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Journal of Postcolonial Writing
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Postsocialist ≠ postcolonial? On postSoviet imaginary and global coloniality
Madina Tlostanova
a a

Peoples’ Friendship University, Moscow

Available online: 20 Mar 2012

To cite this article: Madina Tlostanova (2012): Postsocialist ≠ postcolonial? On post-Soviet imaginary and global coloniality, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 48:2, 130-142 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17449855.2012.658244

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race and gender.com ISSN 1744-9855 print/ISSN 1744-9863 online Ó 2012 Taylor & Francis http://dx. marked by external imperial difference. For one thing.658244 http://www. including the recently coined postcommunist studies. which has assumed a specific guise in Russian/Soviet versions of modernity. May 2012. these two concepts – the postcolonial and the postcommunist – have a rather fraught relationship. 2.2012. while postcommunist thinkers often shun overt critiques of the global capitalist order. particularly in relation to Russia/USSR and its ex-colonies.1080/17449855. ethnicity. No. the editors pointed out the relative dearth of meaningful dialogue between postcolonial theory and postcommunist discourses and experiences. This complicates the dichotomous scheme west versus east. the postcolonial. which have sporadically used postcolonial tools as an instrument to conceptualize the postsocialist imaginary and experience. north versus south. Keywords: the postsocialist. 48. or what it means to be a void in the global coloniality In their thought-provoking invitation to contribute to a special issue of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing on the intersections between postcommunism and postcolonialism. even now when the first “liberation” euphoria is over and ex-socialist countries clearly understand the fixed position they have been assigned *Email: madina. reflecting the difference between historical colonialisms and the phenomenon of global coloniality. Yet when closely analysed. Moscow The article presents the main conceptual intersections and differences between postcolonial studies as a product of the anglophone world. 130–142 Postsocialist ≠ postcolonial? On post-Soviet imaginary and global coloniality Madina Tlostanova* Peoples’ Friendship University. Postcolonial theory has become in the last two decades a well-established and integral element of any serious critical thinking on otherness. global coloniality. Many categories of postcolonial theory have found their way into other paradigms. as well as queer and ecological projects both in the west and in the non-west. Postcolonial studies are thus filling a theoretical void in the interpretation of postcommunist reality left by old Sovietology and not yet filled by the recently coined Eurasian studies. of the history of relations between the British Empire and its colonies.tandfonline. external/internal imperial difference Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 Between the postcolonial and the postsocialist.doi. and a critical analysis of post-Soviet discourses and processes.com .org/10. decolonial option.Journal of Postcolonial Writing Vol. anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist critiques and a neo-Marxist epistemological grounding have been crucial elements in most postcolonial discourses.tlostanova@gmail.

rather an “imparative” – from the Latin imparare (to learn in the atmosphere of plurality) – approach. we can turn to an imparative mutual learning process based on a pluritopic hermeneutics. including the infamous double-standard proletarian internationalism and the USSR patronage over developing countries (Russia and the CIS). unable to join any of the extremes. epistemic.Journal of Postcolonial Writing 131 within the new world architecture. Panikkar’s formulation (1988). and no one really expects the defeated side to resurrect and pester the world with absurd claims to existence? Postcommunism itself is a highly questionable umbrella term lumping together societies which share an experience of communist political regimes but have different local histories and distinct understandings of their situation. Does it mean that we should forget about the question posed by the editors? By no means. Postcolonial theory has traditionally been applied to the (ex-)colonies of various capitalist empires and. instead of determining if and how we can apply postcolonial theory to postcommunist spaces. Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 . The almost overnight vanishing of the second world led to a typical western understanding of the post-Soviet as time. How to define and theorize this similarity in difference? How to learn to see similar yet distinct categories. as well as the belated cultural policy of post-Soviet Russia. Some of them can hope to eventually join modernity. even if not in the capacity they would hope to. spiritual. roles and prospects in the global world. just as postcolonial theory can explain only some of their reverberations. in R. in the Cold War order of things. echoing psychological. Still others will reach a critical understanding of their position and decide to delink from modernity and its myths. postcommunism sees itself as forced to either accept liberalism and capitalism as the only remaining options or go back to idealizing socialist myths. Instead of comparing everything and everyone with the western ideal used as a model for the whole of humanity. aims. we start. “The South of the Poor North”). What is needed for a real dialogue is a true intersectionality. to the third world. By introducing it into the dichotomous scheme of west versus east or north versus south we immediately complicate and disrupt the binarism through a strange and disturbing agent which acts simultaneously as the colonizer and the colonized. and generating oxymoronic subcategories instead. Others are destined to disappear and never be given a chance to step on board. not a comparative. discarded from and abandoned by modernity. or the south of the poor north (Tlostanova. The second. For there is a lot in the experience of the ex-second and ex-third worlds that allows for a meaningful dialogue and joined agency in the future. concepts and terms. existential and epistemic phenomena shaded by different local histories? One of the ways is to go back to the central question posed by the editors – to what extent can postcolonial theory function as an enabling theoretical construction that can help illuminate instances of mind-colonization in non-third-world contexts? This question can be reformulated with a shift in the geography of reason: what if. Habitually thinking within the binary either/or logic. but. Jennifer Suchland ironically summarized this sensibility in the reformulation of Gayatri Spivak’s question: “Can the Postsocialist speak” (Suchland 842)? From our post-Soviet side it can be summarized in a rhetorical question: what does it mean to be a void? What does it mean to be aware of the fact that the second-world narrative in history is over. religious. intermediary world (itself a stray outgrowth of western modernity) has been beyond the reach of postcolonial theory until recently. cultural. Postcommunism is not a concept that can bring together all of these conflicting experiences. such as the poor north. that victory is already granted to the presumed enemy. desperately striving to recreate and preserve the vanishing post-Soviet as an imagined community – linguistic. This post-Soviet nostalgia for the “Peoples’ Friendship” brand is a telling symptom today. not as space.

