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Essays and Studie$ 1999·


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Postcolonial Theory and Criticism



'I .

.. Edited·~~

Laura Chrisman an~J:j~ ~V' I

for the English Assotation


Listening to theSubdltern:

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Postcolonial Studies and the: Neocolonial


Poetics of Suba[tern States I


i {) (·-Iet) (11":_

i~l ..

- Postcolonial Studies and Latin America .. I c7 ~4--:-_E~ ~h £f~_ ..

THE GROWING.FIELD of postcolonial studies ha~ been developed in tl'le~' metropolitan centers by scholars working pn northern European b colonialism in Asia and Africa. Latin America and the Caribbean, ') characterized bya much longer entanglement~vith colonialism and its r> .. aftermath, figures only tangentially in this field. I This exclusion has ?

~neant a neglect of neo.colonialism, imperialism and internal colonial-I· vi (J. Ism, central. concerns 111 the Amencas since I the first quarter of the nineteenth century, when Haiti became the I first independent state


produced by a slave -revolution, and most of Latin America achieved

political independence .frorn Spain through I wars of independence which were in some respects also social wars. These concerns with


new forms of postcolonial subjection were intensified by interrelated

events: Cuba's truncatedIndependence in 1~98 after a devastating thirty-year struggle that entailed a conftontat~on at once with declining Spanish colonialism, emerging US imp¢rialism, and persisting domestic racial and class privilege; the 1898 annexation of Puerto Rico by the United States, establishing a /country which has an ambiguous and contradictory status as a 'freb' and 'associated' state ('el estado libre asociado'): and the US-backeid separation of Panama from Colombia in 1903, which created a nation designed to be the location of a US-controlled canal. In each country of the region post-

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independence projects to achieve 'modern nationhood'<have made I

evident their limits in the context of shifting postcolonial power

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relations. I

This 'failure of the nation to come into its own,' to borrow Ranajit Guha's evocative phrase to address the limits of nationhood in postcolonial India, has led in Latin America Jnd the Caribbean to an extraordinary tradition of thought, embodied In academic scholarship


in ~he current literature, see

i For an. insightful discussion of this. neglect

Hulme (1996) .'




as well as the artsIpopular and elite), that constitutes a monumental collective reflection on this failure. Drawing on this tradition _ particularly its reflections on. the relationship between shifting mod;

ali ties of postcolonial imperial hegemony and state transformations I

seek in this essay to explore forms of subjection associated with neoliberal globalization and modes of analysis that could oppose them. In so doing, I also hope to contribute to the held of postcolonial studies from a Latin American perspective.

Rethinking the Subaltern

On February 27, 1989, large numbers of people took to the streets in Venezuela's major cities in protest against· worsening economic conditions. By the end of the day, several hundred thousand people in Caracas and many thousands in other major cities had .. participated in protests which included rioting and looting. Popular anger was triggered by a 100 percent price increase in state-owned. gasoline, which had .led to the doubling of fares .forpublic transportation. This step, taken to bring the price of domestic gasoline in line with world-market gasoline prices, was one of the initial measures implemented by the three-week-old government of President Carlos Andres Perez as part of a state policy shift from protectionismi- a deeply entrenched distributionist system fueled by abundant petrodollars - toward .a free-market economic model designed in accordance with International Monetary Fund requirements for debtor nations. After thirty years of oil-supported democratic stability and party control over popular mobilization, the populace was believed to be incapable of such an independent expression of will. Having erroneously assumed the passivity of the popular sectors, the startled government reacted to their activism with unprecedented repression:

Several thousand soldiers were airlifted to Caracas from the interior. The armed forces of the state opened fire on people in the barrios and on the streets, killing severalIiund-od,' Lasting five days, this episode was the largest and most severely repressed protest against austerity measures not only in Venezuelan history, but in contem-

porary Latin America. .

Z The official figure is 276. Definitive figures are difficult to establish: unofficial estimates of the death toll made by journalists and human rights organizations have been reduced from around 1,000 (at the time of the riots) to 400. .




On March 1, during the third day of rioting, the public waited anxiously for the government to make ~ long-delayed televised announcement to the nation. Minister o~ the Interior Alejandro Izaguirre, a seasoned politician who had frequently served as the acting head of state, appeared before the cameras. Much to the public's

. I .

shock, he muttered, 'I can't, I can't,' and stopped speaking. Radio and

television stations immediately interrupted the broadcast without explanation. One of the networks aired Disney cartoons for the remaining time that had been reserved ~y the government. The state, ordinarily the central source of aLitiloritative public speech,

suddenly appeared speechless. i

This incident reveals ina flash that state speech - not only its form or content, but its very condition of possibi~ity - cannot be taken for granted. More fundamentally, this moment' of state speechlessness makes dramatically visible the problematic I nature of what typically appears as its obverse '--- subaltern political speech - and raises questions about subalternity in general: its different Imodalities of agency, its various modes of expression, and the possibility of representing them.

I want to explore these broad questions b~ focusing on some specific instances of state action and discourse in Venezuela during a turning point in the current.period of.neoliberal.gldbalization. I do so not in order to shift the usual focus of subaltern studies from social actors that are at the bottom of social hierarchies towards ones that occupy higher positions, but to . offe~ a re~atiOnal· conce9tion of .subalter.nit~ th~t expands the range ofitssubj ectsand focuses on their constitution III shifting relations of subjection .. In her influential article 'Can the Subaltern Speak?' Gayatri Spivak (1988a) problematizes the production and retrieval of subaltern speech (in this case, as discussed below,

I .

the words and actions of Bhuvaneswari J?adhuri,a young Indian

woman) in light of its dependence on d9minant discursive fields, which constitute subaltern subjects, define their modalities of expression, and structure the positions from +hich they speak and are

heard. I

Here I want to address the problem Spivak has so provocativelvand productively raised in order to advance la different approach to subalternity. Spivak's aim is, in her words, 'to learn to speak to (rather than listen to orspeakfor) the historically muted subject of the non-elite' (Ibid.i 271). While I appreciate her insights into the politics of representation and her reticence to speak for subjected others, I seek to explore modes of listening t? subaltern subjects and of interpreting what I. hear. If any epistemofogical position entails a




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politics, my aim in this discussion is to learn to speak to the subject of subalternity inways that may contribute to overcoming the conditions that make subalternity possible. Bytreatiilgsubalternity as a heterogeneous social field encompassing tnultiple social subjects, and by regarding their relations of difference and identity as the condition for a shared politics, I wish to examine modes of conceptualizing and representing the subaltern that counter rather than confirm the silencing effect of domination.

