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Postcolonialism/Postcommunism: Dictionary of Key Cultural Terms /
Monica Bottez, Maria-Sabina Alexandru-Draga, Bogdan Ştefănescu, ... –
Bucureşti: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, 2011
ISBN 978-606-16-0063-2

I. Bottez, Monica
II. Alexandru-Draga, Maria-Sabina
III. Ştefănescu, Bogdan


Guide to the Dictionary ......................................................................... 7

Introduction ........................................................................................... 11
List of Key Concepts ............................................................................ 15
Key Concepts ........................................................................................ 19
Profiles .................................................................................................. 351
Bibliography ......................................................................................... 357
Name Index ........................................................................................... 387
Terms Index .......................................................................................... 395

The dictionary is made up of specialized terms organized

alphabetically. The alphabetical organization enables the reader
to have immediate access to the desired term. The terms are
thematically interconnected through a system of references.
These references are either implicit, since the connection that
exists between the terms obviously contributes to the framework
of the definition, or explicit, marked in an unambiguous manner
(graphically marked). The relevant bibliography has been
consolidated and appended to the alphabetically organized
definitions. The dictionary also offers a brief list of
recommended readings at the end of each entry. The list of key
concepts at the beginning of the dictionary includes a number of
starred items that have not received a standalone entry. While
these terms are important enough to be selected in the repertory
of operating concepts in the comparative analysis of
postcolonialism and postcommunism, we felt they have been
adequately addressed in the definitions of other terms. We
intend to provide at least some of these concepts with their own
entry in subsequent editions of the dictionary.

The Explanation of the Entry

The entry comprises four types of references:

Crossreference: The crossreference is used within the

entry in order to signal the presence of a specialized term,

already explained in the dictionary. Graphically marked by bold

letters when first mentioned in the entry (only in its singular,
non-flexional form with the exception of the adjectives postcolonial
and postcommunist, as they are of paramount importance in this
dictionary), this term is essential for the full understanding of
the dictionary article. This term has received a separate entry
and an autonomous lemma in the dictionary. However, starred
items, that have no standalone entry, are not marked by bold
letters in the entries they are referred to (e.g. alterity is not
marked in the entry OTHER). Likewise, crossreference terms
are not graphically marked by bold letters if they occur in article
or volume titles.

Reference (See): The reference is used when one of the

terms appears without a complete entry since its meaning is
equivalent to/included in an entry already present in the
dictionary. This term does not receive a separate definition but
only a mention entry of the type: ALTERITY see OTHER.

Keywords (See also): The keywords serve to indicate

the connections between concepts (synonymy, hyponymy,
hypernymy, antonymy). They are semantically/conceptually
connected to the headword and are placed at the end of
the definition.

Further Reading: The final element of the entry is a short

list indicating relevant bibliography connected to the
headword/topic of the entry (books, journals, webpages).
In addition, the headword is always marked in italics
within the entry (only in its singular, non-flexional entry form)
unless it occurs in article or volume titles.

Authors and Entries

The following authors are responsible for the following entries:

Monica Bottez (M.B.): capital, capitalism, class,

communism, communization/decommunization, dislocation,
liberalism, liminality, Marxism, multiculturalism, religion

Alina Bottez (A.B.): positionality, realism, repression,

resistance, socialist realism, subject, transition, universalism,
victim, violence, worlds
Maria-Sabina Draga Alexandru (M.S.D.A.): allegory,
border, diaspora, feminism, hybridity, other

Ruxandra Rădulescu (R.R.): center/margin, democracy,

dependency theory, ethnicity, globalization, modernization, race,
slavery, structuralism/poststructuralism, postmodernity/postmodernism

Bogdan Ştefănescu (B.Ş.): Balkanism, colonialism,

colonization, culture, discourse, essentialism, ideology,
imperialism, nation/nationalism, postcolonialism, postcommunism

Ruxandra Vişan (R.V.): canon, global English, history,

memory, mimicry, orality, postcommunist cinema, third cinema,
wooden language

The idea of compiling this dictionary sprang from the

team’s shared conviction that it would be a great gain to explore
the possibility of extending the terminology developed by
Postcolonial Studies to the area of Postcommunist Studies,
overcoming the reticence of both postcolonial scholars, for
whom the socialist “bloc” appeared for a long time as an
“exploitation-free” alternative system, and of postcommunist
scholars, to whom an equivalence of communist states with
Third World countries appeared as an unflattering parallel, if not
downright demeaning. We believe that the USSR with its sphere
of influence is justly often referred to as the Red Empire, hence
the isotopy between former colonies and the former socialist
republics within the USSR, whereas the position of the former
European “socialist bloc” countries could be equated to that of
semi-colonies. Thus we have regarded colonialism and
imperialism as two ideologically indiscriminate concepts to be
defined as a range of practices of conquest, domination and
oppression, whether direct or indirect, capitalist or communist,
involving military, economic, administrative as well as cultural
forms of control. Hence the appropriate use of the dichotomy
center/margin in both cases and the possible synonymy
colonization/communization, decolonization/decommunization.
The place of nationalist discourse in both processes also argues
in favor of sustaining the existence of an overlapping area.

We hope the dictionary is convincing proof of the fruitful

results of our research. Thus we have argued that the concept of
mimicry in communist regimes would apply to the way various
communist bloc leaders copied the Stalinist model (Mao Zedong
and Kim Ir-sen, who were in turn mimicked by Nicolae
Ceauşescu or Enver Hoxha). The grand-scale allegorical shows
dedicated to such totalitarian dictators, very much part of their
personality cult and characteristic of many socialist states, may
be seen as mimicry of the imperialist practice of glorifying
monarchs. Likewise, in these countries’ postcommunist
evolution in relation to NATO and the EU we may identify
similarities with neocolonialist responses where the concept of
mimicry and liminality would be a useful analytic tool.
We can also contend the relevance of the concept of
Orientalism to understanding the notion of Balkanism, and our
dictionary dwells on the overlaps and connections between the
two discourses. Likewise the dictionary makes a case of the
similarity between feminist discourses on questions of
subjectivity and representation as well as the emancipatory force
of these discourses in both postcolonial and postcommunist
spaces, without however circumventing the ideological tensions
between their different ideological traditions.
We have also addressed the issue of the relevance of
liberalism, capitalism and worlds systems theory to the
contemporary globalized world, as well as that of insights of
Marxist inspiration into processes of oppression and control,
extending their applicability beyond their specific initial contexts.
The dictionary also offers an exploration of the intersections of
ethnicity, class and religion and discourses of cultural identity
with national and nationalist political discourses often leading to
armed conflicts within both postcolonial and postcommunist
areas as well as countries, insisting on the utility of such

concepts as multiculturalism, interculturalism, transculturalism,

diaspora and hybridity as appropriate analytical instruments.
Another conceptual configuration that we have deemed
highly significant for researching overlaps of postcolonialism and
postcommunism has been that of memory studies focusing on
dissidence, resistance (armed and cultural) and repression (physical
and psychological), highlighting the role of repressive state
apparatuses and ideological state apparatuses in constructing the
individual as the subject of a power regime. The discussion of such
concepts as subjectivity, agency, freedom of conscience, democracy
and Eurocentrism applying to both areas of investigation makes
an important contribution to a more comprehensive grasping of
the essence of modernity and postmodernity.
This dictionary is a pioneer of its kind and we consider it
will be an extremely useful tool to the students of
postcolonialism and postcommunism in their understanding of
the global world we live in and of its discourses.












* Terms that have no stand-alone definition, but are mentioned or touched

upon in other entries. In the body of the dictionary, these starred terms
will refer the reader to the entry where they are discussed and
contextualized more substantially.


An allegory is “a description of a subject under the guise
of some other subject of aptly suggestive resemblance” (Oxford
English Dictionary Online). It is an extended metaphor that, in
literature and mythology, often takes the shape of one story told
on the surface, which in fact refers to another story subtextually.
Literary as well as visual allegories of abstract principles
represented as exemplary human beings have been common
since the Antiquity. One famous example in philosophy is
Plato’s allegory of the cave in Book VII of the Republic.
Christian interpretations of the Old Testament sometimes insist
on its richness in allegorical references to the New Testament. In
the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, allegory was held in great
esteem, evolving from religious iconography to representations
of monarchs as all-powerful (such as the Elizabethan world
picture and representations of Queen Elizabeth I as Gloriana,
monarch of the universe, standing on a map of the world
featuring Britain in its center). Later on, The Pilgrim’s Progress
by John Bunyan (1678) became one of the most representative
allegories of world literature, using most of the component parts
of the trope, as John Thieme points out: The Pilgrim’s Progress
functions through “an onomastics in which places like the

Slough of Despond and personifications such as the Worldly

Wiseman represent abstract spiritual qualities, in this case
functioning as tropes for the various stages in the protagonist
Christian’s spiritual journey towards salvation in the Celestial
City” (Thieme 2003:11).
Within the postcolonial studies arena, Ashcroft, Griffiths,
and Tiffin outline the trajectory of allegory from an important
device used in imperial discourse, in which a vast majority of
paintings and statues were allegorical representations of imperial
power, to an important subversive device in postcolonial
literatures, oriented precisely in the opposite direction. An
example of the former are the numerous Victoria Memorials, of
which the most famous is probably the one in front of the
Buckingham Palace in London, surrounded by the angels of Truth,
Charity and Justice and with a representation of the winged
Greek goddess of victory on top of the monument. Allegory is
at the same time appropriated in the works of postcolonial
resistance to respond to such allegorical representations of
imperial dominance. Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize winning
novel Midnight’s Children (1983) presents itself, through the
voice of its protagonist and narrator, Saleem Sinai, as a story of
one individual destiny which contains in nuce the history of
India in the first decades after independence was gained from
the British Empire in 1947.
The fact that Midnight’s Children, arguably the most
famous Indian novel in English at the time, can legitimately be
read as an individual story functioning as an allegory of the
national history of India led to the equally famous sweeping
generalization made by Fredric Jameson in his 1986 article
“Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism”,
where he claims that “all third-world texts” are allegorical, “and
in a very specific way: they are to be read as what I will call

national allegories” (1986: 69). This triggered various responses

coming from postcolonial critics, of which the most vehement
was Aijaz Ahmad, who, in an article published in the same
journal that had hosted Jameson’s article the previous year,
Social Text, dismissed Jameson’s sentential statement as an
imperialist instance of othering (Ahmad 1987). Another immediate
response whose importance Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin point
out, comes from Stephen Slemon, who argues that what is really
wrong with Jameson’s statement is its Eurocentrism, applied
indiscriminately to colonized societies. Slemon argues that so
much of the life of the colonized subject has been constructed
by colonialism that allegory becomes a privileged way in which
such writing may be contested. However, there are many other
ways in which allegory has been used by postcolonial writers
(Slemon 11 qtd. in Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, 1998: 10). Thieme
considers Slemon’s view that postcolonial allegorical texts aim at
constructing a counter-colonial discourse rather than expressing
a fixed positionality (which demonstrates an indebtedness to a
rereading of allegory in the light of the Yale deconstructionist
school of criticism) a lot more innovative than this, as

such a view wrests allegory from its traditional roots in Western

discourse, in which it operates in terms of a stable relationship
between a conceptual category and the signifier chosen to represent it,
and replaces it with a counter-discursive practice that destabilizes this
binary relationship, which is perpetuated in colonial discourse that
speaks for otherness. (Thieme 2003: 12)

Seen in this light, the Jameson-Ahmad debate actually highlights

one illustrative example of a very productive act of recycling
allegory (a formerly imperialist tool for celebrating power) as an
instrument for an emerging postcolonial counter-discourse.

An intriguing aspect of Thieme’s analysis of allegory with

reference to Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is the observation that
Bunyan writes at a time when allegory as the dominant mode of
writing in earlier Western discourse is slowly giving way to the
novel, with its realist ambition to hold a mirror up to reality.
However, the porousness of these categories prevents attempts
to draw a binary distinction between allegorical and realist
writing, as, Thieme notices, “Bunyan’s spiritual landscape bears
a strong relationship to the terrain of his native Bedfordshire”
(Thieme 2003: 11). In an article dedicated to George Lamming,
Thieme (quoting Peter Hulme) links the inevitable (even though
somewhat unintentional) connections between allegory and
realism to Jameson’s much-criticized notion of national
allegory as the defining mode of postcolonial writing. This is
bound to remind us that Jameson is a Marxist critic, whose
account, despite its departure from socialist “derivative realism”,
still encourages its readers to trace analogies between the public
and the private (Hulme 131-32, qtd. in Thieme 2007: 132). This
comment on the easy contamination between the allegorical
mode and the realist one opens possibilities for a comparative
postcolonial/postcommunist approach to the trope, which must
be connected to their uneasily shared relationship to Marxism.
However, if it is true that postcommunism rejects Marxism
almost indiscriminately, on account of its being the dominant
ideology of communism, it is with communism that postcolonialism
shares a belief in Marxism’s emancipatory potential, which led
to interesting hybrid cultural productions in the period between
the end of colonialism for certain countries and the fall of the
communist regime. Thus, for example, in an article on film,
Masha Salazkina discusses one particular Soviet-Indian coproduction
of Ali Baba and 40 Thieves, dating back to the 1970s, in which
the Bollywood conventions converge with popular Soviet film

ones to create a political allegory of the multi-nation state. The

author maintains that on the surface the film formulates the
legitimizing ideal of the powerful populist state, promoted by
both the Soviet Union and by India. Whereas the film apparently
follows the official ideology, its various subtexts display the
contradictions and anxieties at the heart of such a state
organization (Salazkina 76).
In communist regimes, grandiose shows dedicated to the
totalitarian dictators of various countries (V. I. Stalin, Kim Ir-
sen, whose model Nicolae Ceauşescu also copied, as well as
Ceauşescu himself), which were very much part of the
totalitarian personality cult characteristic of many socialist
states, made use of allegory in a way that could be considered an
instance of mimicry of the imperialist practice of glorifying
monarchs through it (which degenerated, however, into
mammoth displays of ideologized flattery). This compromised
allegorical forms of artistic expression to such an extent that
they have tended to be avoided since the fall of communism.
Allegorical representations of communism as seen from
the West, on the other hand, were very successful forms of
passing criticism on the communist regime, some of them
becoming classics of world literature. George Orwell’s Animal
Farm (1945) was an early allegorical prediction of the extents of
totalitarianism to which socialism can lead. Orwell’s famous
novella, epitomizing the excesses of an imaginary socialist
animal state – U.R.S.A., Union des républiques socialistes
animales, a clear allusion to the Soviet Union, in French l’Union
des républiques socialistes soviétiques – opened a tradition of
allegorical criticism against the Soviet Union in the western
capitalist world, which contributed to the fueling of the
ideological struggle underlying the Cold War. Other such
allegorical approaches followed. Don Siegel’s 1956 film

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a psychological science-fiction

thriller with horror tones, based on Jack Finney’s 1954 story,
hinted equally at the paranoid manifestations accompanying the
spread of communist ideology and at the McCarthyist
persecution of communists in the United States in the 1950s.
Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962),
the basis of Miloš Forman’s award-winning 1975 film, operates
within a double allegorical framing, aiming to pass criticism
both on the abuses of American psychiatric institutions in the
50s and on totalitarian societies whose macroscopic structuring
and inhuman treatment of individuals and their issues could
easily be compared to such institutions. Margaret Atwood’s The
Handmaid’s Tale (1985), a dystopian novel set in an imaginary
future totalitarian society where women’s reproductive rights are
outrageously abused, reminds one of the politics of some
totalitarian communist countries. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
(1952) uses the historical reference of the late seventeenth
century Salem witch trials to address the witch hunting
unleashed in the United States in the 50s as a result of senator
McCarthy’s anticommunist campaign. This offered an opportunity
to be critical, at the same time, of both communist practices and
extreme right American political attitudes.
One particular form of allegorical writing, reproducing, to
a certain extent, the situation described by Fredric Jameson in
his article “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational
Capitalism” with reference to the communist or postcommunist
world, has been rather popular in the years following the fall of
communism. This is the rewriting of history through personal
narrative – a practice that characterizes postcolonial writing, but
also many other forms of ethnic and/or minority writing all over
the world. Under this heading we may quote, for example, some
of the increasing number of novels about the experience of exile

springing from the East-European space, which use allegory to

express two overlapping traumatic experiences (the trauma of
displacement and the older trauma of life under communism):
Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation (1989), Domnica Rădulescu’s
Train to Trieste (2008) and Black Sea Twilight (2010), Aleksandar
Hemon’s The Lazarus Project (2008), Anca Vlasopolos’s No Return
Address: A Memoir of Displacement (2000), Kapka Kassabova’s
Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in
Bulgaria (2008) (see Luca 2011 for the last two) etc.

See also diaspora, mimicry, other

Further reading: Ahmad 1987, Jameson 1986, Salazkina 2010









Balkanism is a notion introduced by Maria Todorova’s
imagological survey Imagining the Balkans (1997) and it denotes
the stereotyping of cultures in the Balkan area by a reductive
discourse which fuels Western preconceptions about, and legitimizes
Western politics in the Balkans. Balkanism, like the clichéing of
Eastern Europe (cf. Wolff’s Inventing Eastern Europe) and,
like Orientalism, deals with the way in which the West has
generated its structures of dominance over the Eastern other(s)
through a body of literature that it canonized and institutionalized.
The West has been using these imaginary essentialist representations
of the Balkans and of other Eastern cultures not just to perpetuate
self-gratulatory ideologies about its superiority, but also to justify
its discriminatory and abusive politics towards Eastern nations.
By translating such stereotypes across the spectrum of its cultural
institutions and by reiterating them periodically, the West reifies
and essentializes them, investing them with universal value and
making them an integral part of its episteme, as Nietzsche once
noted in his Gay Science. Through “discursive hardening” (Clifford)
the clichéd image of the Balkans, like that of the Orient, has
become incredibly resilient throughout the last two centuries and
turned itself into a “frozen image” (Todorova 2009: 7).
Interestingly, such disparaging negative stereotypes may
be embraced by their victims only to perpetuate the harm to
themselves and to their neighbors or other cultures pushed into
submission. Alexander Kiossev submits that marginal and transitional
cultures practice self-colonization in that they “lovingly colonize
their own authenticity” (114). Milica Bakić-Hayden proposed the notion
of “nesting Orientalisms” as the ripple effect or mise-en-abyme whereby

“a pattern of reproduction of the original dichotomy upon which

Orientalism is premised” generates a “gradation of ‘Orients’” with
orientalized cultures further orientalizing their neighbors to the
south and the east (918 and passim).
Though several critics have noted the obvious overlaps and
connections between the kindred discourses of Balkanism and
Orientalism, Todorova insists on emancipating the study of
Balkanism from its perception as a derivative subvariant of
Orientalism scholarship. She argues that while the Orient is a
cultural fiction with only a vague and shifting correspondence in
the real world, the Balkans have a “real” geographical and historical
existence. While the fictional opulent and sensual Orient procured
an escapist Romantic dream for the West, the Balkans were
repulsively concrete and presented an impoverished opportunity
for fantasizing. Also, while the two worlds of the West and the
Orient seem complete and completely opposed, the Balkans
appear to the mind as merely transitional both as a category and as
a location, being ambiguously poised in the West-East opposition.
Despite Todorova’s irritation at, and protests against the
treatment of the Balkans as even semi- or quasi-colonial (2009:
16-7, 293-6), the treatment of Balkan cultures and states by the
West remains a legitimate subject for the study of (post)colonialism
and (post)imperialism. While the differences between the discursive
representations of the Orient and those of the Balkans may be true
and interesting from a narratological and rhetorical perspective,
they should not blind postcolonial and postcommunist critics
to the fact that, in the study of power relations and domination,
the Balkans, the Orient or any other essentialized version of a
cultural Other are structurally similar. Though some may want
to insist that the Balkans, just like Central and East European
countries, were at best semi-colonies, they were subjected to the
same hegemonic processes of inscribing and manipulation by

which the West secures its dominance over any non-Western

culture (Chioni Moore, Carey and Raciborski).

See also nationalism, postcommunism

Further Reading: Said 1997, Todorova 2009, Wolff 1994


The primary meaning of the concept of border is
geographical, referring to the dividing line between two countries
or two administratively separated territories. In cultural studies
and postcolonial criticism the term is connected to various other
political and mental boundaries that restrict people’s movements
in abstract and concrete space, and more specifically with legal
and power-exerting bodies such as governments, sovereign states
or federal states. Crossing a border means entering a foreign
country and going through immigration control, but may also mean
trespassing or exceeding limitations that one is expected or forced
to abide by. In more abstract terms, border has been associated
with the notion of liminality (from Latin limen, “threshold”).
Homi Bhabha discusses borders as strongly related to the
concepts of hybridity and liminality, as well as to the
positionality of cultures. To Bhabha, borders are extremely
important as places where culture is located. He maintains that
“a contingent, borderline experience opens up in-between the
colonizer and the colonized. This is a space of cultural and
interpretive undecidability produced in the ‘present’ of the
colonial moment” (206). Cultural identity thus becomes a matter
of negotiation along lines of separation (or borders) between
forces situated in opposition, such as the colonizer and the

colonized, the center of Empire and its margin, the self and the
other. The drawing of borders has been a major determinant of
the experience of many inhabitants of postcolonial countries, as
well as of the fate of colonial empires and their aftermaths.
Thieme quotes the partition of India (the separation of Pakistan
from India in 1947, when independence from Britain was
achieved, and the later formation of the state of Bangladesh), as
well as those brought into being by European nations’
imposition of artificial borders at the time of the “scramble for
Africa”, as major factors in the process of colonial dislocation
(32-33). Borders thus may be sites that enforce colonial control
over colonized people’s lives, but they are also spaces of
redefinition and reassertion/reinvention of identity, as well as
the location for the invention of freedom.
In ethnic American literature, Gloria Anzaldúa introduces
the concept of the borderland, which is a cross-border territory,
a transition space (rather than just a separating line) between
two countries/nations/identities (even though this enlarged
concept is not present in the Spanish title, as “frontera” actually
means “border” and not “borderland”). Border identity is defined
as a fluid, dynamic concept in perpetual motion, which is hard to
pin down and which at the same time divides and unites people.
An important concept in ethnic studies in general, border – with
its extension, borderland – plays a crucial part in Latino/a and
Chicano/a Cultural Studies, where we can talk about a specific
field of border theory that focuses primarily on the process of
cultural and economic exchange that takes place across the
Mexico-US border. In this particular context, the term borderland(s)
is used specifically to refer to the territories on either side of this
border: the US states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and
Texas and the northern Mexican states of Baja California, Sonora,
Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas (Allatson 39).

A historical legacy of the 1846-1848 Mexican-American war

that forced Mexico to cede its northern half to the United States,
the borderlands are a complex area of hybridized cultural
identities and continuous negotiation of identities, as well as of
military conflict, providing a fertile site for the production of
theoretical knowledge that traveled well to other parts of the
world that later experienced similar phenomena of territorial
readjustment and cross-border mobility. On a less concrete
level, the borderland has also been associated with liminality,
multiplicity, fluidity, flux, and possibility (Allatson 40) and,
most importantly, with reconfigurations of identity.
Avtar Brah discusses the notion of borders as intrinsically
connected to definitions of diaspora and to its related concepts
of home and homing:

Borders: arbitrary dividing lines that are simultaneously social,

cultural and psychic; territories to be patrolled against those whom
they construct as outsiders, aliens, the Others; forms of demarcation
where the very act of prohibition inscribes transgression; zones where
fear of the Other is the fear of the self; places where claims to
ownership – claims to “mine”, “yours” and “theirs” – are staked out,
contested, defended, and fought over. (198)

Brah’s very notion of cartographies of diaspora shows the

necessity of discussing reterritorialized identities within the
boundaries of a politics of location, the very act of relocation
itself being a question of the redrawing of boundaries.
In conditions of imperialism, redrafting of borders has
often occurred as countries have been negotiated and renegotiated
between powers. It is in this sense that we can discuss the concept
in the postcommunist space, with reference to the Soviet Union – an
empire in its own right, with territorial claims not only over the
countries included within its boundaries, but also over the so-called
communist (or Soviet) bloc. In Eastern Europe, the refashioning

of borders has been a highly visible phenomenon after the fall of

communism in 1989 and the historical end of the Cold War. The
first to be affected was the Soviet Union, which was formally
dissolved on December 25, 1991, marking the independence of
the former fifteen republics of the former Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics. The next to follow was the country we now
refer to as former Yugoslavia (formerly the Socialist Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia), which split into its component states as
a result of the Yugoslav Wars that took place in the 1990s. As
both former Soviet states and satellite states gained independence
after 1989, Eastern Europe became the site of new games of
power reasserting borders, of which the most important are
related to NATO and EU-accession.
In the postcommunist and postcolonial imaginary, borders
have become sites for the translation of meaning and similar historical
experiences, as pointed out by Monica Popescu in her discussion of
the possible theoretical overlaps that can be established between
postcommunism and post-apartheid around the symbolical figure
of a relocated statue of Lenin. The statue turns from an emblem of
communist power into a powerful tourist marker, which can be
associated with the transposition of totalitarian power to different
spaces with different (even though cognate) histories, as well as with
geographical and conceptual border-crossing (Popescu 407).
Border ethnography and cross-border migration are becoming
increasingly important in ethnic studies around the world, the more
so as the concept of border identity is becoming a category in its own
right as populations are engaging in short- or long-term migration
across national borders in search of permanent of seasonal work.
This has become increasingly visible with EU enlargement, as
Eastern Europe is becoming a site of border-refashioning, but also
of increased border-crossing and hybridization. In an article that
analyses discursive constructions of ethnicity around one particular

area on the border between Poland and Germany, Aleksandra

Galasińska points out the important postcommunist redefinitions
of nationality triggered by the dynamic of border-crossing and
presents this as being only part of a larger phenomenon, widely
spread across Europe and the world (610).
In today’s global world, borders understood as limitations
have come to be less binding than they used to be, to the point
where moving across them has been associated with the current
condition of humankind. Deleuze and Guattari theorize a
transcendence of borders as a key category in definitions of
identity in situations of migration by reconceptualizing the
migrant, who moves from one point to another, as a nomad (for
whom the points he/she moves between are relays along a
trajectory, so that deterritorialization is not followed by
reterritorialization as in the case of the migrant (380-81). Rosi
Braidotti takes over from them and goes on to describe (or map,
as she puts it) nomadic identity as characteristic of a world in
which borders are continuously and repeatedly crossed both
geographically and, more importantly, conceptually. Hence,
identity can no longer be defined through attachment to either
place or any kind of established discourses, which is why the
theorist places herself under the banner of a border-free
condition of intellectual nomadism (1994: 18).

See also liminality

Further reading: Anzaldua 1987, Braidotti 1994, Oţoiu

2003, Popescu 2003


Originating in the Greek term kanna (designating certain
types of reed used for measurement), subsequently Latinized and
later acquiring religious overtones, the term canon can be traced
back to antiquity, as a concept that possessed a range of various
meanings, sometimes contradictory, “from simple tools of measurement
to sophisticated artistic models, from standards of moral behavior
to the legitimization of political authority” (Kolbas 3). The Middle
Ages saw the canon employed as “a pedagogical device for
those with access to formal education” (3). While it was long in
the making, the canon, as a pantheon of authorities, was formed
during the decades of the mid-eighteenth century, in the context
of the emergence of the modern nation state and in view of the
rise of professional criticism (Kramnick, Kernan, Kolbas). As in
present times, canon formation “partook in wide-ranging debates
about the nature of the cultural community” (Kramnick). According
to Harold Bloom, a straightforward definition of the canon would
be “the choice of books in our teaching institutions” (Bloom 15).
The past decades have been marked by an ongoing
controversy over the literary canon, which has given rise to
abundant critical commentary and a wide range of polemics.
This controversy opposes conservative critics, who seek to
justify the continuing dominance of the Western canon, due to
its timeless value, and more liberal critics, who believe that the
canon should be revised, in order to be made more representative
of the diversity of our society, thus including alternative texts
that have been neglected. While the controversy remains, the
canon underwent a reformation in the last decades, having its
parameters redefined, in order to include the works of women,
minorities, gays and lesbians.

While arguments for a reform of the canon were made in

the 1960s in countries such as the United States, it was in the
1980s, when the so-called “culture wars” began, that the phrase
“opening up” the canon was coined. “Non-great” texts produced
by the Others were proposed in order to disrupt the old canon.
While texts such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, or more
recent texts written by neglected non-Western authors, have
entered the canon, contributing to the “debunking” of the old
system, there are still scholars that “persist in questioning the
literary merit of newly canonized works and assert the inherent
greatness of the traditional canon” (Hassan 297). While
“opening up” the canon has led to the revaluation of a series of
texts that were formerly excluded, there are critics that underline
the fact that this position is dangerous in itself, since it relies
upon ideological assumptions that are similar to the position
taken by the traditionalists that attempt to keep the canon
unchanged (Kolbas 1-10).
The debate that surrounded the canon in the countries of
the Western bloc concerned the criteria of race, gender,
ethnicity and sexual orientation. The communist regime in the
countries of the Eastern bloc imposed a canon of its own, based
on the model of socialist realism and on the exclusion of both
Eastern and Western authors that were not considered
ideologically appropriate. A redefinition of the canon has been
attempted and is ongoing in postcommunist years.

See also orality, other, socialist realism

Further Reading: Bloom 1994, Hassan 2001, Kolbas 2001


Capital refers to an accumulation of wealth under different
forms used to produce goods in the specific historical economic
system of capitalism, a system that has dominated Western
societies since the eighteenth century and is seen as “natural and free”
by its apologists and as “unjust and unstable” by its detractors.
Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of
the Wealth of Nations (1776) can be viewed as the free market
manifesto maintaining that the best way to material advancement is
market competition in all fields, even those of religion or education.
He presented unregulated markets with as little government restriction
as possible as a wholesome system as it corresponds to a natural
human inclination and to man’s love of freedom (Bowles 24).
Although in his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments
(1759) Adam Smith had stated that fellow-feeling, rather than
self-interest, was a specific human feature and conceded that
business people frequently try to take advantage of consumers,
in a famous passage from An Inquiry... he shows that the
dynamic force of exchange is based upon self-interest: “It is not
from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker,
that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own
interest” (Smith 26-27). It is self-interest that drives the
individual’s inclination to exchange goods with others and
therefore determines the division of labor, which leads to
increased productivity and hence to a rise of living standards.
Prosperity and social progress are entailed in this view not by
the deliberate intervention of the government seeking to
establish social welfare, but as the result of decentralized
decisions driven by self-interest (Bowles 30). To the promoters
of the free-market as an absolute principle the results of a
conduct based exclusively on self-interest do not appear either
as immoral or inhuman (as they do in Dickens’s Hard Times, for
instance), but as natural and commendable.

Adam Smith’s ideas were resumed and refined two

centuries later by Nobel Prize-winner Milton Friedman in two
famous works Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Free to
Choose (1980), promoting a theory known under the name of
Monetarism, which calls for non-intervention of the government
for keeping unemployment rates low. The promoters of the
system regard it as the most efficient economic system in terms
of goods production, a superiority that rests on its capacity for
innovation. It is the incentive of private profit that spurs the
individual’s entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. When the fall
of communism (1989, 1991) left the West as the winner of the
Cold War, Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the absolute triumph
of Western liberal capitalism in his famous book The End of
History and the Last Man (1992). He showed that Soviet
Communist economy could perform well only at the beginning,
but not in the context of the post-industrial phase of the late
postmodern period. Also mentioning the success of the East
Asian Miracle based on the capitalist decentralized market
mechanism, Fukuyama concludes about the creation of a
universal consumer culture based on liberal economic
principles, for the Third World as well as the Second:

The enormously productive and dynamic economic world created

by advancing technology and the rational organization of labor has a
tremendous homogenizing power. It is capable of linking different societies
around the world to one another physically through the creation of
global markets, and of creating parallel economic aspirations and
practices in a host of diverse societies. The attractive power of this
world creates a very strong predisposition for all human societies to
participate in it, while success in this participation requires the
adoption of the principles of economic liberalism.” (Fukuyama 108)

Capitalism is not likely to lead to equal levels of income.

Therefore, if the moral principle of equity is invoked, a

redistribution of the wealth is necessarily to be effected by the

state: in this respect capital favors proportional rather than
progressive taxation, as the latter will discourage hard work and
damp the entrepreneurial spirit.
The first great detractors of capital and capitalism were
Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels. In his works
The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Capital: Critique of
Political Economy (vol. I, The production process of capital,
1867; vol. II, The circulation process of capital, published by
Engels from Marx’s notes, 1885; vol. III, The overall process of
capitalist production, published by Engels from Marx’s notes,
1894). Marx made an analysis of the economic workings of the
contemporary capitalist society, an economic system following
after the ancient slave system and the feudal system, a
classification based on the type of ownership over the means of
production. For him, in the societies where the means of
production are owned by a minority the relations of production
are exploitative: the majority will be forced to work for mere
subsistence, whereas the parasitic majority uses its economic
power to appropriate the surplus and make wealth. Classes are
therefore defined with reference to ownership (feudal lords/serfs,
capitalists/industrial proletarians), and as human beings will change
their way of producing in order to facilitate the enhancement of
their productive power for their increase of wealth and power,
the motive power of historical development is class struggle.
The development of capital as a self-reproducing system is
also associated with mercantilism, the economic doctrine in
which the government’s control of foreign trade is of paramount
importance for ensuring national prosperity, which demands a
positive balance of trade. Mercantilism dominated Western
European economic policy in the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries
and was the cause of frequent European wars and the motive
behind colonial expansion (by establishing exclusive trade with

colonies, it favored monopolizing markets). In Das Kapital

Marx analyzed the market economy system using most of the
categories of the classical English economists Adam Smith and
David Ricardo, but he introduced the key concept of surplus
value (the difference between the wages paid to the worker for
his labor, necessary for his survival, and the actual value of the
worker’s products). Because of this, if the capitalist advances
funds to buy cotton yarn with which to produce fabrics and sells
the product for a larger sum than he paid, he is able to invest the
difference in additional production which has now transformed
itself into capital. The employer can claim a right to new output
value (that is profit), because he or she owns the means of
production, which are protected by the State through laws on
property rights. In producing capital (money) rather than
commodities (goods and services), the workers thus continually
reproduce the economic conditions by which they labor. Capital
puts forth an explanation of the historical dynamics of the
capitalist economic system, by describing the accumulation of
capital, the growth of wage labor, the transformation of the workplace,
the concentration of capital, commercial competition, the banking
system, the decline of the profit rate.
On the other hand, this system of production also led in
Marx’s vision to what he termed as the alienation (a term Marx took
over from Hegel) of man, involving four aspects: 1. the alienation
from his creative essence, because human beings forfeited what
was essential to their nature in order to be in control of their
activities, and work became drudgery devoid of any satisfaction;
2. the separation of the worker from the product, which was
appropriated by the capitalist; 3. the separation of the worker
from the very act of labor itself; 4. the subjugation of society to
its own products, and the transformation of labor into a commodity
rather than a social relationship, which also brought about the
mutual isolation or alienation of individuals. Spiritual values

disappeared as social relations become purely instrumental or

contractual and men practically lived in a (capitalist) jungle
(Femia 105). In Marx’s view, the transcendence of alienation
will be brought about by the communist society, the goal of
history, a classless society wherein man will recover his natural
essence, work will bring him satisfaction and man will achieve
liberation from the alienation or soul-sickness of capitalism.
In capitalism the means and relations of production give
the real structure of society on which rise legal and political
superstructures to which correspond definite forms of social
consciousness: “It is not the consciousness of men that
determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social
existence determines their consciousness,” as Marx states in his
“Preface” to A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy
(Feuer 43). In the same work he describes the causes of the
appearance of a new social system when the circumstances for
social revolution are rife: as capitalist society’s productive
forces develop, there appears a clash between those who want to
preserve the old relations and those who want to establish a new
order, since the problem in capitalist society is the periodic
occurrence of falling profits. The diminished profits lead to
lower wage levels, causing underconsumption and therefore
crises of overproduction, which in Marx’s opinion are endemic
and periodic. The situation is expected to eventually bring about
the revolutionary rise of a proletariat driven to despair by
extreme poverty, chronic unemployment and insecurity to crush
the “rotten system” and replace it with one of fair social justice
and equality. Thus the capitalist system will engender its own
“gravediggers” that will then build the communist society. The
conflict will be resolved in favor of those who want new
relations of production that will ensure the continued progress of
society’s capacity for material output. Therefore Marx reveals

capitalism’s fundamental contradiction to be poverty amidst

plenty. It cannot put resources to their full use because resources
are used for the pursuit of private profit and not for the
satisfaction of the social needs of the majority.
Marx’s analysis of capitalist society proved insightful, but
his theory of the revolution wrong, as it did not break out in the
most developed states but in one with a backward economy such
as Russia. Equally wrong was his prediction that the socialist
system will demonstrate a higher capacity of material production
than the capitalist one. The Russian revolution set up an apparently
competitive economic system that seemed better able to circumvent
the Great Depression of the 1930s. Yet, after World War II, the
capitalist system went through an outstanding metamorphosis
bringing about two decades of unprecedented prosperity and
stability within predominant forms of national capitalisms.
Depending on the relations between capital and labor,
Bowles distinguishes three models of capitalism:
1. The Anglo-American (liberal or “laissez faire”) model:
a decentralized system in which wage bargaining takes place
without the direct intervention of the state. The welfare state
does not enter as part of the explicit bargain, but serves more as
a safety net against poverty.
2. The northern European or corporatist model in such
countries as Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Belgium,
where decision making is consensual and there is a large welfare
state. In this model, the wage bargaining takes place at national
level between representatives of capital, labor and the state, with
employment protection as an important aspect. Within this
model capital and labor appear more as partners with the state in
national economic planning.
3. Japanese (or East Asian) developmental capitalism,
which relies on guiding the market and controlling labor and a

smaller welfare state, which has been described as a form of more

authoritarian capitalism, as it generally suppresses independent
labor movements (Bowles 115-126). There is a certain rivalry
between these models, as to which is better. In the 1980s the
corporatist Japanese model seemed to prevail among various
rival forms of capitalism. But in the 1990s, US and UK
economies enjoyed a rise.
Another aspect of the use of capital related to alienation is
commodification or commodity fetishism, to use a phrase of
Marxist jargon, which means turning an object or a being, including
human beings, or an idea into an economic good, into an article
of commerce. An illustrative example of human trafficking
would be the forced prostitution of girls and boys practiced
against the law in both postcolonial and postcommunist
countries, where human beings themselves become a
commodity to be sold and bought. In 1949 the U.N. General
Assembly adopted the Convention for the Suppression of the
Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of
Others, which was not however ratified by all countries.
According to the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the
social world is one of accumulated history and, “if it is not to be
reduced to a discontinuous series of instantaneous mechanical
equilibria between agents who are treated as interchangeable
particles, one must reintroduce into it the notion of capital and
with it, accumulation and all its effects” (Bourdieu 1997: 46).
Being a factor of production that is not wanted for itself but for
its ability to help in producing other goods, capital has now a
variety of specific meanings such as financial, material, human,
cultural, social, political capitals.
Any analysis of the economy and society of postcolonial
and postcommunist states will use the conceptual frame of
capital as defined by Bourdieu. Thus, in addition to economic

capital (material assets and financial resources), he defines

human capital as educational (the level of theoretical training
and practical skills acquired by an individual by attending
educational institutions and programs, as well as every day
activity) and biological (the state of an individual’s health),
which are real (even if not palpable) instruments which
individuals can use in order to attract material resources through
which they can satisfy their needs.
Social capital lies in the individual’s abilities to integrate
into, and work with, social groups, thus acquiring access to the
resources controlled by other members of the group or the whole
group. This practically means the trust an individual inspires,
thus getting access to social networks. In practical terms, he/she
thus gets access to resources controlled by others in order to
develop their own range of capitals. It was the case of the former
apparatchik, who could thus set up flourishing economic or
commercial enterprises.
Symbolic capital consists in capital under any form used
not in order to get certain material assets in exchange, but in
order to acquire legitimacy before the other members of society.
It represents a valorization of the prestige conferred to
individuals by their possessing other forms of capital valued by
the members of a community. Thus, in order to valorize their
social position, individuals need to activate other individuals’
internal values, which will thus maximize their exploitation of
the capitals they possess. Depending on the social milieu of an
individual, symbolic capital can thus be equated with the set of
social values of the respective milieu, which confers value to the
attributes and assets the respective individual is endowed with.
In Landscapes of Capital, Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson
show how corporate advertising is a discourse that seeks to
brand and legitimize each specific corporation, giving a face to the

global informational economy associated with transnationalism,

post Fordism and flexible accumulation (1-18). Political capital
is a form of symbolic capital that political parties try to acquire
by advertising their real or imaginary achievements.
Capitals can convert into one another, function of the
individual’s interests: social capital furnishes access to the
economic resources of other individuals; economic resources
enable the acquisition of health and education services increasing
human capital, while the exchange of these capitals as gifts
results in the creation of social capital; human capital can be
valorized on the labor market and turned into economic capital;
social capital also facilitates the intergenerational transmission
of knowledge, and thus the formation of human capital. Bourdieu
shows that the ways wherein capitals combine determine the
emergence of well defined social spaces that define the behavior
and attitudes of the individuals inhabiting them. Social mobility
can thus be understood as a change of the structure of the
portfolio of capitals (economic, human, social) in a community,
mediated by the mode in which individuals can dispose of them,
wherein symbolic capital favors the conversion of capitals.

See also capitalism, communism, liberalism, Marxism

Further Reading: Bowles 2007, Eatwell and Wright

1999, Goldman and Papson 2011, Voicu 2006


Capitalism has proved to be the most enduring economic
system of our times. The modern capitalist system originated in

an increase of business activity and technical innovation in the

Netherlands and Britain in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, flourishing with the industrial revolution. Max Weber
also associated it with the Protestant work ethic, which not only
valued work but also encouraged saving and investing money,
which resulted in an accumulation of capital. In the Protestant
ethic traditional disdain for acquisitive effort was replaced by a
reversal of valuation and the economic inequality was justified
on the grounds that the wealthy were also the virtuous rewarded
for their hard work and frugality. The theory of capitalist
economics was the work of the Scottish philosopher Adam
Smith who, in his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the
Wealth of Nations (1776) gave a description of free-market
capitalism based on the principle of competition with the least
interference of the state. His economic doctrine is associated
with the philosophic stand of liberalism.
The role of the government was just to defend the country,
to uphold the law and build infrastructure to make prosperous
economic activity possible. Based upon these principles in
Victorian times Britain became “the workshop of the world” as
well as its financial center and amassed a huge amount of
wealth, which was however the counterpart of the appalling
working and living conditions endured by the industrial workers
(as described in Charles Dickens’s Hard Times, Elizabeth
Gaskell’s North and South, Benjamin Disraeli’s Sybil or the
Two Nations as well as Friedrich Engels’s The Condition of the
Working Class in England in 1844). The abuses of the factory
system were so glaring and inhuman that the government started
passing Acts (1833, 1847) appointing inspectors to check on the
working conditions of women and children and limiting working
hours for these categories of workers to ten hours a day. The
harshest criticism came however from Karl Marx, who in 1848

launched it in his Communist Manifesto in England. Marx gave

a detailed analysis of the way capitalism worked in his book
Das Kapital (1867), where he presented capitalism as a historical
stage of human development, which would eventually engender its
own destruction: the harshly exploited working class would rise
up and overthrow the system by revolution, setting up a classless
society and putting an end to exploitation, poverty and misery.
At the opposite pole, sociologists like Herbert Spencer initiated
the theory of social Darwinism, applying Darwin’s biological
principle of the survival of the fittest to society, the fittest being
the strong men who made large amounts of money, a theory that
John Rockefeller invoked for his great economic success.
The capitalist countries’ great prosperity was also based
on colonial expansion and the ruthless imperialist exploitation of
Asian, African and Central and South American territories. India
became “the jewel in the British crown”, and its territory was
used for cheap investment sites for raw materials and became a
major market for industrial goods. Only Japan managed to
become a modern industrial power before the outbreak of World
War I. A new development appeared towards the end of the
nineteenth century: against Adam Smith’s principle of competition
in a free market economy, capitalists started organizing themselves
into giant cartels or trusts in order to monopolize the market and
dictate prices for greater profits.
The capitalist system was severely shaken in the first half
of the twentieth century by the two World Wars, the Great
Depression and the communist revolution that set up the Soviet
Union (an alternative political and economic system), which
expanded into the Red Empire when the countries established to be
in its sphere of influence by The Yalta Conference became its
satellites. As the capitalist countries went through the stagnation
and losses of the Depression, Stalin launched his five-year plan

for rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union, with no private

but total state capital and control and no free market. As the
West knew nothing about Stalin’s practice of political prisoners’
forced labor, about his purges and absolute terror, to many
westerners the communist system seemed a viable one at the time.
But capitalist states produced new models, such as the
Swedish Social Democracy Model. From the 1920s Sweden was
led by the Social Democrat Party, which managed to do much better
than other countries through the years of the Great Depression
of the 1930s. It borrowed money to pay for jobs, and it also
introduced a remarkable welfare system with publicly funded
education, health system and social security. This became the
Swedish model that combined a market economy with elements
of (non-Marxist-Leninist) socialism. Taxation was high and
gradual, but there was economic growth and a large measure of
equality achieved through a fairer redistribution of wealth.
After the economic ruin brought by World War II (with the
exception of the USA, which in 1945 turned out two-thirds of the
world’s industrial production), the capitalist countries managed
to recover and embark upon an extraordinary economic growth.
This capitalism was very different from that before the world wars.
The three broad types of capitalism at this period are:
the Anglo-American or the “laissez faire” or liberal model
relying on decentralized wage bargaining and stock markets, the
Northern European or corporatist model relying on consensual
decision-making and a large welfare state and the Japanese or
developmentalist model relying on guiding the market and
controlling labor (Bowles 108-132).
Most West European countries adopted the welfare state
model with mixed types of economy, where liberal capitalism was
combined with socialist aspects such as state control or ownership
over about one third of a country’s industry (e.g. Britain nationalized

coal mines, railways and steel industries) and economic planning

(e.g. France carried out a modernization of its economy under a
series of government plans in the 1950s), a strategy that had
been first used by Stalin. A welfare state can be defined as

a concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the

protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its
citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity,
equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those
unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life.
The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social
organization. (“Welfare state”)

As now welfare states include not only Sweden but also

such countries as Norway, Denmark and Finland, the system is
known as the Nordic model. At this time the corporatist system
became stronger and wider, with such huge companies as IBM,
ICI or General Electric, which were so prosperous that they
could be generous to their workers. The economies of affluent
Western societies seemed still to be challenged by those of the
Soviet Union and its satellites, and the two systems were in a
Cold War and tight competition.
With the falling apart of colonial empires in the two
decades after the war period, the newly independent African and
Asian postcolonial states rejected capitalism as the economic
model they associated with imperialism and identified the
domination of the capitalist world economy over them as
neocolonialism. India, for instance, adopted under the leadership
of Jawaharlal Nehru the Soviet model of industrialization and
state-planned economy. However, this did not work out, so that
in the late 1980s India introduced free market reforms. Tanzania
too adopted an African form of socialism based on rural
collective cooperation, but Julius Nyerere’s economic policy
failed and left the country ruined and nearly starving. There

were strong procommunist revolution movements in numerous

postcolonial societies, supported by the Soviet Union and other
Communist states, such as China, Vietnam and Cuba, whose
communist leaders carried great prestige (Mao Tse-tung, Ho Chi
Minh or Fidel Castro) as revolutionary role models.
In the 1960s capitalism was contested from within too.
The hippie and ecology movements in America and Western
Europe blamed the loss of spiritual values and the destruction of
the environment on capitalists’ greed. With the postmodern age,
capitalism entered a new, distinct phase that Frederic Jameson
described in his book Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of
Late Capitalism (1991) in Marxist terms. The term “late capitalism”
originated with the Frankfurt School (Theodor Adorno, Max
Horkheimer) and refers to the form of capitalism (characterized
by a web of bureaucratic control, and the interpenetration of
government and big business labeled as “state capitalism”) that
dominates postmodern culture. The 1970s allowed the economic
and the cultural side of postmodern late capitalism to come
together: the economic system and the cultural “structure of feeling”
shaped in the great shock of the crises of 1971 (the oil crisis, the
end of the international gold standard, the end of the great wave
of “wars of national liberation” and the beginning of the end of
traditional communism). What Jameson emphasizes is the
commodification of all aspects of life, affective ones included:

The waning of affect is, however, perhaps best initially approached

by way of the human figure, and it is obvious that what we have said about
the commodification of objects holds as strongly for Warhol’s human
subjects, stars – like Marilyn Monroe – who are themselves commodified
and transformed into their own images. (Jameson 1991:61)

The specific features of the phase are, according to Jameson:

new forms of business organization (multinationals, transnationals)

beyond the monopoly stage that Lenin had mentioned (capitalism

now expands out beyond any national border); American military
domination; an internationalization of business meaning that, in
the new order of capital, multinational corporations represent a
form of power and influence greater than any one nation,
making possible the continued exploitation of workers from
poor countries in support of multinational capital. Jameson also
remarks the flight of production to some of the more advanced
Third World areas, associated with a vertiginous new dynamic
in international banking, new forms of media interrelationship
(print, internet, television, film) as a sort of new means for the
capitalist take-over of the individual’s life. The mediatization of
culture controls to a great extent the individual’s version of
reality, a version of reality that is generally filled with capitalist
values; computers and automation have led to an unprecedented
level of mass production, yielding ever greater profits to the
multinational corporations. Prevailing consumerism also leads to
planned obsolescence of goods, cultural products included.
Jameson however rejects the term “postindustrial society”
because of the implication that this phenomenon is a radical
break from the forms of capital that existed in the nineteenth century
(and thus, a break from Karl Marx’s understanding of capital).
As for that reality itself, however – the as yet untheorized
original space of some new “world system” of multinational or
late capitalism – the dialectic requires us to hold equally to a
positive or “progressive” evaluation of its emergence, as Marx did
for the newly unified space of the national markets, or as Lenin did
for the older imperialist global network. For neither Marx nor
Lenin was socialism a matter of returning to small (and thereby
less repressive and comprehensive) systems of social organization;
rather, the dimensions attained by capital in their own times were
grasped as the promise, the framework, and the precondition for

the achievement of some new and more comprehensive socialism”

(1991: 88). Jameson is therefore more interested in perceiving a
continuity from earlier forms of industrial society, even as he
acknowledges the differences.
Referring to the Communist Manifesto, Jameson also
emphasizes the positive dimension of capitalist development:

In a well-known passage, Marx powerfully urges us to do the

impossible, namely to think this development positively and negatively
all at once; to achieve, in other words, a type of thinking that would be
capable of grasping the demonstrably baleful features of capitalism
along with its extraordinary and liberating dynamism simultaneously,
within a single thought, and without attenuating any of the force of
either judgment. (Jameson 1991: 86)

The crisis of the 1970s determined a reaction from such

economists as Frederich Hayek and Milton Friedman against
J. M. Keynes’s state management of the economy and state control
of industries as well as against the welfare state. They advocated
a new encouragement of free enterprise by the government’s
cutting taxes, a reduction of welfare expenses so that the state’s
budget could be balanced, and leaving unemployment to the
working of the free market. This classic free market capitalist agenda
was implemented by Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret
Thatcher in Britain, but also in various other European countries.
The British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990)
privatized quite a number of state-controlled industries and
utilities (such as the nationalized enterprises in coal, iron and
steel, gas, electricity, water supply, railways, trucking, airlines
and telecommunications, public housing), restricted trade union
leaders’ powers, reduced income tax rates, instituted monetarist
monetary policy with a strong emphasis on controlling inflation,
restricted local government spending and reformed local government
finance. She thus replaced to a great extent the social democratic

orientation of government with neoliberal principles that relied

on the work of Friedrich von Hayek and boosted unemployment
to unprecedented rates since the 1930s. Sometimes referred to as
“market fundamentalism”, neoliberalism upholds that “markets
are the best way of organizing production and that state
intervention is to be generally minimized” (Bowles 2007: 146) and
it is presented as a “natural” and “free” system.
In the 1980s most Western countries allowed the free flow
of capital. When France’s president tried to implement a
socialist economic program, including nationalizing some
industries, the French currency was devalued as money was
withdrawn from France and the government was forced to
change its policies. Multinationals gained increased control as
they shifted investment around the world (in the 1980s some
major US corporations were owned by Japanese capitalists, and
Korean companies had factories in Britain) for various reasons,
among which cheap labor. This process led to the remarkable
economic growth of the so called “Asian Tigers” (Taiwan,
Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore). On
the other hand, most of the poorer developing countries in
Africa, South Asia and South America could not control their
economies and fell into heavy debt, ending up at the mercy of
the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The great triumph of capitalism was marked by the
collapse of communism in the former Eastern European bloc
countries (1989) and in the USSR (1991). For economic
efficiency other communist states changed their system to a
hybrid between capitalist and socialist principles. Thus, the
People’s Republic of China and Vietnam initiated a form of
market socialism referred to as socialist market economy or
party state capitalism, in which most of the industry is state-owned
(through a shareholder system), but prices are set by a largely free

market system. Chinese state-owned enterprises are thus free

from excessive communist-style management and function more
autonomously in a decentralized fashion than in planned economies.
However, in postcommunist states the sudden privatization
of the former state-owned economies was done without any
welfare measures, which led to very high rates of unemployment,
social insecurity and a scaring level of poverty. The polarization
of these societies became intense as the impoverishment of the
largest section of the population was contrasted to the fabulous
wealth of a small minority of businessmen. Since many a former
apparatchik has been operating on the edge of, or even outside,
the law, corruption and organized crime have risen to alarming
levels. The variety of capitalism in postcommunist states was
more or less “unbridled” because of its abruptness and of the
Western economic advisors (the IMF included), who suggested
“shock therapy” for a rapid breaking away from a centralized
economy and dependency on the state for the “spontaneous”
formation of markets. However, in the process of dismantling
state control, the reforms destroyed or weakened institutional
government structures and thus the result was “the disintegration
of the social order” in Russia. The state apparatus could not
operate as an effective check on business and was easily
corrupted, the result being what has been described as “gangster
capitalism” (Silverman and Yanowich 130).
In many Latin American states, but also African ones, the state
became the servant of capital with the help of widespread corruption,
as the political leaders were keen on enriching themselves. In such
states as the Philippines under Marcos or Zaire under Mobutu, the
state enriched its leaders at the expense of the businesses that it
relied on, a predatory activity that led to severe economic decline.
As already shown, free market capitalism became increasingly
multinational and went on looking after its own interests by

creating international free-trade blocs: the European Union (1992),

the North American Free Trade Area (1993) and the World Trade
Organization (1995). The appearance of the internet and climax
of the computer revolution highlighted the triumph of capitalism in
the 1990s. But the system of global capitalism which places profit
above every other human needs never ceased being contested by
trade unionists, environmentalist movements and anarchists (as
in the 1999 Seattle demonstration against a summit World Trade
Organization, the August 2011 spray of violent rioting, looting and
arson in Britain, the “Occupy Wall Street” October-November 2011
riots in the US). The crisis that appeared in the US in 2007 and
rapidly reached global dimensions demonstrates the instability of
the capitalist system, testing again its flexibility and resilience.
The state-led developmental capitalism of some East Asian
countries can be seen as a form of “authoritarian capitalism”,
given the suppression of independent labor movements which it
has entailed. Another description of Asian capitalism has been
as “networks” capitalism, a unique brand of Chinese capitalism
which relies heavily on personal relations and networks, based
on kinship or ethnic ties (Bowles 125).
At the beginning of the new millennium the capitalist
system had achieved democracy, freedom and prosperity for the
largest sections of the developed countries’ populations, but the
periods of depression, devastation of the environment and the
lack of concern for increasing poverty in underdeveloped and
even developing countries are aggravating questions that have
remained unsolved. For the reformists, the dictates of capital
need to be tamed, for the radicals, they need to be replaced.
An important aspect that needs to be mentioned is gender
inequality under capitalism. Here the role of the state appears to
be of paramount importance in order to advance the interests of
women, and on the whole those of humanity in reproducing itself.

The state can be seen as an initiator of laws and policies that will
ensure non-discrimination, equal pay, and paid maternity leaves.
It is not only Marxists that dream about a just society.
Capitalism also has its contemporary dreamers and reformers
that fight against the Pirates of Heartless Capitalism. Inspired by
the post-World War II Marshall Plan in his The Montfort Plan.
The New Architecture of Capitalism (2010), Montfort speaks
about the present geo-political financial and economic crisis and
conceives a very detailed political plan that includes economic
and financial solutions to leading the world to the Cornucopia
and Eutopia World of 2050, a vision based on love of humanity.
According to this plan that has the support of many long-term
thinkers, the key words are Decemtax (which retains 10% of
after-corporate-tax from firms), and Decemfund (that would be
the pooled result of the Decemtax), the profits of which will be
devoted to funding for development. The New Architecture of
Capitalism relies on Decempliant developed countries and
Montfortable developing countries that can together establish a
Povertimmune relationship which becomes the antidote against
poverty in a new capitalist paradigm (Pozuelo-Montfort: 437-38).
Thinkers like Ronald Glassman, who care about the future
of humanity, enumerate the religious and secular curbs on the
selfishness and amorality of the market (Judaism’s emphasis on
the ethics of social justice, Catholicism’s rejection of market
activities, Islam’s motto of “Prosper and give alms to the needy”, the
paternalistic caring of Confucian benevolence, Marx’s utopianism
and theory of destruction, the tenets of democratic socialism).
Glassman comes up with a new emphasis on humanism,
religious and secular, for making the world brought about by the
remarkable success of the free-market economy a world where
civil liberties are respected and individuals care about others,
while still caring about themselves (Glassman 215-43).

Democratic civil rights and freedoms are values that are

very dear to Western liberal capitalist states. Among them the
principle of democratic accountability essential to a liberal
democratic society is an important aspect whose implementation
in both postcolonial and postcommunist countries leaves much
to be desired. For postcommunist states, there is hope in their
European Union membership, the European Commission being
the nascent system of continent-wide cosmopolitan governance
where, in addition to the collaboration between nation-states,
there are “mechanisms for proper democratic accountability”
(Hutton and Giddens 223).
See also capital, feminism, liberalism, Marxism

Further Reading: Alcock and Powell 2011, Burawoy

2009, Jameson 1991, Grant 2001, Mohan and Zack-Williams
2004, Piet 1991, Pozuelo-Montfort 2010


The center/margin relationship has often been understood
as describing in binary terms the hierarchies that structure the
field of colonial and postcolonial relations. The prioritization of
one of the terms of the opposition – lying at the root of the
colonial project – underlines an entire history of dominance
versus submission, whereby the center is equated with the
metropolis, or the locus of colonial power, and the margin, or
the periphery, with the negativized and inferior other. Thus,
locating the center of authority within the Western world
through the military force of imperialism and the ideological
pressure of the Western grand narrative of progress and

modernization further translates into Eurocentrism, or the precedence

given to European thought, cultural practice, norms and values as
both universally valid and superior to any others. The center/margin
violent hierarchy validates the colonial project by spatializing
relationships of power along a geographical-symbolic axis that
places Europe at the heart of the world and obscures the “savage”
colonial other. The cartography of empire is at work in the Mercator
projection, which privileges Europe (Willis 18) by augmenting it
on paper and establishing it discursively, with direct impact on
material practices and techniques of power from exploration to
trade to conquest, as the “source and arbiter of spatial and
cultural meaning” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 84).
The center/margin relationship was thoroughly questioned
by deconstructionist critics, who promptly underlined its
untenability as a power rationale, given the implicit dependence
of the center on the margin in order for the center to even exist.
As Jacques Derrida famously argued in Of Grammatology, the
origin is inherently displaced by its own supplement in the very
gesture of erasing it, just as the inside and the outside of any
structure mutually reinforce and tease each other out. However,
only exposing the mutual construction of the center and the
margin cannot dismantle the hierarchies that establish one as the
positive term of the binary opposition and the other as its
negative counterpart, risking to reproduce and thus endlessly
legitimize the same uneven landscape of power relations
poststructuralism set about to debunk and criticize. Postmodernism
has been criticized for its penchant for wanting to de-centralize
via adopting minority discourse with the purpose of marking its
difference and thus “confirming the latter’s very marginality
and cannibalistically feeding off it” (Hörschelmann 54).
Homi Bhabha points out how the central and the marginal
shape each other and in the process create a breach that destabilizes
the privileging of the colonizing subject through mimicry and

ambivalence. While not addressing questions of coloniality and

Eurocentrism, Michel Foucault engages in a similar poststructuralist
gesture of describing social hierarchies as being infused with
and informed by the figure of the marginal, the non-rational, the
excluded, and the monstrous, from which it tries to separate in
the process of inventing it. Dipesh Chakrabarty has disputed the
notion of the supremacy of a capitalism-infused European modernity
and has brought into question its impact on the non-West, by
reversing the initial violent hierarchy and “provincializing”
Europe: “The Europe I seek to provincialize or decenter is an
imaginary figure that remains deeply embedded in clichéd and
shorthand forms in some everyday habits of thought that invariably
subtend attempts in the social sciences to address questions of
political modernity in South Asia” (3-4). Almost three decades
before Chakrabarty, Edward Said employed a Foucauldian
methodology to point out how the non-West, in this case the
“Orient”, had been produced as a threatening peripheral other.
The intertwining of the East and the West in the construction
of Eastern Europe has been a subject of inquiry for many
scholars seeking to address the relationship between the Eastern
bloc and Western Europe and the role of the Iron Curtain in
separating economic, political, and cultural modes that were pitted
against each other in an attempt to provincialize and decenter each
other. Maria Todorova has further discussed the cultural geography
of Europe, where the Balkans have served as an imaginary savage
other to the civilized West from within the continent itself,
challenging its boundaries and stretching its historical imagination.