It only means that we will shift the emphasis from universalist applications of ready-made discourses and travelling theories. class and race. mimicry and other phenomena well analysed by postcolonial theorists. and maintained (though reconfigured) since then within the modern/colonial world. The terms used above immediately bring us to a different paradigm of contemporary critical thought – the decolonial option (Mignolo and Tlostanova. firmly linking imperialism and capitalism.132 M. and so on) acting as a tool to justify the continuing colonization of time and space. paying attention to various local histories marked by colonial and imperial differences (or their combination) within modernity/coloniality. which were typical not only of the colonies per se. and so on) and a shared birthmark in the rhetoric of modernity (the mission of progress. a racial. Gender Epistemologies. particularly when they referred to the internal others as well as the “brothers” outside – those socialist states that were invariably assigned a lower place on the ladder of Soviet modernity where the Russian “superman” occupied the top position. Mind-colonization is a disease common in all parts of the world and all strata of society. What changes is the content of the brainwashing – from Christianity to the “civilizing mission”. to pluriversal and pluritopic intersubjectification. Both postcolonial and postcommunist discourses are products of modernity/coloniality. It is a mutant coloniality in the sense that race and racism have been supplanted here by class or ideology. the European states which found themselves under the tutelage of Russian/Soviet power after 1945. the principle stays the same as in the case of conquistadores and British colonists in India – the Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 . in spite of the contradictory nature of such complex discourses. but also for mixed and grey situations: for instance. yet having a common source (for example. building walls between disciplines and proliferating mini-discourses fit to analyse only particular phenomena. a missionary syndrome paradigmatic of the modern/ colonial matrix of power. social. ideology and religion. Tlostanova. it is a coloniality of knowledge and of being. always based on the western cognitive principle of studying the other as an object from some disembodied position which in fact only hides its own contextuality. Caucasus or Russia? This does not necessarily mean that we will end up compartmentalizing knowledge. inferiority complexes. seldom by ethnicity. The latter case can hardly be analysed using the postcolonial paradigm alone. They meant a general socialist zombification and brainwashing. Nelson MaldonadoTorres. Tlostanova instead. civilization. development. gender and epistemic bondage created around the 16th century. Yet the racial discourse always came back to haunt socialist constructions. with the geopolitics and body-politics of knowledge growing out of the local histories. emphasizing different elements. from overall consumerism to anti-terrorist zeal. Yet in (post)socialist and (post-)Soviet contexts there are also instances of mind-colonization in a more strictly postcolonial meaning of the term. The editors obviously did not mean Russian imperialism with reference to its subalterns when they asked the question of how the postcolonial and the postcommunist intersect. 2007. primarily. Central here would be the concept of coloniality coined by Anibal Quijano (2000) and developed by Walter Mignolo. of lives and futures. central Asia. Maria Lugones and other members of the decolonial collective (Mignolo and Escobar 2009). domination and suppression. from liberalism to communism. in my opinion. 2010) – that. Yet. economic. existential. resulting in self-orientalization and self-racializing. Coloniality is the indispensable underside of modernity. can act as a common ground for postcolonial and postcommunist experiences. for it is coloniality and not colonialism that is here at work. and. What remains untouched is the rhetoric of salvation hiding the colonial logic of control. subjectivities and experiences of eastern and south-eastern Europe.

