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What is Post Colonialism

What is Post Colonialism

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What Is Postcolonialism and Why Does It Matter: An African Perspective

The title of our communication is straight forward: What Is Postcolonialism and Why Does It Matter: An African Perspective. In other words, J will be talking about this new thing called "postcolonialism" and its relevance, indeed its necessity, for Africa. What I would add here is that I am approaching the question from the perspective of Church and theology. In so doing, I make the case for a new reformation of Church and theology in Africa. The current context mandates change, and this demand does not spare the Church of Christ on the African soil. It is a question of to be or not to be. So, what is postcolonialism? The concept is notoriously difficult to define. To begin with, "post-colonial" is used as a temporal marker referring to the period after official decolonization. 1 Yet, although much of what has come to be qualified as postcolonial does indeed belong to this period, postcolonialism has very little to do with period marking. Indeed, some of its most prominent theorists belong to the colonial era.2 It is no wonder then that in literary studies, postcolonialism has come to mean what used to be identified as Third World literature. Here the term is used to describe the conditions of migrant groups within First World states and serves to emphasize "oppositional reading practices, exposing the power relations constructing meaning in a given text."3 Over time, the postcolonialism has moved beyond the confines of both history (as a temporal marker) and literature (as a substitute for Third Word literature) to become a "general" theory about what Ania Loomba et al. call "the shifting and often interrelated forms of dominance and resistance; about the constitution of the colonial archive; about the interdependent play of race and class; about the significance of gender and sexuality; about the complex forms in which subjectivities are experienced and collectivities mobilized; about representation itself; and about the ethnographic translation of cultures."4

1 Susan Abraham, "What Does Mumbai Have to Do with Rome? Postcolonial Perspectives on
Globalization and Theology," Theological Studies 69 (2008): 376-93.

2 Such is the case with Franz Fanon, who has been co-opted as a postcolonial thinker, Edward
Said, and others.

3 Abraham, "What Does Mumbai Have to Do with Rome," 380. 4 Ania Loomba et al., "Beyond What? An Introduction," in Postcolonial Studies and Beyond,
ed. Ania Loomba et al. (Durham, N.C.: Duke University, 2005) 1-38.

That Orient. for. "My whole point about this system is not that it is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence — in which I do not for a moment believe — but that it operates as representations usually do. will-to-truth. intellectual. xxii. which has given rise to an entire field of studies known as "postcolonial studies. experience be reflected in philosophies. which is the pre-cognitive space that determines "on what historical a priori. in a specific historical. a work that builds on Foucault's insights and that has become the reference work for postcolonial studies. France. 9 Ibid. 7 In it. Two insights from Foucault have particularly served as cornerstones for postcolonial studies.2 The current understanding of postcolonialism." has its distant roots in the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault. 8 Ibid. Knowledge always involves a play of power. for knowledge is an effort not only at ordering facts. 273. and knowledge. 7 Edward Said. rationalities be formed. perhaps."8 In fact."9 5 Michel Foucault. activity. but also of ordering human beings according to a given center. judgment. and discourse. and then the United States actually created the Orient to serve in Western imaginary as that colonized other. he argues. does not exist in reality. only.6 In 1978. 6 Ibid."5 The second insight concerns Foucault's other assertion that no knowledge is for knowledge sake.. 1978). about the Arabs. Said is even sharper in his critique when he says. "as a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression. The first. and even economic setting. ideas could appear. whether theoretical or practical is essentially contextual. Edward Said published his Orientalism. Knowledge is always a matter of what he called episteme. which is the academic study of. political and literary. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Random House. for a purpose. Orientalism (London: Random House. he argues that Orientalism. insight concerns his assertion that knowledge. 204. Islam. and the Middle East that primarily originated in England. according to a tendency. . and in the element of what positivity. to dissolve and vanish soon afterwards. 1970). A discourse of knowledge is a discourse of power. sciences be established. social events and human activities.

