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Relatad t itles from Rout ledge


Edited by Simon During
Editad by Henry Abelove, Michele Ana Barale, and David Halperin
Editad by Harold Veeser
Edited by
Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths
and He/en Tiffin
London and New York
First published 1995
by Routledge
11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Routledge
29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001
Reprinted 1995, 1997, 1999
~ 1995 Bl ll Ashcroft, Garet h Griffiths and Helen Tiffin for editorial and
introductory material, individual extracts ~ 1995 the contributors
Designad and typeset in Garamond by Florencetype Ltd,
Stoodleigh, Devon
Printed and bound in Great Britain by
Clays Ltd, St lves pie
All rights reservad. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced
or uti lizad i n any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or ot her means,
now known or hereafter inventad, including photocopying and recording,
or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission In
writing from the publishers.
British Library Cataloguing in Pub/ication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the Britlsh Llbrary
Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data
The Post-colonial Studies Reader/edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Grltfiths,
and Halen Tiffin.
p. cm.
lncludes bibli ographical references and index.
1. Commonwealth literatura (English) - History and criticism.
2. Decolonization in literatura. 3. lmperialism in literatura.
4. Colonias in literatura. l. Ashcroft, Bill.
11. Griffiths, Gareth. 111. Tiffin, Halen.
PR9080.P57 1994
820.9'358-dc20 94- 17829
ISBN 0-415-09621-9 (hbk)
ISBN 0-415-09622-7 (pbk)
List of 1/fustrations xiii
Preface xv
Acknowledgements xvi i
Part 1 lssues and Debates
1 ntroduction 7
1 The Occasion for Speaking 12
George Lamming
2 The Economy of Manichean Allegory 18
Abdul R. JanMohamed
3 Can the Subaltern Speak? 24
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
4 Signs Taken for Wonders 29
Homi K. Bhabha
5 Problems in Current Theories of
Colonial Discourse 36
Benita Parry
6 The Scramble for Post-colonialism 45
Stephen Slemon
Part 11 Universality and Difference
lntroduction 55
7 Colonialist Criticism 57
Chinua A che be
8 Heroic Ethnocentrism: The
Idea of Universality in Literature 62
Charles Larson
9 Entering Our Own lgnorance: Subject-
Object Relations in
Commonwealth Li terature 66
Flemming Brahms
10 Western Mathematics: The Secret Weapon
of Cultural lmperialism 71
Alan J. Bishop
11 Jameson's Rhetoric of Otherness and the
'National Allegory' 77
Part 111 Representation and Resist ance
lntroduction 85
12 Orientalism 87
Edward W. Said
13 A Small Place 92
Jamaica Kincaid
14 Post-colonial Literat ures and
Counter-discourse 95
He/en Tiffin
15 Figures of Colonial Resistance 99
Jenny Sharpe
16 Unsettling the Empire: Resistance
Theory for the Second Worfd 104
Stephen Slemon
17 The Rhetoric of English India 111
Sara Suleri
Part IV Postmodernis m and Pos t-colonialism
fntroduction 117
18 The Postcofoniaf and the
Postmodern 119
Kwame Anthony Appiah
19 Postmodernism or Post-colonialism
Today 125
Simon During
20 Circling the Downspout of Empire 130
Linda Hutcheon
21 The White lnuit Speaks: Contamination
as Literary Strategy 136
Diana Brydon
22 The Politics of the Possible 143
Kumkum Sangari
Part V Nationali s m
lntroduction 151
23 National Culture 153
Frantz Fanon
24 Fanon, Cabral and Ngugi on
National Liberation 158
Chidi A muta
25 Nationalism as a Problem 164
Partha Chatterjee
26 The Discovery of Nationality in Australian
and Canadian Literatures 167
Alan Lawson
27 The National Longing for Form 170
Timothy Brennan
28 Dissemination: Time, Narrat ive, and the
Margins of the Modern Nation 176
Homi K. Bhabha
29 What lsh My Nation? 178
David Cairns and Shaun Richards
Part VI Hybridity
fntroducti on 183
30 Fossi f and Psyche 185
Kirsten Holst Petersen and Anna Rutherford
31 Named for Victoria, Queen
of Engfand 190
Chinua Achebe
32 Of the Marvellous Reafism of
the Haitians 194
Jacques Stephen Alxis
33 Marvellous Realism: The Way
out of Ngritude 199
Michae/ Dash
34 Creolization in Jamaica 202
Edward Kamau Brathwaite
35 Cultural Diversity and Cul tural
Differences 206
Homi K. Bhabha
Part VIl Ethnicity and lndigeneity
lntroduction 213
36 No Master Territories 215
Trinh T. Minh-ha
37 Who is Ethnic? 219
Werner Sollors
38 New Ethnicities 223
Stuart Hall
39 White Forms, Aboriginal Content 228
40 The Representation of the lndigene 232
Terry Goldie
41 The Myth of Authenticity 237
Gareth Griffiths
42 Who Can Write as Other? 242
Part VIII Feminism and Post-colonialism
lntroduction 249
43 First Things First: Problems of a Feminist
Approach to African Literatura 251
Kirsten Holst Petersen
44 Decolonizing Culture: Toward a Theory for
Post-colonial Women's Texts 255
Ketu H. Katrak
45 Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship
and Colonial Discourses 259
Chandra Talpade Mohanty
46 Writing Postcoloniality and
Feminism 264
Trinh T. Minh-ha
47 Three Women's Texts and a Critique
of lmperialism 269
Gayatri Chakravorty Spi vak
48 Woman Skin Deep: Feminism and
the Postcolonial Condition 273
Sara Suleri
PartiX language
lntroduction 283
49 The Language of African Literatura 285
Ngugi wa Thiong'o
50 The Alchemy of English 291
Braj B. Kachru
51 Language and Spirit 296
Raja Rao
52 Constitutiva Graphonomy 298
Bi/1 Ashcroft
53 New Language, New World 303
W. H. New
54 Nation Language 309
Edward Kamau Brathwaite
55 Relexification 314
Chantal Zabus
Part X The Body and Performance
lntroduction 321
56 The Fact of Blackness 323
Frantz Fanon
57 Jazz and the West lndian Novel 327
Edward Kamau Brathwaite
58 In Search of the Lost Body: Redefining the
Subject in Caribbean Literatura 332
Michael Dash
59 The Body as Cul t ural Signifier 336
Russe/1 McDouga/1
60 Dance, Movement and Resistance
Politics 341
He/en Gilbert
61 Feminism and t he Colonial Body 346
Kadiatu Kanneh
62 Outlaws of the Text 349
Gillian Whitlock
Part XI History
lnt roduction 355
63 Allegori es of Atlas 358
Jos Rabasa
64 Col umbus and the Cannibals 365
Peter Hu/me
65 The Muse of History 370
Derek Walcott
66 Spatial History 375
Paul Carter
67 The Limbo Gateway 378
Wilson Harris
68 Postcoloniality and the Artfice
of History 383
Dipesh Chakrabarty
Part XII Place
lntroduction 391
69 Unhiding t he Hidden 394
Robert Kroetsch
70 Writi ng in Col onial Space 397
Dennis Lee
71 Naming Place 402
Pau/ Carter
72 Decolonizing the Map 407
Graham Huggan
73 Aboriginal Place 41 2
Bob Hodge and Vijay Mishra
74 Ecologicallmperi alism 418
Alfred W Crosby
Part XIII Education
lntroduction 425
75 Minute on lndian Education 428
Thomas Macau/ay
76 The Beginnings of English Literary St udy
in British India 431
Gauri Viswanathan
77 On t he Aboli ti on of the English
Department 438
Ngugi wa Thiong'o
78 The Neocol oni al Assumpti on in University
Teaching of Engli sh 443
John Docker
79 ldeology in the Classroom: A Case Study
in the Teaching of English Literatura
in Canadian Universities 447
Arun P. Mukherjee
80 Education and Neocolonialism 452
Philip G. Altbach
81 The Race for Theory 457
Barbara Christian
Part XIV Production and Consumption
lntroduction 463
82 The Historiography of Af rican Literatura
Written in English 465
Andr Lefevere
83 Singapore: Poet, Critic; Audience 471
Peter Hyland
84 Postcolonial Culture,
Postimperial Criticism 475
W J. T. Mitchell
85 The Book Today in Africa 480
S. l. A. Kotei
86 literary Colonialism: Books in the
Third Worl d 485
Philip G. Altbach
Bibliography 491
lndex 514
I llustrations
1 Diagram representing the debate over the
nature of colonial ism 46
2 Theme of expedition 189
3 Mercator's world map 359
4 Ji/a Japingka by Peter Skipper 416
) resistance as a simple binarism, articulate the ambi valent, complex and
IJ:.rocessual natura of all imperial relations.
The readings we have assembled here are mai nly from societies which
employ forms of english
as a major language of communi cation. Clearly lt
would be possibl e and even desirable to construct a text which addressed
the wider polyphonic spectrum of the colonial past but this would require a
project f ar beyond the scope of this one. The Reader also recognises, but
does not directly address, the importance of the continuing body of work in
indigenous languages. The 'silencing' of the post-colonial voice to which
much recent theory alludes is in many cases a metaphoric rather than a
literal one. Critica! accounts emphasising the 'silencing' effect of the metro-
politan forms and institutional practices upon pre-colonial cultures, and the
resulti ng torces of 'hybridi sation' which work on the continui ng practica of
those cul tures, make an importan! point. But they neglect the f act that for
many people in post-colonial societies the pre-colonial languages and
cultures, although themselves subject to change and development, continua
to provide the effective framework f or their daily lives. Failure to acknowl -
edge this might be one of the ways in which post-colonial discourse could,
unwittingly, become 'a coloni ser in its turn' (Ashcroft et al. 1989: 218}.
Without endorsing a naively 'nativist' position post-colonial theory needs to
be aware that it is engaged in a project which suppl ements rather than
replaces the continuing study and promotion of the indigenous languages
of post-colonial societies.
In putting together this Reader we have asked the question: how might a
genuinely post-colonialliterary enterprise proceed? Our focus in addressing
this problem is through the particular agency of literatura teaching in the
academy. We recognise that thi s is only one limited avenue of address to
the wider social and political issues affecting post -colonial societies, but it
seems to us to be an important and worthwhile one, since literatura and
literary study in the academy have been crucial sitas of political and cultural
struggle with the most far-rcaching results for the general history and prac-
ticas of colonisation and de-colonisation. To define our purpose then: we
have taken as our limitad ai m the provision of an effective text to assist in
the revision of teaching practica withi n literary studies in engl ish and so
have sought to represent the impact of postcolonial literatures and critici sm
on the current shape of english studies.
This spelling reflects the fact that, as the edi tors argued in their earlier book
The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literaturas
!Ashcroft et al. 1989: 8), there is a ' need to distinguish between what is
proposed as a standard code, English (the language of the erstwhile imperial
centre), and the lingui stlc coda, engli sh, which has been transformad and
subverted into several distinctive varieties throughout the world.'
Issues and Debates
The extracts in this section indicate something of the historical provenance,
the general theoretical directions and the important debates which have
featured in post-colonial theory in recent times. West lndian novelist George
Lamming expresses n a personal way some of the enduring issues: h o ~ a
Britain without its Empire can still maintain cul tural authority in post-
colonial societies, and the ways in which Eurocentric assumptions about
race, nationalty and literatura return time and again to haunt the production
of post-colonial writing. Lamming's is a foundational text in post-colonial
writing; its early date indicates how long post-colonial intellectuals have
been grappling with the articulation of their own modes of cultural produc-
tion. lt is important, too, in that it is a critica! essay which is written by an
imaginativa wri ter, andas such represents the crucial role played by creativa
writers as diversa in time and place as Rabindranath Tagore, Raja Rao, Wole
Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Derek Walcott, Judith
WriQ'ht, Tom !5ing, Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lee, Alan CurD.Q_w, Keri Hulme
and many others in developing a critica! discourse in the post-colonial
world. Whi le these writers have often functioned as critics in a formal sense
their own creativa work has frequently been the site of critiques of imperial
representation, language and ideological control. Thus, as Lamming argues
here, the advent of the novel in the West lndies marks an important
historical event as well as a formal cultural development.
This extract serves to remind us that the determining condition of what we
refer toas post-colonial cultures is the historical phenomenon of colonialism, 0
with its ranQ_e_ of material practicas and effects, such as transportation,
slavery, displacement, emigration. and racial and cultural di scrimination.
These material conditions and their relationship to questions of i d e ~ d
representation are at the heart of the most vigorous debates in recent post-
colonial theory. Even the claim that they may exist independently of the
modas of representation which allowed them to come into formation is to
assert a point of considerable controversy.
Abdul R. JanMohamed stresses the importance, as does Lamming, of the
l iterary text as a site of cultural control and as a highly effective instrumen-
tality for the determination of the 'native' by fixing him/her under the sign
of the Other. JanMohamed also shows how these literary texts contain
features which can be subverted and appropriated to the oppositional and
anti-colonial purposes of contemporary post-colonial wri ting. His essay
analyses the literary text in quite specific ways as a means of bringing into
being and modifying the controlling discourses of colonisation. Using
Lacan's distnction of the imaginary and symbolic stages of development
as a conceptual tool in this analysi s JanMohamed emphasises the self-
contradictions of bnary constructions. By recognising how the binarisms of
colonial discourse operate (the self- other, civilised-native, us- them
manichean polari ties) post-colonial critics can promote an active reading
which makes t hese texts available for re-writing and subversion. lt is this
process which brings int o being the powerful syncretic t exts of cont em-
porary post-colonial writing. In the rest of the book from which this short
extract is taken JanMohamed illustrates how this process of re-inscripti on
works by developing an analysis of the relationship between contemporary
texts of post-colonial writing and the coloni al texts to which they 'write
back'. Such a process of 'writing back', far from indicating a continuing
dependence, s an effective means of escaping from the binary polarities
implicit in the manichean constructions of colonisation and its practicas.
Gayatri Spivak questions whether or not the possibili ty exists for any
recovery of a subaltern voice that is not a kind of essentialist fiction.
Although she expresses considerable sympathy for the project undertaken
in contemporary historiography to give a voice t o ' the subaltern' who had
been written out of the record by conventional historical accounts, Spivak
raises grave doubts about its theoretical legitimacy. She is sympathetic but
critica! in her response here to Ranajit Guha's subaltern studies project
which seeks to obtain what Said termed the 'permission to speak' by gong
behind the terms of reference of 'lite' history to include the perspectiva of
those who are never taken into account (the subaltern social groups).
Recognising and applauding the project's endorsement of the heterogeneity
of the colonial subject, and giving a qualifi ed approval to the pol itics of the
effort to speak a 'politics of the people', Spivak is nevertheless concerned to
articulate what she sees as the difficulties and contradictions involved in
constructi ng a 'speaking position' for the subaltern. Wanting to acknowledge
the continuity and vigour of pre-colonial social practica, its ability t o modify
and to 'survve' colonial incursions and definitional strategies and exclu-
sions, she insists that the poststructuralist mode of the project only
disguises what she seas as an underlying persist ent essentialism. For her,
one cannot const ruct a category of the 'subal tern' that has an effective
'voice' clearly and unproblematically audible above the persistent and
multiple echoes of its inevitable heterogenei ty. Her conclusion is that for 'the
true' subaltern group, whose identity is its difference, there is no subaltern
subject that can 'know and speak itself'. Thus the intellectual must avoid
reconstructing the subaltern as merely another unproblematic field of
knowing, so confining its effect to the very form of representation ('text for
knowledge') the project sought to evade and lay bare. The conclusion is
expressed, perhaps unfortunately, in a rather negativa way: 'Subaltern
historiography must confront the impossibility of such gestures'. Spivak's
negative, as Jos Rabasa has pointed out, does not ' necessarily exclude
such instances of colonizad subjects defracting power as those Homi
Bhabha has isolated in the case of India' (Rabasa 1993: 1 1- 12). b
The emphasis is on the importance of the wrtten text asan instrument of
control (to which Said and JanMohamed's work makes reference), and
of the deep ambivalences locked into the apparent universal fixit ies of
colonialist epistemology, are taken up by Homi Bhabha. For Bhabha the
'emblem of the English book' is one of the most important of the 'signs
taken for wonders' by which the coloniser controls the imagination and the
aspirations of the colonised, because the book assumes a greater authoritv.
than the experience of the colonised peoples themselves. But, as Bhabha
argues, such authority simultaneously renders the coloni al presence
ambivalent, since it only comes about by displacing those images of identity
already held by the coloni sed society. The colonial space is therefore an
agonistic space. Despite the 'imitation' and 'mimicry' with which colonised
peoples cope with the imperial presence, the relationship becomes one of
constant, if implicit, contest ation and opposit ion. l ndeed, such mi micry
becomes the very site of that conflict, a ' transparency', as Bhabha puts it,
which is dependent for its fixity on the underlying negativa of imperial pres-
ence which it seems to duplicate. For Bhabha 'mimicry' does not mean that
opposition is rejected, but rather that it is seen to encompass more than
overt opposition. Opposition is not simply reduced to intention, but is
implcit in the very producton of dominance whose ntervention as a 'dislo-
catory presence' paradoxically confirms the very thing it displaces. The
resulting hybrid modalities also chall enge the assumption of the 'pura' and
the 'authentic', concepts upon which the resi stance to imperialism often
stands. lndeed hybridity, rather than i ndicating corruption or decline, may,
as Bhabha argues, be the most common and effective form of subversiva
opposition since it displays the 'necessary deformation and displacement of
all sites of discrimination and domination'.