subjectivity (coloniality of being) and knowledge (production and distribution). In all cases modernity justifies violence and the negation. has expanded all over the globe [ … ]. The decolonial option versus postcolonial studies Along with colonialism as a specific socio-historical configuration we need to speak of global coloniality. resulting in the specific control of labour. the decolonial option does not position itself as studies radically questioning the essence. based on mocking and outsmarting Soviet/imperial authority. or inversion. logic and methodology of the existing system of knowledge and disciplinary spheres. as well as the most remarkable in-between trickster subjectivities. This equates indigenous people in the new world with enemies of the people in the Soviet Union or Muslims as terrorists today. One of its direct consequences is the uncritical acceptance of the existing world hierarchy in which everyone is assigned a strict and never-questioned place. state and. This specific meaning of mind colonization always works against the background of global coloniality through the discourses of modernity (including socialist ones). In post-Soviet postcolonialism a more complex intersectionality is at work. It attempts a conceptual denaturalization. Thus. ex-socialist and western subjects alike. firmly linked with capital. This generates different psychological reactions. The decolonial option attempts not to “study colonialism”. etc. of the human rights of those who are branded as not quite human (i. gender and sexuality. as sometimes happens in those variants of postcolonial studies which rely exclusively on western postmodernist concepts. (Mignolo and Tlostanova. Even the most elaborate and original . [c]oloniality invokes colonialism. whereas imperialism/colonialism refers to specific socio-historical configurations [ … ]. in F. not quite Soviet. which marks today’s ex-third-world. where ideological Soviet discourses are superimposed on more straightforward imperial or colonial ones. which is [ … ] the complement of imperialism. not quite European. 109) Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 In contrast to the majority of postcolonial discourses. since 1500. more importantly. modernity/coloniality refers to the conceptual and ideological matrix of the Atlantic world that. not quite Christian. Hinkelammert’s formulation (2004). not quite White.e. What often remains untouched in postcolonial studies and what the decolonial option aims at questioning is the fundamental logic of modernity/coloniality. but to decolonize knowledge. Coloniality [ … ] describes a specific kind of imperial/colonial relations that emerged in the Atlantic world in the sixteenth century and brought imperialism and capitalism together. Global coloniality is subordinated to the general logic and structure of power. from losing any instinct of self-preservation to a ubiquitous irrational fear. as well as the idea of race. subjectivity. a qualitative shift not a quantitative one. as well as in socialist discourses. At the basis of global coloniality stands the idea of classifying humankind in relation to the colonial matrix of power and the ontological marginalization of non-western and not quite western people – a typical tool of modernity easily detected in colonialism of any kind. exploitation and violence. Crucial here is the distinction between historical imperialism/colonialism and the rhetoric of modernity/the logic of coloniality. its academic disciplines and the western monopoly of knowledge. from a multiple border position.). Thus. This particular mind-colonization is better analysed by and in the decolonial option. seldom questioning the disciplinary matrix established in modernity.Journal of Postcolonial Writing 133 principle of “misanthropic skepticism” (Maldonado-Torres 248) – of taking humanity away from human beings and rendering their lives dispensable.

the decolonial approach attempts to take any research through the scholar into the world and deal with problems not with disciplines. The decolonial option does not propose to change one (western) epistemology with another or others. translated into the concept of the west and. It does not try to replace the previous zero-point managerial epistemology (Castro-Gomez 433) with a new one. would be only the preliminary step toward a project. the global north. The former refers to the European losers of the second modernity which became the south of Europe (Dainotto 2000). education. The imperial difference refers to the various losers that failed to or were prevented by different circumstances and powers from fulfilling their imperial mission in modernity. Here the concept of colonial and imperial differences becomes indispensable in any effort to theorize postcommunist experience vis-à-vis postcolonial theory and the decolonial option. “La aesthesis trans-moderna”). Tlostanova Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 examples of postcolonial theorizing tend to interpret the other through the concepts of the same. and in this sense they inadvertently reproduce the very coloniality of knowledge. from Caucasus cosmology or from Sufism. then. but from Gloria Anzaldua or from the Zapatistas. of victory in defeat (see Tlostanova. formulating decolonial arguments in public policy. In the decolonial option the focus is on the shift in the geopolitics and body-politics of knowledge and on the decolonization of knowledge frames and rules established in and by modernity and subsequently made universal.134 M. the Janus-faced empire and the (post-)Soviet/Russian brand of modernity/coloniality The colonial difference refers to the differential between the capitalist empires of modernity (the heart of Europe) and their colonies. a whole array of psychological hang-ups. alternatively. characterized by market economy and (neo-)liberal democratic societies. epistemically or culturally colonized by the winners (Great Britain. thus taking second-class places. All models continue to exist and remain viable as sources and targets of criticism. finally. while the latter means the not-quite-western. On imperial difference. Decolonial thinking is based on epistemic borders between European imperial categories. Postcolonial discourse would not formulate its task in this manner because it remains largely confined within the frame of the modern division into subject (who is doing the studying) and object (which is studied). but this is not what the decolonial option is after. in the direction of solving a problem or answering a question. schizophrenic collective complexes. mass media. today. Germany and the US today) and developed a catching-up logic. and the languages and models that were discarded by modern imperial epistemology. Studying an idea or social phenomenon. One can hybridize Jacques Lacan with Indian colonial history and subjectivity and create rich and polysemantic concepts in the vein of Homi Bhabha. France. We attempt to start not from Lacan. They were intellectually. By problems here we mean contemporary conflicts emerging as a result of the colonial/modern matrix of power and its accompanying salvation rhetoric. which became the third world in the 20th century. Instead of studying and analysing existing (post)colonialist phenomena and processes and keeping the boundary between the studied object and the studying subject. including the local histories which do not fit the black-and-white schemes of west versus east or north versus south today. Imperial difference itself has internal and external variants. and. dispersed geographically but united economically. ideologies of the besieged camp or. . which results in a dominant research paradigm where western high theory is applied to local material. This is the absolute other of the first world. This echoes the Zapatistas’ principle of the world where many different worlds would coexist on a non-hierarchical basis.