See also colonialism, mimicry, other, poststructuralism

Further Reading: Chakrabarty 2007, Derrida 1976,

Hörschelmann 2002, Said 1978, Todorova 1997, Willis 2005,
Wolff 1994



Class is a social stratum whose members share certain
economic, social, or cultural characteristics, hence class is a
concept of interest for sociologists, economists, anthropologists,
political scientists and social historians.
Marx made class and class struggle the central motive
power of the development of social systems in history (his
conception of historical materialism). He defined classes
according to their relation to the means of production, with
reference to ownership (slave owners/slaves, feudal lords/serfs,
capitalists/industrial proletarians). He considered that human
beings would change their way of producing in order to
facilitate the enhancement of their productive power for their
increase of wealth and power, the demolition of the old system
taking place through the struggle of the exploited class against
the owning class. On the basis of his analysis of the contemporary
capitalist economic system he predicted its replacement by a
new system, the communist one, which would be classless as the
means of production were to be in collective ownership.
Marx analyzed class in chapter 52 entitled “Classes” of
volume 3 of his master work Capital (published posthumously
by his friend Friedrich Engels). He first divided the classes of
capitalist society rather simplistically into owners merely of
labor-power, owners of capital, and land-owners, whose
respective sources of income are wages, profit and ground-rent,
in other words, wage-laborers, capitalists and land-owners,
remarking the contemporary transformation of all landed
property into the form of landed property corresponding to the
capitalist mode of production. But then he mentioned that
middle and intermediate social strata obliterated the lines of

demarcation everywhere, as for instance in the case of

physicians and officials, suggesting that they would also
constitute two classes, for they belonged to two distinct social
groups, the members of each of these groups receiving their
revenue from one and the same source. However, when he was
probably about to put forth a more nuanced definition of class,
the mention appears: “Here the manuscript breaks off”.
Therefore Marx did not give a clear definition of class, just as he
did not give a description of the communist revolution, or a
description of the communist state otherwise than the general
designation, “the dictatorship of the proletariat”.
It was Lenin who drew up a theory of the leading role of
the communist party in the revolution to overthrow the capitalist
system, and who, adapting the Marxist theory to the Russian
realities, included peasantry in the revolutionary class. He also
gave a more elaborate definition of class:

Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by

the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social
production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated by
law) to the means of production, by their role in the social
organization of labor, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the
share of social wealth of which they dispose and their mode of
acquiring it. Classes are groups of people one of which can appropriate
the labour of another owing to the different place they occupy in a
definite system of social economy. (Lenin vol. 29: 421)

Lenin then proceeds to reiterate Marx’s description of the

communist society as classless, pointing out the way to it:

Clearly, in order to abolish classes completely, it is not enough

to overthrow the exploiters, the landowners and capitalists, not enough
to abolish their rights to ownership, it is necessary to abolish all
private ownership of the means of production, it is necessary to

abolish the distinction between town and country, as well as the

distinction between the manual workers and the brain workers. (421)

The last two goals appear as totally unrealistic,

incompatible with technological progress, revealing the utterly
utopian character of Marxist-Leninist theoretical vision. The
practical way in which communist states or at least Romania did
that was by paying a doctor, an engineer or a professor a salary
not much higher than that of a cleaning woman.
Elimination of the “enemy of the people”, that is, of the
“class enemy”, was the justification invoked by the Soviet state
that culminated with the atrocious Stalinist terror of the late
1930s and 1940s, the model of the terrible repression of all
people that had different political or ideological orientations in
all subsequent communist states.
It is precisely because the distinction between manual
workers and brain workers cannot be abolished by anybody’s
decree that the highly educated communist intelligentsia in the
Soviet Union could produce a communist leader like Mikhail
Gorbatchev and his reformist team that led to the implosion of
communism in the country where it was first created.
After the collapse of communism, the postcommunist
states had the task of (re)creating a capitalist class by privatizing
former state enterprises and by encouraging new private
entrepreneurs. This process took place in an uncontrolled way
and favored the former apparatchiks, who evolved from members
of the nomenklatura to a newly-rich and prospering oligarchy
(Gabanyi 353), in societies ever more marked by polarization
and the pauperization of a large section of the population.
The concept of class frequently intersects that of
multiculturalism in postcolonial societies. It is relevant not
only because at first the capitalist colonizers’ oppression was
associated with a certain class, but also because the colonized

gradually began to use colonial discourse in order to describe

themselves. However, as Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin point out, it
is less clear to what extent this category were to be employed as a
“descriptor of colonized societies without undergoing profound
modifications to accommodate their cultural differences from
Europe”. For instance, the category of international proletariat
would most likely appear to be too Eurocentric, and reveal a
universalist bias, even if a binarism between a proletarian and an
owning class underpinned the model for the center’s view and
treatment of the margin (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998:
Class and postcolonialism, 38). The imperial exploitation of the
colonized resources could be inscribed in Marx’s description of
the relationship between the owners of the means of production
and their wage-slaves, but these emerging relationships were
often superimposed over specific local social and economic
structures. Marx and Engels only vaguely alluded to the problem
by classifying precapitalist societies either as feudal or
“Asiatic”. A classic example would be Indian society, where the
classes developed by the accumulation of capital that Marx
describes superpose an older and more complicated division into
castes, which compounds religious conflict with social conflict, even
though not throughout Indian society. While the Constitution of
India has abolished discrimination based on the caste system
(not the caste system itself), there still is discrimination and
prejudice against the caste of the “untouchables,” or Dalits.
Societies with caste systems are likewise to be found in
Africa in such countries as Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mauritania,
Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast,
Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Algeria, or Chad. An
impressive literary representation of the Osu caste system in
Nigeria and southern Cameroon is given by Chinua Achebe in
his novel No Longer At Ease (1960). Within the Igbo nation

there is an indigenous religious belief that the Osus are people

historically owned by deities, and are therefore considered to be
a “living sacrifice”, an outcast, untouchable and sub-human race
that should live wholly apart and marry only among themselves,
never outside their caste, hence the dramatic situation of the
male protagonist, an Igbo, in love with an “untouchable” girl.
As Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin underline, there have been
few, if any, attempts to see how the formation of categories such
as race, gender and class, both historically and in modern practice,
intersect and coexist (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 40).
In former settler colonies, even if the class structure may
reproduce many aspects of class involved in the economic development
of the imperial center, these societies constructed autoimages
wherein they represented themselves as democratic or classless.
If Marx defined social class in strictly economic terms,
Max Weber criticized historical materialism, demonstrating that
social stratification is not based purely on economic inequalities
but also on other status and power factors. To the notion of
social class depending mainly on material wealth he added the
notion of status class based on honor, prestige, religious affiliation,
and other forms of cultural difference and cultural diversity
that refine the definition so as to include “elective affinities”.
In the contemporary context of globalization, sociologists
have remarked the formation of an enlarged middle class in
modern Western societies, particularly due to the necessity of an
educated work force in First World technological economies
that have reached a postindustrial stage. The world systems or
dependency theory suggests this phenomenon that can be
defined as neocolonialism is caused by the shift of low-level
laborers to developing and Third World countries. Developed
First World countries are now less directly involved in basic
manufacturing industries, agriculture, forestry, and mining and

have been increasingly supplying “virtual” goods and services,

making the concept of social class more complex and more
difficult to describe at the level of national societies.

See also communism, ethnicity, race, Worlds

Further Reading: Brown 2010, Lewis 1999



In its restricted sense, colonialism is the organized and
systematic exercise of domination (whether political, economic,
military, cultural or otherwise) over a far-off population that is
ethnically or racially unrelated to the colonizer and whose
culture and historical development are abruptly disrupted and
considerably altered by the colonizer. There is, however, a
broader, more general meaning of the term that will become
apparent in the latter part of this article. Though various
theoretical and historical models dispute the relation between
colonialism and imperialism, they can safely be considered two
types of domination and exploitation with relatively different
aims and techniques in spite of significant similarities, and
separated by a fuzzy borderline. (See more under IMPERIALISM.)
Most of the times, the colonizing (or imperial) power
justifies the violent intrusion in the historical progression of
another people by an alleged calling or supreme mission, whether
of a religious or secular nature. The Petrine mandate and the licence

given by Pope Innocent IV for Christian intervention whenever

non-Christians supposedly lived in violation of “natural law” are
instances of the religious legitimation of colonialism. But there
were also secular theories of the alleged stages that any people
has to experience in its path from primitivism to civilization
which proposed that enlightened peoples had to step into the life
of “savages” and teach them how to lead civilized lives and how
to govern themselves. Such grandiloquent self-images work as
ideological screens to conceal baser interests and to justify such
atrocities as genocide or slavery.
History provides examples of colonization from antiquity
to the present day. All ages and all inhabited continents (with
the exception of Australia) have produced colonizers. However,
the term colonialism in recent scholarship has come to refer
almost exclusively to the exploits of empires and great Western
powers of the modern age. Some critics invoke the magnitude,
the violence and the particular economic and political profile of
modern instances of colonialism to justify what is, in effect, a
Eurocentric approach. Interestingly, even the fiercest critics of
European colonialism and capitalism accept this terminological
monopoly of Western critical discourse, possibly under the spell of
Marx’s Eurocentric understanding of capitalism (Ashcroft, Griffiths,
and Tiffin 1998: 35). As such, they are unwittingly perpetuating the
exceptionalist representations of the West and conceding to the
colonization of the very discourse of post- or anticolonialism.
Inevitably, colonialism triggers anticolonial responses.
Anticolonialism is the sustained and organized militancy against
subordination and it generally inaugurates decolonization, even
when it does no more than call for awareness of inequalities and
expose the mechanisms of oppression. Such a preliminary
operation is salutary or else the ideology and social relations of

colonialism will be taken as “normal” and inevitable by the

underprivileged. Anticolonialism, therefore, presupposes the
realization of one’s being subjugated by colonization together
with a will to free oneself from the oppression and by an
envisaged strategy for emancipation. This represents a
decolonization of the mind, the unavoidable first step in the
process of national liberation. Anticolonialist reflection is
faced with dilemmas. On the one hand, in order to confront
discrimination and their subaltern status, anticolonialists will
call for the colonized and the colonizer to be treated equally by
standards and institutions that apply to the whole of humanity.
On the other hand, they will insist that all ethno-cultural
difference between the colonized and the colonizer is
irreducible and will condemn any attempt to assimilate the
colonized and have them share the standards and institutions of
the colonizer. Such resistance against Eurocentric essentialism
denies any claims for universality for the products of Western
culture since they are all allegedly offshoots of a particular
ideology. However, logical consistency should then preclude the
operation of equality and other such supposedly fake universal
concepts by which the formerly colonized can hope to be
recognized internationally.
There is also the embarrassment of anticolonial criticism
being grounded in the ideology and practice of nationalism,
which are products of the European tradition. But the paradox runs
both ways. On the one hand, it undermines the status of
anticolonialist leaders and ideologues who employ imported
vocabularies and gesticulation and can thus be viewed as
comprador elites, that is, individuals who are interposed
between the foreign oppressor and the natives and who thrive
from their expertise in translating the idiom and accommodating

the ways of the forigner. On the other, it equally subverts the

efforts of Western colonizers to assert their superiority since, in
the very process of their educating the “primitives” in the spirit
of emancipation and of the freedom of thought and choice, they
nurture the freedom instincts and instigate the colonized to
contest the authority of the colonizer.
Further tensions arise within anticolonialism from disputes
between the realist critics and the nostalgic nativists. The latter
would restore the purity of an alleged cultural essence that
preceded colonization. The former respond by cautioning that
precolonized societies were themselves already built on
exploitation and prejudices, and by questioning the possibility to
shake off the hybrid identity that resulted willy-nilly from an
education in the spirit of the colonizing culture in a world where
they still fall victim to (neo)colonialism.
Though state independence seems like the crowning of
anticolonialism in the former colonies, critics note that the
West’s economic, political, and cultural domination subsists in
today’s global capitalism and impedes on the decolonizing
effort. The phenomenon called for the coinage of a new term,
neocolonialism, apparently first proposed by Kwame Nkrumah,
the president of independent Ghana, in 1965. Neocolonialism refers
not only to Western control over international financial, commercial
and cultural institutions, but also to the hegemony of indigenous
elites that claim to be defenders of national interests, yet act,
sometimes unwittingly, as agents of global capitalism and perpetuate
the economic and cultural dependency of third world countries.
For instance, many of the anticapitalists and antiglobalists take
Coca-colonization, McDonaldization or the economic policies of
multinational corporations to be current forms of neocolonialism
wherein local economic and political elites are obvious facilitators.

All these tensions and complexities indicate that both the

discourse of colonialism and its forms of counter-discourse are
riddled with contradictions and that they function according to
an awkward logic of ambivalence, hybridity and mimicry.
Hegel’s master-slave dialectic is abundantly complicated and
developed by the colonial situation as both colonizer and
colonized are locked in antinomic discourse. Indeed, certain
postcolonial critics have suggested the seductive argument that
coloniality, in fact, resides in its very discourse. (Anti)colonial
discourse represents and naturalizes colonial relations in the
conversion of and the conversation about cultural values.
In recent years, scholars have called attention to the relevance
of the region known as the former communist bloc to the field of
(post)colonialism. There are voices claiming more vocally that
the onetime Soviet republics and satellite European states should
be viewed as colonized spaces. In spite of the resistance of the
national intellectual elites, there is an increasing number of authors
coming from postcommunist countries who favor the unrestricted
expansion of the terms colonialism and postcolonialism to the
Second World and call for the adoption of the vocabulary of
postcolonial criticism in the study of postcommunism. But,
with a few notable exceptions like K. Verdery or H. Carey, all
these authors either live in the postcommunist countries or live
in the West but have a declared ethnic connection to former
communist cultures. The community of postcolonial studies,
however, remains generally oblivious or adverse to such a
connection, mostly for ideological reasons. On truly exceptional
occasions there have been faint and ceremonial admissions from
G. C. Spivak and D. Brydon that the imperialist tradition of the
Czarist and Soviet Empires, which has been protracted by CIS
and the Russian Federation, calls for a critical revision of

postcoloniality (Kelertas 4, Wilson, Şandru, and Welsh 108-9).

However, the actual research and documentation of the process
of colonizing this forgotten space has barely begun.
In its most inclusive meaning, one that is warranted by
both academic and lay discourses, colonialism may be said to
span the whole array of practices of conquest and domination,
whether direct or indirect, capitalist or communist, ranging from
the military, economic, and administrative forms of control to
the subtler realm of cultural representations that camouflage
symbolic and imaginary oppression.

See also imperialism, postcolonialism, postcommunism

Further Reading: Kelertas 2006, Loomba 1998, Osterhammel

1997, Euresis. Cahiers roumains d’études littéraires et culturelles.
No. 1/2005.


Colonization is the occupying of a distant territory by the
official representatives or by a segment of a culture that generally
differs in racial or ethnic terms from the autochthonous population.
This is how a colony is born, that is, an ethnically or racially
distant territory which the colonizer conquers and controls by
military, political, economical and cultural means. Colonization
is generally achieved through coercion and may involve extreme
forms of violence like genocide or slavery. Focusing mostly on
concrete benefits, colonization consists in the economic exploitation
of the colonized by, among many other mechanisms, underpaying

indigenous labor force and by turning colonies into mere

suppliers of raw materials or into new markets. However, it
would be mistaken to ignore the huge psychological capital that
comes with the status of a colonizer. Colonization may work as
a show of might and it anoints the colonizer as a victor, a force
to be reckoned with, the owner of considerable resources which
may grant prevalence in international conflicts or negotiations.
The term is used profusely by historians and political
scientists to refer to such diverse examples as ancient Athens,
the Roman Empire, the Han Dynasty of the second and first
centuries B.C., the Muslim emirate/caliphate Umayyad in the
eighth to eleventh centuries, the Incas of the fourteenth century
(themselves colonized in the following century by the Spaniards,
who, in turn, had been the victims of the Moor conquest), the
East India Company between the seventeenth and the nineteenth
centuries, or the USSR and the USA in the twentieth century.
The colonizing behavior seems to be independent from
administrative organization (the colonist may be a city-state, a
nation, an empire or a national or multinational company, be
they entirely private, state-owned or in a partnership with the
state), from social order (it occurs in the slave system, in
feudalism, in capitalist or communist modernity, as well as in
postmodern globalization), from the economic system
(agricultural, industrial, postindustrial) or, indeed, from any
other historical context. All it seems to require is a population
with sufficient resources for mobility and capable of, as well as
willing to, exercise domination.
Cultural colonization complements material domination
and it causes an alteration of the symbolic fiber of the colonized.
It may take extreme forms like assimilation or replacing the
domestic language and culture with those of the colonizer.
Contamination through ideology, whether it comes as religious

conversion or as secular civilizing, is a subtler and more efficient

manner of domination which combines missionarism with
bureaucracy and repression with the “ideological state apparatus”.
The latter acquires paramount significance in post-Althusserian
and post-Foucauldian approaches which claim that colonization
is fundamentally the shaping of the colonized subject by many a
consciousness agency such as education, religion, the media,
arts, sports etc. implanted by the colonizer.
But there are also internal agents of colonization. From
Herod I of Judaea to the domestic governments installed by
contemporary Western powers under the screen of apparently
democratic elections, colonization employed the opportunism of
indigenous comprador elites who can win a privileged position
in their native society by means of their familiarity with the
oppressor’s values and vocabularies and their ability to mediate
and manipulate intercultural exchanges.
Colonization is complicated by a number of political and
cultural variations. Such is the case of “semi-colonization”, a
concept from the Leninist, Trotskyite and Maoist vocabularies
which refers to states that were formally or legally independent,
but were controlled by the capital and politics of a greater
power, such as Persia, China or Thailand. Today the term is used
by the critics of capitalism as a synonym for the neo-colonization
(see COLONIALISM) which occurs in the context of
globalization. By virtue of a historical irony, semi-colonization, a
word traditionally associated with communist ideology, has
become a critical instrument for anticommunist discourse.
Critics like I. B. Lefter and R. Surdulescu use the term to refer
to USSR occupying and then controlling from a distance Central
and East-European states like Romania.
In the 1960s, African American activists like E. Cleaver,
K. Clark and S. Carmichael propose the notion of “internal

colonization” (or “domestic colonization” in the critical lexicon

of colored writer and academic H. V. Cruse) by which they
mean to suggest that the exploitation and discrimination
enforced by the dominant white population in the United States
is consubstantial with that in the actual colonies. Starting with
the following decade, the term is being applied to other parts of
the globe to designate any form of oppression against minorities
within a state, such as apartheid or English hegemony over the
other nations in the United Kingdom. M. Hechter (1975)
describes the latter situation as the domination of the periphery
by a center of power. He contends that the relation is generated
by the same social forces as colonization proper, except that
internal colonization is more of a “colonialism without
colonies” as historian J. Osterhammel calls it (1995). Hechter’s
analysis of the Celtic fringe in Great Britain is a development of
certain intuitions from the French historians of the Middle Ages
and Renaissance G. Duby and F. Braudel.
With the publication of Colonization in Reverse (1966) by
Jamaican activist and artist Louise Bennett, “reverse colonization”
becomes a frequent term to refer to the migratory reversed flow
from former colonies to the metropolitan culture which is now
being creolized itself. The multiculturalism resulting from the
successive waves of immigrants coming from the margins of the
former empire leads to institutional adjustments of the metropolis
and to the reversal of the former direction of cultural assimilation.
In 1986, against the backdrop of a new wave of feminist
effervescence, K. Holst-Petersen and A. Rutherford coin the
term “double colonization” to designate a new analogy between
and a simultaneity of the labor relations between colonizer and
colonized and between males and females. Colonized females
are submitted to a double discrimination by racial, as well as by
gender criteria, and find themselves subordinated by males from

both the colonized and the indigenous cultures. Feminist analyses

highlight the interesting overlapping of metaphoric vocabularies
of colonization and male chauvinism. These two forms of
discrimination share similar imagologic clichés like virginity,
penetration, and incontinent sexuality. From the perspective of
postcommunism, critics have talked of the “double colonization”
of Eastern European countries that were culturally subordinated
both by the capitalist West and by the communist East. Thus, in
the first decades of communist dictatorship, Romanian culture
was overtly disfigured by the invading Soviet Empire, while
covertly preserving its inferiority complex to Western culture
which it continued to emulate subversively. The Soviet
colonization can be viewed as no more than an interruption of
the more discreet and voluntary colonization of the marginal
European mind by West European models through a paradoxical
process which A. Kiossev dubs self-colonization.
“Decolonization” refers to the effort of formerly colonized
cultures to divest themselves of the institutional and ideological
mechanisms of oppression. Although this is a phenomenon with
a long history which includes the birth of the United States as
an example of early decolonization, the term is generally used
for the former colonies of modern European powers which have
become independent states especially in the decades following
World War II. In liberating themselves, these peoples strive for
their own political system, their own economy and their own culture.
Here is where one can witness dangerous vacillations between
nativist and independence utopias. Some would have their country
revert to a supposedly immaculate precolonial past, deluding
themselves that one can go back in time and suspend the reality
of inexorable historical changes and condemning themselves to
reconstruct their original culture with the social and intellectual
instruments of the colonizer. Others would replace the former
dependency with total political and economic autonomy, ignoring

the fact that such new states hardly have the strength to fight
alone with the forces of globalization and the transnationalism
they entail. By contrast, the less optimistic, yet more sober discourse
of postcolonial critics hopes to expose the hidden institutional
and ideological mechanisms by which colonization remains
operative even after the initial moment of national liberation
and of securing state independence. Such mechanisms are constitutive
of both the international context of neocolonialism and the
domestic structures of oppression and exploitation, either by
assimilating colonial values and mentalities or by reviving
precolonial discriminatory practices and social frameworks.

See also colonialism, postcolonialism, imperialism

Further Reading: Kelertas 2006, Loomba 1998,

Osterhammel 1997






Communism should be discussed as a particular
ideology – ideological communism – and as a certain way of
organizing society – “real” communism (Polokhalo 38). Ideological
communism was shaped and greatly influenced by Marxism

(from which Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism and Maoism also

derived) but it has also known non-Marxist variants. It is an
ideology with social, political and economic aspects whose goal
is to establish a society based upon common or collective
ownership of the means of production, a society that will be
classless and will no longer use money, but direct distribution of
goods and where there will be no need for a state.
In his “The Principles of Communism” (1847), Engels
defined communism as “the doctrine of the conditions of the
liberation of the proletariat” (Engels 1969: 81), leading to the
ideal society that he described with Marx in their Communist
Manifesto (1848). In Marx’s view communism does away with
private property over the means of production as well as with all
the ills that this primary capitalist evil originates: inequality and
class conflict, crime, religion and state repression. Under the
communal system of ownership, men and women will no longer
feel isolated and alienated from their fellow citizens or from
anonymous sources of power and the social relations will be
based on harmony, voluntary work and solidarity. Yet this
liberated collective life and work will not deprive the human
being of its individuality but will ensure a social climate
favorable to the individual’s plenary fulfillment of its potential
creativity. Human beings will stop being reified, that is treated
as mere objects as in capitalism.
Marx only vaguely described that humanity would go
through two gradual stages on its path to communism. It was
Lenin who came up with two distinct names for them: the first
stage was that of socialism, the stage characterized by collective,
that is state ownership over all means of production, and the
principle for distribution of the wealth resulting from production
would be “From each according to his ability, to each according
to his contribution”, or the quality and quantity of work that

people perform, a principle which would do away with the

capitalist exploitation of man by man. In the higher stage of
communism, the motto would be “From each according to his
ability, to each according to his needs”.
One aspect that needs to be further mentioned as specific to
communism is its rejection of religion, as Marx was a convinced
atheist and viewed religion as “an opium of the people”.
Marx’s global project of communism (synthetically
expressed by his internationalist motto “Proletarians of the
world, unite!”) took various forms of application depending on
the local contexts: Russia, Central and Eastern Europe (mostly
through Soviet military occupation), China, Northern Korea and
Vietnam, Cuba, Africa.
After the fall of communism in 1989-1991 some communist
activists argued that Marxist philosophy was viable and it was
only its application that was wrong. But all those who went
through that experience know that the dictatorship of the
proletariat prescribed by Marx, Engels and Lenin can only mean
terror, total suppression of civic rights and of any individuality
and can only be maintained by ruthless repression. Likewise
many scholars argue that state-sponsored terror represented the
very essence of communist governance, not just in Stalin’s Russia,
but in modified form throughout the world wherever and whenever
communist parties established themselves in power. This interpretation
is most remarkably expounded in the Black Book of Communism,
and its lead editor Stephane Courtois states that around one
million East Europeans and approximately 100 million people
worldwide were killed in the name of Marxism-Leninism during
the “short twentieth century” (Courtois 4), a theme surprisingly
less explored in contemporary European history, particularly
English language historiography (McDermott and Stibbe 1). The
two editors of the book entitled Stalinist Terror in Eastern Europe.

Elite Purges and Mass Repression collect an impressive volume

of evidence and information of communist repression of
individuals amounting to genocide practices. As the articles
demonstrate, the sheer scale of wartime and post-war Stalinist
terror in the eastern half of the continent left few completely
untouched societies for decades after, societies made up of
suffering victims, remorseful or proud perpetrators, and ordinary
passive people, the last burdened by the tacit conformity and
silence in the face of flagrant illegalities and immoralities, where
many people, communists and non-communists, had to live with
the uncomfortable knowledge that they had once been
denounced by friends or political colleagues. The overthrow of
communism in 1989 and 1991 was in part a reflection of a
growing societal revolution against state coercion and the failure
of the authorities to honestly and fully reassess their past
depredations (McDermott and Stibbe 2).
The book illustrates Stalinist terror that accompanied
Stalin’s increasing personality cult. The terror was engendered
by the murderous elite purges and mass repressions that
engulfed Soviet officialdom and society mostly in the late 1930s,
but also after, to the death of the communist dictator in 1953.
The aspects of the repression that follow are enumerated in the
book (McDermott and Stibbe 4-5). The repression entailed the
hegemony of Soviet Marxism-Leninism adopted by the Communist
International (Comintern) in the mid-to-late 1920s, which
established an unswerving commitment to Moscow in terms of
party strategy, selection of cadres and financial backing. It also
meant a drastic curtailment of inner-party democracy and
debate, an ideological ossification and organizational rigidity. It
describes and comments upon the millions of arrests, the
hundreds of thousands of executions and non-judicial murders
and the mass denunciations of “enemies of the people”, all

perpetrated in the name of what the communist jargon termed

“class justice and elimination of the enemies”. Many of the
methods and mechanisms perfected in Stalinist Russia in the
1930s – sham show trials, pervasive secret police services, forced
labor camps, deportations of peoples, and state propaganda
campaigns – were transposed to the infant communist regimes in
Eastern Europe during and after World War II, culminating in
the mass persecutions of the late 1940 and early 1950s
(McDermott and Stibbe 3).
The Stalinist project demanded that comrades work on
themselves “to internalize the values of total party loyalty,
collectivity” and Bolshevik self-sacrifice, and to eliminate deviant
“bourgeois individualistic” thoughts and actions. This hermeneutics
of the soul “inculcated a mental landscape of criticism, self-criticism
and conspiracy in which “enemies”, both within and without,
were deemed “ubiquitous”, strategies appropriated and imported
by East European communists particularly through those activists
that studied or worked in the Soviet Union in the late 1940s and
early 1950s. Intent on “reforging the world”, Communists
demanded both a physical destruction of “the enemies of the
people”, as well as the spiritual transformation of the self,
according to the ideal of “the new man”, through a continuous
practice of fraternal criticism and self-criticism.
Some of the contributors to the volume Stalinist Terror in
Eastern Europe. Elite Purges and Mass Repression emphasize
that in all these countries exogenous determinants (the Soviet
occupation and Stalin’s international and ideological goals) were
executed on the ground by Soviet secret police advisers dispatched
from Moscow to oversee events in Eastern Europe but others
posit what amounts to an inherent “totalitarian” urge among
communist leaders here and everywhere to remove all real and
perceived opponents in a manic drive for monopolistic power.

Or, as Aldis Purs describes the process, it was an interaction

“Soviet in form, local in content” (McDermott and Stibbe 19).
The Stalin-Tito split in 1948, opening up fractures in the
Soviet “bloc”, strengthened the imperative for near monolithic
homogeneity escalating the assault on omnipresent manifestations of
anticommunism: “class enemies”, spies, saboteurs, well-off farmers,
priests, private entrepreneurs, anticommunist activists, social-democrats,
“ancien regime” military, as well as traitors within and outside the
communist parties, police, judicial and state officials included. In
some cases it meant an attack on suspect ethnic “minorities”:
Balts, Moldavians, and, by the early 1950s, in line with Stalin’s
anti-Semitic tendencies, Jews. For the Stalinists were motivated
by an idée fixe: prophylactic strikes against various anti-social
elements would “purify” society and lay the class foundations
for the over-riding task of “constructing socialism” as they
understood it. In this sense, a deformed Marxist ideological
utopianism undoubtedly underlay mass repression and it is clear
that many communist leaders (as at other levels the fervor was
less authentic) regarded political violence as the sharp spear of
class war, and as an indispensable weapon in the struggle for
“the bright future” according to Marx’s vision. Therefore, the
creation and consolidation of communist regimes in Europe after
World War II can never be understood solely in terms of an
imposition of the “Big Brother” type to the East. In Hungary, the
party leader Matyas Rakosi, avid to eliminate perceived rivals
by state terror, was so zealous in his assault on certain “enemies”
that Stalin tempered him. In Romania, it was party leader
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, not the Kremlin, who ordered the trial
and execution of Dej’s adversary Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu in 1954.
With the exception of Yugoslavia and Albania, communism
was Soviet-imposed in Europe after World War II and the Yalta
Treaty and it lasted because of the political resolve and the

military power of the USSR (asserted at moments of rebellion in

the satellite countries: East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956,
Czechoslovakia in 1968) as well as the influence of the party-state
model developed in the Soviet Union (Brown 574).
The communist state of this model relied on the
“democratic centralism” and strictly imposed discipline of the
ruling communist party, and its total control of all institutions
and individuals by means of secret police surveillance (and
repression), the absolute thorough-going system of censorship
(that ensured that no home-made or foreign hostile comments or
criticism could be published) and a well-devised array of
rewards and punishments. In economic terms, there was a steady
economic decline after Stalin’s death when his system of forced
labor stopped being used, which resulted in permanent severe
shortages of food and other goods. The achievements the
communist regimes could boast were full employment and free
universal education and health care in exchange for the total
suppression of freedom of movement and of information. These
achievements combined with the lack of democratic accountability
masked the relative economic failure (compounded by the huge
expenses of the arms race during the Cold War) and helped
survival. The final collapse or implosion of the USSR was not
however caused by economic factors but by the radical political
changes introduced after 1985, when Mikhail Gorbatchev became
first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. With
his team of radical reformers Gorbatchev initiated glasnost and
perestroika in 1987-88. He abandoned Lenin’s “democratic centralism”
for what in 1987 he called “socialist pluralism”, then saw the need
for political pluralism, for checks and balances and the rule of
law, for a freer press, thus coming very near the position of Western
European social democrats. He also broke with Lenin by a recognition
that means in politics are no less important than ends, that no

illusion of the communist utopia can be a justification for

violent repression, as Archie Brown points out (596).
In Western Europe, the Left’s admiration for Stalin and
communism definitely ended when the historian Robert Conquest
revealed the mass murders of Stalin’s purges in his book The
Great Terror (1968, revised edition in 1990, after the author was
able to examine the newly opened Soviet archives) and when
Alexander Solzhenitsyn exposed the Soviet forced labor and
concentration camp system in his terrifying three-volume
“attempt at literary investigation” (as the subtitle defines it) The
Gulag Archipelago (1973), a book based on the author’s own
experiences as a prisoner, collected eyewitness testimonies and
primary research material. The book circulated as an underground
publication in the Soviet Union until its official publication in 1989.
As soon as it relaxed its principles, communism collapsed
in Central and Eastern Europe (peacefully or with a bloody
revolution as in Romania), and then finally nationalism
(always a potential threat to the internationalist Marxist-Leninist
communist rule) led to the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet
Union in 1991 and to the bloody crumbling of Yugoslavia,
another multinational communist state. National communism
was an attitude espoused by Ceauşescu in his policy of limited
independence from the Soviet Union. Nationalist causes also
led to conflicts in postcommunist states. National pride and
hatred of foreign humiliation and economic domination was a
strong motivation of Mao Tse Dong’s communist army in the
civil war that culminated with the proclamation of The People’s
Republic of China. A similar sentiment coupled with an anti-
imperialist anti-American attitude was essential in the foundation
of Cuba and Vietnam, and nationalism was a strong cause
making for the unity of most African anti-colonial movements.

After communism toppled or imploded in the former Soviet

Union and was overthrown in the former “Communist bloc”
countries, there are still three communist states in the world:
Cuba, Northern Korea and Laos (officially the Lao People’s
Democratic Republic, a single-party socialist republic), although
even Cuba and Laos have made a modest movement away from
the classical command economy, which, in Stalinist form, is
now to be found only in North Korea (Brown 607), the only
state where a communist dynasty has been established. China
and Vietnam are nominally communist, but they are no longer so
in their economies, both China and Vietnam having introduced
market principles in their economies in the 1980s. Even though
they call themselves socialist states, they practice a party-state
capitalism supported by a communist ideology and central party
control. In China this policy has led to an economic boom, and
the People’s Republic of China has been ranking since 2010 as
the world’s second largest economy after the United States.
The concept of socialism was not first introduced by Lenin
as a stage to communism. The terms “socialism” and “socialist”
began to appear in Britain and France from the 1820s and are
associated with the names of Robert Owen and Henri de Saint-
Simon. Owen advocated a form of state-technocratic socialism,
an arrangement where industrialists would lead society and
found a national community based upon cooperation and
technological progress. Owen viewed the consequences of the
industrial revolution negatively, although it had offered him, the
son of a humble tradesman, the conditions to make a fortune as a
manufacturer. He had an elitist view seeing reforms as planning
from above, and he regarded men and women as objects of
benevolence rather than as creative subjects. He tried to put in
practice his philanthropic and socialist ideas in the communities
of New Lanark (Britain) and New Harmony (the United States)

and he also organized the first trade union movement. Victorian

times also saw the emergence of Christian socialists such as
Charles Kingsley and Frederick Maurice (according to whom
the competition engendered by capitalism was against Christian
principles) and of the Fabian Society (1884), whose brand of
socialism was committed to gradualism: the gradual replacement
of capitalist institutions by socialist ones, avoiding radical
revolutionary events.
The revolutionary theory of Marx was contested within the
Second International by Eduard Bernstein, whose thought laid
the foundations of a type of socialism known as social democracy,
the doctrine of the workers’ democratic parties that appeared all
over Europe and Russia at the end of the nineteenth and the
beginning of the twentieth centuries. In Britain it was called the
Labor Party, which abandoned the Marxist-Leninist theory of
violence and revolution as tools of social change. After World
War II, social-democratic parties came to power in several states
of Western Europe such as West Germany, Sweden, and Great
Britain creating the welfare state. These changes generally
reflected a moderation of the nineteenth century socialist
doctrine of total nationalization of business and industry,
although certain industries were nationalized. Social democracy
also took a stand against totalitarianism, proclaiming democracy
one of its chief values, contrary to Marx who viewed democracy
as a “bourgeois” façade for class rule. It also adopted the goal of
state regulation, but not total state ownership, of business and
industry as sufficient to further economic growth, and adopted
policies of redistribution of wealth to ensure a more equitable
income, health, education and national pensions systems, and a
social net for the unemployed. The Swedish Social Democratic
Party set up a remarkable welfare system, with a publicly funded

health system. The country became a model of the mixture of a

free market economy with elements of non-Marxist-Leninist
socialism, achieved by gradual taxation. This system led to
economic growth and to the achievement of a large measure of
equality by a fairer redistribution of wealth.
More recently the theory of democratic socialism has
appeared (Bernard Crick, Anthony Crossland, Ramsay MacDonald,
Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Tony Benn), trying to find a third
way between communism and social democracy, criticizing
social democracy’s analysis of capitalism as naive, but also
distancing itself from the authoritarianism/totalitarianism of
Marxist-Leninist communism.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rejection of
communism in its former satellite states, communism was deemed
to be an exhausted ideology totally lacking any significant
electoral appeal. But some still proclaim that, if the repudiation
of communism in Russia represents a revolt against utopia, it
does not necessarily mean the death of aspirations to a more just
order and that, if the Bolshevik version of communism in Russia
had limited potential for positive transcendence, the agenda of the
Russian revolution is in no way over (Sakwa 2010: 145-146),
while others use a milder tone to declare that they have not lost
faith in the possible revival of communism, perhaps under a
different form (Eccleshall et al. 91-93).
Related to the term Communism is that of Communalism,
which is used to refer to political systems that are based on
collective ownership and/or other forms of co-operative socialism.
It is also sometimes used as a synonym for “communism”. In
contemporary postcolonial contexts, it is more often used pejoratively
to refer to exclusivist movements that stress a particular
community’s interests at the expense of other groups or of those

of society at large. It is particularly employed in this way in

South Asia to refer to the beliefs and practices of fundamentalist
sects that foster communal violence against other religious and
ethnic groups (Thieme 2003: 57).

See also capital, capitalism, class, Marxism, religion,

repression, resistance

Further Reading: Bessinger and Crawford 2002, Conquest

1990, Eccleshall et al. 2003, Martin 2011, McDermott and Stibbe
2010, Mises 1981, Pop 2002, Priestland 2010, Sakwa 2010,
Solzhenitsyn 1998, Tismăneanu 2009,Young 2012



The general acceptation of the word is to subject to public
ownership or control, but in communist theory and the history
of the twentieth century it has a particular meaning: to convert to
communist principles or control. The theoretical meaning of
communization refers to the process of abolishing ownership of
the means of production which in the capitalist mode of production
are privately owned by individual capitalists or corporations.
Though not used by Marx and Engels themselves, the term
was already in use at the end of the nineteenth century by such a
Marxist follower as William Morris (“The Policy of Abstention”,
1887). Communization in this sense is equivalent to the establishment
of the “higher phase” of communist society described by Marx
in Critique of the Gotha Program, in which the distribution of

goods produced would take place according to the principle

“from each according to his ability, to each according to his
needs”. It was Lenin who referred to the lower phase of the new
society as socialism, to be organized around the principle “To
each according to his contribution”, in his work State and
Revolution (1917), where he described the role of the State in
society and the necessity of the proletarian revolution in order to
establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Therefore, the practical meaning of communization in
Lenin’s establishment of the first communist state, the Soviet
Union (1922), and then that of the subsequent Eastern European
satellite countries after World War II, was the nationalization of
industry and banks, the collectivization of agriculture, the mono-
party political leadership of the Communist Party (based on the
so called “democratic centralism”), a planned economy and
close secret police surveillance in order to “preserve the
revolution”, which generally resulted in the incarceration of all
political enemies as “enemies of the people,” and the
extermination of millions of people.
More recently in the 1970s the term communization has
been associated with what is styled as the French “ultraleft”,
where it was used to describe not a transition to a higher phase
of communism but its vision of the communist revolution as an
even more radical process than Marx or Lenin had conceived it.
Thus Gilles Dauvé holds that the insurrection and the
transformation of social reality itself should be simultaneous
processes. Particularly after communism was overthrown and
rejected in the Soviet Union and its former satellite states, this
theory was opposed to the Leninist model, as it attributed the
failure of the system to its lack of total suppression of capitalist
relations, such as monetary relations (money, capital, wages).
The term communization thus came to represent in the

contemporary communist theory of anarchist descent the absence

of a period of transition and a conception of revolution as the
instant and direct application of communist measures throughout
economy and society simultaneously with the insurrection.
When the Eastern European communist regimes were
overthrown in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a
process of decommunization started in all these countries, but to
different degrees. Contrary to the process of decolonization in the
economic field, it meant a total and unprecedented transformation,
a change of system of production entailing the privatization of
state-owned production units, banks and commercial enterprises
and the commitment to a market economy, the decollectivization
of agriculture (a return to the private property of land) and, in
the political domain, a (re)turn to real democracy (freedom of
expression, of assembly, of movement, free access to the flow of
information) and the rule of law, as well as parliamentary control
over information services. By encouraging private initiative and
privatizing former state-owned enterprises, postcommunist
societies needed to (re)create a strong middle class, which was
also necessary in most postcolonial states, but not everywhere
the local traditional structure of society allowed it.
In the ideological, spiritual and moral fields, decommunization
implied a confrontation with the past, as forgetting extermination
equates complicity to extermination (Baudrillard qtd. in J. E. Young 1),
and no postcommunist society can become really liberal if the
old myths of self-victimization and self-idealization still hold the
exclusive monopoly of public discourse (Tismăneanu 1998: 116).
In postcommunist societies, as in postcolonial ones, there is a need
for the recognition of all the suffering caused by the previous
regimes, or the reparation of the honor and dignity of the victims
formerly silenced by various means of repression. In addition to
material restitution there is a need for justice, for moral compensation.

Paul Kubicek and Sandra Marker underscore the parallelism

between Western colonial and Soviet Red Empire practices,
showing that both the new multiethnic colonial territories and
the Soviet states were maintained, upheld, and controlled
through the use of violence and through the implementation of
imperialist policies. Marker also underlines that today many
postcolonial and post-Soviet governments have adopted unjust
colonial practices and policies as a means to preserve their
dominant status. Postcolonial governments deny rights with
regard to traditional lands, resources, culture and language to
many populations, since groups that were marginalized under
colonial occupation continue to be marginalized, as is the case
of indigenous populations in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, the
Ashaninka of Peru, and the indigenous peoples of West Papua.
Human rights violations, including horrific events of mass murder
and genocide, can be found in postcolonial and post-Soviet
states such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Kosovo, El Salvador, and
South Africa (Marker 2003).
In numerous postcolonial African societies (such as South
Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ciad, Nigeria, Sierra Leone), or
post-dictatorial countries in Central and South America (Haiti,
El Salvador, Guatemala, Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador) and Asia
(Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Korea) truth and reconciliation
commissions were set up to discover and reveal wrongdoing by
former governments in the hope of resolving conflicts left over
from past violations of human rights (Stan 2010: 26). This form of
recognition of the immediate past, that is of decommunization, has
taken various forms in the former communist bloc countries,
focusing on the communist parties and their tools of repression,
on the secret police that had the mission to exterminate
opponents, to control or discourage any dissident, to censure all
newspapers, publications and artistic life, and to protect the

party leaders (for exact numbers of secret police officers and

informers see Stan 27), and on the judiciary compelled to
collaborate with the secret police (Stan 29).
The degree to which postcomunist states made efforts to
initiate a trial of communism varied. In fact, a trial of
communism on the model of the trial of Nurnberg would have
been necessary but was not staged anywhere. Only some of the
old communist key leaders were tried and in most countries
lustration laws were passed. Both the Czech Republic and
Slovakia passed a lustration law in 1991, but Slovakia never
applied it. In the Czech Republic former communist leaders and
Secret Police officers were removed and barred from the
political arena, prominent academic positions and the management
of state companies. Latvia and Estonia marginalized the former
Soviet party leaders and KGB agents by refusing to grant them
citizenship when they declared their independence in 1990, and
thus barred them from the important right of electing and being
elected in public offices. In Poland the lustration law of 1997 was
based on an acceptance of own responsibility statement declaring non-
collaboration and, if that was proved to be false by the Court of
Lustration, it led to loss of position. In Hungary a lustration law
was passed in 1994 but it was less drastic, as its threat was
public exposure but entailed no loss of position. In Romania
things worked similarly, although no lustration law was passed,
as too many of the former communists or their offspring were
still in power positions. As for the Soviet Union, it was behind
all the European countries in this respect.
Another aspect of decommunization was facing and taking
responsibility for the past by giving people access to their secret
police files, again revealing differing attitudes in the respective
countries: an act granting citizens this right was passed in
Germany as early as 1991, in Albania only a small number of

files were opened to the public in 2006, in Romania most of

these files were only declassified in 2005, after there had been
ample time for the most compromising ones to be destroyed.
As for the trials of former communist leaders and
executives responsible for the repression of all resistance or
dissidence, for atrocious crimes against humanity, very few of
them were tried and even fewer convicted, or, if convicted,
actually served the respective time in prison. The communists
turned “democrats” overnight saw to it that there was no “witch
hunting”. A “politics of memory” would however be absolutely
fair and necessary in both repressive postcolonial and
postcommunist states in order to deal at least some symbolic
justice and to prevent the repetition of similar abuses and
violations in the future.

See also communism, Marxism, memory

Further Reading: Berdhal 2000, Gallagher 2005, Geyer

and Fitzpatrick 2009, Hirschhausen 2006, Joppke 1996, Nalepa
2010, Noys 2011, Stan 2010, Rotowski 1998, Tismăneanu 1998,
Weigel 2003, Yusuf 2006








A term as crucial and as wide-ranging in Eurocentric
discourse as it is ambiguous, the meaning of culture is undermined
by the plethora of diverging definitions – there were already
some 164 of them by 1952 when A. L. Kroeber and C. Kluckhohn
published their Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and
Definitions, and three times as many by the time Baldwin et al.
surveyed the field in 2006. Therefore, critics currently seem
inclined to distinguish between culture and other areas of human
practice by deciding what culture is not, given that it is so
difficult to agree on its core meaning and the limits of its extension.
First, culture is supposed to differ from nature and our
biological conditioning. Anthropological studies of culture tend,
therefore, to ignore human behavior that is relevant to our biological
being, which is rather a study object for the natural sciences,
medicine or psychology, and confine themselves instead to interrelated
activities, objects, phenomena or structures that are abstracted
from the biological (cf. Kroeber & Kluckhohn, L. A. White etc.).
Hence, there are two implicit features of culture. The first is the
“abstract”, that is, non-biological character of culture, except
that the very distinction between culture and nature is itself a
cultural product, so that one is uncertain as to how one could
objectively ascertain the natural. After all, definitions of nature
in the sciences, religion or philosophy are cultural variables that
fluctuate historically and geographically. It would be similarly
difficult to conceive of this dichotomy by contrasting culture as
human artifacts with nature as things of divine or natural origin.
Indeed, as numerous examples indicate, from fire and agriculture
to genetic engineering and nuclear technology, the human being
has constantly manipulated, altered and even generated natural
phenomena in a constant endeavor to change nature and to
change itself from the dawn of humanity. Lévi-Strauss found the
culture-nature binome to be a theoretical bricolage, suggesting

that the distinction is both necessary and inadequate. The second

feature of culture involved by anthropological definitions would be
its structural coherence, that is, the interdependence between the
elements that organize the field of culture (cf. E. B. Tylor. F. Boas, etc.).
This licenses the positing of a collective identity of the human
species (as opposed to mere animals) or of particular local communities.
The semiotic-structuralist approach yielded an interpretive model
where cultural acts and products are organized systemically and
acquire relevance through their very interconnectedness. Thus,
culture was taken to be a kind of language or a product of semiosis
by anthropologists like Lévi-Strauss or Clifford Geertz, the latter
proposing that it could be defined as a “web of significance”.
Similarly, many scholars understand culture as a medium
generated by the human ability to symbolize. In his Philosophy
of Symbolic Forms, Ernst Cassirer (1923) defines human being
as a “symbolic animal” manifesting itself through symbolic
forms like language, art, science, and religion. The thesis has had
a particularly successful and long career in American anthropology,
since three quarters of a century later Terrence Deacon (1997)
was still speaking of humanity as a “symbolic species”.
Semiotic models invite a second distinction, that between
culture and society. Rather than being mutually exclusive, social
behavior includes cultural behavior as a more recent development
in human evolution. The first humanoids share with animals a
social life, but the first humans proper are taken to be the creators
of culture who introduced symbolic practices (cf. L. A. White).
However, notions like “signification” and “symbolization” overlap
with activities like signaling, communicating or comprehending.
These latter forms of human (inter)action involve both psychological
mechanisms of (re)cognition and social mechanisms of ensuring
security and comfort in/through cohabitation which are shared by
animals, which is a threat to the theses of culture’s autonomy from the
biological and of culture being an exclusively human phenomenon.
Another conceptual delimitation is sometimes operated
between culture as the realm of meditation and expression

nurtured by a humanist education (one that includes grammar,

rhetoric, the arts, philosophy and history) and the natural or
social sciences as disciplines of objective knowledge. One
would be tempted to trace the genealogy of this distinction to the
ancient Greek philosophers of a more spiritual bent and to
patristic and medieval Christian theology, although these thinkers
did include certain exact sciences in their paidetic models. It was
actually later, in nineteenth century (post)Romantic writings,
that the separation became popular. This explains the claims
from W. Dilthey (1883) and B. Croce (1893) that “sciences of
the spirit” (especially history) have their own object, method
and specialized cognitive faculty, Verstehen, a special kind of
understanding. After World War II, C. P. Snow polemized with
F. R. Leavis and lamented the rift generated by such polar representations
between the artistic-humanistic and the technical-scientific cultures
(cf. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, 1959). Heidegger
proceeded in the wake of the dropping of the first atomic bomb
to claim that technology is a profitable danger for art, whose
paradoxical logic of existence makes it both related to technology
and fundamentally different from it (cf. Die Frage nach der Technik,
“The Question Concerning Technology”, 1955).
Culture is occasionally contrasted with civilization in one
of two ways. The Anglo-American anthropological model favors
an encompassing definition of culture sometimes so broad that it
overlaps with civilization, as in the proposition of E. B. Tyler,
founder of British social anthropology:

Culture, or civilization, taken in its wide, ethnographic sense, is

that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals,
law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as
a member of society. (1)

However, English ascribes to “civilization” the meaning of

a superior stage in the material, intellectual and institutional
evolution of a culture. That is why it is possible to speak of

Mayan or Aztec civilizations, but tribes like Shavante or Bororo

can only be called “cultures”.
In contradistinction, the German model, usually pinned on
O. Spengler, which retained its appeal in Eastern European
intellectual circles throughout the twentieth century, distinguished
between (spiritual) culture and (material) civilization, valuing
the former over the latter for its ideal, perennial, autonomous and
disinterested nature. The elitism of “men of culture” in Eastern
Europe consisted in a double superiority complex over other
domains like science, technology or politics (where most of the
humanist intellectuals proudly profess being quasi-illiterate) and
over cultural products which stray from the high standards of the
“spirit”, being therefore doomed to inferiority.
Romanian intellectuals of various inclinations, such as
T. Maiorescu, M. Călinescu, E. Lovinescu, or C. Noica, embraced
the thesis of culture’s detachment from any worldly interest and
of the “autonomy of the aesthetic and the spiritual”. The broad
popularity of this mentality made it possible to speak of
“resistance through culture” as the antidote of communist
oppression. Many postcommunist critics see this as a mere
justification of cowardly passivity and quiet complicity. Even after
the fall of communism in 1989, the intellectuals that engaged in
political strife looked suspicious to many of their peers who
preferred to contemplate politics with superior scorn from a
distance. Obviously, for them culture had to remain free from
political and ideological constraints. It remained obscure to them
that “resistance” is itself a political gesture and that the so-called
“pure” enterprises such as art, religion, history and philosophy
have always been, even though only implicitly at times, supportive
of, or subversive to, instituted forms of power.
The Kantian haughtiness of artistic and humanistic elites in
the various stages of (post)romanticism and modernism that
believed in the disinterested and autonomous nature of art and of
the spiritual realm is doubled by the disdain for so-called “B
series” cultural products, for consumer or popular art, for

fashion and for other such “sub-cultural” goods. M. Arnold’s

attempt to promote the “honorary” meaning of culture in art theory
and in institutional practice is akin to East European attitudes in
which “high culture” played various roles such as legitimating the elite
stature of intellectuals in the arts and the humanities, ensuring
nationalist allegiance to a canon, or expressing an indirect
anticommunist protest.
High versus popular culture is but one of the possible
intracultural distinctions. Unlike the apparently less contentious
descriptive divisions (geographic, historical or disciplinary), the
high versus low opposition explicitly incorporates an evaluation.
Similarly, treating exclusively some cultures as “great” or “major”
condemns others to a subordinate status. Being called, or, worse,
being conditioned to call oneself a “small”, “minor” or “marginal”
culture is a cause for anguish. A. Kiossev finds this trauma to be
constitutive of cultures that practice self-colonization, like the
Bulgarian one, which he takes to be an exemplary case for East
European nations.
Yet, whether they are descriptive or evaluative, all
distinctions regarding culture are potentially explosive and will
eventually call into question the criteria and the objectivity of
our judgment. Like the vast majority of critical terms in the
humanities, culture ought to be seen as an open concept. It is
fuzzy by nature, in-, hypo- or hyper-determinate and always a
captive of historical or geographic fluctuations that are never
settled. Culture as a whole, as well as its subdivisions, will
always be subjected to rephrasing and relocations depending on
the shifting balance of power between one ideology and another.

See also essentialism, postcolonialism, postcommunism

Further Reading: Baldwin 2006, Brădăţan and Oushakine

2010, Kuper 1999




One of the most controversial terms both in the discourse
of social sciences and popular usage, democracy has been
variously conceptualized since the times of Athenian democracy.
For some scholars, this may explain the lasting fascination with
“etymological democracy” (Hansen 1991), whereby democracy
is referred to as the power of the demos, or the people. For most
scholars however, the current definition of democracy requires
expanding, if not revising, in light of the impact of factors such
as class, race, ethnicity, and level of income upon people's free
access to power in First, Second, Third and Fourth World
countries. Thus, O'Donnell (2001) maintains that three main
categories of definitions have been suggested: minimalist, realist
and maximalist. Minimalist definitions, such as the one provided
by Di Palma, bring up the central dimension of a democratic
regime as being “premised… on free and fair suffrage in a
context of civil liberties, on competitive parties, on the selection
of alternative candidates for office, and on the presence of
political institutions that regulate and guarantee the roles of
government and opposition” (16). The model of a realist
definition provided by O'Donnell proposes that “democracy
should be analyzed not only at the level of the political regime,
but also in relation to the state and to certain aspects of the
overall social context” (7). The highly inclusive dimension of
the democratic process, involving a plural party system, is

underlined by most thinkers, from modernization theorists

Diamond, Linz and Lipset to Daniel Nelson, Stjepan Mĕstrović,
Mitchell Orenstein, Karen Dawisha and Bruce Parrott, who
further insist that free expression, the right to independent
sources of information and the right to organize in associations
must accompany the requirement of having an inclusive
electorate. Ishiyama states that maximalist definitions of
democracy go beyond the requirement of freely organized
elections with a free electorate, and elaborate on the issues of
political, social and economic rights that must be part of the
same framework (436).
Charles Tilly argues that it is precisely the lack of
consensus and the vagueness of the concept of democracy itself
which may jeopardize its validity. Thus, Kristen Parris explains
that Tilly's understanding of democracy underlines that
“political relations between the state and its citizens feature
broad, equal, protected and mutually binding consultation” (qtd.
in Parris 14). Given the controversial aspects of both democracy
and the process of consolidating democracy, Grugel differentiates
between “substantive” and “formal” democracy, while others refer
to “consolidated” and “electoral” democracy (Grugel, Schedler,
Rose and Sorenson qtd. in Ishiyama 346).
However, realist definitions of democracy will take into
account the special circumstances of the process of democratization
or democratic consolidation in countries that have gone or are
undergoing a transition from authoritarianism to democracy,
here including formerly colonized countries and countries that
have been subject to left-wing or right-wing dictatorships. Thus,
a flurry of studies have been dedicated to the conditions for a
democratic regime in the countries of Latin America as well as
the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, while more
studies are being generated regarding the conditions of

possibility for and the transition to democracy in the Middle

East. Mitchell Orenstein remarks that democracy as a key popular
demand during the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe (1) played
a pivotal role in the reshaping of Europe, with the revolutions
following a pattern of “democracy first, reform later” (Haggard
and Kaufman qtd. in Orenstein 1). According to what has been
identified as the usual path towards democratization in Western
countries, democracy came after the development of a stable
capitalist economic regime and the emergence of a stable middle
class (Lipset qtd. in Orenstein 2). Orenstein thus wonders if the
new democracies of Eastern and Central Europe will be able to
reign in the unleashing of the forces of free market capitalism:
“these countries were attempting something that few had ever
tried: to build capitalism under the conditions of political
democracy” (2), with democracy and capitalism being seen as
compatible in the later, therefore not in the initial, stages of their
co-existence (2). Quoting Bela Greskovits, Orenstein discusses
the possibility of a golden medium, a “low-level equilibrium”
between an “incomplete” form of democracy and “an imperfect
market economy” in the interaction between neoliberalism and
democracy in Eastern and Central Europe. Thus, the need to
qualify democracy as being social, radical, liberal, neoliberal
and so on indicates a further need to redefine it in conjunction
with an entire range of social forces and the impact of a variety
of economic practices.
Discussing the avatars of democracy in the former
communist countries, Bruce Parrott underlines the distinction
between the transition from communism and the transition to
democracy (5), where “a spectrum of possible postcommunist
outcomes exist. This spectrum includes variants of democracy,
variants of authoritanianism, and some hybrids in between” (5).
Thus, along with other theorists, he maintains that the transition

to democracy has been more successful in countries that have

had a prior experience of a democratic regime (11). Similarly
pondering on the legacies of communism, Ken Jowitt (qtd. in
Kopstein 232) holds the opinion that, with the exception of
Poland, the lack of any real involvement in political and civil
life during the Leninist regime and its aftermath meant that
Central and East European countries did not have the political,
social, economic and cultural background needed for a swift
transition to a democratic life. Similarly, Grzegorz Ekiert, Jan
Kubik and Milada Anna Vachudova also maintain that
“countries that had less oppressive regimes, more liberalized
cultures, and strong dissident movements are more successful in
instituting democratic systems and market economies, while
countries that endured the most repressive communist party rule
face the greatest stumbling blocks” (14).

See also modernization, transition, Worlds

Further reading: Benhabib 1996, Diamond, Linz and

Lipset 1990


Within the framework of modernization theory, dependency
theory articulates the notion that Third World countries have
been and will continue to be maintained in a position of
economic dependence, from which they will continue to serve
the interests of Western powers, not because they are inherently
incapable of generating sustainable economic growth, but
because capitalism itself thrives on such global inequalities.

Stemming from the dissatisfaction brought about by the

uninterrupted growth of First World countries and the
economic lag in the former colonized countries, even in the
wake of economic and social reforms, dependency theory
emphasizes a model of global development in which the
advanced capitalist world relies on the underdevelopment of
Third World countries. Western powers are thus seen as willfully
continuing the exploitation of non-Western countries by
allowing them to attain a minimum of economic development,
but not enough to fuel actual competition. Dependency theorists
are suspicious of the claim that modernization and concomitant
democratization entail access to a free market for all and
maintain that the underdevelopment of some countries benefits
primarily the advanced capitalist regimes of the West. Dos
Santos describes dependency as:

an historical condition which shapes a certain structure of the world

economy such that it favors some countries to the detriment of others
and limits the development possibilities of the subordinate
economics... a situation in which the economy of a certain group of
countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another
economy, to which their own is subjected. (226)

A group of scholars, mainly from the Latin American countries

and primarily in the 1970s – André Guner Frank (1969), Theotonio
Dos Santos (1970), Fernando Cardoso (1973), Guillermo
O'Donnell (1973), and Samir Amin (1974) – openly questioned
the correlation between the ideology of liberal democracy and
the alleged inevitability of social and economic progress, once a
democratic status is attained. The attempt to de-naturalize the
evolutionist discourse of economic development, taken to
follow directly the successful implementation of the liberal
democratic ideal, serves to demystify the notion that some

countries never attain economic progress because they do not

have a fully developed liberal democratic regime. Instead, as
dependency theorists have argued, such countries have been placed
in a position of underdevelopment because they have been
historically needed, since the times of colonization, as producers
of raw materials and inexpensive labor rather than as full-fledged
competitors on the global market. They further argue that Western
capitalist powers have been interested in encouraging authoritanianism
rather than democracy in the Third World, as a way to prevent
economic development (Holmes 39).
Dependency theory became more nuanced by the late
1970s, in light of various economic advances in previously
underdeveloped parts of the world. Thus, following the oil crisis
of 1973, there was a need to differentiate between countries that
produced raw items deemed essential to the Western World, such
as oil, and countries that were limited to the production of crops
such as sugar or bananas. Moreover, during the 1970s, the so-called
Second World communist countries appeared to experience an
economic growth unrelated to the demands of the First World.
Further still, the burgeoning economies of the Asian “tigers”
(Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) were seen as
posing a serious challenge to the belief that capitalism thrived
only on structural discrepancies and inherent inequalities that
relegated some countries to unending impoverishment.

See also democracy, modernization, Worlds

Further Readings: Amin 1976, Keith1997, International

Social Science Journal 1998

Diaspora comes from the Greek word meaning dispersion,
scattering, and originally referred to the dispersal of the Jews
during their Babylonian captivity. The term has continued to
refer to Jews living outside Israel, being more recently applied
to other overseas migrant populations – such as the African or
Black diaspora, the Armenian diaspora, the South Asian
Diaspora and the Irish diaspora (Thieme 2003: 77). Generally,
diaspora refers to an ethnic group that maintains roots in the
country of origin and identifies with it rather than with the
country of adoption. An example at hand in contemporary world
literatures in English is that of NRI (Non-Resident Indian)
writers such as Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Vikram Chandra
or Amitav Ghosh, who commute between the United States and
India and continue to write primarily about India. In this they
differ from other writers (whom we identify as ethnic American
rather than diasporan) such as Bharati Mukherjee, who famously
claims her right to Americanness by virtue of choice and her
reluctance to be called a hyphenated American (1994: 29-34).
Traveling and commuting are considered descriptive of the
precarious, un-rooted nature of diasporic life, which, according
to James Clifford, has recently characterized “the contact zones
of nations, cultures and regions: terms such as ‘border’, ‘travel’,
‘creolization’, ‘transculturation’, ‘hybridity’ and ‘diasporas’ (as
well as the looser ‘diasporic’)” (Clifford 1997: 283). The condition
of the perpetual traveler or of relocation perceived only as
temporary is in Gina Wisker’s opinion intrinsic to the diasporic
condition: “The word diaspora suggests a line or space between
two places – somehow a permanent displacement, always travelling
and never fully feeling as though you have arrived” (Wisker 92).
This implies a positioning of diasporic subjects outside the new
culture and yet making their own versions of it and of their own

hybrid identities, while still retaining versions of the home

culture and an identification with the country of origin.
As such, there is always the assumption that the diasporic
subject will one day return home, which is not to be found with
the migrant or ethnic subject, who wants assimilation within the
host culture. To give the recent example of two websites meant
to reflect on the lives of Romanians abroad, “Diaspora română”
( uses the epigraph “Nicăieri nu-i ca acasă”
(“There’s no place like home”) on its front page, whereas (the site of the online and print newspaper
of Romanian-Americans living in the Chicago area) represents
an ethnic community living in the United States, that of
Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin suggest that there are two
types of diasporic movements: voluntary, as in the case of
migration, or forcible, as in the case of political exile, including
the Jewish one, or slavery (the most famous example being the
formation of the African American population in the United
States through the Middle Passage, the forcible movement of
Black population from Africa to America as slaves). However,
as regards the latter, in recent African American studies the term
diaspora has been used more to distinguish between US-born
people of color, sharing a common history of trauma as
descendants of former slaves, commonly called African
Americans, and recent African immigrants who choose to
relocate to the United States like any other migrants and for
whom the term “African diaspora” seems more appropriate.
However, the term is still used in postcolonial and
globalization studies to refer to the history of African American
slavery as, in Robin Cohen’s terms, a “victim diaspora” (1998:
39), considering the concept fully applicable to this situation as
well. For Cohen, this is one of the several categories of diaspora

leading to what he describes as a current global one, the others

being the classical Jewish diaspora, labor and imperial
diasporas (such as indentured Indian laborers under the British
empire), trade and business diaspora (Chinese and Lebanese),
deterritorialized diaspora (the black Atlantic) and, finally, global
diaspora (Cohen 2008).
There are indeed early historical references to the Black
African diaspora, beginning in the sixteenth century with the
slave trade, forcibly exporting West Africans out of their native
lands and dispersing them into the “New World” – parts of
North America, South America, the Caribbean and elsewhere
that slave labor was exploited – through the Middle Passage.
Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur also agree that this is an
example of a situation where diaspora is not voluntary (Baziel and
Mannur 2). Historical accounts of the African American experience
of slavery, such as for example Hard Road to Freedom: The Story
of African America by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton
(2001) trace the journey of African American culture from
the state of a victim diaspora through a hybrid state of
double-consciousness as theorized by W. E. B. Du Bois in the early
twentieth century to the full condition of African Americanness as
one of the many constituents of Americanness as a whole.
Braziel and Mannur maintain that “theorizing diaspora
offers critical spaces for thinking about the discordant movements
of modernity, the massive migrations that have defined this
century – from the late colonial period through the decolonization
era into the twenty-first century”. Theorizations of diaspora
need not, and should not, be divorced from historical and cultural
specificity. As to the effect of diasporic life on individual identity,
Braziel and Mannur consider that they “question the rigidities of
identity itself – religious, ethnic, gendered, national; yet this
diasporic movement marks not a postmodern turn from history, but

a nomadic turn in which the very parameters of specific historical

moments are embodied and – as diaspora itself suggests – are
scattered and regrouped into new points of becoming” (Braziel
and Mannur 3). Avtar Brah and Rosi Braidotti also insist on the
importance of the process of becoming. Brah defines diaspora
space as “the intersectionality of diaspora, border, and dis/location
as a point of confluence of economic, political, cultural and psychic
processes” and connects this highly dynamic definition to “images
of multiple journeys” (181). Braidotti goes as far as to show that
the rootlessness of the nomad is a feature that characterizes the
new millennium, when identity has become a matter of becoming
par excellence: “the point is not to know who we are, but rather
what, at last, we want to become” (2002: 2).
In postcolonial studies, the understanding of the term
becomes more complex as it is used to describe people who
have been removed or displaced due to territorial disputes, war,
forced migration or immigration (Ashcroft, Tiffin and Griffiths
1998: 150). Robin Cohen defines the term “global diaspora” as
a recent development that does justice to the multiple and fluid
nature of the experience of people forced to inhabit a space
outside their own country. Cohen identifies a wide variety of
diasporic experiences in today’s world, depending on the different
causes of migration, displacement and movement: victim
diaspora, labor diaspora (such as the Mexican diaspora in the
United States, a result of neocolonial practices that demand
cheap labor force), imperial diaspora, trade diaspora,
“homeland” diaspora and cultural diaspora (Cohen 2008).
Diasporic experience is an experience of diversification
and individualisation of migrants, hybridity, métissage and
heterogeneity, kept together by the sole fact that it maintains a
contact with the point of departure. Marked by hybridity and
heterogeneity, diaspora does not transcend the difference of

race, class, gender and sexuality, nor can it be analyzed in

isolation from these categories. The contemporary meanings of
the term are in close connection to other theoretical terms such as
postcolonialism, postcommunism, transnationalism, globalization.
Famously, Salman Rushdie, describing the experience of the
Indian writer living in Britain in the eighties, theorizes diasporic
experience as an urge of nostalgia to look back:

It may be that writers in my position, exiles or emigrants or

expatriates, are haunted by some sense of loss, some urge to reclaim,
to look back, even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt. But
if we do look back, we must also do so in the knowledge – which
gives rise to profound uncertainties – that our physical alienation from
India almost inevitably means that we will not be capable of
reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost; that we will, in short,
create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones,
imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind. (Rushdie 1991: 10)

Rushdie’s confession comes in the wake of an already

established tradition of diasporic writing, arguably started by the
highly publicized arrival of the SS Empire Windrush at Tilbury,
the South coast of England, in 1948, bringing a significant
number of Caribbean immigrants (among which some of South
Asian origin, previously relocated to the Caribbean as part of the
British Empire’s policy of indentured labor). This coincided
with the Nationality Act of 1948, which made Britain widely
accessible to people for the colonies to provide fresh labor force
in areas where this was needed. As Susheila Nasta points out,
this was perceived as the starting point of “a postwar black
British history” (Nasta 59), but also with the beginning of a
prolific wave of diasporic fiction documenting – as if in
preparation of Rushdie’s “India of the mind” – what Seamus
Heaney famously called the making of a series of “Englands of
the mind” (Nasta 62-63). This early literature of the postcolonial

migration in the UK consisted of a series of novels bearing

witness to the difficulties of an experience of dislocation that,
encountering unforeseen difficulties in the adoptive country,
was still more about the nostalgic impulse to look back than
about integration in the new homeland. Such novels, now
emblematic of what came to be called by the general term of a
Black British diasporic experience, are Sam Selvon’s The
Lonely Londoners (1956), George Lamming’s The Emigrants
(1954), Andrew Salkey’s Escape to an Autumn Pavement (1960)
and V. S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men (1967) which, as Nasta puts
it, “deal in different ways with the loneliness and disillusion of
the early immigrant experience” (Nasta 63).
Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin follow the evolution of these
difficult beginnings of “the diasporic movements generated by
colonialism” towards hybrid, distinctive versions of creolized
cultures (mostly created in the metropolises of former colonial
empires such as Britain and France) that have in the long run
contributed to the enrichment of the host culture (in the case
above, the British one): “The development of diasporic cultures
necessarily questions essentialist models, interrogating the
ideology of a unified, ‘natural’ cultural norm, one that underpins
the center/margin model of colonialist discourse” (1998: 70).
Whilst East European diasporas have existed since the
middle of the nineteenth century, most notably in the United States,
theorizations of diasporic life have taken off especially after the
fall of communism. Some important representatives of the Romanian
literary diaspora are Andrei Codrescu, Norman Manea, Petru Popescu,
Mirela Roznoveanu, Alexandra Târziu etc. Little, if anything,
has been written on the experience of Romanian exile in the USA
under communism; arguably, Domnica Rădulescu’s 2008 novel
Train to Trieste is the first novel of this kind produced by a
representative of the Romanian American diaspora.

