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Postcolonialism and the Dilemma of Nationalism: Aijaz Ahmad's Critique of Third-Worldism

Neil Lazarus

Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, Volume 2, Number 3, Winter 1993, pp. 373-400 (Article) Published by University of Toronto Press DOI: 10.1353/dsp.1993.0000

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Diaspora 2:3 1993

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma of

Nationalism: Aijaz Ahmad's Critique of


Third-Worldism
Neil Lazarus

Brown University

In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. Aijaz Ahmad. London:


Verso, 1992.
1.

The publication ofIn Theory has been eagerly awaited since 1987. That was the year in which Aijaz Ahmad made an important intervention into the fields of cultural studies and colonial discourse

analysis in the United States by offering a powerful critique of a


rather remarkable article, "Third-World Literature in the Era of

Multinational Capitalism," which Fredric Jameson had published a year earlier in the radical New York-based journal Social Text. Entitled "Jameson's Rhetoric of Otherness and the 'National Allegory,'"1 and also appearing in Social Text, Ahmad's essay was among the first critiques of Jameson's article to be published; it has remained the most frequently cited and, arguably, the most comprehensive
and authoritative.

In retrospect, and in terms of its epistemological structure, Jameson's article now seems, to me at least, quite generally characteristic of much of the work that he has produced over the course of the past decadepreeminently, of course, on or about the subject of postmodernism. As in the famous 1984 essay, "Postmodernism, Or, The

Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," the "Third-World Literature" essay is studded with dazzling local insights that divert attention from, but ultimately fail to cover over, the insufficiency and untenability of Jameson's broadest conceptual claims. Although it represented a relatively unusual foray on his part into the field of "Third World"2 culture, readers aware of Jameson's deep and longstanding
interest in the literature and film of such zones as Latin America

and East Asia would not have found his brilliant and compelling thumbnail exposition of, for example, Lu Xun hard to credit.3 What did seem hard to credit, however, was the sheer presumptuousness of his essay's basic argument. For Jameson undertook to produce nothing less than an overarching and all-embracing theory of what he called "third-world" literature. On the basis of a few judiciously

Diaspora 2:3 1993 drawn but patently selective examples, he advanced the global proposition that

[a]ll third-world texts are necessarily . . . allegorical, and in a very specific way: they are to be read as what I will call national allegories. . . . [0]ne of the determinants of capitalist culture ... is a radical split between the private and the public, between the poetic and the political. . . . Our numerous theoretical attempts to overcome this great split only reconfirm its existence and its shaping power over our individual and collective lives. . . . [Although we may retain for convenience and for analysis such categories as the subjective and the public or political, the relations between them are wholly different
in third-world culture. Third-world texts, even those which are

seemingly private and invested with a properly libidinal dynamicnecessarily project a political dimension in the form of a national allegory: the story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society. ("Third-World Literature" 69) Jameson is manifestly a systematizing thinker, if scarcely a systematic one. But so reckless and so grandiose were his claims on this particular occasion that they seemed positively to beg to be criticized. And criticized they have been: the "Third-Worid Literature" essay has been very widely read by scholars in the field of colonial discourse theory; few if any of them have had a good word to say
about it.4

In his critique, Ahmad makes some of the "obvious" (if nevertheless necessary) points against Jameson that have also formed the
basis of other commentaries. He observes, for instance, that Jame-

son's neglect of the political questions of intellectual labor, language, translation, publication, institutionalization, and "access" across the international division of labor leads him, willy-nilly, to "construct . . . ideal-types, in the Weberian manner, duplicating all the basic procedures which Orientalist scholars have historically deployed in presenting their own readings of a certain tradition of 'high' textuality as the knowledge of a supposedly unitary object" (97). Similarly, he notes that the process of allegorization "is by no means specific to the so-called Third World ... It is not only the Asian or the African but also the American writer whose private imaginations must necessarily connect with experiences of the collectivity. One has only to look at Black and feminist writing to find countless allegories even within these postmodernist United
States" (110).

In general, however, the atypicality of Ahmad's response to Jameson has not been sufficiently registered. This is a point that he him374

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism self makes in the introductory chapter ofIn Theory, in which, among other things, he offers a retrospective assessment of his exchange
with Jameson:

It has been a matter of considerable personal irritation for me that my essay appeared at a time when Jameson was very much under attack precisely for being an unrepentant Marxist. There remain at least some circles where almost anything that was so fundamentally critical of him was welcome, so that my article has been pressed into that sort of service, even though my own disagreement had been registered on the opposite groundsnamely, that I had found that particular essay of his not rigorous enough in its Marxism. Meanwhile, my disagreement with Jameson on Third-Worldist nationalism has

also been assimilated far too often into the sort of thing which we hear nowadays from the fashionable poststructuralists in their unbridled diatribes against nationalism as such. My disagreements had been far more specific. . . . (10-11) The qualifications that Ahmad introduces here are significant. Although there is much in "Jameson's Rhetoric of Otherness and the 'National Allegory'" that might seem at first to resonate with other, more conventional critiques of Jameson's essay, Ahmad's central challenge to Jameson is political rather than narrowly epistemologi-

cal. If, thus, he insists that it would be possible to identify many


"Third World" texts that could not possibly be accommodated under the rubric of "national allegory," he does so not to dismiss Jameson's its abstraction. Quite unlike such theorists as Homi Bhabha, there-

schematizing gesture as in itself misguided, but rather to critique

fore, who urge us to "[ajbandon the metanarrative" altogether


(Bhabha 97), Ahmad is concerned to steer us (and Jameson) toward

what he considers the right metanarrative. Ahmad grounds his analysis in a restatement ofthe classic Marxist formula concerning the systematicity of capitalism and its dynamic of combined and uneven development. The world is unified, he argues, "by the global operation of a single mode of production, namely the capitalist one, and the global resistance to this mode, a resistance which is itself unevenly developed in different parts of the globe" (In Theory 103). Even within Marxist debates, of course, this (re)formulation is scarcely uncontroversial. (Samir Amin, for instance, has recently observed that "really existing capitalism" ought to be conceptualized "as a world system and not as a mode ofproduction" (59).5 But against Jameson, Ahmad's line of argument is very telling, for it enables him to expose the idealism and incoherence
that subtend Jameson's binarization of "First" and "Third" worlds.

Referring to the carelessly undifferentiating evocation of "capitalist


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culture" and "third-world culture" in the "Third-World Literature"

essay, he contends that Jameson's "'cognitive aesthetics' rests . . . upon a suppression of the multiplicity of significant difference among and within both the advanced capitalist countries on the one hand and the imperialized formations on the other" (In Theory 95). Now, in fact, in attempting to justify his use of the term third-world, Jameson explicitly notes that he "take[s] the point" of criticisms "which stress the way in which it [this term] obliterates profound differences between a whole range of non-western countries and situations" ("Third-World Literature" 67). But then he goes on to state that he does not "see any comparable expression that articulates, as this one does, the fundamental breaks between the capitalist first world, the socialist bloc of the second world, and a range of other countries which have suffered the experience of colonialism and imperialism" ("Third-World Literature" 67). Ahmad's pertinent response to this is to argue that, thus conceived, the term "the Third World" possesses "no theoretical status whatsoever" (In Theory 96). As he puts it: I find it significant that First and Second Worlds are defined in terms of their production systems (capitalism and socialism, respectively), whereas the third categorythe Third World is defined purely in terms of an 'experience' of externally inserted phenomena. That which is constitutive of human history itself is present in the first two cases, absent in the third case. Ideologically, this classification divides the world between those who make history and those who are mere objects of it. . . . [Analytically, this classification leaves the so-called Third World in limbo; if only the First World is capitalist and the Second World socialist, how does one understand the Third World? Is it pre-capitalist? Transitional? Transitional between
what and what? (99-100) Ahmad's central contention here is that Jameson's definition of