Spivak, by means of an extended discussion ofsati{or suttee) - the practice of self-immolation by Indian widowson their husbands' pyres - presents as emblematic of the subaltern the case ofa political activist who sought to communicate her personal predicamentthrough her suicide, but whose communication was foiled by the codes of patriarchy and colonialism in which her actions were inevitably inscribed. Spivak depicts her situation in the followingterms:



f l

A young woman. of sixteen or seventeen, Bhuvaneswari Bhaduri, hanged herself in her father's modest apartment in North Calcutta in 1926. The suicide was a puzzle since, as Bhuvaneswari was menstruating at the time,· it was clearly not a case of illicit

. pregnancy. Nearly a decade later, it was discovered that she was a member of one of the many groups involved in the armed struggle for Indian independence. She had finally been entrusted with a political assassination. Unable to confront the task and yet aware of the practical need for trust, she killed herself. , . Bhuvaneswad had known that her death would be diagnosed as the outcome of illegitimate passion. She had therefore waited for the onset of menstruation. While waiting, Bhuvaneswari, the brahniacarini who was no doubt looking forward to .a good wifehood.iperhapsrewrote the social text of sari-suicide in an interventionist way. (Ibid.: 307)

Despite Bhaduri's precautions, her death is remembered by her relatives (her nieces) as 'a case of illicit love,' and the meaning of her act thus seems to have been lost to history, alrhoughir is not clear; given the nature of the evidence provided, whether Spivak was uniquely able to. retrieve it (Ibid.: 308). Since Bhaduri's actions are not only inscribed but read in terms of the dominant codes of British . imperialism and Indian patriarchy, Spivak concludes, provocatively, that 'the subaltern cannot speak' (Ibid.).

Her conclusion is preceded bya critique of Foucault and Deleuze, through which she discusses the dangers of reinscribing imperial assumptions in colonial studies, and of Anronio Gramsci's and Ranajit



. .... I .


Guha's treattnents ofsuhalternity, in which her main focus is Guha's analysis of the social structure of postcoloni~l societies by means of a

'dynamic stratification grid': i


Elite: {I.. Dominant foreign groups. !

L Dominaut indigenous groups ~n the all-India level.

3. Dominant. indigenous groups ',at the regional and local

~vek !

4. The terms 'people' and 'sub~ltern classes' have been used as synonymous throughout this note. The social groups and elements included lit\ this category represent the demographic difference betw~en the total Indian popullltion and all those whom we hav~ desC1ibed as the' ehte . '

. (Ibid.!: 284 [Guha's emphases])


Guha's grid is built upon the assumption tliat subalternity resides in

'the people,' taken asan undifferentiated sub)ec~. In terms of this grid, the mrermediate groups between the elite an',d the people, the 'dominant indigenous groups at the regional and loqallevels' (number 3), ate particularly problematic because they can] be either dominant or dominated, .depending on situational consifenitions. As Guha says, 'The same class or element which was dominant in one area ... could beamong the dominated in another. This c~uldand did create many ambiguities and contradictioilS in attitudesl and alliances, especially among the lowest strata of the rural geritryl impoverished landlords, rich peasants andupper~l11iddle~class peasants all. of whom belonged, ideallly speaking, to the category of people dr subaltern classes' (Ibid. [Guha's emphases]). Given this conceptualization of the intermediate groups within the project of studyi11g the su~altern, Spivak notes that forGuha the 'task 'of research' is 'to investigate, identify, and measure the specific nature mid degree of the de~iation of [the] elements [constituting item 3] from the ideal and situate it historically' (Ibid.:

285 [Guha's emphases]). !

Noting the essentialist and taxonomic ctlaracterof this program,

Spivak emphasizes the fact that 'the object o~the group's investigation, inthis case not even of the people as such bU~i of the floating buffer zone of the regional eltte-subaltem- is a deviation from an ideal - the people or subaltern ..;. which is itself defined as a diffefence from the elite' (Ibid. [Spivak's emphases]). After making these o~servations, Spivak leaves the problematic 'buffer zone group' behind :and moves ori to problematize the research of item 4: 'the people,' 1,01' 'subaltern classes,' the

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ideal itself. !



In her provocative but complicated discussion of the subaltern as female, she seems to. be arguing that the subaltern's voice/consciousness cannot be retrieved, and that analysis should indicate this impossibility by charting the positions from which the subaltern speaks, but 'cannot be heard or read' (Ibid.: 308). As one of Spivak's interpreters has 'argued:

Rather than speak for a lost consciousness that cannot be recovered, a paternalistic activity at best, the critic can point to the place of woman's disappearance as an aporia, a blind-spot where understanding and knowledge is blocked. Complicating the assumption that the geri.dered subaltern is a homogeneous entity whose voice can be simply retrieved, Spivak. demanstrates the paradoxical . contradictions of the discourses which produce such aporia. in the place afsubject-positions, showing that the sat{ herself is at best presented with the non-choice of the robber's 'your money.or your life!' 'Voice' is of little use in this situation. (Young 1990: 64)

Spivak's assertion that the subaltern cannot speak has been pervasively read as 'an expression af terminal epistemological and political pessimism' (Lowe, Rosenthal, and Silliman 1990: 83). Yet in a subsequent interview, saying that she had been misunderstood, Spivak claimed that her purpase had been to counter the impulse to solve the problem of political subjectivity by ramanticizing the subaltern. Instead of treating the subaltern as an unproblematic unified subject, she would apply to the subaltern 'all the complications of "subject production" which are applied to us' (Spivak 1990: 90). While this seems eminently reasonable - except that she presupposes and reproduces a questianable polarity between 'we' (dominant) and 'they' (subaltern) - her next proposal is disconcerting, for Spivak suggests using the term 'subaltern far everything that is different ham organized resistance', justifying this usage by building an Guha's introduction to the first volume of Ranajit Guha's Subaltern Studies where

he is making an analysis of how a colonial society is structured, and what spacecanbespaken of as the subaltern space. There isa space· in post-imperial arenas which is displaced from empire - nation exchange. Where one sees the 'emancipated bourgeoisie,' 'organized labor,' 'organized left movements,' 'urban radicalism,'the disenfranchised 'women's arena'(these words are all used in quotes), all of this is constituted within that empire-nation exchange, reversing it in many different kinds of ways. But in post-imperialist societies


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there is a vast arena which is not necessarily accessible to thatkir:d of exchange. It is that space that one calls subaltern. The romantic notion that the subaltern as subaltern can speak is totally undermined by the fact that the real effort is tp pull them. into. national agency With the sanctions that are alreadr there. (Ibid.: 90-1)

It seems to me that with this move SPivak/has in effect homogenized and pushed the subaltern out of the realm of political exchange, beyond 'national agency.' The ambiguities and contradictions in the not ian of the subaltern, which were sharply visible in Guha's intermediate category (the 'dominant indigenous groups at the regional and local levels'), seems to be resolved here by tl1e subaltern's relegation to. the margins and transform at ian into. an outsider, an Other.