In recent years, with the increasing influence of globalization,

a new understanding of diaspora is being circulated more and
more, as if to defy the barriers of space and time: what Homi
Bhabha calls “digital diaspora” (Bhabha in Naficy: 9). Cosana
Nicolae explores the concept in an article published in Les
Cahiers de l’Echinox in 2001, in relation to the specific case of
Romania, shown to be finding in online communication a way to
overcome social and economic distinctions and to adopt “online
citizenship” as an ideal state in which “restrictions and borders
become fragile, porous, and ultimately irrelevant” (Nicolae 236).
In a 2009 article published in a volume dedicated to the dialogue
between Eastern Europe and the United States, Maria-Sabina
Draga Alexandru focuses specifically on the case of the Romanian
American digital diaspora, showing that digital communication and
websites contribute greatly to the existence of such a dialogue
and play a key community-building role, contributing to the
increasingly visible presence of Romanians – whether at home or
diasporic – in today’s global world (Draga Alexandru 2009: 143).

See also globalization, hybridity, multiculturalism

Further reading: Cornis-Pope 2007, Horton and Horton 2001



Discourse is situated language. The abstract grammar rules
and fixed lexicons stopped being taken as sufficient explanation
for critics who wanted to understand how language really

operates and how it is a defining part of people’s lives. That is

why language scholars began to scrutinize how the various
social contexts affect language use, how real life situations
impose a separate set of rules for the use of language, and how
by using language humans position themselves in social
rapports. Not least of all, how language inscribes and
institutionalizes power relations and how it constructs subjects
in the manner suggested by Michel Foucault.
Discourse is speech in action. Recent discourse theories
have revealed that language is not merely reflective, an instrument
used simply to mirror and record the reality of inner or outer
universes. Instead, it was found that language affects, changes,
and even generates reality. This is called the performative
function of language. Students of discourse explored the various
facets of performativity such as the carrying out of an action in the
speech act of promising, baptizing, or declaring war (J. L. Austin,
J. Searle), the text’s iterative issuing forth of its own context
whereby it blurs the divide between text and context (J. Derrida),
or the acting out of one’s gender identity (J. Butler). Whether it
was done in the traditional common-sense and pragmatic vein of
Anglo-American philosophy or in the more recent manner of
postmodernism and poststructuralism, critics have celebrated
the palpable force of language and at times have connected this
force of actually materializing words and ideas with the
postcommunist or postcolonial situation (Michael Herzfeld in
Bjelić and Savić xi).
Discourse is also subject construction and an instrument of
power. It has been looked at as a key element in understanding
how identities are constructed and (de)legitimized. Edward
Said’s Orientalism (1978) and Culture and Imperialism (1993)
opened a Foucauldian path in postcolonial studies to the realization
that cultural identity is initiated, challenged, and reconstructed

only as the discourse wherein it resides. Homi Bhabha’s more

complicated analyses of the workings of identity discourse use
Derridean techniques of reading and problematizing texts to ponder
on the paradoxical relation between colonial and anti-colonial
discourses, as well as on the strained and impure identities residing
in this ambiguous, intermediary space of (counter-)discourse.
The cue was also picked up by students of nationalism.
Benedict Anderson indirectly admits in his groundbreaking
Imagined Communities (1983) to the centrality and inevitability
of discourse in national consciousness formation, hence his
insistence on printing and on discourse-based cultural institutions
like newspapers, novels, education, censuses, maps etc. in the
(re)production of national identity. Historians of Eastern
Europe and the Balkans like Larry Wolff and Maria Todorova
have also developed Said’s imagological model and showed that
the West uses a fictionalized discourse on the European other in
order to perpetuate its hegemonism and justify its colonial and
imperialist tactics in the region. In imagining this dark, marginal
Europe, the West employs specialized tropes and narrative
techniques that help essentialize this posited alterity as shown
by Bjelić and Savić’s collection Balkan as Metaphor (2002).
Capitalizing on the work of Michael Billig (1995) and Craig
Calhoun (1997), theorist Umut Özkırımlı proposes that
discourse is the principal, if not the only manner in which
nationalism exists and that it is the one unifying feature of the
dazzling varieties of nationalism (2009: 229-32).
The national reconstruction of post-imperialist states like
the former colonies of the Western empires or the former
republics and satellite nations of the Soviet Empire presupposes
the widespread and competitive use of discourse in order to
derive new understanding, new identities, new authority, and
new institutions. Hence, some postcommunist scholars have

suggested that the best approach to these phenomena would be

to graft the methodology of (Critical) Discourse Analysis onto
the theoretical scaffolding of constructivism (cf. Aleksandra
Galasińska and Michał Krzyżanowski 2009).
While undoubtedly salutary in the context of the study of
postcommunism, this tactic runs contrary to most scholarly and lay
views on the subject. Attempts to elucidate and predict post-1989
changes have relied largely on the “hard” instruments of economics,
sociology and political science and there is a tacit distrust of the
“softer” appraisals by cultural critics and discourse analysts. The
general public in postcommunist countries is equally suspicious of
and impatient with the idea that discourse and the way people speak
may actually shape their lives. That is, perhaps, understandable
when one thinks of their long experience of words failing to
match reality and of the discourse of propaganda blatantly and
systematically distorting the truth and hiding the painful reality of
communist experience. Instead of heeding to the constructivist
critique that cautions against the manipulation and suppression
instrumented by essentialist versions of identity and claims for
universality and objectivity by hegemonic capitalist and communist
oppressors, very often the postcolonial subject reacts to that
long and harsh oppression by retaliating with their own
essentialist discourse on truth and identity, thus perpetuating the
colonial mechanism of discrimination and suppression.

See also essentialism, ideology, nationalism, postcolonialism,


Further Reading: Said 1993, Galasińska and Krzyżanowski

2009, Howarth, Norval and Stavrakakis 2000


Dislocation/displacement is a concept frequently used in
postcolonial studies, as the colonial era brought the phenomenon of
migration into sharp focus, while postcolonial times witnessed
migration on an unprecedented scale. The transportation of slaves
from and across colonies, as well as “voluntary” movements of
people for indentured labor resulted in massive dislocations of
population. As people migrated from their home countries to the
colonial center of the colonized areas, they carried or translated
their traditions and lifestyles to their new homes, where they
formed communities based on a shared sense of nationality,
ethnicity or religion. More recently globalization, spurred by
the free flows of capital, together with new technologies of
communication and information, has accelerated the dispersal of
people, commodities and ideas across the globe.
As Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin argue, place and displacement
should not be construed in the Cartesian sense of separation
between the objective world and the subject of experience but
rather as a “complex interaction of language, history and environment”.
From this perspective, dislocation can be viewed not only as a
physical move to the colonies, but also as “displacement from
the imported language, […] a gap between the ‘experienced’
environment and descriptions the language provides”. This
tension between “the sense of dislocation from a historical
‘homeland’” and the sense of displacement produced by “the
dissonance between languages” is creatively explored in
postcolonial texts (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 2006:345).
In addressing the issue of colonial and postcolonial
displacement, most theorists try to avoid mythologizing
victimization by focusing on the inventive and revolutionary
tactics through which displaced people have come to terms with
their experience. A host of scholars (Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall,

Rey Chow, Diana Brydon) have applied themselves to the study

of colonial/postcolonial dislocation, and a new field of
“diaspora studies” has emerged as a result. Identity itself is no
longer understood in terms of “roots” and belonging, but of
“routes” (Paul Gilroy) and, as Stuart Hall maintains, diasporic
identities are formed through dislocation and movement across
the globe rather than by identification with a place of origin:

Diaspora refers to the scattering and dispersal of people who

will never literally be able to return to the places from which they
came: […] They are people who belong to more than one world, speak
more than one language (literally and metaphorically); inhabit more than
one identity, have more than one home; who have learned to ‘negotiate
and translate’ between cultures, and who […] have learned to live
with, and indeed to speak from difference. They speak from the in-
between of different cultures, always unsettling the assumptions of one
culture from the perspective of the other, and thus finding ways of
being both the same as and different from the others amongst which
they live. (Hall 1995: 47)

The concept of diasporic identity thus raises questions

about the fixed nature of an original national identity, underlining
the continuous process of constructing and re-constructing
identity through which migrants and exiles have to go through.
Salman Rushdie warns that the desire to look back must always be
accompanied by the acknowledgement that what is lost can only be
reclaimed in a symbolic form, through writing and the imagination:

Writers in my position, exiles or emigrants or expatriates, are

haunted by some sense of loss, some urge to reclaim, to look back,
even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt. But if we do look
back we must also do so in the knowledge[…] that our physical
alienation from India almost inevitably means that we will not be
capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost; that we will
[…] create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones,
imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind. (Rushdie 1991:10)

A crucial debate in postcolonial studies has centered on the

importance attached to the cultural meanings of diaspora, displacement,
hybridity and transnationalism versus belonging, nationalism
or indigeneity. Homi Bhabha connects the issue of cultural
displacement with that of cultural and national identity. While
the national narrative attempts to fix people as objects with a
clear-cut historical origin, the process of constructing a cultural
identity marks people as subjects performing their own narratives
in the “scraps, patches and rags of daily life” (Bhabha 1994: 209).
There is a split, Bhabha argues, between the repetitious, recursive
nature of the cultural performing of identity and the pedagogical
production of nation as narration, a split which transforms
modern society into a space for writing the nation (210). Further,
Bhabha argues for a transnational and translational definition of
culture. Transnational because contemporary postcolonial discourses
have their roots in specific histories of cultural displacement: the
historical middle passage of slaves and indentured workers, voyages
produced by “the civilizing mission”, the accommodation of
Third World inhabitants’ migration to the West after the
Second World War, the traffic of economic and political
refugees within and outside the Third World, to which we can
add the defectors from the former Second World.

Culture is translational because such spatial histories of

displacement – now accompanied by the territorial ambitions of global
media technologies – make the question of how culture signifies, or
what is signified by culture, a rather complex issue. […] The transnational
dimension of cultural transformation – migration, diaspora, displacement,
relocation – makes the process of cultural translation a complex form of
signification. The natural(ized), unifying discourse of nation, peoples, or
authentic folk tradition, those embedded myths of culture’s particularity,
cannot be readily referenced. The great, though unsettling, advantage of
this position is that it makes you increasingly aware of the construction
of culture and the invention of tradition. (Bhabha 1994: 247-8)

While dislocation/displacement in the colonial/postcolonial

environment comes across as a phenomenon generated by the
relentless capitalist will-to-profit, in the communist context
dislocation is to be understood as part of state terrorism.
Dislocation and deportation were among the chief repressive
measures undertaken by communist regimes. After the Soviet
Union invaded the Baltic States in the early 1940s under the
provisions of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, there were mass
deportations of large sections of the ruling classes and
intelligentsia. In Poland there were dislocations of population
after World War II, as Poland's borders were redrawn at the
insistence of the Soviet Union.
During the Stalin regime, large sections of the population
of the republics, even entire nations were exiled from their
homelands. For instance, the Muslim nationalities of the Caucasus
and the Crimea (Karachays, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Crimean
Tartars, Meskhetian Turks) were deported to Kazakhstan, Central
Asia, Siberia and other remote parts of the Soviet Union in
1943-44, these brutal forced dislocations to desolate areas
resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Some of the
survivors were allowed to return to their native places in the late
1950s, others only after 1989.
The policy of collectivization carried out in the Soviet
Union in the 1930s and 1940s, and in the other Eastern Bloc
satellites in the 50s and 60s, also resulted in the massive
dislocation of wealthy peasants (the policy of dekulakization).
According to Deletant, in Romania after 1949, “The land, livestock
and equipment of landowners who possessed property up to the
maximum of fifty hectares […] was expropriated without
compensation.[…] the militia moved in and evicted 17,000
families from their homes and moved them to resettlement
areas” (Deletant 2002). Ethnic minorities were a special target for
dislocation and deportation. Under Stalin’s direction, in January
1945, seventy thousands ethnic German civilians were deported

from Satu Mare, Maramureş and Sălaj counties to Soviet labor

camps, along with ethnic Germans from other communist East
European countries (Bottoni 61).
In Romania, during the communization process (roughly
between 1948-1964) thousands of people were dislocated and
relocated by the communist authorities. This repressive policy
was aimed at certain social groups deemed hostile to the regime
(the well-off peasantry, members of the Greek-Catholic denomination,
former capitalists and aristocrats, intellectuals accused of
cosmopolitanism). Then, during Ceauşescu’s “Golden Age”
(Epoca de Aur), between 1965-1989, a great number of Romanians
suffered geographical dislocation because of the so-called
modernization process which included the urbanization of rural
areas and the systematization of towns and cities.
Ion Manolescu also points out the downsides of the
policies of dislocation from own homes to enforced lodgings:

The massive dislocations of constructions taking place during

the “systematization” process resulted not only in the abolishing of the
private property, but also in the elimination of entire families’ identity.
Several million people were officially moved from their houses in
precariously built communist blocks of flats, where, on the one hand,
they became dependent on the State’s economical will (the former
owners now had to pay a rent to the State who provided their new,
poorer lodgings), while, on the other hand, they could be more easily
kept under political surveillance. (“Erasing the Identity of the Past”)

Communist ideology, as Lucian Boia has shown, has a powerful

utopian side to it: it is a utopia that asks for the complete remaking
of society and its individuals (Boia 2011: 73-82). Following the
establishment of communism by violence in Eastern Europe,
in their efforts to acquire legitimacy and support for the new
regimes, as well as to produce a new society and a new man,
communist leaders resorted to repression: political assassinations,

incarceration of real (or fictive) enemies in penal colonies or forced

labor camps, mass deportations and dislocation.
The legacy of Stalin's cruel policies of enforced dislocation
of people was the cause of many conflicts after the dissolution
of the USSR. For instance, he cut off part of historical Armenia
and relocated it as an isolated enclave in Azerbaijan and, as a
result, a bitter and brutal war raged in and around Nagorno
Karabakh in the early 1990s which, as Cox and Eibner show, cost
the lives of tens of thousands of Armenians and Azeris, and left
a trail of destruction behind, with tens of thousands more people
displaced from their homes. Likewise, the postcommunist ethnic
conflict in Yugoslavia led to massive dislocations of populations.
Therefore, extrapolating from Bhabha, we can say that the
identity of both the postcolonial and postcommunist subject as
well as the historical and literary project of the postcolonial and the
postcommunist intellectual in specific territories needs to be explored
from the hybrid location of cultural value – the transnational as
well as the translational, in which dislocation usually plays an
important part.

See also diaspora, ethnicity, globalization

Further Reading: Bhabba 1994, Bottoni 2010, Dahlman

2005, Pohl 1999








Essentialism is a form of extreme idealism or Platonicism
according to which “essences” or “ideas” of/behind the actual
things are primordial, that is more real or true than concrete
reality. The more moderate Aristotelianism is also considered a
form of essentialism in its claim that every category or class of
things is accessible to rational knowledge because it can be
reduced to universal features displayed by each member of the
same genus, irrespective of context or situation. By contrast,
antiessentialism challenges the possibility of a unique and
immutable truth, of a permanence that can transcend the
diversity and constant change in the world. Nor does
antiessentialism grant the human mind any ability to reach the
knowledge of such a truth. In a way, this philosophical quarrel
continues the stand-off between realism and nominalism.
Essentialism has mostly been popular in Europe, where it
features in recent philosophical history such as Husserlian
phenomenology, Bergsonian intuitionism, the neo-Hegelianism
of B. Bosanquet and F. H. Bradley, the neo-Thomism of
J. Maritain, the neo-Kantianism of E. Cassirer and of the
Marburg School. The antiessentialist reaction, however, is more
at home in Anglo-American epistemology. Unlike the continental
attraction to metaphysics and to intangibles like the hypothetical,
the abstract, and the spiritual (cf. Cartesian rationalism or

German idealism), Anglo-American philosophy has been more

at ease confronting the empirical and pragmatic aspects of life
and has only been willing to accept those theories that are
supported by scientific observation, while utterly distrusting
unverifiable speculations.
Today’s antiessentialists are as radical as they get. They
only tolerate data from immediate experience, the observation
and description of concrete, particular cases, which is the only
reliable knowledge for this breed of philosopher. They dispute
that reason with its logical operations may be able to abstract the
generic features of, or the relations between, real objects and
that it may thus hope to construct explanatory theories and
generate predictions. Antiessentialist critics dub all such
pretenses as mere “metaphysics” and denounce the so-called
“universals” (or “natural kinds”) for being purely nominal, that
is, no more than words, linguistic figments of our mind. Such
philosophical fantasizing bears the name of “scientific/logical
realism” and the antiessentialist contestation sometimes goes by
the name of “anti-realism”.
Interestingly, down-to-earth versions of antiessentialism
are countered from two opposite directions. On the one side, there
are attacks from within the tradition of modern Western philosophy
that use “common sense” in order to push antiessentialism to its
pragmatic and empiricist extreme (cf. W. V. Quine and R. Rorty).
On the other, there are postmodern and poststructuralist
pronouncements from outside the tradition which find scientific
conclusions and positivist pronouncements to be themselves
mere theories (“theory dependent”). In other words, direct
experience and empirical observation are also the outcome of
cultural-specific metaphysics, ideologies or mentalities, and,
therefore, can hold no universal validity.

Thomas Kuhn provided an important impetus for postmodern

antiessentialists with his contention that sciences operate within
ideological “paradigms” that are historically determined and,
therefore, “incommensurable”. There is, then, no progress to
“better” theories, but simply a change of one explanatory paradigm
by another. On these epistemological grounds, postmodern critics
confront all founding ideas or values upheld by the Western
culture and canon. They expose the Western discourse of
objectivity and universality for being no more than a disguise
for imperialist tendencies to reduce the world to a Eurocentric
view and to confer to the West exclusive rights in judging the
values and measuring the progress of other cultures, even though
their value systems are incommensurable with Western ones.
Postmodern antiessentialism warrants a critique of all
Eurocentric and androcentric domineering maneuvers which
start from such alleged essential differences as those between
races or genders, between the aesthetic and the political,
between body and spirit, or between high and popular culture.
The alternative proposal is of epistemological and cultural
relativism. This critical attitude also goes by the name of
antifoundationalism, although some may argue that this is a term
more appropriate for epistemological debates, whereas
antiessentialism is used in metaphysical and ideological
polemics, such as, for instance, those that regard the essential
attributes of women or of the Orientals. Postcolonial studies are
but one type out of many emancipatory discourses on cultural
identity to resort to antiessentialism. Such are the critical
gestures by which postcolonial writers dismiss essentialist
claims about race or ethnicity, feminists reject the notion of an
essence of feminity, and postcommunist scholars challenge the
essentialist constructions of the nation or class. Recent
constructivist theories, especially in the study of nationalism,

have helped shake off the need to respond to essentialist

allegations about what it means to be black or Oriental, for
instance. Benedict Anderson demonstrated that national identities
are “imagined”, rather than given or innate. There is, however,
an understandable anticolonial tendency in new and insecure
cultures which have recently (re)gained their freedom and
independence to react to colonial misrepresentations of their
supposed essence by generating a counter-discourse hoping to
identify their genuine and essential native identity, usually fantasizing
about a pristine, original state before the rude intrusion of the
colonist. The same applies to postcommunist countries on which
communist rule had forced a counterfeited and adulterated
version of history serving Marxism and Soviet ideology. With
the fall of communism, such cultures rush to restore “the truth”
about their past and their identity, countering one essentialist
version of national identity with another, just as essentialist.
Postmodern discourse on national or cultural identity, whether in
postcolonial or in postcommunist situations, preserves an ironic
distance from such constructs, whether they belong to the oppressor
or to the oppressed. In this antiessentialist view, identity is
always constructed through narratives and rhetoric, and it shifts
with the various historical contexts.

See also colonialism, communism, imperialism, nationalism,


Further Reading: Fuchs 2001, Kuhn 1970, Norris 1997



Seen as a cultural formation that is discursively
constructed to indicate a common cultural identity among
people in a given group, ethnicity points to the shared values,
norms, symbols, as well as material and cultural practices that
define the boundaries of such groups. It has been argued that
ethnic groups are thus concomitantly identified both from within and
from without, responding both to the expectations of cohesiveness
among the members of the group and to the boundaries and lines
of demarcation drawn by other groups. Therefore, Thomas
Greaves (245-6) underlines that ethnicity is a “political
phenomenon based on perceived differences among groups”, as
human groups across time and place have often times sought to
compare and contrast themselves with other groups.
Several concise definitions of an “ethnic group” have been
suggested, from the simplest (an ethnic group is a collectivity of
people set apart from others by their cultural or national
characteristics), yet the most susceptible to deconstruction, to
more elaborate and comprehensives ones, such as the classic
description provided by Schermerhorn in 1970:

a collectivity within a larger society having real or putative ancestry

(that is, memories of a shared historical past whether of origins or of
historical experiences such as colonization, immigration, invasion or
slavery); a shared consciousness of a separate, named, group identity;
and a cultural focus on one or more symbolic elements defined as the
epitome of their peoplehood. (12)

While not always very flexible, such cultural criteria will

vary through time, and most groups will not display the totality
of characteristics that are to be expected of any and all groups,

but will in fact manifest combinations of such traits in particular

contexts. Similar to any social phenomena, ethnicity and its
associated expressions are not static constructs but in fact are
fuzzy categories in a constant process of reshaping through
practices of inclusion and exclusion.
Derived from the Greek “ethnos” (meaning nation),
“ethnic” as a term appears in its first English uses to indicate the
otherness implicit in culturally distinct “heathen” populations. In
the United States, the first uses of the term ethnicity were
recorded in the Yankee City Series in 1941 (Sollors x). Famously
defining American identity as a cultural construction predicated
on a historically shaped interplay of “descent” and “consent”,
Sollors has claimed that “in America, ethnicity can be conceived
as a deviation and as norm, as characteristic of minorities and as
typical of the country” (xi). Barker further maintains that both in
settler societies and in imperial centers, immigration-based groups
are assigned an ethnic denomination in relation to their national
origin. This discursive operation has several consequences
among which: ethnicity appears as a keyword once such groups
are assigned minority status based on their nationality in the
country of origin; the majority group’s ethnicity tends to become
publicly internalized and as such discursively invisible (as the
norm of the host country); power relations dominate the mutual
construction of ethnic identities leading to “ethnocentrism”,
defined as one ethnic group’s belief in its inherently superior nature.
In Europe, ethnic groups have also been ascribed either
national majority or minority status, underlining the connection
between ethnicity and the formation of the nation-state. Thus,
Romanian scholar Victor Neumann suggests that in many of
the former communist countries, ethnoculturalism and the
nation-state still define the dominant public discourse around
the idea of a national identity grounded in the politics of ethnicity
derived from the Herderian understanding of the spirit of a
nation. Expressing his views on postcommunist developments

during the war in Yugoslavia, Meštrović suggests that with the

fall of communism and the challenges of capitalism, the
conservative forces of nationalism have been unleashed to
disturbing consequences in East European countries: “Now that
the two grand ideologies, capitalism and communism, have
weakened, their repressive functions have been weakened as
well, so that ethnicity, religion, and various other traditional forces
are emerging again all over the world” (26). Thus, ethno-nationalism
may sometimes be identified as the consequence of the
disappearance of a communist political philosophy which aimed
to repress all local difference, according to the paradigm of
Enlightenment-derived European modernism (Meštrović 67).
Re-assessing the value of ethnicity and nationalism studies
in Eastern Europe, George Schöpflin warns against the false
binary opposition between a supposedly good Western nationalism
versus its evil twin in Eastern Europe. In a dichotomous fashion
of pitting the West against the East, good Western nationalism
would then be founded on the strength of a full-fledged civil
society, whereas in Eastern Europe it would presumably involve
policies of ethnic exclusion, if not even ethnic cleansing. To
underline the complexity of reform processes in the former
communist countries, ten years after Meštrović’s pronouncement,
Jiří Přibáň maintains that the distinction between the liberal
democratic conceptualization of a postcommunist collective
identity in Central Europe as belonging to the “demos” and the
ethno-nationalist understanding of the nation as “ethnos” is not
fully tenable, nor is it a matter of replacing a modernist
paradigm with a postmodernist one: “the conflict between
demos and ethnos in postcommunist Central Europe cannot be
addressed as simply a conflict between the liberal democratic
imperatives of the present and the politically dangerous, ethnic
concerns of the past” (408). He thus puts forth the idea that the
nation-state in postcommunist Central Europe is constituted of a

mixture of ethnic and civil society principles: “entirely civil

(Czech Republic); a patriotic mixture of civil and ethnic (Poland);
internally civil combined with externally ethnic (Hungary); and
entirely ethnic, defining popular sovereignty as participation and
cooperation between an ethnic majority and minorities (Slovakia)”
(428), which debunks the myth of postcommunist countries still
struggling in the grip of revived ethno-nationalism, previously
held in check by communist internationalism.

See also nation/nationalism

Further Reading: Barker 2004, Meštrović 2005, Neumann

2005, Přibáň 2004, Schermerhorn 1970, Schöpflin 2000, Sollors 1996







The part played by feminism in postcolonialism, and, by
extension, postcommunism as alternative theoretical discourses, is a
fertile area for debate especially with respect to controversial
issues regarding problematic margin/center relationships, which
feminism has often addressed forcefully. Ashcroft, Griffiths, and
Tiffin see two major reasons why feminism is of crucial interest to
postcolonialism. One is that both patriarchy and imperialism

can be seen to exert analogous forms of domination over those

they render subordinate, which brings the experiences of women
in patriarchy close to those of the colonized subject. The other
one is the fact that there have been debates in colonized societies
over whether it is gender or colonial oppression that acts as the
more important political factor in women’s lives. This latter
reason has led to differences between Western and Eastern
forms of the feminist movement or has made representatives of
the feminist movement in postcolonial countries perceive
Western discursive imports as forms of neocolonialism. This
has consequently led to further interrogations of the employment
of gender in practices of imperialism and colonialism.
It is important to stress the fact that, just as black feminism in
the United States has shared little with white feminism (as they
emerged from distinct circumstances, the former being predominantly
working-class whilst the latter, mostly middle-class) – a distinction
also noticed by Avtar Brah with respect to the postcolonial
diasporas in the U.K. (106) – postcolonial feminist movements
developing in their home countries (such as, notably, the one in
India) have insisted on asserting their independence from
foreign imports. Feminists in postcolonial countries have
therefore rejected Western universalizing practices, to the point
where they have often denied any connections with Western
feminism, stressing the fact that the issues they addressed were
widely different. Gender struggle has taken different shapes in
various postcolonial countries, being widely dependent on local
traditions. There has been a trend in colonial (and later postcolonial)
discourse to personify “colonized space as feminine and colonizing
incursions as masculine” (Thieme 2003: 101), with repercussions
on the ways in which space was reimagined, whilst
nationalist movements have tended to be personified as masculine
(Thieme 2003: 103). The trope of the feminized land, which used
to be a passive one par excellence, has however been reinvented
as a locus of agency in feminist discourse, as feminism has

intervened in nationalist movements and has drawn attention to

the need for the latter to be more gender-specific.
Born in the area of overlap between postcolonialism and
feminism, postcolonial feminism is “an intervention that is
changing the configurations of both postcolonial and feminist
studies” (Rajan and Park 53). It explores the interaction of forms
of colonialism and neocolonialism with gender, nation, class,
race and sexualities, as well as the ways in which women’s lives
are affected by colonial and neocolonial power structures.
Whilst “postcolonial feminism” as a term has mostly inhabited
the discursive space of the Anglo-American academia, forms of
local feminism with separate context-specific agendas have
developed in various postcolonial countries (see India or the
Caribbean), despite the fact that, as John Thieme notices,
“Western feminist writers and theorists have frequently seen
parallels between their struggles and those of postcolonial
women and have particularly identified with women who have
suffered a ‘double colonization’” (2003: 102). Theorists who
famously addressed this issue are Chandra Talpade Mohanty
and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. The former insists on the
shared experience of women all over the world being
constructed by patriarchal discourses, be they Eurocentric or not.
The latter brings up the problematic issue of the non-Western
woman being constructed by a double patriarchal discourse – the
one of the Western man and the one of the Eastern man – which
both condition her most intimate choices and desires, in her
essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?”.
There has often been a certain lack of communication, as
well as differences between these various forms of feminism, to
the extent that some of them (such as Indian feminism, a
particularly strong movement) prefer to dissociate themselves
from Western feminisms both with respect to the forms they
take and with respect to their missions. As Rajan and Park
hasten to add, “the importance of location has to do with the

intimate connection between feminist studies and feminist

politics” (53), which should in fact be repositioned in the wider
context of a postcolonial feminism whose contribution to the
general emancipatory discourses of postcolonialism and, more
recently, of global cultures, can be highly productive. The
theoretical concerns of metropolitan cosmopolitan feminism
have mostly involved discussions of representation and location.
According to Teresa de Lauretis, a feminist theory can only
become possible within a “postcolonial mode”, due to its
pronounced interrogative, interventionary thrust (1988: 138).
Rajan and Park see two essential directions in postcolonial
feminist work in the metropolitan academy: a study of theory
and a study of Third World women’s writings. One important
concern of theoretical feminism is representation. Postcolonial
feminists, as well as US women of color, have attacked both the
idea of a “universal” woman and the idea of a monolithic “Third
World” woman, essentially different from a “Western woman”.
The emphasis shifted instead onto specificities of class, race,
nationality, religion and the intersection of sexuality and gender, as
well as political, social and economic hierarchies that exist between
women. The rejection of ethnocentrism and of Orientalism as
categories of thought has become an important issue for debate
between First World and Third World feminism.
Postcolonial feminism importantly capitalizes on questions
of location and identity, involving the categories of hybridity,
in-betweenness and hyphenation. The autobiographical turn in
fields such as anthropology is seen as specifically feminist, as is
the resignification of the attributes of Third World women, such
as silence, the veil, absence and negativity. Such theoretical
reflections intersect with specifically poststructuralist, Derridean
positions, a strong emphasis being laid on the need to decolonize
and de-westernize theory, question white male epistemologies
and foreground Third World and black women’s writings (see
Barbara Christian’s essay “The Race for Theory”, 1988).

The study of postcolonial women’s writings in the curriculum is

another important development in postcolonial feminism, occurring
in the favorable climate of the expansion of the canon and of
multiculturalism. Alternative literary texts such as the novels of Anita
Desai or Bharati Mukherjee in American universities have brought to
the attention of readership the different cultural conditionings women
are faced with in different countries and the ways in which the
literary text can – in different ways as compared to the theoretical
text – give a voice to postcolonial feminist concerns.
Questions of subjectivity and representation have been
shared by feminism in postcolonial and postcommunist
countries alike. After the fall of totalitarian communist regimes
in Eastern Europe, the feminist movement has been one of the
major forms of emancipation from communism, by addressing
gender-specific questions such as participation in the labor
market, family rights, motherhood, domestic violence, abortion,
divorce and, more recently, migration and mobility in their
interaction with all of the above, in ways in which they had not been
addressed before 1989. If Theresa de Lauretis saw structural similarities
between the militant, interventionist drive shared by postcolonial and
feminist emancipatory discourses, in postcommunist East European
countries, under the impact of a noticeable feminization of
poverty in the years immediately following the changes, the
question was raised as to whether feminist theory might contribute to
the shaping of a more successful political discourse: “Do we need a
feminist theoretical discourse?” (Nicolaescu 8). Throughout most of
Eastern Europe, immediately after 1989, the false equality
policies promoted by communist regimes had led to a highly
conservative backlash that claimed a return of women to the
domestic sphere. A key part in promoting feminist theory and a
feminist movement, as well as a necessary gender consciousness
raising in Eastern Europe was played by the Gender Studies Program
at the Central European University, which in 2001 became the
Gender Studies Department. CEU has been a key center for study

and research on feminism in Eastern Europe, as well as, most

importantly, for the promotion of gender studies in the academic
curricula in countries across the region and academic contacts
between these countries and Western Europe and the United States.
Strong feminist centers in Eastern Europe are also in Belgrade,
Skopje, Sofia, Warsaw etc. The Belgrade Women’s Studies Center,
founded in 1992, is a particularly strong educational center for
the promotion of gender, ethnicity and race awareness in Serbia,
whose mission is defined as to be “corrective to our official
educational system that is for the most part inaccessible and
insensitive to issues of women’s and minority rights” (Global
Fund for Women). Another successful example of Serbian feminism,
this time using the promotion of literature by women as a
framework of reflection on the society, against the background of a
highly patriarchal literary canon, is the feminist literary magazine
ProFemina, founded by Svetlana Slapšak, Ljiljana Djurdjić,
Radmila Lazić, and Dubravka Djurić in 1994, and which has
promoted women’s literature, as well as, implicitly, feminist
activism in Serbia ever since (Obradović 73-89). The EuroBalkan
Institute in Skopje, Macedonia, also hosts a strong gender studies
center, where research has been done on issues of interest situated
in the overlap area between postcommunism and postcolonialism,
such as for example the significance of the veil in the Balkans
(where there is an important Muslim population), a question that has
long been raised in relation to postcolonial Muslim communities
(such as the Muslim side of the British Asian diaspora).
One important concern of feminism and postcolonialism,
which can be extended to the postcommunist sphere, has been
about the ways and the extent to which representation and
language play crucial parts in identity formation and the
construction of subjectivity, as well as the resistance that
feminist concerns have met in postcommunist Eastern Europe as
they interacted with conservative patriarchal views often backed up
by national churches. With reference to the “East-West dialogues

in postcommunist Romania”, Denise Roman places the emerging

feminist debates in opposition with strongly prejudiced forms of
resistance to women’s emancipation, backed up by folklore (she
gives the example of the Legend of the Argeş Monastery) that
have curiously been reinvented (rather than challenged) after
1989 (53). As in the case of most attempts to operate comparisons
between postcolonialism and postcommunism, it is important to
stress the fact that feminisms developing on the two spaces have
shared crucial concerns such as the struggle against reductive
patriarchal constructions of femininity and the various forms of
public discrimination and domestic oppression resulting from it.
However, one problematic area which does not lend itself to
easy comparison is the employment of Marxism in the two
discourses. While postcolonial feminism (as much as a significant
part of Western feminism) has seen Marxism as a source of important
theoretical tools in the shaping of a class-aware feminist discourse,
postcommunist movements of all kinds (including the feminist one)
have generally rejected Marxism as heavily compromised by the
communist regime. Theoretical approaches to the condition of women
and gender relations in Eastern Europe have, because of this, tended
to favor other, sometimes more idealist sources, such as theoretical
poststructuralism, psychoanalysis or discourse analysis, sometimes
choosing to simply ignore the relationship such discourses themselves
have sometimes built with Marxism in Western approaches.

See also Marxism, postcolonialism, postcommunism

Further Reading: Christian 1988, Mohanty 1991, Nicolaescu

1996, Roman 2001




Several terms have been used to refer to the worldwide
dissemination of the English language, such as global English,
international English or world English. A language can be described
as global once it has achieved a certain role that is recognized in
every country (Crystal 3). English has acquired the special role that
makes it global, due to the complex range of its uses: it is employed
as a first language by a large number of people in several countries
(such as the USA or South Africa); it is used as a second language,
with official status, in government, broadcasting or education (in
countries such as Ghana or Nigeria); it has become a priority in
foreign language teaching in numerous countries, although it holds
no official status (in many countries in Europe or Asia) (Crystal 3-5).
Historically, there have been various other languages that
have served as international means of communication. A relevant
example in this respect is that of Latin as a lingua franca in the
Roman Empire or in the educated circles of the Middle Ages or
the Renaissance. While the ideal of a lingua franca is an ancient
one and various artificial language movements have existed
throughout the ages, the need of a language as a practical tool
for the whole world emerged strongly in the second half of the
twentieth century. English was the answer to the post-war
demand for a mechanism of international communication.
Although the global status of English is relatively recent,
British colonialism clearly set the stage as the first phase of the
expansion of English. At the same time, the fact that Britain was
at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution strengthened the
position of the language internationally, since English became a
direct means of access to industrial knowledge. The use of
English as a passport to knowledge paved the way for its
emergence as a worldwide language in the twentieth century.

Three sets of events made a major contribution to the

emergence of global English: the Two World Wars, the political
and economic Cold War and, finally, globalization (McArthur 369).
The use of English for military, political and economic purposes
expanded greatly during the Two World Wars, since the victorious
nations that played a key part in the wars were English speaking
countries (369). In the 1930s, foreign language radio programs
such as those of the BBC or organizations such as the British
Council (founded in 1934) started promoting the English language
and values in an attempt to counter Nazi propaganda
(Thieme 2003: 106). In the 1940’s similar American efforts
were made to inculcate American values (106). Post-war efforts
further strengthened the position of the English language, which
became a synonym to reconstruction in the areas where the
hostilities had ended. The post-war context led to the
establishment of international organizations, such as The United
Nations and side organizations (such as UNESCO and UNICEF),
English becoming the logical choice for international interactions.
After 1945, the United States became the foremost Western
contestant in the political and economic Cold War (1945-1989)
between the capitalist West and the communist East. American
values became a point of reference, either due to neo-colonial
promulgation (Thieme 2003: 106) or to the independent prestige
acquired by American economy and popular culture (106). The
fall of the Iron Curtain led to a significant increase in the study
of English in the ex-Soviet satellite countries, where English, as
the symbol of the American way of life, had been regarded for
years as the language of freedom. After the Soviet Collapse, due
to globalization, American English became the main influence not
only on other languages, but also on other varieties of English
(McArthur 371). American English became the dominant language
in specialist professions (for example airline industry, due to
American aircraft production) and the main medium of communication
in the virtual world (since the computer revolution of the 1980s and

the 1990s was spearheaded by American technology). Since English

was the language originally used for internet communication
and had a head start in this respect, the telecommunication
revolution further strengthened its position as a global language.
The increasing dominance of English was accompanied by
a boom in English language teaching. The English language
industry comprises whole networks of standardized language
testing or commercial language training companies. Often, the
stress falls on teaching English for Occupational Purposes,
which centers upon a simplified version of the language, with
emphasis on the basic understanding and use of a technical
vocabulary. In many of the postcommunist countries of
East/Central Europe, the 1990s were marked by a significant
increase in the teaching of English as a foreign language. In the
communist era, Russian was the main foreign language to be
taught in schools, but since the 1990s, there has been an
important decline in the teaching of Russian as a foreign
language in some of these countries. English became the main
foreign language to be taught in many of the schools in
East/Central Europe.
The relationship between the global spread of English and
its impact on other languages attracted increasing debates during
recent years. Many have expressed anxiety over the reduced
functionality of native languages due to the increased use of English.
English has been viewed by many as a “killer language”, responsible
for language loss. Terms such as linguistic imperialism have
been used to describe what is seen as the worldwide expansion
of the English language at the expense of others (Philipson 47).
However, the view upon language as a form of cultural hegemony
can be regarded as reductionist (Thieme 2003: 106), since global
English has started to develop as an autonomous means of
communication for non-native speakers, independent of British
or American involvement or usage (106). Moreover, those who
perceive English as a totem for the Anglo-American way of life

fail to take into account the fact that “speakers have the ability of
creating multiple cultural realities in any language” (Kramsch 77).

See also globalization, orality, wooden language

Further Reading: Crystal 1997, Graddol 1998, McArthur 1998,

Ostler 2005, English Today: The International Review of the English
Language (ed. Tom McArthur, Cambridge University Press); World
Englishes, Journal of English as an International and International
Language (eds. Braj B Kachru and Larry Smith, Oxford Blackwell),
English Worldwide (John Benjamin: Am. and Phil, Ed. Eric Schneider)


Notoriously difficult to define and an endless cause for
controversy, globalization has been approached as the multiplicity
of economic, technological, cultural and social developments and
patterns that have led to a marked and accelerated increase in
worldwide integration. It may also be summed up as “the widening,
deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in
all aspects of contemporary social life, from the cultural to the
criminal, the financial to the spiritual’’ (Held et al. 2). An early
definition was given by cultural geographer David Harvey, who
pointed out the cultural changes that arise from the global time-space
compression. Yet another definition was attempted by Held and
McGrew in 2002, when they argued that “globalization, simply
put, denotes the expanding scale, growing magnitude, speeding
up and deepening impact of transcontinental flows and patterns
of interaction” by which they implied “a shift or transformation in
the scale of human organization that links distant communities and
expands the reach of power relations across the world’s regions
and continents” (1). Most expanded definitions of globalization

do not shy away from highlighting the inherent power plays and
national transformations unfolding in what would otherwise
appear as an innocuous process of worldwide reconnection.
While many point out that globalization is a process which
has known several stages, beginning with the geographical advances
of Renaissance times, the concept started to become relevant in
the nineteenth century and early twentieth century (Held and
McGrew 1), when scholars of modernity in its many forms (from
sociology to political theory) began to address questions of international
interrelatedness. Those skeptics of globalization who question its
chronology as a recent phenomenon underline the importance of the
“belle époque of international interdependence” from 1890 to 1914
(Held and McGrew 3) in the shaping of a global economy. However,
with the shift towards a de-industrialized economy and growing
interconnectedness of Western countries, the concept moved towards
greater recognition in the 1960s and 1970s and was propelled
into the public arena once the fall of the communist regimes in
Eastern Europe indicated stronger links between domestic and
international developments than previously believed.
Whether or not globalization is a process or an outcome is still
under consideration. Given the irreducible multi-layeredness of
globalization, Outhwaite and Ray warn that no direct and unilateral
causal relationships can be attributed to any single element within
the paradigm of globalization (122). However, several features have
been highlighted by a number of theorists as pertaining to the subject
of world-wide interconnectedness. Outhwaite and Ray discuss the
following key aspects with regard to the economic dimension of the
process of globalization (120): the global distribution of labor centers
and spheres of production (Jessop 2000); “the weightless economy”
(Quah 1996), foregrounding the exchange of services rather than goods,
in line with the processes of post-Fordist de-industrialization; global
capital and the rise of transnational corporations (Ohmae 1994).
The emergence of “information societies” or “informationalism” in
the wake of an older model of production-focused capitalism

was analyzed by Manuel Castells in 1998. Investigating cultural

change as embedded in economic and political processes, Arjun
Appadurai (1996) points out the multiple “-scapes” that form the
land-scape of globalization: the global flows of technology, images,
symbols, commodities traverse the international arena, while
increasing numbers of people crisscross the world voluntarily or
involuntarily as labor migrants, refugees, tourists or travelers.
The rise of a globally interconnected economy has led to the
strengthening of ties among grassroots and non-governmental
organizations across the world, crystallized in the formation of a
global civil society (Urry 1998) and the booming of global
social movements (Keck and Sikkink 1998). The displacement
(be it enforced or elective) of individuals and communities has
led to the formation of flexible, fluid identities (Maffesoli 1996).
Faced with the growing awareness of the disintegration of
previously held notions of how states trace dividing lines around
national territories, classical sociological theory – whose main
concern was the development and behavior of societies – has
been reshaped to respond to the crosscutting of global patterns in
the formation of global communities. Thus, Urry (2000) explains
that the increased mobility of groups of people changing places
in the global environment may have engendered “a sociology
beyond societies”. The various patterns of dislocation and
relocation of people, ideas and commodities that underlie the
shifting sands of globalization should not however encourage an
understanding of globalization as boundless movement. Urry
notes that the mobility inherent in cross-border flows is also
grounded in technologically-enabled points of anchoring “that
produce durability and stability of mobility” (Urry 2002, 48)
like, for example, the huge transportation hubs known as airport
cities with their specific regime of combined national and
transnational policies.
Significant disagreement exists as to the speed, efficacy
and ultimate consequences of globalization. Thus, the thesis of

“hyper-globalization” (Robertson 1992) puts forth the vision of

an accentuated level of global hegemony in a borderless world, in
which a global society is formed as a result of unending permutations
of social, cultural and economic capital that deprive individuals
and communities of local specificity and re-inscribe them as
disempowered agents in the global landscape. While some scholars
underline the affirmative character of an unimpeded exchange of
ideas and commodities beyond and above national boundaries,
others point out the structural inequalities at the core of what is
perceived to be a new form of imperialism or neo-colonization.
Furthermore, the very existence of a globalization process is questioned
by critics such as Hirst and Thompson (1996) or Weiss (1996), who
point out the internationalization of economy in the nineteenth
century while also maintaining that well into the latter half of the
twentieth century the international model was still fragmented
along the institutional lines drawn by nation-states. Instead of
globalization, such scholars recommend terms that cover the
discrete levels at which political interaction is possible, such as
“internationalization” (links between nation-states), “regionalization”
or “triadization” in terms of cross-border cooperation (Held and
McGrew 3). According to such views, not only is today’s world not
globalized, but it actually presents a downsized version of separate
and manifestly smaller entities than nineteenth century empires.
Hoogvelt insists that rather than declaring an end to separations,
the twentieth century witnessed a prolonged struggle over
territoriality (Held and McGrew 4).
Outhwaite and Ray suggest a possible synthesis of the ever
increasing number of anti- and pro-globalization arguments by
positing convergence and divergence theories. On the one hand,
convergence theories highlight the ultimate confluence of
cultural, economic and political patterns in the spread of liberal
democracy, free market economy, free trade and the accompanying
discourse of neoliberalism: “in essence, the discourse of
globalization helps justify and legitimize the neoliberal global
project, that is, the creation of a global free market and the
consolidation of Anglo-American capitalism within the world's

major economic regions” (Held and McGrew 4). On the other

hand, divergence theories point to the massive inequalities at the
core of global re-positioning processes, leading to extreme
impoverishment of some regions to the benefit of others, all the
while prompting new forms of transnational resistance.
One of the most popular analyses of the re-shaping of the
global sphere was suggested by Anthony Giddens as early as 1990,
putting forth a complex structure of global integration underscored
and underpinned by the process of cultural globalization: the
nation-state, the world capitalist economy, the world military order
and the global division of labor. Thus, increased cooperation
among non-neighboring nation-states, supported by a system of
combined military power, would lead to coordinated economic
practices in direct relation to the emergence of a multinational
and transnational labor market (Outhwaite and Ray 122).
The future of the nation-state is one of the key questions
within the paradigm of globalization. Thus, in the aftermath of
World War II, several forms of inter- and intra-regional cooperation
were elaborated, such as the United Nations Organization, the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the World Bank, and the
International Monetary Fund, based in the West, and the
Warsaw Pact and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance,
based in the East. With the demise of the Keynesian welfare
state in many Western states in the 1970s, transnational systems
of economic exchange emerged, while the fall of communism
in the late 1980s may also have happened due to the rise of a
more integrated and rapidly expanding global market. With
transnational ties being forged on a pattern of regional and
global economic integration, the nation-state has been deemed
by some commentators to have become increasingly outdated,
while sovereignty over so-called national questions is transferred to
transnational organizations and institutions such as the UN and/or
to autonomous regions. The state has thus become fragmented
by interconnected and occasionally overlapping transnational
networks in both the private sector – through the rise of
multinational corporations – and the civil society – through
transnational human rights organizations.

Questions regarding the role of the state and of the free

market have been asked and answered by a wide range of
experts in political science, economics, anthropology, sociology
and a host of other disciplines. Held and McGrew have
synthesized these contributions in six categories arranged
according to their pro- and anti-globalization stance, although
very few positions, if any, truly argue against globalization, but
do in fact point out major flaws. Among the globalists Held and
McGrew enlist there are neoliberals, liberal internationalists, and
institutional reformers, while the critical globalists are further
classified as global transformers, statists/protectionists and
radicals (with a possible variant of radical Marxism). Held and
McGrew also identify an overlapping position in the form of
cosmopolitan social democracy which draws on liberal internationalism,
international reform ideals and global transformation programs and
the postmodern reclaiming of the philosophy of cosmopolitanism,
as demonstrated by Anthony Appiah’s contributions. In short,
neoliberalism (sometimes described as neoconservatism) entails
the belief in the self-regulatory mechanisms of the free market,
along with assigning the state only a minimal presence. Held and
McGrew discuss liberal internationalism as the political position
that argues in favor of increased interdependence among states
as well as the promotion of democracy and social institutions.
Institutional reformers underline the necessity for transnational
cooperation in terms of global public management of public goods, such
as the UNDP program. The transformationalist position understands
globalization as a “double-sided process” (Held and McGrew 107)
of democratization, involving greater transparency, accountability
and social justice at both statal and international level. The
statist or protectionist position is not directly opposed to a world
economy based on transnational trade, but argues in favor of
ensuring the national governing capacities needed for global
development and the protection of the citizens. Finally, the radical
discourse, often times of Marxist inspiration, disagrees with the
celebratory view of globalization by stressing the pressure
globalization puts on local communities as it heavily exports and
imports global structures of inequity.

Globalization is often discussed as having played a major role

in the fall of communism by pushing the boundaries of national
economies. As discussed by Outhwaite and Ray (121-122), faced
with what neoliberalism identifies as the inexorable advance of the
free market, the state socialism model is presumed by scholars
such as Castells (1998) and Lockwood (2000) to have been severely
weakened by the need for updated information and production
technologies or a rearrangement of the labor market. Stressing the
economic dimensions of the impossibility of national isolation on the
globalizing market, Waters (1995) argues that the fall of communism
may very well have been “a mass assertion of the right to privatized
consumption” (qtd. in Outhwaite and Ray 128). Yet other scholars
argue that in some postcommunist countries global integration has
been slow, and it has been extremely limited in others – such as in
the Russian republic of Tatarstan – depending on the degree of
dependency on the former Soviet economy (Leo McCann 2004).
The changing “-scapes” of media technology and Western
consumption patterns as seen on television are similarly viewed as
creating massive breaches in the cultural imaginaries of communist
countries. The televising of mass protests in some parts of
Eastern Europe may have had a domino effect in other parts of
Eastern Europe, prompting rallies, revolutions and solidarity
movements. Quoted by Outhwaite and Ray, Gidden suggests
that “you wouldn’t have had the East European revolutions, the
1989 revolutions, without the influence of the globalization of
television as a kind of dialogic communication” (129).
The positive impact which scholars estimate globalization
has had on breaking down political isolationist barriers has been
poised against the ills which the underlying market-oriented
philosophy has had on a new global spatial rearrangement of
poverty and wealth. Thus, globalization has been often described
as uneven and divisive, if or when not a form of worldwide
Americanization or Westernization. Thus, French sociologists
Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant have discussed the model of a
“conceptual imperialism” (Outhwaite and Ray 121) which projects
American cultural and political models over the global arena.

The controversial aspects of the multi-faceted process of

globalization have also met with criticism in the form of massive
street protests and rallies across the world. The Seattle riots of 1999
were organized on the occasion of the World Trade Organization
forum and involved at least 40,000 protestors of various progressive
or radical persuasions, arguing against what they perceived to be
the threat of global corporate capitalism de-regulating both
financial markets and political discourse. Several other mass
demonstrations have been organized since Seattle 1999, most
often during corporate summits or G8 and G20 meetings, and most
notably in the United States, Italy, Greece, the UK and Germany.
Furthermore, globalization has been linked with the continued
status of economic dependency on the part of Third World
countries, which are said to suffer losses from the imposition of
unfair trade agreements and an even more unequal distribution of
power among states, leading to stronger states and transnational
corporations regulating the affairs of Third World countries.

See also democracy, dependency theory, global English,


Further Reading: Annals of the American Academy of

Political and Social Science 2002, Appadurai 1996, Bauman 1998,
Daro 2009, McDonald 2002





The postmodern epistemology of history has revealed the
fact that history can be neither “objective” nor “value-free”,
dimensions which it sometimes offers for self-legitimation, and
that the “truth” and “reality” which it claims to possess are
always incomplete, influenced by ideological and political agendas.
This is why, in history, any claim to equilibrium,
objectivity and conflict reconciliation in the narratives of the
past should be regarded with suspicion. As Hayden White
underlines, upon referring to historical methodology, the
instruction to “recognize that war is over and to forgo the
attraction of a desire for revenge (…) is the kind that always
emanates from the center of established political power and
social authority and this kind of tolerance is a luxury only
devotees of dominant groups can afford” (White 81). History
can no longer be seen as a mirror reflection of the progress and
emancipation of mankind, but is regarded rather as a sum of
narratives (with their own plot and tropes). As in fables or
myths, narrative knowledge is not checked by its adequacy to
reality but it legitimates itself “in the pragmatics of its own
transmission without having recourse to argumentation and
proof” (Lyotard 1984: 27). This is why one can no longer talk
about having a single History, with a unilateral perspective,
about an “official” version of the history of a nation, or of
universal history. For example, we will have to give up the
Eurocentric approach to the history of the world, according to
which the great transformations and revolutions that are worth

mentioning took place either in Europe or in one of its colonies

(a classic example in this respect is Lord Acton’s “The Cambridge
History” qtd. in Quayson 52). “The grand narratives” of emancipation,
civilization, and democratization or of the shedding of barbarous
habits will be replaced in the historical discourse by “little
narratives” (a concept used by Lyotard regarding hard sciences,
which can be also applied to history, Lyotard 1984: 60). This
passage from an official, unilateral history, written by those that
hold the political power, to a series of alternative, underground
histories, very often passed down orally, is encountered in both
postcolonial and postcommunist countries:

…history seems to be that of the colonizer, the successful in any

exchange. It is not surprising, then, that postcolonial people would wish to
rewrite a history which excluded or misrepresented them and in fact, to
point out that history itself, the named dates, the events and priorities,
are a construct put together and given emphasis by those in power, the
imperial, anticolonial mainstream, the postcolonial nations whose commercial
and business enterprises rule the 21st century world. (Wisker 60)

Along with literature and film, historiography is “a particularly

crucial area for revisionist postcolonial accounts of the past”
(Thieme 2003: 20). In the context of a recuperation of indigenous
memory, several obstacles appear, some of which are similar to
those that hinder a postcommunist approach to a period marked
by totalitarianism. First, one has to avoid falling into the trap of
rewriting history from a position radically opposed to that of
“official” history (in postcolonialism, this official history might
also take the form of the memoirs and journals of the colonists).
In the case of postcolonial rewriting, emphasis should not
be exclusively laid on the story of the native populations (which
would lead to an “essentialism” which represents the reverse to
the Eurocentrism of colonists), but the details regarding the
impact of the colonists should be preserved as well (Quayson 49).

For example, although the Catholic missionaries in South America

can be seen as agents of imperialism, their educational role has to
be also recognized, together with the fact that the Catholic Church
allowed “interesting syncretic blends where elements of indigenous
religions lived on in Catholic practices” (Bush 127). Postcolonial
history has to maintain a delicate balance between a demonization
of colonists and an idealization of the native populations.
A similar danger of creating excessive dichotomies can be
also noticed in the political/historical discourse of the postcommunist
countries of East/Central Europe, postcommunist Romania being a
relevant example in this respect. In Romania, the history of the working
classes (the central point of communist ideological historiography) is
left in the background, while the history of the former dissident
intellectuals (the former “class enemies” of the communist state) is
foregrounded. Thus, the “Final Report” (2006) for the condemnation
of communism in Romania is criticized by the thinkers of the left
for idealizing the pre-communist period as a “relatively happy” one,
although the Eastern Europe of the time was seized by social upheaval
and by fascist extremist movements. The “Final Report” is also
criticized, since it does not acknowledge the dissident political gestures
of the working classes in the communist period and exaggerates the
dissident role of Romanian intellectuals who “did not provide
organized resistance against communism” (Ţichindeleanu, 28-29).
Indeed, the “Final Report” states that in Romania, “the working
classes attempted to find ways ‘to cope with the situation’ rather
than raise their voices against communism” (“Final Report” 111).
Besides the traps created by radical dichotomies and by
“essentialism”, in both postcolonial and postcommunist countries,
the process of recovering unofficial history comes across another
major obstacle: the scarcity of the written material, caused by
the fact that the only printed version of history belongs to those
that hold political power (communist ideologues or colonial

authorities). This is why, in both situations, oral testimonies

acquire crucial importance, since they represent the narratives of
those whose voices were silenced. Thus, a significant direction
in literature relies on the recuperation of memory. Such fictional
narratives manage to depict aspects of private life which were
ignored by the history of those in power. Regarding the colonial
and postcolonial history, international bestsellers appeared
which are part of the wider project of a “revisionist rewriting” of
colonial history. We mention here well-known titles such as
Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children”, Azi Kwei Armah’s
“The Healers” or Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, relevant
for the African and Indian realities (Thieme 2003: 121). In the
case of postcommunism, an alternative source of recuperating
history is postcommunist cinema, made by those directors who
spent their childhood in communism. These directors now look back,
either with nostalgia and irony or from a neorealist perspective, on
the humorous, tragic or absurd events of those times.
Concerning academic history, in the case of postcolonialism, we
witness the desire of rewriting recent history “from below”, as the
south-eastern group of the journal Subaltern Studies proposes
(Quayson 54). For example, the Indian researchers of the group
claim that the history written by colonists (but also by nationalists
and Marxists) is centered on the Indian elite and on its efforts of
getting a colonial education, entering politics or negotiating
institutional power with the colonists. The new interest of these
Indian specialists is “to write history from below that would show
that the villagers, peasants and workers were indeed agents of
consciousness and that their agency often went in different directions
from the ones mapped by the nationalist elite politicians” (54).
In the case of postcommunist historiography, we could talk
of a similar recuperation of “subaltern history”, of the stories of
those without a voice in the communist period. Thus, the

falsified history of the communist party and of its political elites

has been countered by a history of private life and also by a
history of the abuses and crimes especially in the memoirs that
appeared immediately after 1990, doubled by documentaries
containing the testimonies of many a victim of communist
regimes. The fall of communism “unleashed a tide of memories
which for a brief period washed through television, as well as a
more painstaking work of documenting the abuses of Stalinism,
focusing on political oppressions, killings, and the Gulag”
(Thompson 67). At the same time, we can talk about an
increased interest of professional historians in a social history of
everyday life under communism.

See also communism, memory, orality, postcommunist cinema

Further Reading: Spivak 1988, Thompson 2000




The term originates from biology – more precisely,
horticulture – where it is used to designate “the cross-breeding
of two species by grafting or cross-pollination to form a third,
‘hybrid’ species” (Wisker 189). It was later extended to animal
species (grafting) and, further, it came to be used to also refer to
human racial mixing, evolving from a deeply pejorative labeling
of crosses between different races (miscegenation). In the

nineteenth century, this led to highly racist genetic attempts to

prove the superiority of certain races over others with a view to
upholding the purity of species (Young 1994: 7-8). The term
came to be used later as a politically correct description of the
productive effects of encounters between people belonging to
different cultures, leading to the mutual construction of their
subjectivities (Bhabha 37). Hybridity made a career in cultural
studies and postcolonialism, in the work of theorists such as
Homi Bhabha, Stuart Hall, Gayatri Spivak, Paul Gilroy, Robert
J. C. Young and others. The idea that cultures are inevitably hybrid
is deemed by John Thieme to be one of the most significant and
influential aspects of contemporary postcolonial theory (2003: 121).
Robert J. C. Young traces the history of the concept in his
book Colonial Desire (1995), showing how it was imported
from botany into culture in the Victorian age, when it was
connoted with deeply racist meanings. Young points out that the
emergence of hybridity in Victorian thinking signals not only
worry about the “purity” of races, but also a latent fascination of
the imperial center with the racial other (161). In current
postcolonial studies the term refers to the ways in which the
Victorian ideology of race and imperialism is challenged and
undermined. Even as imperialist discourses insist upon racist
difference, they create crossovers through a mix of colonial
policy and transgression. However, they also contribute to the
perpetuation of racism, giving damaging reports regarding the
mixture of different races (miscegenation). According to Young,
at the turn of the century hybridity played an important part in
colonial discourse before it was taken over by the concept of
multiculturalism – a celebration of difference rather than the
hybridized merger of one culture with another. Later, in The
Idea of English Ethnicity (2008), Young shows that a pure and
superior English ethnicity, which lay at the heart of British

colonialism, was never more than a myth, being actually

composed of layers upon layers of identities and expanding into
the vast notion of an English diaspora around the world.
For Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin, hybridization is the creation
of new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by
colonization and explore its many forms: linguistic, cultural, political,
racial, etc. They insist on the implications of the concept in language,
where it leads to the existence of pidgin and creole languages. In
these, they read echoes of the foundational use of the term by
the linguist and cultural theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, who used it to
suggest the disruptive and transfiguring power of multivocal
language situations and, by extension, of multivocal narratives,
as also suggested by his concept of the carnivalesque (1981).
As Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin show in The Postcolonial
Studies Reader, most postcolonial writing has focused on the
hybridized nature of postcolonial culture as a strength rather
than a weakness, since hybridity stresses not the power relation
between the colonizer and the colonized, but rather the mutuality
of the cultural interchange between them. The clash between
cultures is thus shown to impact as much on the colonizer as on
the colonized. Even in situations of oppression, distinctive aspects
of the culture of the oppressed can survive and become part of the
new formations which arise. Thus, Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin
see in hybridization one of the forces that led to the formation of
postcolonial thinking, going beyond the flawed dichotomous
thinking of colonial rule and developing more complex models
of cultural exchange (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1995 183).
Hybridity has frequently been used in postcolonial discourse
to mean simply cross-cultural “exchange”. This use of the term
has been widely criticized, since it usually implies negating and
neglecting the imbalance and inequality of the power relations it
references. By stressing the transformative cultural, linguistic

and political impacts on both the colonized and the colonizer, it

has been regarded as replicating assimilationist policies by
masking or wiping away cultural differences (Ashcroft, Griffiths,
and Tiffin 1998: 119). It is this aspect that can be profitably
extended to postcommunist cultures as a form of resistance to
neocolonial practices exerted upon East-European countries by
metanational organisms such as NATO or the European Union.
Whilst assertions of national culture and of precolonial
traditions have played an important role in creating anticolonial
discourse and in arguing for an active decolonizing project,
theories of the hybrid nature of postcolonial culture assert a
different model for resistance, locating this in the subversive
counter-discursive practices implicit in the colonial ambivalence
itself and so undermining the very basis on which imperialist
and colonialist discourse raises its claims of superiority.
Hybridity is a key concern of postcolonial literatures. A
classic example is V. S. Naipaul’s novel The Mimic Men, where
the hybridization of cultures (theorized by Homi Bhabha) is seen
as going hand in hand with the mimicry of the center by the margin.
More recently, in Salman Rushdie’s short story “The Firebird’s
Nest” (2007), the child of the incompatible protagonist couple is
a hybrid that reconciles the two dissenting cultures that his
parents belong to. Exile and diasporic life are often seen as
situations that force a hybridization of the subject. In an article
on émigrée Romanian-German author Carmen-Francesca Banciu,
Anca L. Holden argues that “cultural expatriates develop a
hybrid identity since they are simultaneously inside and outside
the cultures that they adopted and left” (91). Holden maintains
that, whereas, as Eva Behring shows, there are various degrees
of assimilation of writers in exile to the culture of adoption, a
certain hybridization of identity is always inevitable.