"Third World" sociality in terms not of production but of imperialism leads him to overvalue nationalism as the privileged mode of social struggle throughout the imperialized zones. In addition, he maintains that Jameson's construction of "Third World" nationalism in

accordance with a triangulated analytical modelfirst world/capitalist; second world/socialist; "Third Word"/ nationalistobliges him to suppress the immense ideological and political differences
between diverse nationalist movements in the "Third World." Since

Jameson does, indeed, open his essay by counterposing specific, hugely diverse, but curiously undifferentiated "Third World" nationalisms (Iraqi, Iranian, Kampuchean) with what he calls "global American postmodernist culture" ("Third-World Literature" 65)

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism

and since in doing so he does not seem to allow theoretically for these or any other "Third World" nationalisms to be socialist in
characterit is hard not to conclude that Ahmad's fundamental

charge against him is warranted. Hence one cannot but agree with
Ahmad when, in a chapter in In Theory devoted to "Three Worlds Theory," he concludes that Marxists who subscribe to the idea of socialism, deploy the Three Worlds Theory, identify socialism with the Second World, uphold Third-Worldist nationalism as the determinate ideological imperative of our epoch, and posit this nationalism as the real alternative to the postmodernist American culture,
render the discussion not less but more eclectic and incoherent. (308)
2.

As I have already mentioned, "Jameson's Rhetoric of Otherness and the 'National Allegory'" is very widely taken to represent the definitive engagement with Jameson's "Third-World Literature" essay (Sara Suleri describes the exchange between Jameson and Ahmad as "paradigmatic" [13]). Among those readers who found Ahmad's critique of Jameson richly compelling, there was considerable excitement at the announcement of In Theory's impending publication. The polemical Ahmad; the imprimatur of Verso; projected chapters on postcolonial literature and theory, on Said, Rushdie, and Marx; an enthusiastic recommendation from Terry Eagleton on the back cover of a lavishly produced clothbound book ("Some radical critics may have forgotten about Marxism; but Marxism, in the shape of Ahmad's devastating, courageously unfashionable critique, has not forgotten about them")there was more than enough to draw wide attention. Benita Parry opens her bold and searching critique of In Theory as follows: A book that promises a Marxist intervention in the cultural critique of imperialism will quicken great expectations among those who are discontented with the frequent incuriosity about the inscriptions of political economy in its representational systems. As one such reader of Aijaz Ahmad's In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures, I anticipated an analysis attentive to the making and effects of imperialism's independent practices, and commensurate with the present state of the debate. (121)

I, too, came to In Theory with great expectations. Wearylike Parry


and such other leftist scholars of colonial discourse as Tim Brennan,
377

Diaspora 2:3 1993 Laura Chrisman, Barbara Harlow, Peter Hulme, Ketu Katrak, Biodun Jeyifo, Anne McClintock, and Rob Nixonof the dematerializing tenor of much of the most influential work in the field, I was

hoping to find in Ahmad's book at least the outline of an enabling


defense of Marxism as a privileged mode of conceptualization of imperialism and antiimperialist struggle, of nationalism, metropoli-

rary world system. In certain, decidedly limited, respects, In Theory delivers on its advance publicity. Included as chapter 3, "Jameson's Rhetoric of Otherness and the 'National Allegory'" constitutes much the best chapter in the book. But Ahmad's writing on such matters as insurgent nationalism, the politics of English in India, and cultural imperialism is also consistently suggestive and sometimes indispensable. On the subject of insurgent nationalism, especially, he offers an incisive counter to the blanket repudiations that one encounters everywhere todayin the mainstream commentaries, of course, but also in the work of such respected social historians as Eric Hobsbawm, of such eminent social theorists as Zygmunt Bauman and Stuart
Hall, and of such influential colonial discourse theorists as Homi

tanism, and radical intellectualism in the contexts of the contempo-

Bhabha and Trinh T. Minh-ha. Insisting that nationalism "is no unitary thing" (7), Ahmad goes on to specify that [t]here are hundreds of nationalisms in Asia and Africa today;
some are progressive, others are not. Whether or not a nation-

alism will produce a progressive cultural practice depends, to put it in Gramscian terms, upon the political character of the power bloc which takes hold of it and utilizes it, as a material force, in the process of constituting its own hegemony. (102) We have seen that in his critique of Jameson, Ahmad uses this insight to refute the binary opposition that Jameson postulates between "capitalist culture" and "third-world culture." As Ahmad puts it in the introductory chapter of In Theory, entitled "Literature
among the Signs of Our Time":

I refuse to accept that nationalism is the determinate, dialectical opposite of imperialism; that dialectical status accrues

only to socialism. By the same token, however, it is only from the prior and explicit socialist location that I select particular nationalist positions for criticism, even at times very harsh denunciation; a critique of nationalism without that explicit location in the determinate socialist project has never made any sense for me, either politically or theoretically. (11)

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism

graph, Ahmad suggests that two consequences follow from itand


to my mind these are even more significant: "[My] position . . . recognizes the actuality, even the necessity, of progressive and revolution-

The clarification is already important. But later in the same para-

ary kinds of nationalism, and it does not characterize nations and


states as coercive entities as such." This formulation strikes me as

being invaluable in contestation of the rewritings of nationalism


that one encounters in colonial discourse theory, where nationalismnationalism as suchindeed tends to emerge variously as coercive, totalizing, elitist, authoritarian, essentialist, and reaction-

ary. Thus Ahmad refers astutely to that branch of cultural theory


which debunks nationalism not on the familiar Marxist ground that nationalism in the present century has frequently suppressed questions of gender6 and class and has itself been frequently complicit with all kinds of obscurantisms and revanchist positions, but in the patently postmodernist way of debunking all efforts to speak of origins, collectivities, determinate historical projects. The upshot, of course, its that critics working within the poststructuralist problematic no longer distinguish, in any foregrounded way, between the progressive and retrograde forms of nationalism with reference to particular histories, nor do they examine the even more vexed question of how progressive and retrograde elements may be (and often are) combined within particular nationalist trajectories.
(38)

Against the grain of idealist appropriations of the celebrated definition of nations as "imagined communities,"7 Ahmad insists upon the "historical reality of the sedimentations which do in fact give particular collectivities of people real civilizational identities" (11). The emphasis is seen to be necessary, inasmuch as recent work upon the articulatory dimension of nationalist (and other) discourse has sometimes tended to create an image of social and political formations as nothing other than the effects of discrete language games. Ahmad wishes to identify the materiality of the processes
that underlie the constitution of "civilizational identities": relations

of production, modes of regulation, the accreted and substantive social registration of manifold historical struggles, mobilizations, organizations, and institutionalizations. The heuristic value of this identification consists, for instanceI draw the example from my
own field of researchin the fact that it enables us to contest those

contemporary rereadings of anticolonial insurgency that project the setbacks and defeats of the postcolonial era upon the ideology of the national liberation movement itself, as though what has come to
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Diaspora 2:3 1993 pass can only be read as a realization of what was already embryonically there from the beginning. Thus Christopher Miller, in his recent book Theories ofAfricans, seeks to read Sekou Toure's dictator-