Spivak's and Bhabha's analyses are important and very influential
warni ngs of the complexities of the task faced by post-colonial theory.
But they have also invited responses which see them and their approach
as too deeply implcated in European intell ectual traditions, which older,
more radical exponents of post-colonial theory, such as Frantz Fanon
and Albert Memmi, had sought to dismantle and set asida. The debate is
a struggle between t hose who want to align themselves with the sub-
altern and those who insist that this attempt becomes at best only a refined
version of the very discourse it seeks to displace. All are agreed, in some
sense, that the main problem is how to effect agency for the post-colonial
subject. But the contentious issue of how this is to be attained remains
Benita Parry's critique of contemporary 'colonialist discourse' theory
(such as Bhabha's and Spivak's) argues that the effect of its insistence on the
' necessary' si lencing implicit in this mode of analysis has been to diminish
the earli er intervention of critics like Fa non who stood much more resolutely
for the idea that de-colonisation is a proc'3ss of opposition to dominance.
She also argues that colonialist dscourse theory supports readings of post-
colonial texts which inadequately ascribe a native 'absence' to texts in which
the ' native' has access as a profoundly disruptive presence. In a sense
Parry's argument is a plea for an analysis of the 'poli tics' of the proj ect of
colonialist discourse theory itself, and seeks to resurrect as a forgotten but
vital element in the debate the voices of t he post-colonial intellectuals of
the earlier, oppositi onal 'national liberation' phase of decolonisation.
Subsequent response from Spivak has argued that such opposi tional cate-
gories as the 'post-colonial intellectual' avoid the fact that the concept of
'intellectual' and of ' theory' as a discourse is by definition i mrl icated in the
Europeanisation/hybridi sation of all culture in the aftermath of imperi alism,
making the distinctive category of 'post-colonial intellectual' as problematic
as the ter m 'subal tern'.
The argument underpinning these positions, that there can be an
engagement with the ' real' separata from its construction through what
Barthes called 'reality effects', is put with great clarity by Jos Rabasa:
'cultural products should be taken as rhetorical artfi ces and notas deposi -
taras of data from whi ch a factual truth may be construed' (1993: 9). Yet, of
course, the avoidance of such a construing in practica may be to allow
semiotic analyses of texts totally ' liberated' from any attempt or desire to
understand the context of cultural production from which they emerge. The
effect of this is, of course, to wipe out cultural difference.
The debate between those who insist on the possibility of an effective
al ignment of position with the subal tern and those who insist that this,
paradoxically, may serve only to construct a refinement of the system it
seeks to dismantle, is taken up and expanded later in the Reader in the
section on Representation and Resistance. There Jenny Sharpe's analysis of
the problem of Resistance and Stephen Slemon's article on the crucial role
of settler culture, or ' Second World' texts, in articulating the ambivalence at
the heart of post-colonial resistance, continua and elaborate some of the
issues raised in this section.
Stephen Slemon's overview of recent developments within the field of
post-colonial studies includes, like Parry's, an analysis of the difficulty that
'colonialist criticism' has in confirming the agency of the post-colonial
subj ect. A crucial question for post-colonial theory, given that contemporary
thought has firmly fixed subj ectivi ty in language, is ' how can one account for
the capacity of the subject in a post-colonial society t o resist imperialism and
thus to intervene in the conditi ons which appear to construct subjecti vity
itself?' Slemon analyses the positions of some of the majar participants in
the debates in a fresh and interesting way but also regards the debate itsel f
h Od
uct of the institutionalisation of post-colonial studies wi thin the
as t e pr . .
. of the contemporary academy. Ouotmg Henry Lou1s Gates, Slemon
prac ICBS . . . , .
warns that 'academic interest m th1s h1story and the d1scourse of colonlalism
bids fair to become the for the proj ect of global for
European universal ism 1tself', forcmg us oppos1t1onal
't' whose articul ations of the post-colon1al mst1tut10nalise themselves as
agonisti c struggles over a thoroughly disciplinad terrain' . Slemon remmds
his readers that the real contest (agon) post-colonial studies seeks to address
is that between the conflicting participants in the imperial process and their
residual legatees, not between contemporary schools of theory. The real
concerns of this oppositional subject are i n danger of being reduced to
merely another location in the academic institutionalised landscape, yet
another mere invasive 'mapping' of the subdued and subjugated post-
colonial world.
The Occasion for Speaking
IN ANY COUNTRY, during this century, it seems that the young will remain
too numerous and too strong to fea r bei ng alonc. lt is from this premise that
1 want ro consider the circumstances as well as the significance of certain
writers' migration from the British Caribbean to rhc London metropolis ....
How has ir come about that a small group of men, differenr in years
and tcmperamenr and social origins, should !cave the respective islands
they know best, even exchange life there for circumstances which are
almost wholly foreign ro them? ... Why have rhey migrated? And what, if
any, are the peculiar pleasures of exil e? ls rheir journey a pan of a hunger
for recognirion? Do rhey see such recognition as a confirmarion of rhe facr
thar they are wrirers? What is the source of rheir insecuriry in the world of
letters? And what, on the evidence of their work, is the range of their ambi-
tion as writers whosc nourishmenr is now elsewhere, whose absence is
likely to drag inro a state of permanenr separarion from their roots? ...
The exile is a universal figure. The proximity of our lives ro rhe majar
issues of our time has demanded of us al! some kind of involvemenr. Some
may remain neutral; but al! have, at least, ro pay artenrion ro what is goi ng
on. On the political leve!, we are often wirhout the right kind of informa-
ran ro make argumenr effecrive; on the moral levcl we ha ve ro feel our way
through problems for which we have no adequare reference of tradicional
conduce as a guide. Chaos is often, therefore, the result of our thinking and
our doi ng. We are made to feel a sense of exile by our inadequacy and our
irrelevance of function in a society whose past we can't alter, and whose
future is always beyond us. Idleness can easil y guide us inro accepring this
as a condition. Sooner or later, in silence or with rhetoric, we sign a
contraer whose epitaph reads: To be an exi le is to be alive.
When the exile is a man of colonial orienration, and his chosen resi-
dence is rhe coumry which colonised his own hisrory, then there are certain
From 'The Occasion For Speaking' The P/eas11res o( Exile London: Michael
Joseph, 1960.
complications. For each exil e has not only got ro prove .his .worth ro the
orher, he has co win the approval of Headquarrers, meamng 111 rhe case of
the West lndian writer, England ....
In England he does not feel the need ro try to understand an
Englishman, since al! relationships begin wirh an assumprion of previous
knowledge, a knowledge acquired in the absence of rhe people known. This
relarionship with the English is only another aspecr of the Wesr lndian's
relation to rhe idea of England.
As an example of this, 1 would recall an episode on a ship which had
brought a number of West Indians to Britain. I was talking toa Trinidadian
Civil Servant who had come to rake some kind of course in rhe ways of
bureaucracy. A man abour forty-five, inrelligent enough to be in the senior
grade of rhe Trinidad Civil Service which is by no means backward, a man
of some subsrance among bis own class of people. \Y/e were talking in a
general way about li fe among rhe emigrants. The ship was now steady; the
tugs were coming alongside. Suddenly there was consternation in the
Trinidadian's expression.
'But ... but', he said, 'look clown there.'
1 looked, and since I had lived six years in England, I failed ro see
anyrhing of particular signi ficance. 1 asked him what he had seen; and then
1 realised what was happening.
'They do rhar kind of work, too?' he asked.
He meanr the white hands and faces on rhe rug. In spite of films,
in spite of reading Dickens - for be would have had ro ar rhe school
which rrai ned him for rhe Civil Service- in spite of all this received infor-
mation, this man had never really felt, as a possibility and a fact, the
existence of rhe English worker. This sudden bewilderment had sprung
from his idea of England: and one clemenr in that idea was thar he was nor
used ro seeing an Englishman working wirh bis hands in the srreets of Port
of-Spain. ~
This is a seed of his colonisation which has been subtly and richly
infused with myth. \V/e can change laws overnight; we may reshape images
of our feeling. But this myrh is most difficult ro dislodge ....
I remember how pleased 1 was ro learn that my first book, !11 the
Castle of My Skilt, had bcen bought by an American publisher .... lt was
the money I was thinking of ro rhe exclusion of rhe book's critica! repura-
tion in America. The book had had an important critica! press in England;
its reputation here was substantial; so ir could make no difference what
America rhoughr .... This is what 1 mean by the myt!J. lt has little to do
with lack of intell igence. Ir has nothing ro do wirh one's origins in class. lt
is deeper and more natural. lt is akin ro the nutritive function of milk which
all sorts of men receive at birth. Ir is myth as rhe source of spiritual foods
absorbed, and learnt for exercise in the fuwre. This myth begins in rhe West
Indian from the earliesr srages of his education. But it is nor yet turned
against America. In a sense, America does not even exist. It begins with the
fact of's in rasre and judgemenr: a fact which can onl y
have meamng and we1ghr by a calculated cutti ng clown ro size of al! non-
England. The fi rst ro be cut cl own is rhe coloni al himsclf.
This is one of rhe seeds which much later bear such srrange fruit as rhe
West lndian writers' deparrure from the very landscape which is rhe raw
of al! .rheir books. These men had ro leave if rhey were goi ng ro
f.uncuon as wnters since books, in rhat particular colonial conception of
were nor - meani ng, too, are not supposed ro be - wri tten by
na nves. Those among rhe narives who read also believed that; for all rhe
books had read, rhei r whole inrroducri on ro somerhi ng call ed cul ture,
al! of 1t, 111 rhe form of words, came from ourside: Dickens Jane Ausren
Kipling and thar sacred gang. ' '
The West fndian's education was imponed in much rhc same wa y rhar
fl our burter are imponed from Canada. Since rhe cultural negori ation
was srnctly and the narives, and England had acquired,
somehow, the d1vme nght ro organise the native's re<l ding, ir is ro be
expected expon of litera tu re would be English. Deliberare! y
and exclus1vely Enghsh. And the funher back in time England went for
treasures, the safer was the English commodity. So rhc examinari ons,
wh1ch would determine that Trinidadi an's furure in rhe Civil Service
imposed Shakespeare, and Wordsworrh, and j ane Ausren and Gcorge Eli o:
and rhe whole tabernacle of dead names, now come alive at rhe world's
greatest summit of li terary expression . ...
In [American novelist, James Baldwi n's) most perceptive and bri ll ianrly
Notes o( a Native Son, he tri es ro examine and inrerpret his
snuanon as an American negro who is also a novelist drawi ng on rhe
splfltual legacy of Wesrern Eur opean civi lisarion . ...
1 know, in any case, rhar rhe most crucial ti me in my own developmenr
came when 1 was forced ro recognise thar 1 was a ki nd of basrard of
the West; when I foll owed the li ne of my pasr 1 did nor fi nd mysclf in
Europe, but in Africa. And rhis meanr rhar in some subrle way, in a
reall y profound way I broughr ro Sha kespcare, Bach, Rembrandr, ro
rhe stones of Pari s, ro rhe carhedral ar Charrres, and ro rhe Ernpi re
Srare a special attirude. These were nor rea ll y my creari ons,
rhey d1d nor conrain my hi story; J might search in rhem in va in for cver
for any refl ecrion of myself; J was an inrerloper. Ar rhe same rime 1 hacl
no orher herirage which J could possibly hope ro use. 1 had ccrrai nl y
been unfirred for rhe jungle or the tribe.
(Baldwin 1964: 14)
' J mighr search in vain for any reflection of myself. 1 had ccrrainly been
unfi tted for rhe jungle or the rribe.'
We musr pause ro consider rhe source of Mr Baldwin's ri midity; for ir
has a respectable ancestry. Here is the grear German philosopher
Hegel havmg the last word on Africa in his Inrroducrion ro The Philosophy
o( History:
Africa proper, as far as Hisrory goes back, has remained - . all
rposes of connccrion wirh rhe resr of rhe world - shur up; 11 1s the
cornprcssed wirhin irself - rhe land of childhood, which
lying be)oncl rhe days of self.conscious hisrory, is enveloped in rhe
dark manrle of Nighr. .
The negro as alrcady obscrvcd cxhibirs rhc natural man in his
complcrely wi ld and unramcd srare. \Y/e lay all of
reverence and moraliry - all rhat we call feehng - 1f we would nghrly
comprehend him; rhere is norhing harmonious wirh ro be
found in rhis type of characrer . . ..
At rhis point we lcave Africa never ro menrion ir again. For ir is no
hisrorical part of thc world; ir has no movernent of development ro
exhibir. Hisrorical movement in it - rhar is in irs norrhern part -
bclongs ro rhc Asiati c or Emopean Worl d. . . . .
What we properl y undcrstand as Afri ca, is the Unhisroncal,
Undevelopcd Spirir, sri ll in volved in rhc condilions o{ mere nature and
whi ch had to be prescntcd hcre only as on rhe rhreshold of rhe World's
hisrory . ...
The Hi story of the Worl d rravels from East to Wcsr, for Europc is
nbsolutely t!Je end o( 1/isiOI'Y, Asia is rhe beginning.
1t is importanr ro relate the psychology impli ed in Mr Baldwin's regrer to
rhe kind of fa lsc confidence which Hegel represcnrs in the Europcan
consciousness. For whar disqua li fies African man from Hegel's World of
Hisrory is his apparenr incapaciry ro evolve with rhe logic of Languagc
which is rhe only aid man has in capruring rhe Idea. African Man, for
Hegel, has no parr in rhe common pursuir of rhe Universal. .. .
What rhe Wcsr lndian shares wirh rhe African is a common political
predicamenr: a predicament which we caL! colonial; but the word colonial
has a deeper mcaning for rhe West Indian than ir has for the African.
The African, in spirc of his modernity, has never been wholly severed
from rhe cradle of a conri nuous culture and rradirion. !-lis colonialism
mainl y rakes rhe form of lack of privilege in organising the day ro day
affairs of his counrry. This srare of affairs is almosr at an end; and its end
is rhe resul t of the African's persistenr and cffectivc dcmand for political
freedom ....
Jt is the brevi ty of rhe Wesr Indian's hisrory and the fragmcnrary nature
of rhe different cultures which have fused ro make somerhing new; ir is rhe
absolure dependencc on the values in that language of his coloniser which
have given him n spccial relarion ro rhe word, colonialism. It is nor merely
a political dcnirion; ir is not mere! y the result of cerrain economic arra nge-
menrs. lt starred as rhcse, and grew somewhat deeper. Coionialism is the
very base and srrucrurc of thc West lndian cultural awareness. His reluc-
tance in aski ng for complete, poli rical freedom . .. is due ro the fear rhat
he has never had ro stand. A foreign or absenr Mother culture has always
cradled his judgement. Moreover, the ... freedom from physical fear has
created a srate of complacency in the \'<'esr Indian awareness. And the
higher llp he moves in rhe social scale, rhe more crippled hi s mind and
impulses become by rhe resllltant complacency.
In order ro change rhis way of seci ng, the Wesr Indian must change rhe
very structllre, rhe very basis of his vaiues . . . .
I am not much interesred in what rhe Wesr Indian wri ter has brollghr
ro the English language; for English is no longcr rhe exclusive language of
rhe men who livc in England. Thar sropped a long ri me ago; and iris roday,
among other rhings, a Wesr lndian language. \XIhar rhe \XIesr lndians do
wirh ir is rheir own business. A more imporrant considerarion is whar the
West lndian novelisr has brought ro rhe West Indies. That is the real qlles-
ri on; and its answer can be the beginni ng of an arrempr ro grapplc wirh rhat
colonial srrucrure of awareness which has determined West Indian vallles.
There are, for me, just rhree imporranr evenrs in British Caribbean
hi story. 1 am usi ng rhe rerm, history, in an active scnse. Nor a succession
of episodes which can easily be given some casual connecrion. What 1
mean by histori cal event is the crearion ora situarion which offcrs anrag-
onisti c opposirions and a challenge of survival rhar had ro be mct by all
The first event is discovery. That began, li ke mosr other discoveries,
wirh a journey; a journey inside, or a journey out and across. This was rhe
meaning of Colllmbus. The original purpose of rhe journey may somctimes
have nothing to do wirh rhe results that attend upon ir. That journey rook
place nearly five centurics ago; and rhe resll lt has been one of rhe world's
mosr fascinaring communi ties. The nexr evenr is rhe abolirion of slavcry
and rhe arrival of rhe Easr- India and China - in rhe Caribbean Sea. The
world met here, and ir was at every levcl, cxcepr adminisrrarion, a peasanr
world. In one way or anorher, through one upheaval afrer anorher, these
pcople, forced ro use a common language which rhey did nor possess on
arrival, have had ro make somerhing of rheir Sll rroundings ....
Thc rhird importanc evenr in our hisrory is rhe discovcry of rhe novel
by \XIesr lndians as a way of investigaring and projecring rhe inner experi-
ences of rhc West Indian cornmuniry. The second evenr is abour a hundred
/ ancl fifry years bchind liS. The rhird is hardl y rwo decades ago . . .. The
Wesr Indian writcr is the first ro add a new dirnension ro writing about the
\wesr lndian community . ...
lf we accept that thc act of writing a book is linked wirh an cxpecta-
ri on, however modesr, of having ir rcad; then rhc situarion of a Wesr Indian
writer, li ving and working in his own community, assumes intolerable
difficulries. The Wesr Indian of average opporruniry and inrelligence has
not yet been converted to reading as a civiliscd activiry which justifies tself
in rhe exercise of his mind. Reading seriously, at any age, is still largely
associatcd wirh readi ng for examinarions. In recent times rhe polirical fever
has warmcd liS ro rhe newspapers wirh rheir gcnerous and diabolical
welcome ro join in the correspondence column. Bur book readi ng has never
been a scrious business wirh liS ...