A slightly different understanding of hybridity, as well as

of Bhabha’s original discussion of the term in conjunction with
its cognates liminality and ambiguity, is proposed by Adrian
Oţoiu as a useful concept in describing the double-coded nature
of life under communism:

Hybridity, double-codedness, and ambiguity were ingredients of

everyday life under the Ceauşescu regime, when experience was
double-coded from the earliest age. Six-year-old children already knew
that the Ceauşescu vilified at home as the-ogre-that-cuts-gas-and-electricity
was unmentionable at school, where the sinister Mr. Hyde turned into
a benign Dr. Jekyll, “most beloved son of the nation” and “magisterial
Helmsman”. Such a training in double-codedness was to develop in
children the schizoid skills needed for survival as adults (93).

This understanding of hybridity as doublethink opens a

fertile line of discussion of a communist collective subconscious
characterized by a propensity to self-stigmatization that survives
to this day, which Oţoiu connects to Maria Todorova’s idea of a
“typical negative imago of the Balkans” (93) in Imagining the Balkans.
Crossovers between “posts” have recently led to associations
with postcommunism within the postcolonial sphere itself. In
her discussion of postethnicity and postcommunism in Hanif
Kureishi’s novel Gabriel’s Gift and Salman Rushdie’s novel
Fury, Mita Banerjee argues that, in the light of 9/11,
postcommunism – associated with a kind of new cultural
exoticism – has provided new paradigms of theoretical thinking
around the definition of hybridity, as well as fresh understandings
of the ways in which it is possible to theorize around the concept
of displaced postcolonial identity. Banerjee argues that, whereas
in the media coverage of global terrorism hybridity has recently
been seen as a camouflage for far more radical attitudes such as
religious fundamentalism, both texts display an interest in “a
new, unpostcolonial kind of ethnicity” which “takes the shape of

a fascination with Eastern Europeanness” (314). This, Banerjee

argues, allows the two consecrated postcolonial writers (tired of
being locked within a perpetual expectation of delivering
postcolonial content in their novels) to find in references to
postcommunist Eastern Europeanness “a whiteness of a different
color” (represented by heavily exoticized, caricatured characters
such as Mila Milo in Fury and Hannah in Gabriel’s Gift), a way to
talk about ethnicity that “has not yet been co-opted by the
parameters of the field of postcoloniality” (314). We may
recognize here a kind of revenge of the postcolonial through the
fictional othering of another, safer other, which also coincides, as
Banerjee puts it, with a “fatigue of political correctness” (318)
and a conservative turn taken by postcolonial literature at the
turn of the millennium (321).
We might therefore be witnessing a hybridization of the
older, somewhat outdated postcolonialist discourse, following
the fact that, in Eastern Europe, hybridity seems to have entered
debates such as those around ethnic minority and religion.
While examining the postcolonial nature of urban Central
European spaces following their emergence from state socialism
in a 2010 book, Agata Anna Lisiak notices that, while Homi
Bhabha’s notion of hybridity may be partly applied to the former
Soviet bloc, there are important differences to be taken into account:

In Central Europe, however, hybridity – that is, the intermixing of

dominant and subjugate cultures – happened mostly on the ideological level
rather than on the social and racial level as in India or in the Caribbean. In other
words, Central European hybridity was not an effect of interracial relationships,
but rather an amalgam of various – often contrasting – systems of belief such
as communism, socialism, Catholicism or nationalism. One of the products
of this ideological confusion is, I suggest, the famous Polish workers’
organization Solidarność (Solidarity): although a trade union is a traditionally
socialist formation, of which one could expect left-wing sympathies,
Solidarność has positioned itself on the right side of the political scene. (19)

In pointing out the ideological confusion of the organization,

overlooked, at the time, by the far more important priority of the
anticommunist struggle, Lisiak implicitly touches upon one of
the major difficulties in the postcolonial/postcommunist discussion:
that of the different role played by Marxism in the two instances.
Bogdan Ştefănescu makes an important point of showing the
difficult positioning of Marxism within the two discourses: if
postcolonialism relies on Marxism as a progressive, anti-
imperialist philosophy at the basis of emancipatory ideals, in
postcommunism the progressive role is taken over by the
tradition of liberal humanism (which, we might add, is an
instance of discursive hybridization of postcommunism in the
sense also implied by Lisiak), whereas Marxism is opposed and
dismissed as the conservative, reactionary force (39). A more
recent hybrid development within the Central European urban
space is discussed by Lisiak with reference to cinematic
representations of Warsaw, which displays – no doubt like many
other East Central European cities – a mixture of remnants of
Soviet architecture (thus having striking postcolonial connotations)
and modern Western looking office buildings. Such a mixture
reflects the hurried adoption of a look meant to mimic the fast
adherence to capitalist values that do not exactly match the
historical processes the city has been actually involved in. Yet it
shows, like many institutions and socio-political practices in the
region, an eager burning of stages to return to a long desired free
market economy, still insufficiently supported by these
countries’ infrastructure. Hybridity is an indispensable concept
in the description of such phenomena as the mutual contamination
of cultural spaces in the process of globalization.

See also globalization, multiculturalism

Further reading: Bhabha 1994, Lisiak 2010, Şandru 2005,

Young 1995




Ideology is an integrative pattern of politically charged
ideas aiming to structure and direct social life. Though
entertained and refashioned by the individual intellect, such
clustered ideas either originate from, or are a reaction to, social
stimuli. Even when they are more abstract or metaphysical and
not directly concerned with the immediate tasks of
(re)organizing society or parts thereof, these ideas work to
ground predispositions for civic or political action.
Ideology combines the abstract intellectual endeavor to
aggregate and order one’s thoughts with the desire to justify and
direct concrete action. The cognitive-agentive polarity of human
behavior works in a dialectical manner. This means that these
two opposites (theory vs. practice, contemplation vs. action)
remain interconnected so that even the most detached and
speculative theories have at least a potential for generating or
grounding certain strategies of action and change, while the
most extemporaneous (re)actions ultimately come from a
scaffolding of systematic perceptions and abstracted beliefs, no
matter how dim and distant. This may explain why descriptions
of ideology such as Daniel Bell’s – “an action-oriented system
of beliefs” – hold such currency in scholarly circles (see also
Maurice Cranston’s article in Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Ideology as a term originally signified a critical
metalanguage when Claude Destutt de Tracy defined it as the
study of ideas in their inception and evolution. Subsequently, in

common usage the word came to mean the very ideas that were
once the subject of study. Though used indiscriminately,
ideology refers mostly to political thought and discourse. This is
the particular hue that distinguishes ideology from semantic
neighbors like “mentality” (a term proposed by the Annales
School of historiography to mean the culture and age specific
habits of the mind or attitudes toward life displayed by ordinary
people), “episteme” (the Foucauldian term for the unconscious
principles of accepting and organizing knowledge), or
“paradigm” (Thomas Kuhn’s idiom for a historically defined
pattern or framework of scientific explanation). While ideology
shares with these terms a reference to certain styles of thought or
patterns of perception that are taken to predetermine our
representations and decisions, it is different from these other
concepts as it uniquely points to the way in which systems of
ideas instrumentalize social (inter)action. Ideology is, therefore,
more politically charged than its near synonyms, although the
semantic boundaries between them remain fuzzy.
In postmodern thought, ideology has been shown to
underlie everything that we usually and uncritically take to be
the “truth” or the most sensible and natural course of action.
Predictably, humanistic representations such as historical accounts
of the past, philosophical views, and aesthetic appraisals were
the first to be exposed for being motivated by, or for promoting
political ideologies. What was less expected, however, was that
Foucault, Kuhn, and other thinkers would claim that even the
so-called exact sciences are permeated by ideology and rely on
rhetoric and the power of discourse to gain acceptance.
The one field where ideology has been most thoroughly
implicated is the construction of cultural identities, where
“identity has become a powerful ideological device wielded as
much by academics as by political entrepreneurs, social

movements or state institutions” (Malešević 3). It has widely

been claimed that national ideology generates a community’s
self-image as well as the image of its political and cultural
others. Clifford Geertz redefined ideology as “an ordered system
of (interacting) cultural symbols” and Benedict Anderson
suggested that it is nationalist ideology that generates national
self-images and materializes them through, and as, national
institutions. Such theoretical models can only reinforce the
emancipatory critiques wielded on behalf of subaltern
postcolonial and postcommunist cultures. Edward Said links
Orientalism as a “style of thought” to “ideology, politics and the
logic of power” to demonstrate how the West legitimized its
hegemonic conduct in/toward the East. Larry Wolff illustrates the
ideological role played in World War II, the Cold War, and the
war in Yugoslavia by the Enlightenment’s imaginary
representations of Mitteleuropa or Osteuropa.
The reconstruction of nations and cultures in postcolonial
or postcommunist conditions is a political endeavor shaped by
ideological patterns of representation. The renovation and reformation
of formerly oppressed societies are reactive (they are compensating
responses to imperialist excesses) and dialogical (they are negotiated
among competing discourses within the nation and abroad). In
such instances, ideology displays its contextual relativity, a
feature that is taken for granted theoretically, but hardly ever
analyzed in the comparative context of diverse subaltern worlds.
For instance, in the states with a prior experience of capitalist
domination, anti-capitalist ideologies will no doubt serve as a
natural form of redress and the obvious medium of liberation and
emancipation. Such cultures may openly embrace the discourse of
Marxism, which, however, will only be subversively undermined
by residual liberal undertones from the old capitalist propaganda.
Former communist countries, on the other hand, will mostly

rush to a liberal discourse of emancipation in their race to catch

up with, and rejoin, the West, but the calls for liberalization and
devolution will be obscured by the noise of egalitarianism,
centralization, and state-dependency echoes from the former
Marxist-Leninist propaganda. This should warn us that the value
and function of ideologies must be established in the particular
cultural and political contexts of their occurrence and that such
contexts may reverse the worth and efficiency of one and the
same ideological discourse. Such processes also reveal that
cultures are never ideological monoliths, but are rather the site
of the confluence and clash of various discourses.

See also colonialism, communism, discourse, nationalism,

postcolonialism, postcommunism

Further Reading: Bailey and Gayle 2008, Eagleton 1991,

Freeden 2003, Malešević 2006


Imperialism is the organized and systematic exercise of
domination (whether political, economic, military, cultural or
otherwise) over distinct populations whose culture and
historical development are usually altered in the process in order
for the hegemonic power to reap material and political benefits.
Imperialism is constantly, yet variously contrasted with
colonialism. Postcolonial critic E. Said (Culture and
Imperialism, 1993), for instance, states that the two are different
in nature as imperialism is domination from a distance and
colonialism is the actual settling of far-away lands. Historian J.

Osterhammel (1995) rather finds that imperialism consists of

transcolonial attitudes and practices, its interests exceeding by
far the mere exploitation and administration of colonies. In
imperialism, he claims, colonies tend to be used as leverage and
currency in international politics. However, historians of a
Marxian economic bent claim that we are looking at discrete
historical phenomena in chronological succession. Colonialism
allegedly precedes the advent of capitalism, while imperialism is
the typical consequence and the last stage of capitalism. In
contrast to that timeline, world literature scholar Elleke Boehmer
(1995) takes colonialism to be a continuous historical process of
exploitation that has been going on for the past 400 years of
European expansion and is perpetuated in the current context of
globalization as neocolonialism.
Like colonialism, imperialism is ideologically indiscriminate.
Empires have emerged and developed in all ages and in all
corners of the globe, irrespective of social, economic, and political
systems, and most importantly, irrespective of the prevailing
episteme or mentality. The imperialist behavior of modern and
late-modern world powers evinces various combinations and
proportions of feudalism, capitalism, and communism. Presumably,
economy and political ideology merely furnish the circumstances
and particular color of imperialism, whereas its core determinants
would be best explained by the anthropological, sociological,
and psychological study of power and aggression as symbolic
constituents of collective self-images and status-building.
The mentality-over-materiality approach is taken by many
cultural critics of imperialism and postcolonialism. Edward
Said contends that the rhetoric of late nineteenth-century
imperialism was efficient because it was grounded in public
perceptions shaped by extant popular fictional and non-fictional

discourse (107). Ashcroft et al. suggest that the politics of

“competitive nationalism” and the efficient control and use of
the “means of representation” (rather than Marx’s “means of
production”) may explain imperialist and colonialist practice
better than economic considerations (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and
Tiffin 1998:114-5). This would suggest that imperialism is
primarily an ideological affair. Interestingly, though, while it is at
least partially true that politicized discourse may better explain the
mechanics of imperialism and colonialism, just about any
ideology may serve to drape the scaffolding of hegemonic self-
representations. Self-serving justifications for, and disguises of,
imperialist appetites are equally illustrated by David Livingstone’s
doctrine of emancipation through “Christianity, Commerce, and
Civilization” and by the Soviet propaganda of liberation through
Communism, Commerce, and Cooperation. Political ideologies
seem to have been merely annexed and turned into handmaids
by imperialist discourses and practices. The fact that liberalism
and Marxism, both raising claims to be ideologies of
emancipation, have both served to subjugate and tyrannize
smaller or weaker communities while pretending to liberate
them and facilitate their modernization may be a proof that
either they are both internally flawed and acting as covert hosts
for tendencies towards hegemony, or that they are just as
incapable of either ensuring or preventing imperialism. How
else may one explain that empires working on both liberal and
Marxist universalizing claims have risen and collapsed?
Imperialism does not even require an actual, traditional
empire in order to exert itself. Scholars speak of “informal”
empires and of “cultural imperialism”. Imperialist perceptions
and practices are taken to occur whenever national or federative
communities, cultural networks and institutions, as well as

international corporations and bodies behave in an expansionist

and domineering way. Imperialism, in this view, becomes a
system of representations, grounded in the power of our
imagination to generate discursive images of self and other.
Such representations enjoy relative autonomy as they do not
merely accompany, or derive from, the practice of exploitation by
actual empires, but also precede and follow, indeed, for many critics,
they justify and facilitate the concrete shapes of imperialism and
colonialism. This may explain why it is still possible to speak of
(neo)imperialism in the present day context of globalization
where formal empires have supposedly become extinct.
As imperialism is an act of aggression, being subjected to
imperialism always damages the victim. Anti- and postimperialist
attitudes should be acknowledged as post-traumatic. The typical
anti- or postimperialist subject remains hypnotically attracted
by the hostility and violence against one’s authenticity and
cultural identity. The power of imperialism resides in its ability
to take possession of its subjects (not just the physical beings)
and inoculate them. Imperial subjects are reduced to the mere
reproduction or mimicry of imperial behavior, whether in
compulsive remembering or in anguished retaliation – perhaps
both concurrently. The psychology of this strained and painful
relationship between aggressor and victim produces paradoxical
twists and quite often the victims will become contaminated by
the aggression and will internalize the discourse and viewpoint
of the perpetrator, unwittingly reproducing it in the very process
of their liberation and recovery.
Self and other are represented by (former) subjects of
imperialism inside the folds of discrimination and intolerance, as
the former victims of imperialism replicate and redirect the
hegemonic and aggressive acts that have originally inflicted

their trauma. Indian or Romanian, victims of imperialism mimic

their oppressor even as they tragically seek to fight their
inferiority complex by vainly clamoring the presumed superiority
of their marginalized culture over others. Indian elites will even
strain to out-English the English, though never really shaking
off the pre-conceived notion of being imperfect and incomplete
British subjects no matter what they do. East-European elites
will insist that their culture is more European than most,
including the most prestigious Western ones, or they will posit
their culture as a superior mix of the best that the East and the
West have had to offer, because theirs is more balanced, more
complex, and devoid of deviations and excesses.
The example of Romanian émigré Emil Cioran might be
telling. He stopped writing in Romanian and succeeded in
emulating the French prose style to a fault until he was informally
declared the greatest stylist among his French contemporaries. But
in culturally and linguistically relocating himself, he displayed a
compulsion to assert his superiority as a French and Western
intellectual by belittling others. Predictably, he denied the right of
minor cultures to assert their spiritual excellence. He scoffed at the
attempt of his one-time friend, Constantin Noica, to propose a
Romanian metaphysics by replying that the notion is as absurd as
conceiving of a Paraguayan metaphysics (sentimentul paraguayan
al fiinţei). Cioran was inviting Noica to work within a hierarchy of
cultural achievement that he felt they shared: having always tried to
resemble the Western educated elites, they shared the Western
elitism and contempt of the exotic and barbarous cultures. Noica
himself dismissed Indian culture as too eccentric and colorful, but,
unlike Cioran, he was not prepared to relegate his own culture to
the status of an uncanny curiosity. Even more interestingly, both
Cioran and Noica felt they could save themselves from marginality

by asserting themselves as more authentically Western and more

elevated than the Western intellectual elites themselves. Cioran
jeered at Camus for having the education of a schoolmaster and,
yet, audaciously suggesting to the aspiring Cioran, a hyperbolic
reader of Western philosophy and high literature, that he needed to
start becoming acquainted with the great philosophical writings
(Liiceanu 1993: 108). A victim of the same marginality complex,
Noica suggested in his writings and his private conversations the
paradox that it was in apparently marginal intellectuals like himself
and in apparently marginal cultures like his own that the essential
spirit of German and world culture is preserved (Liiceanu 1983: 136).
Mimicry is not the monopoly of elites, either. At the level
of mass perceptions, the combined effect of models set both by
metropolitan and native elites leads to equally mimetic
responses in everyday social and political imagination. This may
partly explain the popularity of authoritarian and even dictatorial
regimes or the widespread discrimination and intolerance in
postcolonial and postcommunist countries.
While it is ideologically embarrassing for anti-capitalist
critics, a massive pile of evidence has been gathered to support
the idea that there was also such a thing as a Soviet Empire and
that Marxism-Leninism facilitated imperialist discourses and
practices in the Soviet sphere of domination. The unexpected
alignment of leftist ideology with imperial and even colonial
politics is just one of the illuminating twists in the particular
example of Soviet imperialism. Another is the absence of a clear
ethnic center imposing its culture onto the foreign margin.
While the Soviet Empire is commonly seen as the heir of the
Romanov, therefore Russian dynastic rule, and while Russification
campaigns by the USSR leadership have been convincingly
documented, some scholars claim that, in fact, the Russians
themselves were also subjected to Soviet imperialism and

colonization. One explanation for this strange “internal colonization”

may be that all empires, from the Roman to the Napoleonian, to
USA and USSR, are political instruments in ruling the subjects of
the metropolis more easily. The expansionist drive of empires
primarily serves the domestic purpose of convincing one’s own
citizens that it is in their best interest to pledge allegiance to the
imperial rule. The aim of being a successful imperial force
abroad is to secure a place as the desirable emperor of your own
people, be they Roman or Russian. Another possible explanation
might be that the Soviet Empire has opened the way for
post-national forms of globalized power that are represented
today by multinational corporations and transnational political
bodies such as the European Union. This process of side-stepping
nationality has gradually made criteria of ethnicity or territoriality
redundant in a late modern framework where political
domination is increasingly wielded by looser networks of power.
Whether formal or informal, colonial or accretive, territorial or
political, economic or ideological, ethnic or transnational, imperialism
is always an aggressive, persistent act of collective submission and
domination that inflicts physical and psychological traumas and
constrains the victims’ process of identity (re)construction.

See also colonialism, communism, globalization, mimicry,

nationalism, postcolonialism, postcommunism

Further Reading: Bush 2006, Etkind 2011, Hamm and

Smandych 2005, Said 1994



Liberalism is, etymologically and in very general terms,
the creed of those who believe in individual liberty. However, the
aspects of freedom that came to be crystallized in the liberal doctrine
could be systematized to four points following Merquior: the
(negative) freedom of not being subjected to arbitrary interferences,
the (positive) freedom of participating in public affairs, the
(interior) freedom of conscience and beliefs, and the (personal)
freedom of self-development of the individual (Sakwa 2001 269).
The philosophical foundations of liberalism were laid by
John Locke in the seventeenth century. In opposition to the
premodern feudal type of political and social organization,
Locke put forth in his two Treatises on Government the
principles of the social contract between the governors and the
governed as based on representational democracy and the
separation of the legislative, executive and judicial powers for
the rule of law and the protection of private property, while
Adam Smith developed the classical laissez-faire economic
theory associated with liberalism in the Eighteenth century. In
the nineteenth century, modern liberalism starts with J. S. Mill,
Victorian liberalism including in addition to individual political
freedom (which the state has the function of protecting) and free
trade and laissez-faire in the economic field, also gradual social
reform in order to achieve the progress of society (thus certain
constraints being put on the government, aiming at the
improvement of social life at all levels of society), tolerance in
religious matters and a concern for general education.
Liberalism is generally associated with the practice of
adversariality in the European tradition of political and economic

life, which institutionalizes competition – such as the competition

between different political parties in electoral contests, between
prosecution and defense in legal procedure, or between different
producers in a market economy. Liberalism is therefore a philosophy
that has a political, an economic and a cultural dimension.
Like all phenomena within the realm of culture, liberalism
has a historical determination and evolution. The historical
development of liberalism since the seventeenth century has
been a movement from the mistrust of the state’s power, for fear
that it tends to be misused, to a willingness to use the
government to correct perceived inequities in the distribution of
wealth resulting from economic competition, which deprives
some people of an equal opportunity to live a good life freely.
Thus, the liberals sought an expansion of governmental power
and responsibility in the twentieth century in order to restrict
and regulate business and thus provide greater opportunities for
laborers and consumers, a position rather opposed to that held
by liberals in the previous century when they formed the party
of business and the entrepreneurial middle class. But the
apparent contradiction can be explained by the liberals’
consistent hostility to concentrations of power that threaten the
freedom of the individual and prevent him from realizing his full
potential. The liberals also believe in a willingness to reexamine
and reform social institutions in the light of new historical
developments. For the achievement of what they considered to
be a more just distribution of wealth and income, liberals
promoted the organization of workers into trade unions so that
they could better bargain with their employers, and the
implementation of a multiparty system in which at least one
party represented the interests of the workers.
Moreover, it was the liberals that introduced a variety of
government-funded social services. Beginning with free public
education and workmen’s accident insurance, these services
later came to include programs of old-age, unemployment, and

health insurance; minimum-wage laws; and support for the

handicapped. Such social welfare programs relied on a redistribution
of wealth derived from a graduated income tax and inheritance
tax.Though such social welfare measures were interestingly
initiated and enacted by the totally nonliberal government of
Bismarck in Germany in the late nineteenth century, they were
soon a model to liberal government in other countries of
northern and western Europe and later in the United States with
the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935.
As a normative political philosophy liberalism is “a set of moral
arguments about political action and institutions” (Kymlicka 1991:9)
and modern liberalism includes representative figures like J. Rawls
and R. Dworkin, even though thinkers like G. A. Cohen consider
that, since they reject the classic liberal principle of “self-ownership”,
these new liberals should be called social democrats (qtd. in
Kymlicka 1991: 10, G. A. Cohen 1986: 79).
Indeed, liberalism is not a unitary philosophy, there have
been many historical variants, as already shown, but it relies on
the whole on a certain underlying conception about man and
society which makes the liberal tradition recognizable. Its four
features are, according to John Gray: individualism (which
affirms the moral supremacy of the individual over any social
group or community), egalitarianism (which attributes the same
moral status to all people and rejects the relevance of the
individual’s moral worth for the legal or political system),
universalism (which affirms the moral unity of the human
species and deems the particular cultural forms and historical
organization of secondary importance) and meliorism (which
believes in the possible improvement of any social institution and
any type of political organization) (J. Gray 1998: 24). Liberalism
emerged as a political doctrine focused on correcting privileges,
social evils and abuses of political power through the reform of
traditional institutions and practices, contrary to the conservatism
(belief in traditional institutions) of the landed gentry.

The aim of liberalism is leading a good life, according to

one’s own values and choices, not those imposed by somebody
else, hence the traditional liberal concern for civil and personal
liberties, for education, freedom of expression, freedom of the
press, all necessary for exploring individually one’s collective
cultural heritage. In his criticism of Bentham and Utilitarianism
in the essays with these titles, Mill does promote individualism
but also social interaction for the formation of character; he is not
only concerned with the individual rights of person and property,
but with civic freedoms, with a public sphere of expression (as
in his famous essay “On Liberty”), and with a liberal education.
Mill considers that liberty is necessary for ensuring freedom of
conscience and freedom of speech, for education and self-
education as means of “forming and revising one’s character in
accordance with what is really valuable” (Kymlicka 1991:17).
Liberalism believes in living life from the inside, hence it has
always rejected coercive paternalism. It finds it unacceptable that
people who try to live their life from the inside be brainwashed into
accepting certain ends as their own, or be discouraged from
trying any other ways of life, through systematic control of
socialization, of the press, and of artistic expression.
Liberalism is frequently opposed to communitarianism,
and considered to promote selfishness as against the good of
others. However liberalism recognizes that communal and cultural
aspects of social life provide the possibility for, and locus of, the
pursuit of human values. Yet, for liberals it is essential that the
community be not suppressive or oppressive of the individual’s
search for growth and personal discovery of values. Liberal
individualism is not about believing in self-interest rather than
love, but about valuing individual choice and detachment over
social commitments and attachments; it supports the right to
public expression and association on the one hand, and to personal
liberty and property on the other (Kymlicka 1991: 254). In this
way, liberal individualism does not conflict with the ideal of a

community – bound in mutual respect – but rather provides an

interpretation of it. Self-direction is not to distance people from
one another, but to enable groups of people to freely pursue and
advance their shared communal and cultural ends, without
marginalizing or penalizing those individuals or groups that
have different views. Under these liberal conditions members of
society, individually and in community with others, can intelligently
form and successfully pursue their respective understandings of
the good. Kymlicka makes a good case for the way Canada
could offer a management of cultural pluralism, a solution to
community maintenance within a liberal conceptual framework.
There are two different views on freedom: one according
to which freedom is a matter for the individual alone, with a
minimal role of the state attached to it. An extreme application
of this view would lead to anarchism. However, there is the
opposite view that freedom is a matter for the state, which
should be used as an instrument to promote it. Carried to its
extreme, this view leads to social or welfare liberalism, which
mixes a market economy with elements of socialism, but differs
form the latter as practiced in the communist bloc countries in its
essential guarantee of individual freedom. According to modern
liberalism, the chief task of government is to remove obstacles
that prevent individuals from living in freedom or from fully
realizing their potential. Such obstacles include poverty, disease,
discrimination, and ignorance. There is a disagreement among
liberals over whether government should promote individual
freedom rather than merely protect it, which is reflected to some
extent in the different prevailing conceptions of liberalism in the
United States and Europe since the late twentieth century. In the
United States liberalism is associated with the welfare state
policies of the New Deal program of the Democratic
administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whereas in
Europe it is more commonly associated with a commitment to
limited government and laissez-faire economic policies.

A remarkable present day social phenomenon resulting

from globalization is that the global corporations are restructuring
welfare states into neoliberal states: through the formation of
global cities they replace national middle classes with global
middle classes. Quality education is the main form of cultural
capital that the middle classes have always accumulated in
order to occupy jobs that would enable them to live comfortable
lives, particularly according to the late capitalist ideology of
consumption, as illustrated by Toni Blair’s notable words “the
more you learn, the more you earn” (qtd. in Rutz 11). Thus we
can say, extrapolating on Rutz (12), that quality education has
emerged as a metadiscourse for the reproduction of social class.
The human struggle for the good life intersects the agencies
of state, market and family and is of equal interest in postcolonial
and postcommunist states. The latter have been going through a
process of liberalization, that is they have turned from protectionist
state policies of import substitution and regulated export exchanges
with the communist bloc Council for Mutual Economic Aid (CMEA)
countries to deregulated import- or export-oriented policies with
all states. The neoliberal forces of globalization pressed for free
trade and economic growth, seen as the solution to all national
problems and going hand in hand with democracy. As Rutz and
Balkan argue, “this neoliberal perspective on the problems of the
nation state found an audience in almost every developing nation
across the globe” (2009: 17), where this double rhetoric of market
and democracy underlay the two facets of a dominant discourse that
was rooted in neoclassical economic thought, Enlightenment
rationalism and the political value of individual liberty.
From a Marxist perspective, neoliberalism reproduces the
basic logic of capital as described by Marx and is to be defined
as a “theory of political economic practices that proposes that
human well-being can be best advanced by liberating individual
entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional
framework characterized by strong private property rights, free
markets and free trade” (Harvey 2005: 3). It promotes the

creation of market regulated economies. Harvey describes the

new round of capital accumulation in developing countries as
based on the concept of “accumulation by dispossession”
(Harvey 2003: 137-83), by the state’s selling off public assets or
privatization, commodification and marketization of areas of
social life that had not functioned under the logic of capital. And
this process has, however, entailed much “creative destruction,
not only of prior institutional frameworks and powers but also of
divisions of labor, social relations, welfare provisions, technological
mixes, ways of life and thought, reproductive activities, attachments
to land and habits of the heart” (2005: 3). We can indeed say
that in the case of most postcommunist states, the state has
definitively stopped being a provider of uniformly meager, but
still social benefits, placing last in all its concerns all social
investments in the domains of education, health and social
assistance. It does not control tax evasion because many people
in power are former communists intent on making personal
fortunes and caring nothing for the others they were supposed to
represent (in the elected bodies of Parliaments). Neoliberalism
has been a policy of privatization of public assets such as state
enterprises and banks, public utilities (water, transportation,
telecommunications), social welfare provisions (education,
housing, healthcare, pensions), and even public land to a certain
degree, both in developed and in developing countries.
The former communist apparatchiks utilized their cultural
capital of superior education (acquired first in Moscow and then
in countries with communist sympathies such as France) as well
as the social capital of the disciplined network of the former
communist party activists and secret police officers placed in
economic and financial key positions acting in great solidarity in
order to become part of the new capitalist economy, and frequently
achieved their benefit by the dispossession of the people (the
former collective owner) of most economic assets left to deteriorate on
purpose to bring only a very low price to the state when privatizing
them. In the cultural field of the media, the liberal political economy

brought quite a revolution, from one state owned TV station and

a handful of newspapers and reviews, to a proliferation of
privately owned television channels and printed press.
Promoting individual freedom and individualism, liberalism
is the economic doctrine underlying global market economy and
the political and social ideology associated with Western liberal
democracies of the modern period in opposition to the (lay or
religious) collectivist ideologies that underlie societies ruled by
a denial of individual freedom such as Nazi, communist or
military forms of dictatorship. As liberal democracy endeavors
to accommodate cultural diversity, it has appealed to all
postcommunist states in Europe and many postcommunist and
postcolonial states in Asia and Africa.

See also capitalism, communism, democracy

Further Reading: “liberalism”. Encyclopædia Britannica.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition, Crouch 2011,
Dumenil and Levy 2011, Evans 2001, Freeden 1986, Galston 1999,
Gaus and Kukathas 2004, Kymlicka 1993


The term “liminality” is derived from the Latin root “limen”,
meaning threshold, and it is used to denote the condition of things,
subjects, places that find themselves in-between, in a transitional
state. Although the adjective “liminal” appears in psychological
studies as early as 1884 (as noted by the OED, second edition),
“liminality” was coined by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep in
The Rites of Passage (1909). While describing rituals of transition,
Gennep noted that they usually consist of three stages: the initial
separation between the subject and its stabilized environment,

the threshold stage/the margin, marked by liminality and ambiguity,

and the final stage of aggregation or reintegration, where the
subject crosses the threshold into a new stabilized environment.
The concept was further developed by anthropologist
Victor Turner in a number of studies: “Betwixt and Between: The
Liminal Period in Rites de Passage” (in The Forest of Symbols:
Aspects of Ndembu Ritual, 1967), “Liminality and Communitas”
(in The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure, 1969), and
“Passages, Margins, and Poverty: Religious Symbols of Communitas”
(in Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors, 1974). Focusing mainly on
the transitional stage of cultural rites, Turner attempts a first
definition of liminality as an ambiguous phase: “the Nay to all
positive structural assertions, but […] in some sense the source
of them all and, more than that, […] a realm of pure possibility
whence novel configurations of ideas and relations may arise”
(Turner 1967: 97). As chaos seems to be both the opposite and
the source of order, in a similar way, liminality contains the
infinite possibilities from which social structure may emerge.
Liminality is a condition that challenges and erases the category
of class, as liminal individuals possess “no status, insignia,
secular clothing, rank, kinship position, nothing to demarcate
them structurally from their fellows” (Turner 1967: 98). They
make up a communal group in which all are equal – and, as
such, they are considered polluting and dangerous by established
social hierarchies. Individuals in a liminal state, stripped of the
markers of social differentiation, live in the interstices of social
structure, in an in-between space and time which gives them a
heightened awareness of themselves: “I see liminality as a phase
in social life in which this confrontation between ‘activity which
has no structure’ and its ‘structured results’ produces in men
their highest pitch of self-consciousness” (Turner 1974: 255).
Liminality as a feature of anti-structure is closely related to what
Turner calls communitas, an alternative model for human
interrelatedness to social structure. While social structure is a

more or less clearly defined hierarchical system of political,

economic and legal positions, communitas (exemplified by the
hippies or the beat generation) is a kind of anti-structure which
emerges in periods of structural change, made up by a community
of equal individuals that respond only to the authority of ritual
elders (Turner 1969: 96).
In literary, cultural and postcolonial studies, the term has
been successfully adopted to refer to a subject on the border
that separates distinct spheres, identities or discourses. Liminality
can be related to Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the threshold
chronotope, a chronotope encompassing border zones, crises and
life-changing events:
the chronotope of threshold […] is connected with the breaking point
of a life, the moment of crisis, the decision that changes a life (or the
indecisiveness that fails to change a life, the fear to step over a
threshold) […] In this chronotope, time is essentially instantaneous; it
is as if it has no duration and falls out of the normal time of
biographical time. (Bakhtin 248)

An instance of Bakhtin’s chronotope of the threshold in

postcolonial literature is the “transforming membrane in the sky”,
which Ormus, the protagonist of Rushdie’s The Ground beneath
Her Feet, has to cross on his westward journey. The crossing of
the threshold is a life-changing event as Ormus “the youthful
proselytizer of the here and now, the sensualist, the great lover, the
material man, the poet of the actual, saw visions of the other world
and was transformed into an oracle, a ten-year monk and […] recluse”
(Rushdie 2000: 418).
For Edward Said and especially Homi Bhabha, liminality
becomes important as a condition for cultural hybridity, a
disruptive in-betweenness that challenges essentialist understandings
and fixed identifications, opening up a space for the refashioning
of postcolonial identity free of the binary oppositions of colonial
discourse: “This interstitial passage between fixed identifications
opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity that entertains difference

without an assumed or imposed hierarchy” (Bhabha 1994: 5). In

his introduction to The Location of Culture, Bhabha takes up the
postcolonial debate over nation and nationalism, arguing that
the formation of postcolonial subjectivity can be no longer
ascribed to a pre-given, essentialist and ahistorical intersection
of the categories of class, gender, ethnicity and religion.
Instead, Bhabha argues, cultural identity is a permanent process
of negotiation that takes place in an in-between space across
differences of race, class, nation and gender:
It is in the emergence of the interstices – the overlap and
displacement of domains of difference – that the intersubjective and
collective experiences of nationness, community interest, or cultural
value are negotiated. How are subjects formed “in-between”, or in
excess of, the sum of the “parts” of difference (usually intoned as
race/class/gender, etc.)? How do strategies of representation or empowerment
come to be formulated in the competing claims of communities where,
despite shared histories of deprivation and discrimination, the
exchange of values, meanings and priorities may not always be
collaborative and dialogical, but may be profoundly antagonistic,
conflictual and even incommensurable? (Bhabha 1994: 2)

Thus, the liminal is a hybrid space in which there is an

ongoing process of producing cultural meaning and cultural
difference, where the representation of difference must not be
hastily regarded as the reflection of pre-given ethnic or cultural
traits set in the fixed tablet of tradition. In the liminal spaces, the
social articulation of difference is a complex process, an
ongoing negotiation that aims to authorize cultural hybridities
emerging in moments of historical transformation. Bhabha
exemplifies the condition of liminality as one of the factors for
the production of culture in the diasporic or exilic predicament
of postcolonial writers such as Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul or
Wole Soyinka, whose literary work is impossible to analyse in
terms of “national” identities. The cultural negotiation that takes
place on the border is described by Rushdie in the more aggressive
terms of a battle and a “war of meanings”, as these combat
zones, as Rushdie dubs them, are characterized by fluidity:

there is no structure, the form of things changes all the time. Safety,
danger, control, panic, these and other labels constantly attach and
detach themselves from places and people. When you emerge from
such a place it stays with you, its otherness randomly imposes itself on
the apparent stability of your home-town streets. (Rushdie 2000: 420)

Since both the postcolonial and the postcommunist conditions

are placed at a historical crossroads, between the “has been” of the
colonial/communist past and the “not yet” of an uncertain future,
they share the liminality of transitional stages. The parallel can be
further explored in relation to “the new marginalization of the
postcommunist countries caused by such world-wide phenomena as
globalization, the rise of cultural imperialism and the colonization
of cyberspace by First World countries, particularly the United
States” (Mihăilă 2005: 133).
Dwelling on the similarity of postcolonial and postcommunist
literature, Adrian Oţoiu remarks that the literary production of
the 1980s Generation of Romanian writers (G80), uneasily
placed between two regimes, is united by liminality and “its
plethora of associations: ambiguity, hybridity, transgression”
(Oţoiu 88). The threshold space which, according to Oţoiu, replaces
the logic of either/or with that of both/and makes possible the
co-existence of two conflicting characteristics of Romanian literature
produced by G80: authenticity (realism) and textualism
(postmodernism). The protagonists of the G80 fiction display
liminal features, being “either borderline personalities or
deliberate déclassés self-relegated to the gray zones of society,
caught in dilemmatic situations they prefer to leave unresolved”,
while the narrative strategies of the texts “disorient readers by
placing them in the liminal spaces of indecision” (Oţoiu 88).
If both anthropology and cultural/literary studies tend to
regard the liminal and liminality as a condition connected with
the sacred, the production of meaning, change and creativity, a site of
“engagement, contestation and appropriation” (Ashcroft, Griffiths,
and Tiffin 1998: 131), there is a current strand of sociology that
focuses on the contemporary state of “permanent liminality” as

an incentive to a hectic, irresponsible and ultimately perverse way

of life contrasting with the traditional association of human life
with at least some degree of stability, meaning and sense of home.
Liminality is indeed a source of renewal, a restoration of
meaning and the pouring of fresh wine into an old bottle. But if there
are no proper “bottles”, the fermenting power is diluted and lost. If
everything is constantly changing, then things always remain the same.
Liminality is a source of excitement and variety and a shakeup from
the dull routine of everyday life, but nothing is more boring than the
permanent state of liminality, where even the hope of escaping the
routine is lost. Individuals are forced to invent more and more sophisticated
and ultimately perverse forms of entertainment in a mad search after
experience, in the wish to surpass in excitement the boredom of the
hectic existence in a permanent state of liminality. (Szakolczai 226)

Liminality can be used both as a conceptual tool and a

theoretical perspective for grasping changes in cultural, social or
political life. Especially today, when we have to live with the
uncertainties brought about by globalization and the economic
crisis, the liminal can prove an efficient hermeneutic device for
the structuring and interpretation of chaotic experiences.
Whether valorized more, or less, positively, liminality is a useful
term for the exploration of blurred contours and zones in both
postcolonial and postcommunist cultural spaces.

See also class, hybridity

Further Reading: Kovačevič 2008, Oţoiu 2003, Turner

1967, 1969, 1974, Van Gennep 2004







Marxism is the doctrine developed from the philosophic,
political, economic, and social theories of Karl Marx, Friedrich
Engels, and their followers. It is an ideology that minimizes the
role of the individual in favor of the collective, in critical
opposition to liberal individualism.
Marx’s ideas were adopted and modified by Lenin for the
more practical program and strategy of his Russian October
1917 Revolution. Later it was also altered by Joseph Stalin and,
under the name of Marxism-Leninism became the doctrine of
the Communist Party of the USSR and of the communist parties
that exalted the Soviet model. There is also a variety of
Marxisms: that of the anti-Stalinist Leon Trotsky, Mao Zedong’s
Chinese variant and various Marxisms in the contemporary
developing world. After World War II nondogmatic Marxisms
have appeared that have modified Marx’s thought with
borrowings from modern theoreticians such as Edmund Husserl,
Martin Heidegger or Sigmund Freud.
Marxism is a labor-based theory of wealth and historical
development holding that actions and human institutions are
economically and historically determined, that class struggle is
the basic agency of historical change, and that in the capitalist
society the class struggle will lead to revolution, the dictatorship
of the proletariat, and the eventual development of communism,
a classless society.

As Leslie Holmes opines, Marx’s writings are prolific and

numerous but on the whole frequently contradictory and
depressingly incomplete regarding some important aspects of
socialism (Holmes 2004: 24).
Expounded in Marx’s major works, The Communist Manifesto
(written in collaboration with his friend F. Engels, 1848), and
Capital (vol. I, 1867, the other two published posthumously by
Engels in 1885 and 1894), Marx’s theory is an interpretation of
historical development known as “historical materialism”. In
opposition to idealist views such as those of Hegel, Fichte, and
Kant, Marx held that our ideas are determined by the material
world, and not the other way round. He took from Hegel his
“dialectical” view, considering that reality is in permanent
movement, that reality and the way we interpret it permanently
change function of context, determined by time, place and the
interpreter’s identity. Hence he regarded history as
unrepeatable, yet he identified certain very general patterns.
For Marx, the motive force of historical development is
class struggle. He took over the ideas of class and class struggle
from Henri de Saint-Simon’s theory of utopian socialism. He
began his analysis with that of the material conditions of
economic activities necessary for human society to provide for
its material needs. The form of economic organization, or mode
of production, is the base from which arise all other social
phenomena such as social relations, political and legal systems,
morality and ideology, which form what he calls the superstructure.
As the forces of production, most notably technology, improve,
existing forms of social organization come to impede further progress.
The mode of production involves two classes: a minority
that own the means of production (slave owners in ancient
societies, land owners in feudal societies, the bourgeoisie or
capital owners in capitalist societies) and the vast majority of

the population who produce goods and services (the slaves, the
serfs, the proletariat). Marx focused his analysis mostly on
capitalist societies where classes include the land owners from
feudal times, and the middle classes have multiple layers, an
important one being the intellectuals. The proletariat has only
labor to sell as a means of survival. He emphasized the role of
technological innovation in the replacement of the feudal order
of production with the capitalist one, a process in which the
bourgeoisie played a progressive role until it managed to seize
the political power from the feudal ruling class, the land owners
(through revolution as in France, 1789, or reform as in Britain, 1832).
In this struggle the bourgeoisie, as other new classes before, claimed
that they represented the interests of the whole society, not only
their own narrow class interests. Marx thought that the emergent
capitalist societies carried the seed of their own destruction from
the very beginning, as the contradictions and tensions between
the two classes were going to escalate to such a degree that they
were bound to provoke the uprising of the proletariat and the
overthrow of the oppressive class, in what he called a socialist
revolution. The socialist system would by necessity succeed
capitalism as humanity's mode of production. Capitalism, according
to Marx, could no longer maintain the living standards of the
population due to its need to compensate for falling rates of
profit by cutting down wages and social benefits and by military
aggression abroad. Marx envisaged the socialist revolution as an
international one, since if it broke out in only one state, the other
capitalist countries might feel threatened and invade the new
state proclaimed by the proletarian revolution. This state would
illustrate a new type of power structure, where the ruling class
would represent the majority of the population, contrary to all
former political systems.

But for Marx there are two views of revolution: “the

concepts of catastrophic and permanent revolution” (Chambre,
McLellan: “Marxism” 537). The former is that of a final violent
suppression of the old conditions of production, which would
occur when the contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat
became extreme, a conception put forth in The Holy Family (1845).
The concept of a permanent revolution involved a provisional
coalition between the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie
revolting against capitalism. Thus, a coalition was to be set up
between an unofficial proletarian authority and the revolutionary
bourgeois authority. The aim of this coalition was the political
and revolutionary education of the proletariat, and a gradual but
eventual transfer of legal power from the revolutionary bourgeoisie
to the revolutionary proletariat. A careful reading of The
Communist Manifesto reveals inconsistencies that indicate that
Marx had not reconciled the two conceptions. Moreover, Marx
never defined classes as specific groups of people opposing
other groups of people and his number of classes varies
depending on the writings and the periods.
Marx never gave too many details about the post-revolutionary
state, hence the plurality of subsequent interpretations by his
followers. But he twice at least referred to it as the “dictatorship
of the proletariat” (Holmes 2004: 26). He stated that this state
was going to eventually disappear, when the repression and
suppression of certain classes was no longer necessary. The only
way of creating this situation was the abolishment of private
property on which class division and exploitation rested. Thus,
private property over the means of production would be
superseded by collective ownership, the main task of the post
socialist revolution state, which would create the premises for
the disappearance of the state in a classless society. A socialist
economy would not base its production and economic activity

on the accumulation of capital; on the contrary, production

would be carried out directly for use, that is its aim would be
satisfying human needs. The only function of a political
organization in communism would be administration and
distribution of goods, in a non-conflictual form.
Marx’s theory of the proletarian revolution was based on
his observation and analysis of the strongly industrialized Western
European societies, and he considered that the conditions for
such a revolution would be rife only in societies that had
progressed through various stages of capitalist development,
hence the “ambiguous answer” he gave Russian revolutionary
thinkers who asked him if a socialist revolution could break out
in their country (Holmes 2004: 27). Marx’s writings had marked
utopian features that appeared as prophetic to his followers. He
was rather vague on the nature of the socialist revolution; he
never worked out a theory of the role of a revolutionary party
and only made a sketchy overall picture of the socialist society.
He spoke of two phases in the gradual establishment of
communism, without calling them by distinct names: he made
no clear-cut distinctions between socialism and communism,
though he apparently thought that the former would gradually
lead to the latter, emerging when both classes existing in
socialism disappeared as well as the necessity for a state. In his
apotheotic vision of communist society, human beings would no
longer be alienated from themselves, from their work and from
the rest of their fellow beings.
It was Lenin who developed Marxism turning Marx’s theory
into clearer concepts and a strategy for a communist revolutionary
party with application to Russia. And then Lenin’s continuator,
Joseph Stalin, used the term Marxism-Leninism to designate the
official ideology of the Communist Party of the USSR, which
was subsequently adopted by all the other Eastern European

countries where communism was introduced by means of the

Soviet tanks after World War II. It was Lenin who came up with
two distinct labels for the two stages to communism that Marx
had described. The first stage was that of socialism, the stage
where society under the form of the state (and not individuals),
was to own to an ever greater extent all means of production. The
division of labor was to go on existing, as well as distribution of
wealth on the principle “to every man according to his contribution”.
In communism, the state was to disappear as it would be a
classless society, with no division of labor and a total recovery
of man’s human creative essence (thus alienation from work and
society would come to an end) and everyone would work
according to his abilities and be rewarded according to his needs
(obviously to be established by the communist leaders).
In his pamphlet What Is to Be Done? (1902), Lenin put
forth the theoretical principles for the organization of a Marxist
party which he thought had to be a restricted party of militants
whose goal would be to establish the dictatorship of the
proletariat. He embodied his ideas in the Bolshevik Party,
initially a faction of the Russian Social-Democratic which he
headed in opposition to the Menshevik faction, which supported
the idea of a wide proletarian party that should seek
collaboration with the liberals in order to pass a democratic
constitution for Russia. He attributed the failure of the Russian
Revolution of 1905 to this wrong tactic, whish he deemed a
revisionist attitude. Lenin, like Marx, waged war on the inequity
of class division in the capitalist society, holding that a person's
social class is not determined by the amount of his wealth, but
by the source of their income as determined by their relation to
labor and to the means of production.
Lenin reached the conclusion that it was possible for a
socialist revolution to take place in Russia, contrary to Marx’s

idea that such a revolution would break out only in the most
strongly industrialized states. He adapted Marx’s ideas expounded
in Capital and The Holy Family in order to plan political action
in Russia, analyzing the growing role of capital, in particular
commercial capital, in the exploitation of the workers in the
factories and the large-scale expropriation of the peasants. He
thought that Russia was the weakest link in an international
chain of capitalist and imperialist countries, and that, if this link
burst, it would lead to a chain reaction of revolutions (an idea
that for a short time seemed to be apparently corroborated by the
short-lived 1919 revolutions of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa
Luxemburg in Germany, and of Béla Kun in Hungary).
Lenin laid great emphasis upon the dialectical method as a
movement to take place from activity to reflection and then back
to practical action. He also stressed the leading role of a
professional party of revolutionaries that would help the masses
toward class-consciousness and whose goal would be the
suppression of the capitalist state and the establishment of the
dictatorship of the proletariat by an insurrection, ideas which he
expressed in The State and Revolution (1917). Lenin regarded
the industrial proletariat as the vanguard of the revolution but he
also attributed a major importance to the role to be played by the
discontented peasantry to whose benefit he introduced in the
program of his party the seizure of privately owned land. His
strongly disciplined party was able to organize the Bolshevik
coup of October 1917 which brought Lenin to power.
Lenin was Stalin’s model as regarded the proper type of
party for establishing and maintaining the dictatorship of the
proletariat. In 1921, when there was an agitation and some
workers and members of the army pressed for a democratization
of the party, Lenin not only abolished all other political parties,
but also forbade all factions within the party and strengthened

his control over the party members. Although he formulated the

underlying organizational principle of the Party as “democratic
centralism”, only the second term of the phrase was true,
democracy being a fake in any communist state or party. Marx
had given a very vague description of the postrevolutionary
state. Lenin gave more details in his The State and Revolution,
but Marxist theory in this respect was particularly enriched by
the practical measures he took in order to consolidate his power
after 1917: he expressed his commitment to a planned economy
and created the government’s own secret police, the Cheka (the
Russian acronym for All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for
the Suppression of Counterrevolution and Sabotage), later the
NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), which was
also responsible for all places of detention (e.g. forced labor
camps) and for the regular police. It was Stalin, Lenin’s
successor, who put both ideas to demonic use as he led the
USSR with an iron grip until his death in 1953. Stalin first
eliminated his possible rivals who included Leon Trotsky, the
first leader of the Red Army and proponent of world revolution,
who was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1929 and later assassinated.
Trotsky’s ideas have led to another variety of Marxism that still
has some followers. It emphasizes the necessity of educating the
working class in a revolutionary spirit, of seeing that the party
remain open to the various revolutionary tendencies and avoid
becoming bureaucratized, and finally when a revolutionary
situation appears, of planning and carrying out an insurrection to
set up the dictatorship of the proletariat.
In 1928 Stalin started economic development on the basis
of five-year plans, launching a period of rapid industrialization and
collectivization of agriculture which resulted in the USSR emerging
as the world’s second largest economy after World War II. But this
rapid economic and social change was achieved at the price of a real

genocide: millions of people were sent to penal labor camps, particularly

political convicts, and millions were deported and exiled to remote
areas of the Soviet Union. Stalin’s iron grip of power went hand in
hand with an ever-increasing promotion of his personality cult.
Thus in 1937-38 he initiated a campaign against former members
of the communist opposition, potential rivals in the party, and other
alleged enemies of the regime, which culminated in the Great
Purge, a period of terror and mass repression in which hundreds of
thousands of people were executed, including Red Army leaders.
Another variant of Marxism that has been put in practice in
China is Maoism, after the communist leader Mao Zedong/Tse-tung,
who combined Marxist analysis with certain aspects of Chinese
cultural traditions. One of the central concepts of his vision is his
theory of contradictions in any society and the socialist/communist
society in particular: antagonistic contradictions are to be resolved
by revolution, such as that between the people and their enemies,
the Chinese bourgeoisie, or that between the imperialist camp
and the socialist camp; and non-antagonistic contradictions,
which, contrary to Marx or Lenin, he theoretically admitted in a
socialist state or within a communist party, and which were to
be solved with the help of self-criticism and comradely clear-
sighted criticism. That was the theory, but in practice Mao
deliberately set out to create a cult for himself and to purge the
Chinese Communist Party of anyone who did not fully support
his rule. He declared his communist goal was to create a
classless Chinese society where peasants, workers and educated
people were of equal status and worked together for the good of
China. The specific feature of Maoism is that it represents a
peasant type of Marxism, Mao’s rural and military outlook being
derived from his experience as a revolutionary Marxist peasant
leader and Red Guards leader. During the civil war, Mao promised
to the huge number of landless and starving Chinese peasants

that by fighting for the Chinese Communist Party they would be

able to take farmland from their landlords and his subsequent
policy of land reform attracted his massive support of this class.
Mao also took over and adapted to Chinese conditions the
concept of permanent revolution, but without the international
dimension that Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky attributed to it. His
conviction that the old deeply rooted practices of bureaucracy,
corruption, and waste of resources had to be done away with at a
more accelerated pace led to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
Like Stalin and the leaders of the Communist bloc countries, Mao
practiced state terrorism activities that began with the suppression of
civic liberties, and imposed agricultural collectivization along with
persecution of protesters or dissidents. “State terrorism has resulted
in mass murders or democides”, the terrible waves of purges meted
out by Stalin (1924-1953) which resulted in the genocide of some
20 million citizens being matched in numbers by what Mao Zedong
did to the people of China” (Ghista 109-110). In these communist
countries no one felt secure as everyone was spied upon by secret
police forces and their volunteer, but well-paid, informers, anyone
could at any time be taken away to far off hard labor camps or
imprisoned with, or without, a trial, in places from where very
few ever returned. Mao’s personality cult was a model to Enver
Hoxha in Albania and Nicolae Ceauşescu in Romania and his
theories inspired the Communist Party of Albania and several
communist formations in Asia, the most notorious for their
atrocities being The Khmer Rouge of Cambodia (1975-1979).
It is important to retain that Marx was a convinced atheist and
regarded religion as “an opium of the people”, a view that was
systematically adopted by Lenin, Stalin and Mao, who all required the
Communist party members to believe only in the lay bible of Marxism.
Both the Soviet Union along the lines of Marxism-
Leninism and China in terms of the Maoist model supported

communist revolutions in various parts of the world, such as

Latin America, Asia and Africa. In Cuba, Fidel Castro generally
followed the Marxism-Leninism model, but he implemented his
revolution believing in revolution by guerrilla rather than party
politics. Considering that he was fighting against all forms of
social injustice in the conditions of Latin America, he also took
over and adapted some of the ideas of Simon Bolívar. His
Marxist ideas have a more nationalist color, as was also the case
of Iosip Broz Tito’s brand of Marxism in Yugoslavia.
In Africa, the revolutionary socialist movements became
subordinate to those of national liberation from colonial powers,
uniting all indigenous classes in the common cause of anti-imperialism,
which was against Marx’s ideas. Examples of communist regimes
are Mohamed Siad Barre’s military regime in Somalia, the dictator
bearing the official title of President of the Somali Democratic
Republic (1969-1991) or The Derg or Dergue Communist
military junta regime in power in Ethiopia from 1974 until 1987,
the Derg's government being formally known as the Provisional
Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia.
As Africa has been generally dominated by precapitalist
peasant societies, many developing countries chose to focus on
agrarian revolution against feudalism and imperialism, as did
Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe. In order to win popularity, Mugabe,
a leader of the liberation movement against the white-minority
rule and the president of ZANU-PF (a socialist party structured
on the communist model), has encouraged land “redistribution”
which meant the seizure of large farms (generally owned by
members of the white minority) by landless black peasants.
At present, in most of the former Soviet countries there
still are communist parties that participate in elections, whereas
in the former satellite countries, the former communists set up
social democratic parties. Communism is still the exclusive ruling

ideology and political system in China, Vietnam, Laos, Northern

Korea, and Cuba but in the first two countries it is not also the
economic system any longer. Both China and Vietnam have
introduced market principles in their economy. Shortly after
Mao's death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping started capitalist reforms in
China in 1978. He began the radical change of Mao's ideology
though Maoism nominally remains the state ideology in The
People’s Republic of China, which has been ranking since 2010
as the world's second largest economy after the United States.
Western Marxism was not so much concerned with the
actual political or economic practice of Marxism as with its
philosophical interpretation. As Chambre and McLellan underline,
they felt the need to explore non-Marxist approaches to history
and culture in order to find an explanation to what, from a
Marxist perspective, seemed inexplicable, that is the success of
capitalist society and bourgeois culture. Many scholars regard
Western Marxism, however, as a heretical departure from
Marxism-Leninism, or rather as a development in new directions
even if, when it was first formulated in the 1920s, its promoters
declared their loyalty to the Soviet Communist Party. The most
outstanding figures in the development of Western Marxism are
György Lukács (Hungary), Karl Korsch and the German
theorists of the Frankfurt School such as Theodor Adorno, Max
Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse and Jürgen Habermas (Germany),
Antonio Gramsci (Italy), Lucien Goldmann, Henri Lefebvre,
Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Louis Althuser,
François Lyotard (France), Fredric Jameson (USA). Marxism
was also the venue of Raymond Williams’ and Stuart Hall’s
cultural materialism or Cultural Studies, as well as to Terry
Eagleton’s literary criticism.
An important contribution to understanding the bourgeois
society in terms inspired by Marx is Antonio Gramsci’s notion
of cultural hegemony, a notion that in his definition signifies

domination by consent. He tried to answer the question of why

the capitalist ruling class could achieve such a success while
giving priority to its own interests. His analysis led him to the
conclusion that it was because it managed to inculcate in the
other classes the conviction that its interests are the interests of
the whole society. Thus, it does not exert its domination by
force, but in the more subtle way of economic domination as
well as through state apparatuses such as the educational system,
the press and the visual media. As Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin
show, the term is useful in postcolonial theory for describing the
success of imperial power (numerically greatly inferior to the
colonized people) to present its presence as greatly beneficial to
the colonized on account that it ensures their social order,
stability and advancement. Its hegemonic position helps it to
control the colonized with their consent, which is achieved
though the interpellation of the colonized subject by imperial
discourse (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 116).
Interpellation, a theoretical concept created by Louis
Althusser inspired by Marx’s description of ideology, shows
how people absorb their values, desires, and preferences through
the working of institutions that he calls Ideological State
Apparatuses. These include the family, the media, religious
organizations and, particularly, in capitalist societies, the educational
system (Lenin, Stalin, Mao and actually all communist leaders
have likewise seen the educational system as pivotal in the
formation of “the new man”). In fact, Althusser states, ideology is
present throughout history and its aim is to constitute a subject,
different according to each particular ideology. Althusser defines
his notion of interpellation or “hailing” drawing on Lacan’s concept of
the “mirror stage” that acts on a pre-ideological person and constitutes
him/her into a subject. He famously compares ideology to a
policeman shouting "Hey you there!" toward a person walking
on the street. Upon hearing this call, the person responds by
turning around and in doing so, is transformed into a subject.

Michel Foucault’s ideas are not Marxist, but his analysis of

the power structures in the bourgeois society can certainly be
related to the German’s philosopher’s unrelenting criticism of
the capitalist system. In his Discipline and Punish: The Birth of
the Prison (1975), Foucault contrasts the feudal type of repression
of the population through brutal torture and execution, to that
practiced by modernity through a disciplinary punishment by
professionals. Such professionals as psychologists, psychiatrists
or parole officers exert repression over the prisoner from their
power positions as the prisoner's length of stay depends on the
professionals' judgment. Foucault then demonstrates that disciplinary
punishment leads to self-policing, a way of internalizing the
official discourse. Thus “disciplining” can be described as a more
subtle form of power, which relies on professional knowledge to
make of modern society a sort of “Panopticon”, Jeremy Bentham’s
design for the ideal prison which aims at ensuring not actual
continuous surveillance, but the psychology of feeling under it.
The visibility of this design, extended as a characteristic of
modern society, helps its various institutions to exercise a
controlling system of power and knowledge manifested in the
possibility for institutions to track individuals throughout their
lives. Foucault sees modern capitalist society as a “carceral
continuum”, from the prison (which is an explicit form of
imposing norms of acceptable behavior) to other implicit forms
such as secure accommodation, probation and supervision (or
rather surveillance) of social workers, police and teachers over
our everyday working and domestic lives.
Jean-François Lyotard and Fredric Jameson have also
contributed to a profound analysis of modern capitalist society.
Lyotard applied to philosophy the term “postmodernism”, previously
only used by art critics. In his book The Postmodern Condition:
A Report on Knowledge (1979), he defined postmodernism as
the end of the “grand narratives” or meta-narratives (totalizing
stories about human knowledge of the world and experience)

presenting the advancement of knowledge as a progress toward

universal freedom and enlightenment, which had dominated
modernity since the eighteenth century. Lyotard distances
himself from Marxism as he enumerates Marx’s teleological
view of history among the meta-narratives that he regards as no
longer tenable in this age of unprecedented technological
revolution of communication and computer science. He
emphasizes the shift to linguistic and symbolic production
brought about by the creation of artificial intelligence to be a
central feature of the postindustrial economy and postmodern
culture. In his book, Lyotard professes an attitude of great
cultural relativism declaring his preference for the plurality of
competing small narratives that are to replace the grand
narratives, which he considers totalitarian.
Fredric Jameson, a declared Marxist American political
theorist, is well-known for his analysis of contemporary
postmodern culture under the pressure of organized capitalism
in such works as Marxism and Form (1974), The Political
Unconscious (1984), Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of
Late Capitalism (1991). Coming after the preceding phases of
market capitalism and monopoly capitalism, Jameson defines
late capitalism as multinational capitalism, that is the age of
multinational or transnational corporations and deregulated
markets. It is the era of internationalized trade when such newly
established institutions as the World Trade Organization, World
Bank and International Monetary Fund oversee trade and debt
payments and repayments and introduce sanctions on states that
would not open their markets, the consumer age of unprecedented
commodification of everything, including knowledge. Considering
that the effect of all these factors has been an appalling “new
depthlessness” (Jameson 1991: 6), accompanied by intoxication and
anxiety, he urges a rejection of this late capitalist consumer culture.
Therefore more concerned with the philosophical interpretation
of Marxism, Western Marxists finally came to the conclusion

that traditional Marxism, though valuable in its time, was no longer

relevant to the reality of their contemporary Western society. The
revolution had not succeeded in Europe first as Marx had
anticipated, but in fact in less developed countries outside it.
Marxism had also assigned an important role to capitalist
technological achievements regarding them as leading to the
outbreak of socialist revolution, a prophecy contradicted by the
historical reality. Even if the capitalist countries went through
crises, the system was flexible enough to overcome them. They
also disagreed with the idea emphasized by Engels, that Marxism
was a general science with universal application regarding it
rather as a mere critique of human life and capitalist society. The
atrocious state terrorism practiced by Stalin and his followers
was also the cause of bitter disillusionment. An awareness of the
bureaucracy of the communist party system led Western Marxists
to subscribe to the idea of government by workers’ councils as
better serving the interests of the working class. But later, when
the working class appeared to them too prosperous and satisfied
with the capitalist system, the Western Marxists were in favor of
more anarchistic tactics. Marx and Lenin had both belonged
initially to the intellectual middle class and similarly, Western
Marxism appealed mostly to intellectuals rather than the
working class, a situation which orthodox Marxists rejected.
In the European countries there were two main forms of
Marxism: traditional communist parties and the more diffuse
New Left form. In general, the success of western European
communist parties was set back by their subservience to the old
Soviet authority rather than their own countries, as they
basically adhered to the policies of Soviet Marxism. But in the
1970s and 1980s in order to improve their chances for political
success, they began to advocate Eurocommunism, a domesticated
variant of communism. Renouncing its allegiance to the Soviet
Communist Party, Eurocommunism tried to reach an electorate
wider than the working class, promoting a nonviolent democratic

political approach to achieving socialism, in possible alliance with

other parties and granting recognition of civil liberties. However,
Eurocommunism was subsequently largely abandoned as unsuccessful.
The years 1989 and 1991 marked the collapse of the communist
system and the triumphant return of (neo)liberalism that proclaimed
itself irreversible and the European postcommunist states celebrated
the demise of Marxism-Leninism. Yet Marxism did not die altogether,
though Leninism was suppressed from the theory. In 1998,
Eric Hobsbawm opined that the 150th anniversary of Marx’s
Communist Manifesto drew people’s attention that what Marx
wrote in Das Kapital about the nature and tendencies of global
capitalism, still rang amazingly true and he held that the global
capitalist crisis of 1998 demonstrated that the uncontrolled global
financial system could lead to disaster and that it needed regulation.
Underlining that extreme laissez-faire did not achieve the optimal
worldwide growth of goods and services, he advocated the national
states’ intervention to set up the equivalent of a system of law
with sanctions to guarantee the performance of contracts outside
regulation of financial markets. Even if the national states’
powers of control over the economy on their territory may have
decreased since World War II, they are still substantial, and they
should hold in check the tendency of transnational corporations
to exclusively make their profit their sole priority and first law
everywhere around (Hobsbawm 1998: 4-6).
After 1991, communist newspapers and periodicals stopped
their publication in Western Europe. The political and theoretical
journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain was likewise
disestablished and it only managed to publish a “special issue”
in 1998 where Hobsbawm’s cited article appeared.
The present depression in the US and Europe with global
repercussions (since late 2007) shows that capitalism is bound to
go through crises, as Marx maintained. But the resilience of the
system has so far enabled the countries to find solutions to
overcome them. The intrinsic reliance on meliorism and faith in
evolution rather than revolution will most likely enable
liberalism to cope with the crisis even on a global scale.