Thus, bUilding an Foucault's approval of l~ominalism in The History of Sexuality, Spivak says, 'To. that extent, thr subaltern is the nam~of the place which is so displaced from what made me and the organized resister that to have it speak is like Godot atriving on a bus. We want it to di~appear as a name so. that we can all ~peak' (Ibid.: 9.1). If I read her correctly, I take her to mean. that the subaltern IS mute by definition' subalternitvcannot include such active agents as the

, . i '~l' . 11

'organized resister' or 'me' (since, like Spivak, I can spea itera y

and metaphorically). Yet if one views subalternity as a heterogenous social field populated by subaltern subjects differently subjected to interrelated power hierarchies, making the! subaltern 'disappear as a name' entails the endless process af creating a democratic society - a society without dominance and process that presupposes the recognition of the subaltern as an agent dfhistorical transformation not just despite, but because of, its subalterriity at this t~me. Yet, with this topographic conception, Spivak seem~ to reconstitute the subaltern nat only as a unified subject which cannor speak, but as a mute

object - positioned outside agency. .. i . . . .

Spivak conceptualizes thesubaltern dlfferent~y 11: comll1:ntmg on her own position during her evaluation of t~e hlstono~r~phlc wo:k of the Subaltern Studies group in India. She says that she IS progressively inclined . . . to read the retrieval. of subaltern consciousness as the charting of what in post-structuralist lang~age [would] beca.lled the subaltern subject-effect,' From this perspective, the subject is met~leptic - an effect substituted for a cause. Her linvccation of the strategic use of positivist essentialism appears to be a hecessary but theoretically unsatisfactory response to the poststructuralist dissolution of the subject (Spivak 1988b: 12-15). In my vie\t, the problems associated




with humanist or structuralist conceptions of sovereign, unified subjects who operate as autonomous causes of historical effects are only mirrored by the poststructuralist conception of fragmented subjects who are or operate as mere effects; a. more fruitful conceptualization would be one that overcame the polarization of terms in which this debate is being cast.'

As a step in this direction, I propose that we view the subaltern neither as a sovereign-subject that actively occupies a bounded place nor as a vassal-subject that. results from the dispersed effects of multiple external determinations,but as an agent of-identity construction that participates, under determinate conditions within afield of power relations, in the organization of its multiple positionality and subjectivity. In my view, subalternity is a relational and a relative concept; there are times and places where subjects appear on the social stage as subaltern actors, just as there are times or places in which they play dominant roles. Moreover, at any given time or place, an actor may be subaltern in relation to another, yet dominant in relation to a third. And, of course, there are contexts in which these categories may simply not be relevant. Dominance and subaltemity are not inherent, but relational characterizations. Subalternity defines not the being of a subject; but a subjected state of being. Yet because enduring subjection has the effect of fixing subjects into limiting positions, a relational conception of the subaltern requires a double vision that recognizes at one level a common ground amongdiverse forms of subjection and, at another, the intract .. able identity of subjects formed within uniquely constraining social worlds. While the first optic opens up a space for establishing links among subordinated subjects (including the analyst who takes a subaltern perspective), the second acknowledges the differentiating and ultimately unshareable effects of specific modalities of subjection. 4 This

J Spivak's discussion of the 'subaltern' is developed in yet other directions (which I cannot discuss here) in her response (Spivak 1989) to Benita Parry's (1987) helpful critique of her work. This exchange suggests that a critical awareness of the complicity between imperialism and anthropology should lead not to a rejection of the representation of 'native' voices, but to a critical transformation of anthropology's modes of representing (and of conceptualizing) itself and its objects of study.

4 This elaboration of my previous understanding of subalternity (1994) owes much to discussions with members of the Grupo de la Playa: of the Latin American Subaltern Studies Group in Puerto Rico (March 1996), and especially to [osefina Saldana's insistence on the radicalalterity of subaltern subjects and Alberto Moreiras's suggestion that we use.a 'double register' in our

approach to the subaltern. . '.




relational and situational view of the subalterumay help anticolonial intellectuals avoid the we/they polarity uri.derlYingSpivak's analysis and listen to subaltern voices that speak from \ variously .subordinated


positions. .. \ .

A similar argument concerning the relational character of subalter-

nity which underlines its significance for the s~udy of gender, has been developed by Gail Hershatter who asks: 'WI~at happens if we allow generously for a relational component of subaltern status, so that we can highlight the extent to which people were I;constituted as subalterns only in relations to others(sometimes several sets of others}?' While in her answer to this question she argues that frpm this perspective 'the workings of gender become easier to . figu~e all across the cla~s spectrum,'one could generalize her observat1ion and pr?pos~ that It also makes more visible the workings of other fnarkers of Identity, such as race; ethnicity,religion, or nationality, andi not just 'across the class spectrulll,' but in their mutual interactions, illuminating; in turn, the process of class formation itself. And while this inclusivity risks homogenizing or diluting subaltemity, I wo~ld endorse as wel~ her observation that 'this inclusive definition of s,ubaltem is emphatically not meant to suggest that all oppressions (or r~sistances) are equal, that everyone is a subaltern in the same way.' Het hope, which I share, 'is not to render oppression uniform and thus sOfnehow less onerous, but rather to trace the ways that oppressions can be stacked, doubled,

intertwined' (1993: 112).5 i

From this perspective, I want to discuss nex]; subaltenl speech as it is

articulated at the very center of 'peripheral' nations. Drawing my examples from a larger investigation in whicl~ I have sought to listen to dominant as well as subaltern discourses by contextualizing them within a historical and cultural field marked !by neocolonial relations (Coronil and Skurski 1991), I will focus he~e exclusively on speech articulated by representatives of the state, W~10 are generally seen as 'dominant'actors. In what form, if any, is subalternity expressed in the speech of the state in subaltern nations, tl~e institution that must constitute and represent itself as the locus tf sovereignty and auto-


. i

5 I find it interesting that we developed similar ~rguments inde~ende~tly of each other as we sought to apply the insights of pubaltern Studies to a less colonial situation' (Hershatter 1993: 104): 'semi-cplonial' China, in her case;

'neocolonial' Venezuela, in mine. .