ship in Guinea as a social embodiment of Fanonism, while ignoring


altogether the imperialist pressures, threats, intrigues, and exactions thatin conjunction with the long history of colonial underdevelopmentcontributed decisively to the formation of this dictatorship even if they did not quite make it inevitable.8 (Similar readings exist of Nkrumah's Ghana, of Machel's Mozambique, of Mugabe's Zimbabwe, etc.) Ahmad has some excellent things to say, in this respect, about the crippling of Vietnam in the post-1975 era. "What eventually proved decisive," he writes, "was what came after the bling socialism in a land so utterly devastated in all its human and natural resources. Vietnam was simply left with little more than hunger and horror to redistribute. . . ." (28). And he adds that [w]hen this material devastation brought in its train the inevitable disorientations in the social and political domains . . . [t]he predominantly . . . anti-communist Left of the metropolitan variety . . . held the Vietnamese themselves responsible for those failures, then consigned them to the remotest margins of its own memory. Thus it was that Vietnam, the great victor of anti-imperialist war, became the showcase not of socialism but of the impossibility of building socialism. (29)

revolutionary victory: the impossibility of building anything resem-

There is today a need to keep alive, not only the memory of the
"revolutionary heroism" of insurgent Vietnam's "ill-equipped army of peasants" (28) but also an awareness on our parts of the irreversible and indispensable social and ideological transformations wrought among this population by the revolution itself. The lives of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world have been changed forever by the experience of anticolonial struggle. No matter how great might be the defeats that have had to be endured after the struggles of the decolonizing years, the perduring solidaristic significance of these struggles can never be erased: not in Vietnam, nor in India, nor in Algeria, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, or Cuba. The insurgent anticolonial struggles were, of course (and in the case of South Africa and Palestine, at least, remain), national liberation struggles. Ahmad is eager to retrieve insurgent nationalism

from the depredations of those contemporary scholars who regard all nationalisms as projects of domination. As a Marxist, however,
he quite properly does not wish to invest even this nationalism with a privileged significance in the cause of antiimperialism. To the extent that the world "is a hierarchically structured whole" he maintains, "the answering dialectic in its broader and transnational

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism

Ahmad there is no retreat, then, from the hallowed standpoint of

sweep must also be global and universalist in character" (316). For


in all of In Theory):

proletarian internationalism. Yet, as he goes on to elaborate (and to my mind this is among the most eloquent and compelling passages
tem takes the form of a hierarchically structured system of

[T]o the extent that contemporary imperialism's political sys-

nation-states, it is only by organizing their struggles within the political space of their own nation-state, with the revolutionary transformation of that particular nation-state as the immediate practical objective, that the revolutionary forces of any given country can effectively struggle against the imperialism they face concretely in their own lives. In other words, the socialist project is essentially universalist in character, and
socialism, even as a transitional mode, cannot exist except on

a transnational basis; yet the struggle for even the prospect of that transition presumes a national basis, in so far as the already existing structures of the nation-state are a fundamental reality of the very terrain on which actual class conflicts
take place. (317-18)

able from the start. Based currently at the Centre of Contemporary Studies at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, Ahmad is a staunch Marxist, who writes a bracing, polemical prose;

That In Theory would prove to be a controversial text was predict-

In Theory is staged in general as a fierce intervention into the cur-

rently "hot" field of colonial discourse analysis. Unsurprisingly,

therefore, the book is being both widely talked about and widely
reviewed. (An entire issue of the influential journal Public Culture, dedicated to a discussion of the book, is apparently forthcoming.)

The talk, however, and the reviews, are tending to focus not upon Ahmad's conceptualization of nationalism, nor upon his position on the "language debate" or cultural imperialism, but upon his fero-

cious assault on Edward Said. It is to this matter that Benita Parry,

for instance, devotes the bulk of her 12-page review of In Theory in Social Text. The controversy has even made it to the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education, where it is reported that Said is so by pulling from the press a completed work of his own. Fully a third of In Theory is devoted to a critique of Said: in addi-

angry about Verso's publication of In Theory that he has responded


tion to the numerous scattered references, there is a vast chapter

of over 60 pages entitled "Orientalism and After: Ambivalence and Metropolitan Location in the World of Edward Said," as well as one
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critique, but which is now included separately under the title of "Marx on India: A Clarification." Concerning Ahmad's treatment of stance in its claims and powered only by whatin the absence of any countervailing evidenceone has little choice but to interpret

further chapter which had initially been incorporated into this long Said, it is necessary to be quite unambiguous: largely without sub-

puts it in her review, it is necessary to "register [one's] distaste for the conduct of an argument which . . . deploy[s] . . . recrimination as
an analytic strategy, misrepresents] ... the substance of alterna-

as a hatred of Edward Said the person, it is not merely willfully damaging and perverse and quite useless as a critical exercise, but has the deeply regrettable effect in addition of putting into question the integrity of everything else that appears in In Theory.9 As Parry

tive enquiries, and adduc[es] these to retrograde ideological interests" (121). Certainly, part of my distress upon reading the chapters ofIn Theory devoted to Said stems from the encroaching feeling that Ahmad has not simply "gotten Said wrong," but that his approach
cent usage even of the powerful ideas articulated elsewhere in the

ep;.stemological and ethicalis indefensible and renders any inno-

compelling? I honestly do not know; but that the question itself canmyself, I both regret and resent having to ask it. I do not propose here to provide an exhaustive inventory of the inaccuracies, elisions, opportunistic quotations out of context, and outright misrepresentations that pepper Ahmad's commentary on Said. The small factual errorssuch as that, until his assassination
in the early 1970s, Amilcar Cabrai led "Southern Africa's most

book hard to justify. Having read In Theory, would I myself now be prepared to cite it in my own work without a strong footnote of disavowal, even whereas in the case of its reading of insurgent nationalismI am largely in agreement with it or find its argument

not be avoided already seems profoundly discouraging. Speaking for

before publication but are not in themselves of great significance. Similarly, the rhetorical manipulations, among them the repeated
use of the phrase "of course" to close down an argument in the ab-

highly developed struggle against Portuguese colonialism"10 (228) ought surely to have been picked up by Ahmad's editors at Verso

eliminated; these leave a bad taste in the mouth, but they too
are comparatively unimportant. Even the fundamental mean-

instance occurs in the chapter on Rushdie [149]) ought to have been

sence of evidence (e.g., 168, 201, although a particularly egregious

ally felt and highly valorized biographical detail" derived from Ra-

reiterated complaints that Said refuses to acknowledge his sources (168, 176, 222) and that Said has cited, "probably . . . without consent" (on what evidence does Ahmad make this charge?) a "person-

spiritedness of Ahmad's argumentevidenced, for instance, in his

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism

najit Guha (210)could have been put aside had Ahmad's central
argument against Said been capable of withstanding scrutiny. But it is not capable of withstanding scrutiny. One might proceed here from specific instances to large claims. Ahmad accuses Said of having a "cavalier way with authors and quotations" (222). People in glass houses should not throw stones. Ahmad's own footnotes are frequently inaccurate or imprecise. Let me cite three examples. First, and with reference to Said, he asserts that "[o]ver a period of time, and especially after the sentencing of Rushdie, Said himself has taken to debunking states and nations as coercive mechanisms tout court" (13). Ahmad provides a footnote at the end of this sentence, but it is not to any work of Said's. In fact, nowhere in In Theory are we presented with a citation from Said in which he can be said to be "debunking states and nations as coercive mechanisms tout court"for the very good reason that this is not Said's position! A second example: Ahmad argues that Partha Chatterjee "seems poised" to lay communalism "entirely at the doors of Orientalism
and colonial construction" and to portray caste "as a fabrication pri-

marily of the Population Surveys and Census Reports" (196); but

his footnoted reference is to an article in which Chatterjee makes neither of these claimsand no specific page numbers are provided11 (336n33). In a third case, Ahmad's referencing procedure has the effect of misleading the reader entirely: the Indian social histo-

rian Ranajit Guha is footnoted as a scholar who "taught history for many years at Sussex University in Great Britain before moving in