Marxism is now practically extinct in the capitalist liberal

Western democracies and in the former socialist Eastern Bloc
countries, with a tendency in the “Third World” countries to go in
the same direction. It still barely survives in universities, under the
form of analytical Marxism (1968-1993), which can be said to have
next to collapsed it into liberalism, or come up with other versions
that are strongly adulterated by postmodernist theories (Levine
2004: 75). Levine argues that Marx’s theories still appear to be
food for thought because humanity has always had utopian dreams
about perfect societies. Liberals too think of reforming capitalism
into a more just and humane society. And some others think they
can find a new alternative, for instance, the “open society” model
derived from Karl Popper that George Soros has come up with
more recently, which he claims is inimical not only to free market
capitalism, but also to nationalism, to fundamentalism and to
communism (even if that is no longer an operational ideology).

See also communism

Further reading: Althusser 1970, Chambre and McLellan

1998, Gibson-Gragam 1996, Johnson 2009, McClintock 1992,



Collective memory is marked in both postcolonialism and
postcommunism not only by the traumas of the past, but also
by nostalgia, as a reaction to the violent changes of the present.
In order to “exorcize” the phantoms of the past, the nations emerging

after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, as well as those of former

colonial/colonized countries have made use of various strategies,
which range from changing street names to the foundation of
museums that would remind them of the terror of recent history.
Social memory, associated to the recording and the
reconfiguration of the past is not a product, but rather a social
process. Its mnesic points of reference change from one political
regime to another, from one economic layout to another. After
1990, in the postcommunist countries of East/Central Europe,
the monolithic memory which had been written by communist
ideologists was countered by a plural memory, based on recuperation
and on the increased awareness of the fragmentary character of
any attempt at representing the past in a synthetic manner. For
example, in postcommunist Romania, history schoolbooks and a
significant number of memoirs were rewritten, which documented
the communist period and the political police regime. Streets and
squares (which had been named after famous communist activists)
were renamed after the members of the royal house or after the
democratic politicians in the pre-communist period. Memorials
were built for the victims of communism, religious feasts and
commemorations of religious or historical events that had been
banned in the communist years were reinstated. After the 1990s,
Romanian memory was no longer exclusively instrumented by
the only governing party, the communist party. It became a
plural memory (there are, for example, “alternative” history
textbooks, which lay different emphasis on key moments in the
history of Romania.) Postcommunism “establishes alternative
mnesic landmarks, unlike the communist age, which sought to
impose the unitary reorganization of social memory in order to
render the one and only party legitimate” (Chelcea 143).
The reinvention of the past (which we could call “the new
past”) that takes place in the postcommunist age resembles
closely the process of collective memory reproduction, specific

to postcolonial countries. In spatial terms, the streets of

postcolonial countries are renamed after local personalities or
historical events, the former colonial monuments are removed or
replaced; from a temporal point of view, there emerge
commemorations which are linked to liberation moments or to
the date of genocide acts performed by the colonizers. In the
process of recuperating the collective memory in postcolonial
countries, there are often conflicts between the different
populations within the same state, as for example in Namibia,
where the Damara population wants it acknowledged that their
sufferings were greater than that of other populations, such as
the Hereor or the Nama, that have been officially recognized as
victims of the colonizers’ genocide (Kössler 381).
The violent events (genocide, oppression, political police) in the
postcommunist and postcolonial past have also left their mark on the
psychological level. The suffering went on for generations and the
moment of national liberation amounts to the necessary “recovery”
from imperialist violence. Both in postcolonial and in postcommunist
countries, the recuperation of one’s past is usually the painful but
necessary recollection of past personal or social traumas.
Postcolonial literature and film often open old wounds, but
carry at the same time a therapeutic function of recollection.
Reminiscing on the violence of the colonizers is part of a
process of “mourning” by which one makes peace with the past,
finally letting go of it:

Rather than viewing decolonization as an absolute break from the

colonial past, it would seem that it is important to remember (however
difficult or traumatic) in order to enact a historical and psychological ‘recovery’,
which may always contain ‘gaps and fissures’ but nevertheless is vital in
understanding what has occurred. Postcolonial narratives often attempt
such complex and difficult acts of remembering. (Ward 191)

The historians of postcommunism also envisage the

recuperation of historical truth (appropriated by the totalitarian

ideology), including that of the memory of traumatising

experiences, as “a source of freedom and identity” (Wydra 244).
This was achieved through films and documentaries, through
memoirs of the victims of the totalitarian regime (those that
were imprisoned, humiliated, placed under surveillance and
close watch, those whose property was taken away from them).
The testimonies of these victims or of witnesses are the first
level of working through such experiences. “Imparting painful
experiences becomes an act of re-identification of one’s own
ego, of regaining of one’s self, by acquiring therapeutic qualities
not only for the benefit of the individual, but also for that
individual’s family and for the community” (Anisescu 221).
Another psychological side of collective memory regarding
the communist or imperialist past is the paradoxical feeling of
nostalgia. Concerning the nostalgia about the communist age,
we have to underline that this feeling does not amount to a
genuine desire of returning to the communist past. We have to do
with a reaction to a menacing present, to capitalism and violent
transition. The groups that claim that “it was better before” are
those that no longer enjoy some of the advantages offered by
communism. After 1990, many of the people in East/Central
Europe have acutely felt the lack of a permanent job, of free
medical care and of egalitarian conditions concerning career and
education (Ghodsee 188). In some cases, nostalgia refers to
certain geographical contexts, which no longer exist: former
Yugoslavians are nostalgic about the Tito era, when an
interethnic equilibrium existed, while some of the Russians miss
the Soviet Empire, whose collapse gave a major blow to national
Russian pride. Also, nostalgia is connected to the loss of a
“feeling of community”, which offered warmth and security (as
depicted by the film “Goodbye Lenin!”).

Nostalgia in postcommunist countries seems to be tolerated

and even encouraged from a commercial point of view – there
are slightly ironic films in this respect, pop-rock songs that cover
former communist hymns, restaurants that adopt the “old style”.
Things are not the same in the former colonies, where nostalgia
is not seen as a positive aspect and is most often associated with
negative moral connotations. In the case of nostalgic postcolonials,
nostalgia is seen as the mark of idealism and as an attempt to
erase the suffering of the past. On the other hand, nostalgia
related to wild, untraveled lands can be also perceived as an
opportunity. Let us remember that the nostalgia was what
fuelled the need of writers and theorists, a lot of them
emigrating to the West, of telling and reminiscing on their past
or on the native country that they had left. This is why one can
talk also about positive or even “restorative” nostalgia which
“admits the past into the present in a fragmentary, nuanced, and
elusive way, allowing a potential for self-reflexivity or irony
appropriate for former colonial or diasporic subjects trying to
understand the networks of power relations of power within
which they are caught in the modern world” (Walder 16).
Collective memory is passed on not only through oral
history, memoirs, films and literature inspired by bibliography.
It is rewritten and it is established also due to monuments,
memorials and museums. In postcommunist countries, the
situation is not a unitary one. In Bulgaria, there are museums of
communism that were founded on private initiative, in Hungary
there is the so-called House of Terror, a museum dedicated to
both totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century, fascism and
communism, while in Serbia there is no museum to represent the
second part of the twentieth century.
We will exemplify here the situation of postcommunist
Romania, where there are two significant museums of communism

and where in 2011, the building of a third communist museum

was announced, a project which gave rise to fierce public debate.
We will attempt to show that the discourse of the museum carries a
powerful “anticommunist” ideological connotation, based on the
logic of victimization and on regarding communism as a “plague”
come from outside, foreign to the “essence” of the Romanian people.
In postcommunist Romania, between 1991 and 2004, over
80 monuments and memorials were built in the memory of the
victims of communism. Immediately after 1990, a mini-museum
appeared in Bucharest, dedicated to communism. This museum
is placed in the basement of the official museum of the
Communist Party and contains some of the objects of the former
museum. Nowadays, the building hosts the Romanian Peasant
Museum, the building, built in “neo-Romanian” style, being
suitable for an ethnographic museum. After having served to
communist propaganda, the building became the museum of the
“Romanian peasant”, laying emphasis on rural traditions and on
Romanian orthodox rituals. Some of the items in the former communist
museum were placed in the basement in a “fake museum of
communism”, which emphasizes the kitsch and the grotesque of the
pieces. Museum specialists called this the “Chamber of Horrors”,
while the museum was officially named “The Plague – Political
Installation” (Cristea & Radu-Bucurenci 293-294). The museum,
which represents a kitsch-communism (a disease that had struck
Romania in the second half of the twentieth century), contrasts
with crosses and traditional iconic representations, which want
to portray, in contrast, the “real” face of Romanians.
In the north of Romania, in a region remote from the capital,
there is the Sighet Memorial Museum. This is a more contained
museum, placed on the premises of a former prison where
political prisoners were kept in the 1950s. Inaugurated in 1993,
it displays a chamber of torture, the cells where democratic

personalities of the 1940s were incarcerated. The museum also

relies on presentations centering on the Gulag, the falsified
elections of the time and the ideological lies of communism. The
museum discourse relies on an anticommunist ideology that
leaves no room for debate, accusing and offering a single
demythologizing version of recent history: “at the core of this
discourse is the assertion that the communist regime was a
foreign body introduced by force into the national history”
(Cristea & Radu-Bucurenci 276).
In 2011, the project of a future Museum of Communist
Dictatorship was announced. The museum will be placed in
Bucharest and dedicated to the “memory of the victims” and to
the “traumatic past” (Tismăneanu). This initiative gave rise to
protests (many of them come from the leftist intelligentsia but
also from other personalities), who do not agree that a museum
should rely on an anticommunist ideology. There were proposals
that a museum of totalitarianism should be created (as in
Budapest) or for a museum that should represent private life in
communism, not one that would center on the “criminal”
character of communism and that would allow controversies that
would surpass the “almost Oedipal polarity between the
anticommunist and the nostalgic, which has been already
sterilely eating at our passions and actions” (Mihăilescu).
The discourse of the museum is also present everywhere in
the former colonies. Many of the museums are placed in
symbolic locations – a former prison or the spot where a former
leader of the liberation movement was killed. An example can
be found in Memphis, Tennessee, where the National Civil
Rights Museum was built. This museum is placed on the very
site where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. The
project sprang from an initiative of the locals and, as in the case
of the museum of communism in Sighet, it “was designed to be

strongly educational… and to convey the emotions and the

conditions of the event” (Simpson 24-25). Moreover, the
museum wishes to capture history in every detail, including the
relations between the oppressed and their oppressors, because
“just as slavery and black history have not been adequately
addressed, so the interaction of colonizers and colonized has
remained largely ignored in museum exhibitions” (Simpson 25).

See also history, orality, postcommunist cinema

Further Reading: Simpson 1996, Sariskova and Apor

2008, Todorova and Zsuzsa 2010



Developed by Homi Bhabba, in order to explore the
ambivalence of colonial discourse, the term mimicry has
become a significant one in postcolonial studies. While earlier
usages of the term carry either straightforward negative
connotations or occasional positive ones (Thieme 2003: 169),
Bhabba’s approach focuses on the ambivalent relation between
colonizer and colonized, since the mimicry of the colonizer’s
values that is encouraged by colonial discourse can never be “a
simple reproduction” of the values in question (Ashcroft,
Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 139). Mimicry becomes a “blurred
copy of the colonizer that can be quite threatening” (139).
Lord Macaulay’s 1835 Minute to Parliament supported a
European education for Indians, in order to help them develop

“civilized” ways. The Minute advocated that the reproduction of

English values should be done with the aid of a class of
interpreters – “a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but
English in tastes, opinions, morals, and in intellect” (Macaulay
1835 in Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 140). The European
education advocated by the Minute produced a hybridized class
of people, who rejected a considerable number of the values of
India, but nevertheless remained different from Europeans.
According to Homi Bhabba, the consequence of the Minute and
of other such Europeanizing strategies was mimicry, which he
sees as a process by which the colonized subject is reproduced
as “almost the same, but not quite” (Bhabba 94). For Bhabba,
mimicry is simultaneously “resemblance and menace” (86),
since, by copying the colonizer’s values, colonized people both
mock and menace these values. This process “upsets the
authority of colonial discourse which is reproduced, altered and
undermined” (Wisker 192). Homi Bhabba expresses his position
on mimicry in his essays in The Location of Culture (1994). In
“Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”
(1994), he cites an excerpt from Naipaul’s novel The Mimic Men
(1967). Naipaul’s novel investigates the confusing effects of
mimicry, which proves destructive for the characters. While
mimicking the colonial ex-powers, the characters in Naipaul’s
novel are unable to find their own voice. Bhabba underlines that
the line of descent of the “mimic man” can be traced also
through the works of writers such as Kipling, Forster or Orwell
and emerges as “a flawed colonial mimesis in which to be
Anglicized is emphatically not to be English” (Bhabba 87).
Mimicry is menacing to colonial authority because it gives rise
to writing which expresses the ambivalence of colonial power,
undermining and questioning it (Wisker 192). The mimicry of
colonial discourse is potentially mockery. The menace does not

come from the concealment of real identity behind a mask

(Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 140), but from its “double
vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse
also disrupts its authority” (Bhabba 88).
While Naipaul’s version of mimicry is negative, undermining
and reducing “the mimic men”, Merle Colins’s performance poem
“Crick Crack Monkey” (1985) represents a positive version,
where the colonized (the hunted lioness in the poem) speaks
using the forms of the colonizer (the hunter), thus telling us a
different story (Wisker 192).
The term mimicry could be used to capture the ambivalence
of the discourse of the communist era in the countries of Eastern
Europe, where the bulk of the population was encouraged to
reproduce the values and the totalitarian language represented by
the minority in power. As in the case of colonial discourse, this
kind of reproduction was never a straightforward one, carrying
both resemblance and menace. Mimicry can be also employed to
refer to the reproduction of Soviet values by the non-Russian
populations of the Soviet bloc. In a particular discussion of the
case of the Buryats in Russia, Caroline Humphrey points out
that the identification of the Buryats or other populations that
differentiate themselves ethnically from the Russians is however
different from Bhabba’s mimicry, since such populations “see
themselves as having been fully integrated in the Soviet order,
that is, engaged (complicit) in the practice of authority, both as
subjects and as objects” (Humphrey 182). The narratives of such
populations are metaphoric, rather than metonymic, as Bhabba’s
notion of mimicry is termed. (182).
While the term mimicry could be applied, with limitations,
to Eastern European countries in the era preceding 1990, a more
common approach in postcommunist studies is to regard mimicry
as reproduction by the East European nations in postcommunist

countries of the “European” values of the West, thus centering on

a post-1990 context (Tötösy de Zepetnek 1999). However, other
researchers argue that, according to the model of colonial mimicry
outlined by Homi Bhabba, “the colonizer uses racial difference as a
strategy to keep control of the colonized” (Imre, “Gender, Literature,
and Film”). The situation is different in Eastern Europe where
racial difference cannot be a strategy since the majority of the
population is white: “instead of functioning as a constant
reminder of the ambivalence of colonial identities, race has been
a transparent vehicle to prove that East Central Europeans do
belong to the core, even if their location in the world economy is
peripheral” (Imre, “Gender, Literature, and Film”).
As in the case of the reproduction of Soviet values by
non-Russian populations, the identification with Europe is seen
as metaphoric, rather than carrying the metonymic dimension
characterizing mimicry and “Eurocentrism” is considered a
more appropriate term that would characterize the reproduction
of European values and institutions by the postcommunist
countries in East/Central Europe.

See also wooden language

Further Reading: Bhabba 1994, Humphrey 2003,

Naipaul 1967, Tötösy de Zepetnek 1995


Modernization theory was one of the central approaches to
comparative politics in the post-war era, in the aftermath of a
conflict whose resolution had divided the world into spheres of
influence, and during the long post-World War II decolonization

process, which had raised concern about the different pace at which
national economies and political regimes were developing.
Modernization theory attempted to explain economic growth as
a function of political progress towards liberal democracy. As
such, it provided a picture of history as marked by evolutionary
stages, advancing towards a more emancipated and markedly
prosperous stage of development. Thus, one of its central arguments
underlined the existence of a definite connection between financial
benefit and the strength of a country’s commitment to the pattern
of liberal democracy. Moreover, liberal democracy was seen as
facilitating the development of a free market economy, which in
turn provided the only environment in which the promises of
democracy could be carried to completion (Holmes 38).
Classic modernization theory in the 1950s sought to
provide insight into the differing paths of social and economic
manifestation among the countries of the world, by outlining a
three-tier model which placed Western liberal democracies at the
top, followed by the countries of the Second and the Third World.
The re-positioning of nation-states on a global scale followed a
strict hierarchy of a center, semi-periphery and periphery
orientation, in which First World Western democracies might
ultimately have to compete with the alternative modernization
processes underway in Second and Third World socialist
countries. However, if economic growth was to be regarded as
an outcome of capitalist free market policies and of a democratic
environment which favored social and economic competition,
the perceived economic advances of the Soviet Union and other
socialist states would have to be viewed with suspicion.
Thus, modernization theory provided a teleological perspective
of a universally valid pattern of economic development which
relied on a linear progression of stages and followed what American
sociologist Talcott Parsons (1964) called “evolutionary universals”.
Parsons’s suggestion was that modernization could not occur unless

certain conditions, which appeared to be characteristic of any

modern society, were met. Parson indicated technology, kinship
structure organized around an incest taboo, language-based
communication, and religion as being the primordial factors in
the socio-economic evolutionary process. Even more importantly,
among the required dimensions of a modern society are enlisted
four complexes, drawing, among other theories, upon some
elements of the Weberian paradigm of modernity: bureaucratic
standardization, the existence of a financially structured market
economy, a universalistic legal system, and freely elected
leadership (Outhwaite and Ray 92).
Under the influence of Parson, Walt Rostow’s concept of
stages of growth gained particular relevance for modernization
theorists in the 1970s and 1980s. Thus, Rostow pointed out
several stages throughout the process of modernization: an
agriculture-based economy gave way to a transitional period of
increasing technological and scientific interest, followed by the
development of the rational state, achieved at different times in
different countries, leading to a fourth stage of maturity through
investment and factory-based production, followed by a (final)
post World War II stage of mass consumption. Arguably
working from within the paradigm of the Cold War, Rostow
foresaw the decline of the Soviet Union more specifically due to
the absence of an established middle-class, which had been a
key evolutionary element in most modernization theories and in
more recent theories of postcommunist democratization.
Commenting on the future stages of modernization, Rostow
argued that communism could be seen as “a kind of disease
which can befall a transitional society if it fails to organize
effectively those elements within it which are prepared to get on
with the job of modernization” (qtd. in Outhwaite and Ray 93).

Equally suspicious of the ultimate success of a socialist

type of economic organization, Parson maintained that:

I do indeed predict that it will prove to be unstable and will

either make adjustments in the general direction of electoral democracy
and a plural party system or “regress” into generally less advanced and
politically less effective forms of organization, failing to advance as
rapidly as otherwise may be expected. (qtd. in Outhwaite and Ray 93)

The conundrum of the perceived economic growth in

socialist countries revolved around the key question of whether
or not the Soviet Union could be ultimately successful as a
representative of an alternative modernity. This entailed a
thorough re-evaluation of the scale of criteria according to
which modernity could be defined and assessed, including the
assumption that democracy was indeed at the core of Western
modernity. For some, modernity was seen primarily through the
perspective of the intense bureaucratization of a strong and
centralized state. Bauman has famously argued that both
communism and fascism carried modernity to its utmost
extreme. In an indictment of modernity’s excesses manifested in
the form of an all-powerful state, presiding over a Fordist type
of economy in a social milieu controlled through technologies of
surveillance similar to the nightmarish scenario imagined in
Orwell’s 1984, Bauman maintains that modernity “was a long
march to the prison. It never arrived there (though in some
places, like Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany or Mao’s China, it
came quite close) albeit not for the lack of trying” (Bauman
1992: xvii). However, a number of scholars have also argued
that Soviet socialism combined a narrative of a science-driven
modernity with a pre-modern pattern of labor force exploitation
and pre-modern traditionalism (Outhwaite and Ray 93).

The theory of modernization was challenged primarily by

those who viewed it as an expression of Western ethnocentrism
and pointed out its exceptionalist pattern. Supporters of the
theory of dependency argued that modernization had been and
would continue to be limited to those Western powers which
thrived on the labor and resources of Third World Countries. As
dependency theory gained currency during the 1970s but also
faded in scholarly circles in less than a decade, a “second wave”
modernization theory (Holmes 40) emerged during the 1980s, in
a global context which seemed to indicate significant changes on
the politico-economic map of the world. While in the United
States the economy was being shaped by increasingly
substantial free market policies under the conservative Reagan
regime, in Latin America several countries (among which Chile,
Peru, Uruguay and Brazil) were in the process of gaining their
independence from the military dictatorships that had ruled the
region. In Europe, Spain and Portugal, along with Turkey and
Greece, were also re-emerging in the democratic arena after
battling dictatorial regimes, while Asian economies in countries
such as Taiwan and Singapore were seen as thriving.
Thus, new interest was sparked in the processes of
modernization, deemed to be spurred along by the economic
practices of liberal democratic regimes which favored marketization
and privatization. Several works which appeared during the so-called
second wave re-evaluated the dynamic of the democratization
process, among which Transitions from Authoritarian Rule
(O’Donnell, Schmitter and Whitehead 1986), Understanding Political
Development (Weiner and Huntington 1987), Democracy in
Developing Countries (Diamond, Linz and Lipset 1988-1989).
Samuel Huntington suggested that modernization theory develop
a culturalist interpretative framework which would explain why
the process of democratization as intertwined with the stages of
free market capitalism differed significantly across the world.

Francis Fukuyama’s article, “The End of History”, initially

published in 1989 in an international affairs journal, showed a
distinct level of confidence in the inevitable global domination
of the Western liberal democracy paradigm. Arguing that
modern science benefits humanity as it helps it along its path
towards industrialization and military advances, Fukuyama links
industrialization to democracy and by extension to modernization
by stating that countries must replace tribal, sectarian or kin
affiliations with the forms of abstract, rational solidarity engendered
by their move towards a more efficient and more technologically
developed economic system.
See also democracy, dependency theory, First/Second/Third
World, socialism

Further Reading: Dahl 1989, Fukuyama 1992, Holmes

1997, Weber 2001


Multiculturalism is a term with a range of meanings that
vary from descriptive to normative. The descriptive meaning
refers to a society that is characterized by demographic, ethnic
or cultural heterogeneity. In this acceptation the term may be
misleading and it had better be replaced by the term
multicultural society. The fundamental normative use of the
term refers to the ideal of equality and mutual respect among a
population’s ethnic or cultural groups, an ethical and philosophical
concept that has been defined by Charles Taylor. This ethical
norm was first declared official policy by Canada in 1971 (and
subsequently enshrined in Canadian legislation by its Constitution
in 1982 and the Multiculturalism Act of 1988), with Australia soon
following suit. It is a concept of political practice and legislation

which promotes the maintenance of cultural diversity within a

bilingual frame and avoids presenting any specific ethnic,
religious, or cultural community values and traditions as central.
In his ethical definition of multiculturalism, Taylor starts
from the premise that the demand for recognition is a basic
human need. He traces the modern concept of dignity back to
the eighteenth century, after the collapse of the feudal society
with its social hierarchies and the central concept of honor seen
as a birthright. The slogan of the French Revolution “Liberté,
Égalité, Fraternité” stressed the demand for equal recognition,
while thinkers like J. J. Rousseau or Herder emphasized the
individual’s identity and originality. So Taylor identifies two
opposite approaches to the achievement of equal recognition,
namely the politics of universal dignity or equal respect based
on equal treatment: equal rights, equal citizenship, equal dignity;
and the politics of difference, based on the recognition of the
individual’s particularity and specificity. While both approaches
aim at non-discrimination, the liberal politics of universalism
achieves it by being difference-blind, whereas the politics of
difference achieves it by acknowledging the difference of
individual identities and cultures but stressing that they are of
equal worth and deserve equal recognition. Taylor then
discusses the case of Quebec where the Government imposes
certain restrictions on the use of language (advertisements only
in French, no French or immigrant children in English schools)
in the name of the collective goal of cultural survival while
recognizing all the fundamental individual rights. This, he
maintains, ensures the liberal character of Quebecois society, in
spite of the fact that normally liberalism and communitarianism
are opposite policies. So, Taylor’s conception of multiculturalism
is firmly rooted in the liberal tradition of thought, in the rights not
only of individuals, but also of cultures, to be treated equally.

The American philosopher Lawrence Blum is critical of

Taylor’s concern with ways of making cultural respect an object
of moral demand, considering that we cannot compare cultures
and that respect is earned, not imposed (Blum 83). He rejects
Taylor’s principle of equally valuing distinct cultures, considering
that recognition need not involve any evaluative judgment. What
he deems important is just recognizing that the forms of cultural
expression and historical experience of a cultural group are
important to the individual belonging to that group and warrant
an institutional acknowledgment (in schools, for instance) (81).
Multiculturalism aims at cultural integration contrary to
the former policy of assimilation and is associated with the
metaphor of the (Canadian) “mosaic”, in contrast with that of
the (American) “melting-pot”. Nevertheless, multiculturalism as
official policy has aroused many heated discussions: it has had,
and still has, many fervent advocates who see it as the new
Canadian approach to national consolidation, while it has been
viewed with hostility by French Canadians who still favor the
term “cultural pluralism” in Quebec, considering multiculturalism
an attempt to undermine the province’s status as a distinct society
by making French Canadians seem to be merely one ethnic
minority (the largest) contributing to the Canadian mosaic.
From the postcolonial perspective, a similar critical
attitude has emerged, multiculturalism being seen as a means of
insidiously strengthening Anglo-Saxon dominance by diverting
the energy of ethnic minorities into cultural activities instead of
political and economic affairs and of thus excluding them from
structures of power (Kamboureli 101).
Some spokesmen of ethnic groups have also criticized
multiculturalism policies, seeing them as a sort of “bribe” to
secure the ethnic vote or as substitutes for more substantial aid.
Multiculturalism has also been denounced for encouraging the

ghettoization of ethnic groups that would thus be kept outside

mainstream society. Therefore immigrants can be wary of, even
against, multiculturalism. Interestingly this policy is often
discredited by the immigrants or ethnic groups whose interests it
was designed to promote. A resonant name in this camp is Neil
Bissoondath who in his Canadian best-seller, Selling Illusions:
The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada (1994), contends that
multiculturalism fails immigrants and the native-born alike.
If in the 1990s multiculturalism was under attack in Canada,
in the twenty first century it has clearly done better and in 2007
Will Kymlicka’s retrospective analysis of multiculturalism shows
that this political cultural program has now an unprecedented
80% public support in Canada. If it met with the lowest public
support in Canada in the early 1990s when there were a lot of
public debates that revealed the fear of multiculturalism becoming
“a vehicle for the perpetuation of illiberal practices” and a fear
of cultural relativism (that is, tolerance of whatever collective
traditional practices immigrants brought with them), in Europe
this situation led to a backlash in the 1990s. But in Canada this
support “has not only rebounded to its original levels but, in
fact, is now at historic heights: a recent poll showed 80 per cent
support”, which demonstrates that contrary to other countries
like the U.S.A. or Great Britain, that have seen “the rise and fall
of multiculturalism, Canada has seen its rise, decline, and
revival” (Kymlicka 2007:72), the revival of a liberal democratic
multiculturalism based on the observance of human rights.
Kymlicka concludes that the Canadian model of diversity was
successful on account of specific historical and geographical
aspects and cannot be marketed wholesale, but he recommends
that multicultural states should pay more attention to
strengthening international norms of minority rights and
improving mechanisms for their protection.

The battle for multiculturalism has an interesting history in

the U.S.A. too. Coming in the wake of the Civil Rights
movement, the political activism and cultural radicalism of the
1960s and 1970s, American multiculturalism is ethnocentric
(anti-Western or even Afrocentric), antiessentialist and centered
on the postmodern emphasis on difference, being concerned not
only with cultural, but social and political issues as well. The
social segregation of African Americans has been regarded as
the most powerful force arguing for multiculturalism and for
resistance to the assimilatory trends of American education and
American society (Glazer).
As a philosophical concept concerned with identity politics
and therefore with a new conception of American national identity
and power relations within American society, multiculturalism has
become the banner for a political movement concerned with
equal representation and the toppling of the hegemony of the
dominant (WASP) culture over the cultures of the marginalized
ethno-racial groups, for a social movement that uses the rhetoric
of difference in the resistance to cultural dominance and the
struggle for cultural identity of marginalized social groups, and
for an intellectual and academic movement that battles for
access to education of all racial and ethnic groups, the reform of
the curriculum and the literary canon and for the new domain of
cultural studies. In the US the battle for multiculturalism has
been fought within the liberal tradition, but it also developed a
more radical wing of Marxist orientation.
The representatives of what was called “critical multiculturalism”
(the Chicago Cultural Studies Group) or oppositional or radical
multiculturalism such as Gregory S. Jay or Nancy Fraser exposed
the unequal distribution of power in society and analyzed the
historical construction of cultural divisions through racist policies
or other institutionalizations of oppression. Preoccupied with
social justice and considering that “cultural recognition displaces

socioeconomic redistribution as the remedy for injustice and the

goal for political struggle,” Nancy Fraser argues that socialist
economics combined with deconstructive cultural politics works
best for the collectivities of gender and “race”, “to finesse” the
redistribution-recognition dilemma (Fraser 39). In her views on
multiculturalism she enriches leftist philosophy with recent critical
theory and poststructuralist ideas replacing the Marxist notion of
blind redistribution with that of social justice associated with
democratic participation in society and a sensible contribution to it. In
contrast, the tone of the “revolutionary or insurgent multiculturalism”
that Peter McLaren promotes is much more like a Marxist battle
cry: in order for the critical pedagogy of multiculturalism to be one
of liberation he calls for a renewed emphasis on class analysis and
struggle, denouncing the false promises of neoliberalism and the
false hopes of liberal democracy and warning that “capitalism’s
pinstriped gangsters” in Mexico would do well to tremble before
the grandeur of insurgent multiculturalism.
This insurgent type of multiculturalism aroused a strong
neoconservative reaction that accused it of “balkanizing” and
“disuniting” America (Arthur Schlesinger) instead of emphasizing
common American values, and fought against the promoters of
political correctness in universities. Similarly to what in Canada
was described as “ghettoization”, David Hollinger considers that
multiculturalism only creates “ethno-racial enclaves” without contesting
power centers. Bharati Mukherjee also contests multiculturalism
as promoting separatism and supports a definition of American
identity based on the universalist principles of American citizenship,
but objects to Eurocentrism: Mukherjee cannot accept either
the failed nineteenth century model of the “melting pot” or the
Canadian model of the “multicultural mosaic”, and subscribes to
what can be called the transcultural model, one “that constantly
synthesizes/fuses the disparate cultures of our country’s residents;
and that provides a new, sustaining, and unifying national creed” (461).

The neoliberal transracial and transnational model of the

American nation, based on language (American English) and
“vernacular” culture, which cuts across the five cultures of the
historically constituted ethnic/racial groups of the population
(Michael Lind), professes to be color-blind, though history
shows that American society could never be really color-blind.
Interculturalism and transculturalism are related terms
where culturally plural societies or “the global village” need to
accommodate diversity in a more dynamic way than the multiculturalism
model. Discussing the concept at a theoretical level, Heinz Antor
defines the term of interculturality as dialogic communication
(Antor 2006: 29), just as Linda Hutcheon understands it as a
mixing of cultures, resulting from interaction between them.
Transculturalism is a process which promotes a fusion of
cultures to actively create a new culture, promoting transnational
cultural hybridization. It means assuming one native culture and,
without negating it, crossing it in order to accede to and
participate in the culture of the Others. Thus nation is affirmed
and left behind and a dynamic conception of cosmopolitanism is
asserted, opposed to the stasis of multiculturalism. It does not
mean the end of nationalism but rather the beginning of a new
form of territorial nationalism based on a renewed form of the
civil society, thus replacing the old ethnic nationalism based on
ethnicity and state. For Janice Kulyk Keefer, while “multiculturalism
seeks to preserve and succeeds in paralyzing cultures,
transculturalism [...] brings out the dynamic potential of cultural
diversity, the possibility of exchange and change among and
within different ethnocultural groups (Keefer 16). Keefer uses the
metaphor of the “kaleidoscope” in order to define transculturalism
as an interactive dynamic process. Mari Peepre-Bordessa believes
in an evolution of Canadian multicultural migrant narratives in
the direction of an intercultural and transcultural literature. For
her, multicultural ghetto texts “explore within the boundaries of
their own ethnocultural groupings”, whereas transcultural narratives
grapple with the dual cultural traditions that the new immigrant tries

to come to terms with transcending “the cultural barriers between

national, ethnic, and racial groupings” (Peepre-Bordessa 49, 52).
“Transculturalism” (or transculturation) and such related ideas as
hybridization, creolization, and cultural mixing may overcome the
ossification of difference promoted by liberal multiculturalism,
as well as its underlying privileging of an allegedly “neutral”
site of power from which difference can be equitably managed
and regulated (Bujnowska et. al. 11).
Transculturalism appears as the solution for the United
States too, where the prospect is that of a post-white “browned
America” by 2050 (Robert Elliot Fox). David Hollinger also theorizes
a “postethnic perspective” along transcultural lines, emphasizing
the cosmopolitan ideal that stresses affiliation, a concept that
allows individuals to develop dynamic identities as they join one
or more acculturating cohorts. He defines America as “a site for
transnational affiliations” enabling individuals “to construct
global solidarities capable of addressing ecological and other
dilemmas that are global in their impact” (Hollinger 15-13).
It needs to be specified that sometimes terminological
confusions may arise on account of the different definitions of
the terms. Thus, although he calls it interculturalism, Homi
Bhabha also promotes what we have defined as transculturalism.
Bhabha criticizes multiculturalism as a discourse of exclusion,
which ignores the interrelatedness of cultures and of their
historical locations. In his definition of interculturalism he
emphasizes hybridity and culture as located in that “Third
Space” which is the “inter” – “the cutting edge of translation and
negotiation, the in-between space that carries the burden of the
meaning of culture” (Bhabha 1994: 38).
During Clinton’s administration, multiculturalism as a
version of American identity for the globalized world of the twenty
first century was successfully assimilated by the public discourse,
a process which Rodica Mihăilă describes as an attempt “to
mainstream multiculturalism as the American model of identity
for the globalized world of the twenty first century, thus aiming

to alleviate the enduring effects of a still powerful color divide

and perpetuate the image of America-as-model” (Mihăilă 4).
She underlines that, in the last decade of the twentieth century,
neoliberalism appropriated and reconstructed multiculturalism
by reviving the definition of America as a civic nation and a
common culture that has always been pluralist, which forms the
foundation of a new national consensus for the next century.
As could only be expected, multiculturalism became a
harshly contested term in the U.S. after 9/11. Yet, Derek Rubin
and Jaap Verheul try to demonstrate in their book, American
Multiculturalism after 9/11: Transatlantic Perspectives, that,
contrary to what happened in Europe, the terrorist event has not
essentially changed the framework of American multicultural
discourse for all the attempts that conservative rhetoric made to
turn multiculturalism into a scapegoat.
In the European context, the state that adopted multiculturalism
educational policies in order to combat racial discrimination and
disadvantage in the 1980s was the U.K., even if some intellectuals
found them rather superficial (Salman Rushdie pronounced them
“a sham” in his Imaginary Homelands, 1992: 137). In his Rethinking
Multiculturalism (2000, 2006), Bhikhu Parekh discussed the
extent to which Christian monism is tolerant of plurality, progressively
foregrounding the idea that the emphasis on homogeneity in
Western thought needs to be replaced with a wide-encompassing
humanism, which recognizes and accommodates difference. But
after the London bombings of July 7, 2005, there was a marked
moving away from multiculturalism and the Conservative
Prime Minister David Cameron declared that “State
multiculturalism has failed” (BBC News Online. February 5, 2011.
In France, the Republican tradition declares itself color-
blind subordinating diversity to the fundamental principle of
equal rights which entails recognition and respect of the
individual’s dignity, while in fact promoting an integration of its
postcolonial citizens into French culture:

The integration deficit of these postcolonial Frenchmen and

women comes not from their social inadequacy or from their
inadequate position on the job market. It can be located in their body,
in their incapacity to submit to the rules imposed by the process of
French civilization. (Guénif 120)

In Germany too, the emphasis on integration has become

more categorical lately, whereas in the Netherlands the
integration policies varied from “assimilation by conviction” to
“assimilation by coercion” (Sunier 214-34).
Tensions or even conflicts may arise within multicultural
states which contain national minorities (the term Will
Kymlicka uses in distinction to that of ethnic groups for the
communities formed through immigration) that may adopt
nationalist projects, as happens with Quebec.
In postcolonial states, the term multiculturalism can
generally be used to describe the demographic situation. The
boundaries of most of these states were artificially carved by the
imperial powers at the end of the nineteenth century in their
‘scramble’ for new colonial possessions, without any
consideration for the ethnic and religious differences among the
tribes whose territories they appropriated. This historical legacy
led to insurmountable ethnic and religious conflicts and
bloodshed after these colonies gained their independence, and
therefore the moral philosophic concept of multiculturalism does
not apply in most of these conflict-torn countries, which are not
based on the European concept of the nation state.
In South Asia the term multiculturalism intersects with that
of communalism, used in a different acceptation from its socialist
sense. In these states a policy is used to keep groups of people
identified as different separate communities and even stimulate
violence between those groups. As Gyanendra Pandey explains, the
word does not derive from communal feeling but from intercommunity
tensions, usually between religious communities.
After the collapse of the Red Empire, multicultural postcommunist
states inherited a tense situation as regards inter-ethnic relations,
particularly those that had been incorporated in the Soviet Union

(such as Abkhazia, Ossetia, Chechnya, etc.), resulting in open

confrontations and conflicts, and among the European states
there occurred the dramatically violent dismemberment of former
Yugoslavia, with tragic consequences for many of its inhabitants.
Multiculturalism has not lost its importance, as it promotes
debate concerning cultural diversity, difference, integration,
assimilation, equality, equity and racism. It gives an insight
when examining the conceptual link between citizenship,
integration and education policy, enabling us to show how
complicated issues such as segregation, faith and schooling can
be examined. The pedagogy of multiculturalism continues to be
an important discourse in America and elsewhere. Multiculturalism
continues to matter in the U.S. because of the need to continue
to highlight, research and increase an understanding relating to
issues of inclusion, equal opportunities and difference within
society and education (Race 115). Thus Sleeter and Grant
recommend the Multicultural Social Justice Approach, since it
promotes social structural equality and cultural pluralism,
preparing citizens to work actively towards social equality, and
aims at teaching critical thinking, as well as social action and
empowerment skills (184-214).
Given the global postnational economic context of the
twenty first century, there is at present a call for a return to a
more universalist or cosmopolitan vision in the approach to
recognition of difference, a call that has been repeatedly voiced
lately by philosophers on both sides on the Atlantic such as
Jürgen Habermas, Ulrich Beck and Anthony Kwame Apphiah.
Appiah sustains the position of “partial cosmopolitanism”, a
model oriented towards an ethics of constructive non-violent
interchange, which Heinz Antor defines as critical or partial
cosmopolitanism. It is a dialogical position accommodating the
transcultural encounters of the global age, and it develops a
differentiating universalism as the most acceptable way to deal
with the diversity of human existence in an ethical way. Based
on an awareness of the potential unattainability of an ultimate
consensus on universal values resulting from the inescapable

particularity of individuals, societies and cultures, Antor suggests

a discriminating approach to the two apparently irreconcilable
notions of universalism/essences and particularism/differences,
one that honors both, while trying to avoid their pitfalls, and this
can happen if we go very high on the scale of generality.
Multiculturalism may be a philosophy and a policy that
might be superseded in the future, but its importance (not only
to Canadian, American, European, African, Asian or Australian
cultures, but even to “the global village” in general) can never
be overestimated. It has made a tremendous contribution towards
establishing a climate of mutual respect among the different cultures
of various mosaics for which it has provided an unprecedented
site of manifestation. Numerous new ethnic voices have been
heard from previously silent or, rather, silenced groups, voices
of “hyphenated” identities. Multiculturalism intersects such concepts
as nationalism, class/caste, gender and religion in both postcolonial
and postcommunist societies. This is why it should be a critical
approach that challenges hegemonies and acknowledges difference
without fixing it or containing its transformative potential and
that remains dedicated to issues of social and economic justice
(Bujnowska et al. 15). Interculturalism and transculturalism
themselves, with their emphasis on dynamism and hybridity, can
be regarded as new phases of multiculturalism, since “cultural
exchange and appreciation” were one of its initial objectives.

See also: class, ethnicity, nationalism, religion, universalism

Further Reading: Antor 2006, Appiah 2006, Barrington 2006,

Bhabba 1994, Bissoondath 1994, Gabrys 2011, Glazer 1997,
Hollinger 1995, Karnoouth 2004, Kivisto 2002, Kymlicka 2007,
Lind 1994, Ludden 1996, Schlessinger 1992, Silj 2010, Watson
2000, Wesendorf 2010




Nationalism is a systematic and ideologically charged form
of self-reflective discourse that constructs one’s nation by
providing a historical explanation for one’s national identity and
by laying out the strategy for the further development of one’s
nation. A nation is a more “modern”, cultivated/educated, and
reflexive representation of group identity. As such it is aware of
the group’s common history and political endeavors.
This characterization had to be wrenched from among the
host of disputes regarding the nature, the origin and the evolution
of nations and of nationalism. Many scholars, like Hugh Seton-
Watson or Eric Hobsbawm, were awed by the immeasurable
array of meanings given to these terms and doubted that a
“scientific definition” could be devised or that these terms may
mean anything at all anymore. The difficulty increases as there
seems to be no single feature in the description of nations and
nationalism – not the state, nor the common territory, language,
lineage or religion – that proves indispensable and ubiquitous in
the constitution of nations (M. Weber, K. Deutsch, L. Greenfeld).
The question of definition is both unavoidable and insurmountable,
as the words nation and nationalism have been used freely for
such a long time in public discourse.
Nationalism should not be confused – as unfortunately it
often is by laypersons and public speakers – with the feelings for
one’s own or another’s nation, like patriotism or xenophobia. It is
rather the natural inclination for self-awareness that individuals
exercise in the context of modern-type relations with their greater
cultural community. Unlike emotional reactions, nationalism is a
representational activity that generates conceptual and narrative
frameworks as the basis for our emotions and our interaction
whether inside our national community or in our relations with
other nations or nationally relevant entities (minorities and ethnic

groups, empires, international organizations or even structures of

globalization). As such, nationalism is foregrounded as a doctrine
or a canonical body of texts and it becomes the default episteme or
operating system that runs in the background providing templates
for our thoughts, words and actions.
Some reference books, like the Encyclopaedia Britannica
or the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought, describe
nationalism as an ideology, yet not all scholars agree that it is
one. No doubt, nationalism is an ideological construct, but it is
not an ideology in itself. In other words, it is a political
discourse fashioned in accordance with any of a number of
ideologies (liberalism, conservatism, etc.). An ideology is a
political style, a consistent manner of organizing and orienting
political discourse no matter what issue it tackles. It is how you
discourse about political issues, more than what you discourse
about. Nationalism is a thematic focus, with ideological overtones,
whereby the theme of the nation and of national identity prevails
over others, but it is not an entirely new/different ideology. Similarly,
systematic focus on economic, warfare or religious issues does
not engender economism, militarism, or spiritualism as distinct
ideologies alongside liberalism, conservatism, radicalism etc. Instead,
it would be more accurate to speak of conservative, liberal or
radical views on economy, warfare, religion, and national identity.
The main concern of nationalism is in (re)fashioning a
nation as primarily a collective self-image. Common accounts of
the nation are either state-bound or state-free and they generally
implicate ethnicity. The most frequent view seems to be that a nation
is an ethnic group organized or hoping to be able to organize as a state
(A. D. Smith, A. Giddens, C. Geertz, E. Gellner, H. Kohn etc.).
Despite the popularity of such theories, the fact remains that not
all nations are states, nor do all nations necessarily strive to form
their own sovereign state (D. Miller). A nation is definitely not
the same thing as a state and they should not be mistaken for one
another (see W. Connor on this confusion). The state is a
quantifiable and objective reality, a self-determined political and
administrative organization sanctioned by laws and consisting of

a commensurable territory and population. The nation is one of

the qualitative aspects of our subjective lives as individuals or
groups, just like family, gender or ethnic and religious groups
and as such it is one of the mental self-representations which
help shape our identity. What differentiates national from ethnic
self-identification is the sense of modernity. Ethnicity consists
of imaginative representations of group identity employing eponyms,
founding narratives/myths and other symbolic material to create
the picture of an alleged primordial common origin (kinship).
The function of ethnic identification is to provide psychological
comfort from a sense of kinship or belonging to a “(super)family”
(D. Horowitz, W. Connor) and the metaphysical/mystical legitimacy
for such comfort in the belief that the ethnic identity runs without
interruption and unperturbed by historical changes. Ethnicity is the
product of ahistorical imagination, a folkloristic and mythical
imagination that is unaware of a group’s evolution and is in
and by itself politically innocent (Eriksen 104, Fenton 51-52,
A. D. Smith 25-33). By contrast, a nation is an “educated” and
“modern” representation of group identity, which means that
national self-identification is an awareness of the group’s
common history and political endeavors.
After World War II and especially in the last couple of
decades of the twentieth century, when nationalism started to
become a more interesting subject for scholarly concern, Romantic
essentialist visions of the national soul or “spirit of the people”
taken as a metaphysical given that is inherent and unavoidable
in all members of a people (a darling theory among German
philosophers like Hegel, Herder, Fichte or Schleiermacher) were
replaced by constructivism. Benedict Anderson’ Imagined
Communities (1983) did probably more than most critics to
promote the notion that a national self is not genetically
inherited or mysteriously informing our souls as a divine gift,
but a collective construct of the political imagination. Arguably,
the stereotypical misrepresentation of other cultural identities
proposed by Edward Said’s earlier Orientalism (1978) may have
prepared the stage for Anderson’s theory. Constructivism,

already a mainstream theory in the social sciences since the

1960s, soon became the orthodoxy of nationalism studies and,
although it obviously refers to mental activities like perception,
imagination or learning, most constructivist scholars, like
Anderson himself, rather choose to focus on material contexts
and events which they seem to imply may serve as causative
explanations for nationalism and national self-representations.
Though he employs such terms as imagination or language,
Anderson discusses at greater length the more palpable types of
causes and conditions for nationalism such as the advent of
capitalism and the invention of printing (as did L. L. Snyder
and C. J. H. Hayes before him). He also dwells on modern
administrative and cultural institutions like the census,
newspapers, novels, maps and museums. Hobsbawm adds to this
list the social practices of primary education, national
ceremonies and public monuments. Ernest Gellner devotes his
attention to industrialism, and, together with Hans Kohn,
Anthony Giddens, and Elie Kedourie, he turns the modern state
into an explanatory principle for nationalism. Karl Deutsch and
Louis L. Snyder signal the paramount importance of facilities of
communication. Such objective and materialist theories have
clarified how, when and by what means nationalist visions and
projections were made to work, but they all have the annoying
tendency to ignore the real cause and agent of nationalism, that
is, the human subject, and replace it with the instruments, the
functions, and the contexts of nationalist mechanics. By minimizing
human agency, such accounts of nations and nationalisms become
over-deterministic. Equally deterministic are approaches where
the focus is shifted from the material circumstances of the modern
age to the “primordial” psychological and biological conditioning
of nationalist behavior, such as the anthropologists’ communal
affinities (C. Geertz), the identification with in-groups for social
psychology (H. Tajfel), or the socio-biologists’ genetic mechanism
of kin selection in animal sociality (P. van der Berghe).
The overall picture of nationalism studies is rarely balanced
by critics of a more subjectivist inclination, yet there are those

who take a nation to be the result of group-consciousness and of

self-identification (M. Weber, H. Seton-Watson, W. Connor,
A. D. Smith, A. Melucci) and make room for psychological
constitutive factors in their description of nationalism such as
the will, sentiment or memory (J. Hutchinson), the need for
self-assertion and the desire to be publicly acknowledged in the
construction of a state (C. Geertz), or ideology (J. Breuilly,
T. H. Eriksen) and political imagination (B. Anderson, B. Porter,
J. Spencer, P. Spencer, and H. Wollman).
Even so, there are only occasional critics who signal discourse
and narrative strategies as the medium and embodiment of the nation
(J. Breuilly, C. Calhoun, M. Billig, H. Bhabha, U. Özkırımlı). With
the new tide of postmodernist approaches to postcolonialism,
nationalism and cultural studies critics started to circulate Nietzschean
ideas about the interpretive and rhetorical nature of our versions
of the truth, including versions of national identities.
Anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist movements quite
naturally spilled into one form or another of nationalism as they
pressed for emancipation by reclaiming their ethnic and cultural
identity. This happened repeatedly in successive waves of
decolonization, including post-Soviet decolonization.
Both the sudden and unexpected fall of the British and French
colonial empires between 1945 and 1963 and the Soviet empire in 1989-1991
resulted from the costs of war (World War II for the former, the cold war for
the latter), anticolonial nationalism, and the defection of important elites and
coercive agencies. However, the ruling elites in the USSR’s colonies, as
distinct from some of the semicolonies in the six satellites, were more
successful at remaining in power by co-opting nationalism. The revolutions
in the Soviet semicolonies enjoyed advantages not even found in Asia and
Africa, with liberal ideological elements and where national identities had
been established during prior independent rule. (Carey and Raciborski 209)

Material causes like economic unsustainability were

complemented by ideological ones in triggering decolonization.
The propagandistic discourse of emancipation and national
liberation inculcated by both Western and Soviet colonial
imperialism, and the education and recruitment of local elites

backfired as these elites started mobilizing the masses for

nationalist anti-colonial goals. This is true both during communism
and in the postcommunist period. An example of the former is
Romania, where local communist elites pushed aside those sent
in by Moscow and employed a national-communist ideology to
gradually break free from Soviet tutelage and control, a process
which culminated in the famous speech against USSR’s
invasion of Czechoslovakia delivered by Nicolae Ceauşescu on
August 21 1968. National communism, the doctrine that
communist ideals and projects need to be adapted to, and
reshaped by, concrete cultural and historical contexts in each
country, was used as an effective strategic tool. Communist
party leaders in East/Central Europe such as Tito, Imre Nagy
or Ceauşescu employed it in order to break free from Soviet
tutelage, while Western European communist parties and
theorists embraced it to avoid the ideological embarrassment of
Stalinist politics and of failed anti-capitalist predictions. In the
postcommunist years, the ruling USSR elites in the former
Soviet colonies in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus successfully
preserved their power by embracing a nationalist discourse
(Carey and Raciborski 209). Nationalism does not necessarily
dwindle once the former colonies gain state independence. With
many of them, the very opposite is the case, and nationalism offered
these countries precisely what they needed – the re-inscribing of
their past and the historical rationale for their political designs
regarding the immediate future. The fall of the Soviet-controlled
bloc between 1989 and 1991 generated increased ethno-nationalist
debates and even conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and in those
former colonial Soviet republics where the USSR had deployed
larger groups of Russian settlers (Carey and Raciborski 222).
Nationalism preserves its ambiguity in the neo/postcolonial
age. On the one hand, it is still a strategy for resistance against
globalized structures of domination:
Moreover, while capital may well be dispersed in the neo-
colonial era, the centre still tends to operate politically through the
medium of the nation state, or nation-state alliance. To this extent

cultural nationalism can still play an effective part in resistance to the

dominant global orders. (Moore-Gilbert 196)

On the other hand, Edward Said cautions in Culture and

Imperialism that the persistence of rejectionist tactics and
exclusionary nationalism may mirror and protract essentialist
and Manichean visions of the cultural identity (31 and passim).

See also imperialism, postcolonialism, postcommunism

Further Reading: Billig 1995, Özkırımlı 2000, Spencer

and Wollman 2002






N A T I O N A L L I B E R A T I O N s e e









Orality holds a significant place in the study of
postcolonial cultures, since oral literature was the privileged
form in many of the countries that came under colonial and
imperial rule. The role of orality in the study of postcommunist
countries is also a significant one, since, in communist
countries, orality was what characterized the underground anti-
totalitarian language which was the opposite of the official
totalitarian language of the propaganda (Wierzbicka 2).
The interrelationship between orality and literacy influences
postcolonial cultures in various ways (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and
Tiffin 1998:164). While many pre-colonial societies had “highly
developed oral (and also pictorial and plastic) traditions that
were not matched by their scribal equivalents in the society”
(Thieme 2003:198), as is the case with some African societies or
with the indigenous cultures of settler societies, there were also
pre-colonial societies that were highly literate, such as India or
those parts of Africa that had an already developed literary culture
in Arabic. Nevertheless, oral performance played an important
part and interacted in complex ways with literary texts even in
those pre-colonial societies characterized by an advanced literary
tradition. Thus, reevaluations of the importance of orality and
the reclamation of oral histories have been key aspects of
postcolonial projects.
A recognition of the importance of orality is particularly
significant in postcolonial studies, since “the dominance of
writing as the vehicle of authority and truth led to an
undervaluing of oral culture and the assumption that orality was
a precondition for postcolonial writing, which subsequently
subsumed it” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 166). An

alternate term that was coined, namely “orature” was part of the
attempt to invest oral forms with a cultural status comparable to
that of their written equivalents. However, such attempts have
been subject to criticism, since they continue to rely upon the
primacy of the written form and to look upon oral discourses as
mere variants of the written (Ong 1982).
Recent projects have focused on the reclamation of the
oral, as “one of the most significant sources of occluded subaltern
experience, especially since the official historiography of colonial
society is almost exclusively maintained in the written record”
(Thieme 2003: 198). Contemporary writers have attempted to
relate to and revive oral forms, among them the Indian writers
Anita Desai or Arundathi Roy, the African Americans Toni Morrison
or Alice Walker, the Jamaican Erna Brodber. For these writers, oral
forms “are potentially powerful political expressions inflected by
culture and also by gender. For silenced colonial Others, and
women in particular (doubly silenced as secondary citizens),
expression in literary form, first oral and then much later written,
has offered a powerful opportunity” (Wisker 130). Such writers use
“oral literary forms to underpin their work, emphasizing the circular,
repetitive, revisiting moment, so that no stories are fixed and
there are several perspectives available” (131). The use of oral,
anti-canonical forms by these writers underline that their texts are
alternate histories told by those that were formerly marginalized.
Oral literature becomes a deliberate choice for many
writers who attempt to make a statement about different
worldviews (Wisker 131). In the language of the rastafari or in
dub poetry, this commitment to oral forms becomes a political
act of offering resistance to hegemonic language forms (Thieme
2003:198). Oral storytelling can act as a threat to colonial order:
“…storytellers are a threat. They threaten all champions of
control, they frighten the usurpers of the right-to-freedom of the
human spirit – in state, in church or mosque, in party congress,
in the university or wherever” (Achebe 153).

Oral storytelling is a threat to the dominant order and is the

main means of expression of the marginalized, voicing what has
been repressed or silenced in the discourse that is considered
standard. In communist countries, as a result of censorship, there
was an antinomy between the official norms established by the
language policies implemented by the state and the need for
spontaneous communication. This antinomy led to the emergence
of an anti-official lexicon which was completely suppressed from
the written language of printed publications. This anti-official
lexicon lived only in oral form, in the spoken language (colloquial
speech). One can speak of the emergence of a political diglossia
in communist countries, since the public sphere and the private
sphere became highly differentiated from a linguistic point of
view. Since the nomenklatura became the custodian of written
discourse, the bulk of the population was forced to use an antilanguage,
which was mainly oral, as the number of underground publications
in communist countries was extremely limited.
Since the public realm was under the complete control of
the nomenklatura, oral storytelling remained the main means of
resistance of the majority that had been silenced. One
significant case in this respect is that of communist Romania,
where a large corpus of political jokes and anecdotes
(“bancuri”) was present. As in other communist countries, the
telling of such anti-system jokes led, in some cases, to arrests
and persecution. One has to note that, in Romania, after the fall
of the communist regime, the genre of the political joke was no
longer as prolific as it had been before 1990.
A recent tendency in some postcommunist countries is that
of reclaiming the oral history of the communist age: oral
testimonies of ordinary individuals are collected in order to
recuperate the history of the period between 1945 and 1990.
These testimonies are meant to recuperate what has been

suppressed, offering an alternative history, different from the

written version that was fabricated by communist propaganda.

See also canon, history, wooden language

Further Reading: Barber and de Moraes-Farias 1989,

Brathwaite 1984, Carlson et al. 2011, Ong 1982, Wierbizcka 1990



Other originated in philosophy, where it appears in the
writings of such thinkers as G. W. F. Hegel and Emanuel
Lévinas, but made a career as a key term in cultural studies,
postcolonialism, ethnic studies and, by extension, postcommunist
studies. The other can be a possible perception of a stranger,
positioned contrastively with respect to the self as a mere
function of different ways of seeing the world. In today’s highly
multicultural world, as Christian Karner notices, “ethnicity
makes certain identities possible by delineating a cultural ‘self’
from various ‘others’” (Karner 101). Alterity, often used as a
synonym of other in postcolonial theory, is derived from the
Latin alteritas, meaning “the state of being other or different:
diversity, otherness”. The self-identity of the colonizing subject,
as well as the identity of imperial culture, is directly related to
the alterity of colonized others, an alterity determined, according
to Spivak, by the process of othering, as Ashcroft, Griffiths, and
Tiffin point out (1998: 171-72).