"What Does Mumbai Have to Do with Rome. literary. and the Order of Knowledge (Bloomington. explains. ordering the world with the West at its center."12 Especially during the modern era. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis.10 He argues that the colonial library. and souls according to the models used in Europe. serves consciously or unconsciously a hegemonic desire. As Leopold Senghor. 13 Suzan Abraham. What is at stake is the fact that knowledge on Africa produced in the West—like any knowledge produced elsewhere. It does not simply provide a critique of Enlightenment reason for it also provides an alternative discourse of legitimation. "During colonialism. Congolese scholar Valentin Y. one of the founding fathers of the movement. As Suzan Abraham points out. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis. At the core of its program it postulates a distinct African episteme as the unifying factor in the linguistic."13 In the 1930s. Such ordering included Western education as a system of ordering minds. and Mudimbe do not use the term postcolonial. 11 Despite their claim to objectivity. and peoples. 1988). thought. 12 Mario I." Negritude is an example of these creative strategies for pointing out and addressing the limitations of universalizing modes of thought. Philosophy. Said. ix. Mudimbe. and cultural expression of people of African descent. cultures. Aguilar. Mudimbe published in 1988 The Invention of Africa. Philosophy. 1988. bodies. 11 Y. these discourses served the interest of the Western hegemony. Mudimbe." 376-7 . and the Order of Knowledge.: Indiana University Press. a complex science of ordering territories and peoples was developed. which is made of those supposedly scientific “discourses on African societies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. If Foucault. . Ind. Indeed." Theological Studies 62 (202): 302-23.” was invented to mark off Africa and the African as the other of the West and the Westerner. some African students and their friends of the African Diaspora launched in Paris a movement they called "Negritude. they nonetheless show us what is at stake in postcolonialism. "Postcolonial African Theology in Kabasele Lumbala. "the linking of imperial identities to colonized ones led to creative strategies for pointing out and addressing the limitations of universalizing modes of . V. the ordering according to Western model(s) went on under the guise of universal reason and universal truth. .3 Along the same lines. taking stock with the colonial order and its deconstruction (disordering) has become the essence of postcolonialism. "Under what circumstances did Aimé Césaire and I launch the movement of Negritude? We were students of 10 Valentin Y.

Negritude took it upon itself to recover the traditional African episteme. 15Ibid. ed J Hoffmeister (Hamburg F Meiner. written nothing." in The Postmodernism Debate in Latin America. and freedom. "The realm of the Absolute Spirit is so impoverished among them [the Africans] and the natural Spirit so intense that any representation which they are inculcated with suffices to impel them to respect nothing. to destroy everything. éd. "Eurocentnsm and Modernity. They claimed that people of African descent had invented nothing. 1975). a process toward enlightenment. We were at an impasse. "the development of the consciousness that the Spirit has of its freedom and also the evolution of the understanding that the Spirit obtains through such consciousness."17 The same Aguilar goes on to say that the influence of Hegel and Kant cannot be overlooked. 2 vols. sung nothing. Sämtliche Werke. I: 12 [Our translation]."14 To counter the colonial agenda. for Hegel. Jose Oviedo and Michael Aronna (Durham. reason. Africa does not have history as such. Rapport sur la doctrine et la propagande du parti. S. quoted by Lilyan Kestelot in Philosophie africaine: textes choisis. universal history moves from East to West. J. Take this for instance: "Africa is in general a closed land. our colonizers were legitimating our political and economic dependence by appealing to a theory of tabula rasa. etc. Indeed."15 The hegemonic attitude that Senghor so vigorously denounces and from which Negritude sought to liberate people of African descent is well illustrated in the Eurocentric philosophies of both Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Hegel. A. . Senghor. Ν C Duke University. world history is the selfrealization of God (a theodicy). we had to rid ourselves of our borrowed clothes—those clothes of assimilation—and affirm our own identity. 1995) 65-76. Consequently we abandon Africa. to never 14L. created nothing. As Aguilar reminds us. painted nothing. Senghor himself says it best: "In order to ground an effective revolution. our revolution.4 the Paris of nineteen thirties. Smet (Kinshasa: Presses Universitaires du Zaïre." And further. which is our Negritude. We had no perspective in sight. Thus. for Hegel. and this maintains its fundamental character. 17 G W F Hegel. so that "Europe is the absolute end of Universal History. Hegel's assessment of Africa's development in history and the realities of the Spirit among Africans does come as a shock to contemporary readers. 16 Enrique Dussel. ed John Beverley. However. 1955) 167. development (Entwicklung) determines the movement of a concept (Begriff) into an idea."16 Thus.

