murders" (p.312). The above three epigraphs point to an additional profound Fanonian truth: "European civilization and its best representatives are responsible for colonial racism" (Fanon. 1967, p. 90). The three epigraphs also point to a dynamic process of interpellation whereby the colonizer/colonized become fixed through processes of affirmation/negation, respectively. The logic of this racist form of colonial establishment precludes mutual recognition as equals. Indeed, the two elements or poles of this relationship are paradoxically at once mutually exclusive and yet mutually dependent. Through the process of ideological structuring, the colonizer and the colonized are deemed opposites in an ontologically hierarchical structural relationship. The former are deemed naturally superior and the latter are said to be naturally inferior and fit for domination. The reality, however, is that the construction of the inferior/ monstrous colonized is contingent upon the construction of the European as superior and non-monstrous. The colonized is fixed, because the colonizer does the fixing, and the "thingification" of the colonized is dialectically linked to the transcendent/master consciousness of the colonizer. What emerges is a dyadic relationship that is believed to be metaphysically fixed. "We go from biology to ethics, from ethics to politics, from politics to metaphysics" (Memmi, 2000, p. 174). The claim that the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized is metaphysically fixed and outside history is a position taken up "within the terrain of racialist ideology" (Fields, 1982, p. 144). To the extent that both Blacks (as colonized) and whites (as colonizers) become enslaved to this inferior-superior dialectic, they "behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation" (Fanon, 1967, p. 60).

In this article, my objective is to focus on the dynamics of colonialism "through the economy of its central trope, the Manichean allegory" (JanMohamed, 1986, p. 80), and how this allegory (dichotomy of black/bad, white/good) creates boundaries of inclusion and exclusion (Pieterse, 1992, p. 226). Although it is important to keep in mind that colonialism grew out of and was sustained by both material and discursive forces, I am less concerned with the politico-economic dimensions of colonialism than I am with the existential phenomenological aspects of how the colonizer and colonized undergo existential nullification through processes of white ideological discursive formations. I am interested in examining how white "colonial domination required a whole way of thinking, a discourse in which everything that is advanced, good, and civilized is defined and measured in European terms" (Kelley, 1972, p. 27). Hence, I am concerned with how colonialism, as a means of socially producing reality, shapes colonized bodies through powerful processes of inscription. In short, there is a violent geo-spatial dimension of colonial territorialization and a violent form of psycho-cultural territorialization, both of which are interwoven (Young, 1995, pp. 168-169). The latter is designed to place the colonized in a pathological relationship to him/herself. This is accomplished not simply through geo-spatial modalities of incursion and usurpation, but also through the process of getting the colonized, through processes of ideological inculcation, to internalize the stereotypic image in terms of which they are depicted by the colonizer. …

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