State Speech

Like metropolitan states, subaltern states 'speak' - literally and metaphorically - through the languages that constitute them as central.sites of authority, and their multiple forms of speech impact on the daily Jives of people within their societies. As states, they must continually authorize themselves by producing binding state-ments (regulations, laws, policies, etc.) whose authority over citizens within a bounded geographical and political territory rests on acombination of consent and coercion. Underlying Weber's understanding of the state as the institution that holds a monopoly on legitimate violence, is the fact that the state can not only back up its statements with force, but can deploy violence as its legitimate statement.

Indeed, on March 1, 1989, the Venezuelan state's speechlessness was only partial. Minister Izaguirre's collapse before the cameras was a response to the state's 'speech' in the streets: he fainted when he heard a burst of gunfire outside and realized that the armed forces were shooting at people - the pueblo - the foundation of Venezuelan populist nationalism. The minister had spent long, sleepless hours analyzing the situation with other leaders and coming to terms With the decision he had been .about to announce: the state had brought in the army to restore public order.

The following day, at a different centre of power, another state representative was quite' able to speak' of the need to use violence to ensure order and progress, Gonzalo Barrios.veighty-eighr years old, a founding figure of Venezuelan democracy, leader of the ruling party, Accion Dernocractica, and President of the' National Congress, made an important speech to the congress. The day before, Christian Democrat Rafael Caldera, former President of Venezuela, had delivered an impassioned address to this same body, urging the nation's leadership to recognize the existence of serious problems and to restore national unity. Barrios's speech was both a response to this calland a justification of the measures the .government had -resolved to take to

enforce public order. .

The contrast between Minister lzaguirre'sand,Se~~ator Barrios's responses to the crisis highlights not only the opposition between speech and speechlessness, but also their location 011 a shared discursive terrain. It is within the context of Izaguirre's silence that I wish to examine Barrios's speech, so as to illuminate the dynamic relationship between speech and its 'locus of enunciation' (Mignolo 1989)



during changing historical . conditions. At this critical juncture in Venezuelan history, the outlines of a reconfigured relationship between state .mdnation,government and citizenry, became visible. The different responses by these officials to the crisis represent two distinct interventions in this redrawing of Venezuela's identity.

Representing the State

At first glance, Barrios's speech seems like just one more instance of the usualintra~elite dispute over everyday politics. It is difficult to discern from its tone or content, that a crisis is underway, that several hundred people have already been killed, or that the army is at that very rnornerit shooting people in the streets. As Barrios's discourse unfolds, what seems to matter is preventing Caldera from using the crisis to elevate himself and to be recognized as the authoritative interpreter of

these events. .

Senator Barrios starts by noting that he was. glad to' have had the

opportunity to read Caldera's speech instead ofresponding to it as he heard it the previous day, for 'it is not the same thing to listen to a speech and to experience the collective emotion that it unleashesa~ it is to be able to judge it quietiy in one's study, reading and rereading some concepts in order to see their hidden intent' (Barrios 1989: 143). Speaking as the tempered voice of reason, Barrios then proceeds to set the tecordstraight by presenting his own interpretation of events. Thus, in the midst ofa crisis characterized by the massive, independent intetventionofpopular sectors in national politics, what this exchange foregrounds is an intra-elite diffei'ence of opinioh.ln its failure. to focus either on the actions and voices in the street or even on their armed repression, Ban'ios's speech embodies the silencing and denial of

popular claims on the nation. . .

This exclusion of the popular sectors is reproduced throughout the

speech . .In the. face of an Independent mass action, former Preside~).t Caldera emphasizes the need for 'leaders to reach out to the pueblo In order tb channel their feelings toward civic attitudes, toward orderly protest, toward [making] their presence [felt] within the framework of the Constitution-and the laws' (Caldera 1989: 136). In his response, Barrios. mlnimizes the importance of popular mobilization by attributing .it to the influence of political agitators. DistanCing himself from Caldera, he condemns ii1terpretations that explain the recourse to violent action by appeal to the growing frustrations of people faced



with worsening living conditions. Just as the command 'thou-shall not kill' allows no exceptions, Barrios argues, people" shouldmot be permitted to engage in violent actions. Revealingly, Barrios appears not to notice the irony in this case, namely that the commandment is being the streets and barrios by the governrnent. as the army escalates its attack and the death toll reaches several hundred (fewer than ten casualties among government forces resulted from the week of conflict). For Barrios, the popular sectors remain fundamentally faceless.

At this moment of crisis, the public that concerns Barrios is to be found outside Venezuela, in the United States and Europe. He observes that 'it is very rare, for the television of these countries to take note of our countries,' particularly if it is a question-ofrreporting Jiappy incidents or facts that elevate us, but it would seem that they rejoice in presenting 'any event, any manifestation, that tends to show us as depressed countries, as primitive cultures' (Barrios 1989: 144). He expresses his regret that these events have shown 'the horror, the primitive, the uncontrollable, from a civilized point of view, of the looting that took place in Caracas' (Ibid.), According to Barrios, this has happened at a time when Venezuela has been demanding more attention from these nations and has ,managed to overcome 'the prejudices that exist in the developed natio~ls with respect to ourselves' (Ibid.). The day before, Caldera had expressed asimilar concern over Venezuela's shattered image in a much-quoted passage of his speech:

. 'Venezuela has been a kind of pilot country. At this moment it is what North Americans call a "showcase," the display case of LatinAmerican democracy ... This display case was destroyed by the blows androcks of the starving people from the Caracas barrios who are beingsubjected to the iron chains imposed, directly or indirectly, by the IMP' (Caldera' 1989: 137). Building on adistinction between 'developed nations' and 'our countries; , both Caldera and Barrios express regret at the negative' image of Venezuela now being projected to the developed world.