1980 to the Australian National University" (336n40). This formu-

lation obviously has the effect of "de-Indianizing" Guha; it then takes Ahmad a further six full pages of text before he gets around to "admitting" in a parenthetical remark that Guha indeed lived
and worked in India for many years before moving abroad. And
(207).

even then, significantly, the meaning of this move is overstated, represented unambiguously (and unsupportedly) as "permanent"
Ahmad's use of passages from Said's own work constitutes an ex-

traordinary feature of "Orientalism and After." Let me take as a representative example the following citation from Said's The
World, the Text, and the Critic, with which Ahmad's chapter opens: It needs to be said that criticism modified in advance by labels like 'Marxism' or 'liberalism' is, in my view, an oxymoron. . . . The net effect of 'doing' Marxist criticism or writing at the

present time is of course to declare political preference, but it is also to put oneself outside a great deal of things going on in the world, so to speak, and in other kinds of criticism.12 (qtd.
in In Theory 159)

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In considering this citation and Ahmad's use of it, we should move, first, to restore at least some of the text that is left unrepresented by Ahmad's ellipsis. Said is speaking about the relationship of the critical standpoint to political movements and projects generally. His argument is that in practice the ideological injunction "solidarity before criticism" all too often results in the obliteration of positions internal to the movement from which critiques can be articulated. (To understand what he is driving at here one only has to reflect on the historical difficulty of pursuing feminist agendas in various arenas of national liberation struggle.) He states that he "take[s] criticism so seriously as to believe that, even in the very midst of a battle in which one is unmistakably on one side against
another, there should be criticism, because there must be critical consciousness if there are to be issues, problems, values, even lives

to be fought for" (The World 28). In short, Said is here announcing his solidarity with Marxist and other radical political projects. (He
goes on to caution that in the contemporary United States, "Marxism" is less a political project than an academic commitment: "It

risks becoming an academic subspeciality" [28] ) By ignoring what his ellipsis leaves out (or, more accurately, suppresses), Ahmad manages to interpret Said's formulation as simultaneously aggressively anti-Marxist and confused (elsewhere he re-

fers to "Said's irrepressible penchant for saying entirely contrary


things in the same text, appealing to different audiences simultaneend of "Orientalism and After," when Ahmad returns to his initial
ously but with the effect that each main statement cancels out the

other" [175]). The consequences of this are made clear only at the

citation of Said and quotes it again: this time, however, he suppresses not only what had appeared in the space of the ellipsis, but the ellipsis itself, thereby removing the traces of the original suppression (217-18). Said is simply made to write what he had not

written. To add insult to injury, what he actually did put into words
("'solidarity before criticism' [often] means the end of criticism") is

taken up by Ahmad himself, as though this were what he believed with Said's Palestinian activism, thus, Ahmad now asks, "How, then, does one register one's many disagreements from within this
solidarity?" and he goes on to remark that

and as though this told somehow against Said. Noting his solidarity

[f]or some years I have thought that one simply could not do so, that dissenting speech would probably be a betrayal ofthat solidarity. More recently, though, I have come to believe that lieve, is not the best way of expressing solidarity. (160).
indefensible. . . . Suppression of criticism, I have come to be-

such a position ofwilled neutrality is politically wrong, morally

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism

misreads Said that even the passages cited from Said's own work

This is scarcely the only occasion on which Ahmad so grotesquely

World Intellectuals and Metropolitan Culture" to such writers and

patently belie the spin that is put on them. Let me mention a couple of other examples. In one place, Said's reference in his essay "Third

"intellectual figures" as Tagore, Yeats, Neruda, Fanon, Cabrai, and

Mariategi, "whose major role in the creation of an emergent


and alternative discourse cannot be minimized" (qtd. in In Theory

203), is interpreted by Ahmad as amounting to an assertion that alternative discourse. What is important about Cabrai, evidently, is his discursive position, not that he launched and led the armed (203-04). Such a reading finds no support in Said's actual words.

"imperialism is mainly a cultural phenomenon to be opposed by an

struggle which brought about the liberation of his country . . ." Equally perverse constructions could be cited ad nauseam: consider,
for instance, Ahmad's misreading of Said's essay, "Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies and Community" (200); his misreading of Said's sterling defense of Salman Rushdie (216); his misreading of Said's representation of the specificity of "Commonwealth Literature" (216-17); his sustained misreading of Said's comparison in
Orientalism of Julien Benda and Antonio Gramsci as intellectuals13

(169, 170, 218); and his misreading of Said's commentary on Marx

in Orientalism (227-28). In each instance here, a passage from Said

is reproduced and then comprehensively, resolutely misunderstood.

been criticized for the incoherence of its application of the Foucault-

are equally unreliable and insufficient. Orientalism has very often

At the broadest level, Ahmad's fundamental claims against Said

derived concept of discourse and for its essentialization of the "West-

ern" episteme.14 1 do not, myself, think that Said's text as a whole is

vulnerable to these criticisms, but this is not the point here. What

requires emphasis, rather, is that Ahmad, who does"of course"


endorse these criticisms, drives them further than any other critic

has presumed to go, thereby plunging them over the cliff of plausibility. According to Ahmad, Said's "essentialism" in Orientalism of Athenian drama, a unitary will to inferiorize and vanquish nonEurope"leads him "to assert that all European knowledges of non-

Said's supposed belief that "Europe has possessed, since the days

Europe are bad knowledges because they are already contaminated

with this aggressive Identity-formation" (178). Elsewhere, Ahmad

argues that Orientalism is "devoted to demonstrating the bad faith position "in the years immediately following the publication of Ori-

and imperial oppression of all European knowledges, beyond time and history . . ." (197). Elsewhere still, Ahmad writes that Said's entalism" was "indistinguishable from straightforward ThirdWorldist cultural nationalisms, and what we used to get was an un-

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(200).

selfcritical narrative of European guilt, non-European innocence"


Matters do not improve when Ahmad shifts his attention to Said's

"Three Worlds Theory," by distinguishing between Jameson and


Said on the grounds that the latter fails to dissociate himself "ex-

subsequent work. He begins the final chapter of In Theory, entitled

States and the Soviet Union" (288). Three pages later, Ahmad represents this supposed failure of omission on Said's part, absurdly, as
a full-fledged commitment to the Maoist line: Said is now said to

plicitly from the Maoist idea of 'convergence' between the United

"advocate . . . precisely that theory of American-Soviet convergence can always only be personal, micro, and shared only by a small,
all solidaristic projects of resistance, such that, for him, "resistance