an empire with a long and unsuccessful history of external appropriation of certain elements of modernity on a different basis – non-capitalist. on the one hand. the concrete strategies of building Russian/Soviet modernity had to be attuned to the western one as it has always been a dependent and mimicking modernity. Russia as a paradigmatic second-class empire has always been in the condition of global coloniality vis-à-vis the west. in the non-European Russian/Soviet colonies. not based on western Christianity or a Latin-derived language. socialism. as well as those cases in which difference cannot be easily conceptualized through ethnicity. while also escalating its global geopolitical appetites. Feeling itself a colony in the presence of the west. Belarus). This wish has alternated periodically with a rejection of everything European and a retreat into the jingoism that we also witness today. then projecting them onto the Russian colonial difference. secondary orientalism. and in the Caucasus to a symbolic self-whitening. secondary racism. modernity. though it reformulated the main developmentalist slogan in a more radical way. for instance the Ottoman Sultanate or Russia as a paradigmatic case of such a Janus-faced empire – rich yet poor. as in case of Slavic post-Soviet countries – Ukraine. The Russian/Soviet Empire. that postcolonial categories would be best applicable. This hidden yet ubiquitous coloniality has manifested itself mainly in the spheres of being. later. Here Russia chose a doomed way of catching up with Europe and proving that it can out-west the west. based on methodical elimination of all alternative thinking and being. In the Soviet Union. In Russia itself this configuration has generated the complex of a secondary European. The Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 . an “out-of-place Tatar dressed as a Frenchman” (Kljuchevskij 107). This empire then compensates its inferiority complex in the non-western colonies by projecting the image of the Russian/Soviet colonizer as a true European and a champion of civilization. providential yet failed. of knowledge and of thinking. and not direct colonialism. The Soviet Empire was not essentially different from the Czarist one. The Janus-faced empire always felt itself a colony in the presence of the west. In central Asia it has led to self-orientalization. It is there. Russia has never been seen by western Europe as its part. while the Soviet Empire chose to present itself to the world as the empire of “affirmative action” (Martin 2001). the actual dominance of racial discourses was always masked by a more intricate ethnic and religious configuration. particularly the Muslim ones. strove to build its own separate variant of globality/modernity – an Orthodox kingdom and. non-western. The colonial and imperial differences disrupt the linear historical narrative that has come to its end with the collapse of the Soviet Union and allow for a much more nuanced and diversified picture of modernity/coloniality up to its contemporary globalized image. In relation to its colonies the Soviet tactic became more cruel and refined. Gender Epistemologies).Journal of Postcolonial Writing 135 not-quite-capitalist empires of modernity. The specific nature of such a second-rate empire never really sure of itself in the presence of the west generates transmuted forms of postcolonial impulses (Tlostanova. Russia/USSR has appropriated and transmuted (not always consciously) the basic aspects of the western empires of modernity. On the other hand. attempting to build a socialist modernity (“to catch up and leave behind”). a Soviet world (although the basis for this seemingly different model was still western in its origin). Russian 19th-century literature best exemplifies this tendency. Russia has projected its own inferiority complexes onto its colonies. because Europe interpreted Russia in racialized terms (as Asiatic). It is particularly clearly seen in relation to those “colonies” which can claim a belonging or closeness to Europe to a larger degree than Russia itself (all eastern and south-eastern European countries and the Baltics. resulting in the stifling of alternative political and social movements. generating mutant forms of the main vices of modernity – secondary Eurocentrism.

Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 . even when claiming a global spiritual and transcendental superiority. this imagined ideal. through quasi-scientific positivist racism. on copying western orientalism with a deviation and. Tlostanova dead-endness of the imperial difference has been a specific Russian problem for centuries. Christian. necessarily. As a result. I can go from Moscow to Asia. Both reflect and distort the western originals in the Russian cultural and mental space. The imperial difference generated Russia’s secondary status in European eyes and. silences. to the post-Soviet revenge of bio-racist discourses grounded in the purity of blood and the colour of skin. Russian/Soviet orientalism in its secondary Janus-faced form constitutes probably the most obvious parallel with the core of postcolonial studies.136 M. This secondary orientalism is a direct result of secondary Eurocentrism – an old and incurable Russian disease. Western orientalist discourses have been transmuted in secular modernity as specific ways of representing and interpreting Russian non-European colonies. writers and artists. often unconscious feeling that Russia itself is a form of a mystic and mythic Orient for the west. to commodity racism and to Soviet pseudo-internationalism with its underside of transmuted racism and. created a peculiar redoubling effect propagating a schizophrenic unsteadiness and uncertainty. The inseparable connection between race. gender and sexuality in the construction of modern imperial and colonial discourses is to be found in Russia and its colonies. sparsely sprinkled with exoticized Russian features. an open or hidden orientalization. Orientalist constructs turn out to be not only more complex. much before the advent of the capitalist/socialist divide. finally. paradoxically expressed in Victor Yerofeyev’s ironic dictum: “If I want. religion. when embodied in real people. This sensibility can be defined as a balancing act between the role of an object and that of the subject in an epistemic and existential sense. which were used as replacements of the missing Orient and coded as such. a foreign (and western) one. Russia/Soviet Union was complex and variegated within itself. This acted as a time bomb for the empire marked with external imperial difference. double entendres and contradictions were securely defended from criticism by the immense fear of repression and by the powerful brainwashing which followed the same logic as that of colonizing discourses and tactics. always with a twist of the Janus-faced empire which took a stray western discourse of socialism to superimpose it onto the age-old imperial difference. but also built on the principle of double mirror reflections. Such voids. with a carefully hidden. recycled and transmuted in the USSR. The only difference was that the zero point from which the enunciation was made was not a western. class. But it is unclear where I am coming from” (Yerofeyev 83–84). only changing the superfluous details. However. never homogenous. both mirrors – the one turned in the direction of the colonies and the one turned by Europe in the direction of Russia itself – appear to be distorting glasses that foster the unstable sensibility specific of Russian intellectuals. It did not have one ideology which would be consistently implemented for all different others. though it acquires a number of specific features. hence. or – to Europe. The major discriminating ideological frames of western modernity. never questioning the main frame of western modernity. as the background he could use in building his superiority discourses was. There are several other parallels and intersections between postcolonial complexes and postcommunist syndromes. So one can speak of the specific rhetoric of the Soviet (or wider socialist) modernity in which the familiar logic of coloniality was still at work. It is clear where I am going to. faced many difficulties. has always been looking for approval/envy and love/hatred from the west. changing at various stages of Russian/Soviet expansion – from romantic orientalism. middleclass male. The subaltern empire. once again. but a Russian communist male proletarian.

particularly given the specificity of Russian religious. job opportunities. In the Czarist Empire it was mainly religion that was translated into racial and ethnic categories. political and cultural traditions. It remains highly questionable if the empire was ready to accept the erased differences that it itself promoted as its constitutive ideology. progressivism and Soviet orientalism demonstrated clearly their links with the western colonialist macro-narrative. In our efforts to outline the configuration of the post-Soviet and postcolonial we should remember that modernity in the 20th century was implemented in two forms – the liberal/capitalist and the socialist/statist one. simply Black. northern Caucasus). Racializing had one face in the metropolis (when “enemies of the people” of any ethnic and religious belonging were rendered subhuman). and poverty for the population which simply had the misfortune of being born in this space. Jamaica Kincaid’s Autobiography of my Mother (1995) and Ukrainian Oksana Zabuzhko’s Field Studies of Ukrainian Sex (1998). at the same time proclaiming a new nation-state image in its most reactionary.g.g. development. while at the same time erasing or rewriting all non-Russian traditions in Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 . for example. Beyond this wide differential area sketched above. As a result a very problematic Soviet colonial identity emerged which had a lot in common with the postcolonial split and unstable negative identification grounded in unhomeliness and in-betweenness. The looming completion of its disintegration as an empire would lead to even more chaos. often gendered overtones in the Soviet case – the colonized and the politically repressed Soviet males react identically by projecting their humiliation onto those who are still weaker and more dependent – women and children: see. were based on contradictory double standards – officially promoting the flourishing of national languages and literatures. but is no longer united spiritually or ideologically. then bourgeois nationalist (USSR) and. and a different face in the colonies where the discourses of the civilizing mission. one of the obvious intersections of the post-Soviet and the post-colonial lies in the psychology of colonialism and in anticolonial resistance. sliding more and more in the direction of biological racism and bubbled-up xenophobic constructs. bloodshed. today. or in securing for oneself a whiter/more advanced/more politically appropriate sexual partner. Soviet language policies. Another crucial sphere of intersection of the postcolonial and the post-Soviet is in the use of language. It acquires additional. In the darker colonial side of Soviet modernity a second-rate type of Soviet citizen was constructed in spite of the proclaimed internationalist slogans and the overt goal of racial mixing in order to create a future Soviet Mestizo/a with an erased ethnic element brought up on Russian culture and on Soviet ideology. each of them had its own kind of coloniality. Thus race functioned in the Soviet Union in transmuted forms: class and ideological overtones were translated into racial and ethnic ones. Each of them had a sunny side and a darker side. Double consciousness and the phenomenon of passing for a Russian or for a communist have been consistently expressed in changing religions. as it does not even accept the western idea of the civil (not ethnic) nation. or self-realization in general. which still speaks a common language. as all other discourses. Yet this will not help much. e. Hyphenated identities are not really possible in Russia. Proclaiming the goal of making everyone look identical and erasing their colonial status was not the same as actually allowing the colonial to claim his/her equality in the sphere of education. ethnic-nationalist form. names. continuing to impose bits and pieces of its imperialist ideology onto the remaining colonies and quasi-colonies (e. because the imperial difference does not generate anything promising. the Muslim first became Tatar (19th century). appearance.Journal of Postcolonial Writing 137 an empire still not entirely disintegrated even today. multiplying internal racialized others with Russian citizenship yet no rights. The rotting exempire will finally disintegrate into smaller parts.