An imporranr qllesrion, for rhe English cri ti c, is nor whar rhe West
Lndian novel has brought ro Engl ish wri ri ng. lt woll ld be more correcr ro
ask whar rhe Wcsr lndian novelisrs ha ve comribllted ro English reading. For
the language in which these books are wri rten is English - which, I musr
repear - is a Wesr Indian language; and in spire of the unfa miliarit)' of irs
rhyrhms, ir remains accessible ro the readers of English anywhere in rhe
world. The \XIesr lndian conrriburion ro English reading has been made
possible by their relarion ro the rhemes which are ....
That's a grear difference between the Wesr In tan novelisr and his
conrrnporar in En l:md F2_r peasanrs simply don ... see like
1111 dle-class people. The peasant rengue has its own rhythms
(Tri nidadi an nOveiiS'r Samuel] Selvon's and [Barbadian novelisr Vi c] Rcid's
rhythrns; and no artfice of rechnique, no sophisticated gimmicks lcading ro
rhe mlltilation of form, can achieve rhe specifi c raste and sound of Sclvon's
For this prose is, reall y, the people's speech, rhe organic music of rhe
earth ....
This ma y be rhe dil cmma of rhe West Indian writer abroad: rhat he
hungers for nouri shmcnt from a soil which he (asan ordinary ci ti zen) could
not at presenr endure. The pleasure and exile is rhat I
I a m }!-fe e;-ir seems, has rarher ro rime and
. , 1 --,......._,_ -- --....... -
change rhan wtt 1 t 1e geography of ctrcumstances; and yet rhere tS always
fg'roun'CI'Iiitlle-Ne\V keeps growing echoes in my
head. 1 can only hope that these echoes do nor die beforc my work comes
ro an cnd.
The Economy of
Manichean Allegory
COLONIALI ST LITERATURE IS an exploration and a represenrari on of a
worl d ar rhe boundaries of 'civilizarion,' a worl d rhat has nor (yer) been
domesricared by European significarion or codified in derail by irs ideology.
Thar worl d is rherefore perceived as unrontroll ablc, chaoric, unarrainable,
and ul ri marely evi l. Morivated by his desire ro conqucr and dominare, the
imperiali sr configures the colonial realm as a confronration based on
differences in race, language, social customs, cultural values, and modes of
Faced wirh an incomprehensible and rnultifacered alteri ty, the
European rheorerically has the option of rcsponding ro the Other in terms
of idenriry or difference. If he assumcs rhat he and the Other are esscntially
identical, then he would tend ro ignore rhe significanr divergences and ro
judge the Other according ro his own culturai values. If, on the other hand,
he assumes thar the Orher is irremediably different, then he would have
linle incemive ro adopr rhe viewpoinr of that alreriry: he would again rend
to turn ro the securi ty of his own cultural perspective. Genuine and thor-
ough comprehcnsion of Otherness is possible only if rhe self can somehow
negare or ar leasr severely bracket rhe values, assurnprions, and ideology of
his culture. As Nadi ne Gordimer's and Isak Dinesen's wriri ngs show,
howcvcr, this enrail s in practice rhe virtually mpossible rask of negaring
one's very being, precisely because one's culture s what formed rhnt being.
Moreover, rhe colonizers invariable assumption abour his moral superi oriry
means thar he wi ll rarely quesri on rhc va li diry of cithcr his own or hi s
socety's formation and thar he will not be incl ined ro cxpend any energy
in understandi ng rhe worthless alteriry of the colonized. By thus subverting
the rraditional dialectic of self and Other rhat conremporary rheory
considers so importanr in the formarion of self and culture, rhe assumption
of moral superiority subverrs rhe very potenrial of colonialisr lirerature.
From 'The Econom)' of Manichean Allegory: The Funcrion of Racial Difference
in Colontalisr Literature' Criticallnquiry 12( 1), 1985.
Jnstead of being an explorarion of rhe racial Orher, such lireraturc merely
affi rms irs own ethnocenrric assumprions; insread of acruall y depicrng rhc
ourer Iimirs of 'civilizarion,' ir simpl y codifies and preserves rhe structures
of irs own menrality. While the surface of each colonialisr text purporrs ro
represenr specific encounrers wirh specific varieries of thc racial Orher, rhe
subrexr valorizes rhe superi oriry of European cultures, of the collecrive
process rhar has mediared rhat representarion. Such lirerarure is essenriall y
specular: nstead of seeing rhe narive as a bridge roward syncreric
possibiliry, t uses him as a mirror rhar reflecrs rhe colonialist's sclf-i magc.
Accordingly, 1 would argue rhar colonialist lirerature is divisible inro
rwo broad caregories: thc 'imaginary' and rhe 'symbolic.' Thc cmorivc as
well as rhe cognirive inrenrionalities of the ' imaginary' rexr are srructured
by objecrification and aggression. In such works rhe native funcrions as an
image of the imperialisr self in such a manner that it rcveals rhc lartcr's self-
alienation. Bccause of the subsequent projecri on involvcd in th s conrcxr,
rhe 'imaginary' novel maps the European's incense interna! ri valry. Thc
' magnary' represcnration of indigenous people rcnds to coalescc the
signifier with rhc signified. In describing the attributcs or acrions of
the narive, issues such as inrenrion, causal ity, extenuarng ci rcumsranccs,
and so forth, are complerely ignored; in the ' imaginar>'' colonialisr rcalm,
ro say 'nari ve' is auromatically ro say 'evil' and ro evokc immediately rhe
economy of the manichean allegory. The writer of such rcxrs rcnds ro
ferishize a nondialecrical, fixed opposi ti on berween rhe self and rhe narive.
Threarened by a meraphysical alterity tha r be has creared, he quickly
retrears ro the homogeneity of his own group. Consequentl y, his psyche and
rext tend ro be much closer ro and are ofren enrirely occluded by rhe
ideology of hs group.
Wrirers of 'symbolic' texts, on the other hand, are more aware of rhe
inevitable necessity of using thc native as a mediator of European desires.
Grounded more firmly and securely in the egalirarian imperarives of
Western socieri es, rhese aurhors rend ro be more open to a modifying
dialectic of sclf nnd Orher. They are willing ro examine thc spccific indi-
vidual and cultura l differences between Europeans and nativcs ancl ro
reflect on rhe cfficacy of European values, assumptions, and habits in
contrast ro those of rhe indigenous cultures. 'Symbolic' rexts, most of
which thematize rhc problem of colonialist menrality and its encountcr
wirh rhc racial Orhcr, can in ru rn be subdivided inro rwo categories.
The first type, rcprcscnted by novels like E. M. Forsrer's A Passage
to India and Rudyard Kipling's Kim, artempts to find syncreric solutions ro
rhe manichean opposirion of the colonizer and the colonized. This kind of
novel overlaps in some ways wirh the 'imaginary' texr: those portions
of rhe novel organized ar rhe emorive leve! are strucrured by ' imaginary'
idenrficarion, while rhose conrrolled by cognitive inrenrionaliry are struc-
rured by rhe rules of rhe 'symbolic' order. lronically, rhese novels - which
are conceivcd in rhe 'symbolic' real m of inrersubjecrivity, heterogeneiry, and
parricul ariry but are seduced by rhe speculariry of ' imagi nary' Orherness-
berrcr illustrate the economy and power of rhe manichean all cgory rhan do
rhe strictly 'imagi nary' texrs.
The second rype of 'symbolic' ficrion, rcprcscnrcd by rhc novels of
joseph Conrad and Nadine Gordimer, realizes thar syncrerism is impossible
wirhin rhe power relarions of colonial sociery because such a conrexr traps
rhe wrirer in the libidi nal economy of rhe 'imaginaq.' Hence, becoming
reflexive about irs conrext, by confining irself ro a rigorous examinaran of
rhe 'imaginary' mechanism of colonialisr menraliry, this rype of ficrion
manages ro free irself from rhe manichean allegory ....
lf every desire is ar base a desire ro imposc oneself on anorhcr and ro
be recognized by rhe Other, rhen rhe colonia l si tuarion provides an ideal
conrexr for rhe fulfillment of thar fundamental drive. The coloni alist's
military superi oriry ensures a complete projecri on of hi s self on rhc Other:
exercising his assumed superioriry, he desrroys withour any significant
qualms thc effecriveness of incl igenous economic, social, polirical, legal, and
moral systems and imposes his own versions of thesc srructures on rhe
Other. By rhus subjugaring rhe narive, the European setrl er is a ble ro
compel rhe Orher's recognition of him and, in rhe process, nll ow his own
idenrity ro become deepl y dependent on his posi ti on as a master. Thi s
enforced recogniti on from rhe Other in facr amoums ro rhe European's
narcissistic self-recognition since rhe narive, who is considered roo
degraded and inhuman ro be credired wirh any specific subjecriviry, is casr
as no more rhan a recipienr of rhe negarive clemenrs of rhe sclf thar rhe
European projecrs onro him. This rransirivit)' and rhe preoccupation wirh
the inverted self-image mark rhe 'imaginary' relarions rhat characreri ze the
colonial encounrer.
Nevenheless, rhe grarificarion rhar rhis siruation affords is impaired by
the European's alienation from his own unconscious desi re. In rhe 'imagi-
nary' rexr, rhe subjecr is eclipsed by his fixarion on and fe tishizarion of rhe
Other: the self becomes a prisoncr of the projecrcd image. Even though the
nari ve is negated by rhe projecrion of rhe in verted image, his presence asan
absence can never be canceled. Thus the coloni alisr's desire onl y enrraps
him in the dualism of rhe ' imaginary' and fomenrs violent barred of the
native. This desire ro extermi nare rhe brurcs, which is themarized
consciously and criticall y in 'symbolic' texts such ns J-leart of Darkness and
A Passage to India, manifesrs irself subconsciously in ' imaginary' rexrs,
such as those of j oyce Cary, rhrough rhc narra rors' clear rcli sh in describing
rhe mutilarion of nati ves. ' lmagi nary' re:as, like fa nrf'lsies which provide
naive sol urions ro rhe subjects' basic problems, rend ro cenrer thernselves
on plots that end with the el imina ri on of rhe offending narives.
The power of the 'imaginary' field binding the na rcissistic colonialist
rexr is nowhere better illusrrared rhan in irs ferishizarion of rhe Orher. This
process operares by substituti ng natural or generic caregories for those rhar
are socially or ideologicf'llly derermined. All rhe evil characteristics and
habirs wirh which rhe colonialisr endows rhe narive are rhereby nor
presenred as rhe producrs of social and cultural difference bur as charac-
reri srics inherenr in the race - in the 'blood'- of rhe narive. In irs extreme
form, rhis kind of feris hization transmutes all specificit}' and difference inro
a magical essence. Thus Dinesen boldly asserrs:
The Natives wcre Africa in flcsh and ... [The various culwrcs of
Africa, the mounrains, rhe rrccs, thc animalsl were diffcrcnt cxprcs-
sions of one ide,t, variations upon thc sarne rhemc. Ir wns nor a
congenia! upheaping of heterogcncous aroms, but a hcrcrogcneous
upheaping of congenia! arorns. as in rhe case of the oak-leaf nnd thc
acorn ancl the objecr rnacle frorn oak.
(Di nesen 19.37: 1.1)
As rhis example ill ustrates, ir is nor rhe srereorypes, the denigraring ' images'
of rhe native (which abound in coloni alist literarure), that are fe ti shized.
Carefu l scruri ny of coloniali sr texts reveals rhat such images are used at
random and in a sclf-conrracli crory fashion. For example, the narra tor of
Cary's Aissa Saved can claim that ' Kol u children of old-fashi oned fami lies
li ke Makunde's were remarkable for rheir gravity and decorum; ... rhey
were srri crl y broughr up and made ro behave themselves as far as possible
like grown-ups' (Cary 1949: 33). He even shows one such child, Tanawe,
behavi ng with great decorum and gravi ty. Yer the same narraror depicts
Kolu adults who have convcrred ro Chrisriany as naughry, irresponsible
children. Given rhe colonial isr menraliry, rhe source of che conrradiction is
quite obvious. Since Tanawe is roo young ro challenge colonialism, she can
be depicted in a benign manner, and the narrator can draw moral susre-
nance from the generosiry of his porrrayal. But rhe adulr Kolus' desire
ro become Chrisrians threarens ro eliminare one of rhc fundamental
differences bcrween rhem and rhe Europeans; so rhe narraror has ro impose
a difference. The overdetermined image he picks (Africans = children)
allows him ro feel secure once again because ir restares rhe moral balance
in favor of the ('adul e') Christian conqueror. Such conrradicrory use of
images abounds in coloniali sr li terarure.
My point, then, is thar the imperialist is not fixared on specific imagcs
or srereorypes of the Other but rather on the affecri ve benefits proffered
by the ma nichea n all egory, which generares rhe vari ous srercorypcs. As 1
have argued, thc manichean allcgory, wirh its highly effi cient exchange
mechanism, permirs various ki nds of rapid rransformari ons, for example,
metonymi c displacernent - which leads ro rhe essentialisr meronymy, as in
the abovc quotati on from Dinesen - and metaphori c condensarion - which
accounrs for rhe structure and characreri za ti on in Carr's Mister j olmson.
Exchange-value remai ns rhe central moti vati ng force of borh colonialisr
materi al practice and colonialisr lircrary represenrarion.
ferishizing srra tegy and rhe allegorical mechanism not onlr permit
a rap1d exchange of denigrati ng images which can be used ro mainrain a
sense of moral difference; rhey also allow rhe wrirer to rransform social and
histori cal dissimilarities inro uni versal, meraphysical clifferences. If, as
Dinescn has done, African narives can be coll apsecl inro African animals
and mysrifi ed srill further as some magical essence of rhe conrinenr, rhen
dearly rhere can be no meeting ground, no identiry, berween rhe social,
hisrorical crearures of Europe and the meraphysical al terit)' of rhe Calibans
and Ariels of Africa. If rhe differences between che Europeans and rhe
narives are so vasr, rhen dearly, as 1 srated earl ier, rhe process of civi lizi ng
rhc nari ves can conrinue indefinirely. The ideological funcrion of rhis
mechanism, in addirion ro prolonging colonialism, is ro dchistoricize and
desociali ze rhe conquered world, ro prcscnt ir as a meraphysical 'facr of
life,' befare which rhose who have fashioned rhe coloni al world are rhem-
selves reduced co rhe role of passive spccrarors in a mysrery nor of rheir
There are many formal conscqucnccs of rhis denial of hisrorr and
normal social interaction. Whi le masquerading under rhe gui se of rcalist
fi crion, rhe colonialist text is in facr anragonisri c w some of rhc prevai ling
rendencies of realisrn. As M. M. Bakhtin has argucd, rhe temporal mocl cl
of rhc world cbanges radically with rhc ri sc of rhc realisr novel: ' For rhe
first rime in arcisri c-ideological consciousness, rime and rhe worlcl become
hisrorical: rhcy unfold as becoming, as an uninrerrupred movcmcnr inro a
real future, as a unified, all-embracing ancl unconclucled process' (Bakhtin
1975: 30). But since the colonialist wanrs to maintain his privileges b)'
prescrving rhe srarus quo, his represenrarion of the world conrains neirher
a scnse of hisrorical becoming, nor a concrete vision of a furure differenr
from rhe present, nor a teleology other rha n rhe infinirely posrponed
process of 'civilizing.' In shorr, it does nor conmi n any S)ncreric cultural
possibili ry, which alone would open up rhe historie once more ....
This adamant refusal ro adrnit rhe possibi li tf of syncrerism, of a
rapprochement berween self and Orher, is rhe mosr imporranr factor
disti nguishing rhe ' imagi nary' from thc 'symbolic' coloniali st rexr. The
'syrnbolic' rcxr's openness toward rhe Orher is based on a grcarer awarencss
of porential idenriry and a heightened scnse of the concrete socio-polirico-
culrural differencr.s ben.veen sclf and Othcr. Alrhough rhc 'symbolic' wrirer's
undersranding of rhe Other proceeds rhrough self-unclersranding, he is freer
from rhe codes nnd mori fs of rhe deeper, collecrive classificarion sysrem
of hi s culture. In rhe final analysis, his success in comprehending or
appreciating alterity will depend on his ability to bracker rhe values and
bases of his culrure. He may do so very consciously ancl deliberarely, as
Forstcr does in A Passage to India, or he may all ow the emorions and values
instill cd in him during his social formari on in an alen culture ro inform his
appraisals of rhe Orher, as Kipling does in Kim. These two novels offer rhe
most inreresring atremprs ro overcorne the barriers of racial difference ....