The definition of the term in current postcolonial theory is

rooted in the Freudian and post-Freudian analysis of the
formation of subjectivity, most specifically in the work of
French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. In Lacan’s view, the other
can be associated with the image outside oneself perceived and
identified within the Mirror-stage (a concept developed in
1949). In psychoanalysis, the mirror stage indicates the moment
when a baby sees itself in the mirror and gains an idea of itself
as discontinuous from the rest of the world. The concept lies at
the foundation of the binary of self/other and the formation and
organization of individuality (Lacan 2001: 1-6). Otherness is
common in the way people relate in everyday life. However,
processes of othering are highly problematic when they gain
cultural significance as ways to dominate, control and colonize
groups of people assumed to be inferior to a center of power identified
as the same, simply on the basis of their being different from it.
Lacan makes an important distinction between the “Other”
and the “other”, which Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin insist on
while exploring its relevance within a postcolonial context. The
other resembles the self which the child discovers when it looks in
the mirror, which in postcolonial theory can refer to the colonized
others marginalized by the imperial discourse. The (capital O)
Other – Lacan’s grand Autre – as a symbolic Other is not a real
interlocutor, but can be embodied in other subjects such as the
mother or father that may represent it as centers of power. The
Other can be compared to the imperial center, imperial discourse,
or the empire itself (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 169-171).
Robert J. C. Young opens up a discussion of the Other in
his 2001 book Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction by
connecting Michel Foucault’s “archaeology of silence” to what
he sees as an absence in Edward Said’s Orientalism. Young
reads Foucault’s Madness and Civilization (1961) as a key text

in the definition of the concept of other, “a founding study of the

way in which society has produced its forms of exclusion”, with
mad people being labeled as others and excluded or secluded
from society. Hence, the book is “a history of difference, of the
expulsion of alterity”, whereas in The Order of Things Foucault outlines
“a history of resemblance and sameness, of the incorporation of
the Other into the same”. The problem at the heart of Said’s concept
of Orientalism is the exclusion, or silencing, of the Other,
constructed merely as “an object of fantasy” (Young 2001: 398).
Othering is a term coined by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
to define “the process by which imperial discourse creates its
‘others’” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 171). Othering is
based on reductive definitions of human diversity, according to
which the “others” (women, natives, non-human beings) are
labeled as intrinsically different on the basis of sexist, racist or
ethnocentric assumptions that lead to hierarchical or stereotypical
thinking. It is the practice of comparing oneself to and at the
same time distancing oneself from an other. The extreme
implication of this is that difference is banished outside the
sphere of the normal. Othering often involves the stigmatization
of an “other” and can lead to acts of extreme violence under the
assumption that the other is inferior and/or dangerous. The
quasi-extermination of Native Americans in the first centuries of
the colonization of the United States is an example of such
atrocious extremes of othering. One of the most important instances
of such acts of othering in the history of postcolonial studies was
Aijaz Ahmad’s response to Fredric Jameson’s “rhetoric of otherness”
in his article “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational
Capitalism” (1986). Ahmad’s contention was that, while he
shared Jameson’s Marxist views, he resented the sweeping
generalization that Jameson makes in the following statement:

All third-world texts are necessarily, I want to argue,

allegorical, and in a very specific way: they are to be read as what I
will call national allegories, even when, or perhaps I should say,
particularly when their forms develop out of predominantly western
machineries of representation, such as the novel. (Jameson 1986: 69)

While specifying that one can in no way argue that such

allegorical mission has been taken on by all of the texts Jameson
refers to (even though, famously, it may be true of Salman Rushdie’s
Midnight’s Children), Ahmad also points out the difficulty of
Jameson’s using a term such as Third World literatures, which,
he suggests, points at an instance of othering non-western
cultures rather than at a desire for academic precision.
Avtar Brah points out the presence of this process of
othering at the heart of the creation of the so-called “‘European
Man’ as the universal subject in Western social and political
thought”, to the point where “he” was defined

against a plethora of ‘Others’ – women, gays and lesbians, ‘natives’,

‘coloured people’, the ‘lower orders’, and so on. This centring around
the figure of European Man constructed these various ‘Others’ in
complex hierarchical relations vis-à-vis one another. (Brah 215)

In her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, Gayatri Chakravorty

Spivak signals one worrying way in which the non-Western woman
used to be placed in a twice-marginalized position, being situated
between two equally oppressive patriarchal discourses which
teach her what to feel and what choices to make: that of the
Western (white) man and the one of the Eastern (“black”) man
(Spivak 1988). She thus insists on the important theoretical dialogue
that can be opened between postcolonialism and feminism as
studies of marginalization, othering and emancipation. Feminism
is a field in which othering works in two ways: firstly, it provides
the terms in which the colonized subject gains a sense of his or

her identity as placed in the position of the “other” (for example,

Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex refers to the way women
have been othered and defined as deviants from the patriarchal
norm); secondly, it places the colonized subject in a position of
irretrievable inferiority with respect to the center of empire, so
that the subjectivity of the colonized is continually located in the
gaze of the imperial Other, the grand Autre, in colonial discourse.
Feminism approaches the ways in which women are othered
within all patriarchal discourses, but at the same time some forms
of feminism may exhibit othering attitudes under assumptions of
culturally constructed superiority similar to the positioning of
the colonized subject as inferior to the center of empire.
Western white middle-class feminism has often made itself
guilty of patronizing attitudes, displaying a tendency to regard
other forms of feminism or feminist groups as the Other. Forms
of othering noticeable within feminism despite its intrinsic
anti-establishment nature are signalled by Avtar Brah, this time
with respect to the attitude of European feminists towards various
forms of “global feminism”. Despite the slogan “sisterhood is
global” which in the 1970s insisted on a necessary international
dimension of the feminist movement (84), in her 1996 book
Brah notices difficulties arising more recently as Europe is
refashioning its boundaries after the end of the Cold War and in
the process of EU-enlargement. She shows worry as to how the
older West-European universal subject will come up with neocolonial
attitudes directed at its East-European other, at women – the
constant subject of othering – and at non-European subjects:

What implications will the predicted “triumph of the market”

have on vulnerable social groups in Eastern Europe? How will
women’s lives be affected by the resurgence in ethnic conflict and
racism? Will consolidation of a new European identity strengthen the
racisms through which Europe and its diasporas have constructed the
non-European “others”? (85)

Similar worries come from black feminism, where Barbara

Christian notices that in the United States “the enslaved African
woman became the basis for the definition of our society’s Other”
(Christian 1985: 160). This objectification of Black Women as
the epitome of the Other under the impact of extreme binary
thinking gives Patricia Hill Collins a good opportunity to
analyse the positioning of African American women in a way
that is similar to that of Spivak’s subaltern: in a twice
marginalized position with respect to two forms of patriarchy
(the white one and the black one) (Hill Collins 2000: 70-71).
Frances Elisabeth Olsen expresses similar worries as to the
emerging tradition of East-European feminism, noticing that

Just as feminists accuse men of considering themselves the

norm and constituting women as Other, critics accuse American
women of holding themselves up as the norm against which to
compare Other women – poor, non-white, foreign – and usually
finding these Others wanting. To the extent that Westerners view
Central and Eastern Europeans as Other, it is argued, they will never
understand the region or be able to help its people. (2222)

Olsen’s contention, like that of many East-European

feminists, is that western feminism is becoming an all-
encompassing neocolonial type of discourse which prevents
local forms of feminism from developing their own theoretical
jargon, while locking them in a perpetually othered position.
Forms of colonizing people’s minds in Eastern Europe go
back to communist times and continue to be reproduced nowadays,
even disguised under the banner of liberating discourses. While
Chari and Verdery notice that postcommunism is emerging as
the new postcolonialism, as the former has for a while been a
fully institutionalized academic discourse, they do not seem to
exclude the possibility of this involving the positioning of
postcommunism as also the poor relative, the other of
postcolonialism (2009). The lives of people under communism

as recorded in memoirs and testimonies struggled with complex

forms of othering and self-othering. This included a duplicitous
mentality, forcing behaviors which could be analysed as extreme
forms of Homi Bhabha’s mimicry and ambivalence of the colonial
discourse. Ioana Luca calls this the “complicity of silence”, with
direct reference to Anca Vlasopolos’s work (Luca 2011: 73).
This entailed an internal othering of the self from the role required
to perform. Representations of identity under communism often
include references to this internal identity split, having to live
with one’s own self and its totalitarian other (a set of outside
ideological impositions which one had to pretend one approved
of, whereas in fact totally rejecting them). In an article on Ana
Blandiana’s poetry, Roxana Oltean associates this with an
internal exile, on which the literature of resistance written under
communism and revealed immediately after its fall focuses with
particular emphasis (Oltean 2005: 42). Sometimes, in situations
of real exile, this identity split is associated with an actual other
left behind at home – like the imaginary sister to whom the
letters of exile are addressed in Irina Grigorescu-Pană’s epistolary
exile memoir Melbourne Sundays – whereas the self relocates to
a country of adoption which is another country, forever short of
identifying with a genuine idea of home. The imaginary sister in
Pană’s text is at the same time a solid anchor at home and a
reminder of the oppression of the Other (the imprisoning
communist ideology) left behind, associated with a negative
image of the motherland, perverted by communist ideology,
which had to be left behind for exile to be possible (Draga
Alexandru 2000: 364). Situations of migration or exile in
general position the self in relation to all sorts of others, be they
political, ethnic, religious, racial, sexual, etc. One example of
still persistent racist othering is that of the Roma population in
some East-European countries.
In the postcommunist space, examples of othering can be given
both on an individual level and on a collective one. Self-isolated

under communism, the so-called “Second World” emerged in

the free post-1989 world with exhausted economies that led to rampant
inflations throughout the difficult “transition” of the 1990s.
Engaged in a process of economic recovery and reconstruction
since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, these countries
have become more visible as they have begun to take part in
global political and socio-cultural debates and as East-European
diasporas have begun to shape themselves and make their voices
heard. EU enlargement that followed in 2004 (the Czech
Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia
and Slovenia, as well as two Mediterranean countries, Malta and
Cyprus) and 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania) seemed to be meant
to wipe out the legacy of communism that had relegated half of
Europe to a position of otherness, which hardly coincided with
the European traditions of these countries. Yet, this highly
spectacular event of the new millennium led for East-European
countries to a process of othering within the European Union.
The victims of this process were especially Bulgaria and
Romania, which suffered the effects of various forms of
“misbehavior” on the part of first-wave new EU-members and
had to go through a longer process of gradually acceding to
actual EU rights. This condition as EU’s internal other has
slowed down the process of economic recovery in these
countries and encouraged forms of neocolonial domination by
more powerful EU member states.

See also allegory, feminism, mimicry, multiculturalism, race

Further reading: Ahmad 1987, Brah 1996, Olsen 1997,

Spivak 1987







Positionality is an enhanced awareness of one’s position in
the field of knowledge production and the practice by which a
theorist delineates his/her position with regard to his/her
particular analysis. One’s position may influence many aspects
of the study, such as the type of information that gets collected
(in sociological and anthropological research) or the way it is
later interpreted. Positionality is an important aspect of
epistemological relativism (of which Nietzsche’s perspectivism
may constitute an example) and is closely tied to the ideas of
reflexivity and self-reflexivity.
According to Nietzsche’s theory of truth, there is no single
absolute truth, so that reality can be best known through a
multiplicity of perspectives or points of view. For Nietzsche,
poststructuralism, and feminism, certain key features of the
researcher are certain to be reflected in, and to influence the
knowledge production. For the poststructuralist critique of
knowledge, the production of knowledge is far from neutral, and
never has an objective character. Race, gender, class, religion
were among the first factors to be discussed in the analyses of

positionality – although some theorists argued that these

characteristics were far too general to be used in order to give a
detailed description of a writer’s particular positionality
(Salzmann 2002) and tended to become fixed, essentialized
categories. Robertson, although critical of the concept as a
“ready to wear” product of identity politics, argues for the
usefulness of such categories as “family history, ethnicity,
sexuality, disability, and religion” as long as they are understood
not as “fixed points”, but as qualities that “emerge and shift in
the contiguous processes of doing and writing.” (790)
Feminist epistemology resumes the debate about positionality
and the way we use such markers as race, gender, class and
religion to delineate our position in the field of research. Donna
Haraway moves from the notion of positionality as defined by
fixed categories to “politics and epistemology of locations”.
This is a perspective grounded in the partiality, not the
universality of knowledge claims, which acknowledges that we
inhabit a multiplicity of shifting locations and focuses on how
these dynamics influence our points of view without privileging
some positions over others. Objectivity, Haraway insists, is not
about a false universalist vision “promising transcendence of all
limits and responsibility” (1991: 582), but about “limited
location and situated knowledge” (583), which allow us to
become answerable with regard to our specific, embodied points
of view. Instead of positionality, Haraway uses the concept of
“situated knowledge”. This means that “academic and other
knowledges are always situated, always produced by positioned
actors working in/between all kinds of locations, working
up/on/through all kinds of research relations(hips)” (Cook 16).
Although positionality and situated knowledges are two
notions often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same
thing. The latter problematizes the implications of a multiplicity

of perspectives contained in the former, focusing on the

relations that form and dissolve between and among various
locations and positions. It takes into consideration not only the
human actors who are involved in knowledge production, but
also “the socio-technical hybrids, cyborgs and actor networks”
(Cook 23). It acknowledges that any kind of knowledge,
including the so-called scientific, rational and objective one, is
produced with the help of a network of human individual actors
and institutions, as well as through the mediation of things and
technical objects. Bruno Latour’s analysis of the way scientific
knowledge has always been produced through the mediation of
technical objects in the laboratory (The Pasteurization of
France) is a telling example in that respect. The situatedness of
knowledges involves what Latour and Haraway called the
practice of translation (mediation or hybridization), since
researchers, aware of their multiple positioning among different
interpretive frames, will resort to such practices in order to make
connections between their culture and the cultures they study.
The concepts of positionality and situated knowledges are
seminal to the study of postcolonialism. Western colonial societies
have often structured knowledge around binary oppositions such
as rational-emotional, objective-subjective, where the first terms
have been associated with the white colonizers and the privileged.
The legacy of colonialism caused claims to objective and absolute
truth to remain tainted by a history of oppression and exploitation.
Postcolonial critique, in an attempt to restore the dignity of
oppressed peoples and cultures, has recognized the importance
of conceptual tools that accommodate cultural diversity and
difference and acknowledge the partiality of points of views.
In the essay “In the Shoes of Communism. The Critique of
Postcommunist Discourse”, cultural historian Boris Buden makes a
case for the situatedness/specific location of the postcommunist

critic. He argues that the “post” in postcommunist should be

read as the “post” in postcolonial, designating not only temporal
succession, but more importantly, a counter-discourse, as
“postcommunist” really means, in the majority of cases,
“anticommunist”. The postcommunist discourse, in spite of its
emergence after a political event (the fall of the Iron Curtain),
takes place exclusively in cultural space – a space compared to
that of a museum (Buden analyzes three such memory places:
the Museums of Communism in Warsaw and Prague and the
Documentation Center of Everyday Culture in the GDR in
Eisenhuttenstadt). Furthermore, Buden contends that the
political concept of transition to democracy which is part of
the postcommunist discourse does not belong to the
postcommunist period per se, but to the universe of the now
triumphant liberal democracy.

See also democracy, postcolonialism, postcommunism

Further Reading: Appadurai 1988, Haraway 1988, 1991,

Robertson 2002, Salzmann 2002, Sibley 2005, Stan and
Turcescu 2011



Postcolonialism refers to a historical situation as well as to
a subfield of cultural studies. The term re-enters the lexicon of

recent critical theory in the 1980s with the advent of

“postcolonial studies” and “subaltern studies” (see the work of
R. Guha and the new historicists from India) and under the
impact of E. Said’s Orientalism (1978).
In its historical meaning, postcolonialism designates the
age that follows the end of traditional colonialism, as well as the
overspill and persistence of colonialism after its apparent
dissolution that was brought about by the former colonies
gaining and securing state independence. While it may seem that
it is coextensive with neocolonialism, postcolonialism is often
used to refer specifically to the complications resulting from the
collapse of modern colonialism. While the concept of neocolonialism
unambiguously proclaims that colonial exploitation continues
in the age of globalization, postcolonialism problematizes the
nature, context, and manner of this new form of subjugation. In
spite of the prefix, postcolonialism does not focus only on the
age heralded by the demise of traditional colonialism, but also on
its fluid relations with the colonial past. Also, postcolonialism
suggests a multiple historical perspective as it proposes parallel
narratives of colonization.
The map of subordination that postcolonialism offers is
equally complicated. Locating the agents and the victims of
colonization generates ambiguities as the exploitation and the
damages inflicted by colonialism do not allow for clear-cut
social boundaries between oppressing and oppressed classes or
between privileged and underprivileged regions.
In its epistemic meaning, postcolonialism refers to the
multidisciplinary and militant study of colonialism from both
radical and postmodern perspectives. The precursors of this new
approach include rebellious poets and critics from the
Francophone colonies such as Aimé Césaire, Léon Damas,
Léopold Sédar Senghor, who initiated the „négritude”

movement in Paris in the 1930s, as well as the more influential

F. Fanon with his Black Skin, White Masks (Peau noire,
masques blancs, 1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (Les
Damnés de la Terre, 1961). The legitimacy of postcolonialist
critical endeavours was grounded in the change of public
perception and the institutional reforms of the 1960s and 1970s.
These were all triggered by the discrediting of French and
Anglo-American imperialist manoeuvring in the wars in Algeria,
Vietnam, Korea, etc., as well as by the success of emancipation
movements by the marginal and the underprivileged of Western
societies like the blacks, the Hispanics, the beatniks, the hippies,
the angry young men, the women, the homosexuals, etc. At
about the same time, French speaking poststructuralist authors,
among whom M. Foucault, G. Deleuze, F. Guattari, R. Barthes,
J. Derrida, supplied the theoretical premises of postcolonial
studies with their subtle analysis of subjective representations,
discourse, and (institutional) power. Revendicative discourses
at the time had a complementary ideological affiliation to the
works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Gramsci, Althusser, the Frankfurt
School, and R. Williams. Postcolonialist critics shifted attention
from the material sphere of economic domination to the
ideological. The tone had already been set by Antonio Gramsci
and his notion of “hegemony” as the acquisition and operation of
power not so much through coercion as through the generating
of consent among the oppressed (the so-called subaltern groups).
This form of domination is much more efficient because it
induces a cooperative attitude in the “victims” by using
instruments of persuasion such as schools, churches, the media,
etc. to indoctrinate them against their own interests (Althusser
called these the “ideological state apparatus”, which he
distinguished from the “repressive state apparatus” that includes
the army, the police and the justice system). Hence the

postcolonialists’ almost exclusive interest in the rhetoric of

identity discourses, that is, in the way in which dominant culture
employs its authoritative discourse to implant in the mind of the
colonized representations of black or white, Western or Oriental,
civilized or primitive. Such studies aim to prove that what was
generally taken to be the immutable “truth” about people’s
identity and destiny is no more than “literature” or “rhetoric”.
Our representations of the essential things in life are grafted on
myths, “grand narratives”, and metaphors or figural language.
Neo-Marxists like Althusser recycle Lacan’s intuition that one
creates a false identity from the very beginning as the child
erroneously “recognizes” itself in a mirror and concludes that
“that is me”, mistaking the virtual and only partially faithful
reflected image to be its real self. Similarly, collective identity,
be it ethnic, racial, national, class, gender or otherwise, is
grounded in the confusion between real people and their virtual
(self-)imaging through a cultural canon. The fashioning of the
cultural subject is the central theme of postcolonial studies which
aim to expose the Eurocentric stereotypes in the colonizer’s
discourse. This is grounded in the thesis that cultural identity is
“imagined” (B. Anderson) or simply “invented” (E. Hobsbawm).
With a more convoluted explanation of discourse that uses
Derrida’s model, Homi Bhabha takes this argument to its
paradoxical limits and turns it, somehow, against the more
straightforward tenets of anticolonialism. If our identity is by
definition invented, since it consists of myths and rhetoric, then
the discourse that opposes colonial ideology is in turn
undermined by our imagination and by ideological bias. Bhabha
employs the notion of hybridity to show how decolonization
and the reversion to an alleged precolonial purity is never
possible as it, too, has been irrevocably contaminated (“creolized”)
along with the colonizer’s own discourse. There are postcolonial

critics who lament that the battle against the ideological clichés
of colonialism is wielded with imported intellectual instruments.
This intellectual adulteration comes from the fact that the critics
and the indigenous activists or ideologues in the colonies, who
march as leaders of decolonizing movements, are trained in
imperial schools and unwittingly act as comprador agents of
colonial ideology. The very notions of national emancipation,
independence, identity, and cultural purity are Western concepts.
One is confronted with an ambivalent situation: on the one hand
there is the counter-offensive from the colonized cultures aimed
to destabilize Eurocentrism by turning metropolitan ideas against
their imperial originators or by using the nation-state model to
become independent states, free from the tutelage of European
empires. On the other hand, such rebellions are condemned to
remain ideologically colonized by the philosophies, theories,
and political practices of European descent.
Bhabha’s pressing for discursive self-reflexiveness and his
skepticism of any clear-cut demonstrable difference between the
discourses of the colonizer and of the colonized generate a
fracture in the postcolonialist camp as it is counterposed to
radical and unambiguous anticolonialism. An additional internal
division results from some postcolonial critics’ exclusive
concern with the inner world of subjectivity and discourse. The
attitude is repellent to “realists” like Arif Dirlik, who insist that
understanding reality and acting to change it may not ignore the
economic core of capitalism, which is the driving force of, and
framework for colonialism.
Notwithstanding such quibbles, there is obvious internal
cohesion in postcolonialism and coalescence with other related
approaches. Postcolonialism should be placed in the same
critical family with cultural studies, feminism, new historicism,
cultural materialism, nationalism studies, as well as the younger

and feebler study of postcommunism. All of them proclaim the

interrelatedness of cultural products and the political agendas of
cultural communities, as they insist on analyzing every instance
of cultural discourse in the historical context of its generation
and as they hope to demonstrate that culture is the battlefield
where power centers clash with their imperial “peripheries”.
While the latter’s mentalities appear to be rhetorically controlled
by the colonial metropolis, they can fight back wielding the
same discursive weapons.
Postcommunism has its own interesting complications.
Central and Eastern European cultures were subjected to a
double colonization in modern times. The more recent
aggression from Soviet imperialism, a ruthless concoction of
genocide, ethnic and ideological cleansing, forced mass
translocations, brainwashing, and cultural deracination, was no
more than a temporary suspension of an older and stranger form
of unforced colonization by the West which was resumed as
soon as the Soviet interlude ended. A. Kiossev (1999) argues
that marginal cultures in Europe are “selfcolonizing” as they
“import alien values and civilizational models by themselves
and that they lovingly colonize their own authenticity through
these foreign models”. Both the push for Westernization
(modernization) and the resistance from nativists (autochthonists),
which are constitutive of the rise of modern national identities in
marginal Eastern European cultures, are no more than imported
West European ideologies by comprador intellectual and
political elites traumatized by their presumed inferiority.
Postcommunist cultural studies like that of Kiossev construct the
Eastern margins of Europe as a complex site of multiple
colonization, rendered ambivalent by the ideological reversals
coming from the need to confront or accommodate mutually
exclusive ideological oppressors.

Ultimately, postcolonialism has meant a historical and

epistemic benefit for critics of coloniality. Postcolonialism relies
on the sophisticated theoretical and analytical instruments of
postmodernism and poststructuralism whose development
roughly overlaps with the last stage of decolonization from
Western influence in the aftermath of World War II. Also, by
the mere virtue of its temporal succession, postcolonialism
offers the luxury of watching from a retrospective distance the
dramatic evolution of colonial societies and historical processes.
That comfort is, however, undermined by the reconfiguration of
power in the postcolonial and postcommunist global context.
Neocolonialism poses new challenges to the status and identity
of formerly colonized countries and cultures so that the
postcolonial subjects need to redesign ideological strategies for
coping not just with the threat of being dominated, but also with
the temptation of replicating a domineering attitude towards
weaker cultural others, be they domestic communities or
neighboring countries.

See also colonialism, postcommunism

Further Reading: Borbély and Braga 2001, Brydon 2001,

Euresis. Cahiers roumains d’études littéraires et culturelles No.
1/2005, Loomba 1998

Postcommunism (also referred to as “post-socialism” or
“post-Soviet”) is chronologically the period that follows closely
after communism, or, more exactly, after the fall of the Soviet
empire, the toppling of communist regimes in the Eurasian

communist bloc, and the dismantling of the USSR.

Systemically, it is the awkward interdependence between this
new stage in the organization of postcommunist societies and
their eponymous predecessors against a context of pressures
from the forces of post-industrial globalization. Whether the
various postcommunist countries and regimes are trying to
discard, surpass or merely tone down the totalitarian ancien
régime with its party-state rule and its centralized planned
economy, they remain under the shadow of their previous
communist condition. This ghost may revisit the new
postcommunist societies in the shape of lingering mentalities, or
as the conversion of the older communist into new capitalist
networks of influence, inside information, and preferential
allocation of resources. Finally, from an epistemic standpoint,
postcommunism (though one should more correctly talk of
“postcommunist studies”) may sometimes denote indiscriminately
all efforts to generate an understanding of the communist past and
of its connection with the present, yet the term is more frequently
used to refer to critiques of this field grounded in postmodern(ism),
poststructuralism, and the cultural studies paradigm.
Some analysts believe that once former communist
countries shake off their totalitarian regimes, they will
automatically revert to the Western models of development
constructed on liberal democracy and capitalism. This journey,
which for some of the European postcommunist nations is seen
as a return, is commonly referred to as their “transition” period,
a very popular representation of postcommunism even outside
academic circles. But additional factors like the speed of
development and the fidelity to the Western economy cum
democracy model have turned this voyage into a competition
where some countries are seen as faring better than others:

Societies are relatively equivalent in this culture [of transition],

and the successful can become exemplars for the rest. Estonia, for
instance, is disciplined and open to the world, while Ukraine is beset
by a parliament that obstructs privatization and has an economy
grounded in the informal. (Kennedy 273)

Various authorities like the European Union, NATO and

the United States, the rating agencies, and great creditors like the
IMF or the World Bank are in the business of sanctioning
postcommunist countries’ overall economic and political
performance, and in their books it seems that the Central
European (the Visegrád Four) and the Baltic states (the first
wave of postcommunist states to be admitted in the EU in 2004)
have overtaken the Eastern-European and the Balkan countries
(Romania and Bulgaria are late comers into the EU that still
need monitoring in certain areas), which in turn seem to be
doing better than the former Soviet republics. Consequently,
both a hierarchy and a calendar of transition separate
postcommunist countries.
However, the very concept of transition has come under
attack by postcommunist critics, especially since transitologists
seldom agree on whether all postcommunist countries will
eventually become capitalist democracies (or even whether they
are all really heading westward), on the basic concerns and
strategies for a successful transition, or on whether one and the
same postcommunist country has just taken the first steps or has
already completed its transition. Perhaps the discrepancy
between critical evaluations is all quite understandable given
that postcommunism is a sui generis phenomenon with a
considerable portion of the world having embarked on a
daunting and unprecedented project in history, “the attempt to
construct a form of capitalism on and with the ruins of the
communist system” (Pickles and Smith 2). The task is more

difficult and uncommon than what other nations had to face

before because communist economies were not so much
underdeveloped as misdeveloped (Mandelbaum 11), which
means that these new capitalist democracies are not going to
arise spontaneously and evolve at a natural pace, but will have to
be force-grown in unusual conditions and rushed “back on
track” at a dazzling historical speed. Originally, transition theory
emerged in the appraisal of Latin American and Southern
European states that were shaking off authoritarian regimes and
advancing towards more democratic governances, but those
countries’ reconstruction could rely on some existing forms of
capitalist economy and democratic political institutions, no
matter how frail or perverted. Postcommunist countries, on the
other hand, though once functioning on capitalist and
democratic institutions, at least some of them, were entirely
communized and transformed into centralized dictatorial
party-states and now have to discard their old communist
structure entirely and start from scratch.
Critics have variously objected to the metaphor of
transition, especially when applied to postcommunism, because
it rests on the assumption that this period is merely a fleeting
stage in a process of acquiring genuine liberal democracy and
free-market capitalism, because it implies there is a necessary
linear progress towards the Western ideal of capitalist
democracy as the only feasible end of developing civilizations,
and because it suggests that postcommunist societies are late in
getting there. Alternatively, there are opinions that not all
postcommunist states may be advancing, that some may be
stagnating or even regressing to authoritarian or feudal-like
structures, and that this type of postcommunist society, that
appears to many as transitional, may prove definitive for certain
nations. Students of postcommunism are also reserved as to the

appropriateness of such “deficit models”, in Michael Burowoy’s

phrasing, whereby postcommunist countries are described in
terms of what they lack, rather than by features of their own
which they actually exhibit (Gans-Morse 334, Sakwa 1999, 119-22).
The complaints about the inaccuracy of transitology and
its explanatory patterns for the postcommunist situation
occasionally have prompted comparisons with postcolonialism
and the Third World. While some scholars find that the post-
Soviet states of Central Asia and the Caucasus could aptly be
described as decolonized nations whose evolution is similar to
that of postcolonial Africa, others extend the analogy to Eastern
Europe. As part of her comparative study of nationalism, Maria
Todorova exposes traditional representations of the Eastern
European and Balkan area for operating on prefiguring tropes of
the lag, of the painful need to catch up with the speedier and
more developed West, of the planting on the native soil of imported
or “pirated” Western ideas, etc., which have all ingrained an
image of the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a backward area,
with a separate, slower or belated flow of time. She professes
bemusement at the similarities between the Eastern European
and the postcolonial worlds and goes on to describe them:

Accordingly, the main categories of analysis of the past are ones

that pertain to emptiness: lack, absences, what one is not, incompleteness,
backwardness, catching up, failure, self-exclusion, negative consciousness,
and so on. And in both cases the reasons for the backwardness are
external. (Todorova 2005: 160)

While she is not the first or only critic to have dwelt on the
similarities between postcommunism and postcolonialism,
Todorova notices something else besides the usual and painful
differences between the West and Eastern Europe, the Orient or
Africa. She finds that the lag-and-lack trope is not a stranger to

Western European culture either and illustrates it with the

cultures of Germany, Italy or Spain. Moreover, she reminds us
that some Balkan and East European states were created at the
same time or even slightly before Italy and Germany (145). She
consequently suggests that the trope (and “trap”) of East
European backwardness be replaced with the concept of
“relative synchronicity” within the broader historical paradigm
of the longue durée, where the quest for national emancipation
and the push for civilizational progress were the common
outcomes of a modernization process that spread through the
whole of Europe, making the east and the west of the continent
contemporary for all practical reasons.
Nevertheless, the backwardness trope remains a topos in
the popular mentality which is informed by Balkanism and it
perpetuates the anguish of the postcommunist subject. Apart
from the physical and mental abuse inflicted upon them by
communist dictatorship over an extensive period of time, such
subjects have had to take the additional insult of having not just
their personal, but also their collective identity humiliated and
estranged. Eastern and even Central European countries have
always been considered strange and inconsequential. Surely, the
non-European postcommunist cultures have their own history of
exclusion, but at least they have a definite status, whereas to be a
Central or Eastern European is to be a failed European, one who
is not classifiable either as European or Asian. The rejection by
the West of this “other” Europe has always been a cause for
suffering and it brought about disastrous consequences as
British PM Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement speech of
September 27, 1938 demonstrates, in which he argued, in a
typically Western European fashion, for non-intervention on the
part of Czechoslovakia, “a small nation” and a “far-away
country” locked at the time with Germany in “a quarrel between

people of whom we know nothing.” (Chamberlain) The war and

its aftermath meant that these minor non-Western European
countries were dismantled, traded, won or lost by the great
Western powers and the USSR until they became mere satellites
of the latter. This meant having to bear the humiliation of being
regarded as barbarous, uncivilized communist dictatorships with
meager living standards and inefficient economies, deprived of
freedom and of basic individual rights, brainwashed into robotic
caricatures of the utopian Soviet new man.
Larry Wolff amply documented in his imagological study
Inventing Eastern Europe how the stereotype of depicting
Eastern European, Balkan, and Slavic peoples as barbarians was
constructed by Voltaire, Diderot, Levesque, Marat, Herder,
Gibbon, Rousseau, and other Western authors starting with the
Enlightenment and that these clichés have been perpetuated
through the canonization and recurrent citation of such texts
throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries until as late as
the 1990s. Such references to the backwardness of East
European and Asian cultures have constantly shaped the popular
opinion as well as the foreign policies and military strategies of
Western governments. This cliché of barbarism obviously permeated
into Eastern European intellectual circles and generated an
inferiority complex. One of the ways in which the traumatized
personality of the Eastern European dealt with this burden was
by what Alexander Kiossev has called “self-colonization”, in
which these marginal and ailing cultures “import alien values
and civilizational models by themselves and (…) lovingly
colonize their own authenticity through these foreign models”
(Kiossev 114). Their emancipation from the forced communist
colonization of land and mind is achieved by a willful
neocolonization by the West, since these have been the only
alternative models available to this marginalized European

region by representations of the Cold War and even of the

history that preceded it. It looks, then, like postcommunist
countries, especially those at the edge of Europe, have traded
one form of colonial subalternity for another as they join the
global political and economic networks with a painful sense of
their lacks and imperfections and of the need to shape up in the
vain hope that they will become equals in this game (Kennedy
272-4 and passim) and “return to normalcy” (Holmes 335).
Postcommunist societies obviously display traumatized
collective identities. Humiliation and marginalization, as well as
the adulteration of their self-images by imperialist and colonial
propaganda, are features that bring postcommunist and
postcolonial countries under the same rubric. Whether they are
European, Asian or African, new states that have relatively
recently emancipated themselves from colonial or imperial
oppression are first and foremost cultures in distress. This may
explain the difficulties of post-traumatic states in coping once
more, even after apparently having secured their freedom and
independence, with rules imposed by the new world powers and
authorities of the day.
As postcommunism is predicated on its temporal, structural
and epistemic consecutiveness to communism, some radical critics
have questioned the very reality of postcommunism by claiming
that communism proper never existed. The totalitarian Soviet
rule (and its national Central and East European off-shoots)
allegedly had nothing to do with the communist ideals and the
spirit of Marxism, hence communism as a utopia, the ideal
projection of a redeemed society, is presumably unscathed by
the collapse of the USSR and the communist bloc. This
argument is aimed to boost the morale of Marxist supporters and
to legitimize their critiques of capitalism from such utopian
perspectives, more than to actually provide a better description

and analysis of what communism was and what follows it. The
Marxist argument against the use of postcommunism as a term to
describe the aftermath of the USSR and of Soviet-type regimes
in Europe hopes to counter the over-exuberance of unconditional
supporters of liberal capitalism like Francis Fukuyama who have
proclaimed the end of history and of ideology by suggesting that
the fall of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War prove
that capitalist democracy is the unavoidable superior stage in the
development of all human societies and that all other
civilizational models have been shown to be unsustainable.
But when nominal quibbles are left aside, there is no
significant number of critics who would deny that communist
regimes actually existed and that they were based on terror and
discrimination, on mass murder, on deportation of entire
communities and violent repression, on inefficient economies
which pauperized the lives of ordinary citizens, on large-scale
lying and forgery, on systematic brainwashing, on generating
hatred and suspicion among individuals and social groups, and
on disregarding, humiliating, and curtailing the basic rights of
the individual (when that individual was left alive), such as, for
instance, the right to hold and express personal opinions, to
travel, to exercise free will, to elect and be elected, to associate
freely, to own property, to decide whether to procreate or not, to
enjoy equal opportunities, etc. Also, communism was shown to
employ imperialist and colonial practices including the appropriation
and/or control of foreign territories, the curtailment of national
rights to self-representation, the subordination of the resources
and economies of other countries, which it forcefully annexed or
turned into satellites, the imposition on such countries of self-serving
propagandistic campaigns, the misrepresentation, abuse, and
traumatizing of the identities of ethnic or religious groups by the
control over their administrative, political, economic, and

cultural institutions. In other words, although professing Marx’s

liberating doctrine and implementing his economic, social and
political solutions, communist societies were themselves
oppressive, discriminating, and bigoted, and the communist
power center was just as ravenous a colonial empire as the
capitalist ones, even though there was no body of water between
it and its colonial possessions.
Postcommunism as a discipline of study is riddled with
theoretical and ideological conundrums and is still tardy in
instituting itself as a unified field of scholarship. A major obstacle
is the absence of a common idiom for the postcommunist space,
both because there is no lingua franca in place after the fall of
the USSR in spite of its long Russification campaign, and
because there is no common theoretical core that grounds the
various approaches to this subject. Apart from the linguistic and
geo-cultural diversity that hinders the circulation of scholarly
findings and precludes the necessary debates, there are also
competitive rather than co-operative attitudes between the
different sciences and ideologies of postcommunism scholars.
Just as there is a difference of status and prestige between the
various postcommunist countries, there is a similar hierarchy at
play between, on the one hand, the “harder” disciplines like
economics, sociology, political science, or even history and
anthropology, which claim to be relying on “factual” evidence
and to be providing more “objective” and verifiable truths and,
on the other hand, the “softer” approaches like discourse
analysis, rhetoric, and cultural studies, especially when they
espouse poststructuralist and leftist agendas. It may be that
postcommunism has generated its own divisions and hierarchies
of knowledge, different locally than in the West, in the same way
that postcolonialism has, both part of the “Cold War division of
intellectual labor” (Pletsch 1981, Chari and Verdery 2009).

On the other hand, it is to be expected, perhaps, that, in a

culture which has been submitted for decades to a blatant
distortion and mystification of both past and present events, to a
sweeping and unashamed propagandistic campaign consisting of
lies, defamation, and a reversal of broadly acceptable moral
standards, the first order of business would be to restore the
basic facts or truths about the past (especially the recent history
of crimes and abuses). The priority in such contexts is to
reestablish a firm and more “natural” system of values that
would prevent further slippage and capsizing in the future, rather
than to insist on the interpretive and rhetorical nature of our
“truths”, on the inaccessibility of ultimate facts, on the in-built
indeterminacy and ambiguity of all knowledge, and on the
relative nature of moral values.
This justifiable bias, given the circumstances of emerging
from communist dictatorship, is seen not just in certain scholars
and intellectuals, but also in most citizens of postcommunist
countries. With no acceptable cure or compensation for their
communist trauma, postcommunist societies may be expected to
backlash and, in a rather perverse twist of fate, mimic the
intolerance of their former oppressor. The ideological wars both
in the scholarly disciplines and in society at large are
consequently fierce and the opponent is often deemed not just
wrong, but unacceptable and not even entitled to the opportunity
to voice and exercise his/her options.
Under the circumstances, it often proves an uphill battle to
promote analogies with the postcolonial condition and advocate
theoretical infusions from postcolonial cultural studies. Various
scholars have recently pressed for a connection and recontextualization
of postcommunism and postcolonialism, as well as for devising
new multidisciplinary approaches. However, there is still
considerable inertia in the greater part of the academic

community which displays conservative attitudes when it comes

to this association. What is sorely missed from this rejected
analogy is an understanding of the full extent and real nature of
domination – whether (post-)colonial, (post-)communist or
otherwise – of the problematic nature of power relations, of the
ubiquity of discrimination, exploitation, and repression, which
are just as likely to be found in capitalism and communism, in
liberal individualism and in Marxist collectivism, in the West
and in the East. Postcommunist studies could also benefit from
the focus on the post-traumatic subject and from the subtle
instruments for analyzing mind, discourse, and power relations
that were developed over the past half-century by postmodern,
poststructuralist, and postcolonial critics. Postcolonial studies would
in turn benefit from the opportunity to revise and sharpen their
theoretical and ideological grounding by looking at the intricacies,
subtleties, and complexities of communist imperial/colonial
forms of domination which include semi-, double, self- (Kiossev),
reverse-cultural (Chioni-Moore), and filtered or secondary
(Tötösy de Zepetnek) colonization.
Chioni-Moore has made an eloquent case for the connection
between the two regions and areas of expertise and invited that
“the term ‘postcolonial,’ and everything that goes with it – language,
economy, politics, resistance, liberation and its hangover – might
reasonably be applied to the formerly Russo- and Soviet-controlled
regions post-1989 and -1991, just as it has been applied to South
Asia post-1947 or Africa post-1958” (Kelertas 17). Other critics have
also insisted that there are certain features that postcommunist
and postcolonial societies share such as the experience of trauma
(Kiossev, Şandru 2005, Sztompka, Ştefănescu), hybridity and
liminality (Mihăilă 2005), dependency and marginalization,
structures of inclusion / exclusion, structures of othering,
renegotiations of cultural/political identity (Şandru 2005: 37), as

well as “durable external influences on sociopolitical [and

economic] develoment” of the colonized (Carey and Raciborski).
In this light postcolonial and postcommunist countries can
be seen as (post)imperialist victim-cultures whose identities
have been violated by a foreign oppressor and are now
recovering in a post-traumatic interval. Despite the obvious
differences between the particular contexts of occupation,
submission and liberation, and irrespective of whether there was
a body of water between them and the imperial force that
subdued them, or whether they were conceived as the West’s
religious, racial, ethnic or ideological Other, the generic
historical situation of postcommunist and postcolonial societies
is analogous: they are cultural communities that were conquered
and marginalized by modern empires, they fought for liberation
and emancipation, they achieved state-independence, and they
engaged in national (re)construction and in the political and
aesthetic restoration of their cultural identity.

S ee al s o col oni al i s m , com m uni s m , i m peri al i s m ,

nationalism, postcolonialism

Further Reading: Borbély and Braga 2001, Chioni-Moore

2001, Euresis. Cahiers roumains d’études littéraires et
culturelles No. 1/2005, Kelertas 2006, Wolff 1994


The term is used to designate the cinema of the countries
of East/Central Europe after the demise of communism. Three
stages can be distinguished in the development of the cinema of
postcommunist countries after 1990: the early 1990s marked by

the dismantling of state financed film industries, when only a

limited number of films were produced; the mid- and late 1990s
which see a revival of film industry and of entertainment-film
genres accompanied by an increase in the international prominence
of the films produced; the period after 2000 marked by the
emergence of a new wave of directors and of renewed exploration
of the experiences/traumas undergone in the communist age.
The collapse of communism left the cinema lovers of the
early 1990s, “who had become increasingly desensitized to
Central/Eastern Europe auteur cinema” (Stoyanova 95), eager
for entertainment films – a category that had been subject to
heavy censorship by the state. The communist state had banned
the great majority of entertainment films and only a few had
escaped through the stern censorship grid. The violence of
thrillers or the emotional overtones of melodramas were “in
direct contrast to historical optimism, the dominant mood of
socialist realist art” (97). The communist state also felt
threatened by these genres’ capacity for social criticism, since
such instances of criticism could be read not only as illustrations
of the evils of capitalism, but could also incite the population to
become critical of communist discourse. After 1990, the
viewers in the countries of Central/Eastern Europe were finally
free to enjoy those entertainment genres that had been denied to
them and this, together with the changes that the film industry of
these countries experienced at the time, contributed to a decrease
in the production of local films.
The mid- and late 1990s witnessed the proliferation of a
range of new films that dealt with the immediate social issues of
postcommunist reality, “evolving around gloom and grotesque
in the ages of transition” (Iordanova 147). The economic and
social chaos that emerged after the demise of communism led
“to extreme and overwhelming situations and the creation of
films that presented a dark and uncompromising picture of

depressing and demoralizing experiences lived by protagonists

faced with the mighty sweep of historical change” (150).
Resembling the kitchen sink realism of 1950s British films,
these bleak productions were often referred to by the Russian
term “chernukha” (films with a “black” viewpoint) (150). It is
important to note that in Russia, the “chernukha” film proliferated
earlier than in the other countries of East/Central Europe, namely
in the late 1980s and 1990s (for example Pavel Lungin’s popular
“Taxi Blues”, 1990). These satirical films dealt with bleak aspects
of the postcommunist world such as prostitution, human trafficking,
trade in body parts, the intensification of domestic violence or
honest entrepreneurs being cheated by loan sharks (151). Focusing
on the “growing disparities in a once egalitarian universe” (151),
these films portrayed formerly ordinary people that “had become
caricatures of themselves” (151) in the context of transition.
Two examples of such films in Romanian cinema might be
Mircea Danieliuc’s “The Conjugal Bed” (1993) or Nae Caranfil’s
“Asphalt Tango” (1996).
The mid- and late 1990s were also marked by efforts to
revive popular genre cinema and by “attempts to find ways of
placating the drastic and economic changes that had ruptured the
fabric of postcommunist societies” (Stoyanova 96). Among the
genres that were subject to revival were melodramas, many of
which explored the effects of communism/postcommunism and
portrayed individuals as victims. Some of these achieved
international success such as “Burnt by the Sun” or “Kolya”.
Another revived genre that proved internationally successful was
that of the Mafiosi thriller (mainly in Russia), notable in this respect
being films such as “Brother” (103). Many of the film genres that
had been made before the fall of communism continued to be made
(Iordanova 147) and the trend of psychological or existential dramas
that had been exemplified by the famous auteurs of Central/East

European cinema (Kieslowski, Fabri, Meszaros etc.) was further

pursued. A particular genre which was subject to revaluation
was that of the historical film (Iordanova 150, Stoyanova 103).
While genres such as the melodrama or the thriller were
subject to revival after having been almost completely
obliterated by censorship, the genre of the historical film had
been one of the favorite thematic areas of communist film
industry, especially in countries like Poland, Romania and
Bulgaria, whose national integration was traumatic due to
complex internal and external factors (Stoyanova 105). While in
Poland the genre had relied mainly on the rich literary tradition
of historical novels, in Romania and Bulgaria “nationalist epics
reflected, among other things, the megalomaniac ambitions of
the communist dictators” (105). In the late 1990s, the genre of
the historical film was recreated and revalued in some of the
former communist countries. Polish historical films such as
Andrej Wajda’s “Pan Tadeusz” have received international acclaim.
Agnieszka Holland’s more recent film “Janosik” (2009) is part
of the same revived tradition. The revival of such historical
nationalist epics can be seen as “an alternative to the standardized
and ubiquitous Hollywood dream” (110), as an attempt to
reconnect with one’s past and to revert to stable, moral values.
The decade after 2000 is marked by a further increase in the
production of films in postcommunist countries. New conditions
and higher budgets make possible the production of more
entertainment genres and the creation of a more thematically
diverse range of films. Genres such as the fantasy film become
possible and more frequent, especially in the case of Russian
cinema, which has thus continued and revived its tradition in this
respect. The 2004 “Night Watch”, the first big-budget Russian
film after 1990, has become an international blockbuster.

Another significant trend that marks the cinema of the

2000s is the emergence of a new wave of directors who have
undertaken a new exploration of the impact of communism in
the countries of East/Central Europe. While the bleak themes
explored in the films of the 1990s persist, this new generation of
directors is willing to reconsider the impact of communism,
creating films that look upon the age with nostalgia and humour
(“Goodbye Lenin!”, 2003 or “Tales from the Golden Age”, 2009)
or that uncompromisingly tackle traumatic topics connected to
the communist past, which were left unexplored by earlier films:
“The Lives of Others” (2006), which deals with secret police
surveillance in East Germany, or “Four Months, Two Weeks
and Three Days” (2007), which centers on the topic of illegal
abortion in communist Romania. Such films have received
awards and wide international recognition.

See also third cinema

Further reading: Iordanova 2003, Stojanova 2006

Recommended films:
Brother (d. Aleksei Balabanov, Russia, 1995)
Burnt by the Sun (d. Nikita Mikhalkov, Russia, 1994)
Four Months, Two Weeks and Three Days (d. Cristian Mungiu,
Romania, 2007)
Goodbye Lenin! (d. Wolfgang Becker, Germany, 2003)
Kolja (d. Jan Sverak, Czech Republic, 1993)
Night Watch (d. Timur Bekmambetov, Russia, 2004)
Pan Tadeusz (d. Andzrej Wajda, Poland, 1999)
Tales from the Golden Age (d. Hanno Hoffer, Cristian Mungiu,
Răzvan Mărculescu, Constantin Popescu, Ioana Uricariu,
Romania, 2009)
Taxi Blues (d. Pavel Lungin, Russia, 1990)

The True Story of Janosik and Uhrocik (d. Kassia Adamik,

Agnieszka Holland, Poland, 2009)
The Lives of Others (d. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck,
Germany, 2006)


Seen as an artistic movement, as a style of thought and
“structure of feeling” or as a particular post-World War II cultural
development, postmodernism has come to be defined in various
ways over the past decades. A conventional distinction has been
made between postmodernism as a manner of thought and artistic
expression, and postmodernity as the corresponding timeframe
and social-economic mode of organization within the chronology
of the twentieth century. Although it appears to have become the
standard critical lens used in reference to cultural phenomena
having taken place primarily in the Western world since the end
of World War II, the notion of postmodernism has been the
subject of criticism due to its own re-enforcing of binary
oppositions and reinvention of the center-periphery model.
The chronological approach that places postmodernism in
the aftermath of modernism involves two opposing viewpoints
maintaining that postmodernism is either a reaction to and
refusal of modernism, or that postmodernism is an intensified
form of modernism just as postmodernity is – according to
Anthony Giddens – a radicalized form of modernity. The artistic
paradigm put forth by the critic Charles Jencks (1991)
articulates the former contention by pointing out the changes in
architecture that foreground hybridity and the contestation of

the massive, authoritarian and minimalist style of modernist

architecture, which is now replaced by a penchant for
eclecticism and trespassing of genre boundaries, for a mixture of
virtual and real as a celebration of difference and diversity, for a
playful reconstruction of the past through the changes of the
present moment and a delocalization of (architectural) space that
extends on a global scale the internationalist sensibilities of
modernist artists. Thus, postmodernism appears to be challenging
the excess of rationality which characterizes modernity with its
associated cultural expressions. However, it is precisely the
postmodernist affirmation of the ludic that prompted the literary
critic Ihab Hassan (1987) to underline its lines of continuity
with, rather than discontinuity from, the modernist avant-garde.
Hassan’s claim is further supported by Jean-François Lyotard’s
periodization of postmodernism as preceding modernism, for, in
this light, postmodernism only carries to completion the modernist
avant-garde project of undoing the pressures and limitations of
conventional wisdom: “Postmodernism thus understood is not
modernism at its end, but in the nascent state” (Lyotard 1984: 79).
One aspect of the discontinuity between modernism and
postmodernism is the status of the work of art and the artistic
sphere. It has been suggested that modernist art was in line with
Immanuel Kant’s theory of the autonomy of art as it did not aim
to fulfill the expectations of the public, it challenged received
definitions of art, it exhibited a certain level of disinterestedness and
it seemed to suspend any connections with the social and political
realm outside it. Thus, when seen as a break from modernism,
postmodernism is approached as having refused the neat separation
between the private and the public sphere, having torn down the
ideal of art for art’s sake and having become enmeshed in the
cultural context rather than bracketing it off. Thus, the aloofness

which appears to have characterized the modernist aesthetic ideal

has given way to a blurring of the lines between high and low
culture which may have encouraged a certain democratization of
art and cultural expressions (Barker 157). Postmodernist writing is
thus typically understood to be characterized by intertextuality,
self-reflexiveness, pastiche, irony, and a combination of genres,
among other features. One of the best-known dimensions of
postmodernism as a mode of theoretical reflection involves the
collapse of the grand Western teleological narratives of progress,
history and totalizing knowledge, as suggested by Jean-François Lyotard.
Postmodernity generally indicates the wave of social,
economic, and technological transformations that have taken
place since 1945 and which have arguably altered not only First
World countries, but have also been part of, if not even the
trigger for the process of accelerated globalization. In his 1976
book, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Daniel Bell
remarks that capitalism has moved from being focused on
processes of mass industrial production of single items in
endless supplies to being heavily reliant on the world of
consumption and the endlessly diversifying pleasures of
consumerism. In lieu of the massive Fordist factories that
dominated the modernist phase of industrialization in modern
nation-states as disciplinary societies, capitalism now operates
through multinational corporations using multiple production
centers outsourced all around the world as well as served by a
flexible labor force. The global expansion of the consumption
base in the post-Fordist phase of capitalism had led to a view of
the world as highly mobile and yet interconnected as one mass
market where art and material production are barely separated.
The de-industrialization of First World countries has been
facilitated by significant technological innovations in the realm

of communication and service industries which have helped

redesign societies as “information societies” or “network societies”,
in the words of the French sociologist Manuel Castells. French
sociologist Jean Baudrillard and American literary critic Fredric
Jameson underline a similar perspective on the flow of images
and symbols that appear to have created a hyperreality of
mediated signs, simulations, and simulacra taking precedence
over the forgotten “real”.
David Harvey, the Marxist sociologist and cultural geographer,
has argued that de-industrialization within late capitalism
ultimately shapes labor relations and class stratification and, by
extension, identity politics by displacing the modernist paradigm
of antagonism built around social hierarchies springing from
strict working class – middle class – owner class divisions.
Instead, the social regime that has emerged in postmodernity is
characterized by a plurality of class and political affiliations,
multiple and frequent changes in employment, and displacement,
as a result of the “impermanence of interests, volatility of economic
conditions, insecurity in patterns of employment” (Connor 569)
and an overturning of many previously held values regarding
one’s insertion in society at the individual and communal level
on a local, national and increasingly transnational level.
Investigating the impact and expressions of postmodernity
in former communist countries, Stjepan Meštrović maintains
that, while communism may be seen as a totalizing modernist
system, postmodernity may bring about a weakening of social
ties, occasionally resulting in chaos and social fragmentation:
“In addition, the West must confront the empirical reality of
heightened nationalism and cultural identity throughout the
postmodern, postcommunist world. Clinging to outmoded
assumptions derived from the Enlightenment will only

exacerbate existing fissures that tend toward cultural wars

between West and the non-West in various forms. In sum, the
postmodernist must distinguish between good versus bad
nationalisms and good versus evil in all cultures” (68). Leslie
Holmes points out that for most analysts, modernity is closely
associated with communism (41), while postmodernity, with its
irreverent deconstruction of binary oppositions, on the one hand,
and the de-industrialization process alongside globalization and
heightened consumerism, on the other hand, may have played a
part in the downfall of communism.

See also capitalism, globalization, postcolonialism,


Further Reading: Barker 2004, Bell 1976, Castells 1996,

Connor 1996, Giddens 1991, Harvey 1991, Hassan 1987, Holmes
1997, Jameson 1991, Lyotard 1984, Payne and Barbera 2010


Regarded as an intellectual movement that questions the
validity of concepts such as truth, identity or presence,
poststructuralism both builds on the innovations of structuralism
and dismantles them in order to point out how all formulations
of thought are self-subversive. By extension, it proposes the
de-privileging of notions and key ideas believed to lie at the
foundations of Western metaphysics, such as “origin”, “center”,
and hierarchy-based binary oppositions, thus spearheading the
antiessentialist and social constructionist turn in the human sciences

in the latter half of the twentieth century. Poststructuralism has

come to be associated with postmodernism based on a number
of common anti-foundationalist claims and an overlapping
periodization. However, poststructuralism is better understood
not as an umbrella term for particular styles of thought or
writing or aesthetic predispositions as in the case of
postmodernism, but as a range of critical practices growing out
of and in opposition to structuralism. Structuralism advocated
the study of relationships among the elements of any given
autonomous structure, arguing that meaning is to be found in
such correlated movements of mutually reinforcing elements
within the interplay of deep and surface structures. Thus,
meaning emerges in the interconnectedness of the elements
within one generic system and in the relational character of
language. Several of its key proponents, such as Michel
Foucault, Roland Barthes, and Jacques Lacan, began by
exploring the framework of structuralism before they advocated
the need to reassess the centrality of the subject position, as
well as the urgency of its historicization.
Closely associated with poststructuralism by virtue of his
contribution to the philosophy of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida
questioned the backbone of structuralism in his seminal paper,
“Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,”
delivered at the Johns Hopkins University Colloquium on
Critical Languages and the Sciences of Man in 1966. Derrida
famously announced a rupture in the concept of structure and the
entire discourse of Western philosophy by underlining the
endless play of permutations among the elements of any given
structure, elements that compete, but never manage to fulfill the
role of an all-sanctioning center. The center, such as God or
origin, Derrida argued, is always outside the structure itself,

which launches a permanent quest for a meaning that is never

self-actualized. Instead, full meaning and a self-contained structure
are forever delayed or negated as ‘absence’ takes precedence
over ‘presence’, thus undoing the Western metaphysics of presence
and its corresponding aspiration toward an attainable truth or/of
meaning. Instead, Derrida claims, taking his cue from two
leading structuralists, the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and the
anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, meaning is temporarily
found – by being permanently deferred – in the interplay of
traces of meaning belonging to absent elements of a self-
undermining system. Derrida thus questions the validity of any
universals or integrative systems, underlining how the center is
always already substituted by approximated supplements in the
game of ‘différance’ (a term he coins by bringing together the
notions of “difference” in meaning and “deferral” of signification)
through which meanings are constructed and disseminated to
varying degrees without the possibility of ultimate validation.
His arguments have subsequently been used to underline the
power of representational practices in a world in which no
original or originary signifieds exist other than in the dynamic,
yet unresolved relationships among endlessly circulating signifiers.
This will later support Jean Baudrillard’s understanding of the
contemporary world as being predicated on an overproduction of
self-replicating simulacra.
Thus, one of the main insights of poststructuralism is that
the subject, far from being self-identical, for identity is constituted
through its multiplying Others, is always positioned within language
and is discursively constructed through the shifting filters and
disciplines of power. By denying full agency to, and thus
de-centering, the human subject previously articulated as liberated
and autonomous in the paradigm of the Enlightenment,

poststructuralism has made itself vulnerable to accusations of

“anti-humanism”. Jacques Lacan’s contributions to psychoanalysis,
starting with his famous assertion that the unconscious is
structured like a language, which underscores even further the
discursive intertwining of personal and collective constructions
of identity, have been re-interpreted by scholars such as Julia
Kristeva and Michel Foucault to point out how discursive
practices shape and mold the subject into being. The multiplicity
of discourses that are implicated in the construction of the
subject are seen through a historicizing lens that allows for a
rhizomatic genealogy of ideas to arise, thereby rejecting any
teleological notion of a linear development either of the human
subject or of a canonical history of ideas. A poststructuralist
critique will highlight the points of intersection and disconnection
among discourses from competing or complementary spheres
that play a part in the formation of any cultural entity, thereby
debunking the myth of an originary truth. Also subverted, yet
paradoxically reinforced in the act of subversion, is the old
dichotomy center-margin, which has been employed to generate,
via discursive justification, positions of power from within
which the colonizing metropolis will dominate the colonized
periphery in terms of relations of race, ethnicity, gender, class,
age, religion, income level, and other factors affecting the
everyday performance of identity.

See also postcolonialism, postmodernism

Further Reading: Derrida 1976, 1978, Foucault 1979,

Harari 1979, Lacan 1977, Young 1981


Indicating a way to classify people according to physical
characteristics, among which the most important is skin
pigmentation, race is a disputed signifier and a performative
cultural construction which has been used to identify people or
with which people have at times and for specific purposes
chosen to identify. While racial categories are a modern Western
invention that has been instrumental in the spread of
imperialism and colonialism, the process of assigning or
adhering to a racial position is often overdetermined by a
number of factors. Chris Barker maintains that while the
putative scientific elaboration of races has been challenged as
arbitrary, racial identification and self-identification are processes
that are “temporarily stabilized by social practice” (170). As
such, race resides firmly within the realm of the politics of
representation as a dimension of cultural struggles for power and
dominance. Race has been employed both in an essentialist and
an antiessentialist vein, to question or stabilize cultural
taxonomies. Thus, critics have raised the question of whether
race has recently come to be displaced by notions such as
ethnicity or “culture”, which is a move that both dismantles the
underlying essentialist presumptions of the belief in human
races and invents a new way of reifying groups of people.
The first recorded use of race in the English language,
functioning as a noun indicating a neutral taxonomy of things
and people, was in a 1508 poem by William Dunbar (Ashcroft,
Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 181). Scholars argue that, since the
seventeenth century, Europeans had been classifying humans
according to their physical constitution, whereas towards the end

of the eighteenth century race came to designate a category of

people that share inherited physical characteristics. Ashcroft,
Griffiths, and Tiffin maintain that Immanuel Kant was likely the
first to use the phrase “races of mankind” to refer to groups of
people identified on the basis of physical traits. The rise of the
natural sciences gave a boost to the construction of new
discursive strategies for handling the human diversity of the
world, prompting discussions regarding the prevalence or
sometimes the conjunction of nature versus nurture in the
formation of particular human groups. Thus, throughout the
eighteenth century biological determination and environmental
factors were strongly considered in the evaluation of the ways in
which human groups and individuals come to be.
In 1805, three major race groups were postulated by
Georges Cuvier on the basis of anatomical criteria: the white
(Caucasian) race, the black (Ethiopian) race and the yellow
(Mongolian) race, with the white race holding primordial status
in the history of human development. Later, several core claims
were made based on the allegation that biology shapes culture:
that biological variations explain individual behaviors, that a
sum of biological traits stand for cultural differentiation among
the populations of the world, and that the white race reigns
supreme. With its theory of natural selection, survival of the
fittest and racial improvement (later to be called eugenics),
Social Darwinism helped naturalize inter-racial conflicts at the
peak of European imperial expansion. Thus, the grand narrative
of natural selection justified imperial takeovers by constructing
the image of a scientifically proven racial hierarchy, while the
hypothesis of planned gradual change within a given racial
hierarchy reinforced the need for a civilizing mission under the
guise of the “white man’s burden”.

Challenging the narrative of uninterrupted colonial

intervention, Homi Bhabha points out the ambivalence of the
core of the colonial project by highlighting the tension between
conceptualizing the racially marked colonial subject as the
object of hate and thus of separation (the non-I), on the one
hand, and the desire to appropriate it and thus turn it into a copy
of the colonizing I, on the other hand. Bhabha therefore notes
the hybridity of colonial discourse and the mimicry it entails in
its own self-displacement: “The success of colonial appropriation
depends on a proliferation of inappropriate objects that ensure
its strategic failure, so that mimicry is at once resemblance and
menace” (Bhabha 1996: 86). In Black Skin, White Masks, Franz
Fanon elaborates on the internal contradictions of a racialized
identity by discussing the triple pressures that create what he
calls the “black man’s neurosis”: narcissism born out of
over-compensation by adopting the white man’s perspective
both in the colony and in the metropolis. Thus, a racialized
identity is filtered several times through varying lenses, making
up a complex of identities in an inherently comparative
perspective. Several other critics have also underlined the
intersection of race with factors such as class, age, ethnicity,
and others, leading to a “field of racial positions” that endlessly
construct and reconstruct one another. Claire Jean Kim has
suggested a model of “racial triangulation” to underscore
precisely the relation model of racial construction among whites,
blacks and Asian Americans. The larger theoretical background
of the process of “racial triangulation” may find an early
formulation in Franz Fanon’s own interpretation of Lacan’s
mirror stage in terms of racial identification processes always
being shaped through the intervening gaze of the Other.
The term race has come to be used with extreme caution
in recent anthropological studies. Audrey Smedley (1993)

argues that racial thinking, long before the nineteenth-century

taxonomy of human races as species, arose out of cultural-economic
conditions governing colonial encounters and conflicts both in
the New World and within Great Britain itself, the rise of
capitalism and the dominant paradigm of Eurocentrism. Smedley
contends that, even in the absence of an intrinsic connection
between racial thinking and slavery, “slavery was seminal to
the development of the idea of race in the North American
colonies” (145). She carefully points out the plasticity of race as
a concept whose boundaries expand and shrink to include or
exclude groups at various times in history. Thus, Irish immigrants
to the United States, initially approached as a separate race,
slowly came to be seen as an ethnic group. It is equally
important to note that American Indians were not seen as a
separate race until the end of the colonial period; instead, their
cultural difference was explained as a function of religion or of
environmentally marked physical traits which did not constitute
racial characteristics. Deborah Rosen remarks that: “By the early
nineteenth century, the Enlightenment standpoint that
differences associated with race were shaped by environment
and could be changed through education had given way to a new
viewpoint based on racial determinism” (84), whereby Indians
were no longer only “heathens”, but a “vanishing race” as well.
Particularly in the United States, whose Declaration of
Independence stipulated the equality of human beings even as
the political, economic and social climate maintained clear-cut
separations and reinforced power relations among human
groups, the hierarchies of race became controversial at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, when anthropologists such
as Franz Boas strove to dismantle the prevailing belief in the
classification of human races. He insisted on the untenability of
any connections between race and intelligence, pointed out that

there is greater variation between individuals within the same

so-called race than between races as separate entities, and
further underlined the hybrid character of any ‘race’ or ‘nation’.
He vehemently opposed racial purification policies and openly
opposed the Nazi regime for its politics of eugenics and
persecution of those who did not fit the profile of the so-called
Aryan race, a concept which was later to be used as a
justification for the Holocaust. Boas’s work has had a huge
impact on the world of anthropology, which he helped turn from
a science of races to a science of cultural groups and their particular
traits. More recently, Jeffrey Fish (2008) has discussed folk
taxonomies of blood-based identity by pointing out differences
in the classification of race based on descent and physical aspect
in the United States and Brazil and highlighting the surge in the
number of individuals self-identifying as multiracial. Multiraciality
has been increasingly accepted since mid-twentieth century and
may be linked to the burgeoning of multiculturalism.
Racial thinking still underpins census-based taxonomies in
the United States, where respondents are asked to self-identify
as White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska
Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
However, the Census Bureau maintains that it employs the term
race as a social category, far from biological or even cultural
determinism. Race has been used as a flexible category by the
federal government and the Indian tribes: on the one hand, the
blood quota required by the government in order to acknowledge
someone’s indigenous identity points to a firm belief in blood-
based connections and an apparent fetishization of blood
identity; on the other hand, tribes themselves often grant tribal
citizenship to persons who do not fulfill the governmental
standard of having at least one Native grandparent, proving that
cultural ties supersede concerns for blood-based authenticity.

Race and racial thinking have been less frequently

approached in studies of communist politics and practices.
Communist party leaders often proclaimed brotherhood and
sisterhood with the nations and races of the world, underlining
the internationalist scope of the socialist ideal and the
subsequent eradication of distinctions among races in a raceless
and classless society. Just as in the case of ethnicity, race was
deemed an unnecessary category in the service of the common
good and thus any perceived racial differences were suppressed.
Herbert Shapiro (1999) argues that racial politics and race-based
representations in Cuba were marked by Cuba’s colonial past
and experience with racism prior to the communist revolution
brought about by Fidel Castro. Evan Smith (2008) argues that the
Communist Party of Great Britain was very active in anti-racism
campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s, while Shapiro points out that
in the United States, Stokely Carmichael, a prominent black
activist, declared communism to be an ideology which did not
suit the interest of black people.
Ethnic and racial politics have come increasingly under
debate in postcommunist countries. With regard to emergent or
re-emergent constructions of ethnic and racial identity in
postcommunist countries, Dimitrina Petrova maintains that
“following the end of communism in Central and Eastern
European societies (where the largest numbers of Roma are
concentrated), new political dynamics are at work”, pointing out
that “in postcommunist countries we have witnessed the rise of
racially based discrimination, exclusion, and marginalization of
the Roma” (113). Petrova notes, however, that postcommunist
countries have also witnessed an increase in anti-racism campaigns
as well as the consolidation of a Romani identity. Such ethnic
and/or racial may also be said to have been influenced by the

strengthening of the civil society sector and by the work of

transnational NGOs operating in postcommunist countries.