Even the best analyses of such phenomena are still marked with orientalist and progressivist heresy: the rhetoric of modernity reduces everything to the primitive opposition between the modern (western by default) and the traditional (sanctioned by the local national neocolonial power). understanding and analysing this phenomenon (Roza Mira. should turn to reexistence – a term coined by the Columbian cultural theorist and artist Adolfo Alban Achinte (2006) as a model of positive (re)creating of worlds. Moscow Art Magazine). and postcolonial/postsocialist subjects have to negotiate even more numerous traditions. postimperial and postcolonial discourses and imaginaries are to be found not in scholarly publications or official state policies. it looks more likely that this task would have to be performed by a separate discourse which will certainly find intersections with postcolonial studies and theory and with the decolonial option. with few exceptions. lives and subjectivities. Yet even if postcolonial. Thus today the formula “national in its form. The national brands of modernity today in the newly independent states add a specific flavour to the global coloniality of being and of knowledge that decolonial artists and writers incorporate critically into their works. the psychology of the returned gaze and the colonialist/colonizer intersection. In this context. more broadly. bilingualism. particularly taking into account a substantial number of people of non-Russian ethnicities living in the CIS who speak only Russian. Such an impulse is based not on negation or self-victimization. and critically analyse the elaborate intersectionality of this configuration. This was one of the most devastating consequences of the Soviet brand of coloniality. which even the present generation is still unsuccessfully struggling with. but on the creation of something different. writers and artists themselves. decolonial art in the world of imperial difference and its secondary colonial difference is more complex due to the multiplicity and contradictoriness of the colonizing agents. socialist in its content” . Postsocialist and/or postcolonial art and fiction The most revealing instances of this complex intersection of postcommunist. socialist modernity/coloniality. but rather in the arts. superseding the contradictions inherent in these categories. creolization. Tlostanova Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 accordance with the linguistic and cultural master-narrative created by Soviet scholars and scientists with a particular teleology in mind. can already be found in their specific postsocialist forms. nor on violence. It is an urgent task to develop decolonial “communities of sense” at the level of the audience. postimperial and at times decolonial sensibilities are clearly present in the ex-Soviet imaginary and the arts. as well as a stress on transculturation instead of acculturation and assimilation. writers and intellectuals have to negotiate and subvert the dominant western tradition and the local indigenous ones. As a result we face a stratification of colonialities. critics. seldom going beyond a violent negativism towards everything Russian and/or Soviet.138 M. impulses and influences. hybridity. theatre and fiction. if it wants to avoid the pitfalls of violent resistance and subaltern self-victimization. Critical anticolonial narratives (both against Russian and Soviet colonization) are allowed in the ex-colonies. very little academic language capable of perceiving. which often parallel postcolonial ones. Such a postsocialist discourse. there is. However. yet they are of a clearly restricted and highly politicized nature. other than modern/colonial/socialist. yet would develop its own categories and concepts. cinema. cultures and influences. It is important that scholars in the recently coined Eurasian studies and the so-called comparative imperialism should be able in the future to take into account the specificity of Soviet and. taking its own path. In contrast with postcolonial countries whose artists.