As we have seen, colonialist ficrion is generared predomina ntl y by rhe
idcological machinery of the rnanichean allegory. Yer rhc rclarion berween
imperial ideology and fi crion is not unidireccional: rhe ideology does nor
simply determine the ficrion. Rarher, rhrough a process of symbiosis, thc
ficrion (orms rhe ideology by arricula ring and jusri fying rhe position and
aims of rhe coloniali sr. Bm ir does more rhan jusr defi ne and elaborare rhc
actual military and purative moral superioriry of the Europeans. Troubled
by rhe nagging conrradicrion berween rhe rheorerical jusrification of
exploirari on and rhe barbariry of irs actual pracrice, ir also atremprs ro
mask rhe conrradicrion by obsessively porrraying rhe supposed infer ioriry
and barbarity of rhe racial Orher, thereby insisring on rhe profound moral
difference berween self and Orher. Within rhis symbioric relation, rhe
manichean allegory funcrions as a rransformarive mechanism berwecn
rhe affecri ve plcasure derived from the moral superioriry and materi al profit
rhat motivare imperial ism, on the one hand, and rhe formal devices (gen res,
stereotypes, and so on) of colonialisr ficrion, on rhe other hand. By all owing
rhe European to denigrare rhe nati ve in a variety of ways, by pennitting an
obsessive, fetishisric represenrarion of the narive's moral inferioriry, rhe allc-
gory also enablcs rhe European ro increase, by conrrast, the srore of his
own moral superiority; ir allows him ro accumulate 'surplus morality,'
which is further invesred in rhe denigrarion of the native, in a self-
sustaining cycle.
Thus rhe ideological funcrion of all 'imaginary' and some 'symbolic'
colonialisr lirerarure is ro articulare and jusrify rhe moral aurhoriry of rhe
colonizer and - by posiring rhe inferioriry of rhe narive as a meraphysical
fact- ro mask rhe pleasure rhe colonizcr derives from rhat aurhoriry ....
Finally, we musr bear in mind rhar colonialist fiction and idcology do
not exist in a vacuum. In order ro appreciare rhem rhoroughly, we musr
examine rhem in juxra position ro domestic Engl ish ficrion and rhe anglo-
phone fiction of thc Third Worl d, which originares from British occupari on
and which, during rhe currenr, hegemonic phase of colonialism, is esrab-
lishing a dialogic relarion wirh colonialist fiction. The Third World's
literary dialogue wirh Wesrern cul tures is marked by rwo broad character-
istics: its attempt ro negare rhe pri or European negarion of colonized
cultures and irs adoprion and creative modificarion of Wesrern languages
and artistic forms in conjuncrion wirh indigenous languages and forms.
This dialogue merits our serious atrenrion for rwo reasons: firsr, in spite of
rhe often studied attemprs by erhnocentric canonizers in Engli sh and orher
(Western) language and li rerarure deparrmenrs co ignore Third World
cult ure and arr, rhey wi ll nor go away; and, second, as this analysis of colo-
nialist li rerarure (a literarure, we musr remember, rhat is sued ro mediare
between different cultures) demonsrrares, rhe domai n of literary and
cultural syncrerism belongs nor ro colonialisr and neocolonialist writers bur
increasi ngly ro Third World arrisrs.
Can the Subaltern Speak?
SoME OF THE most radical crtcism comng out of che West today s the
result of an nterested desire to conserve the subject of che West, or the West
as Subject. The theory of pluralzed 'subject-effecrs' gves an lluson of
undermining subjecrive sovereignty while ofcen provid ng a cover for rhis
subject of knowledge. Although che hi srory of Europc as Subject is narra-
tivzed by the law, political economy, and ideology of the Wcst, this
concealed Subject prerends ir has 'no geo-polirical decerminations.' The
much publicized cri tique of the sovereign subject rhus acntally inaugurares
a Subject .. ..
Ths S/subjecr, curiously sewn together inw a rransparency by denega-
tions, belongs ro rhe expJoicers' side of che internacional division of labor.
lt is irnpossible for conremporary French nrellecruals ro imagine che kind
of Power and Desirc rhat woul d inhabit the unnamed subject of che Other
of Europe. lt is not only rhat everything they read, critica! or uncrrical, is
caught wi rhin the debate of the producrion of rhar Ocher, supporting or
critiquing che consrirution of the Subjecr as Europe. lr s also rhar, in rhe
constiturion of thar Other of Europe, grear care was raken to obliterare
rhe textual ingredients with which such a subject could cathect, could
occupy (i nvesr?) its irinerary - noc only by ideological and scienrific
production, bur also by the insritution of the law .... In rhe face of rhc
possibili ty thac rhe inrellecrual s complicit in the persisrenr constituton of
Other as the Self's shadow, a possibilty of politi cal practice for che intel-
lecrual would be ro put che economic ' under erasure,' rosee che economic
factor as irreducible as ir reinscri bes the social texr, even as ir is erased,
however imperfectl y, when it claims ro be rhe final determinan e or rhe tran-
scendental signified.
The clearest available example of such cpisremic violence is the remorely
orchesrrared, far-fl ung, and hererogeneous projecr ro consritute rhe colonial
.. From 'Can the Subaltcrn Speak?' in Cary Nelson and Lawrcnce Grossbcrg (eds)
Marxism and the lnterpretation o{ Culture London: Macmillan, 1988.
. e as Other. This projecc is also che asymetrical oblireraron of che trace
su ec b. 1 11 k h F 1
f h t Orher in its precanous Su ectt vtry. r ts we nown t ar oucau r
epistemic volence, a complete overhau_l of rhe episteme, in the

of sani ty ar che end of rhe European etghreenth cent ury. Bur whar tf
mtto f h . f h. . E
that particular redefiniran was aparro r e o . tsror_y m urope
as well as in rhe colonies? Whar tf rhe rwo proecrs of eptsremtc
worked as disloca red and unacknowledged pares of a vast eng111e?
Perhaps ir is no more rhan ro ask that rhe subtexr of the pahmpsesnc narra-
tivc of imperial ism be rccognized as 'subjugared knowledge,' 'a whole ser of
knowledges that have been disqual ified as inadequate ro their rask insuffi-
ciently elaborared: naive knowledges, locared low clown on rhe hterarchy,
beneath rhe rcquired leve! of cognition or scienti ficity' (Foucault 1980: 82).
This is not ro describe 'the way things really were' or ro privilege rhe
narrari ve of hisrory as imperal ism as rhe besr version of hisrory. lt is,
rather, ro offer an account of how an cxplanari on and narrarive of reali ty
was esrablished as rhe normati ve onc ... .
Lec us now move ro consider che margins (onc can jusr as well say rhe
silenr, silenced cenrer) of rhe circuir ma rked out by rhis episremic violence,
men and women among rhe llirerate peasanrry, the tri bals, the lowesr
strata of rhe urban subprolcrari ar. According ro Foucault ancl Deleuze (i n
rhe Firsr World, under che srandardization and regimemation of socialized
capital, chough rhey do nor seem ro recognize chis) the oppressed, if given
rhe chance (che problem of representation cannor be b)'passcd here}, and
on the way co solidariry rhrough all iance politi cs (a Marxisr rhemaric is at
work here) can speak and know their conditions. We musr now confronr
rhe foll owi ng quesri on: On che other side of rhe inrernarional division of
labor from socialized capital, inside and ourside rhe circuir of rhe epistemi c
violence of imperialist law and educarion supplementing an carlier
economic texr, can the subaltem speak? ...
The fi rsr pare of my proposirion - rhar rhe phased developmenr of thc
subalrern is complicated by che imperia list project - is confronted by a
coll ective of intellccruals who may be called the 'Subaltern Srudies' group.
They must ask, Can the subalcern speak? Here we are within Foucault's
own discipline of hisrory and wirh people who acknowledgc his influence.
Their project is ro rerhink lndian coloni al hstoriography from the
perspecrive of the disconti nuous chain of peasanr nsurgencies duri ng rhe
colonial occuparion. This is indeed rhc problem of ' rhe permission ro
narrare' discussed by Said ( J 984 ). As Ranaj ir Guha argues,
The hisroriography of Indian nari onalism has for a long rime been
domi natcd by elit ism - colonialisr clitism and bourgeois-narionalisr
elitsm ... shar[ingj the prejudice rhar rhe making of the Indian naton
and the developmenr of rhe consciousness-nationalism which con-
firmed rhi s proccss were cxcl usively or prcdominanrly elite achi cve-
ments. In the colonialist and neo-coloni alist hisrorographies thesc
achievements are cred red ro British colonial rulcrs, administrators,
policies, insrirurions, and culture; in rhe narionalist and nco-nationalist
wri rings- ro lndian elite pcrsonaliries, instirurions, acrivitics and ideas.
(Guha 1982: 1)
Cerrain varieries of che Indian elite are ar bese narive infonnants for fi rsr-
world intellectuals interesred in rhe voice of rhe Orher. Bur one muse
ncverrheless insist rhar che colonized subaltern subject is irretrievably
Againsr che indigenous elite we may ser what Guha calls 'che politics
of che people,' both ourside (' chis was an autonomous domain, for ir
neither originated from elite polirics nor did its existence depend on
che latter') and inside (' ir conrinued ro operare vigorously in spite of
[colonialism], adjusti ng itself ro the conditions prevai ling under rhe Raj and
in many respects developing entirely new srrains in borh form and contem')
the circuir of coloni al production (Guha 1982: 4). 1 cannot entirely endorse
ths insistence on determnate vigor and full auronomy, for practi ca!
historiographic exigencies will nor all ow such endorsements to privilege
subaltern consciousness. Againsr che possible charge thar bis approach is
essentialist, Guha constructs a definiran of che people (the place of thar
essence) that can be only an idenrity-in-differential. He propases a dynamic
srrarification grid describing colonial social production ar large. Even the
rhird group on the list, the buffer group, as ir were, between che people and
the great macrostrucrural dominanr groups, is irself defined as a place of
in-betweenness, what Derrida has describcd asan 'antre' (1981):
. {l.
e tte l.
Dominant foreign groups.
Dominant indigenous groups on the all -India level.
Dominant indigenous groups at rhe regional and local levels.
4. The terms 'people' and 'subalrern classes' [are] used as synony-
mous throughour [Guha's definirionj. The social groups and
elemenrs included in chis caregory rcprcscnr the demograpbic
di((erence between the total Indian population and al/ those
whom we have described as the 'elite.'
Consider rhe rhird tem on chis li sc - che a11tre of sicuational inderer-
minacy these careful hisrorians presuppose as rhey grapplc with the question,
Can rhe subalrern speak?
Tnken ns a whole and in tbe nbstrnct rhis ... caregory ... was
heterogeneous in irs composi ri on and rhanks ro rhc u neven characrer of
regional economic and social developmcnrs, di((erent (rom aren/o aren.
The same cl ass or elemcnr which was dominant in one arca ... could
be among rhe dominared in anorhcr. This could and did creare many
ambiguities and conrradictions in arritudcs and alliances, especially
among rhe lowesr srrara of the rural genrry, impoverished landlords, rich
peasanrs and upper middle class peasanrs all of whom bclonged, ideal/y
spenking, ro the carcgory of people or subalrern classes.
(Guha 1982: 8)
'The rask of research' projected here is 'to investigare, idenrify and measure
rhe specific na tu re and of of cons.ri ruri ng
tem 3] from che ideal and Sttuate 1t htstoncally. Invesngare, tdent tfy, and
measure che specific': a program could hardly be more essentialisr and
raxonomic. Yet a curious merhodological imperative is ac work. l have
argued rhat, in the conversation, a
vocabulary hides an essentlaltst agenda. ln subaltern srudtes, because of
the violence of imperialist episremic, social, and disci plinary inscri prion, a
project undersrood in essen.rialisr terms musr. rr.affic a textual prac-
rice of differences. The obect of the group s mvesnganon, tn the case not
even of che people as such but of the floating buffer zone of rhe regional
elire-subalrern, is a deviation from an ideal- the people or subalcern- which

itself defined as a difference from che eli te. lt is toward this strucrure thar
rhe research is orienred, a predicamenr rather di fferenr from rhe self-
diagnosed transparency of the first-world radical intellecrual. What
raxonomy can fi x such a space? Whether or not they themselves perceive ir
- in fact Guha sees his definition of 'the people' wit hi n che master-slave
di alectic- rheir rext articul ares the difficul t task of rewriti ng its own condi-
tions of impossibi li ty as the conditions of irs possibil ity.
'At rhe regional and locallevels [the dominant indigenous groupsj ...
if belongi ng ro social srrara hierarchicall y inferi or ro those of rhe dominant
all -Indian groups acted in the interests o( the latter and not in con(ormity
to interests correspo11ding truly lo tiJeir own social bei11g.' When rhese
writers spcak, in their essentializing language, of a gap berween interese and
acrion in rhe intermediare group, their conclusions are closer ro \llarx rha n
to the self-conscious naiver of Deleuze's pronouncemenr on rhe issue.
Guha, like Marx, speaks of inrerest in rerms of che social rarher rhan rhe
libidinal bei ng. The Name-of-thc-Father imagery in The EigiJteentiJ
Brumaire can help to emphasize rhar, on the level of class or group action,
'true correspondence ro own being' is as artificial or social as rhe
So much for the intermediare group marked in tem 3. For rhe ' true'
subal tern group, whose idenrity is irs difference, rhere is no unrepresenrable
subaltern subject that can know and speak irself; the intellectual's solurion
is not to absrain from represenrati on. The problem is rhar the subjecr's
itinerary has nor been traced so as ro offer an object of seduction ro rhe
represenri ng intcllecrual. In the slightly dated language of rhc lndian group,
the question becomes, How can we rouch che consciousness of rhe people,
even as we investigare rheir politics? Wit h what voice-consciousness Cln rhe
subaltern speak? Their project, after all , is ro rewrire the development of
.consciousness of the Indian nation. The planned discontinuiry of impe-
disringuishes this projecc, however old-fashioned irs
aruculauon, from 'renderi ng visible rhe medica! and jurdica( mechanisms
that surrounded the story [of Pierre Riviere].' Foucaulr is correcr in
suggesring that 'to make visible the unseen can also mean a change of level,
addressi ng oneself ro a !ayer of material which had hitherto had no perci-
nence for history and which had not becn recognized as having any moral,
aesthetic or historical value.' lt is the sli ppage from rendering visible the
mechanism to renderi ng rhe individual, both a voidi ng 'any kind of analysis
of [ thc subject] wherher psychological, psychoanalyrical or linguistic,' rhat
is consisrentl y rroublesome (Foucaulr 1980: 49-50) ....
When we come to rhe concomitam question of rhe consciousness of
rhe subaltern, rhe noon of whar rhe work cmmot say becomes importam.
In rhe semioses of rhe social rext, elaborations of insurgency stand in the
place of 'the utterance.' The sender- ' the pcasant' - is marked only as a
pointer ro an irretrievable consciousness. As for thc receivcr, we must ask
who is 'the real receiver' of an ' insurgency?' Thc historian, transforming
'insurgency' into ' text for knowledge,' is only one 'receivcr' of any coll ec-
tively intended social act. With no possibiliry of nostalgia for that losr
ori gin, rhe histori an must suspend (as far as possible} rhc clamor of his or
her own consciousness (or consciousness-effect, as operated by disciplinary
training), so rhat rhe elaboration of che insurgcncy, packaged wirh an
insurgcnr-consciousness, does not freeze inro ; ~ n 'objecr of invesrigarion,'
or, worsc yer, a model for imitarion. 'The subjcct' implicd by rhe rexts of
insurgency can only serve as a counterpossibility for rhe narrarive sancrions
granred ro rhe colonial subject in thc dominant groups. The postcolonial
intcllectuals learn rhat their privilege is rheir loss. In chis they are a para-
digm of the inrellectuals.
1t is well known thar the notion of che feminine (rarher rhan the
subalrern of imperi al ism) has been used in a similar way wirhin decon-
srructi ve criticism and wirhin cenain varieties of feminist criticism. In
rhe former case, a figu re of 'woman' is at issue, one whose minimal predi-
carian as indeterminate is already avalable ro the phallocentric tradi tion.
Subaltern historiography raises questions of method that would prevent it
from usi ng such a ruse. For the 'figure' of woman, che rclarionship berween
woman and silence can be plotted by women themselvcs; race and class
differences are subsumed under rhat charge. Subaltcrn historiography must
confront rhe impossibility of such gestures. The narrow cpisremi c violence
of imperialism gives us an imperfect allegory of rhc general violence that is
rhe possibi li ry of an episteme.
Wirhin rhe effaced itinerary of the subalrcrn subject, the rrack of
sexual difference is doubly effected. Thc qucstion is not of fema le partici-
pation in insurgency, or the ground rules of rhe sexual division of labor, for
borh of which there is 'evidence.' lt is, rather, rhar, both as object of
colonialist historiography and as subject of insurgency, rhe ideological
consrrucrion of gender keeps rhe male domi nant. If, in the context of
colonial producri on, rhe subalrern has no hisrory and c ; ~ n n o r speak, rhe
subaltern as fcmale is even more deeply in shadow ....
Signs Taken for Wonders
A remarkable peculiarity is that they (the English) always write
the personaljHOIIOIIII lwith a capitalletter. May we 1101 consider
this Great 1 as an 1mintended proof IJow much an Englishman
thinks o( his ow11 consequence?