Caldera's metaphor of Venezuela as. a showcase, with its Madison Avenue overtones, had wide appeal partly because' it conjured up the familiar image of a gap between the facade of national progress and the lived reality of chronic problems. His speech observed the typical conventions of nationalist rhetoric, including a grandiloquentcall to repair the tarnished image of Venezuela as .a united nation, coupled with a denunciation of outside interference by such powers as theIMF. hi. contrast, Barrios's response was cast in the colloquial style of intraelite conversation and addressed; withironic understatement, the all-



top-familiar reality behind the embellished images constructed for outside consumption. He appealed to the elite by publically using its private language and by expressing, througn self-parody that verged on self-denial, its' unflattering view of Venezuela.


The Ongoing Conquest: Civilized Generals Against Primitive Masses

This view of Venezuela comes across vividly in Barrios's discussion of the country's relations with the International Monetary Fund. Barrios chooses to open this discussion by attacking Caldera for presenting himself as a' nationalist leader who, unlike oi:hers, would not leave Venezuela even if the IMFpolicy package failed to achieve its aims. Barrios sarcastically congratulates Caldera, but declares his certainty that other respectable people, including himself, would not abandon the ship even if it threatened to sink. He then proceeds to counter Caldera's condemnation of the IMF by marrer-of-facrlv noting that it is justacapitalist Institution whose business it is to serve the interests of capitalism. He .describes the.IMF in terms targeted at the elite, not the masses, calling it. 'a. tremendously nasty, disagreeable institution [una institution tremendamente antipatica, muy desagradable] whose purpose is not simply to help bankrupt nations' (Barrios 1989: 146), contrasting it with the Red Cross, whose objective is to assist countries with specific problems. The IMP's resources, Barrios emphasizes, are intended. to promote capitalism, not 'to finance the corruption, waste, and administrative vices of developing nations,' adding that it would be perhaps be possible to follow Caldera and protest against the IMP's requirement that we behave in ways contrary to our OWl1 culture. However, he continues, 'I don't think we have the right to tell the IMF: "Myculture of a tropical, underdeveloped country requires a certain guachafita [disorder; mess] in public administration'" (Ibid.: 147).

Barrios then gives substance to this image of a 'tropical, underdeveloped country' by listing a set offeatures which paint a negative picture of Venezuela and its elite: individual, group, and class favoritism; wasted public resources; poorly invested public funds, and so on. He then ends thisdiscussionof Venezuela's relationship to the IMF on

. a note of sarcasm: 'It' would be nice ifthere were an international institution with enough funds to help those who commit crimes in this fashion ... but such an institution does not exist. As I said before, the International Red Cross serves other purposes and does not have the resources for these causes' (Ibid.) ..



Throughout this speech, Barrios avoids the elevat~d rhetoric of grand transformations, choosing instead to use the elite's private language of mundane complicity in order to elicit support for the government's program, which he defines simply as making Venezuela a 'modern state.' By adopting these (IMF-mandated) measures, Barrios argues, Venezuela would get the resources it needs and would learn to behave as a well-organized country in thefutute. Thereisno talk here

of great transformations. - . .

Noting that no one has come up with a workable alternative to the government's policies, Barrios argues that the only other possibility is to go. backwards; concluding his speech by dismissing this alternative and by justifying state violence against the popular sectors with a St01Y that 'captivated' him because of its 'implicit irony.' The anecdote concerns a British general who wanting to subdue one of the. 'less primitive tribes' of Africa, sent as his emissary a missionary who had lived among the indigenous people, in the hope that .he would convince them of the benefits of British occupation. The missionary told them of the hospitals, schools, means of communication and laws they would receive from the British. The African chief recognized the value of this offer, but rejected it, arguing that its acceptance would cause his people to lose their soul. On reporting the chief's refusal to the general, the missionary suggested that the chi~f was right. The general,' Barrios says, 'naturally paid no attention to the missionary and gave orders to blast the natives with heavy gunfire [plomo cer~ado], as often occurs in disputes among civilized nations.' Barrios then adds, in

. a tone of ironic understatement, that if the congress decides to reject President Perez's austerity program and the repressive measures taken to enforce it, the nation will begin a backward slide. '1 think that Venezuela would not necessarily return : to loincloths and arrows because we have well ~ grounded structures and [have made] progress, but we could go back toa situation in which Rolls Royces and fancy televisions with satellite dishes would disappear' (Ibid.: J48).

The Poetics of Neocolonialism

Barrios unabashedly legitimates the new policies by passing off an old colonial framework as his own, transmuting the Venezuelan people into a 'primitive'Africari tribe, converting congressmen into civilizing British generals and reformulating state violence against the people as a tool of civilization. Given the Venezuelanelite's vie\v of England asthe -



crucible of Western capitalism, and of Africa as the dark land of primitivism, the brand of colonialism conjured up in Barrios's speech establishes a starkcontrastbetween civilization and barbarism in which the ambiguities associated with the Spanish imperial experience in America are elided. By choosing this remote, paradigmatic colonial model, Barrios offers the local political elite an image of itself as an agent of civilization. Within the simplistic terms of this idealized model; violence against 'the primitive' can be articulated in elitecoded . language, without serttirrierrtality or grandiosity, . as . a necessary condition of historical. progress. Plomo. cerrado (approxtmately: 'heavy gunfire'), with its colloquial, laconic overtones, mimics the language of violence on the streets; it forecloses discussion.

In this speech, the conflict between barbarism to civilization is expressed thtoughfour emblematic objects. 'Loincloths and arrows' bring to mind the figure of a, primitive order that lies not too far in the past and that manifests itself in the present through the Venezuelan 'Indian.l who is widely regarded as .igilOrant. Saved from this backward world by the existence of 'well-grounded structures' and 'progress,' the . desired realm of superior civilization is conjured up by two commodities rhattronically represent what is well beyond even the elite. A 'Rolls

Royce,' given high domestic taxes and limited service, is a vehicle that is out of reach for most members of the upper class. As an emblem of unattainable luxury for an elite which prides itself on being able to purchase and surround itself with such external tokens of 'civilization,'

. it isa reminder of a distance from the metropolitan centers that not even money can entirely bridge.'Fancy televisions with satellite dishes,' on the other hand, are available to relatively large segments of the upper middle class (particularly since one satellite dish can serve many apartments in a high - rise)' but access to them only emphasizes the contrast between Venezuelan and US television programs and the different societies they reflect. For those who have access to US television shows, they area daily reminder of the gap between the two worlds, as wellas a means of partially closing it; they mark both the. connection and the separationbetween these worlds. Since from the second day of rioting Venezuelan television stations were not allowed to show what was occurring in the streets, it was through these 'fancy. televisions'that the elite, including Barrios, found itself in the odd position of watching Venezuela being watched by foreign journalists and public, as theinternatiollalnews showed 'the horror, the primitive, the uncontrollable, from a civilized point of view; of the looting that took place in Caracas.'