Among the handful of important postcolonial/ postimperial/postcommunist writers emerging in the area. discovering later how it reverberates in their local milieux. writers. The situation is especially difficult in openly repressive states such as Uzbekistan. A telling example of Uzbek decolonial art is Vyacheslav Useinov’s rendering of the migration theme and the new dispensable lives in his installation A Guest Workers Flight. What sort of multiple translation/transculturation takes place in the case of Eurasian borderlands? What languages are involved. I would like to single out Andrey Volos. rhythmically ethno-jazz-like style and a piercing nostalgia for the vanished Baku of his childhood. elaborately elegant. official-ersatzethnic-national in its form”. and then dissolved completely into an imagined realm. offering a diasporic mode or an in-between critical sensibility. The unlikely combination is shocking. generating neocolonial complexes and hang-ups and continuing to marginalize those artists. which first turned into a violent and alien city expelling people according to ethnic principles. vanishing together with the last generation of people who were shaped before the collapse of the USSR. Usually artists. 2011). as is the forced modernity in this locale. writers. the Azeri-Jewish writer Afanasy Mamedov. Among the recurrent elements of their works it is important to focus on the specific rendering of imperial and colonial transit and Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 . well analysed in its postcolonial forms. what value systems? It is a peculiar dying culture of the Russian-speaking space shrinking rapidly and acquiring an increasingly virtual/imaginary nature. made of checked plastic trunks – a staple of the postsocialist shuttle traders and refugee life. The latter is capable of seeing more and beyond the west or the east alone. sometimes having lived abroad and having learnt the decolonial grammar there. film directors and intellectuals who do not fit the marketable postcolonial and postimperial nationalist form. What is left for such marginal creatures? An ironic transcultural tricksterism. Often an important role in this process is played by their dissident political and aesthetic experience of the late Soviet époque. Such are the cases of the Kazakh artist Saule Suleymenova. murder (as in case of Ilkhom theatre director Mark Weil) or banning (as in case of the writer. and. and the Avarian Taus Makhacheva (Makhacheva. Affirmative Action (mimesis). with his Proustian and. where decolonial artists risk imprisonment (as happened to photo-artist and documentary director Umida Akhmedova). finally. which in Eurasian borderlands acquires a post-Soviet reverberation. the Ukrainian Yuri Andrukhovych with his fantastic dystopias of literary metamorphoses. yet almost documentary prose of his Hurramabad (2000). film and theatre directors come to a postcommunistpostcolonial-postimperial sensibility intuitively. But the logic and the terms (not the content) of the relationship between artist and power (state or corporate) remain the same. They symbolize the illegal migrant status of millions of Uzbeks today who flee their homeland to find low-paid jobs in Russia. whose life has no value. at the same time. which today acquires new overtones as it struggles to resist the new fundamentalisms (national or religious) with their own sanctioned (often repressive) communities of sense. The artist presents a plane made of adobe bricks as those that are still used by peasants in central Asia to build their houses. What is awaiting them on the other side of global migration? The worker ’s overalls closely resemble the prisoners’ clothes. an Uzbek Salman Rushdie – Khamid Ismailov. who poeticized the tragedy of Russian exodus from Tadzhikistan in the piercing. merging there with other imperial and colonial capitals. and poet Vyacheslav Akhunov).Journal of Postcolonial Writing 139 gives way to a different one: “market and developmentalist in its essence. It is an ironic and sad way of telling an alternative history of Uzbekistan: from the adobe house through high-tech modernity to the same age-old status of a low-paid worker with no rights. past and present. artist.

finally. classes. Islamists and the state.140 M. Its performances are based on the critical rethinking of the caricatured or exoticist image of the east. Its building stands on the border between the old colonial Tashkent and the new “European” part. nationalist or religious fundamentalist discourses. mentalities. went to Uzbekistan. Russian. marked by an intricate multilinguistic play on words. the texts of the plays. fallen out of time and progress. which often veer in the direction of sheer visuality. from religion to mixed media – are practised by Ilkhom. intermingling styles. One of the best and least-known examples in this group is Alexander Goldstein’s complex Joyce-like novels. the homosexual themes that Ilkhom touched upon. cultures. trans-media and Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 . the constant mocking of authority as such. Ecstasy with the Pomegranate (2006) is another example of trans-modern border aesthetics. Ilkhom has attempted a transcultural dialogue combining the traditions of the Uzbek street theatre Maskharaboz with the latest theatrical experimentation. The show mixes unexpected sources – comedia dell’arte and Uzbek street theatre. which are obviously easier to translate. and. questioning both western modernity and ethnic. With this wonderful but lonely note Goldstein symbolically closes the last phase of post-Soviet postimperial literature which has lost its imagined linguistic and value community. the characters speaking Uzbek. once modernist (Suprematist) painter Alexander Nikolayev. 407–410). Ilkhom negates Gozzi’s orientalism that presented Samarkand as a fantastic dystopia. hybridity and tricksterism. In the new independent Uzbekistan this dissident theatre was forced into fighting against nationalists. animation or dance. where no one is at home and everyone is a potential beggar. From the start it has been a transcultural and multilingual theatre. resulting in constant improvisation and plurilinguistic code switching. who became fascinated with the Orient. and. A transcultural translation of peripheral Eurasia into a language understandable to the rest of the world takes place rather in the field of visual arts. religions. Tlostanova in-between chronotopes (Tlostanova. Orthodox icons. The show attempts to recreate the story of the forgotten and forbidden art of transsexual bacha (boy) dancers who became the muses of Usto Mumin. later became a Sufi and turned into Usto Mumin (A Gentle Master). “Imperial-Colonial Chrontope”. However. and in synthetic-performative arts such as theatre and the cinema. Ecstasy with the Pomegranate is a virtuoso transcultural. Jewish. a nowhere-place. It is the sensuous parable of yet another trickster – Russian by origin. heralds a better and more tolerant future. countries and continents. capable of accommodating unlikely opposites. the multilingual code-switching. the first independent theatre studio in the Soviet Union and the centre of Tashkent’s alternative aesthetics for several decades. in spite of all differences. home and symbolic unhomeliness. all of whom opposed the artistic means. just like the city in which it exists. the leitmotif of open and always unfinished metamorphosis of multiple identities. yet its peculiar hermeneutics of love. complex transcultural metaphors and palimpsests which only a handful of people are able to understand. Such creative tricksterism and multiple translation enacted on many levels – from language to culture. pantomime. the Italian Renaissance and Muslim ornamental stylistics. all themes and practices with clear parallels in postcolonial fiction. more importantly. remaking and reworking ancient Persian miniature. This is graphically illustrated in Weil’s signature 1993 improvisation based on Carlo Gozzi’s Happy Beggars (1764). standing between the recognizable Babylonian cultural context of the early post-Soviet life and a looming globalization. Weil’s Samarkand carries the atmosphere of a train station. a perfect place for beggars and tricksters. Italian. there are still few writers in the former Soviet Empire who would consciously attempt a postcolonial counter-discourse based on a classical text of Russian imperial literature. Ilkhom is a border theatre in both a literal and a symbolic sense.