Ahmad also attributes a "characteristic postmodernist" rejection of


determinate number of individuals who happen, perchance, to come tion" (200). Ahmad also constructs a Naipaulesque Said who offers

from which Jameson carefully dissociates himself" (291). To Said

together, outside the so-called 'grand narratives' of class, gender, na-

"handsome praise" to the English language for its "civilizing misture, but also "the central importance of fiction as a vehicle for con-

sion" and who advocates not only the "aesthetic pleasures" of litera-

suming the world" (211). He subsequently adds that "[r]arely in the latter half of the present century has one come across so unabashed a recommendation" as in Said's 1990 essay, "Figures, Configurations, Transfigurations,"

that the world, especially the 'Orient'Palestine, Algeria, Indiaand indeed all the races, white and black, should be consumed in the form of those fictions of this world which are

one frees oneself from stable identities of class, nation, gender. (217)

available in the bookshops of the metropolitan countries; the condition of becoming this perfect consumer, of course, is that

can be done in our time presumes (a) Third World origin, but combined with (b) metropolitan location" (201)a "standpoint" that has as its consequence, according to Ahmad, "an altogether irrepressible
386

itemize Ahmad's charge that, for Said, "the only authentic work that

to this assertion again and again, as when he couples Said with "Derridean kinds of pressures": "one is free to choose any and all subject positionsbeyond all structure and system, in Edward Said's formulation" (130); it is revealing that no footnote provides us with the text of "Edward Said's formulation." Finally, I want to

to choose their own identities is preposterous. But Ahmad returns

The idea that for Said social subjects are somehow joyously free

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma of Nationalism

rage" on Said's part "against the peoples, societies, national bound-

aries, reading communities and literatures of Asia, Africa, and 'the Islamic world'" (202) and, correspondingly, "a resounding affirmation of the acquisition of Western 'technique' and personal location in 'the Western centre' as the prerequisites of 'insurgency' and 'contest over de-colonization'" (203).

I can trust at least that readers familiar with Said's writing will recognize the woeful inadequacy of these characterizations. In the face of such readily identifiable misrepresentations, the question that Ahmad's reader must necessarily ask is how they could have come about. How could the same writer who produced the sharp but nuanced critique of Jameson's "Third-World Literature" essay have committed himself to so fundamentally misconceived a reading of
Said's work?

A good answer to this question is suggested by Parry in her review of In Theory. Drawing attention to the perversity of Ahmad's construction of Said's Orientalism (she duly points out some errors), she argues that Ahmad actually "appears less concerned with producing a critique of the book's substance than with putting a sinister gloss on its reception" ( 124). My question can then perhaps be asked in a different way: what is the method behind the madness in Ahmad's critique of Said? To ask the question this way is to answer it: it seems to me that the overarching thrust of Ahmad's construction of Said's work is to propose it as emblematic of the problematics of colonial discourse analysis and postcolonial literature; to interrogate Said's career is therefore in Ahmad's view to interrogate the general cultural and ideological conditions that have enabled these problematics to burst into prominence. In general terms, Ahmad's explanatory narrative here is made up of "four mutually reinforcing elements": (a) the general backgrounds and the contemporary situation of literary theory itself; (b) the new availability and increasing influence in the metropolitan countries of a large number of literary texts composed by non-Western writers; (c) the increasing numbers and therefore far greater social assertion there of immigrant professional strata from non-Western countries; and (d) the arrival, during that same period, of a new political theorynamely the Three Worlds Theorywhich eventually had the widest possible circulation in many variants, including, especially, the one popularized by certain sections of the Parisian avant-garde which saw in it ... a conve387

Diaspora 2:3 1993

nient alternative to classical Marxismconvenient, I might


add, because one could thus retain, and even enhance, one's
radical credentials. (45-46)

In what follows, I would like to focus principally upon Ahmad's point


(d) above. It is necessary, however, to say a few words first about his
treatment of (a), (b), and (c).

Ahmad's account of the changing scene of American literary criticism from the 1960s to the present strikes me as being awry in sev-

eral of its historical details, most notably in predating by several

years the emergence of poststructuralist and deconstructive theory

as a decisive force. Drawing heavily on Frank Lentricchia's analysis in his 1980 study, After the New Criticism, Ahmad correctly differen-

tiates between the "great majority of teachers and critics," who "have continued to function, in both Britain and North America, as if nothing much has changed since T. S. Eliot and the 'New Criticism,'" and a newly arisen "literary avant-garde . . . which functions nowalongside and in conflict with the conservative majorityunder the insignia not of criticism but of theory" (56). Within this avant-garde, in turn, Ahmad distinguishes between a majoritarian

center which he describes as "essentially technicist" (the exemplary

figure here would perhaps be Paul de Man) and a "minoritarian current" that attempted "to fashion . . . politically informed readings" but found itself hamstrung both by its imbrication with the formalism of the broader avant-garde and by its very successand consequent institutionalization and professionalizationduring the played no part in the intellectual formation of even this minoritarian strain within literary avant-gardism; by the time these minoritarian would-be radical critics began to encounter such theorists as

1970s and the 1980s (56-57). Ahmad argues that Marxism initially

Adorno, Benjamin, Lukacs, and Althusser, accordingly,

their basic critical positions had been formed quite solidly by deconstruction, etc. When any sustained reading began of
Gramsci, whose name was to be much abused in later theoriza-

tions, his work was as a rule read into a theoretical position already framed by Derrida and Paul de Man, Foucault and Ly-

otard; the question was how to assimilate Gramsci into this pre-existing structure. This, then, determined the nature of the 'political' readings which followed. (57-58)

As a reading of the British scene, this analysis is quite obviously insufficient, since the work of Althusser and Gramsci was being
pored over there well before the work of Derrida, Foucault, and de

Manlet alone that of Lyotardhad made any significant impact. But even with reference to the situation in the United States, Ah-

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism mad's formulation seems suspect. He appears to confuse cultural studies with literary theoryto this day there has been little attempt to read Gramsci into the latter; and de Man, Derrida, and Lyotard are largely irrelevant to the former. (Foucault is an exceptional case.) Moreover, he underestimates the degree' to which Marxist theory was digested by the minoritarian avant-gardists. Jameson's Marxism and Form was published in 1971, andin conjunction with such political philosophy journals as Telosit was decisive in introducing the figures of Adorno, Benjamin, Goldmann, Lukacs, and others to many American readers. Ahmad refers on only one occasion in all of In Theory to Herbert Marcuse, who similarly played an indispensable role in politicizing cultural theory in the United States. Nor do I find convincing Ahmad's suggestion
that the

minoritarian current of radicals in contemporary literary theory has its origins in those new groupings among students and teachers of the 1960s which had at that time begun to interrogate the very 'literariness' of the literary text, so as to locate it not in the history of genres and styles but in the larger history
of the world itself. (58)

This conception seems to confuse the interests of the minoritarians with those of such powerfully enabling but ultimately antitheoretical scholars as Richard Ohmann and Paul Lauter.