Thus, through the language of objects and commodities, Barrios conjures up the image of a country suspended in an endless middle .passage, eternally stranded in a transition between the threat of encroaching backwardness and the vision of receding modernity. Since he is speaking to his fellow politicalleadets,not to the masses, Barrios can acknowledge the limited nature of the state's goals. It is no longer a case, as with other opportunities, of proposing to take great strides towards 'modernity,' but of simply putting one's house in order, of making this 'tropical capitalism' less corrupt so as to give these politicians and the economic elite linked to them continued access to the worldly goods of the metropolitan centers. The price this ruling stratum must pay is giving up amodel of protectionism that is no longer viable. But abandoning protectionism: entails a violent rupture of identities which Barrios's distancing allegory cannot completely C011- ceal. His colonial story does violence not only to the representation of the popular sectors, who must abruptlybe seen as a disposableprimitive mass, but also to that of the governing elite itself, to its self-image as the anti-imperialist defender of the interests of the the builder of Venezuelan democracy. Suddenly this politicalgroup, with its long populist and nationalist history; fmdsitself cast in the role of an imperial general. Minister Izaguirre's speechjessness reveals the conflicting identities the elite must negotiate in taking up this role.

With the adoption of free market policies and a shift of profitmaking opportunities from local to international markets, the social and political elite increasingly has had to identify with its international counterparts and to sever its links with the popular sectors. The official image of the people as the virtuousfmindationofdemocracy in needof tutelary guidance, has given way toa revised conception of them as backward masses in need of control. The formation of this emergent social landscape has fractured the customary' bonds tying state to citizens,. parties to people, and leaders to masses. . .. . Barrios's colonial allegory must be understood within the context of a society in which political speech serves the ongoing construction of public images that conceal relations of power through the artful interplay of irony' and deceit, simulation and artifice. The attention paid by Barrios to Venezuela's external image is not narcissistic but strategic: it is from the standpoint of 'civilization,' whose source lies abroad, that backwardness is constructed and that the local elite constitutes itself as a mediator between these s~ates.ln Venezuela, the political elite remains situated in an unstable neocolonial landscape which continually undermines national sources of identity and



. knowledge. This instability is articulated through a 'double discourse' of national identity that 'expresses and organizes the split between the appearance of national sovereignty and the continuing hold of international subordinatiol1,a split inscribed in the. truncated character of domestic productive relations as. well as in the mimetic form of consumption values, in the production of political knowledge as well as in the formation of collective identities' (Skurski and Coronil1993: 25).

Enunciating a Locus of Enunciation

As this brief discussion suggests, the transformation in Venezuela's social anatomy has entailed. a crisis of representation which inevitably is also a crisis of self-representation -. The shift from protectionist to free-market policies in Venezuela has been a violent process, with the state demonizing the popular .sectors and repressing their political activism. The growing dissonance between the discourse of traditional populist nationalism and the emergent free-market discourse of economic globalization, has made shaky ground of the terrain. on which social actors must now stand. The state, the locus of authoritative." public speech, has been caught off balance in this ideological struggle among conflicting positions. If Izaguirre's speechlessness speaks of the state's state of crisis and offers a glimpse of a moment when history appears to hang suspended in mid-air, Barrios's speech speaks of the state's scilutionto the crisis and suggests its power to draw the terrain on which history must continue to unfold. In the course of mutating

and mutilating the identities of both the people and their representatives,Barrios included, his speech shapes the contours of Venezuela's emerging neocolonial landscape. In the fault lines of this landscape we may recognize a common ground on which variously positioned subaltern subjects - and I would include here the agents of the neocolonial state in certain relational contexts - must now stand and speak.

. This ground, however, should not be seen as a place beyond agency and consciousness, but as their historical product. If, as Nicos Poulantzas (1978: 114) suggests, national unity involves the 'historicity of a territory and theterritorialization of a history,' then the new social geography emerging in Venezuela. is a new social anatomy as well. Treating space and time as mutually constitutive dimensions of social reality may permit. us to see both how postcolonial topographies are



historically formed or reformed through human agency and how these spatial forms are informed by the meanings attached to this agency. Such a space/time perspective should also help us get beyond the analytical dichotomies that often rupture the complex 'unity of social life; thus, the oppositions that Spivak posits between subject position and voice, space and consciousness, may be usefully reconceptualized as relationships rather than polarized options, thereby avoiding theneed to choose between them in our analyses." .

The locus of enunciation is inseparable from the enunciation of a locus; analysis .must comprehend location and voice as interrelated dimensions of a single historical process. A subject position, therefore, is not only a locus of enunciation, but a topos partially defined by a positioned subject through speech, which in tum makes speech possible. At the height of the Venezuelan crisis; when a complex set of international and domestic forces shifted the ground on which all social actors stood, a new terrain was mapped not only by these forces, but by their representation in state speech. While in the midst of the crisis Minister Izaguirre lost his voice as well as his footing, Senator Barrios staked his claim on this new terrain by enunciating the emerging locus of state speech. Although I sympathize with Spivak's efforts to counter the conceit that intellectuals can directly represent subaltern voices or consciousness, I believe that reducing the analysis of subalternity to charting muted subject positions continues a history of silencing. Engaging with subaltern subjects entails responding to their presence within silenced histories, listening for voices -and to silences - within the cracks of dominant histories, if onlyto widen them.


This article is basedon research supported by the Spencer Foundation and the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, University of Michigan. My gratitude to these institutions and to Julie Skurski, who has participated in every aspect of this research; to Rebecca Scott, who encouraged. rile to clarify my discussion of the subaltern subject; and to my students at the University of Michigan, whose insights have .deepened my understanding of these issues. All translations are mine.

. 6 For fuller attempts to develop. in this direction the implications of Poulantzas's insight into the interplay between. geography and history.vsee Coronil (1996 and 1997).



Works Cited

Barrios, Gonzalo, 1989. Untitled speech, Diasioiie Debates del Senado, Republica -. de Venezuela, XIX (Ianuarv-Iune 1989)1, 143-48; Caracas: [mprenta del

Congreso de la Republica.

Caldera Rafael 1989. Untitled speech, Diario de Debatesdel Senado, Republica de Venezue~, XIX (january-june 1989)1, 135-40, Caracas: Imprenta del

Congresode la Republica. ..