“The Missing Chapter of Empire: Postmodern Reorganization of Coloniality and Post-Fordist Capitalism. than colonialism attached to a “post-”. Cinco hijos para pensar los estudios culturales. Downloaded by [Madina Tlostanova] at 08:05 20 March 2012 Works cited Alban Achinte. etc. 2009) – and three in English – A Janus-Faced Empire: Notes on the Russian Empire in Modernity Written from the Border (Moscow. created a delicate and suggestive soundtrack based on rhythmical leitmotifs rendered by means as different as those of traditional musical instruments. The Sublime of Globalization? Sketches on Trans-cultural Subjectivity and Aesthetics (Moscow. 2005) and. 2003). always balancing on the edge of various art forms. Santiago. 2004). As a result. civil and political society. Thus transcultural art remains. Postsocialist. so far. caught in-between western modernity. such liberation remains difficult in the forms sanctioned by modernity (institutionalized academic knowledge. defeated Russian/Soviet discourses and local post/neocolonial ambitions. David Roussève. voice and even pebbles in a big metal pot. Popayán: Editorial Universidad del Cauca. 2008) and Decolonial Gender Epistemologies (Moscow. Adolfo. . From the Philosophy of Multiculturalism to the Philosophy of Trans-culturation (New York. She has authored over 170 articles (many of which were published in Europe and the US). can be reframed in relation to the postsocialist world which is still in need of de-Sovietization as part of a larger process of decolonization from the myths of western modernity. Notes on contributor Madina Tlostanova is a professor of History of Philosophy at Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (Moscow). Due to the double dictate of the market and the state.2-3 (2007): 428–48.” Cultural Studies 21. in essence. Colección Estiodios (Inter)culturales. adapted Nikolayev’s paintings for video and animation presentation during the show. director and founder of the modern interracial and intercultural dance group Reality. Babur Ismailov. no more real than the world mapped by colonialism and hence also in need of decolonization. Coda Anne McClintock’s famous dictum that postcolonialism never really existed and that it is no more. eventually. 2010). A young Uzbek artist. postcolonial and postimperial overtones constantly intersect and communicate in the complex imaginary of the ex-Soviet space. not only in its presentation but also in its creation. The androgynous bacha dances were directed by a famous American dancer. Living Never. the most effective instrument in the process of the liberation of knowledge and of being from the myths and norms of modernity and its underside – global coloniality.Journal of Postcolonial Writing 141 global phenomenon. particularly in the conditions of the new massive void it has become. languages (Uzbek and Russian). 2006.” [Knowledge and Place: Beyond the Reason there is a World of Colors] Texiendo textos y saberes.). At this point it is largely the contemporary post-Soviet art and fiction that carries a successful attempt at decolonization of being and knowledge in aesthetic forms. re-existence. a border performance emerged. la colonialidad y la interculturalidad. rhythms (central Asian mixing with Caribbean) and symbols (queer semiotics and Sufi mysticism). A Korean composer. Writing from Nowhere: Post-soviet Literature and the Aesthetics of Transculturation (Moscow. “Conocimiento y lugar: más allá de la razón hay un mundo de colores. leading as much to nostalgia and recycled imperial and nationalist myths as to meaningful decolonial and de-Sovieticized resistance and. Gender Epistemologies and Eurasian Borderlands (New York. 2000). Artyem Kim. four books in Russian – Multicultural Discourse and US Fiction of the Late 20th Century (Moscow. most recently. Castro-Gómez.

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