Roben Southey, Lelters (rom England
THERE IS A scene in the cultural wri ti ngs of English colonialism which
repeats so insistently afrer the early ninereenth century- and, through thar
repetition, so triumphantl y inaugurales a li terarure of empire - thar 1 am
bound ro repe;tt ir once more. h is rhe scenario, played out in rhe wild and
wordlcss wasres of colonial India, Africa, rhe Caribbean, of the sudden
fortui tous discovery of the English book. Ir is, like all myths of origin,
memorable for its balance between epipbany and enunciarion. The
discovery of the book is, at once, a moment of originality and authority, as
well as a process of displacement that, paradoxicall y, makes the presence
of the book wondrous ro the exrenr ro which it is repeated, translated,
misread, displaced. Ir is wirh the emblem of the English book- 'signs raken
for wonders' - as an insignia of colonial authoriry and a signifier of
coloni al desirc and discipline, that I wanr ro begin rhis essay.
In the first week of May 181 7, Anund Messeh, one of rhe earli esr
Indian catechists, made a hurried and excired journey from his mission in
Meerur ro a grovc of trees outside Delhi.
He found about 500 people, men, womcn and childrcn, seared under
the shade of che crees, and employcd, as had been rclared ro him, in
reading and conversarion. He wenr up ro an elderly looking man, and
accosted him, and rhc following conversation passed.
From 'Signs Taken for Wonders: Qucsrions of Ambivalence and Aurhoriry Under
a Tree Oucside Delhi, M ay 181 7' Criticnllnquiry 12( 1 ), 1985.
'Pray who are all rhese people? and whence come they?' '\Y/e are poor
and lowly, and we read and !ove rhis book'- 'What is rhar book?' 'The
book of God!'-'Ler me look at ir, if you picase.' Anund, on opening
rhe book, perceivcd ir ro be rhe Gospel of our Lord, rranslated imo rhe
Hindoosranee Tongue, many copi es of which seemed ro be in the
possession of rhe party: some were PRINTED orhers WRllTEN by
rhemselves from rhc printed ones. Anund pointed ro rhe name of Jcsus,
and asked, '\Y/ho is rhar?' 'Thar is God! He gave us rhis book.' -
' Wherc dd you obran ir?' 'An Angel from heaven gave ir us, ar
Hurdwar fa r.'- 'An Angel?' ' Yes, ro us he was God's Angel: bur he
was a man, a learned Pundr.' (Doubdess rhese rranslated Gospels musr
have becn rhe books disrrbured, fivc or six yea rs ago, ar Hurdwar by
the Missionary.) 'The written copies we wrire ourselves, having no
orher mcans of obtaining more of rhis blessed word.' - 'These books,'
said Anund, ' reach rhe rel igion of rhc European Sahibs. lt is THEIR
book; and rhey prinred ir in our languagc, for our use.' 'Ah! no'; repliecl
rhc srranger, 'rhar cannor be, for rhey ear Ocsh.'- 'jesus Chri sr,' sa id
Anund, ' reaches rhat it does nor signify whar a man ears or dri nks.
EATING is norhing bcfore God. Not tbnt wbicb entereth into aman's
mouth de{iletb him but t/}(1/ which cometh out o( the mouth, this
de{ileth n man: for vile rhngs come fort h from rhe heart. Out of the
heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, {omicntions, thefts;
and these nre the things that de(i/e.'
'Thar is rruc; bur how can ir be rhc Europea n Book, when we believe
rhar ir is God's gifr ro us? He sent ir ro us ar Hurdwar.' 'God gave ir
long ago ro rhe Sahibs, and TI lEY scnr ir ro us.' The ignorance and
simpliciry of many are very srriking, never having heard of a prinred
book befare; and its very appearancc was ro rhem miraculous. A grcat
srir was cxcited by the gradual increasing information hereby
obrai ned, and all united tO acknowledge rhe superiority of rhc
doctrines of this Holy Book ro every rhing which rhey had hirherro
heard or known. An indifference ro the disrincrons of Casre soon
manifesred irself; and rhe interference and ryrannical aurhoriry of rhe
Brahmi ns became more offensivc and conremprible. Ar last, ir was
dcrcrrnined ro separare rhemselves from rhe resr of rheir Hindoo
Brcrh ren; and ro esrablish a parry of rhcir own choosi ng, four or five,
who could read the besr, ro be rhe publi c reachers frorn rhi s newly-
acquired Book .. . . Anund asked them, ' Why are you all dresscd in
whire?' 'The people of God should wear whitc raimenr,' was rhe reply,
'as a sign rhar rhey are clean, and ri d of rheir sins.'- Anund observed,
' You oughr ro be BAPTIZED, in rhc name of rhe Farher, and of rhe
Son, and of rhe Holy Ghost. Come ro Meerur: rhere is a Christian
Padre there; and he will shew you whar )' OU oughr ro do.' They
answercd, 'Now we must go home ro thc harvesr; but, as we mean ro
meer once a year, perhaps rhe next year we may come ro Meerur.' 1
explaincd ro rhem the narurc of rhe Sacrament and of Baprism; in
answer ro which, rhey replicd, '\"1/e are willing ro be baptized, but we
will never rake rhe Sacrament. To all rhe orher cusroms of Chri stians
wc are willing to conform, but not ro rhe Sacramenr, because rhc
Europeans ear cow's Oesh, and rhis will never do for us.' To this 1
answered, 'thi s WORD is of God, and nor of men; and whcn ir makes
our hearts ro undersrand, rhen you will PROPERLY comprchend ir.
~ h e y repli ed, 'If all our country wll receive this Sacmment, rhcn will
we.' 1 rhen observed, The rime is at hand, when all thc counrrics will
receive rhis \"1/0RD.' Thcy rcpli ed, ' True.'
(.Missionary Regsrer 1818: 18-19])
Almost a hundred years later, in 1902, joseph Conrad's Marlow,
traveling in the Congo, in the ni ght of the first ages, without a sigo and no
memories, cut off from the comprehension of his surroundings, desperarely

need of a deliberare belief, comes upon Towson's (or Towser's} lnquiry

some Points o( Seamanship.
Nota very enrhralling book; bur ar rhe first glancc you could sce rhcre
a singleness of inrenrion, an honcsr concern for rhe righr way of going
ro work, which made rhese humbl e pages, rhoughr our so many years
ago, luminous wirh anorhcr than a professional light .. .. 1 assure you
ro ]cave off readi ng was like rearing mysel f away from rhc shelrcr of
an old and solid fricndship ....
' Ir musr be rh is miserable trader - rhis inrruder,' exclaimed the
manager, looking back malevolenrl)' ar rhe place we had lefr. 'He must
be English,' 1 said.
(Conmd 1902: 71, 72)
Half a century later, a young Trinidadian discovers that S<lmc volume of
Towson's in that very passage from Conrad and draws from it a vision of
literature and a lesson of history. 'The scene,' writes V. S. Naipaul,
'answered some of the political pani c I was beginning ro feel':
To be a colonial was ro know a kind of security; it was ro inhabir a
fixed world. And 1 suppose rhar in my fantasy 1 had seen myself
coming ro England as ro sorne purely lirerary region, where, unrram-
meled by rhe accidenrs of hisrory or background, 1 could make a
romanric career for myself as a wrirer. Bur in rhe new world 1 felr rhar
ground move below me ... Conrad . .. had been everywhcrc before
me. Nor as a man wirh a ca use, bur a man offering a vi sion of rhc
world's half-made societi es . .. whcrc always 'somerhing inherenr in
rhc necessiri es of successful acri on carried wirh ir rhe moral degmda-
tion of rhe idea.' Dismal bur dceply fe lr: a kind of trurh and half a
(Naipaul 1974: 233)
Written as rhey are in the na me of the father and the author, these rexts
of the civi lizing mission immediatcly suggest the tri umph of the colonialist
momenr in early English Evangeli sm and modero English lirerature. The
discovery of the book install s rhe sign of appropriarc representation: rhe
word of God, trurh, art creares the conditions for a beginning, a pracrice
of hi story and narrarive. But rhe institution of the Word in rhe wilds is also
an Enstelltmg, a process of displacement, distortion, dislocation, repetition
- the dazzling light of lirerature shcds only areas of darkness. Still the idea
of the English book is presenrcd as universally adequate: like rhe
' metaphoric writing of rhe West,' ir communicares ' rhe immediare vision
of the thi ng, freed from the discourse thar accompanied ir, or even
encumbered it' (Derrida 1981: 189-90) ... .
The discovery of the English book establishes both a measure of
mimesis and a mode of civil authoriry and order. If rhese scenes, as J've
narrared rhem, suggest the triumph of rhe writ of colonialist power, then ir
musr be conceded that the wi ly letter of the law inscribes a much more
ambivalcnt rexr of aurhority. For it is in berween the edict of Englishness
and the assault of the dark unruly spaccs of rhe carrh, rhrough an act of
repcrition, thar rhe colonial text emerges uncerrainl y. Anund Messeh
disavows rhe natives' disturbing questions as he rerurns to repeat rhe now
quesrionable 'aurhoriry' of Evangelical dicta; Marlow rurns away from the
African jungle ro recognize, in rerrospecr, the peculi arly ' English' quality of
rhe discovery of rhe book; Naipaul ntrns his back on rhc hybrid half-made
colonial world ro fix his e}'e on thc universal domain of English lirerature.
Whar we wirness is neirher an unrroubled, innocem dream of England nora
'secondary revision' of thc nighrmare of India, Africa, rhe Caribbean. What
is 'Engli sh' in rhesc discourses of colonial power cannot be represenred as a
plenitude ora 'full' presence; iris derermined by its belatedness. As a signi-
fier of aurhority, thc Engli sh book acquires irs me::1t1ing a(ter rhe traumatic
scenario of colonial differencc, cultural or racial, rerurns 1 he eyc of power ro
sorne prior, archaic image or identiry. Paradoxically, however, such an image
can neither be 'origi nal ' by virrue of rhe act of repetiran rhar consrrucrs it-
nor 'identical' b}' virrue of rhe difference rhat defines ir. Consequently, the
colonial presence is always ambivalent, split berween its appearance as orig-
inal and authorirarive ami irs arricularion as repetition and difference . . ..
The place of difference and orherness, or rhe space of the adversaria!,
within such a sysrem of 'disposal' as !'ve proposed, is never entirel y on rhe
ourside or implacably oppositional. lt is a pressure, and a presence, rhat
acrs consrantl y, if unevcnly, along the enrire boundary of authorization,
rhat is, on rhe surface berween whar l've called disposal-as-besrowal and
disposirion-as-inclination. The contour of difference is agonistic, shifting,
splirring, rathcr like Freud's descriprion of rhe sysrem of consciousness
which occupies a posirion in space lying on the borderline berween ourside
and inside, a surface of prorection, receprion, and projection. The power
play of presence is lost if its transparency is treared naively as the nostalgia
for plenitude rhar should be nung repearedly into the abyss- mise en ab/me
- from which its desire is born. Such theoreticisr anarchism cannor inter-
vene in the agonisric space of aurhority where
rhe true and the falseare scparated and spccific cffects of power [are]
attached ro the true, it being undcrstood also that it is not a marrer of
, b 1 Jf' of rhe rruth bm of a battle about the status of trllth
a batt e on e la . . , .
and the economic and pohucal role tt plays.
(Foucault 1980: 132)
. 1
rervene in such a bartle for rhe status of rhe truth that ir
lt ts prectse y ro n b k F . . h'
ro examine rhe presence of rhe English oo . or tt ts t ts
becomes eructa , . . . . 1
. t bilizes rhe agonisric colontal space; Jt ts trs afJpearallce t 1at
surface t 1at s a 11 d' 1 d
b' valence berween origin and Entste tmg, tsctp me an
regulares t e am t ..
111esis and repermon.
est , f . ' b d bl
earances rhe rext o transparency mscn es a ou e
Desptre app ' '
. . h fi Id f che 'rrue' emerges as a visible effect of knowledge/power
VtStOn t C e O 1 f 1
f the reguhuory and displacing division of thc rrue and t 1e a se.
on y a ter . . ' , . b d . h
From rhis point of view, dtscurstve rranspar.ency tS esr rea tn .r e

c sensc in which a rranspa rency ts always a negattve,
p orograp
d l
nro visibility rhrough the rechnologies of reversa!, enlargemenr,
processe f , s 1
lighting, editing, projecrion, nor. but a re-source o hg t. uc 1 a
g ro light is never a prevtston; tt ts always a questton of rhe provt-
nngm 1 .
sion of visibility as a capacity, a srraregy, an bur a s? 111 t 1e tn
which rhe prefix pro(vision) mi ght indicare an ehston of stght, dclegatton,
substitution, contiguity, in place of .. . whar? .
This is che quesrion that brings us ro rhe ambtvalence of the presence of
authority, peculiarly visible in its colonial articularion .. For if transparency
signifies discursive closure - inrention, image, tt doe.s so r.hrough a
disclosure of irs mies o( recognition - those soctal rexts of eptsremtc,
centric, nationalist inrelligibi liry which coherc in the address of authonty .as
rhe 'present,' rhe voice of modernity. The acknowledgemenr of authonry
upon rhe immediate- visibiliry.of its rules of recog-
nition as the unmisrakable referent of htsroncal necesstty.
In rhe doubly inscribed space of colonial represenration where rhe
presence of aurhoriry- rhe English book - is also a quesrion .of irs
and displacement, where rransparency is teclm, rhe immedtate of
such a rgime of recogn.ition is resisted. Resistance is not n:cessanly an
oppositional acr of poltica! intenrion, nor is ir rhe simple negarton .or
sion of rhe 'content' of an orher culwre, as a difference once percetved. Ir ts
rhe effect of an ambivalence produced withi n rhe rules of recognition of
dominaring discourses as rhey articulare rhe signs of cultura! diJference
and reimplicate rhcm within the deferential relations of colontal power -
hierarchy, normalization, marginalizarion, and so forrh. For dominaran is
achieved through a process of disavowal that denies the di({rance of colo-
nialist power - rhe chaos of irs inrervenrion as Entstellu11g, its dislocatory
presence- in arder ro preserve rhe aurhoriry of irs idenrity in the universalisr
narrative of nineteenrh-cenwry hisrorical and polirical evolurionism.
The exercise of colonialist aurhorit}', however, requires the producrion
of differenriarions, individuarions, idenrity effects rhrough which discrimi-
natory pracrices can map out subjecr populations rhat are tarred with rhe
visi ble and transparenr mark of power. Such a mode of subjection is distinct
from what Foucault describes as ' power rhrough transparency': the reign of
opinion, aftcr the late eighreenrh cenrury, which could not tolerare areas of
darkness and sought ro exercise power through rhe mere fact of things being
known and people seen in an immediate, coll ecti ve gaze. Whar radically
differentiares rhe exercise of colonial power is the unsuitabiliry of the
Enlightenmenr assumption of collectiviry and rhe eye that beholds ir. For
jeremy Bentham (as Michel Pcrrot poims out ), the small group is
representarive of rhe whole society- rhe pan is nlrendy rhe whole. Colonial
aurhority requires modes of discrimination (cultural, racial, administrative .. . )
thar disallow a srable unitary assumption of collectivi ty. The 'pan' (which
muse be the colonialisr foreign body) must be representative of thc ' whole'
(conquered country), but the righr of representation is based on its radical
difference. Such doublethink is made vi able only through rhe strategy of
disavowal jusr described, which requires a theory of the 'hybridization'
of discourse and power rhar is ignored by Wesrern posr-srrucrurali sts who
engage in rhe bartl e for 'power' as rhc purists of difference.
The discri minarory cffccts of rhe discourse of cultural colonialism, for
insrance, do not simply or singly rcfer ro a 'person', or ro a dialectical power
struggle berween self and Orher, or to a discri mination between mother
culture and al en cultures. Produced through the strategy of disavowal, the
re(erence of discriminaran is always ro a process of spl itting as the condi-
tion of subjection: a discriminaran berween rhe morher culture and its
basrards, rhe self and irs doubles, where the trace of what is disavowed is
not repressed bur repeared as something di((erent - a murarion, a hybrid.
Ir is such a partial and double force t hat is more than the mimetic bur less
than the symbolic, that disturbs the visibility of the colonial presence and
makes rhe recognition of its aurhority problematic. To be authorirari ve, irs
rules of recognirion musr reflect consensual knowlcdge or opinion; ro be
powerful, these rules of recognition must be breached in ordcr ro represem
the exorbitam objects of discrimination that li e beyond its purview.
Consequcntly if thc unitary (and essentialisr) refcrence ro racc, nation, or
cultural tradition is essential ro preserve rhe presence of aurhoriry as an
immediare mimetic effect, such essenrialism musr be exceeded in the articu-
lation of 'differentiatory,' discrirninarory idenriries.