Coronil, Fernando, 1996. 'Beyond Occidentalism: Towards Nonimperial

Geohistorical Categories,'Cultural Anthrology 11(1),51-87. .

___ . ; 1997. The Magical State: Nature, Money, and Modernity in Venezuela,

Chicago: University of Chicago Press. .

Coronil, Fernando, and Julie Skurski, 1991. 'Dismembering and Remembering the Nation: The Semantics of Political Violence in Venezuela,' Comparative

Studies in Society and Hist()ry33(2), 288'--337. .

Hershatter, Gail, 1993: 'The Subaltern Talks Back: Reflections on Subaltern Theory and Chinese Histbry,'Positions 1(1),103-30.

Lowe, Donald, Michael Rosenthal, and Ron Silliman, 1990. 'Introduction,' 'Gayatri Spivak on the Politics of the Subaltern' (an interview with Howard Winant), Socialist Review 3, 81-97.

Mignolo, Walter, 1989. 'Afterword: From Colonial Discourse to Colonial

Semiosis,' DisP()sitio 14, 36-8.

__ , A Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality and

Colonization, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Parry, Benita, 1987. 'Problems in Current Theories of Colonial Discourse,'

Oxf()rd Literary Review 9, 27-58.

Poulantzas, Nicos, 1978. PoWer, State, Socialism, London: New Left Books. Skurski, Julie, and Fernando Coronil, 1993. 'Country and City in a Colonial Landscape: Double Discourse and the Geopolitics of Truth in . ~atin America,': in View from the Border: Essays in Honor of Raymond Williams, ed. Dennis Dworkin and Leslie Roman, New York: Routledge, 231-59.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty; 1988a. 'Can the Subaltern Speak?' in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 271-,313.

__ , 1988b. 'Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography,' in Selected Subaltern Studies, ed. Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,New York: Oxford University Press, 3-32.

_ .. _, 1989. 'Naming Gayatri Spivak' (an interview with Maria Koundoura),

. Stanford Humanities Review 1,84-97.

__ , 1990. 'Qayatri Spivak on the Politics of the Subaltern' (aninterview with

Howard Winant), Socialist Review 3, 81-97. .

Walton, John, 1989. 'Debt,Protest, and the StateinLati~ln:erica,'in.Pow~r

.and. popular. p. rotesr, ed. Susan Eckst .. ein, Berkeley: .Unryerslty of Caltfor. rua

Press, 299-328. . \

Young, Robert, 1990. White Mythologies: Writing History and the West, New

York: Routledge.



The New Critical Idiom is an invaluable series of introductory guides to today's critical terminology. Each book:

provides a handy, explanatory guide to the use (and abuse) of the term

offers an original and distinctive overview by a leading literary and cultural critic

relates the term to the larger field of cultural representation.

With a strong emphasis on clarity, lively debate and the widest possible breadth of examples, The New Critical Idiom is an indispensable approach to key topics in literary studies.

• See below fornew books in the series.

Cotoniellsm/Postcolonielism by Ania Loomba Cothic by Fred Botting

Historicism by Paul Hamilton

Ideology by David Hawkes

Metre, Rhythm and Verse by Philip Hobsbaum Romanticism by Aidan Day



Ania Loomba




I . i



the conservative and humanist isolation of the literary text from the contexts in which it was produced and circulated.

It has become commonplace to reject .the empiricist divisions between something called 'the real' and something else called 'the ideological' ,and of course the two cannot be bifurcated in any neat fashion. But it is important to keep thinking about the overlaps as well as distinctions between social and literary texts, and about what' we mean by 'textual' and 'discursive'. It is useful too to remind ourselves that discourse IS not simply another word for representations. Rather, discourse analysis involves examining the social and historical conditiOns within which specific representations are generated. The study of colonial discourse ought to lead us towards a fuller understanding of colonial institutions rather than direct us away from them.

In any colonial context, economic plunder, the production of knowledge and·' strategies of representation depended heavily upon one another. Specific ways of seeing and representing racial, cultural and social difference were essential to the setting up of colonial institutions of control, and they also transformed every aspect of European civil society. Guns and disease, as a matter of fact, cannot be isolated from ideological processes of 'othermg' colonial peoples. The gathering of 'information' about nonEuropean lands and peoples and 'Classifying' them in various ways determined strategies for their control. The different stereotypes of the 'mild Hindoo, the 'warlike Zulu', the 'barbarous Turk" the 'New World cannibal', or the 'black rapist' were all generated through particular colonial situations and were tailored to different colonial policies. In Africa and India, by attributing particular characteristics to specific tribes and groups, colonial authorities not only entrenched divisions between the native population, but also used particular 'races' to fill specific occupations such as agricultural workers,soldiers, miners, or domestic servants. In Bulawayo, Tonga, people were forced into a critical dependence on wage labour because they were far away from mines


we might end LIp aestheticizing colonialism, producing a radical chic version of ra' nostalgia' (Dirks 1992..;...2l_ .

,~~l Jan11~~.~c)(1985), ~ (1987) and other critics liave accused postcolonial theorists like Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak of an 'exhorbiration of discourse' - of neglecting material conditions of colonial rule by concentrating on colonial representations. I want to suggest that this tendency has to do with the fact that what is circulated as 'postcolonial theory' has largely emerged from within English literary studies, The meaning of 'discourse' shrinks to 'texr'iand from there to 'literary text' and from there to texts written in English because that is the corpus most familiar to the critics. The recent Post-colonial Studies Rec/de,., for example, aims 'to assist in the revision of teaching practice within literary studies in English' and therefore it is primarily interested in 'the impact of postcolonial literatures and criticism on the current shape of English studies' (Ashcroft et at. 1995: 4). The first problem with this approach is that it limits 'postcolonial literatures' to texts written' in various Englishes. Secondly, postcolonial studies are located entirely within English studies, a location that not only seriously circumscribes the scope of the former, but also has serious implications for its methodology. The isolation of text from context is an old and continuing problem in literary studies. The liberal-humanist orthodoxy placed great literature 'above' politics and society; new criticism privileged words-on-the-page, and even some recent approaches such as deconstruction can continue to think about li terary . texts in Isolation from their contexts. Revisionary English studies, al- . though more inter-disciplinary and contextual, are nor autornati- . cally rid of the isolationist tendency, partly because it is indeed very difficult to work out the connections between representation and reality. And so we have a somewhat paradoxical situation: on the one hand, we can see the power of texts, and read power as a text; on the other hand, colonialism-as-text-can be shrunk to a sphere away from the economic and the historical, thus repeating


and other markets, Thus they became associated with the dirtiest, most physically exacting and lowliest paid kinds of labour, and after a while Europeans maintained that 'the Tonga had an "inborn" affinity to manuallabour'(Ranger 1982: 129).