In general, Ahmad's reading of what is today simply called "theory" is much too stark and attenuated to pass muster: [The] dominant strands within . . . 'theory,' as it has unfolded after the movements of the 1960s were essentially over, have been mobilized to domesticate, in institutional ways, the very forms of political dissent which those movements had sought to foreground, to displace an activist culture with a textual culture, to combat the more uncompromising critiques of existing cultures of the literary profession with a new mystique of leftish professionalism, and to reformulate in a postmodernist direction questions which had previously been associated with a broadly Marxist politics. (1) This account is both too conspiratorial ("have been mobilized . . .") and too wildly undifferentiating.15 Its greatest deficiency, however, consists in its reductionism. There are many Marxist critiques of poststructuralist social and cultural theory; I have published one myself.16 Ahmad, however, reads the ideological bearings of poststructuralism along the most undiscriminating of axes. According

to his reading, poststructuralism is simply capital's answer in the

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field of cultural studies to the question of how to domesticate and deradicalize the social critiques that had surfaced in the 1960s. As he puts it, a theoretical position that dismisses the history of materialities as a 'progressivist modes-of-production narrative', historical agency itself as a 'myth of origins', nations and states (all nations and all states) as irretrievably coercive, classes as simply discursive constructs, and political parties themselves as fundamentally contaminated with collectivist illusions of a stable subject positiona theoretical position of that kind, from which no poststructuralism worth the name can escape, is, in the most accurate sense of these words, repressive and bourgeois. (35-36) Since there are many, many poststructuralist theorists who do not subscribe to the positions attributed to them here, one can only read Ahmad's "from which no poststructuralism worth the name can escape" as a rhetorical ploy, inserted to end the discussion. For all its prolixity, Ahmad's account of the transformations within literary and cultural studies in the United States pays no attention to the specific institutional logics and protocols of the field, beyond the clumsily postulated and exogenous dynamics of "assembly," "professionalization," and "appropriation" (43). From poststructuralism to colonial discourse analysis is then for Ahmad the shortest of steps, since he reads the latter in the light of a contemporary, demographically mandated inflection of the former. At the same time poststructuralism was being "mobilized," he writes, so too a new stratum of middle-class immigrants to the metropolis was consolidating itself within the ranks of the petty bourgeois and the professional-managerial classes.17 What these "upwardly mobile professionals . . . needed" according to Ahmad, "were narratives of oppression that would get them preferential treatment, reserved jobs, higher salaries in the social position they already occupied: namely, as middle-class professionals, mostly male"18 (196). On Ahmad's cruelly misconceived readinga reading that, on this point, aligns him squarely with American neoconservative polemicists against affirmative actiondoes Ahmad realize this, I wonder?colonial discourse analysis emerges as the collocation of these "narratives of oppression."
To turn now to Three Worlds Theory: as Ahmad reconstructs its

history, this problematic had its origins in the 1950s "not as a peoples' movement, in an oppositional space differentiated from and opposed to the constituted state structures, but ... as an ideology
of already-constituted states, promulgated either collectively by sev-

eral of them, or individually by one distinguishing itself from an-

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism

other" (292). Three Worlds Theory was, he correctly argues, initially


elaborated as a sort of organic ideology by the ruling elites and national bourgeois classes of distinct newly decolonized states. (India, Indonesia, and Egypt are mentioned.) In these terms, its central ideological thrust was to "redefine . . . anti-imperialism not as a soweaker states of the national bourgeoisies in the course of their collaborative competition with the more powerful states of advanced capital" (293). This redefinition, obviously, "served the interest both of making the mass movements subservient to the national bourgeois state and of strengthening the negotiating positions of that type of state in relation to the states and corporate entities of advanced capital" (293). This initial Third-Worldist ideology was then given further distinct inflections, first by the Soviet Union, and then by China. Fol-

cialist project to be realized by the mass movements of the popular classes but as a developmentalist project to be realized by the

lowing the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956, the Soviet conception


of the global dispensation was altered: "The main contradiction was talist and the socialist systems o production, but between the so-

now said to be not between capital and labour, nor between the capi-

cialist and capitalist system of states, condensed in the competition between the United States and the USSR" (304). The significance of this new statist conceptualization for the decolonizing "Third World" was that, since it emphasized not relations of production but geopolitical alignment, it enabled a developmentalist nationalist program advent of the Cultural Revolution, Ahmad argues, the "Third World""composed of the predominantly agricultural and poor
countries, which now together constituted the 'countryside'"came to be counterposed diametrically with a "first world" which now to represent itself as progressively antiimperialist. The Chinese appropriation of Three Worlds Theory was more sweeping. With the

comprised both the Soviet Union and the United States, merged into a single imperialism of superpowers (306). What then proves crucial
for Ahmad is that

it was not the Soviet version of the Theory, with its partial truths and opportunistic twists, which seized most radical imaginations in subsequent years. Ratherwith all kinds of anti-communism assuming merely an anti-Soviet form, and ing hold of impressive sections of campus radicals from the latWorlds Theory which had the widest global currency. (306) The central elements of the Three Worlds Theory that, according to Ahmad's reading, was taken up by the metropolitan Left and be391

with even the most fantastic forms of the Maoist ideology tak-

ter 1960s onwards it was the Chinese version of the Three

Diaspora 2:3 1993

gan percolating into the Anglo-American academy in the 1960s were anti-Sovietism, anticolonialism, and what Ahmad calls "ThirdWorldist cultural nationalism." These three tendencies were la-

tently contradictory: anti-Sovietism led to a repudiation not only of


Stalinism but of "classical" Marxism tout court; anticolonialism led

to an identification with such insurgent liberation struggles as, most notably, that of the Vietnamese and to an insistent advocacy of "radicalism"; "Third-Worldist cultural nationalism" led to a defense of all decolonizing projects, even those which served to install reactionary clientelist ruling elites or neocolonial national bourgeoisies, as historically and politically justified. "In the anti-war movements of this period," Ahmad writes, the predominant sentiment was that of anti-colonialism, and the bulk of the mobilization, including the main organizers (the role of the Church and pacifist groups is usually understated in accounts from the Left), represented the political traditions essentially of decent liberalism thrown into agony by the scale of savagery and the number of American deaths. What this anti-war sentiment affirmed was the right of national self-determination, and it was in this period of the ascendancy of the national-bourgeois state that cultural nationalismthat is, the characteristic form of the nationalism of the national bourgeoisiewas declared to be the determinate ideological form for progressive cultural production. (40)
Ahmad maintains that "Third-Worldist cultural nationalism"

found its initial articulation in the Anglo-American academy19 in the domains of political science and sociologyin modernization theory, for instance, which emerged decisively in the 1950s and early 1960sbefore moving on to pervade literary, historical, and cultural studies. He argues, thus, that the very "issue of the literary representation of colony and empire in Euro-American literary discourses was posed in the US academy, from the beginning ... in response to nationalist pressures, so that the subsequent theorizing of the subject, even when undertaken by Marxists, proceeded from the already-existing nationalist premisses and predispositions" (62). It is against this backdrop that Ahmad chooses to frame the intellectual production of Edward Said. The paradigmatic significance of Orientalism, he argues, is that it is "a very uncompromising document of Third-Worldist cultural nationalism" (13). It "panders to the
most sentimental, the most extreme forms of Third-Worldist nation-

alism," denouncing "the whole of Western civilization," dismissing Marxism as "an accomplice of British colonialism," endorsing each and every Third-Worldist claim, and blaming all of the "Third World's" troubles upon the West (195). As Ahmad reads it, Oriental-

