Academic journal article Ethnic Studies Review

Ethics after Idealism

Academic journal article Ethnic Studies Review

Ethics after Idealism

Article excerpt

I am largely sympathetic to Rey Chow's stated purpose of bringing together cultural studies with critical theory. Chow is critical of the gap that has been created between the two. She accuses critical theorists of believing that theory is superior to cultural studies and suggests racialization is implicit in this claim. But her real ire is reserved for cultural theorists who, in the name of recognizing and celebrating "otherness," reject theory and idealize and thus reify non-Western cultures. She argues that we need to portray non-Western cultures with the same kind of complexity and theoretical analysis as Western cultures. This means that we have to be able to take a risk and critique these cultures, exploring what is exploitative, coercive, or manipulative in these so-called oppositional discourses. Chow refers to this as an "ethics" of cultural analysis. I agree with Chow that there is a version of cultural studies that is overly simplistic and reductionist, although I would hesitate to go so far as to say, as Chow does, that this is fascistic.

In order to avoid the idealism that she so descries, Chow suggests we apply critical theory to our analysis of non-Western cultures. She attempts to model this in the body of her text. She begins by giving an overview of the history of cultural studies, which I found helpful, and then through a reading of Slavoj Zizack and Gayatri Spivak she explores issues of ideology, deconstruction, naming, history, and politics. …

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