To demonstrate such an 'excess' is nor rnerely to celebrare rhe joyous
power of the signifier. Hybridiry is rhe sign of thc productiviry of colonial
power, its shifring forces and fixiries; it is rhe name for the srrategic reversa(
of rhe process of dominaran rhrough disavowal (thar is, the production of
discriminarory identities rhat secure the 'pure' and original identity of
aurhority) . 1-l ybridity is the revaluation of rhe assumprio11 of colonial
identity through rhe repetition of discrirninatory idenri ty effects. lr displays
rhe 11ecessary deformarion and displacemenr of all sires of discri minaran
and dominaran. Ir unsettles rhe mimetic or narcissisric demands of colonial
power but rei mplicates irs identifications in srrategies of subversion thar
turn che gaze of rhe discriminated back upon the eye of power. For rhe
colonial hybrid is the aniculation of the arnbivalenr space where the rire
of power is enacted 011 che site of desire, making irs objecrs at once discipl i-
nary and disseminarory - or, in my mixed meraphor, a negarive
transparency. lf discriminatory effects enable rhe aurhorities to keep an eye
them, rheir proli ferating difference evades rhat eye, escapes rhar
surveillance. Those discri minated againsr rnay be instantly recognized, but
they also force a recognirion of rhe immediacy and articulacy of aurhority-
a disturbing effect rhar is familiar in rhe repeared hesi tancy afflicri ng rhe
colonialist discourse when it contemplares irs discri minated subjects:
rhe inscrutnbility of rhe Chinese, rhe zmspenknble rites of the lndians, the
indescribnble habits of rhe Horrentots. It is not rhar rhe voice of aurhority is
ata loss for words. lt is, rather, that rhe colonial discourse has rcached rhat
point when, faced with rhe hybridity of its objecrs, rhc presence of power is
revealed as something orhcr than what its rules of recognition asserr.
rf rhe effecr of colonial power is seen to be rhe production of
hybridizarion rather than the noisy command of colonialisr aurhoriry or rhe
silent repression of narive traditions, then an imporrant change of perspec-
ti ve occurs. le reveals rhe ambivale11ce ar the source of tradirional
discourses on aurhority and enables a forrn of subversion, founded 011 that
uncertainty, that rurns the discursive condiri ons of dominance inro the
grounds of inrervenri on. lt is traditional academic wisdom that rhe pres-
ence of aurhority is properl y established through rhe nonexercise of pri vare
judgmenr and the exclusion of reasons, in conflicr wirh rhe aurhoritarive
reason. The recognition of aurhority, however, requires a valida tion of irs
source rhat must be imrnediately, even inruitively, apparenr- ' You have rhat
in your counrenance which 1 would fain call master' - and held in common
(rules of recognition). What is left unacknowledged is the paradox of such
a demand for proof and the resulting ambivalence for posirions of
authority. If, as Steven l. Lukes rightly says, the acceptance of aurhority
excludes any evaluation of rhe content of an uttera nce, and if irs source,
which must be acknowledged, disavows both confli cting reasons and
personal judgemenr, then can che 'signs' or 'marks' of aurhoriry be
anythi ng more rhan 'empry' presences of straregic devices? Need they
be any rhe less effcctive because of that? Not less effeccivc but effcctive in
a different form, would be our answer.
'Overall effect of t he dream-work: t he latent t houghts are transformad lnto a
manlfest formation in which they are not easily recognisable. They are not
only transposed, as it were, into another key, but they are also distorted in
such a fashion that only an effort of interpretation can reconstitute them'
llaplanche and Pontalis 1980: 1241. See also Samuel Weber's excellent
chapter 'Metapsychology Set Apart' (1982: 32-601
Problems in Current Theories
of Colonial Discourse
THE WORK OF Spivak and Bhabha will be discussed ro suggest rhe
producrive capaciry and limitarions of their different deconstructive
pracrices, and ro propose rhat rhe protocols of their dissimi lar methods act
ro constrain the developmenr of an anri-imperialist critique. Ir will be
argued that the lacunae in Spivak's learned disquisitions issue from a theory
assigni ng an absolure power ro rhe hegemonic discourse in consrituting and
disarticulating che native. Jn essays rhat are ro form a study on Master
Discourse/Native informant, Spivak inspects 'the absence of a text that can
"ans,ver one back" after thc planned epistemic vi olence of the imperialist
projecr' (Spivak 1985a: 131), and seeks ro dcvclop a srrategy of reading that
will speak ro the hisrorically-muted native subject, predominantly inscribed
in Spivak's writings as the non-elite or subalrern woman. A refrain, 'One
never encounters the testimony of the women's voice-consciousness, ' 'There
is no space from where che subalrern (sexed) subject can speak,' 'The sub
altern as female cannot be heard or read,' ' The subalrern cannot speak'
(Spivak 1985b: 122, 129, 130), iterares a rheorerical dictum derived from
srudying the discourse of Sati lwidow sacrificeJ, in which rhe Hindu
patriarchal code converged with coloni alism's narrarivizarion of Indian
culture ro efface all traces of woman's voice.
What Spivak uncovers are insrances of doubly-oppressed narive women
who, caught between the dominations of a native parriarchy and a foreign
masculisr-imperialisr ideology, inrervene by 'unempharic, ad hoc, subaltern
rewriring(s) of rhe social rexr of Sati-suicide' (Spivak 1985b: 129): a nine-
teenth century Princess who appropriares- 'rhe dubious place of the free will
of rhe sexed subjecr as female' (Spivak 1985a: 144) by signaling her inren-
rion of being a Sati against the edict of rhe Brirish administration; a young
Bengal girl who in 1926 hanged herself under circumstances d1at dcliberarely
defied Hindu interdicts (Spivak 1985b). From che discourse of Sati Spivak
" From ' Problems in Current Theories of Coloni <ll Discourse' Ox(ord Literary
Review 9 (1&2), 1987.
es large, general srarements on woman's subject constitution/objecr
env b 1 . . d 1 d
f arion in which rhe su a rern woman 1s conce1ve as a 1omogeneous an
caregory,. and in a _on the sl_tccess of
planned disawculanon. Even w1th111 the confines of ti11S same d1scourse,
e:s significant rhat Lata Man does find evidence, albeit mediared, of
:oman's voice. As Chandra Talpade Mohanry argues in her critique
\ f wesrern feminisr wrirings on 'Third World Women,' discourses of repre-
oentation should not be confused wich material realiries. Since che narive
is consrrucred within multiple social relationships and posirioned
as the produce of different class, caste and cultural specificiries, ir should
be possible to locate traces and testimony of women's voice on those sites
where women inscribed themselves as healers, ascerics, singers of sacred
songs, arrizans and artisrs, and by rhis ro modify Spivak's model of che si lent
If ir could appear that Spivak is theorizing the si lencc of rhc doubly-
oppressed subalrern woman, her rheorem on imperialism's episremic
violence exrends ro posting the narive, maJe and female, as an hisrorically-
muted subject. The srory of colonialism which she reconsrrucrs is of an
inreractive process where the European agenr in consolidaring the impcri-
alisr Sovereign Self, induces the native to collude in its own subj ect(ed)
formation as other and voiceless. Thus while proresring at the obliterarion
of the narive's subject position in che text of imperialism, Spivak in her
project gives no speaking pare ro the coloni zed, effecrively wriring out rhe
evidence of native agency recorded in India 's 200 year struggle against
British conquest and che Raj - discourses ro which she scarhingly refers as
hegemonic nativist or reverse erhnocentric narrativization.
The disparaging of nationalisr discourses of resistance is marched by
rhe exorbitation of the role allocred ro the post-coloni al woman incellectual,
for it is she who must plot a story, unravel a narra ti ve and give the subalrern
a voice in history, by using 'rhe resources of deconsrrucrion "in the service
of reading" to develop a straregy rather than a theory of reading that might
be a critique of imperiali sm' (Spivak 1986: 230). Spivak's 'alternative
narrative of colonialisrn' rhrough a series of brilliant upheavals of rexrs
which expose rhe fabrications and exclusions in rhe wriring of rhe archive,
is direcred at challenging the auchority of rhe received hisrorical record and
restoring the effaced signs of na ti ve consciousness, and iris on rhese grounds
thar her projecr should be esrimated. Her account, iris claimed, disposes of
the old srory by dispersing the fixed, unicary categories on which this
depended. Thus ir is argued rhac for purposes of adminisrrarion and
exploitation of resources, rhe narivc was constructed as a prograrnmed,
' nearly-selved' other of the Europea n and not as its binary opposite.
Furthermore, rhe carrography thar became che 'realicy' of India was drawn
by agenrs who were rhemselves of hererogeneous class origin and social
and whose (necessarily) diversified maps distributed che native inro
dJfferential posirions which worked in the interese of the foreign authoriry
- for example, a fanras rnatic race-di fferentiared demography
resroring 'righrful' Aryan rulers, and a class discourse effecring rhe proro-
proletarianizarion of the 'aborigines.'
lnsread of recouming a srruggle berween a rnonolithic, near-deliberarive
colonial power and an undifferentiated oppressed mass, this reconsrrucrion
displays a process more insidious rhan naked repression, since here rhe narive
is prevailed upon ro inrernalize as self-knowledge, the knowledge concocred
by the master: ' He {the European agenr) is worlding thcir own world, which
is far from mere uninscribed earrh, anew, by obligi ng them ro domesticare
rhe al en as Master,' a process gencrating rhe force 'ro make rhe "narive" see
himself as "other"' (Spivak 1985a: 133). Whcrc military conqucsr, institu-
ti onal compulsion and ideological inrerpell arion was, episremi c violence and
devious discursive negori ati ons requiring of thc native rhat he rewrite his
posirion as objecr of imperialism, is; and in place of recalcitrance and refusal
enacted in movements of resista nce and aniculated in opposirional
discourses, a tale is rold of the self-consoliclating orher and thc disarticulared
This raw and selective summary of what are complcx and subde argu-
ments has rried to cl raw out rhe polirical implicarions of a rheory whose
axioms deny ro the native the ground from which ro uttcr a reply ro impe-
rialism's ideological aggression or ro enunciare a different self:
No pcrspective critica/ of imperialism can turn thc Othcr in10 a sel f,
because the project o( imperialism has always already historicall y
refracted what might have been the absolutely Orhcr into a domcsti
cated Other that consolidares the imperialist sclf .... A full literary
inscription cannor easily flourish in the imperialist fracture or discon
tinuiry, col'ered over by an alen legal sysrem masqucrading as Law as
such, an alen ideology esrablished as only trurh, and a ser of human
sciences busy establishing rhe native 'as self-consoliciaring Othcr.'
(Spivak 1985c: 253, 254)
In bringing rhis thesis ro her reading of \Vide Sargasso Sea (Rhys 1968)
as j ane Eyre's reinscription, Spivak demonstrares che pitfalts of a rheory
posrul ating 1har rhe Master Discourse preemprs rhe (self) consticurion of
the hi storical native subject. When Spivak's nori on is juxtaposed ro the
quesrion Said asks in Orienralism, 'how can one srudy orher cultures and
peoples from a libertaran, or a non-repressivc and non-manipularive
perspective?', and Jean Rhys' novel examined for irs enunciation (despite
much incidental racism) of jusr such a perspectivc which faci li tares the
transformaran of rhe Orher inro a Self, then ir is possible ro consrruct a
rc-reading of Wide Sargasso Sea irerating many of Spivak's observarions
while dispuring her founding precepts.
Spivak argues rhat beca use rhe construction of an English cultural iden-
tit)' was inseparable from orhering rhe native as its objecr, rhe art iculation of
the femalc subject withm the emcrging norm of fcminisr individualism
. rhe age of imperi alism, necessarily excluded the narive fe male, who
dunng d b 1 d 1 h b'
irioned on rhe boun ary erween mman an an1ma as r e o JCCt
was pos 1 k 1 1 l
. rialism's social-miSSIOn or sou -ma 111g. n app y111g r 11s 1nteracnve
pe f \VI 'd S S S k
ro her read111g o vr . e argasso ea p1va ass1gns ro
proces f
d h . .
An inetre/Berrha, daughrer o s avc-owners an c1rcss ro a posr-emanct-

forrune, rhe role of rhe native female sacrificed in the cause of the
of rhe European female individualist. Alrhough Spivak
acknowledge that Sargasso Sea is 'a . a
nonical Engli sh rexr Wlthlll the European novellsnc tradltlon 1n rhe
of rhe whire Creole rarher than the native' (Spivak 1985c: 253), and
: ituares Antoinetre/Bertha as caught berween rhe Engl ish imperialist and rhe
black Jamaican, her discussion does nor pursue the rexr's represenrarions of
a Creole culture rhar is dependcnt on both yet singular, or its enunciari on of
a specific sertl er discourse, distinct from the texrs of imperialism. The dislo-
cations of rhe Creole position are repea redly spoken by Anroinerre, the
'Rochester' figure and Chrisrophine; the nexus of inrimacy and hatred
berween white settler and black servant is wrinen into the text in the mirror
imagery of Antoineue and Tia, a trape which for Spivak funcri ons ro invoke
rhe orher rhar could not be sclved:
We had eatcn the samc food, slept si de by si de, barhed in thc samc
river. As 1 ran, 1 rhought, 1 wi ll live with Tia and 1 will be li ke hcr ....
When 1 was closc 1 saw che jagged srone in her hand bur 1 did not sec
her throw ir .... 1 lookcd at her and l saw her face crumble as she
began ro cry. We srared at cach other blood on my face, tears on hcrs.
Ir was as if 1 saw myself. Likc in a looking-glass.
Rhys 1968: 24)
But while themselves not English, and indeed outcastes, the Creoles are
Masrers ro rhe blacks, and jusr as Brome's book invites the reader via
Rochester ro see Bertha Mason as situared on the human/animal fronrier
('One night 1 had been awakened by her yell s .... Ir was a fierce Wesr
lndian night ... rhosc are the sounds of a bottomless pit,' quored in Spivak
1985c: 247-8), so does Rhys' novel vi a Anroinette admit her audience to
the regulation sertler view of rebetlious blacks: 'the same face repeated over
and over, eyes gleaming, mouth half-open,' emitting 'a horrible noise ...
like animals howling but worse.' (Rhys 1968: 32, 35)
The idiosyncrasies of an accounr where Antoinette plays thc part of
'the woman from rhe coloni es' are consequences of Spivak's decree that
imperia lism's linguisri c aggression obliterares rhe inscription of a narive
self: thus a black femalc who in \\'lide Sargasso Sen is mosr fully selved,
must be reduced ro rhc status of a tangencial figure, and a white Creole
woman (mis)consrrued as rhe native female produced by the axiomarics of
imperial ism, her dcarh intcrpretcd as 'an allegory of the general epistemic
violence of imperialism, the construction of a self-i mmolaring subjecr for
the glorification of rhe social mission of rhe colonizer' (Spivak 1985c: 251 ).
While all owing chat Christophi ne is boch speaking subject and interpreter
co whom Rhys designares some crucial functions, Spivak sees her as
marking che limics of the cext's discourse, and not, as is here argued,
disrupcing it.
What Spivak's srracegy of reading necessarily blots out is
Chriscophine's inscription as che native, fe male, individual Self who defies
the demands of the discriminacory discourses impinging on her person.
Although an ex-slave given as a wedding-presenc ro Antoinette's mother
and subsequently a caring servant, Christophine subvens the Creole
address thac would conscitute her as a domesticated Other, and assens
herself as art iculare antagonist of pacriarchal, senler and imperialisc
law. Natural mother to children and surrogate parent to Ancoinette,
Christophi ne scorns patriarchal auchority in her personallife by discarding
her pat ronymic and refusing her sons' fathers as husbands; as Antoinette's
protector she impugns 'Rochescer' for lcis economic and sexual exploitation
of her fortune and person and as fema le individuali sc she is eloquencly and
frequently concemptuous of male conduce, black and whice . . . .
Christophine's defiance is noc enacted in a small and circumscribed
space appropriated within che lines of dominant code, buc is a sca nce from
whi ch she delivers a frontal assault againsc ancagonists, and as such
constitutes a counter-discourse. \Xfi se ro che limics of post-emancipation
justicc, she is quick to invoke che procection of its law when ' Rochescer'
threatens her with retribution: ' This is free councry and I am free woman'
(Rhys 1968: 131) - which is exactl y how she funcrions in the text, her
retort to him condensing her role as che black, female individuali st: 'Read
and wrice 1 don' t know. Other thi11gs l k11ou/ (Rhys 1968: 133; emphasis
added) ....
Spivak's delibera red deafness ro the native voice where it is to be hea rd,
is at variance with her acure hearing of the unsaid in modes of Western
femi nist criticism which, while dismantli ng masculist conscwcrions, repro-
duce and foreclose colonialist scrucrures and imperialisr axioms by
'performing the li e of constituting a truth of global sisterhood wherc the
mesmerizi ng model remains maJe and female sparring partners of generaliz-
able or universal izable sexualiry who are rhe chi ef protagonists in thar
European concesr' (Spivak 1986: 226). Demanding of disciplinary standards
that 'equal righcs of hisrorical, geographical, linguistic specificity' be granted
ro the 'thoroughly strarified larger thearre of the Third World' (238}, Spivak
in her own writings severely resrri ccs (eliminares?) rhe space in which the
colonized can be writren back into history, even when 'interventionist
possibilicies' are exploited through the deconstructive strategies devised by
rhe post-colonial intellecrual.
Homi Bhabha on the other hand, through recoveri ng how rhe master
discourse was interrogated by che nacives in their own accents, produces an
autonomous position for the colonial within the confines of the hegemonic
discourse, and because of this enunciares a very different 'politics.' The
ined effort of wrirings which initially concencrated on deconsrituting
of colonial discourse, and which latterl y have engaged wirh
t he of rhis rexr by rhe inappropriate utterances of the colo-
r. eed has been ro con test the notion Bhabha considers ro be implicir in
JUZ ' 1 d. . 1 . ] b 1
S id's Orientalism, that 'power anc 1scourse 1s possessec ent1re )' y e 1e
aloniser.' Bhabha reiterares che proposition of anri-colonialist writi ng that
objective of colonial discourse is co conscrue the coloni zcd as a racially
populat.ion in order . to justify conquest and rule. However
because he maimams that relanons of power and knowledge funcnon
arnbivalently, he argues rhat a discursive sysrem splir in enunciation,
constitutes a dispersed and variously positioned nati ve who by (mis)appro-
priating the rerrns of the dominant ideology, is able ro intercede against and
resist this mode of consrruct1on.
