Uncertain Territories: Boundaries in Cultural Analysis

By Inge E. Boer; Mieke Bal et al. | Go to book overview

ELEVEN
Giving Life: Inge Boer’s Postcolonial Theory

Isabel Hoving

One morning, over coffee, Inge Boer asked me, bright-eyed and eager: “Who has been the main source of inspiration then, for your academic work?” For her, there was no doubt: it had always been Edward Said. He had inspired her in many aspects, especially in her desire to produce academic work that would also be socially and politically relevant. But her question betrayed another characteristic of her work: the fact that she took it for self-evident that our scholarly work would be fuelled by inspiration, passion and curiosity.

Remarkably, she assumed that not just her close colleagues and friends, with whom she shared a comparable theoretical drive, but all her colleagues, and even the writers, painters and travellers she studied, were motivated by desires and interests as ardent and complex as her own. In contrast to many of her fellow postcolonial scholars, instead of primarily criticizing the greed and desire for power in the projects of exploration and colonialism, she liked to emphasize the curiosity that drove travellers toward remote regions – “travel … is propelled by a curiosity about other cultures similar to the professional interest that inspires ethnographers” (Chapter Three). If this curiosity leads to efforts to master cultural otherness by capturing it in familiar categories, it will also produce layered texts and images that exceed and subvert their own categories.

This ambivalence opens up a space for self-reflection, and for the

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