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism ism not only dismisses Marxism root and branch, it is "unmediated by any socialist desire" (291). Having thus positioned Orientalism as an exemplarythat is, representativework, Ahmad then needs to account for the extraordinary influence that it came to exert. What was it that set Orientalism apart from innumerable other "Third-Worldist cultural nationalist" texts, some written years earlier? His answer to this question is that, in its supposed commitment to poststructuralist and, particularly, Foucaultianprotocols, Orientalism was among the first Third-Worldist cultural nationalist texts to register the impact of the changed political circumstances of the late 1970s. Ahmad makes a great deal out of the fact that Said's book was published in 1978. It "began its career" he informs us, "in a world supervised by Reagan and Thatcher, with various kinds of anti-communisms and post-Marxisms which were to grip the most advanced sectors of the metropolitan intelligentsia during the period" (178). Now anticommunisms and post-Marxisms had been rampant in the late 1950s, too, but Ahmad does not read, say, Raymond Williamswho began publishing at that timeas their lightning rod. On the contrary, he specifically cites Williams as a model for the committed left-wing intellectual today (ignoring in the process both the conspicuous neglect of the significance of empire in Williams's own work and the fact that Said arguably owes far more to Williams
than to Foucault). For Ahmad, however, Orientalism is no Culture

and Society. Far from introducing socialist concerns into cultural theory, he argues, it served to domesticate and deradicalize the critique of imperialism: It has been Edward Said's achievement to have brought th[e] . . . question of cultural imperialism to the very centre of the ongoing literary debates in the metropolitan university by posing it in terms that were acceptable to that university" (221). To understand what Ahmad is arguing here it is necessary for us to return to his narrative of the trajectory of Three Worlds Theory. To restate briefly: during the 1960s and early 1970s, metropolitan
leftistsactivists and academicshad tended to embrace unam-

biguously the programs of anticolonial nationalisms in the "Third World." By the late 1970s, however, the ideological climate had changed fundamentally. Everywhere, the tide had turned decisively against liberationist insurgencies: even where, as in Vietnam, Cuba, and Algeria, the war had been won, the ensuing "peace" was being lost. Certainly, events had still to run their course in Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; but the pattern had already been set. In the face of these defeats, the metropolitan Left began to retreat from its earlier espousal of insurgent anticolonialism. "What remained," in Ahmad's account "was the memory only of the failures, the distortions, the bureaucratization; that there had also been other kinds of solidarities no longer mattered"
393

Diaspora 2:3 1993 (33). This retreat was then hastened and compounded by the manifest stagnation also of the formerly colonized states that had followed the (neocolonial) path of "development" and "modernization." The result was that, by the late 1970s, the metropolitan Left had already begun to move toward a position from which it would eventually discard "cultural nationalism itself ... as illusion, myth, totalizing narrative" (41). According to Ahmad's reading, Orientalism is a work of the break between the earlier variant of Three Worlds Theory (Third-Worldist cultural nationalism) and the later version (poststructuralist antinationalism). I see little more than the most obvious of historical

connections between these two formations. But that they are indeed two versions of the same general problematic seems quite clear to Ahmad. In each case, he writes, what is involved is a "monolithic attitude . . . towards the issue of nationalismshifting rapidly from unconditional celebration to contemptuous dismissal" (41). Cultural nationalism and poststructuralism are two sides of the same coin, and "[t]he evidence of his latest essays puts [Said] . . . much more squarely in the poststructuralist milieu" (13). Ahmad also insists to the bitter end that the problematic in questionaccommodating both Third-Worldist nationalist and poststructuralist tendencies is at root a Maoist problematic. He asserts generally that [a] great many intellectuals who renounced their formal ties with organized Maoism nevertheless continued to function through those same categories of thoughtnow as 'independents'; by the early 1980s, quite a few of them were joining what now came to be known as 'social movements'. The upshot was that while the politics of Maoism declined, its social and cultural impact among the middle-class intelligentsia remained, in many versions. (308) This passage comes hard upon the heels of another, in which Ahmad
had claimed that Maoism

has endowed us with vocabularies and styles of thought which are so global in their dispersion, so much a part of what one might call the modern Leftist common sense, that we absorb them on a daily basis, without giving them so much as a thought. Not all of us are equally gripped by it, but at least some elements of itsome variant of the Three Worlds Theory, mostly in the Maoist reformulationsare inscribed now, sometimes despite ourselves, in the political unconscious of all we

write, think, say about the global dispersion of powers and cultures. (307)

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism What, finally, is one to say about this argument? That Ahmad completely misreads Said is, I hope, by now abundantly clear. Orientalism is not a "Third-Worldist cultural nationalist" text, and Said's
career does not track from a Maoist cultural nationalism to a "neo-

Maoist"(?) poststructuralism. But I confess to also being wholly unconvinced by the theoretical argument that underpins this misreadingthe general case that Ahmad lays out for the centrality of Three Worlds Theory to the contemporary problematic of colonial discourse theory. Ahmad appears to position Third-Worldist cultural nationalism as the central determinant of metropolitan leftism in the 1960s, rather than as one relatively marginal and atypical expression of that leftism. I find it revealing, for instance, that he should offer us a "reading" of the significance of 1968 "from the American point of view" that lists "the spectacular victories of the
Vietnamese Tet offensive" (60) but not the convulsive effects of

the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. The impression that one gains, here and elsewhere, is that Ahmad is not particularly familiar with the central concerns of the American (or, for that matter, the metropolitan) New Left. I also think that Ahmad dramatically overstates the significance of the Maoist position in the Anglo-American contexts. In Britain,
this position never gained any real critical support, not least be-

cause it came up thereboth within the academic sphere and withoutagainst the strongly rooted traditions of working-class socialism and Trotskyism.20 (The latter is entirely ignored in In Theory.) And in the United States, while there was a significant ThirdWorldist cultural nationalist strain in some sectors of the Black

Power movement and the fringe Left (including the student Left), it never commanded much strategic centrality.21 (It also seems to me to have owed at least as much to the writings of Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and especially Frantz Fanon as to Maoist ideology. The fact that there are some similarities between Fanonian and Maoist ideologyan anti-Leninist, antimetropolitan, antiworkerist thrust, for instancedoes not by any means indicate that Fanon's views are to be assimilated to Maoism.)

It is only with respect to France, in the work of such figures as


Jean-Luc Godard, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Julia Kristeva, and other intellectuals associated with the

journal Tel Quel, that it makes much sense to speak of a Maoist strain of Third-Worldist cultural nationalism assuming general significance. Certainly, the work of these intellectuals was widely disseminated within the Anglo-American academy in the 1970s and 1980s and became extraordinarily influential there. But, as Said himself has pointed out in his famous essay "Traveling Theory," it
is necessary in such cases to examine "whether a theory in one his-

torical period and national culture becomes altogether different for

Diaspora 2:3 1993

another period or situation" (The World, 226). And this, it seems to me, was transparently the case in this instance. Accordingly, I do not accept either that Three Worlds Theory exercised a shaping presence on Anglo-American leftism in the 1960s and early 1970s, or that it continues, in a contemporary guise, to inform the political unconscious of current theoretical workwhether generally, with respect to poststructuralism, or more locally, with respect to colonial discourse theory.22 That a certain Third-Worldismin terms of which, as Ahmad puts it, "the totality of indigenous culture [is] . . . posited as a unified, transparent site of anti-imperialist resistance" (8)is sometimes in evidence among today's colonial discourse theorists is not to be denied. (I often encounter it among my students when I first meet them, for instancealthough I like to think that it dissolves as soon as I cite Adorno's brilliant aphorism to the effect that "[i]n the end, glorification of splendid underdogs is nothing other than glorification of the splendid system that makes them so" [28].) Nor can it be denied that an uncritical application of poststructuralist procedures and protocols often leads to a sweeping and cynical repudiation of solidaristic commitments, including nationalism. But there are better ways of accounting for these errors than through the evocation of a shadowy Maoist residue. Had Aijaz Ahmad been willing to listen, Edward Said might have had a thing or
two to teach him here.