In dissenti ng from analysis ascribi ng an intentionality and unidirec-
tionality ro colonial power which, in Said's words, enabled Europe co
advance unmeraphorically upon the Orienc, Bhabha insisrs thar this not
only ignores represenration as a concept articulating borh rhe hisrorical and
rhe fantasmatic, but unifies rhe subject of colonial enunciation in a fixed
position as che passive object of discursive dominarion. By reveal ing the
multiple and contradictor)' articul ari ons in colonia lism's address, Bhabha
as contemporary critic seeks ro demonstrate the limits of its discursive
power and ro countennand its demand 'rhat irs discourse (be) non-dialogic,
its enunciation unitary' (Bhabha 1985a: 100); and by showing rhe wicle
range of stereotypes and che shifring subject positions assigned ro the
colonized in the colonialisr text, he sers out ro liberare the colonial from
its debased inscription as Europe's monolithic and shackl ed Other, ancl
into an auconomous native 'difference.' However, this rea ppropriation
although effected by rhe cleconstructions of che post-coloni al inrellectual ,
is made possible by uncovering how rhe masrer-discourse had al ready
been interroga red by the colonized in native accencs. For Bha bha, the sub-
altern has spoken, and his readings of rhe coloni alisr rext rccover a nacive
voice ... .
\XIhere Spivak in inspecting rhe absence of a cexc rhat can answer back
after the planned epistemic violence of the imperialist projecr, finds pockets
of non-co-operation in che dubious place of the free will of the (female)
sexed subject' {Spivak l 985a: 144 ), Bhabha produces for scrutiny a
discursive situation making for recurrent instances of transgression
performed by the nacive from wirhi n and agai nst colonial discourse. Here
the autocolonization of che nacive who meets the requi rements of colonialist
address, is co-extensive with rhe evasions and 'sly civility' through which rhe
native refuses to sati sfy rhe demancl of the colonizer's narrative. This
concepr of mimicry has since been furrher developed in rhe postulare of
'hybridity' as the problema tic of colonial discourse.
. Bhabha contends that when re-articulatcd by the native, the colonialist
desl re for a reformed, recogni zable, nearly-simi lar orher, is enacted as
parody, a dramari zation ro be disringuished from rhc 'cxercise of dependenr
colonial relarions through narcissisric idenrificarion.' For in rhe ' hybrid
momenr' whar rhe native rcwrites is not a copy of rhc colonialist original,
but a qualirarively different ching-in-irself, where misreadings and incon-
gruities expose che uncerrai nri es and ambiva lences of rhe colonialisr rexr
and deny ir an aurhori zing presence. Thus a textual insurrecri on againsr rhe
discourse of coloni al auchority is located in che narives' inrerrogarion of che
English book wirhin the rerms of rhei r own sysrem of cultural mcanings, a
displacement which is read back from rhe record wricren by coloni ali sm's
agenrs and ambassadors:
Through rhc narives' strange quesrions it is possiblc ro see, wirh
hi srorical hindsighr, whar rhey resisred in quesri oning the presence of
the English - as religious medi ation and as cultural and li nguisric
medium .... To rhe cxrcnr ro which di scourse is a form of defensive
warfare, rhen mimicry marks rhose momenrs of civil di sobedience
wirhin rhe di scipline of civiliry: signs of spcctacular rcsistance. When
rhc words of rhe master become rhc site of hybridity - rhe warlike sign
of rhe native - then we may not only read bcrween rhe li nes, but evcn
seck ro chnnge the oftcn cocrcive rea lit y that rhey so lucidl y conrain.
(Bhabha 1985a: 10 1, 104)
Dcspice a flagranrly ambivalcnr presenrarion which leaves it vulnerable
ro innocenr misconsrruction, Bhabha's theori zing succeeds in making
visible rhose moments when coloni al discourse already disturbed ac its
source by a doublcness of enunciation, is furr her subverred by the object of
irs address; when che scenario wri tten by colonialism is given a perfor-
mance by rhe native that esrranges and undermincs the colonialisr scripr.
The argumenr is nor rhar rhe coloni zed possesses colonial power, bur thac
its fraccu ri ng of rhe colonialist text by re-articularing ir in broken Engl ish,
perverrs rhe mcaning and message of the Engli sh book (' insigni a of colonial
authority and signifier of coloni al desi re and discipline,' 1985a: 89), and
rherefore makes an absolute exercise of powcr irnpossible.
A narra ti ve which dclivers rhc coloni zed from its discursive status as the
illegitimate and refracrory foil ro Europe, inro a position of 'hybri dicy' from
which it is able ro circumvent, chall enge and refuse colonial authority, has
no place for a roralizing norion of episcemic violence. Nor does che confli ctual
economy of rhc coloniali st texr all ow for rhe unimpcded opcraci on of
discursive aggression: ' Whar is arciculared in thc doublcness of colonial
discourse is nor rhe violence of one powerful nation writing out anorher
[bur] a mode of conrradictory uttcrance thar ambivalentl y re-inscri bes
borh coloniser and coloniscd.' The effecr of chis rhesis is ro displace rhe
traditional anri-colonialist represenrarion of anragonisri c forces locked in
srruggle, wirh a confi guration of discmsivc transacrions: ' The place of
di ffcrcnce and ocherness, or the space of the adversaria!, wirhin such a systern
of "disposal" as J've proposed, is nevcr entirely on rhc oursidc or implacably
opposirional.' (95)
have been or are still engaged in colonial struggles againsr
Those w f
forms of imperialism could well read t 1e t 1eonz1ng o
ontemporary . h'
e 1 ,
rs with considerable disbelief at rhe construcnon t ts puts
discourse ana > 1 h 1
. n rhey are fighring agamM and rhe comest 111 w 11c t 1ey are
n rhe struauo 1 b
a ed. This is not a charge rhe .difficulry of r.he. a na yses ut an
eng g . rhar rhesc alcernattve narrattves of colontaltsm obscurc the
observauon ' F 1961
nd decisive struggle berween rwo procagontsts ( anon :
' mur erous . . . 1 l'b
d d
scount or wnre out rhe counrer-dtscourses whtc 1 every 1 era-
30) an 1 f . 1 . . 1 .
. ' e
r records. The significanr di ferences m t 1e cnttca practtces
uon movem 1 d b
f S
k and Bhabha are submerged in a shared programme marke y
o ptva . . . b 1 bl'
ration of discourse and a related mcunoSJty a our t 1e ena tng
t e exor 1 . . . . . .

ic and polincal tnstttllttons and orher forms of soctal prax1s.
F h more b
ecause rheir thescs admit of no pomr outstdc of clt scourse
urc er . d
from which opposirion can be engendered, rhetr prOJCCt 1s concerne . ro

cendiary devices within rhe dominanr srrucrures of represenranon
p ace . el S . . k . . 1
d ot ro confront these wtth anorher knowle ge. For ptva , tmpena -
bellicosity decimated rhe old culture and lc.fc rhe colonized
chour che ground frorn which rhey could urrer confronta nona! words; for
rhc srraragems and subterfuges ro which the narive resorted,
bilized the effectivity of the English book bur did nor wri tc an alrcrna uve
text _ with whose constitution Bhabha decl ines ro engagc, mainrai ning rhar
an anti-colonialist discourse ' requires an alrernative set of quesrions, rech-
niques and srraregies in arder 10 cons.rruct ir' 198).
Wichin another cri tica! mode whtch also reJCCts roraltz111g absrraccs of
power as falsifying siruations of dominati on and subordinacion, rh.e notion
of hegemony is inseparable from chat of a countcr-hegemony. In thts theory
of power and contest, t he process of procuring the consenr of the oppressed
and the marginali zed 10 rhe exisring srructme of relationships through
ideological inducements, neccssarily generares dissenr and rcsistance, since
the subject is conceived as being constirured by mcans of incommensurable
solicitations and hecerogeneous social pracri ccs. The ourcome of this
agonistic exchange, in which those acldrcssed chall enge rheir interl ocutors,
is that rhe hegemonic discoursc is ultimarely abandoned as scorched earch
when a differenr discourse, forged in the proccss of disobedience and
combar, occupying new, never-colonized and ' utopian' rerritory, and
prefiguring orher rclationships, valucs and aspirati ons, is enunciared. At a
time when dialectical rhi nking is nor the rage amongst colonial discourse
theorisrs, ir is instrucrive ro recall how Fanon's dialogical inrerrogati on of
European power and native insurrection reconsrrucrs a process of cultural
resistance and cultural disruption, participares in writing a texc thar
can answcr coloni ali sm back, and <t ntici pates <t norher condition bcyond
Facc to face wirh rhe white man, rhe has a pasr ro legitimare, a
vengeance ro extraer. ... In no way should 1 dedcate mysclf ro thc
reviva! of an unjusdy unrecognizcd t\cgro 'ivi lization. 1 wi ll nm make
mrsclf a man of rhe past. ... 1 am nora prisoner of history; ir is only
b): going beyond rhe historical. instrumental hypothesis rhar 1 wi ll
iniciare the cp:le oi mr frccdom.
(F.mon 1952: 225-6, 229, 231)
The enabling condirions for Fanon's analysis are that an oppositional
discourse born in polirical struggle, and at rhe ourser invoki ng rhe pasr in
proresr againsr capirularing ro rhe colonizer's denigrations, supersedes a
commirmenr ro archaic native rradirions ar the same rime as ir rejects
colonialism's system of knowledge:
The colonialisr bourgeoisie had in facr deeply implanrcd in rhe minds
of rhc coloni sed intellectual thar rhe cssential qualitics remain eterna!
in spi tc of all the blunders mcn may make: the csscntial qualiries of che
Wcst, of course. The narivc inrell ecrual acceprcd thc cogcncy of thcsc
ideas and deep clown in his brain you could alwoys find a vigil ant
senrinel read)' ro defend rhe Greco-Latin pedestal. Now it so happcns
that during the srrugglc for liberarion, tH thc momcnt rhat rhe nari ve
inrell ectual comes inro rouch ag<J in wit h h i ~ pcoplc, thi !> arti ficial
senrinel is turned into dust. All the Mcditerranc<Jn va lues, - the
triumph of the human individual of clarit y and of bcaut y - become
lifeless, colourlcss knick-knacks. t\ ll rhose spccches sccm like collec-
tions oi dead words; rhose values whJCh seemed t0 tlplift thc soul :1rc
rc\'(:aled as worrhless, simply bccause rhey h:1ve nothing ro do wirh rhc
concrete conflicr in which thc people is cng<1ged.
(F:1non 196 1: 37-8)
While conceding rhe necessit y of defending rhe past in a movc away
from unqualified assimilarion of the occupying powcr's culture, Fanon
recognizes the limirations on the writer and imellecrual who urilize ' rech-
niques and language which are borrowed from thc trangcr in his country.'
Such rransitional writing reinrerpreting old lcgcnds 'in rhc light of a
borrowed aesrhericism and of a concepti on of the world which was
discovered under orher skies,' is for Fanon bur a prcludc lO a literaturc of
combar which \vil! disrupt lirerary stylcs and rhcmes . . . creare a
complerely ncw public' and mould the nari onal consciousness, 'giving it
form and conrours and flinging opcn befare it new and boundless
horizons.' Fanon's rheory projecrs a dcvclopmcnr insep<1rable from a
w mmunity's engagement in combari vc social acti on, during which a narive
contesr iniriall y enunciared in the invadcrs' language, culminares in a rejec
rion of imperialism's signifying sysrcm. This is a move which colonial
discourse rheory has not raken on board, and for such a process to be inves
rigared, a carrography of impcrialist ideology more cxtensive rhan its
address in the colonialist space, as well as a conceprion of rhc narive as
historical subjecr and agenr of an oppositional discourse is needed.
The Scramble for
'POST-COLONIALISM', AS JT is now used in its various fields, de-scri bes a
remarkably heterogencous ser of subject positions, professional fi clds, and
critica! enterprises. Ir has been used as a way of ordering a critique of rotal-
ising forms of Westcrn hi sroricism; as a porrmanteau term for a reroolecl
notion of 'class', as a subser of borh postmodernism and posr-srructura lism
(and conversely, as thc condition from which those rwo srructures of cultural
logic and cultural critique rhemselves are seen to emerge); as rhe name for a
condition of nativist longing in posr-independence nacional groupings; as a
cultural marker of non-residcncy for a rhird-world inrellectual cadre; as rhe
inevitable underside of a fracrured and ambivalem discourse of colonialisr
power; asan opposirional form of 'reading pracrice'; and - and this was m y
first encounter with rhe rerm- as the na me for a category of ' lirerary' activity
whi ch sprang from a new and welcome polirical energy going on wirhi n what
used ro be call ed 'Commonwealth' literary srudies. The obvious rendency, in
the face of rh is hererogcnei ry, is ro understand 'posr-coloni alism' mosrly as
an objecr of desi re for cri ti ca( pracrice: as a shimmcring ra lisman thar in irself
has the power ro confer pol itical legi timacy onto specific forms of insti ru-
tionalised labour, especiall y on ones rhar are troubled by rheir mediared
position within the apparatus of institutional power. 1 rhink, howcvcr, rhar
this heterogcneity in rhe concepr of the 'post-colonial' - and here l mea n
within the university institution - comes about for much more pragmati c
reasons, and these ha ve ro do with a very real problem in securing the conccpt
of 'coloniali sm' itself, ns Wcsrern rheories of subjectification ancl its resis-
tances continue to dcvelop in sophisricarion and complexity.
The nature of colonialism as an economic and political srructure of
cross-cultural cl omination has of course occasioned a ser of deba tes bur it
. '
s not rcall y on this leve! rha r rhe 'question' of European colonialism has
troubled the va rious post-colonial fields of study. The problem, rather, is
From 'The Scramblc for Posr-colonialism' in Chris T ffin :1nd Alan Lawson {eds)
De-Scribing Empire: Post-colonialism and Textuality London: Roudedgc, 1994.
wirh the concept of coloni alism as an ideological or discursive formar
f IOn
t 1at .s, the. ways .which colonialism is vicwed as an appararus fo;
constttuttng sub)ecr posltlons through the ficld of represenrarion Jn a
d f . . . way
- an o course thts ts an extreme oversimplification - rhe debate ove
descri ption of multip!e srraregics for regulating
others can be expressed dtagrammaucall y (see Figure 1)
The wo.rks on a left-to-right
order of dommatton, Wtth lme A represennng vanous rheories of h
1 . ow
on: a rhroug.h dir.ect and cconomic control, and
and _DE dJffenng concepts of rhe ideological regu.
latton ot subJects, of_ through rhe manufacture of
consem. Theones that recogntse an rffi cacy ro colonialism rhat proc d
1 'A' . ee s
a ong_ are 111 essence 'brure force' or 'direct political' theories of
colont ahst oppression: .rhat is, they rejecr the basic thesis rhar power
soctal contradtction partly through rhe srrategic producrion of
spectfic tdeas of the 'self' - which subordinated groups then internalise
b ' 1' TI as
etng . . 1eones, h.owever, thar examine the trajcctory of colonialist
pnmanly along lme ' BC' - a line rcprescnring an ideological flank-
m_g the economic colonialism running along linc 'A'- focus on rhe con-
sttt utt ve power of srate appararuses li ke educarion, and rhe constitutive
(colonialisr educat ional apparatuscs)

A i ri
Colon iser ..................................
................. ................. Colonised

The semioti c fleld
(' rcxtuality')
Figure 1 Diagram representing rhe debate over the narure of colonialism
f fessional fields of knowledge wirhi n those apparatuses, in rhe
power proof colonialist relations. Along this line, Edward Said (1978)
roducuon f . , . h' 1 . T 1 1
. he political efficacy o 'onenta tsm wtt 111 co onta tsm; 1a a
examtnes t 1 f h 1
d (l973) and many orhers examme the ro e o ant ropo ogy m repro-
Asa. 1onial relarions; Alan Bishop (1990) examines the deployment of
ducmg co concepts of 'marhemarics' agai nst African school-children,
Wesrern h h f 1 fi Id f ' 1
Mitchell (1988) exammes ow t e pro ess10na e o po tttca
limot y h E 1 . . h
. , carne into being throug a uropean co onta tSt engagement wtt
sctence th ( 989) 1 f d
Ir res of Egypt; Gaun Vtswana an 1 exammes t 1e oun . attons
recuu .
. f
. .
f 'English' Jirerary srudies w1t 1111 a strucrure o co o111a tSt managemenr tn
d' This work keeps coming in, and the lisr of radically compromised
ta. h W JI b f ' 1 '
fessional fields withtn t e estern sy a us o mmanmes opttons
pro h f 1' ' O E' h d
ws daily Jonger. Theones t at ocus pnman y on me 111 t ts ta
gro h. 1 1 d 1 1
ram examine the ways 111 w tc 1 1 eo ogy repro uces co ont a tSt re attons
rhe strategic deploymenr of a vast semiotic fi eld of representarions
li terary works, in adverrising, in scu1pture, in travelogues, in explo-
ration documents, in maps, in pornography, and so on.