See also colonization, ethnicity, hybridity, mimicry, Other

Further Reading: Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998,

Bhabha 1996, Fanon 1967, Kim 1999, Petrova 2003


Realism is a concept relevant both from the postcolonial
and postcommunist perspective since at first it was the mode of
literary expression favored by postcolonial fiction writers as
they felt that the discourse of reality was a convention that
suited their intention of convincingly exposing the evils and
oppression of colonial times. From the postcommunist
perspective, the communist variant of “socialist realism” was a
convention that was perceived as false and mere propaganda,
therefore soon sidestepped by more oblique, symbolic or
allegorical modes of narrative discourse and then by ambiguous
postmodernist techniques and devices.
In art and literature the term denotes an accurate and
purportedly objective description of the observable physical
world and everyday social life. The philosophical underpinnings
of the realist mode of representation are provided a predominant
scientific, positivist spirit: they stress “the need to communicate
information about the material, non-linguistic world. Thematically
and formally, realism is defined by an imperative to bear
witness to all the consequences, comic and tragic, of our
necessarily embodied existence” (Morris 44). Ian Watt, in The

Rise of the Novel, contends that realism grouped together a set

of techniques by which authors tried to represent a particular,
more circumstantial view of reality. This was part product and
part producer of philosophical empiricism, emerging during the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. “The air of complete
authenticity” (27) that the realist novel seemed to possess was,
according to Watt, achieved through a more “descriptive and
denotative use of language” (29). The novel marked a transition
from a patriarchal to a more individualistic society, as it was
inextricably bound to the rise of the middle class. In France,
realism as an artistic and literary mode of representation emerged
as a by-product of the French revolution and was intimately
connected with a taste for democracy: it portrayed the lives,
appearances and customs of the lower and middle classes.
Realism in literature comprises a diversity of modes:
psychological realism, social realism, critical realism, magic
realism and socialist realism. Psychological realism focuses on
a detailed rendering of the depth and complexity of human life
from within, while social realism attempts to do the same from
without, depicting social struggles, economic and racial
injustice. Critical realism is a term used by Lukács to refer to all
realist literature that focuses on the historical development of
modern societies, in contrast to socialist realism, a literary
movement that describes the historical forces working in
conjunction for the advancement of socialism (Lukács 92).
While critical realism aims only at reflecting and criticizing
social reality, socialist realism, in Lukács’ opinion, is directed at
changing that reality and emphasizing the heroic struggles for
the achievement of a truly socialist order. Generally, however,
critical realism is used as a synonym for nineteenth-century realism,
including writers as diverse as Balzac, Flaubert, and Zola in France,
George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and George Gissing in England,

Ivan Turgenev, and Leo Tolstoy in Russia, and Henry James and
Theodore Dreiser in the United States.
Initially coined by the German art historian and critic
Franz Roh (“Magical Realism: Post-Expressionism” 1925)
and meant to refer to pictorial works after World War II
(post-expressionism), the term magical realism became a widely
used literary concept. Magical realism is a mode of representation
that functions as a fusion of opposites: the real and the fantastic,
the historical and the imaginary, the rational perspective on
reality and the acceptance of the supernatural/magical as an
alternative mode of knowledge. In the Introduction to Magical
Realism: Theory, History, Community, the editors note that magical
realism “is a mode suited to exploring – and transgressing – boundaries,
whether the boundaries are ontological, political, geographical,
or generic” (Zamora 5). If the Western literary canon has
“occulted or supplanted” popular practices and communities,
“magical realist writers may revitalize them in their fictions” (4).
The incorporation of mythic and legendary material allows such
narratives to function as an empowering and voice-giving mode
of expression for postcolonial cultures, by inserting the
“indigenous metatext, a body of textual forms that recuperate the
precolonial culture” into the “rational, linear world of Western
realist fiction” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998, Magic
Realism). A number of writers set themselves the task of
recuperating non-Western cultural modes and oral traditions in
their fiction, among them Salman Rushdie, Derek Walcott, Toni
Morrison, Isabel Allende, Juan Rulfo, and Gunther Grass. By
supplying a worldview which challenges Western norms,
magical realist novels give expression to marginal forces or
voices on the fringes of society: people oppressed by religious
beliefs or discriminated against on grounds of their caste, race,
gender or sexual preference. Because magical realist fiction

facilitates the fusion of irreconcilable worlds, their propensity to

admit a plurality of worlds locates them “on liminal territory
between or among those worlds – in phenomenal and spiritual
regions where transformation, metamorphosis, dissolution are
common” (Zamora 6). Thus Salman Rushdie’s project of
re-conceptualizing postcolonial identity in terms of metamorphosis
and change (The Satanic Verses, The Ground beneath Her Feet)
is closely tied to his choice of magical realist narration.
Furthermore, as Slemon writes, “magic realist texts tend to
display a preoccupation with images of borders and centers, and
to work towards destabilizing their fixity” (1988: 13), a
tendency that dovetails with the postcolonial project of
undermining the hegemony of metropolitan centers, deconstructing
ideologically charged dichotomies and replacing colonial
hierarchical models of core-periphery with the “in-between”
spaces of hybridity and liminality. Reguillo contends that
magico-religious practices and beliefs have resurged nowadays
in response to the uncertainties of global capitalism (35). From
this perspective, magic realist literature would appear to counter
both colonialism and capitalism.
Socialist realism, understood in narrow Marxist-Leninist
terms as the progressive mode of representation of the
proletariat, was developed into a doctrine by Andrei Zhdanov
and adopted as the official cultural policy in the Soviet Union at
the First Congress of the Soviet Writers in 1934. The ideological
constraints of socialist realism, imposed afterwards as the official
mode of representation in the majority of communist countries,
led to a strait-jacketing of the creative imagination and to the
production of fictional and narrative stereotypes. The imperative
of creative freedom was replaced with that of an attachment to
communist ideology that transformed all art into propaganda.

A reinterpretation of realism has been offered by Winfried

Fluck in several of his studies on American fiction (Paul Auster,
Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon). Fluck argues against the
classical understanding of realism as a mimetic mode, with
purely extratextual references (1992: 13-14). Instead of being
purely a mimetic reference to an extratextual reality, realism is
another form of fiction, an interplay between references to an
external reality and the figurative references to the imaginary.
Fluck does not construe realism and postmodernism as
radically different: both possess the double referentiality to the
real and the imaginary, but whereas in postmodernism there is a
semantic rupture between the denotative and the figurative,
realism manages to mediate more or less successfully between
the two. Fluck puts forward the term “postmodern realism” in an
essay entitled “Surface Knowledge and ‘Deep’ Knowledge” and
defines it as a type of fiction “that does not claim to know the
real, but wants to come to terms with the fact that is nevertheless
there in an amorphous, ever-changing shape” (85).

See also socialist realism

Further reading: Chanady 1985, Fluck 1992, Kaplan

1988, Morris 2005, Slemon 1988, Watt 1957, Zamora 2005


Religion, the belief in the existence of a god or gods as
creators of the universe, has always been a major cultural value
and identitary factor frequently causing major conflicts.
Marx was a convinced atheist and in his “Introduction to A
Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” he

defined religion as “the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic

compendium, its logic in popular form, and its universal basis of
consolation and justification… It is the opium of the people”
(Marx 2011: 1). He attributed the appearance of religion to
primitive man’s ignorance of natural causes, which he explained
animistically. Then, the formation of classes led to man’s
alienation from nature and himself and to a need to project
liberation from this world into the transcendental plane. Marx
regarded religion as an instrument of exploitation and
considered that in the classless communist society, religion
would naturally disappear as no longer necessary.
Lenin also rejected religion, therefore the war against
religion and persecution or marginalization of the church
became specific to communist states. Atheism became a
condition for all members of the Communist party, the Soviet
Union being the first state which had as its ideological objective
the elimination of religion. Hence, the communist regime
confiscated religious property, mocked religion, persecuted
believers, eliminated priests, and propagated atheism in schools.
If in the early 1920s the clergy were deported or shot, in the
1930s they were deprived of part of their civil rights and priests’
families were evicted from their homes and lost their rights to
ration cards and medical care. The process of full-scale
collectivization was also connected with the liquidation of next
to all churches, so that by 1939 the number of working
Orthodox churches was a very small percentage in comparison
with the pre-revolutionary figures. However, during World War
II, Stalin used the religious spirit as moral support for the people
and subsequently the church was a tolerated institution.
If initially the People’s Republic of China declared its
government officially atheist, and proclaimed the separation of
state and church, this attitude changed during the Cultural
Revolution, which introduced a policy of elimination of
religions and destroyed a great number of places of worship. But

together with other reforms in the 1980s, freedom of religious

expression was introduced and has been permitted ever since,
provided religious activity does not aim to disrupt the social order.
The East European communist states similarly implemented
policies that disseminated atheism and persecuted the church or
required its total submission (only in Albania was religion
explicitly forbidden). Elsewhere, as a way of counteracting the
impact of the church, Christ was interpreted as an early
communist and Martin Luther was presented as a forerunner of
socialism. All ecclesiastical institutions were infiltrated with
agents that spied and informed the Secret Police on all activities
and views expressed by the ministers of the church, or the
people gathered in churches (Ramet 2010: 20).
In Bulgaria the Orthodox Church received some favor,
while the Roman Catholics and Protestants were persecuted and
the treatment of Islam was harsh.
In Romania too, the state was atheist and there was an
initial persecution of the church, with thousands of priests imprisoned.
But the high officials of the church complied with the communists’
requirement of collaboration and Ceausescu’s hysterical atheism
led to the demolition of an important number of churches.
In communist Czechoslovakia there were anti-religious
campaigns and the government tried to impede all organized
religion, the Catholic clergy being denounced as enemies of the
people. In Germany the situation was much better, on account of
the initial support of West German churches. The theological
Faculties were part of the state universities, and therefore state
funded, which did not happen in any other communist country.
The Lutheran church became an opponent to the communist
government, which however granted it a right to independence
from the state. Yet, in the long run the regime forced the
churches in East Germany to break their ties with the West.

In the Soviet Union, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria all

religious publications were drastically censured, and some
articles were written by agents of the secret police whose task
was to be active in “religious journalism”.
The Catholic Church in Poland was a site of strong
resistance to the communist regime and the Polish nation
rallied to the church, as did neighboring Lithuania, the Catholic
Church unequivocally condemning communist ideology. On the
contrary, in the Democratic German Republic, Czechoslovakia,
and Romania there is ample evidence that some of the ministers
of the church, even those occupying high positions in the church
hierarchy, collaborated with the secret police (Ramet 2010: 22).
Beginning with the eighteenth century, many Western
thinkers and theoreticians of modernity regarded religion as a
setback to economic and political development, refusing to
credit it for the advance on the path of modernity, so they were
not indignant at the antireligious campaigns under communist
regimes. They deemed secularization as an ineluctable law of
historical development, at least for the area where Christianity
prevailed (Smith 4). Under the impact of this mentality, after the
collapse of communism most postcommunist political
scientists have paid little attention to religion, and theologians
have likewise been rather reserved on the topic of politics. But
the social reality of the postcommunist period has testified to an
opposite phenomenon. Religious faith and sentiment have
soared to unprecedented peaks in Eastern Europe, both in a
country like Poland, where the influence of the Catholic Church
had not been diminished by the communist authorities, and in
countries like Romania, where the dominant Orthodox Church
had supported the totalitarian regime of the Stalinist/Maoist
models of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Ceauşescu. To the
amazement of many political analysts, religion and nationalism

filled in the vacant space formerly occupied by the discredited

gospel of Marxism-Leninism, and the churches in the respective
countries played a role in shaping the fledgling democracies
(Stan, Turcescu 28-29).
As Samuel Huntington anticipated and the tragic events of
9/11 have demonstrated, religion and religion-based ideologies
have proved to be the fiercest enemies of globalization.
Religious difference, usually compounded by ethnic
tensions, has led to major conflicts in postcolonial states, as
most of these states are not based on the European concept of
the nation states, but on the arbitrary boundaries resulting from
“the scramble” for Africa and Asia of the European imperial
powers at the end of the nineteenth century that had no regard
for the ethnic, religious or tribal make-up of the territories they
appropriated. Two prominent cases that could be mentioned are
Lebanon and Afghanistan. In Lebanon, Christians and Muslims
are almost ethnic groups warring with heavy casualties over
control of the state. In Afghanistan, local tribal, ethnic, and
religious groups control their own territories, but no central
government has ever been in real control of the whole territory
of the state. In both countries foreign interventions have only
compounded the conflicts and tensions.
The Sub-Saharan states too, artificially created by the
European imperialist powers without any regard for tribal,
ethnic or religious differences in their partitioning of Africa,
have never been nations in the European definition of the
concept. Because boundaries were brutally and hastily drawn at
the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth
centuries, the people were temporarily united under the banner
of “nationalism” in their anticolonial struggle, but after gaining
their independence precolonial ethnic/tribal and religious
conflicts broke out again. It is not only the case of such African

states as Nigeria, the ironically called Democratic Republic of

the Congo, Somalia or Sudan, but also that of the Asian Sri
Lanka (with conflicts between The Hindu Tamil minority and
the Buddhist Singhalese majority) or Pakistan (with massive
killings between the Shi’a Muslim minority and the Sunny
Muslim majority). In all these cases, the states cannot cohere as
there is no overarching nationalism to bind them together and
there is no tolerant spirit of compromise and negotiation. India
too with its nearly one billion inhabitants has always been a
multicultural society where particularly religious, but also other
cultural differences have been difficult to contain.
After the collapse of the Red Empire, the multicultural
postcommunist states have inherited a similar situation to that
described above with reference to postcolonialism,
particularly those that had been incorporated in the Soviet Union
(e. g. Chechnya), and among the European states there occurred
the dramatic dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia and the
tragic conflict in Kosovo.

See also communism

Further Reading: Benhabib 1996, Lenin 1999, Little, Kelsay

and Abdulaziz 1988, Merritt-Miner 2002, Ramet 2004, Stan and
Turcescu 2011


Political repression represents the persecution of an
individual, a group or a community with the aim of preventing
them from taking part in political life. Examples of repressive
policies and practices carried out by states, governments or

parties are: torture, execution, imprisonment, violation of human

rights and stripping of citizen’s rights, police brutality, forced
settlement, surveillance and lustration. Repressive regimes exist
only in totalitarian or authoritarian states.
In the colonial context, perhaps the severest cases of
political repression occurred in South Africa during apartheid
(1948-1994), when the system of racial segregation imposed by
the National Party governments led to the death of 21,000 people
in South Africa (according to a human rights commission report
submitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission). The
policies enforced by Pretoria were also responsible for the
destabilization of the whole region: more than 1.5 million people
died in the countries neighboring South Africa due to military
actions and economic policies. In order to portray the sweep of
South African repression, a document entitled “Anatomy of
Repression” was published in December 1989. In the introduction,
the document states that:

Repression is the response of the apartheid regime and its

supporters to resistance against the policies of apartheid; resistance by
the people of South Africa, resistance by South Africa’s neighbors and
resistance by the international community.
Repression takes many forms, from the blunt control of
legislation to the more subtle controls of what has come to be known
as ‘low intensity conflict’. The apartheid regime has become a pioneer
in repression, not only adopting the techniques of other past and
present-day repressive regimes, but also refining them to a pitch of
perfection and even evolving new techniques, which have served as a
model for others to follow. (Human Rights Commission 1)

Among the forms of repression that link the techniques of

the apartheid regime to those of communist regimes in the
Soviet Union and its satellites are a) repressive legislation,
which confers wide powers of detention without trial and bans

organizations, gatherings and associations, publications, etc.;

b) detention without trial, accompanied by torture or violation
of human rights for those imprisoned; c) political trials, used
to remove opponents from the political arena, followed by
d) political executions, e) the formal banning of organizations,
gatherings and publications that are hostile to the regime and
thus ‘undesirable’, and f) the repression of political actions, movements,
revolts or strikes that mobilize the masses against the regime.
After the Second World War, the rise to power of
communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe was
accompanied by massive political repression, as the communist
governments did not benefit from local political support, being
imposed by the colonial power of the USSR. In the Soviet
Union, the formidable scale of state repression can be explained
only by taking into account the will for social and political
transformation which is a characteristic of communist utopian
mythology. The party-state, responsible for the future
transformation of society according to the laws of history
formulated by Marx, makes decisions, controls and implements
change from its central perspective, without taking into account
the existing structures of the world (Boia 73-82). Yet, according
to communist mythology, once the exploitation is abolished and
dominant classes are destroyed, the repressive and coercive state
apparatus has no reason to continue to exist. Nevertheless, it did
continue to exist, Boia contends, because of Stalin’s theoretical
justification of the institution of permanent terror: the
construction of communism should be extended to a global
level and as long as capitalism existed, the soviet state could
not afford to disappear (the Soviet Union was compared to a
“besieged fortress” facing a hostile capitalist encirclement). This
complex of ‘besieged fortress’ allowed the repressive state to be
maintained and consolidated: during the ‘purge trials’ thousands

of ‘enemies of the people’ were identified, accused, executed or

imprisoned in order to perpetuate the illusion of danger to the
realization of the communist utopia (79-80).
In East and Central Europe, on the other hand, after the
formal retreat of Soviet military troops from the occupied countries,
communist parties and their leaders resorted to repression as the
only means that allowed them to continue holding political
power. To this purpose, a repressive secret police force was
created after the Soviet model of CEKA-NKVD (the STASI in
the GDR, the Securitate in Romania), so the communist states
became police states due to lack of popular support and legitimacy.
The power takeover by the communist parties in these countries
was initiated together with widespread repression campaigns,
whose purpose was to consolidate the illegitimate regime by
annihilating political opposition and destroying the structures of
liberal democracy. Organizing public demonstrations was
prohibited; censorship, calumny and disinformation became
official practices in the media. The real or potential opponents of
the regime were incarcerated in internment camps, built in 1948-
1949 according to the Soviet Stalinist model or used as unpaid
labor force in penal colonies and units. In Romania, during
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej’s government, over 130 internment
camps were established (such as Sighet, Gherla, Aiud, Făgăraş,
Piteşti) and thousands of political detainees were sent to forced
labor on the Danube – Black Sea Canal and in Balta Brăilei. The
system of forced labor camps, where political prisoners and
opponents of the regime were worked to death, was generally
known as Gulag, a term introduced by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
with the publication of The Gulag Archipelago (1973), an
account of his own experiences in the Soviet gulags. Though
less known than Nobel Prize winner Solzhenitsyn, Varlam
Shalamov and Evgeniia Ginzburg provided testimonies of their

Gulag life in Kolyma Tales (1978) and Journey into the

Whirlwind (1967). Kolyma Tales draw on Kafkian absurdism
(The Trial, In the Penal Colony) and through the mimicry of
Soviet wooden language, Shalamov makes his short stories into
the functional double of the unbearable reality of prison camps.
Soviet documents show that one purpose of the gulags was
colonization, carried out by moving population to remote and
uninhabited areas within the Soviet Union. When prisoners had
served their terms, they qualified for release into “free
settlements” outside the camps. They were allowed to work the
land in the vicinity of their place of confinement, without the
freedom to choose their own place of residence. The suffering
and the terror undergone by political prisoners resurface in a
number of memoirs written by former detainees. East German
Erika Riemann in Die Schleife an Stalins Bart/The Bow on
Stalin’s Moustache (2002) recounts how she was condemned to
eight years of torture and rape because as a child she had painted
a red bow over Stalin’s moustache with her mother’s lipstick.
After refusing to join the Communist Party, Dr. Stanciu Stroia, a
Romanian hospital director, suffered humiliations and
persecutions only to be later arrested and condemned to seven
years’ imprisonment. In My Second University: Memories from
Romanian Communist Prisons (2005) he tells the story of how
he survived his prison ordeal, of the nationalization of his estate
and of his exile. One of the cruelest experiments in repression
was the “re-education through torture” in the Piteşti prison,
Romania (1949-1951), where students from Piteşti, Târgu Ocna,
Gherla, the Canal, and other penal units were forced to torture
and humiliate each other into abjuring their faith and repudiating
their family and political convictions.
Forced settlement, deportation or relocation of ethnic
communities deemed hostile to the Soviet power was another

face of communist repression, especially during Stalin’s rule.

The victims of ethical cleansing were populations from parts of
the Baltic States, Poland, and Romania (Bessarabia and North
Bucovina) that had been annexed by the Soviet Union: while the
women were mostly deported to Kazakhstan, the men were sent to
labor camps in Siberia. House arrest became one of the repressive
measures. In Romania it was instituted during 1945-1964:
people considered hostile to the regime were forced to reside in
a place determined by state authorities. House arrest was
enforced without a legal order, on the basis of a decision made
by the Ministry of the Interior at the proposal of Securitate
officers. People could be forced to remain under house arrest for
a period lasting between six months and five years.
The Marxist poststructuralist theoretician Louis Pierre
Althusser differentiates between repressive state apparatus
(RSA) and ideological state apparatus (ISA) and their role in
constructing the individual as the subject of a regime of power.
While the role of the former is more direct and involves
violence and brutality in the process of subjectification, the
latter acts in a subtler manner, by ‘hailing’ or ‘interpellating’ the
individual into various subject positions. Through the mediation
of ideology, understood as “the imaginary relationship of
individuals to their real conditions of existence” (162), power
systems like the state manage to incorporate individuals into
their structure by manufacturing consent. Totalitarian
communist states were relatively long-lived, and this fact can
only be explained by the fact that ideological interpellations
were used simultaneously with repression. If almost 2 million
people fell victim to communist repression, millions more were
‘interpellated’ into submission resorting to communist ideology.
Ideology works by ‘colonizing the mind’ or imagination, to use

a famous postcolonial phrase. In this respect, both communist

and colonial regimes were similar: they used education and
exposure to a carefully controlled media to colonize the minds
of the people. Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay’s infamous
“Minute on Indian Education” (1835), which advocated the
creation of “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but
English in taste, in morals and in intellect” (Macaulay 724), was
no more infamous than the communist utopian project of
creating ‘the new man’. Freedom of thought, which depends on
the diversity of knowledge, was heavily curtailed during both
colonial and communist regimes by the imposition of books and
study curricula by the central government. Macaulay’s “Minute
on Indian Education” emphasized that Indians were to be taught
that they were a fatalist and conservative race, in contrast to the
British, whose culture epitomized modernity and all that was
rational and scientific in the world. Similarly, Elena Lissovskaya
notes that during seven decades of communist rule, “Russian
textbooks served as instruments of ideological indoctrination,
and their representations of history, society and culture were
distorted to match the dogmas of Leninism” (522). Thus,
during Stalin’s regime, education was strictly controlled by the
one-party-state. History books were rewritten, so that Stalin’s
role in the 1917 October Revolution and his friendship with Lenin
would be overplayed, the ideal of ideological manipulation
being linked to Stalin’s personality cult. Stalin also tried to
obliterate many aspects of Lenin’s life that would have reflected
negatively on himself, such as the fact that, before the
Revolution, Lenin had been an agent of tsarist “okhrana” (the
tsarist secret police). After having ousted his political adversaries
(Kamenev, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin) from power, Stalin
banned books and publications which contained their names,

and touched up official photographs in order to have any traces

of them removed. However, Gorbachev’s perestroika and
glasnost policies brought about an “epoch of inconsistent and
contradictory reforms that introduced considerable ideological
innovations while preserving the core dogmas of communism”
(Lissovskaya 522). Perestroika textbooks “combined loyalty to
communism with previously forbidden topics and approaches,
ranging from critiques of Stalinism to discussions of religion
and ideological dissent” (Lissovskaya 522). The ideological
space became less clearly marked, and the critique of Stalinism
opened the way for clashing discourses that in the end subverted
the authoritarianism/totalitarianism of communist ideology.
Strict censorship of all forms of public expression characterizes
totalitarian and authoritarian states and it was widely practiced
by the Soviet Union, the Communist satellite states in East and
Central Europe, and the apartheid regime of South Africa. Nobel
Prize winners such as Boris Pasternak, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,
or Joseph Brodsky were prohibited in the Soviet Union and
Poland. Vladimir Sorokin, Evgeniia Ginzburg, Vasily Grossman,
Varlam Shalamov, Serghei Dovlatov, Evgenii Zamiatin (the
Russian Orwell) were also banned from publication. Literary
resistance relied on samizdat (surreptitious reproduction by hand
of censored publications and their dissemination from reader to
reader) in order to evade state censorship. “The semantic
occupation of the public sphere” which communist totalitarian
regimes organized relied, according to Garton Ash, on the
“combination of censorship and a nearly complete Party-state
monopoly of the mass media”. Thus ideology “in the debased,
routinized form of newspeak” was the main instrument of
preventing “the public articulation of shared aspirations and
common truths” (Garton Ash 5). The wooden language (or

wooden tongue) is a typical form of discourse produced by

communism and, as Orwell showed in 1984, of all totalitarian
systems: analyzed by Françoise Thom in La Langue de bois as a
vehicle for ideology, its aims are to misinform and obfuscate the
truth. To be certain, psychological manipulation and mind control
through the use of party-controlled language, through Newspeak
and Doublethink (the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at
the same time and to accept both of them) were not solely
literary inventions in George Orwell’s 1984, but realities that
ordinary people had to confront and adapt to during communist
totalitarian rule. The Party-state’s aim was to destroy any
capacity for individual free thinking that its citizens might have
possessed and replace it with the stereotyped wooden language
that was the carrier of party ideology.
In order for the “new man” to be created, the “old man” had
to disappear. As a result, a whole system of personality annihilation,
brainwashing, and mind control was set up by communist
authorities. Communists saw everyone as a potential adversary
that had to be re-educated and recreated in the image of the
“new man”. Among brainwashing techniques that were applied
to the whole population, Boia includes: strong social integration
(followed by the transparency or disappearance of private life),
the frequency of criticism and self-criticism, the permanent study
of Marxist and propaganda works (145). The “Piteşti phenomenon”
in Romania was an atrocious experiment in brainwashing applied
to young students. It used both peer-humiliation and peer-torture to
determine people to renounce their convictions and abjure their
faith. The aggressive and incessant criticism (often accompanied
by torture and physical violence) made the victim feel totally
defenceless in front of the collective force of its attackers. Any

intimacy was destroyed, and, under external and internal pressure,

the individual’s system of values would eventually collapse.

See also colonization, communization, democracy

Further reading: Budeanca 2008, Courtois et al. 1999,

Deletant 2001, Kramer 1999, Roske 2000-2011, Rusan 2007,
Tismăneanu 2005


Resistance is any form of opposition – military, political or
cultural – to oppressive or totalitarian regimes. Although it is
difficult to offer a single definition of resistance, most historians
agree that there are two distinct types of resistance: armed (violent)
and passive (non-violent) resistance. Overt or armed resistance
occurs in anticolonial struggles often precluding the achievement
of independence or in organized anticommunist movements
active after the 1917 October Revolution and the beginning of
the Cold War in 1947. The Swiss historian Werner Ring, attempting
to analyze Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, proposes five
categories of resistance, of which the first, offensive resistance,
defined by the imperative “I fight to the death” is synonymous
with overt/armed resistance. The remaining four categories are
types of non-violent resistance and they include symbolic
resistance – “I remain what I was”, polemic resistance – “I tell
the truth”, and defensive resistance – “I aid and protect”. Symbolic
resistance is evident in the cultural and religious practices

maintained by the oppressed as a sign of opposition to both

colonial and communist rule.
In Postcolonial Resistance: Culture, Transformation and
Liberation, David Jeffress offers an alternative way to conceptualize
resistance, which he labels “transformation”. Thus, Gandhi’s
notion of civil disobedience as non-violent resistance is premised
on the idea of resistance as transformative force. Jeffress
reframes resistance as an effort to restructure existing social
relations rather than simply viewing it as a reactive movement
aimed at opposing or challenging colonial rule. He offers four
conceptual schemes for understanding resistance. The predominant
framework in postcolonial literary studies, cultural resistance
presupposes that writing can become an act of resistance if it
exposes the cultural assumptions and the binary oppositions that
underlie colonial narratives and can thus provide alternative
readings to colonial hegemony. According to Jeffress, cultural
resistance fails to transform the social relations of power and
maintains the metropolis as normative reference point.
Concerned with the way subcultures manage to subvert the
existing social order, cultural studies theorist Stuart Hall
notices that cultural resistance remains politically ambiguous
(Hall 1990: xiii-xx). While subcultures manage to open up spaces
where mainstream ideology is contested and counter-discourses
emerge, this symbolic victory has little or no effect on the
concrete material level. A term created by Richard Terdiman to
refer to the “theory and practice of symbolic resistance”
(Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998, ‘counter-discourse’, 56),
counter-discourses try to “disrupt the circuit in which the
dominant construction of the world assert[s] its self-evidence, its
naturalized currency. For the most part counter-discourses [seek]
to imagine alternatives to such a mechanism” (87). Yet, Terdiman

argues, counter-discourses are incapable to effect a revolution,

as they are condemned to remain marginal to the dominant. In
the postcolonial context, however, counter-discourse or “writing
back” to the center takes on a greater significance since, as
Helen Tiffin contends, “Processes of artistic and literary
decolonization have involved a radical dismantling of European
codes and a postcolonial subversion and appropriation of the
dominant European discourses” (99).
The second influential framework in postcolonial studies is
resistance as subversion, theorized by Homi Bhabha. This
approach construes resistance as a means of undermining the
hegemony of colonial knowledge-production: it subverts the
binary oppositions and essentialized identities produced by
colonialism. Bhabha offers a model of resistance located in the
spaces between colonial expectations and the native’s response.
Within these in-between, liminal, hybrid spaces where power is
never absolute, the subaltern is able to negotiate or calculate
strategies meant to displace authority. According to Jeffress,
Bhabha develops a conception of resistance able “to illuminate
the way in which more material forms of opposition, struggle
and protest can be seen as enabling, and enabled by, modes of
discursive refusal, wherein the colonial narrative does not
simply fail but is transformed by the colonized in politically
meaningful ways” (29). The critical points that Jeffress formulates
against resistance as subversion include its overlooking of the
material structures of power (colonialism was not only a cultural
project) and the fact that it rests on an individualist notion of
agency, exercised only within the ‘cracks’ and in-between spaces
of colonial power systems.
A third understanding of resistance is found inside the
resistance as opposition framework. Defined as “organized political

and military struggle against colonial rule and the structure of

colonial economy” (3), this approach challenges the social-material
conditions produced by colonization. Arguing that such an
understanding of resistance remains too much indebted to a
Manichean frame (good vs. evil, black vs. white), Jeffress notes
that it reinforces the binary oppositions of colonial discourse,
thus perpetuating the colonial identities produced by the
colonizers. However, anticolonial theorists like Fanon, while
advocating the necessity of violent opposition to colonial
regimes, have also insisted on the need to deconstruct and
transform old colonial identities.
The fourth form is resistance as transformation. Drawing
on Gandhi’s concept of non-violent resistance or satyagraha
(literally meaning “insistence on truth” in Sanskrit) and the
South African reconciliation movement, Jeffress theorizes the
significance of resistance as transformation: it is the sole form
of resistance that manages to harmoniously integrate the Self
and the Other, fostering mutual interdependence rather than
antagonism. According to Jeffress, Gandhi’s non-violent
resistance involves both the deconstruction of colonial
self/other binaries and the transformation of the material
structures of inequality that perpetuate oppression. Gandhi saw
that as long as Indians labored under colonial military and
cultural occupation, they would have a false idea of themselves.
He fought against the ideal of English culture seen as the best
ever created and resisted the idea that the colonized should be
violent like their oppressors. He directed Indians towards the
recuperation of their own cultural traditions. At the same time,
he advised that India should abandon its economic dependency
on Britain by khaddar, a return to hand-looming cloth and
traditional Indian handicrafts. Examining the reconciliation

initiative in South Africa, Jeffress argues that this project

involves the deconstruction of colonial discourse as well as the
creation of an alternative discourse able to imagine the
restructuring of relationships through recognition, redistribution,
and connection. Reconciliation is thus a complex process
requiring both confrontation with the colonial past
(acknowledgement of abuse and apartheid violence) and the
creation of an alternative narrative able to provide a new
meaning for the past and future, a narrative that would help
restructure relationships in the postcolonial context. In
conclusion, Jeffress argues that ahimsa (non-violence) and
reconciliation are forms of resistance that seek to dismantle the
binary oppositions of colonial knowledge and the predominant
(and violent) narrative of revolutionary conflict. Rather than
simply reversing the power structures of colonialism, resistance
as transformation comes up with models for the reconstruction
of identities, discourses, and social relations.
In Contending with Stalinism: Soviet Power and Popular
Resistance in the 1930s, Lynne Viola understands resistance
mainly as opposition: “At its core, resistance involves
opposition – active, passive, artfully disguised, attributed, and
even inferred” (18). She distinguishes between active and
passive resistance, the first comprising “rebellions, mutinies and
riots; demonstrations and protest meetings; strikes and work
stoppages; incendiary or oppositional broadsheets […], threat
letters, and petitions; and arson, assaults and assassination” (18),
while the second “may include foot dragging, negligence,
sabotage, theft, and flight among its many forms” (19). In
Revolution and Resistance in Eastern Europe: Challenges to
Communist Rule, the editors identify a four-part typology of
resistance in communist countries, at the same time noting the

heterogeneity of the phenomenon: “challenges to communist

rule came from several directions and were met by a diverse
range of responses from the rulers themselves,” (3-4) The four
forms of resistance outlined by Dermott and Stibbe are:
national communism, intellectual dissent, armed resistance and
popular protests against the communist rule.
Armed anticommunist resistance was especially active in
the decades after the end of World War II, when Soviet occupation
armies invaded Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and
Bulgaria. Resistance movements included the Doomed Soldiers and
the Freedom and Independence groups in Poland, the Forest Brothers
in the Baltic States (which had been invaded as early as 1940), The
Cross and Sword Organization, the Vlad Ţepes Organization,
Haiducii Muscelului [The Heroic Outlaws of Muscel], Haiducii
lui Avram Iancu [Avram Iancu’s Heroic Outlaws], Haiducii
Dobrogei [The Heroic Outlaws of Dobrudja] and the Vrancea
Group in Romania. The Polish and Romanian armed resistance
movements were the longest lasting in the former Soviet bloc,
with the last fighters being eliminated by the communist regimes
in 1962 (Romania) and 1963 (Poland).
The first type of resistance took various forms at national
level: communist regimes that took the national way to
communism either “publicly distanced themselves from the
Soviet Union in world affairs” (the case of Romania, Albania,
and former Yugoslavia) or “sought a degree of autonomy in the
domestic sphere” (Dermott and Stibbe 4). Such was the case of
Władysław Gomułka, the Polish Communist Party leader who,
soon after the new Soviet leader Khruschev made a bitter attack
on the dead Stalin in 1956, was able to negotiate with
Khrushchev major concessions for Poland, such as private
landholding and the granting of considerable freedom to the

Polish Catholic Church, while street protests and displays of

rebellion had taken place.
In October 1956 the Hungarians followed suit as students
and workers took to the streets of Budapest with demands for
personal freedom, the removal of the secret police, and the
removal of Russian control. The hard communist leader Rákosi
Mátyás was forced to resign and was replaced with more liberal
leader Nagy Imre. When the latter declared that Hungary would
withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, Soviet tanks went into
Budapest to restore order. They acted with immense brutality
killing thousands of people, a repression that caused an
impressive number of protesters to flee to the West, while Nagy
was tried and executed.
Another attempt to reform communism at national level
was made by Alexander Dubček who in 1968 tried to bring a
degree of political democracy and greater personal freedom in
Czechoslavakia. In what became known as the ‘Prague Spring’,
he also announced a program that included the end of
censorship, the right of Czech citizens to criticize the
government, the right of farmers to form independent co-
operatives, as well as increased bargaining. Although Dubček
assured Moscow that Czechoslovakia would remain in the
Warsaw Pact, Soviet leader Brezhnev ordered the Warsaw Pact
troops to invade Czechoslovakia to reassert Russian authority
(an order that only Romania disobeyed). As the Czech army had
no ability to stand up to such a force, the invasion was
bloodless, in stark contrast to the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.
After the invasion, almost all of Dubček’s reforms were
reversed. The ‘Prague Spring’ in 1968 determined opposite
reactions from communist rulers, thus showing that resistance
was itself heterogeneous in communist countries. The rulers of
Poland, Bulgaria and East Germany (Władysław Gomułka,

Todor Hristov Zhivkov and Walter Ulbricht) played a vital part

in urging Brezhnev “to come down hard on the Czechoslovak
leaders of the Prague Spring” (Dermott and Stibbe 7), owing to
their concern about the effects of the Prague reforms on their
own population, while Romania, Yugoslavia and Albania,
more interested in gaining international support for their own
brand of totalitarian “national communist” regimes, were
outspoken in condemning Moscow’s interventionist policy and
the Warsaw Pact.
Dissidence, the second form of resistance, was understood
as an opposition from within the system aimed at its
transformation by legal practices meant to erode the control of
the party-state over the citizens. Intellectual dissent was widely
spread in Eastern Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, when “many
admirers of Tito, reformist and dissident Marxists of various
kinds, Maoists in Hungarian universities, […] a whole range of
intellectuals, writers and ‘cultural workers’” (Dermott and
Stibbe 4) disavowed the practices of the communist regimes and
publicly questioned its ideological foundations. The revisionism
of intellectual dissidence was no longer open after the invasion
of Czechoslovakia and the ‘Prague Spring’ in 1968, but was
replaced by resistance through culture. The ‘Prague Spring’
inspired literary works such as plays by Václav Havel and
novels by Milan Kundera (particularly The Unbearable
Lightness of Being.) Havel, however, as he was banned from the
theatre, became more politically active. He was forced to take a
job in a brewery, but he continued to write subversive plays
(particularly his “Vaněk” plays) that circulated in hand-written
copies. Havel’s reputation as leading dissident increased with
the publication of the Charter 77 manifesto and of the essay
“The Power of the Powerless” (1978), and with his co-founding
the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted in 1979,

activities that brought about his multiple stays in prison and

constant government surveillance and questioning. In recognition
of all his activity and moral qualities, in December 1989, while he
was leader of the Civic Forum, Havel was elected President of
Czechoslovakia by a unanimous vote of the Federal Assembly.
In Romania, because of the lack of civic traditions coupled
with the massive cooptation of intellectuals by the party-state,
virtually the only dissident movement was that initiated by the
writer Paul Goma (himself a former member of the Communist
Party) in 1977. Individual dissident voices made themselves
heard in the late 1970s and the 1980s: philologist Doina Cornea,
mathematician Mihai Botez, engineer Radu Filipescu, physicist
Gabriel Andreescu, historian Vlad Georgescu, orthodox priest
Gheorghe Calciu Dumitreasa, writers Dorin Tudoran and
Dan Petrescu, poet Mircea Dinescu and engineer Gheorghe Ursu,
assassinated at Rahova penitentiary because of his diary. In
some of these cases, the actual part played by the Securitate in
the so-called dissident acts has yet to be determined.
Popular protests against communist rule took various
forms, ranging from small scale strikes and demonstrations
(such as the 1953 strikes in Pilsen – Czechoslovakia or, in
Romania, the 1977 miners’ strike in the Jiu Valley, the 1987
“Red Flag” factory workers’ protest in Brasov, or the 1956
students’ protests in Cluj, Timisoara and Bucharest) to mass
uprisings that led to sudden systemic change (Hungary in 1956
and the whole communist bloc in 1989). The collective protests
in the first cases were sparked off by working class discontent
over low wages, poor working conditions, food shortages and
inflated prices for basic goods, while in 1989, on the other hand,
the main complaints were the deterioration of living standards in
comparison with those in the West coupled with “the refusal of
communist leaders to provide an honest account of the state of

indebtedness and stagnation in their respective countries”

(Dermott and Stibbe 6). Romania might be a noteworthy
exception, since Nicolae Ceauşescu made it his purpose to pay
the country’s external debts, overworked and starved the
population to do it while keeping them informed about the
progress, spurring them on to strive harder for the common goal.
Moscow policy was not, however, homogeneous: although
military intervention was favored in the Hungarian and
Czechoslovakian cases, the ‘Polish October’ of 1956 brought
about the appointment of reformist Władysław Gomułka as
Prime Secretary of the Communist Party, who was granted
considerable freedom to pursue his own policies at home on
condition that he should support the Soviet Union in
international affairs and abide by the Warsaw Pact. The same
conditions worked in the case of Kádár János after the 1956
uprising, and Kádár was allowed to liberalize the domestic
communist rule in Hungary to a great extent.
The birth of Solidarnost (1980) in Poland, a trade union
federation led by Lech Wałęsa, holds a special place in the
resistance struggle in the Soviet-dominated countries of the East
European Communist bloc. It was the first trade union outside
communist party control in a Warsaw Pact country, and it had
mass participation: in one year it reached almost ten million
members. It successfully contested the power of the communist
regime using the methods of civil resistance in order to achieve
social change and gain more rights for the workers, in defiance
of the government’s introduction of martial law in the first years
and then other forms of political repression for the rest of the
decade. Unprecedented negotiations between the communists
and the leader of Solidarnost a few years later led to semi-free
elections in 1989 and helped pave the way for the fall of

communist regimes in Eastern Europe, while Wałęsa was

elected President of Poland in 1990.
Analyzing the characteristics of anticommunist resistance,
Dermott and Stibbe emphasize the importance of local cultural
and political factors in sparkling resistance and the interplay
between Moscow and its satellites which impacted on the
success or the failure of various forms of opposition to the
communist regimes. Thus, nationalism and religion were
crucial factors in fostering opposition to communist rule in
Poland, Hungary or Slovakia. The hegemony of the Soviet
Union was clearly evident in its interventionist policy – the
crushing of the Hungarian revolt in 1956 and of the ‘Prague
Spring’ in 1968.
Both anti-colonial and anti-communist resistance comprise
forms of active, passive or symbolic opposition to monolithic
political regimes, in which local cultural factors play a vital role.
As resistance is principally a reactive phenomenon, the forms it
takes should be analyzed in close relation with the
characteristics of the power regimes they seek to denounce or
subvert. The heterogeneity of resistance can itself be perceived
as a form of resistance to the systems of binary oppositions
through which colonial power and communist power managed
to maintain control and perpetuate themselves.

See also colonialism, communism, hegemony

Further reading: Brown 2010, Dijk 2007, Doncu 2011,

Isaac 2014, Jeffress 2008, Lynne 2002, McDermott 2006,
Şandru 2011, Terdiman 1985










The institution of slavery has been a component of many
societies since ancient times, whether established through law or
perpetrated against the legal and moral codes of a given society.
Postcolonial scholars such as Ashcroft, Gilroy, and Thieme have
long argued that modern Western economies have developed as
a result of the huge profits derived from slave trading and slave
labor in the colonies and the metropolis itself. Thus, the
history, institutionalization as well as the symbolic and material
practices of slavery have been the subject of intense scrutiny by
postcolonial critics investigating the direct link between colonization,
slavery, and the shaping and re-shaping of empires. While slavery
did exist in precolonial times in a number of societies within and
without the Western world, the colonization process augmented

the slave trade and turned it into what was to become one of the
main engines of European economies for centuries. Postcolonial
scholars have therefore emphasized the mutual construction and
justification of slavery and racism.
Scholars distinguish between societies with slaves and
slave societies. The former term is used in reference to
communities where slaves formed a relatively minor percentage
of the population, typically in small household or family units,
in which their work was not fundamental to the most important
forms of revenue-generating activities. Within a society with
slaves, the differentiation between slaves and other types of
laborers was less precise and unchanging, and was more
“porous” than in a slave society (Drescher 6). By contrast, a
slave society thrived on mass-scale slavery, using slaves for the
purpose of creating considerable profit and building an economic
structure of privilege. As a result, in a slave society the lines of
differentiation between owners and slaves were many and were
enforced through formal and informal codes of segregation, with
very infrequent acts of manumission. “Above all”, states Drescher,
“in slave societies, slavery became the normative model of
social relationships at the center of economic production” (6).
It is thus important to note the distinction between local
and domestic slavery in small, traditional societies, on the one
hand, and chattel and commercial slavery in the Americas, on
the other. In small slave-holding communities around the world
slaves were often times captured in battle and could redeem their
freedom with time, could be adopted into the family or could be
disposed of at will – including being ritually murdered – by
community leaders or individual slave owners. Slave raids did
take place within Europe, and citizens of some European
countries could also be held in bondage. Furthermore, scholars

have pointed out the flexibility of some early forms of slavery in

the empires of ancient Greece and Rome, which allowed slaves
to become part of the family, to be emancipated and to have
access to an improved social status (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and
Tiffin 1998: 195). However, enslavement on a mass scale was a
characteristic of the slave trade which united the African, European,
and American continents and created the diaspora of the Black
Atlantic, as argued by Paul Gilroy in The Black Atlantic.
In addition to ancient Italy and Greece, slave societies
prospered in parts of the Americas (Finley qtd. in Drescher 6), where
the Atlantic slave trade swung into full force once the indigenous
labor force was depleted. In 1517-1519, in an effort to prevent the
Taíno population of the island of Hispaniola from total annihilation
at the hands of the conquistadors, Bartolomé de Las Casas, the
Dominican friar who had been granted the title of “protector of
the Indians”, suggested importing a few dozen Christianized
African slaves from Spain, where they served as domestic slaves
(Sullivan 159; Drescher 135). The pre-existing domestic slave
trade system in Western Africa had already been turned into a
vast operation by the Portuguese slave traders who began importing
slaves into southern Iberia around the middle of the fifteenth century.
However, the slave system in existence in Africa was vastly different
from the intensified process of exploitation which developed in
the New World in the French and British colonies and on the
plantations of the American South with the emergence of
profitable cash crops such as sugar, rice, tobacco, and cotton.
Las Casas’ initiative, despite the Dominican friar’s
arguably naïve intentions, was turned into a profit-making
scheme by the Portuguese, Flemish and Genoese merchants,
who trafficked a total of 4000 slaves into the Caribbean islands
upon permission granted by King Charles V of Spain. Although

until the middle of the sixteenth century it was mainly the

indigenous populations that had been enslaved, for the next
three centuries the slave trade involved the kidnapping and
forced labor of approximately 12 million blacks (Ashcroft,
Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998: 195). The Africans were mainly taken
from the regions along the Atlantic coast of Africa and
transported on board slave ships during the so-called Middle
Passage of the ‘triangular trade’, unfolding between Africa, the
Americas, and Europe. The geographical composition of the
trade system included three main directions of import and export
of people and goods: commodities were brought from Europe to
Africa to mediate the shipment of slaves, who were then
transported in chains to the Americas, where they were sold and
consequently forced to become laborers in planter economies
that yielded goods such as sugar and tobacco which were then
exported to Europe, thus completing the third side of the
triangle. Paul Gilroy has proposed that the forced dispersion of
African people be seen as culminating in a re-grouping of
cultural identities beyond nationalist lines, redefining black
identity from a transnational perspective.
Purported to be a liberation project, in the vein of
European Enlightenment, communism involved a philosophy of
individual and collective emancipation from the evils and
domination of capitalism. As such, it did not officially condone
any forms of slavery, but scholars such as Andrzej Kaminski and
Marc Buggeln have suggested that forced labor in the Soviet
Gulag and other work camps established in the Eastern bloc may
be characterized as slavery. Such a position would also
challenge the normative model of slavery based on the
experience of the American South. It has also been argued that
unfree labor exists under capitalism in the form of “neoslavery”

(Buggeln 106), with an estimated number of unfree laborers

between 27 and 200 million people, depending on what is to be
regarded as ‘free’ or ‘unfree’ labor under the law.

See also capitalism, colonization, communism

Further Reading: Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1998,

Buggeln 2008, Clayton 2011, Drescher 2009, Sullivan 1995,
Thieme 2003



Socialist realism is an aesthetic doctrine developed in the
Soviet Union, which became the dominant mode of representation
in all its communist satellites. Although it is generally regarded
as an offspring of the theory of Marxism, it is worth noting that
neither Marx nor Engels devoted any particular study to the problem
of literature. Their ideas were scattered in various writings, especially
in their correspondence. What is generally called Marxist literary
and aesthetic theory was first formulated by Franz Mehring
(1846-1919) and Georgi V. Plekhanov (1856-1918), who put
together its basic tenets from Marx’s writings: 1) culture (of
which literature is a part) forms a superstructure which relies on
and is determined by the economic base and 2) an “advanced”
(meaning socialist) literature, by a careful selection of truthful
representation, has a positive effect on the development of
society. On the basis of these views, Marxist critics contended

that art and literature are powerful ideological weapons in the

political battle. At its core, socialist realism did not originate in
an artistic response and reaction to previous literary trends or a
change in the cultural climate, as happened in the case of other
movements such as romanticism, realism, surrealism, futurism,
modernism or postmodernism. The emergence of socialist
realism was intimately connected with the establishment of the
Union of Soviet Writers (1932-34), an organization formed to
control all writers and their creative activities. The role of the
communist writer was defined in conjunction with the project of
social engineering advanced by the Communist Party: “the
purpose of the First Writers’ Congress and the socialist realist
aesthetic was to define the artist’s relationship to the general project:
writers became engineers of human souls in the sense that they
created models of the new men for imitation by the masses”
(Gutkin 57). Thus, socialist realism was a method “formulated
to serve the ideological requirements of the Party” (Morris 90)
in 1932 and adopted as an official cultural policy in 1934, on the
contention that a faithful representation of reality always
combines an expression of communist ideals with the active
struggle for their fulfillment. The term appeared for the first
time in a speech delivered by Ivan Gronsky on 20 May 1932
before the Organizing Committee of the Union of Writers:

The basic demand that we make on the writer is: write the truth,
portray truthfully our reality that is in itself dialectic. Therefore the
basic method of Soviet literature is the method of socialist realism.
(qtd. in Ermolaev 144)

The phrase was reproduced in the May issue of

Literaturnaia Gazeta, and several months later Stalin discussed
the future of Soviet literature in Gorky’s apartment. Igor

Golomshtok argues that it was during this informal meeting that

the concept of socialist realism emerged (84). In 1934, at the
First Congress of Soviet Writers, Andrei Zhdanov, the minister
of culture, developed the principles of socialist realism, a
doctrine that was soon to be adopted for all other arts. An able
propagandist, Zhdanov replaced the usual commitment to
objectivity that all realist art shares with a commitment to
communist ideology by declaring that:

you must know life to be able to depict it truthfully in artistic

creations, to depict it neither “scholastically” nor lifelessly, nor simply
as “objective reality”, but rather as reality in its revolutionary
development. The truthfulness and the historical exactitude of the
artistic image must be linked with the task of ideological
transformation, of the education of the working people in the spirit of
socialism. This method in fiction and literary criticism is what we call
the method of socialist realism. (Zhdanov 15)

This logical contradiction that lies at the core of all

communist propaganda was creatively interpreted by Georg
Lukács, a Hungarian Marxist critic, in his comparative essay on
critical and socialist realism. Lukács argued that socialist
realism inherited and developed further the faithful
representation of reality that was the underlying principle of
nineteenth-century realism; at the same time, it transcended the
limitations of critical realism by putting forward a clear program
of activity for the radical transformation of society. Actually, the
revolutionary ideology that demonstrated the superiority of
socialist realism over critical realism could not lead to a
“faithful” representation of reality: both critical and socialist
realism provided ideologically tinted representations of the
world. Poststructuralist theorist Louis Pierre Althusser defined
ideology as “the imaginary relationship of individuals to their

real conditions of existence” (162), likening it to an

interpretative framework that mediates the relation between an
individual and systems of power. Ideology is thus a group of
beliefs (institutionally produced and reproduced), voluntarily
incorporated by individuals, which helps to ensure social
cohesion. In light of poststructuralist critique, realism and its
varieties have been found to absorb ideological beliefs into their
allegedly objective and truthful representations of reality.
Although Lukács and the advocates of socialist realism
predicated its superiority on the logical contradiction inherent in
the union of truthful representation and radical transformation
according to communist ideology, they never denied the ideological
underpinnings of such a literature. Thus the fundamental tenets
of socialist realism were classnost’ (class-mindedness), narodnost’
(people-mindedness), and partiinost’ (party-mindedness), of
which the latter was the most important. The writer, as a
member of society, could be neutral towards what happened
around him, towards classes, and class struggle. While colonial
empires based their oppression on essentializing race, for
communists class took on the importance of race in defining
who was included in, and who was excluded from society. As
class became the central organizer for humanity, writers were
understood to appraise events and human actions solely from the
viewpoint of class. Partisanship in literature was either
bourgeois and reactionary, or communist and revolutionary.
Though widely theorized ideologically, socialist realist
literature provided but a handful of masterpieces. Among them
were Alexander Fadeev’s The Young Guard (1945) and Nicolai
Ostrovky’s How the Steel Was Tempered (1934). After the
publication of his novel, Fadeev was fiercely criticized for his
falling short of the socialist realist ideal, which required that

people should be fully portrayed in the process of working. In

contrast, Vitali Gubarev’s story, “Pavlik Morozov” (1950), was
given as an example to children, who were instructed to follow
the example of its ‘hero’, a thirteen year old boy who denounces
his counter-revolutionary father to the secret police.
Socialist realist doctrine was fiercely criticized by Czesław
Miłosz in his book The Captive Mind, an extensive analysis of
Stalinist cultural policies and their numbing effects on
intellectual life. It would be more suggestive, nevertheless, if we
offered a critique of socialist realism from the inside. Nikita
Khrushchev, former Prime Secretary of the communist party and
president of the Soviet Union, admitted:

I think Stalin’s cultural policies, especially the cultural policies

imposed on Leningrad through Zhdanov, were cruel and senseless.
You can’t regulate the development of literature, art, and culture with
a stick, or by barking orders. You can’t lay down a furrow and then
harness all your artists to make sure they don’t deviate from the
straight and narrow. If you try to control your artists too tightly, there
will be no clashing of opinions, consequently no criticism, and
consequently no truth. There will be just a gloomy stereotype, boring
and useless. (Khrushchev 247)

Socialist realism as a cultural policy dictated by the

ideological imperatives of communist politics has no real
historical counterpart in colonialism. Although as a rule
literature and the arts have been used as powerful tools for
ideological control in colonial domination, an official style of
representation was never artificially imposed by the imperial
center, as happened in the Soviet Union and its satellite states.
While imperial centers encouraged freedom of expression in arts
and literature, in the USSR this freedom was virtually inexistent.
This difference in the cultural policies pursued by the colonial

metropolis and by the Soviet power may partly account for the
larger creative freedom enjoyed by colonial writers, who, if not
wholly free from ideological constraints, were however never
forced to adhere to one particular style of representation.

See also realism

Further reading: Ermolaev 1977, Golomshtok 1990,

Gutkin 1999, Lahusen and Dobrenko 1997, Robin 1992





The term is used to define a certain position from which
the world is experienced, the position of the individual “I”. In
the book Subjectivities: A History of Self-Representation in
Britain, Regenia Gagnier argues that the subject nowadays
covers a wide variety of meanings:

First, the subject is a subject to itself, an “I”, however difficult

or even impossible it may be for others to understand this “I” from its
own viewpoint, within its own experience. Simultaneously, the subject
is a subject to, and of, others; in fact it is often an ‘Other’ to others,
which also affects its sense of its own subjectivity. (…) Third, the
subject is also a subject of knowledge, most familiarly perhaps of the
discourse of social institutions that circumscribe its terms of being.

Fourth, the subject is a body that is separate (except in the case of

pregnant women) from other human bodies; and the body, and therefore
the subject, is closely dependent upon its physical environment. (8)

The subject finds itself caught in “webs of interlocution”,

thrown into the world, the subject of experience. It recalls
Martin Heidegger’s Dasein, the being that cannot be separated
from its place in the world (Dasein meaning ‘to be there’ in
German). It is enmeshed in cultural dialogue and social, political
and philosophical relationships. The etymology of the word
subject – ‘placed under’ – suggests that the subject is placed
under different circumstances that affect, shape or construct it.
The ‘Cartesian subject’ refers to a conception of subjectivity
prevalent in early modern thought: the philosophes of the
Enlightenment construed the subject as a rational, autonomous
entity, endowed with continuity and coherence of self. This
Enlightenment idea of the free and autonomous individual,
developed especially in the philosophical works of John Locke,
René Descartes, and Immanuel Kant, spawned a powerful
critique in late nineteenth century and the twentieth century. The
theories of subjectivity that emerged then contested fiercely the
autonomy and rationality of the human subject. Michel Foucault
gives voice to this theoretical undertaking of poststructuralism:

The researches of psychoanalysis, of linguistics, of anthropology

have ‘decentered’ the subject in relation to the laws of its desire, the
forms of its language, the rules of its actions, or the play of its
mythical and imaginative discourse. (Foucault 1972: 22)

Sigmund Freud’s theory of the unconscious as the

repository of hidden forces that are beyond rational control,
Jacques Lacan’s symbolic order (consisting of language, beliefs,
ideologies) through which the infant is alienated from the
imaginary and acculturated into society, Clifford Geertz’

concept of ‘thick description’ (antiessential and anti-totalitarian)

that ought to be the primary methodology in anthropological
studies, Althusser’s theory of the subject as ‘interpellated’ by
ideology, Saussure’s characterization of language as a system of
signs working on the basis of difference and opposition, and
Giles Deleuze’s claim in Difference and Repetition that difference
is internal to every idea represent just a few of the most
powerful contestations of the idea of the early modern
heterogeneous, autonomous, and rational subject.
The psychoanalytical, poststructuralist, and feminist
contestations of the Cartesian subject have been balanced in
contemporary theory by a disposition to resume the critique of
the Enlightenment from another perspective. Thus, for example,
Jürgen Habermas claimed that the project of modernity was one
with that of the Enlightenment and argued that it could not be
completed because of an emphasis on instrumental rationality
that led to reification (Modernity – an Incomplete Project).
Thinkers that contend, in Habermas’ vein, that Enlightenment
was not an entirely flawed project tend to emphasize the
autonomy of the subject and its capacity for agency. There are
thus two basic orientations in recent debates about subjectivity:
under the name of ‘structure’ we can group those theories that
see the subject as an effect or a construct elaborated by
transhistorical forces such as language (Lacan), ideology
(Althusser), power and discourse (Foucault), whereas ‘agency’
points to the critical rejoinders brought against theories of
structure and which underscore the importance of a theory of
subjectivity capable to leave room for agency, much needed in
social and political action.
One of the major concerns of postcolonial studies is to
assess the various positions of the colonial and postcolonial
subject. Since imperialism and colonialism led to an (often violent)
encounter between different cultures/nations, colonial and
postcolonial subjectivities have been plagued with conflicting

view points and marked by difference. Although a host of

concepts such as liminality, in-betweenness, hybridity, syncretism,
or mestizaje have been elaborated to deal with the complex
formation of subjectivity in the colonial and postcolonial context,
a permanent interrogation of the essentializing and totalizing
potential of such concepts should inform every postcolonial analysis.
There is no single colonial or postcolonial subject, only a multiplicity
of subjectivities produced at the intersection of (silenced) local
traditions/histories and (hegemonic) global metanarratives such
as modernization/technologization and capitalism.
The issue of agency takes center stage in postcolonial and
postcommunist debates about the re-construction of identity. The
transitions from colonial dependency to postcolonial independence
and from communism to democracy and a free market, in spite
of their distinct features, still involve the re-construction of
social/personal identities as a common characteristic. Processes
of colonization and communization, while affecting politics
and the economy, were driven by a project of re-shaping identity
according to their goals. Thus, in their attempt to offer
justification for the spoliation of land and exploitation of local
people, the colonizers projected a negative image onto the
colonized (they were subhuman, primitive, lazy, irrational), who
internalized the colonizers’ projections (Taylor 1993: 36) and
developed a “double consciousness” (W. E. B. DuBois 3-4).
Similarly, the communist utopian project of creating ‘the new
man’ had de-structuring, long-term consequences on the identity
of people living under communist rule. Forced labor camps and
penitentiaries adopted extreme punitive measures that led to the
de-humanization of the prisoners (Shalamov – Kolyma Tales).
The constant surveillance of the citizens by the police state
engendered fear and convinced the average man of the benefits
of silence, non-intervention, and indifference. The lack of civic
spirit and of a reactive civil society in postcommunist Romania
is explained by the sheer scale of the secret police surveillance

and its monitoring apparatus: one in four Romanians was

recruited by the Securitate as collaborator or informer. Some
former political detainees, after being released from prison, were
intimidated into signing a contract with a Securitate officer and
to provide monthly reports on their friends and work colleagues.
These reports could be used later to denigrate that person
(Stamatescu et al. 90-1). The obligation to conform outwardly to
the regime or else suffer the consequences of dissent that
totalitarian communist states imposed on their subjects
engendered the same double consciousness of the colonial
subject as everyone in East and Central Europe “was living a
double life: systematically saying one thing in private and
another in public” (Garton Ash 3). Likewise, in “The Long
Term Effects of Communist Terror on Romanian Society”
Baghiu notes that: “Thinking one thing and saying another is the
ontological schizophrenia derived from terror” (768) (my
translation). In his paper delivered at the 7th Symposium of the
Sighet Memorial, Baghiu undertakes an analysis of the
destructuring effects of communist terror on Romanian
postcommunist society. He identifies the general fear of
speaking frankly and behaving honestly on the one hand and the
lack of personal initiative on the other as the two major
psychological ills engendered by communist terror. The lack of
personal initiative is the result of the communist policy of
discouraging protest and involvement, as any attempt at
changing the order of things was persecuted or resulted in the
marginalization of the dissenter. The general resignation to the
‘state of things as they are’ has its correlative in the indifference
or even suspicion manifested in Romanian postcommunist
society towards the good initiatives of others: “There is in our
nature, as a result of our going through the red terror, a sort of
nausea translated into the futility of any personal effort and into
the incapacity of society as a whole to acknowledge real
individual merits and achievements.” (Baghiu 768, my translation).

Boia concludes his chapter on “The New Man” by remarking

that although the creation of the ‘new man’ proved to be a failed
project, the type is present, to a larger or lesser extent, “in the
spiritual chemistry of most inhabitants of the former communist
bloc” (145) (my translation).
The specificity of the postcommunist subject, Boris Groys
contends, is the reversed temporal and causal order it inhabits.
Whereas the postcolonial subject steps from the past into the
future, from colonial dependence to national independence, its
postcommunist counterpart comes out of the future into the past,
from a post-historical, post-national time again into history (169).
This happens because, as Groys explains, when communism and
its post-national utopian project fell, the historical subject of
nation made its reappearance, returning from the future and
creating a historical moment quite different from our normal
conception of the way history operates (168).

See also colonialism, feminism, poststructuralism

Further Reading: Baghiu 1999, Dressler 2002, Groys

2004, Hall 2004, Woodward 2002







Applying postcolonial theory to cinema studies facilitates
the reading of films made in postcolonial countries or diasporic
films that “explore questions of representation, identity and location
politics” (Hayward 299), questioning “the center/margin binaries
imposed by Western thought” (299). Postcolonial theory is used
to expose the models of colonialist discourse, while analyzing
“products made by the West – both during the colonialist era
and in the postcolonial moment – which (…) either directly or
indirectly display their Eurocentrism” (299).
Third Cinema emerged as a counter-cinema and its
proponents, a 1968 group of radical Argentinian filmmakers,
called for a “decolonization of culture” through this new kind
of cinema. The term Third Cinema was coined as distinct both
from First Cinema, which refers to Hollywood and Eurocentric
cinema, and from Second Cinema, referring to the European art
cinema and the cinema of auteurs. The name Third Cinema was
chosen also because

it emanated from countries and continents outside the two dominant

spheres of power: the Western (first world) and the Eastern (second world).
The naming of this Third Cinema was intentionally playful – a riposte
to economists (…) and to dominant Western cinemas. (Hayward 414)

While it refers to films made in the countries of the Third

World, the term Third Cinema is however not to be confused
with Third World Cinema (the cinema industry of all those
countries that can be categorised as being part of the Third
World) because Third Cinema is “ostensibly political in its
conceptualization” (415), attempting to challenge First World
consumerist cinema and the aesthetic auteur cinema of the

Second World. Not all the cinemas of the Third World seek to
pose a challenge to First and Second Cinema, the example of
popular Indian cinema (which has engendered the hybrid name
Bollywood) being notable in this respect. Third Cinema attempts to
create new codes and conventions. Its major themes focus on class,
race, religion or national integrity. While the term was coined in
the 1960s, it continues to be active in cinema debates and practice.

