Postcolonial Agency: Critique and Constructivism

By Simone Bignall | Go to book overview

2
Postcolonial Appropriations

At this point we leave Africa never to mention it again. For it is no historical
part of the world; it has no movement of development to exhibit… The
History of the World travels from East to West, for Europe is absolutely the
end of History, Asia is the beginning. (Hegel 1900: 99)

Our sense of critique is too thoroughly determined by Kant, Hegel and
Marx for us to be able to reject them as ‘motivated imperialists’… A
deconstructive politics of reading would acknowledge the determination
as well as the imperialism and see if the magisterial texts can now be our
servants
, as the new magisterium constructs itself in the name of the Other’
(Spivak 1999: 7; emphasis added).

Like other postcolonial theories, this work is concerned with the legacy of colonial dominance in the social relations and institutions of the present. Postcolonial theory has in fact developed in response to this basic problem, and might best be characterised as aiming to find an appropriate solution by conceptualising and evaluating methods for the transformation of societies and cultures shaped by colonialism. An important aspect of this project is the critical destabilisation and deconstruction of the cultural authority of the colonising subject. A second aspect is the conceptualisation of social transformation in terms of the political agency of the ‘subaltern’ classes, repressed by colonial rule and the imposition of colonial culture. Resistance to colonialism and continuing cultural imperialism is enabled by the identification of a collective, self-conscious and oppositional subjectivity. This political self-consciousness is asserted through counter-discourse and concrete action, working against the discourses that have been mobilised to justify the processes of colonisation and against the exclusive policies and social arrangements that reflect and reinforce the authority of the colonisers.

However, these two strategies – destabilising colonial subjectivity and affirming oppositional subjectivity – uneasily co-exist. In fact, they often conflict and are a source of debate across the fractured terrain of postcolonial theory. The difficulty is that the critical

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Postcolonial Agency: Critique and Constructivism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Introduction 1
  • I- Critique 27
  • 1- The Problem of the Negative 29
  • 2- Postcolonial Appropriations 60
  • 3- The Problem of the Actual 100
  • II- Constructivism 129
  • 4- Power/Desire 131
  • 5- Subjectivity 155
  • 6- What Is ‘Postcolonial’? 192
  • Conclusion- Postcolonial Agency 231
  • Bibliography 238
  • Index 253
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