This pattern, as !' ve laid it out so far, does not seem especially
controversia! or problematic, bur rhe difficu1ties arise at the moment of
conceptualising the relation between colonialist professional fi elds and
institutions (at the rop of rhe diagram) and rhe who1e field of representation
(at the bottom of rhe diagram)- the field of ' rexrua1ity' and irs investmenr
in reproducing and naturalising rhe srructures of power. To take up one
example of this paradigmatically: in Edward Said's work on Orientalism,
colonialisr power is seen ro operare through a complex relationship
between appararuses placed on li ne 'F', where in the first instance a schol-
arl y educational appararus called 'Oriemalism' - at the top of the line -
appropriates textual representations of 'rhe Orient' in order ro consolidare
itself as a discipline and ro reproduce ' che Orient' as a deployable unir of
know1edge. So, in rhe first instance, co1onialist power in Said's argument
runs not just through rhe middle ground of rhis chart but rhrough a com-
plex ser of relations happening along line 'F'; and since Said's rhesis is rhat
a function at the rop of this line is employing those represenrations creared
at the bottom of the li ne in order to make up ' knowledges' that have an
ideo1ogical function, you can say that the vector of motion along li ne F is
an upward one, and that this upwa rd motion is part of the whole complex,
discursive strucrure whereby 'Orientalism' manufactures the 'Orient' and
thus helps to regulare coloni alisr relations. That is Said's first position - that
under Orienralism the vector of line 'F' is upward. But in Said's analysis,
colonialist power also runs through li ne F in a downward movement,
where the scholarl y apparatus of Orientalism is understood ro be at
work in the producrion of a purely fantasric and entirely projected idea
of the 'Orienr'. The point is rhat in rhe process of understanding rhe
multivalenr nature of colonialist discourse in rerms of the historical specific
of 'Orientalism', Said's model becomes srructurally ambivalent - under
'Orientalism', the ' Orient' turns out to be something produced borh asan
object of scholarly knowledge and as a location for psychi c projecrion _
and !'ve tried ro graph this ambivalence as a double movement or vector
along line 'F'. For Said, rhe mechanism thar produces rhis ' Orienr', then
has ro be undersrood as something capable of deployi ng an ambivalent
structure of relations along line 'F', and deploying thar srrucrure towards a
unilied end. And so Said (and here I'm followi ng Robert Young's (1990)
analysis of rhe problem) ends up referring the whole strucrure of colonial-
ist discourse back ro a single and monoli rhic originating inrenrion within
colonialism, rhe intention of coloniali st power ro possess the rerrain of its
Orhers. Thar assumprion of intenrion is basicall y where Said's theory has
proven to be most controversia!.
Said's rext is an important one here, for as Robert Young has shown,
Said's work stands at rhe headwarers of colonial discourse theory, and this
ambivalence in Said's model may in fact ini tiate a (owrdational ambiva-
lence in the critica! work which comes out of this lield. This ambi valence
sets the rerms for what are now the two central debates within colonial
discourse rheory: the debate over hisrorical specificity, and the debate over
The li rsr debate- the debate over the problem of historical specificity
in the model - concerns the inconclusive relation berween actual historical
moments in rhe colonialist enrerprise and rhe larger, possibly trans-
historical discursive formation that colonial discourse rheory posits in its
artempt to understand the mulrivalent straregies ar work in colonialist
power. Can you look at 'colonial discourse' only by examini ng what are
rakcn ro be paradigmatic moments within colonialisr history?
lf so, can you extrapolare a modality of 'colonialism' from one
hisrorical momenr ro rhe nexr? Does discursive colonialism always look
srructurally rhe same, or do rhe specifics of irs textual or semiotic or
representational manoeuvres shift registers ar different historical times and
in different kinds of colonial encounters? And what would ir mean ro think
of colonial discourse as a ser of exchanges rhar funcri on in similar ways for
all sorrs of colonialisr strategies in a vastly differenr ser of cultural
locations? These questions of hisrorical spccilicity, though always a
problem for social theory, are especiall y diflicult ones for colonialist
discourse rhcory, and rhe reason for this is thar this rheory quite appro
priately refuses ro articulare a simplistic strucrure of social causal ity in rhe
relation between colonialist instirutions and rhe field of represenrarions. In
orher words, colonial discourse rheory recognises a radical ambivalence at
work in colonialist power, and that is rhe ambivalence 1 have attempted to
show in Fig. 1 as a double moment in vector at the leve! of line ' F'.
To clarify rhis 1 wanr ro rnake use of Gauri Yiswanarhan's important
work on Britai n's ideological control of colonised people through the
deploymenr of colonialist educational srrategies in ninereenrh-cenrury
India. Obviously, the question of what happens along line 'F' can only be
dd ssed by specific reference to imrnediate hisrorical conditions, and
a re piece of archaeological work on colonialisr power will want ro for-
every f 1 h 1 1 1 1
late rhe vector o acnon 1ere Wlt parr1cu ar sensmvty ro t 1e oca con-
ns under analysis. Viswanarhan researches this part of the puzzle with
attention. ro and at her is. that colonial-
. ducarion in India (wh1ch would stand m as rhe Ideologcal apparatus
ISt rop of rhe diagram) srraregicall y and imemionally deployed rhe vasr
of ca nonical English 'l irerarure' (rhe lield of represenrarions ar rhe
botrom of rhe diagram) in order ro consrruct a cadre of 'native' mediators
between rhe Brirish Raj and rhe actual producers of wealth. The poi nt hcre
is that Vi swanathan's analysis employs a purel y upward vector of rnorion
ro characrerisc rhe specilics of how power is ar work along line 'P in rhe
di agram, and what secures rhis vector is Yiswanarhan's scrupulous arten-
tion ro the immediate condirions rhat apply within British and lndian
coloni al relarions.
The problem, though - and here I mean the problem for colonial
discourse theory- is rhat rhe foundarional ambivalencc or clouble movcment
rhat Said's work inserrs into rhe model of colonialist discourse analysis
always seems to rerurn ro rhe field; and it does so through critica! work
rhat on its own terms suggesrs a counrer-flow along li ne 'F' at the sarnc
moment of colonialist history. Thar is, the residual ambivalence in the vector
of line 'F' wirhin colonial discourse theory seems ro invite rhe fusion of
Yiswanathan's kind of analysis wirh critica! readings rhat would articulare a
downward movement ar rhis place in rhe diagrarn; and one of rhe areas such
work is now enrering is rhe analysis of how English li terary acriviry of the
period (at rhe bottom of line 'F') suddenly turned ro the representation of
educational processes (at the rop of rhe line), and why this lircrarure should
so immediately concern irself wirh rhe invesrmenrs of educacional represen-
tations in the colonialist scene. In examining rhe place of English lirerary
activity withi n rhis momenr of coloniali sr hisrory, that is, a critic such as
Patrick Brantlingcr would want ro argue for the va lency of texts such as j an e
Eyre or Tom Broum's Schoo/ Days within colonialist discursive powcr, and
colonialist discourse rheory would wanr ro undersrand how both kinds of
?iscursive regul ation, both vecrors of movernent along line ' F', are at work
111 a specific hisrori cal momenr of coloniali sr relations. Because of Said's
in charring our the complex of Ori entalism a long line 'f', 1 arn
argumg, the fielcl of colonial ist cli scourse rheory carries rhar scnse of ambiva-
and looks ro an cxtraordinary valency of movement wirhin
Its arti culation of colonialisr power. The ambivalence makes our under-
of colonial operarions a great deal clearer for historical periods bur
It upsets the posiri vism of highl y specific analyses of colonialisr power
gomg on within a period.
, , The basic projecr of colonial discourse rheoq is to push out from line
A and try ro define colonialism both as a ser of polirical relations
and as a signifying sysrem, one with ambivalenr srrucrural relarions. 1t is
remarkably clarifying in its articul ation of the producrive relari ons between
seemingly disparate momenrs in coloniali st power (the strucrure of literary
educati on in India, rhe li terary practice of represcnring educarional control
in Brirain), but because it recognises an ambivalence in colonial isr power,
colonial discourse rheory results in a concepr of colonialism rhat cannot be
hisroricised modally, and that ends up being tiltcd rowards a description
of all kinds of social oppression and discursive control. For some critics,
this ambivalence bankrupts the fiel d. But for orhers, rhe concepr of
'coloni al ism' - like the concept of 'patriarch>' ' for feminism, which shares
this strucrure of transhistoricali ty and lack of specifi ci ty - remains an indis-
pensable conceptual category of critica! analysis, and an indispensable too!
in securing our understanding of ideological dominati on under colonialism
ro the leve! of political economy.
The first big debate goi ng on within colonialist discourse theory, then,
is a debate over what happens when a modcl of 'colonial discourse' is
carried beyond its scattered moments of archaeologicnl research and is
taken up as a general strucrure of oppression. r wanr now to turn to the
second big debate goi ng on between rheori srs of colonialisr discourse; and
rhat is rhe debate over the question of agency under colonialist power.
Basicall y, the question of agency can be resratcd as a question of who or
what acrs oppositionally, when ideology or discoursc or psychic processes
of some kind construct human subjecrs, and rhe quesrion of specifyi ng
agency is becoming an extreme! y complex one in all forms of critica! rheory
at presenr. Again, however, rhis debate has especial urgency wirhin colonial
discourse rheory, and, again, thar is because this theory recognises founda-
tionally that rhe vector of line 'F' in Fig. l remains ambi valenr at eveqr
momenr of colonialist discursive control. ...
I wanr ro stress rhe presupposirional locarion of this post-colonial
scramble - 1 wanr ro articulare its foundarions wirhin the problemaric of
coloni al discourse rheory and wirhin an unresolved debate within the
Western humanities institution - because 1 suspect rluH at times workers in
vari ous orders of post-colonial analysis are made ro feel a disempowering
energy at work in their field - a disempowenncnr which srems from thei r
sense rhat these debates oughr ro be resolved wirhin post-colonial scudies
itself. And 1 also raise the quesri on of an effccr ro thcsc debates, not beca use
1 wanr ro suggest they are anyt hing other tha n cruci: J oncs for rhe field,
but because 1 rhi nk rhe terrain of post-colonial studies remains in danger
of becoming colonised by compering academic merhodologies, and being
reparcell ed into insritutional pursuirs th<l t have no abiding inrerest in the
specifics of either colonialisr hisrory or post-coloni al agency. One of the
mosr exci ting research projecrs now going on in colonial discourse analysis,
for example, is Homi Bhabh:'s theorising of coloniali st ambivalence, and
his attempr ro carry rhar analysis forward ro a wholesale cri tique of
Western moderni t}' Ir is possibly insrrucrive, rherefore, rhat in rhe process
of expressing admi ration for his work, rhe posr-structuralist criric Roberr
Young inserts Bhabha 's projecr in ro a narra ti ve of unpackaging whose
rerms of reference are enrirely European in origin: rhe radical resrruccuring
of European hisroriography, and rhe allocarion of alterity ro the rhearre of
rhe European posrmodern.
Along parallel lines, ir is also insrrucrive rhar Henry Louis Cates Jr.
notes in Spivak's deconsrrucrive brilliance a remarkable conflarion berween
colonial discourse and Derrida's concepr of writing itself- an argument,
rhar is, rhat rhere is 'nothing outside of (rhe discourse of) colonialism', and
rhat all discourse musr be norhing orher than coloni al discourse irself.
Cates warns of a hidden consequence in rhis elevation in ascendency of the
colonial paradigm by quesrioning whar happens when we elide, for
example, ' rhe disrance between political repression and individual neurosis:
rhe positional disrance berween Sreve Biko and, say, Woody All en?' (Cates
1991: 466) His argumenr is thar academic inrerest in this history and rhe
discourse of colonialism bicis fair to become rhe lasr basrion for rhe project
of global theory and for European universalism itsel f, and he asks us
whether we reall y nccd to choose berween opposirional critics whose
arriculations of thc post-colonial institutionalise rhemselves as agonisric
struggles over a rhoroughly disciplined rerrain.
1 would like ro echo Gares' sentiments in rhe face of rhis balkanisarion
and in the absence of any real solurions ro rhis crisis in the field I'd like ro
offer a two-parr credo rowards post-colonial work as it rakes place wirhin
rhe Wesrern ac:demic insrirurion. First, 1 rhink, post-colonial srudies, if
norhing else, needs ro becomc more rolerant of merhodological difference,
ar leasr when rhar difference is articulared rowards emanciparory anri-
colonialisr ends. 1 am reminded thar the gre<'lt war wirhin rhe Wesrern
'humaniries' is carried on rhc back of critica! merhodology and its
competing orders, :nd thar in many ways rhe subjecr-making funcrion of
rhe humaniries is effecred precisely in rhat debate. I have seen no evidence
thar rhe humanirics c: rry any special brief for rhe global projecr of
decolonisarion, and so 1 would desperately want ro preserve rhis funcri on
of decolonising commitmenr for post-colonial studies, despite irs neccssary
invesrmenr in and ironic reJ:rion ro rhe humanities complex. I am suspi-
cious of thc kind of argument thar would insisr on the necessary confl ation
of rhe diagram 1 pur forwa rd in this paper wirh a colonia list all egorical
function, bur 1 can sce how rhe argumenr could be rnade. The rools for
conceput:'l l disempowermcnr in rhe struggle over rnerhod are going ro
remain avail able wirhin post-colonial srudies, but r remain suspicious of
and 1 rhink intolerant calls for homogeneiry in a field of study
wh1ch embraces radicall y differenr forms :nd functions of coloniali st
oppression and radically differenr notions of <'lnti-colonialist agency.
. is never si mply passive, and, ironically, the arca of instiru-
ttonallsed post-colonial srudies is fi nding irself increasingly invesred in an
academic srar sysrem of asronishing proportions, and rhrough rhar srar
sysrem ir is learning ro seek irs insrrucrion in opposirional racrics along lines
that run increasingly and monolirhi cally backward towards the centres of
Western power. 1 cannot help noticing, for examplc, that in what Hortense
Spillers calls the politics of mention, our thcoreti cal masters in Paris or
Oxford or New Haven are read and referenced by exemplary theorists of
the local- the critic J. Michael Dash at the Mona campus in Jamaica is an
example - but those metropolitan theorists seldom reference these cultural
and mediators in return. Post-colonial srudics should have an
investmem in open talk across cultural locations, however, and across
methodological dynasties; and 1 think we do damage ro the idea of posr-
coloniality at an immediate political leve! when that invesrmem in cross-
talk runs only one way.
As for the second part of this credo, 1 believe that post-colonial studies
nceds always to remern ber that its referent in rhe real world is a form of
political, economic, and discursivc oppression whose name, first and last,
is colonialism. The forms of colonialist power differ radicall y across
cultural locations, and its intersecti ons with other orders of oppression are
always complex and multivalent. But, wherever a globali sed theory of rhe
colonial might lead us, we need to remember rhat resistances ro colonialist
power always find material presence at the leve! of the local, and so che
research and training we carry out in rhe field of posr-colonialism, what-
ever else it does, must always find ways ro address the local, if only on the
order of material applications. If wc overlook the local, and rhe political
applications of the research we produce, we risk turning thc work of our
field imo the playful operations of an academic glass-bcad game, whose
project will remain ar best a descriprion of global rclations, and nota script
for their change. There is never a necessary polirics to the study of politi-
cal actions and reactions; bur at the leve! of rhc local, and at rhe leve! of
material applications, posr-colonialism musr address the material exigen-
ces of colonialism and neo-colonialism, including the neo-colonialism of
Western academic institutions themselves.
Universality and
permitted developing coumri es to reprint and/or translate educarional
marerials more freely rhan befare andar modesr cosr (Unesco 1973). Th
changes, made when rhe industrialized narions bcgan ro real ize thar co
. 1 b . . 1 d . 1 . . f py
ng 1t agreemems were emg VIO ate w1r 1 mcrcasmg requency, wi ll
doubr help the developing coumries ro obrain rhe prinred marerials thno
need at prices rhey can afford. . . . ey
The following suggestions are intended ro provide some ideas which
can be easil y implememed and which rnay help ro arneliorare the existing
inequalities in the worid of books and publi shing ....
As a fi rst step, communications between Third World narions should
be improved so rhat common problems and issues can be discussed directly
wirhout being mediared through institutions and publications in the indus-
trializcd nations. This is particularly importanr on a regional basis, for
example, among the narions of Francophone i\ frica ancl of Southeast Asia.
As a part of communi cations development, Third World counrries must
also creare viable means of book distribution among rhemselves, and
between themselves and rhe indusrriali zed nntions.
With rhe strengthening of indigenous publishing and interna! distribu-
ri on facilities in rhe Third World, inrellecruals need not publish their work
abroad. Such an effort should include financia! and rechnical assisra nce from
rhe public sector when necessary. Foreign scholars working in developing
nations should publish rheir findings in the countries where rhey conducr
rheir research. ln this way local publishing will be srrengrhened and relevant
research will be avai lable ro local audienccs. The imellccrual infrasrrucrure
in many Third World countries needs ro be strengrhened in orher ways.
Libraries, journals which review books, and bibliographical and publiciry
rools for publishing should be supported.
In addirion, rnajor national policy quesri ons which relate directly ro
books, including rhe language of insrrucrion in rhe educarional sysrem,
levels of lireracy and the ownership of rhe publishing appararus, must be
solvcd by Third \XIorld governrnents wirh an understanding of their irnpli-
cari ons for rhe balance of intellecrual producti on. Part of any language
reform effort should be assisrance ro publishing in indigcnous languages.
Fi nally, Third World leaders must carefull y evaluare foreign aid programs
to ensure thar their nations benefi t wirhout local publishing industries or
intell ectual autonomy being undermined.
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