First. He says.5 mention it again. Cyprian. it does not evidence historical movement or development. "Postcolonial African Theology in Kabasele Lumbala. Pfeiffer (Columbia: Camden House. it matters because it is a matter of one's identity. 1988). The history of Africa included the presence of Tertulhan. That is. that the continent of Africa had not encountered or responded to Christianity in the past. The absence of history assigned to Africa by Europeans tried to erase the longstanding process of African gnosis. oral African histories and any African past were overruled by European social mores and their primacy. while Christian attitudes conflicted enormously with localized African customs and beliefs about the world and the action of God in the world.20 It is no wonder then that postcolonial studies have come to be identified with "subaltern studies. and Augustine in North Africa and the rapid development and establishment of Christianity in Ethiopia. . 271-313. Such a fallacy. The colonization of African minds was at the center of the educational system and with few exceptions newly converted African Christians were expected to think differently than other Africans and to behave m different cultural ways. 19 Aguilar. in order to replace cosmological systems of social and religious knowledge with a European episteme Christianity in its European cultural form produced a religious discourse that followed an epistemological fallacy. but also critical. "Unsatisfied Notes on Vernacular Cosmopolitanism" in Text and Nation: Cross Disciplinary Essays on Cultural and National Identities. 18 Ibid. we have now come to the point where we can address the second question: Why does it matter? Here I will provide briefly some reasons why it does matter. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. ed. Gayatri Spivak. Eboussi Boulaga raises an important question in connection with the frantic quest for an African philosophy (and theology) that went on in the sixties. 231. Bhabha. could not be sustained historically. The colonial project robs one of what one has of the most precious: one's identity. Laura Garcia Moreno and Peter P. So. It is not part of the historical world. its interest is in the oppressed minority groups whose presence is not only crucial to the self-definition of the majority group." After this rather long survey. 1996).." 20 Homi K."18 As a result of such writings.19 Postcolonialism translates a deep concern for the perspective of persons from regions and groups outside the hegemonic power structure. placing the subaltern group in a position to subvert the authority of those who have hegemonic power. 191-207. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Aguilar concludes.

they argue. and collusions of nationalistic power with militarized global economic power spearheaded by the United States. which as Achille Mbembe says. The assault on the self-proclaimed "sui generis" constitution of the field of religion and theology has resulted in the paradoxical contention that theology ought to become an integral part of the study of religion." . The claim of religion and theology to be sui generis fields requiring protective strategies such as excluding social. Since theology produced in the academic centers of the West is implicated in neocolonial relations between various geopolitical contexts." 379. Fourth. theoretical.6 "What hides and reveals at the same time the African quest for philosophy?" His answer is. "Provisional Notes on the Postcolony. "Beyond What? An Introduction. made up not of one coherent 'public space'. the emphasis on culture investigates theological production as a site tainted by power differentials. Second. postcolonialism matters because colonialism has morphed into new forms. nor determined by any single organizing principle. the desire to assert an identity that was denied. or political methods to verify the intelligibility of its assertions is being steadily assailed by globalization and postcolonial theories. "What Does Mumbai Have to Do with Rome." Africa 62 (1992): 3-37 22 Suzan Abraham. Postcolonial perspectives on globalization that point to the many ways academic frameworks exacerbate Orientalist perspectives on times."22 The nexus of postcolonial theory and theology produces an oppositional discourse that challenges theological method in the Western academy. the deconstruction of inherited Christianity liberates for Africa the resources of the entire Christian faith. postcolonialism matters because Africa has become a postcolonial space is. Such power. postcolonialism matters because it fosters the otherness and difference. In other words. One example would suffice here. but rather of "a plurality of 'spheres' and arenas."21 Third. places.. It is a well known 21Achille Mbembe. 'The mutated forms include domestic nationalistic tyranny imposed on minority groups. Such a resolutely critical method does not yield any unified methodology of application. ethical. each having its own separate logic yet nonetheless liable to be entangled with other logics when operating in certain specific contexts: hence the postcolonial 'subject' has had to learn to continuously bargain [marchander] and improvise. religion and theology are disciplines to the extent that their boundaries are policed by those who consider the frameworks to be thoroughly distinguishable from each other. which find their source in the revelation of the Trinity. and cultures different from Euro-American Christianity resist and oppose rigid disciplinary boundaries. Indeed. easily co-opted postcolonial theory to ensconce it within the networks of power. cultural. See also Ania Loomba et al.

These two perspectives yield different worldviews. Mabiala Justin-Robert Kenzo. while East. difference does not exclude unity. Yet. the West. and one project echoes the ideal of the project of the Enlightenment of one humanity adhering to a set of universal truths and engaged in the one project of technological progress. has tended to focus of the oneness of the Trinity. following Augustine. but God is one because there are three persons within the Godhead. one thought. and the Holy Spirit are one. The ideal of Babel of one language.7 fact that when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity. God is one not despite the fact that there are three persons within the Godhead. for the Father. Here difference is a virtue and not a vice because the Father is not the Son. Pentecost is the reversal of Babel. following the Cappadocian Fathers. Where the oneness is emphasized. focuses on the three-ness within the Trinity. and the Son not the Holy Spirit. where three-ness is emphasized. the celebration of ethnicity to the praise of the One God.D. one discovered that the Trinity is ultimately about being in communion (fellowship). Fifth. the Son. Unity where differences are erased is not Christian unity. Babel is the celebration of unity in diversity. Ph. Alliance University College/ Faculté de Théologie Évangélique de Boma (DR Congo) . A communal life that is patterned after the latter understanding of the Trinity is one that fosters difference while at the same time holding on to unity. postcolonialism matters because it is in keeping with the spirit of Pentecost. sameness is fostered as virtue and universality as ideal. Furthermore.

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