Notes

I would like to thank the following people for their helpful and constructive advice, suggestions, criticisms, and disagreements: Nancy Armstrong, Anthony Amove, Christina Crosby, Keya Ganguly, Amitava Kumar, Benita Parry, Fred Pfeil, Ellen Rooney, Helen Scott, Ashley Smith, Michael Sprinker, Leonard Tennenhouse, Khachig Tllyan, and Elizabeth Weed. 1.Ahmad's Social Text essay is reprinted in slightly revised form in In Theory (95-122). References in my article are to this latter version. 2.A note on terminology is in order here. In his essay, as elsewhere, Jameson tends to use the hyphenated and uncapitalized construction: third-world. Ahmad is not always consistent, but in generaland to the extent that he uses the termhe tends to prefer the unhyphenated and capitalized construction: Third World. (This is to be distinguished from the cultural nationalist ideologeme that he labels Third-Worldism. He argues, thus, that Jameson's "Third-World Literature" essay is Third-Worldist in conception.) The construction that I myself use in this essay is unhyphenated, capitalized, and in quotes: "Third World." 3.It is only very recently that this interest has begun to find any sustained reflection in Jameson's scholarly production. See, for instance, the essay on "Magic Realism" in Jameson, (Signatures); and the essays on Edward Yang's Terrorizer and Kidlat Tahimik's The Perfumed Nightmare in Jameson (Geopolitical Aesthetic). 4.In addition to Ahmad's reading, I have found the critiques of Jameson by Katrak and George most suggestive and illuminating. 5.Amin's argument is that the conceptualization of capitalism as a mode of production fails, on 396

Postcolonialism and the Dilemma ofNationalism


its own terms, to specify the global consequences of capitalist development: namely, the dialectic of development and underdevelopment. As he puts it, "Capitalism has always been a world system. The process of accumulation that governs its dynamicshaped by a law of value that operates on a world scale limited to markets for commodities and capital to the exclusion of labor powernecessarily leads to the polarization of the world into center and periphery nations" (7). One notes in passing that the production of the concept of "nations" in this formulation is
rather unmotivated.

6.The suggestion that one "familiar Marxist ground" for the critique of nationalism is that nationalism "has frequently suppressed questions of gender" (emphasis added) cannot be allowed to pass without comment. Ahmad stealthily positions "gender" alongside "class" here, hoping perhaps that his readers will not pause to think. In fact, with rare and ungeneralizable exceptions, twentieth-century Marxism's record on criticizing the masculinism of nationalist discourse is perfectly dismal.
7.The reference here is of course to Anderson.

8.See Miller, especially, 31-67. A useful general corrective is provided by Davidson. 9. 1 want to emphasize that I am not here concerned with Edward Said's personal reputation. Said has demonstrated very clearly over the years that he is perfectly capable himself of dealing with malign misrepresentations of his work. He does not need anybody else to come to his assistanceleast of all a scholar like me, whom he has never met. I should add that I think Said's

work speaks for itself. I, certainly, owe a significant debt to it. 10.Cabrai was in fact the leader of PAIGC, the national liberation front of the West African state,
Guinea-Bissau.

11.This is not the only occasion in In Theory in which Chatterjee's ideas are misrepresented. See also 321n8, in which Chatterjee's Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World is said by Ahmad to articulate an "outright hatred of Nehru as a 'modernizer'."
12.The citation is drawn from Said, The World 28-29.

13.Parry offers a lucid if brief consideration of this particular misreading in her review of In Theory (124). 14.For an informed and by no means uncritical discussion of Orientalism and of Said's work in general, see the essays collected in Sprinker. 15.Ahmad attempts to preempt the latter criticism, at least, by acknowledging in a footnote that he realizes his "polemic lumps together diverse positions, but lack of space makes it impossible to develop the argument" (329nl8). In an exceptionally prolix book of 358 pages, such a disavowal is unconvincing. It is also disingenuous, since there is always enough space to make whatever distinctions need to be made in order to make one's point accurately. 16.See Lazarus; other critiques that I have found helpful include Callinicos {Against Postmodernism), Dews, and Norris.

17.Emphasizing only immigrants, Ahmad appears to neglect the role played by minority populations in the metropolitan formations in the emergence of colonial discourse analysis. Conversely, in describing the emergencea full decade earlierof African literature in American curricula, he overstates the role played by what he calls "Black nationalist pressure." It is clear that the formation of black studies departments and programs in the United States occurred largely in response to pressure from this source. But the relation between black studies and African literature in the United States academy is highly mediated. (The same could be said of the relation
between Chicano studies and Latin American literature, or between Asian American studies and,

say, Korean or Chinese or Japanese literature.) "Black nationalist pressure" had comparatively little to do with the institutionalization of African literature in the United States academy exemplified most notably, for instance, by the establishment of the African Literature Association.

Diaspora 2:3 1993


18.Ahmad adds that "[w]hen, only slightly later, enough women found themselves in that same position, the category of the Third World female subaltern' was found highly serviceable." I take this unpleasant formulation to be a coded reference to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Since no account of colonial discourse analysis that fails to reckon with Spivak's central contribution can possibly be considered adequate, Ahmad's patently willed refusal to mention Spivak by name in In Theory is significant. He writes that he intends to focus only on the work of the major theorists in the field. This might be taken to excuse his neglect of the work of such theorists as, say, R. Radhakrishnan, Gauri Viswanathan, Helen Tiffin, Simon Gikandi, Kumkum Sangari, and Linda Hutcheonalthough I believe that it is more likely that he has not bothered to familiarize himself with the work of these writersbut Spivak is in any reckoning among the two or three most important such theorists. 19.It is a source of considerable frustration that In Theory frequently conflates the specific universes of British, American, Frenchand, for that matter, western and Anglo-Americanacademic culture. It is not, of course, that significant overlaps are not frequently in evidence; but Ahmad often fails to attend to the occasions on which such overlaps are significantly and conspicuously absent. 20.For an analysis of the thrust and significance of Trotskyism in Britain, see the relevant sections of Callinicos, Trotskyism. 21.A useful overview is provided by Fields in his book on the subject. I would lie to thank Anthony Amove for drawing this book to my attention. It is significant that, according to Fields's reading, the most important American Maoist grouping, the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), was already moving to repudiate Cuban socialism and "the Vietnamese revolutionary movement" by
the mid-1960s (191-92). The romance with nationalism that Ahmad addresses as central to

Third-Worldist cultural nationalist ideology through at least 1975 had, among PLP cadres, evaporated years earlier. 22.In the introduction to her new book, Writing Diaspora, Rey Chow puts forward an argument that, for all her ideological differences from AhmadChow writes from an avowedly anti-Marxist and poststructuralist standpointhas a good deal in common with his representation of the political unconscious of contemporary cultural theory. Chow maintains that "ltlhe ways in which modern Chinese history is inscribed in our current theoretical and political discourse, often without our knowing about them, are quite remarkable" ( 18). She cites "three major instances": "First, post-structuralism's dismantling of the sign . . . began in an era when Western intellectuals, in particular those in France . . . 'turned East' to China for philosophical and political alternatives. . . . Second, the feminist revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s drew on the Chinese Commu-

nists' practice of encouraging peasants, especially peasant women, to 'speak bitterness' (suku) against an oppressive patriarchal system. . . . Third, the interest invested by current culture criticism in the socially dispossessed rejoins many issues central to the founding ideology of the Chinese Communist party, which itself drew on Soviet and other Western philosophies" (18). Chow's conclusion is that "'modern China' is, whether we know it or not, the foundation of contemporary cultural studies" (18). In my view, this formulation is no more capable of being sustained than is Ahmad's. Like Ahmad, Chow seems to me both to overestimate drastically the significance of Chinese developments to the configuration of post-1945 western intellectualism and to fail to attend adequately to the transformative ideological work involved in the western reception or appropriation of these developments.

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