See also: postcommunist cinema, worlds

Further Reading: Hayward 2006, Screen 24: 2/1982,

Shoat and Stam 1994



Transition is the process of converting from a centrally
planned to a market economy or from a closed political system
to democracy and an open society. Transition is understood as a
gradual process (in contrast to revolution, a sudden systemic upheaval),
in which political and economic changes are to be implemented:

Mainstream transition theory […] has been written in terms of the

discourses and practices of liberalisation […] as a series of techniques of
transformation involving the marketisation of economic relations, privatisation
of property, and democratisation of political life. Each seeks to de-
monopolise the power of the state and to separate the state from the economy
and civil society. Marketisation seeks to free up the economy. Privatisation
seeks to break up economic monopolies in the spheres of production,
purchasing and distribution. Democratisation and de-communisation
aim to break the hold of the Communist party in political life and to enable
a rejuvenated civil society to emerge. Each technique has […] its own

specific instruments: for example, the creation of markets and price reform
for marketisation; restitution, voucher schemes and share ownership,
and the selling off of state property for privatisation; multi-partyism
and parliamentary democracy for democratisation. (Pickles 2-4)

Balcerowicz, in “Understanding Postcommunist Transitions”,

maintains that historically there have been four types of transition:
a) classical transition, or the gradual development of democracy in
advanced capitalist states between 1860 and 1920; b) neoclassical
transition, the extension of democracy in basically capitalist states
(Italy, West Germany, and Japan in the 1940s, Spain and Portugal
in the 1970s, some countries in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s,
and Taiwan and South Korea in the 1980s); c) market-oriented
transition in non-communist countries (Western countries after
World War II, Taiwan and South Korea in the 1960s, Chile in
the 1970s, Mexico and Turkey in the 1980s and Argentina in
the 1990s); d) Asian postcommunist transition (China since the
late 1970s and Vietnam since the late 1980s) and e) Central and
East European postcommunist transition (Central and East
European communist countries after 1989) (1994: 75).
Comparing Central and East European postcommunist
transitions with other radical transitions, Balcerowicz notices
that the scope of change is exceptionally large in the former, as
they involve both the political system (the transition from
totalitarian regimes and closed societies to democracy and open
societies) and the economic one (converting from centrally
planned to market economies), which in turn interact with changes
in the social sphere. This unprecedented scope of change was
responsible for many errors and delays in postcommunist transitions,
as “an extreme information overload for top decision makers”
combined with a defective “public administration largely inherited
from the old regime” (1994: 76).

Temporal asymmetry between the pace of economic and

political change is also characteristic of postcommunist
transitions: although economic and political change started
simultaneously, “[i]t takes more time to privatize the bulk of
state-dominated economy than to organize free elections” (76).
The result was, according to Balcerowicz, a “historically new
sequence”, in which mass democracy and political pluralism came
first, to be followed by market capitalism later on. Assessing
the outcomes of postcommunist transitions, Balcerowicz notes
that the performance of former Soviet countries has been worse
than those of Central and East European states, and he puts this
down not only to differences in initial conditions, but also to the
crucial role that competent elite reformers have played in the
liberalization of the market in the latter countries, overcoming
resistance to change (2002: 14).
The media is likely to exert a considerable influence on the
processes of transition. Balcerowicz notes that while classical
transitions to democracy took place under “a rather liberal press,
no broadcast media, and no fundamental change in the economy”,
postcommunist transitions “came about in the age of powerful
broadcast media” (1994: 79). The sudden increase in the public
exposure to negative media coverage is explained as an effect of
the suppression of such images from the politically controlled
mass media in communist countries. Thus, freed by political
liberalization, journalists “with a low level of professionalism”,
trained under communism, encouraged the ‘visibility’ of
negative phenomena such as poverty and crime, which led to an
unfavorable assessment of the whole transition process and
consequently influenced “electoral outcomes and the subsequent
direction or pace of the economic transition” (79).
Based on the mode of democratization, Ghia Nodia classifies
transitions into ‘organic’ and ‘ideological’. While the former category

can be defined as “a gradual societal transformation followed by

a change of political regime, with the societal transformation
serving as a ‘precondition’ of the political shift” (Britain and the
United States being the classic cases), the tradition of ideological
transitions goes as far back as the French Revolution, when a
new system, although imposed by the mobilization of the
masses against the ancient regime, was actually a revolutionary
project designed and implemented by an intellectual elite and
maintained by terror (Nodia 18-9). Because organic transitions
to democracy were viewed as part of ‘modernization’, a
process centered on the rising importance of personal autonomy
in the regulation of social relations, and they constituted the
prevalent model until the 1960s, democratization was held to
become possible only in countries that fulfilled certain
preconditions with regard to economy, culture and modernization.
The organic model gave way to another approach to
understanding transitions in ‘transitology’, a theory elaborated
by a number of political theorists such as Phillipe C. Schmitter,
Guillermo O’Donnell, and Giuseppe di Palma. Transitology
appeared as part of standard democracy studies, with a special
focus on democratic transition and consolidation. For transitologists,
democratization does not require the prerequisites of an advanced
economic development, technologization, and modernization: if
the elite are powerful enough to put forward the idea of
democracy, a democratic transition may take place with
reasonable prospects of success, whatever the economic and
socio-cultural conditions of a country. Nevertheless, there is a
correlation between the level of economic development and the
sustainability of the democratic process: the lower the level of
economic development, the greater the chances for a country in
transition to relapse into political authoritarianism.

The disintegration of the USSR and Yugoslavia required

the formation of new national identities and led to a
recrudescence of nationalist feelings. The resurgence of
nationalism associated with the deadly wars in former
Yugoslavia posed an important threat to postcommunist
transitions in the 1990s. A crucial part in the democratization of
the region was played by NATO enlargement and EU accession
(Tismăneanu 2010: 130). He emphasizes that

What was at the beginning of the 1990s a sombre and

threatening international landscape in later years transformed into an
extremely favorable one. The prospect of joining NATO and the EU
had a massive influence on the trajectory of the postcommunist
countries, perhaps even weightier than that of any domestic political
developments. (130)

Another important aspect in the transition of

postcommunist states to liberal democracy was dealing with the
legacy of communism. A body of organizations and institutions
has been created in former communist countries (as part of the
process of decommunization) in order to confront “communist
crimes”: the Office of the Documentation and the Investigation
of the Crimes of Communism in the Czech Republic, the
Institute of National Memory in Slovakia, the Federal
Commissioner for the Stasi Archives in Germany, the Institute
of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of
Crimes against the Polish Nation in Poland, and the Institute for
the Investigation of Communist Crimes in Romania. Laws of
lustration (a government policy aiming at limiting the participation
of ex-communists and informants of the secret police from
being appointed in political or civil service positions) were also
passed and implemented in the Czech Republic, Slovakia,
Hungary, Germany, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and
Romania. In Romania, the lustration law gives every citizen the
right to check with CNSAS if a candidate to a political or public

function is an ex-member or informer of the Securitate; it is

milder than the Czech lustration law, which prevents former
secret police members and informers from holding any public
office. Although initially devised as a means of helping
postcommunist countries circumvent the difficulties posed by
the involvement in politics of ex-members of the communist
nomenklatura, lustration had its benefits contested by a number
of former dissidents. Adam Michnik, a Polish intellectual and
former member of the Solidarity movement, rightfully pointed
out in “The Logic of Accusation” that lustration belongs to the
logic of revenge and can easily turn into witch-hunting. On the
other hand, in Romania, the rightful demand for political
independence and the removal of ex-communist apparatchiks
from power has been unjustly opposed by former communists
like Ion Iliescu: in 1990, faced with massive demonstrations in
University Square, Ion Iliescu refused to negotiate with the
protesters and called in the miners of the Jiu Valley to support
his government. The protests ended in a blood bath, with many
protesters beaten, several killed, and the headquarters of major
anti-government publications devastated.

See also communism, communization/decommunization

Further Reading: Balcerowicz 1994, Berdhal 2000, Di Palma

1990, Gallagher 2005, Giatzidis 2002, Kott 2006, Light 2001,
Livezeanu 2004, Nalepa 2010, Nodia 1996, Pickles 1998,
Przeworski 1991





Universalism is the belief that the social and cultural
diversity of human life can be reduced to a few paradigmatic
features that work to define the essence of what it means to be
human. This belief goes back to the Enlightenment and the
‘Cartesian subject’ defined by rationality, coherence, and
continuity of self. As “the modern episteme” should be viewed
as “the colonial episteme” (Quayson 2), the universalist ideal of
the Enlightenment philosophes was born entwined with the
European colonial and imperial project. The category
“universal” was employed manipulatively by the logic of racism
and colonialism in order to discriminate and exclude those who
deviated from the norm. The opposite assumption, that of
cultural relativism, holds that there are no such paradigmatic
universal human features, and that particular cultures are
responsible for the socio-ethical and cultural make-up of their
members. Universalism/universality is criticized by postcolonial
critics as a kind of moral imperialism that fosters a “hegemonic
view of existence” (Ashcroft, Griffith, and Tiffin 1998:
Universalism/Universality), as it enables dominant cultures like
the Western ones to impose Eurocentric values on the colonized
people, ignoring cultural diversity and specificities. Cultural
relativism, especially in its radical forms, may lead to new forms
of oppression. Thus, the assumption that cultures are the sole
source of validity for moral principles may lead to an arbitrary
justification of cruel practices such as suttee in India. Radical
relativism can encourage the extreme traditionalism of certain
types of societies and allow the perpetuation of barbarous
practices like suttee or the Islamic Sharia law, justifying the
oppression of women under the guise of defending cultural
particularities. Chattel slavery and caste systems could also be

legitimized through an appeal to cultural relativism and the

authority of local moral communities.
In Thick and Thin: Moral Argument at Home and Abroad,
political philosopher Michael Walzer defends the pluralist and
particularist orientation of multiculturalism against what he
calls Marxist political universalism: the idea that there is a
political ideal valid for all human beings, which implies that in
the end all people will share the same political values and the
same basic socio-political institutions. Communism, as
envisaged by Karl Marx, is incompatible with multicultural
politics, since it is a universal project requiring that all people
live in so-called democratic societies with socialized economies.
Marx viewed communism as a world-historical project that
demanded that workers should set aside all national and cultural
differences and become a universal class, an ideal embodied in
the famous closing words of the Manifesto of the Communist
Party: “Working Men of all Countries, Unite!” Thus, Marxist
ideology construed the working class as an international class
and saw the proletariat as the progressive force and potential
leader in a world revolutionary process. Groys notes that the
universalist project of communism was programmatically post-
national and anti-national, as “its aim was to overcome
traditional national differences, to do away with existing
national cultural identities and in their place foster a new, global,
communist humanity as the protagonist of a new history” (169).
Lucian Boia defines communism as a mythology and a
millenarist discourse which puts forward a teleological vision of
history. According to Boia, the universalism of communism, in
spite of its materialistic and rational bases, is profoundly
idealistic, as it tries to shape a present society according to a
preconceived idea of revolution which is supposed to change the
course of history (Boia 91-2). When this worldwide revolution
failed to take place, Stalin proposed the notion of “socialism in

one country” and after World War II found himself in the position to
export “the communist revolution” to the countries in Eastern and
Central Europe that had been included in the USSR’s sphere of
influence. This was possible because, as Groys remarks, communism
refused to acknowledge “society in its entirety as a historically evolved
‘natural’ entity […] perceiving it instead as an artificial construct that
can equally be exported or imported from country to country” (168).
Universalism has often been associated with humanist
philosophy, a school of thought centered on the notion of an
abstract universal human nature. Just like universalism, humanism
was criticized by postmodern and poststructuralist thinkers
(notably Jean François Lyotard and Michel Foucault), who
contended that the overarching notion of an essential humanity
can be used as a pretext for imperialism and the domination of
cultural others, whom a humanist rhetoric can represent as less
than human. The characteristics of the paradigmatic man, as
Marxist and poststructuralist critics have repeatedly shown, will
bear a striking resemblance to those of the dominant social groups.
In the words of Michelle Barrett “He is white, a European; he is
highly educated, he thinks and is sensitive […] he is not a
woman, not black, not a migrant, not marginal; he is heterosexual
and a father” (Barrett 90). The anti-humanist turn becomes most
visible in the work of Michel Foucault, to whom the humanist
conception of man appears outdated and on its last legs:

Taking a relatively short chronological sample within a restricted

geographical area – European culture since the sixteenth century – one
can be certain that man is a recent invention within it. (…) As the
archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent
date. And one perhaps nearing its end. (Foucault 1970: 386-7)

Yet both universalism and humanism continue to preserve

their intellectual appeal, even for people from the former
colonies. The Indian historian Dipesh Chakrabarty asserts that

political modernity and the decolonization of India would not

have been possible without a category of ‘universals’ developed
in the course of the European Enlightenment:

Concepts such as citizenship, the state, civil society, public

sphere, human rights, equality before the law, the individual, distinctions
between public and private, the idea of the subject, democracy, popular
sovereignty, social justice, scientific rationality, and so on all bear the
burden of European thought and history. […] These concepts entail an
unavoidable – and in a sense indispensable – universal and secular
vision of the human. The European colonizer of the nineteenth century
both preached this Enlightenment humanism at the colonized and at
the same time denied it in practice. But the vision (…) has historically
provided a strong foundation on which to erect – both in Europe and
outside – critiques of socially unjust practices. (…) Modern social
critiques of caste, oppressions of women, the lack of rights for laboring
and subaltern classes in India, and so on – and, in fact, the very critique
of colonialism itself – are unthinkable except as a legacy, partially, of
how Enlightenment Europe was appropriated in the subcontinent. (4)

The same idea is echoed by Slavoj Žižek in First as

Tragedy, Then as Farce: “The Western legacy is effectively not
just that of (post)colonial imperialist domination, but also that of
the self-critical examination of the violence and exploitation the
West itself brought to the Third World.” (Žižek 2009: 115) Žižek
further argues that “the British colonization of India created the
conditions for the double liberation of India: from the constraints of
its own tradition as well as from colonization itself” (116). While
the liberation from the shackles of tradition that colonialism
supposedly effected remains at best a moot point, it is nevertheless
true that the critique of colonialism and imperialism leading to
decolonization was the work of an intellectual elite educated in
the universalist and humanist paradigm of Western thought.
Starting from the humanist premises that “each human
being has responsibilities to every other” (xvi) and that an
ultimate consensus on human values is impossible because of

the irreconcilable particularities of cultures and individuals, the

African-American philosopher Anthony Appiah has developed
the notion of a “universalism with a difference” , embodied in
his concept of “partial cosmopolitanism”. The means to balance
universalism and difference, Appiah suggests, is through conversation,
which needn’t presuppose consensus. Different cultures, religions,
and individuals should engage in “conversation across differences”,
prompted by a sense of fallibility which all humans share. We
cannot be absolutely certain that truth is on our side, and this is
why conversation becomes an opportunity for us to enrich our
knowledge of the others and find out why they think differently.
Building on Appiah’s concept of partial or critical cosmopolitanism,
Heinz Antor proposes, in “Between Polis and Cosmos. Notes for
an Inter- and Transcultural Ethics in the Age of Globalization”,
a neo-humanist model which accommodates universalist definitions
of man (as a pattern-building or a story-telling animal) with the
emphasis of multiculturalism on difference, thus simultaneously
acknowledging “the common features of all humans as a basis for
constructive conversation” and “accept[ing] and even welcome[ing]
the differences that enrich our lives” (Antor 2010: 11-2).

See also humanism

Further reading: Chakrabarty 2007, Davies 1997, Larson

2006, Rao 2008, Rassmusen 1990, Said 2004, Van der Linden
1996, Vasquez-Arroyo 2008




The term victim originally had a religious meaning, that of
a living being sacrificed to a deity during a religious rite. It was
linked to the concept of the scapegoat – a person selected for
execution or out-casting in order to pay for collective guilt and
appease the wrath of the gods. However, in the contemporary
sense, victim is used to denote any person that has been subjected
to cruel and unfair treatment, or suffers death, injury and ruin as
a result of impersonal events and circumstances. Thus, victim
covers a wide range of people, from the victims of crime, wars,
Nazi camps, communist gulags, and colonial oppression to
people killed or injured in accidents, earthquakes or other
natural catastrophes. The religious-sacrificial meaning of the
word was preserved in the term employed to describe the victims
of the Nazi: ‘Holocaust’, borrowed from the Greek translation of
the Old Testament, means ‘burnt whole’. Nevertheless, if the
victim sacrificed as a tribute to the gods was able to retain its
dignity (its human qualities often being a pre-condition for the
status of victim), the Nazi and the Stalinist/communist regimes
did everything in their power to strip victims of their humanity,
replaced their names with numbers, tried to brain-wash them or
‘rape’ their identity through practices like reeducation and peer
torture (Surdulescu 2006: 54), thus demonstrating that they were
non-people. Victimization refers to situations where people,
communities or institutions suffer injury and damage in a
significant way. The victims impacted by events of the
malevolent agency of others suffer a violation of their human
rights or a profound disruption of their well-being. Victimization
is a very complex process, usually encompassing two or three

stages. The first stage relates to the interaction between the

victim and the perpetrator during the commission of the offence
and the aftermath of this interaction. The second stage includes
the victim’s reaction to the event, the changes in self-perception
that are triggered by the offence, plus any formal response on
the part of the victim. The third stage refers to any interaction
that may take place between the victim and others, his/her claims
for restorative justice. Elias broadens the concept to include
victimization caused by actions that are not normally considered
criminal such as “consumer fraud, pollution, unnecessary drugs
and surgery, food additives, workplace hazards and diseases, police
violence, censorship, discrimination, poverty, exploitation” (3).
Commenting on Michel Wieviorka’s study on violence,
Radu Surdulescu remarks that the victim figure which emerges
from recent studies is a novelty in the paradigm of violence,
revealing a shift to an increased emphasis on individual
suffering and subjectivity:

If formerly acts of cruelty, criminal, terrorist activities were

condemned because they threatened public order, moral order and state
authority, today the emphasis has shifted to the suffering undergone by
the abused group or individual, and the violation of their identity. This
can also be seen in the new institutional forms which have come out,
such as the International Society of Victimology; a new discipline has
been founded, which dwells mainly on the complex relationship
growing between the victim and the torturer, and on the psychological
mechanisms that cause the subject to be constituted into a victim or to
turn into a torturer or a supporter and admirer of the torturer (the so-
called “Stockholm syndrome”). (Surdulescu 2006: 25)

Thus, in postcolonial and postcommunist studies, we work

with a concept of victimhood that brings into the foreground the
subjectivities of both victim and perpetrator and the relationships
between them. The victim is usually somebody upon whom

severe injury is inflicted in a broad sense (both physically and

mentally), and this is the result of human agency – a person who
causes the victim to be injured or killed. An important condition
which makes somebody be regarded as a victim legally is the
condition of innocence: a person who suffers injury should be
deemed a victim only if they are morally innocent or blameless
with regard to the injury. In the context of postcommunism, the
question of a man whose parents had been deported under
Stalin’s Great Terror is cited by Tismăneanu as particularly
significant: “How can someone be a victim of a regime that has
not been declared officially criminal?” (Tismăneanu 2010: 132)
The dilemma of being a victim of communism relates to the
insufficient acknowledgement of the abuses and atrocities
perpetrated by communist regimes, which made countries of the
former communist bloc face “a double crisis of history and
memory” (132). No equivalent of the Trial of Nürnberg was
held against communism. Tismăneanu further argues that the
“unmastered past in Central and Eastern Europe prevents these
countries from acknowledging the logical connection between
violent totalitarianism, memory, and democracy” (132). The
consolidation of democracy in these former communist and
totalitarian states rests on the necessity of reconciliation with the
past and restorative justice for the victims of the regime.
Reconciliation, according to Charles Villa-Vicencio, a member
of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is “the
operation whereby individuals and the community create for
themselves a space in which they can communicate with one
another, in which they can begin the arduous labor of
understanding” (qtd. in Tismăneanu 132) the painful legacy of
the colonial/communist past. Communication helps to build “a
culture of responsibility” which will be able to do justice to the
victims of communist terror. An undertaking of this kind is The

Sighet Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the

Resistance, founded by Ana Blandiana, Romulus Rusan, and
the Civic Academy Foundation. Its motto, formulated by Ana
Blandiana, is “When justice does not succeed in being a form of
memory, it is memory itself that becomes a form of justice”
(Memorialul Sighet). The memorial thus plays a significant role
in the resuscitation and preservation of the memory of suffering
under the communist regime in order to avert new collective
suffering. Another Memorial to the Victims of Communism was
erected in Prague, in the shape of a series of statues that
represent the gradual destruction of the human being under the
communist regime. The bronze plaque in front of the row reads:
“The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all
victims, not only to those who were jailed or executed but also
those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism”. As
Canada was one of the favorite destinations of relocation for
numerous communities affected by communism in their native
lands (over 8 million Canadians trace their roots to refugees
fleeing communist totalitarian rule), a monument entitled
“Memorial to Victims of Totalitarian Communism – Canada, a
Land of Refuge” has been commissioned to be built in Ottawa.
Massive attention has been paid to victims of the Nazi
camps and the Stalinist gulags, but the visibility of victims in
general has increased even more in recent years due to the rise
of politically inspired terrorism against innocent civilians,
political assassinations, ethnic and communal violence.

See also colonialism, communism, violence

Further reading: Davies et al 2003, Dignan 2005, Elias

1986, Surdulescu 2006


An extreme form of aggression which implies the use of
physical force to cause harm to people or damage to property,
violence appears to be a primary characteristic of human beings,
yet it is generally perceived as illegitimate behavior. In contrast
to ‘force’ (a term describing aggressive but legitimate acts),
violence is employed to characterize illegitimate, illegal or
arbitrary actions. However, in Violence and the Sacred, René
Girard attributes a founding role to sacrificial violence,
contending that ritual sacrifices such as that of the scapegoat
contribute to the consolidation of groups and communities.
Hannah Arendt maintains that there is a long tradition in
European thought that glorifies violence both for its own sake
and as a means of either political control or resistance
(Reflections on Violence). Clausewitz, Marx, Engels, Jean Paul
Sartre, Georges Sorel are just a few names on Arendt’s long list.
Franz Fanon, also quoted by Arendt, sees colonialism as
“violence in its natural state”. He argues that “it will only yield
when confronted by greater violence.” (48) Unlike Gandhi, who
advocated civil disobedience (part of his concept of satyagraha
or non-violent resistance) in response to the physical violence
perpetrated by the white colonists, Fanon insisted on resistance
or counter-violence as a more effective means of overcoming
colonial violence.
Classical sociology identified two types of violence:
expressive and instrumental. Expressive violence (also known as
hostile or impulsive aggression) is affect driven and triggered by
emotional reactions, with “hot feelings of rage and exasperation
and sometimes reaching a self-destructive stage”, whereas
instrumental violence is “cold”, “organized, build around a

doctrinal discourse” (Surdulescu 2006, 25), as it is used in order

to ensure the fulfillment of certain goals.
In sociology, collective violence is defined as the
instrumental use of violence by one group of people against
another group in order to accomplish economic, political or
social goals. Thus forms of collective violence include war,
terrorism, genocide, political repression, torture, and violent
crimes such as banditry or gang warfare. What are the causes of
collective violence? In The Politics of Collective Violence,
sociologist and anthropologist Charles Tilly notes that
“Collective violence resembles weather: complicated, changing,
and unpredictable in some regards, yet resulting from similar
causes variously combined in different times and places” (4).
Among causes of collective violence sociologists include
political factors (a lack of democratic processes and unequal
access to power), economic factors (unequal distribution of and
access to resources), and societal factors (inequalities among
various groups and national, ethnic or religious fanaticism). The
disintegration of multi-ethnic states like Yugoslavia or the
USSR after the fall of communism led to the rise of
nationalism and separatism in these former communist states.
The suppression of nationalist feeling during the communist
regime, whose survival depended on the geopolitical and
economic unity of a federation of states, intensified the struggle
for independence and separatism of ethnic minorities, which in
turn generated bloody conflicts in Kosovo, Bosnia, and
Transnistria. However, a non-violent separation occurred when
former Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and
Slovakia during what came to be known as “The Velvet
Divorce”, thus demonstrating that peaceful solutions are
available wherever democratic processes are respected.

Today, according to Wieviorka (Violence: A New

Approach), we are witnessing new forms of violence engendered
by structural transformation in the contemporary world. If
formerly acts of violence were placed at a political level and
were an intrinsic part of class conflicts, today we are witnessing
the rise of “infrapolitical” (privatized) violence, typical of
criminal networks, sex and drug trafficking, whose protagonists
attempt to “keep the state at a distance so that they can engage in
illicit economic activities” (127) and “metapolitical” violence, in
which “political issues are both associated with and
subordinated to other issues, defined in cultural and/or religious
terms, for example, which do not admit any concessions” (130).
Although violence is a term generally applied to physically
aggressive acts, Pierre Bourdieu (2001) introduced the term
symbolic violence to refer to social and cultural mechanisms of
domination functioning tacitly in everyday social interaction.
Symbolic violence is not normally recognized as violence: for
instance, gender domination represents a typical arena for acts of
symbolic violence. Bourdieu argues that symbolic (or “soft”)
violence is frequently misrecognized in social interaction and
this allows it to remain hidden within the dominant discourses
that perpetuate it. In some ways, symbolic violence is more
effective than physical violence, because the victim (the
dominated social agent) is complicit in his/her own subjugation
and takes the cultural practices and the social order through
which soft violence is exerted to be legitimate. An example of
symbolic violence in postcommunist studies may be what
Mircea Popa called “the shift from the West to the East cultural
paradigm” or the imposition of Russian traditions and Soviet
values on the national cultures of the USSR’s communist
satellites after the end of World War II (134). According to

Popa, the effects of this forced paradigm shift were disastrous

for Romanian culture, as it inhibited the real growth of national
literature, which in the interwar period had reached the level of
its West European counterparts (139).
A particular type of symbolic violence in the colonial
context is epistemic violence. The term was first used by Gayatri
C. Spivak in the famous “Can the Subaltern Speak?” to
denounce the way in which theorists like Michel Foucault and
Giles Deleuze projected a Western epistemology upon the rest
of the world. Epistemic violence is a key element in the process
of colonial domination and it presupposes the imposition of
Western categories of thought and perception onto the colonized
cultures. Colonial domination is accomplished not only through
economic, political and military control, but also through the
construction of epistemic frameworks that subsume local traditions,
cultural diversity, and alterity under a coherent, essentialist
and totalizing system of representation. Such epistemic violence
is perpetrated for example through the institution of
Orientalism, a body of knowledge produced by the West as a
legitimizing framework for the domination of cultural others.

See also colonialism, communism, nationalism, victim

Further Reading: Appadurai 2006, Arendt 1970, Bourdieu

2001, Popper 1963, Schmidt and Schroder 2001, Simoni 2005,
Surdulescu 2006, Wieviorka 2009, Žižek 2008



The term wooden language is one of the possible
translations of the highly polysemantic French term langue de
bois (literally ‘tongue of wood’). Terms such as ‘doublespeak’
are also used in English as equivalents of the langue de bois.
The term appeared in France the 1980s and it is believed to have
been borrowed from Russian (‘iazyk duba’, literally ‘tongue of
oak’), possibly via Polish. A series of analyses on the topic of
wooden language appeared in the 1980s, mainly in the field of
political discourse (Thom 1987, Sériot 1989). More recent
analyses show renewed interest in the topic of wooden language
(Delporte 2009, Hermes no. 58 /2010). In the West, the term has
been used to describe various kinds of discourse based chiefly
on stereotype and euphemization (various public/administrative
uses of discourse, the discourse of political correctness etc.). The
term is however more restricted in the countries of Eastern
Europe, specifically designating the discourse of communist
propaganda, which was seen as the ‘official’ means of expression
of the communist state. The label wooden language reflected the
attitude of the majority of the population in the communist
countries towards this manipulation of language for the purposes
of the totalitarian state and was part of the underground
resistance to it. This entry will explore this latter sense of the
term wooden language, that of the ‘official’ language of the
totalitarian state. In this sense, the category wooden language
shows obvious affinities with terms such as “Newspeak”
(Orwell 1949) or “totalitarian language” (Klemperer 1946).

Authors have spoken about the significant role played by

the manipulation of language in totalitarian and semi-totalitarian
countries. Among the works devoted to it are Orwell’s (1949)
classic treatment in his 1984, Klemperer’s (1946) celebrated
“Lingua Tertii Imperii” and many more recent books and serial
publications (Wierzbicka 1). The idea that language can be
manipulated in order to influence thought relies on a Leibnizian
approach to language as “the mirror of the mind”. The fact that
wooden language is based on the ideal of linguistic transparency
underlines further similarities with the normative tradition in
linguistics, which relies upon a standard of ‘good language’.
The communist state sought to impose its own version of
acceptable language (on the principle that language alters
thought), attempting to ban as ‘corrupt’ those terms that were
deemed to belong to an inappropriate ideology.
In the communist countries of the East, the state exercised
control on every form of public discourse, in a manner that
echoed Orwell’s Newspeak, a term used by the author in his
dystopia 1984. Orwell’s Newspeak is a language created by a
totalitarian regime in order to suppress those signifiers, and
hence the concepts associated to them, which are contrary to the
politics of the state. Like many of the utopian language projects
in the history of linguistics, it is characterized by extreme
regularity: there is total interchangeability among categories
(any word can be used as a noun, verb, adverb or any other part
of speech) and its morphology functions on completely uniform
principles. Newspeak is meant to suppress everything that can
be labeled ‘creative’ or ‘irregular’ in a natural language. It is closely
connected to “doublethink”, the capacity of accepting that a
concept can hold two contradictory values at the same time
(“Freedom is slavery”, “War is peace”, “Ignorance is strength”).

Like Orwell’s dystopian Newspeak, the language that the

communist state attempts to impose, aims to suppress those
concepts and beliefs that are seen as unacceptable or threatening.
In a manner similar to doublethink, it attempts to distort the
meanings of key political concepts such as freedom or
democracy. It is based not only on censorship, but on a similar
process of leveling, in that it relies on stereotypes and clichés,
banning more creative ways of expressing oneself. In a manner
reminiscent of Orwell’s blendings and clippings (“Ingsoc” etc.),
wooden language uses an abundance of acronyms to designate
the institutions of the state (see RSR for the Socialist Republic
of Romania, etc.). Here is an interesting parallelism made by the
Polish linguist Anna Wierbizcka between Newspeak and the
language of the communist state:

For example, the name Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa ‘Polish

People’s Republic’ was imposed in Poland in 1945 in conscious
opposition to the ‘normal’ name of the country (Poland) and in a
conscious attempt to break the nation’s loyalty to ‘Poland’ tout court,
with its thousand years of history and tradition, and to make the
nation identify not with Poland but with the communist Poland,
represented by its new name as ‘people’s Poland’. The propaganda
technique involved is, of course, very well known. If in Orwell’s I984
the former ministry of war is called officially “Ministry of Peace” and
the ministry of propaganda, “Ministry of Truth”, the reason is that names
of political entities are themselves important propaganda devices. (11)

For decades, there were communist attempts to redefine

key political concepts in East Central Europe and in the Soviet
Union by using Orwellian doublethink. The new tendency which
has developed in the context of postcommunism in these
countries is to revert to old pre-communist senses of such key
political terms (Buhowski 556).

There is, naturally, one significant difference between

Orwell’s fictional language and the official discourse of the
communist state: while Orwell’s Newspeak represents a project
of reforming language in all its aspects (both grammar and
vocabulary), wooden language can function only on a lexical
level. It is naturally a language register (a level of discourse)
rather than a language in itself.
Linguists have underlined (Zaslavsky and Fabris 1982 qtd.
in Wierzbicka 1991, Wierzbicka 1991) that, due to the fact that
the state exerts control on the use of language in official
circumstances, the phenomenon of political diglossia (a term
that normally describes the social situation when two dialects or
closely related languages are used by a single language
community) arises in totalitarian or semi-totalitarian countries,
because the wooden language of the official propaganda gives
rise to its opposite: the unofficial, under-ground language of
antipropaganda. It is this underground language that has given
the label ‘wooden language’ to the official jargon. Notable in
this respect is the case of Poland, but this kind of diglossia
characterizes all former communist countries of the East.
Characterized as an antilanguage, the unofficial lexicon “is not a
language of a minority as an antisociety” (Wierbizcka 5). On the
contrary, it is, paradoxically, the language of the bulk of the
population, which has been forced to live underground, since the
nomenklatura (in itself a kind of antisociety) has become the
custodian of official language. It is in this antilanguage,
characterized by a creativity which has been suppressed in
wooden language, that the values of the society are promoted
and shared. This antilanguage functions as a means of resistance
to wooden language” (6).
A parallel can be made between the kind of political
diglossia that arose in former communist countries and the

diglossia that functioned in colonial countries. We have to

remember though that in the case of postcommunist countries
we speak of different registers of the same language, while in
the case of postcolonial countries we deal with genuine
diglossia. There the colonial authority imposed an official
language (the language adopted by all the territories of a state
pursuant to legal provisions) which was, as in the case of the
wooden language of the nomenklatura, the language of a
minority, while the bulk of the population continued to speak its
native language/dialects. However, while postcommunist
countries are characterized by a rejection of wooden language,
“many excolonial countries have preferred not to abandon the
use of a European language, as this would result in a reduction
of the country’s linguistic competence, but instead revive the
use of the native language as a means of expression of ethnic
and cultural identity” (Bolaffi et al. 2003).

See also global English, orality

Further Reading: Delporte 2009, Hermes no. 58/2010,

Orwell 1949, Sériot 1989, Thom 1987, Wierzbicka 1991


WORLDS (First World, Second World, Third World,

Fourth World)
After the end of World War II the world was divided into
two geopolitical blocs and spheres of influence that held
contrary views on what constituted democracy, democratic
government and a just society. The First, Second and Third
World were terms born in the Cold War era, and their

numbering would make it reasonable to assume that they were

coined in that order. However, “Third World” was coined first,
by the French population expert Alfred Sauvy, to indicate the
economically underdeveloped countries in Latin America,
Africa and Asia, which were not aligned with either the
capitalist or the communist blocs. The expression was created
by analogy with the Third Estate, a term that defined the
commoners in France until the French Revolution, as opposed to
the clergy and the aristocracy – the first and second estates,
respectively. The term Tiers Monde appeared first in an article
in L’Observateur on August 14, 1952: “Ce Tiers Monde, ignoré,
exploité, méprisé comme le Tiers Etat” (Sauvy 5). Third World
was adopted by British and American politicians and economists
in the early 1960s and gained international currency in both
academic and political-economic contexts. By analogy, the
terms First World and Second World were later created in
English, the former being recorded in 1967 and the latter in
1974. The former was used to refer collectively to the developed
capitalist countries with high incomes, private property, and
market economies like Great Britain, France, or the USA. This
was contrasted to the Second World, the relatively high-income
communist countries, with centrally planned economies and
state-owned means of production, of which the principal
example was the USSR. Neither term has been used as much as
Third World and both have become out of date since the fall of
the Berlin wall and that of the Iron Curtain. The phrase first
world countries still remains in use for the industrialized and
developed states. The term fourth world came into use first in
1974 with the publication of The Fourth World: an Indian
Reality by George Manuel, chief of the Shuswap people. It
refers to stateless, marginal or poor nations, to indigenous
populations displaced by colonization or to peoples excluded

from the political-economic world systems (American Indians,

Kurds, and Gypsies, who have recently started to call themselves
Roma or Romani people). The academic concept of Fourth World
(applying to nomadic, pastoral, or hunting-gathering ways of life
which defy the norms of capitalist-industrial society) was articulated
by sociologist and communication theory expert Manuel
Castells in the third volume of his trilogy The Information Age.
In postcolonial studies, First World is frequently
employed to designate those countries with a history of
colonialism and imperialism, in contrast to Third World
countries, which underwent colonization and exploitation. It
may also refer to economically successful settler colonies like
Australia and Canada in contrast with colonies of occupation,
which were dubbed Third World. Because of its connotations,
the Third World became quickly associated with ideas of
poverty, famine, disease and war, and with journalistic coverage
featuring “emaciated African or Asian figures”, thus leading to
an “increasing racialization of the concept in its popular
(Western) usage.” (Ashcroft, Griffith, and Tiffin 198, “Third
World”) The term often invoked, according to Shoat, “the
anticolonial nationalist movement of the fifties through the
seventies as well as (…) the political-economic analysis of
dependency theory and world systems theory” (Shoat 100).
According to Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin:

World systems theory emerged as a refutation of modernization

theory, which tended to a) concentrate on the nation-state, b) assume
that all countries follow a similar path of growth, c) disregard transnational
structures and d) base explanations on ahistorical ideal types.
(1998, “World systems theory” 238)

The binary opposition Third World/First World has been

much debated in the field of postcolonial studies, the issues centering

on the “politics of location” of the term “postcolonial.” (99) Shoat

argues that the emergence of the term ‘postcolonial’ in the language
of critical analysis and “its wide adaptation during the late
eighties was coincident with and dependent on the eclipse of an
older paradigm, that of the Third World” (100). As the theory of the
three worlds became increasingly problematic due to historical and
political developments (the collapse of the Soviet Communist model)
and the shift towards global capitalism, the ambiguous terminology
was replaced with the new paradigm of the postcolonial. The
prefix ‘post’ in postcolonial, by suggesting a temporal movement
beyond the anticolonial nationalist struggles of the fifties and
sixties and by aligning the concept with a host of First World
theories like postmodernism and poststructuralism, can be
used, Shoat warns, as a means to efface the traces of the colonial past
and the indigenous struggles for independence as well as to prevent
articulations of what constitutes “neocoloniality”, glossing over many
facets of global hegemony (101-5). Taking up Shoat’s question
“When exactly (…) does the ‘postcolonial’ begin?” Arif Dirlik provides
what he calls a “partially facetious” answer: “When Third World
intellectuals arrived in First World Academe” (Dirlik 329). Dirlik
makes a good case for the construal of ‘postcolonial’ as a site of
hybridization and globalization, as the field mixes Western
(First World) conceptual tools with voices from the Third World:

[The term] is intended, therefore, to achieve an authentic globalization

of cultural discourses by the extension globally of the intellectual concerns
and orientations originating at the central sites of Euro American cultural
criticism and by the introduction into the latter of voices and subjectivities
from the margins of earlier political and ideological colonialism that
now demand a hearing at those very sites at the center. (329)

The three worlds theory, with the First World pitted against
the Third and the allied assumptions that “the First World largely

caused the Third World’s ills”, while “the Second [World]’s socialism
was the best alternative” is identified by David Chioni-Moore as
the main reason behind the lack of involvement of postcolonial
studies in the decommunization/decolonization processes going
on in the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe.
Thus, Chioni-Moore argues that

When most of the Second World collapsed in 1989 and 1991,

the collapse resulted in the deflected silence apparent in Shoat, and it
still remains difficult, evidently, for the three-worlds-raised postcolonial
theorists to recognize within the Second World its postcolonial dynamic.
In addition, many postcolonialist scholars, in the United States and
elsewhere, have been Marxist or strongly left and therefore have been
reluctant to make the Soviet Union a French- or British-style villain. (117)

The term third world is also used in the dependency theory

that explains the underdevelopment and permanent impoverishment
of the former colonized countries as a structural condition of
global capitalism, not as a condition produced by internal causes.
Thus the name of the theory highlights the history of colonization,
contrary to the world systems theory formulated by Immanuel
Wallerstein in 1974, which maintains that the capitalist system
has not developed in separate nation-states but has represented the
world economic system beginning with the sixteenth century.

See also democracy, dependency theory

Further reading: Amin 1996, Castells 1998, Dirlik 1994,

Haynes 1996, Norwine and Gonzalez 1988, Shoat 1992, Wallerstein
1980, Zwass 2002


MONICA BOTTEZ is a Professor at the University of

Bucharest, English Department, Director of the Canadian
Studies Centre of UB and Director of the Canadian module of
the Intercultural Communication Strategies M.A. programme.
She teaches courses in Victorian Literature, Multiculturalism,
Narratology, and English Canadian Literature (from a
postcolonial approach) at the University of Bucharest, English
Department; was awarded research grants by the Fulbright
Commission (Princeton 1992), by the “John Kennedy” Institute
for North American Studies (Berlin1999) and by the
Government of Canada (Montreal, Toronto 1998, Ottawa 2002);
gave lectures on Romanian culture and dissident poets at the
state universitties of Laramie, Wyoming, Fort Collins, Colorado,
Norwich University and UCLA (1992) and on Romanian culture
and the American Post-War Novel in South Africa
(Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg and University of
Pretoria (1993-94); made a lecture tour on Canadian topics to
Germany –Universities of Marburg, Cologne, Kiel, Trier (2001);
has written 4 books: Aspects of the Victorian Novel: Recurrent
Images in Dickens’s Work, T.U.B. 1985, Motley Landscapes:
Studies in Post-War American Fiction, E.U.B. 1997, Analysing
Narrative Fiction: Reading Strategies, E.U.B. 2007; Infinite
Horizons: Canadian Fiction in English, E.U.B. 2010, and over
60 articles in national and international volumes and reviews,
the more recent on Kenneth Radu, Ronald Lee, Joy Kogawa and

David Guterson, Mihai Sadoveanu and William Faulkner, Rudy

Wiebe, Frances Brooke, Howard O’Hagan, Sheila Watson, Margaret
Laurence; translated literary fiction (Evelyn Waugh, Oscar
Wilde, Margaret Atwood, Paul Theroux, Louis de Bernières);
has published articles on communist Romania and co-edited the
volume Postcolonialism/Postcommunism: Intersections and Overlaps,
University of Bucharest Press, 2011, with Maria-Sabina Draga
Alexandru and Bogdan Ştefănescu.

ALINA BOTTEZ is a Junior Lecturer at the English

Department of the University of Bucharest. She has BA and MA
degrees from the University of Bucharest (English and French
major) and the National University of Music in Bucharest
(Singing Section). She is currently pursuing an interdisciplinary
doctorate (in philology and musicology) on Shakespearean
studies. This is her main area of research, which she tackles
from a variety of perspectives, including the postcolonial one.
She teaches British Literature (Mediaeval and Renaissance,
Victorian, and 20th-21st centuries) at undergraduate level, as well
as a course on “Britishness and Music” within the MA
programme on British Cultural Studies at the University of
Bucharest (which also dwells on communist and postcommunist
approaches to music). She is also a professional translator, in
which capacity, among many other projects, she was part of the
translating team of the Shakespeare Dictionary of Plays and
Characters (Shanghai Bookstore Publishing House, 2009). She
has taken part in a number of international conferences and
published numerous papers on literature and music in the
University of Bucharest Review, The Proceedings of the George
Enescu International Musicology Symposium (Editura Muzicală
2011), Shakespeare, Translation and the European Dimension

(Pro Universitaria 2012, forthcoming), Transatlantic Connections

(Integral 2000), Actualitatea Muzicală and Acord.


of American Studies at the University of Bucharest, Romania.
She holds a PhD on the aesthetics of postmodernism from the
University of Bucharest (2000) and a second one on
reinterpretations of theatrical traditions in contemporary Indian
fiction in English from the University of East Anglia (2007).
Her main research and teaching interests are contemporary
literatures in English, postcolonialism, postmodern reinterpretations
of consecrated art/literature forms, Ethnic and African American
literatures and women’s writing. She has published articles on
these topics in Romanian and international journals (such as The
Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Comparative Literature
Studies and Perspectives), as well as books, among which:
Women’s Voices in Post-Communist Eastern Europe, vols. I and
II (co-edited with Mădălina Nicolaescu and Helen Smith,
Bucharest: University of Bucharest Press, 2005 and 2006);
Identity Performance in Contemporary Non-WASP American
Fiction (Bucharest: University of Bucharest Press, 2008);
Cultura românească în perspectivă transatlantică: Interviuri
(Co-edited with Teodora Şerban-Oprescu, Bucharest: University
of Bucharest Press, 2009); Postcolonialism/Postcommunism:
Intersections and Overlaps, co-edited with Monica Bottez and
Bogdan Ştefănescu, Bucharest: University of Bucharest Press,
2011; Performance and Performativity in Contemporary Indian
Fiction in English (Amsterdam: Rodopi, forthcoming 2012).

RUXANDRA RĂDULESCU is a Junior Lecturer in the

American Studies program, English Department, University of
Bucharest. She has recently defended her doctoral dissertation
on indigenous urban narratives in U.S. literature. She has taught
introductory courses in Native American Studies, American
civilization, critical theory and American literature, has
presented papers in several international conferences and has
published articles on American Indian literature. She has
published one book, titled Constructions of Identity in
Contemporary Native American Fiction, with the University of
Bucharest Press and has several chapters in books published by
international publishing houses as well as a chapter forthcoming
with the University of Arizona Press in 2012. She is also an
editor for the University of Bucharest Review.

BOGDAN ŞTEFĂNESCU is Associate Professor at the

English Department, University of Bucharest where he teaches
graduate courses in the comparative study of postcolonialism and
postcommunism, the rhetoric of nationalism, and ethnoculturalism,
as well as introductory courses in critical theory and British
literature. His current work on the comparative study of
postcommunism and postcolonialism is conducted under the
postdoctoral research project SOP HRD 89/1.5/S/62259 funded
by the European Commission.
A fellow and grantee of the Fulbright Commission, the
British Council, The University of London, the University of
Stuttgart, the Central European University, and the New Europe
College in Bucharest, Dr. Ştefănescu is the author of two studies
on British and European romanticism. His literary translations
(mostly from Romanian into English) have appeared individually
or jointly in fifteen books from Romanian and US publishers.

His recent publications and lectures focus on postcommunism

and postcolonialism, nationalism and cultural identity, rhetoric,
discourse analysis, and cultural studies.
Dr. Ştefănescu is a founding member of the Romanian Society
for British and American Studies (for which he served on the
Directors’ Board between 1992 and 1994). He has also worked as a
cultural manager and diplomat (deputy director of the Romanian
Cultural Institute in New York in 2005-2007), a journalist and an
editor for Secolul 20. He is currently Vice-Dean of the Faculty of
Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Bucharest
and editor-in-chief of University of Bucharest Review.

RUXANDRA VIŞAN is a Lecturer in the English

Department of the University of Bucharest (Faculty of Foreign
Languages). The courses that she teaches focus on the history of
the English language. Her PhD thesis, defended in 2009, centred
upon Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary attempting to promote
an interdisciplinary approach that emphasises the connection
between the dimensions of “language” and “culture” in the
shaping of modern discourse. As a linguist, she has received
training in theoretical and applied linguistics and was part of the
research groups in generative linguistics at the University of
Siena (2002) and the University of Utrecht (2004). Since 2004,
she has been a member of the British Cultural Studies research
group, University of Bucharest and, since 2008, a member of the
Centre of Excellence for the Study of Cultural Identity,
University of Bucharest. For the academic year 2007-2008, she
was awarded an OSI-Chevening PhD research scholarship at the
University of Oxford, Pembroke College. She is an editorial
assistant for the academic journal “The Annals of the University
of Bucharest – Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures”.

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A Bakić-Hayden, Milica – 26
Balcerowicz, Leszek – 324, 345, 348
Achebe, Chinua – 34, 61, 145, 228, 357 Balzac, Honoré de – 279
Adorno, Theodor – 87, 148 Banciu, Carmen-Francesca – 149
Ahmad, Aijaz – 21, 25, 232, 233, 237 Banerjee, Mita – 150, 151
Allende, Isabel – 280 Barker, Chris – 122, 124, 266, 268, 272
Althusser, Louis – 70, 188, 193, 243, Barthes, Roland – 243, 269
244, 292, 313, 318 Beauvoir, Simone de – 234, 266
Amin, Samir – 99 Beck, Ulrich – 218
Anderson, Benedict – 100, 350 Behring, Eva – 149
Andreescu, Gabriel – 304 Bell, Daniel – 266, 268
Antor, Heinz – 214, 218, 219, 333 Benn, Tony – 83
Anzaldúa, Gloria – 29, 32 Bentham, Jeremy – 166, 189
Berghe, Peter van der – 223
Appadurai, Arjun – 136, 141, 241, 341
Bhabha, Homi – 28, 56, 107, 109,
Appiah, Anthony – 139, 218, 219, 333 113, 116, 147, 149, 150, 151,
Arendt, Hannah – 338, 341 152, 172, 173, 215, 224, 236,
Armah, Azi Kwei – 145 244, 245, 274, 278, 298
Arnold, Mathew – 94, 170 Bharati Mukherjee – 101, 128, 213
Ash, Timothy Garton – 294, 320 Billig, Michael – 109, 224, 226
Ashcroft, Bill – 20, 21, 56, 61, 62, 64, Bissoondath, Neil – 211, 219
102, 104, 106, 111, 124, 148, 149, Blandiana, Ana – 236, 337
158, 174, 188, 200, 201, 202, Bloom, Harold – 33, 34
227, 230, 231, 272, 273, 278, 280, Blum, Lawrence – 210
297, 307, 309, 310, 311, 329, 348 Boehmer, Elleke – 157
Atwood, Margaret – 24, 352 Boia, Lucian – 115, 289, 295, 321, 330
Auster, Paul – 282 Bolívar, Simon – 186
Austin, John Langshaw – 108 Bosanquet, Bernard – 117
Botez, Mihai – 304
Bourdieu, Pierre – 41, 43, 140, 340, 341
B Bradley, Francis Herbert – 117
Brah, Avtar – 30, 104, 125, 233,
Baghiu, Vasile – 320, 321 234, 237
Bakhtin, Mikhail – 148, 172 Braidotti, Rosi – 32, 104,

Braziel, Jana Evans – 103, 104, Cranston, Maurice – 153

Breuilly, John – 224 Crick, Bernard – 83
Brezhnev, Leonid – 302, 303 Croce, Benedetto – 92
Brodber, Erna – 228 Crossland, Anthony – 83
Brodsky, Joseph – 294 Cuvier, Georges – 273
Brydon, Diana – 67, 112, 247
Buden, Boris – 240, 241
Buggeln, Marc – 310 D
Bunyan, John – 19, 22
Damas, Léon – 242
Danieliuc, Mircea – 261
C Darwin, Charles – 45, 273
Dauvé, Gilles – 85
Calciu Dumitreasa, Gheorghe – 304 Dawisha, Karen – 96
Calhoun, Craig – 109, 324 De Lauretis, Teresa – 127, 128
Călinescu, Matei – 93 Deacon, Terrence – 91
Cameron, David – 216 Deleuze, Gilles – 32, 243, 318, 341
Caranfil, Nae – 261 DeLillo, Don – 282
Cardoso, Fernando – 99 Deng Xiaoping – 187
Cassirer, Ernst – 91, 117 Derrida, Jacques – 56, 57, 108
Castells, Manuel – 267, 268, 348, 350 Desai, Anita – 128, 228
Castro, Fidel – 48, 186, 277 Destutt de Tracy, Claude – 153
Ceauşescu, Nicolae – 12, 23, 80, 115, Deutsch, Karl – 220, 223
150, 185, 225, 284, 285, 305 di Palma, Giuseppe – 95, 326, 328
Césaire, Aimé – 242 Diamond, Larry – 96, 98, 207
Chakrabarty, Dipesh – 57, 331, 333 Dickens, Charles – 35, 44
Chamberlain, Neville – 252, 253 Diderot, Denis – 253
Chandra, Vikram – 101, 126 Dilthey, William – 92
Chari, Sharad – 236, 256 Dinescu, Mircea – 304
Chioni-Moore, David – 258, 259, 350 Disraeli, Benjamin – 44
Chow, Rey – 112 Dirlik, Arif – 245, 249, 350
Christian, Barbara – 127, 130, 235 Djurdjić, Ljiljana – 129
Cioran, Emil – 160, 161 Djurić, Dubravka – 129
Clausewitz, Carl von – 338 Dos Santos, Theotonio – 99
Clinton, Bill – 215 Dovlatov, Serghei – 294
Codrescu, Andrei – 106 Draga Alexandru, Maria-Sabina – 107, 236
Cohen, Robin –102, 103, 104 Dreiser, Theodore – 280
Colins, Merle – 202 Drescher, Seymour – 308, 309, 311
Connor, Walker – 221, 222, 267, 268 Dubček, Alexander – 302
Conquest, Robert – 80, 84 DuBois, William Edward Burghardt – 319
Cornea, Doina – 304 Dunbar, William – 272

E Gibbon, Edward – 253

Giddens, Anthony – 138, 223, 264, 268
Eagleton, Terry – 156, 187 Gilroy, Paul – 111, 112, 147, 307,
Ekiert, Grzegorz – 98 309, 310
Eliot, George – 279 Ginzburg, Evgeniia Semyonovna –290, 294
Engels, Friedrich – 37, 44, 58, 61, 74, 75, Girard, René – 338
84, 176, 177, 191, 243, 311, 338 Gissing, George – 279
Eriksen, Thomas Hylland – 222, 224 Glassman, Ronald – 54
Goldmann, Lucien – 187
Golomshtok, Igor – 313, 316
Goma, Paul – 304
F Gomułka, Władysław – 301, 302, 305
Gorbatchev, Mikhail – 60, 79
Fadeev, Alexander – 314 Gorky, Maxim – 312
Fanon, Frantz – 243, 274, 278, 299, 238 Gramsci, Antonio – 187, 243,
Fichte, Johann Gottlieb – 177, 222 Grass, Gunther – 280
Filipescu, Radu – 304 Greaves, Thomas – 121
Finney, Jack – 24 Greenfeld, Liah – 220
Fish, Jeffrey – 276 Griffiths, Gareth – 20, 21, 56, 61, 102,
Flaubert, Gustave – 279 106, 111, 124, 148, 188, 200, 201,
Fluck, Winfried – 282 230, 231, 272, 278, 311, 348
Forman, Miloš – 24 Grigorescu-Pană, Irina – 236
Forster, Edward Morgan – 201 Gronsky, Ivan – 312
Foucault, Michel – 231, 232, 243 Grossman, Vasily Semyonovich – 294
Fraser, Nancy – 212, 213 Groys, Boris – 321, 330, 331
Freud, Sigmund – 176, 317 Guattari, Félix – 32, 243
Friedman, Milton – 36, 50 Gubarev, Vitali – 315
Fukuyama, Francis – 36, 208, 255 Guner Frank, André – 99

Gagnier, Regenia – 316 Habermas, Jürgen – 187, 218, 318
Galasińska, Aleksandra – 32, 110, Hall, Stuart – 111, 112, 147, 187, 297
Gandhi, Mahatma – 297, 299, 338, Haraway, Donna – 239, 240, 241
Gaskell, Elizabeth – 44 Harvey, David – 134, 169, 267, 268
Geertz, Clifford – 91, 155, 221, 223, Hassan, Ihab – 34, 265, 268
224, 317 Havel, Václav – 303, 304
Gellner, Ernest – 221, 223 Hayek, Frederich von – 50, 51
Georgescu, Vlad – 304 Hayes, Carlton Joseph Huntley – 223
Gheorghiu-Dej, Gheorghe – 78, 285, 290 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich – 67,
Ghosh, Amitav – 101 177, 22, 232, 282

Heidegger, Martin – 92, 177, 317 Kedourie, Elie – 223

Held, David – 134, 139 Kelertas, Violeta – 68, 73, 258, 259
Hemon, Aleksandar – 25 Kesey, Ken – 24
Herder, Johann Gottfried – 209, 222, 253 Khrushchev, Nikita – 301, 315
Hill Collins, Patricia – 235 Kim Ir-sen – 12, 23
Hirst, Paul – 137 Kim, Claire Jean – 274, 278
Hobsbawm, Eric – 192, 220, 223 Kingsley, Charles – 82
Hoffman, Eva – 25 Kiossev, Alexander – 26, 72, 94, 246, 253
Holden, Anca L. – 149 Kipling, Rudyard – 201
Holland, Agnieszka – 262, 264 Klemperer, Victor – 343
Hollinger, David – 213, 215, 219 Kluckhohn, Clyde – 90
Holmes, Leslie – 208, 268 Kohn, Hans – 221, 223
Hoogvelt, Ankie – 137 Korsch, Karl – 187
Horkheimer, Max – 48, 187 Kristeva, Julia – 271
Horowitz, David – 222 Kroeber, Alfred Louis – 90
Horton, James Oliver – 103, 107 Kubicek, Paul – 87
Horton, Lois E. – 103, 107 Kubik, Jan – 98
Hulme, Peter – 22 Kuhn, Thomas – 119, 120, 154,
Humphrey, Caroline – 202, 203 Kulyk Keefer, Janice – 214
Hutcheon, Linda – 214 Kundera, Milan – 303
Hutchinson, John – 224 Kureishi, Hanif – 150
Kwame Apphiah, Anthony – 218
Kymlicka, William – 165, 166, 170,
J 211, 217, 219

James, Henry – 280

Jameson, Fredric – 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, L
48, 49, 50, 55, 187, 189, 190, 232,
233, 267, 268
Lacan, Jacques – 188, 231, 244, 269,
Jay, Gregory S. – 212
271, 274, 317, 318
Jeffress, David – 297, 298, 299, 300, 306
Lamming, George – 22, 106
Jencks, Charles – 264
Las Casas, Bartolomé de – 309
Jowitt, Ken – 98
Latour, Bruno – 240
Lazić, Radmila – 129
Leavis, Frank Raymond – 92
K Lefebvre, Henri – 187
Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich – 31, 49, 59,
Kádár, János – 305 74, 75, 79, 81, 85, 176, 180,
Kaminski, Andrzej – 310 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 188,
Kant, Immanuel – 177, 265, 273, 317 191, 243, 283, 293
Kassabova, Kapka – 25 Lévinas, Emanuel – 230

Levine, Andrew – 193 McGrew, Anthony – 134, 135, 137,

Lévi-Strauss, Claude – 90, 91, 270 138, 139
Lind, Michae l – 141, 219 McLaren, Peter – 213
Linz, Juan José – 96, 98, 207 Mehring, Franz – 311
Lipset, Seymour Martin – 96, 97, 98, 207 Melucci, Alberto – 224
Lisiak, Agata Anna – 151, 152 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice – 187
Lissovskaya, Elena – 293, 294 Meštrović, Stjepan – 267
Livingstone, David – 158 Michnik, Adam – 328
Lockwood, David – 140 Mihăilă, Rodica – 174, 215, 216, 258
Lovinescu, Eugen – 93 Mihăilescu, Vintilă – 199
Luca, Ioana – 236 Miller, Arthur – 24
Lukács, György – 279, 313, 314 Miłosz, Czesław – 315
Lungin, Pavel – 261 Mohanty, Chandra Talpade – 126, 130
Luther, Martin – 284 Monroe, Marilyn – 48
Lyotard, Jean-François – 142, 143, 187, Morris, William – 84, 278, 282, 312
187, 189, 190, 265, 266, 268, 331 Morrison, Toni – 228, 280
Mukherjee, Bharati – 101, 128, 213

Macaulay, Thomas Babington – 200,
201, 293 Nagy, Imre – 225, 302
MacDonald, Ramsay – 83 Naipaul, Vidiadhar Surajprasad – 106,
Maiorescu, Titu – 93 149, 173, 201, 202, 203
Manea, Norman – 106 Nasta, Susheila – 105, 106
Mannur, Anita – 103, 104 Nelson, Daniel – 96
Manolescu, Ion – 105 Neumann, Victor – 122, 124
Mao Zedong – 12, 48, 80, 176, 184, Nicolae, Cosana – 107
185, 187, 188, 206 Nietzsche, Friedrich – 238
Marat, Hectorv – 253 Nkrumah, Kwame – 66
Marcuse, Herbert – 187 Nodia, Ghia – 325
Maritain, Jacques – 117 Noica, Constantin – 93, 160, 161
Marker, Sandra – 87
Martin, Mircea – 84
Marx, Karl – 37, 38, 39, 40, 44, 45, O
49, 289, 311, 330, 338
Maurice, John Frederick Denison – 82, O’Donnell, Guillermo A. – 95, 99, 207, 326
153, 187 Olsen, Frances Elisabeth – 235, 237
McCarthy, Joseph Raymond – 24 Oltean, Roxana – 236

Orenstein, Mitchell – 96, 97 Rákosi, Mátyás – 78, 302

Orwell, George – 23, 201, 294, 295, Ray, Larry – 140, 205, 206
342, 343, 344, 345, 346 Reagan, Ronald – 50, 207
Osterhammel, Jürgen – 68, 71, 73, 175 Reguillo, Rossana – 281
Oţoiu, Adrian – 32, 150, 174, 175 Riemann, Erika – 291
Outhwaite, William – 135, 137, 138, Robertson, Roland – 137, 239, 241
140, 205, 206 Rockefeller, John – 45
Owen, Robert – 81
Roh, Franz – 280
Özkırımlı, Umut – 109, 224
Roman, Denise – 130
Rorty, Richard – 118
Rostow, Walt – 205
P Rousseau, Jean Jacques – 253
Roy, Arundathi – 228
Palma, Giuseppe di – 95. 326, 328
Park, You-me – 126, 127 Roznoveanu, Mirela – 106
Parris, Kristen – 96 Rubin, Derek – 216
Parrott, Bruce – 96, 97 Rulfo, Juan – 280
Pasternak, Boris – 294 Rushdie, Salman – 172, 173, 174, 216,
Pătrăşcanu, Lucreţiu – 78 233, 280
Peepre-Bordessa, Mari – 214, 215
Petrescu, Dan – 304
Petrova, Dimitrina – 277, 278 S
Plekhanov, Georgi Valentinovich – 311
Popa, Mircea – 340, 341 Said, Edward – 155, 156, 162, 172, 226,
Popescu, Monica – 31, 32 231, 232, 242, 333
Popescu, Petru – 106 Saint-Simon, Henri de – 81, 177
Popper, Karl – 193, 341
Porter, Brian – 224 Salazkina, Masha – 22, 23, 25
Přibáň, Jiří – 123, 124 Salkey, Andrew – 106
Pynchon, Thomas – 282 Sartre, Jean Paul – 187, 338
Schermerhorn, Richard Alonzo – 121, 124
Schleiermacher, Friedrich – 222
Q Schlesinger, Arthur – 213
Schmitter, Phillipe C. – 207, 336
Quine, Willard van Orman – 118 Schöpflin, George – 123, 124
Searle, John – 108
Selvon, Sam – 106
R Senghor, Léopold Sédar – 242
Seth, Vikram – 101
Rădulescu, Domnica – 25, 106 Seton-Watson, Hugh – 220, 224
Rajan, Rajeswari Sunder – 126, 127 Shalamov, Varlam – 290, 292, 294, 319

Shapiro, Herbert – 277 Târziu, Alexandra – 106

Shoat, Ella – 323, 348, 349, 350 Taylor, Charles – 208, 209, 210, 319
Siegel, Don – 23 Terdiman, Richard – 297, 306
Slapšak, Svetlana – 129 Thatcher, Margaret – 50
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Sorel, Georges – 338 296, 327, 336
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Soyinka, Wole [Akinwande Oluwole] – 173 Tolstoy, Leo – 280
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Spencer, Jonathan – 224 Trollope, Anthony – 279
Spencer, Philip – 224, 226 Trotsky, Leon – 176, 185, 293
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty – 66, 126, Tudoran, Dorin – 304
146, 147, 230, 233, 237, 341 Turgenev, Ivan – 280
Stalin, Iosef Vissarionovich – 23, 45, Tyler, Edward Burnett – 92
46, 47, 75, 76, 77, 78, 80, 116,
176, 185, 191, 283, 289, 292,
293, 301, 312, 315 U
Surdulescu, Radu – 70, 334, 335, 337,
339, 341 Ulbricht, Walter – 303
Urry, John – 136
Ursu, Gheorghe – 304

Şandru, Cristina – 68, 152, 258, 306 V

Ştefănescu, Bogdan – 258
Vachudova, Milada Anna – 98
Verdery, Katherine – 67, 235, 256, 361
T Verheul, Jaap – 216, 379
Viola, Lynne – 300
Tajfel, Henri – 223 Vlasopolos, Anca – 25, 236
Talcott Parsons – 204 Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet de – 253

W Wolff, Larry – 26, 28, 57, 109, 155, 259

Wollman, Howard – 224, 226
Wacquant, Loïc – 140
Walcott, Derek – 280
Walker, Alice – 228 Y
Wallerstein, Immanuel – 350
Warhol, Andy – 48 Young, Robert J. C. – 84, 86, 147, 148,
Waters, Malcolm – 140 152, 231, 232, 271
Watt, Ian – 287, 279, 282
Webb, Beatrice – 83
Webb, Sidney – 83 Z
Weber, Max – 44, 62, 205, 208, 220, 224
Weiss, Linda – 137 Zamiatin, Evgenii – 294
White, Hayden – 142 Zhdanov, Andrei – 281, 313, 315
Wierbizcka, Anna – 230, 344, 345 Zhivkov, Todor Hristov – 303
Wieviorka, Michel – 335, 340, 341 Žižek, Slavoj – 332, 341
Williams, Raymond – 187, 243 Zola, Émile – 279
Wisker, Gina – 101, 143, 146, 201, 202, 228
Tiparul s-a executat sub c-da nr. 3023/2011, la
Tipografia Editurii Universităţii din Bucureşti