Academic journal article New Formations

Postcolonial Futures

Academic journal article New Formations

Postcolonial Futures

Article excerpt

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Other Asias, Maiden US, Oxford UK & Victoria, Australia, Blackwell, 2008, 365pp; £14.99 paperback.

Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Who Sings the Nation- State?: Language, Politics, Belonging, London, Seagull, 2007, 121pp; £9.99 hardback.

Gayatri Spivak's major new publication, Other Astas, ties the future of postcolonial studies to questions of democracy, human rights, and new ways of imagining the heterogeneous spaces of 'Asia' as a single, yet pluralistic, region. If the postcolonial imagination is to be oriented towards the future, Spivak suggests, it will have to work for the re-invention of collectivities in relation to state structures beyond identitarianism, nationalism and national sovereignty. This point is reinforced in the critical dialogue between Judith Butler and Spivak entitled Who Sings the NationState?, a small volume that addresses the problem of statelessness in the age of globalisation, and calls for 'postnational forms of political opposition' (p41). Spivak and Butler's insistence on the 'postnational' as the horizon for postcolonial thought differs somewhat from some of the positions taken in a recent instalment of this very journal, a special issue ?? new formations entitled 'After Iraq: Refraining Postcolonial Studies'. In their combative editorial, Priyamvada Gopal and Neil Lazarus strongly oppose the view that 'the downturn in the fortunes of insurgent anticolonial movements in the later 1960s and early 1970s' should be viewed as 'the definite, once-and-for-all historical eclipse of progressive nationalist and anti-imperialist struggle'.1 Pointing to Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Nepal and South Africa as current sites of 'resistance to imperialism', the drift of their rhetoric suggests an affirmation of nationalism in the name of liberation. A certain tension, then, remains over the question of the nation in the twenty-first century, of whether nationalism or, alternatively, some as yet unseen postnational form, will be capable of bringing about a situation where democracy and human rights may flourish.

For Spivak, the possibility of a 'postnational' future is tied up with existing state structures and nation-states; she wants, as it were, to detach (and do away with) the 'nation' from its hyphenated attachment to the 'state', since she regards the former as a predominantly malignant formation based on exclusion and 'identitarianism', whereas the latter is held up as the best guarantor of democracy, law and human rights. It is difficult to imagine, nevertheless, how state structures - however 'abstract' - do not also entail some form of identification and allegiance on behalf of their subjects, that is to say, another version of nationalism founded upon a more or less violent opposition between 'inside' and 'outside', 'natives' and 'aliens', 'citizens' and 'foreigners'. Spivak proffers what she calls 'critical regionalism' as the alternative to nationalist exclusiveness, the contours of which emerge most clearly in the concluding chapter of Other Asias. The inestimable and unevenly divided space called 'Asia' is not to be 'explained', she says, in broad strokes fit for an encyclopaedia definition, but rather re-imagined 'as one continent in its plurality' (p214). 'Today more than ever, "Asia" is uncritically regionalist', she says. It is imagined 'metonymically in terms of its own region, and sees as its other the "West," meaning increasingly, the United States' (p213). Such a mindset - 'my country or region over against "the West"' (p214) - fails to comprehend its complicity with the dominant projections of global geopolitics, and is thus incapable of imagining alternatives. Critical regionalism addresses the largely ignored question of how an inclusive welfare structure of shared laws, healthcare and education can be combined with open frontiers (p245). It calls on readers to imagine the possibility of 'a position without identity', a situation where collective action, solidarity and citizen participation might be possible, whilst always guarding against, on the one side, the logic of exclusion characteristic of nationalism and cultural identity and, on the other side, the more recent logic of class division under globalisation, that is, the emergence of a new global managerial class which, despite (or, more precisely, because of) philanthropy and social responsibility programmes, remains unaccountable to any democratic state structure in the regions they affect. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.