Of course, stereotypes of races or groups were not consistent over time: following the 1857 rebellion, asdiscussedearlier, the 'mild Hindoo' figure gave way to an image of the Hindu rapist which came much closer to the stereotype of the brute black man generated in the African context. The so-called Cape Boys were initially used by whites in military actions against the Shona and the Ndebele peoples, but once they began to compete with whites as market-gardeners, artisans or transport-drivers, they were stereotyped as uncontrollable drunks (Ranger 1982: 127-128). Stereotypes also work in tandem with pre-colonial power relations. In India they carried strong underpinnings.of caste divisions, for instance, wiliness and cunningwere attributed to upper caste Brahmins, traditionally the keepers of education andlearoing. Various tribal peoples, historically repressed by the upper-castes and already relegated to the margins ofHindu society, were also regarded by the British authorities as less .sophisricared, more warlike, child-like and gullible.

Colonial ethnographies and catalogues of colonial. peoples codified some ofrhese divisions and fed into policy making at various levels. Various institutions and practices were implicated in such a process. For example, photography was pressed into the service of colonial ethnography in the famous The People 0/ India, an eight volume series published in 1868-1875 by the Politics and Secrets Department of the India Office in London which became fundamental reading for colonial administrators. Pre-existing notions of difference were now freshly articulated through nearly 500 photographs supplied by amateurs employed by either the military or the civil govetnment,each accompanied by a brief 'descriptive letterpress'. These volumes attempt to squeeze the bewildering varieties of Indian peoples into categories of caste,



race, religion, and occupation seen not as dynamic and evolving but as a more or less static inheritance from the distant past. The People a/India reveals the attempt both to master colonial subjects . and to represent them as unalterably alien; it thus represents both

the intrusiveness of the colonial gaze and an inability tocomprehend whai: it seeks to codify. These ways of codification were not, however, confined to the British and colonial and native ways of representation played upon and against each other: the Jodhpur census of 1891, commissioned by the Maharajah of Marwar was also organised upon similar caste and tribal divisions and illustrated by black and white photographs.

The linkage between photographic images, ethnographic and quasi-scientific data gathering, census taking and colonial policy underlines the intricate, subtle, and even contradictory, connections. between colonial representations, inst irutions and policies. Recent research has established such connecrlons with respect to scientific knowledge and establishments, theatre and cinema, art,cattography, city planning, mUSel1l11S, educational, legal, and medical institutions, prisons and military establishments, to mention just a few areas. Such studies underline that the cultural, discursive or representational aspects of colonialism need not be thought of at all as functioning at a remove frornirs economic, political or even military aspects. From the very beginning, the use of arms was closely conneCted to the lise of images: English violence in colonial Virginia, for example, was justified by representing the. Native Americans as a violent and rebellious people. Hence from the beginning there was what AbduLJanMohamed calls 'a· profoundly symbiotic relationship between the discursive and the material practices of imperialism' (1985: 64).

In Brian Friel's· play Translations, the colonial struggle in Ireland is represented as a Contest over words and language. Set in a hedge-school in Donegal in 1833, it shows how British cartographers, with Irish help, attempted to transliterate and Anglicise

Postcolonial ~tudles A Materialist Critique

Benita Parry

;1 Routledge

Iil \. Taylor & Francis Group


12 Beginnings, affiliations, disavowals

the formation of the Mexican Communist Party (N. N. Roy); the participation in the ~panish Civil War of African-American volunteers to the Lincoln Brigade; a Caribbean mtellectual (C. L. R. James) who involved himself in both Pan-Mricanism and metropol~tan l~ft p_olitics;. Afi-ic~n insurgents who during the 1970s greeted the rise of popular antl-fascI~m 111 the imperial homeland while engaged in fighting the Portuguese army in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau; an Argentinean (Che Guevara) instrumental in the making of the Cuban insurrection, subsequently a combatant in the antiimperialist Congolese war and then a prime mover of the abortive revolution in Bolivia during which he was killed; a French intellectual (Regis Debray) who was imprisoned for his part in the same uprising; Cuban troops defending the newly independent regimes of Mozambique and Angola against the military incursions of the then South Mrica acting on-behalf of international capitalism.

What these essays are concerned to suggest is that without movinz in a direction where studies of actually existing political, economic and cultural conditions, past and present, are no longer separated from meta-critical speculations, or culture and discourse from histories that have happened or are still in the making, postcolonial studies will remained ensnared in an increasingly repetitive preoccupation with sign systems and the exegetics of representation.

2 Pro bderrrs in current theories of colonial discourse

''''riting of the disparate projects that seek to establish alternative protocols in disciplinary studies, Edward Said finds their common feature to be that all work out of a secular, marginal and oppositional consciousness, posit 'nothing less than new objects of knowledge ... new theoretical models that upset or at the very least radically alter the prevailing paradigmatic norms', and are 'political and practical in a~ much as they intend ... the end of dominating, coercive systems of knowledge'.' The policy ofletting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend, which is condensed in this ecumenical scan of contemporary dissident criticism, can act as a caution against the tendency to disown as necessarily less subversive of the established order, work done within radical traditions other than the most recently enunciated heterodoxies.

Said's own critique of Orientalism, directed at 'dismantling the science of imperialism', has fed into and augmented colonial discourse analysis, itself engendered where literary theory converged with the transgressive writings of women, blacks and antiimperialists in the metropolitan world, and postcolonial interrogations of western canons. The construction of a text disrupting imperialism's authorized version was begun long ago within the political and intellectual cultures of colonial liberation movements, and the counter-discourse developed in this milieu which is known to western academies, read by black activists in the USA and transcribed as armed struggle in the other hemisphere, was written way back in the 1950s by Frantz Fanon, psychiatrist and polemicist, theoretician and guerrilla. Although critics now developing a critique of colonialism do invoke Fanon, this can be a ceremonial gesture to an exemplary and exceptional radical stance where the adversarial rhetoric spoken by .the individual is inseparable from participation in collective action, or a . theoretical engagement with writings that combine political analysis with representative psychoautobiography. It is noticeable that the address does not necess.arily v~lidate· a l~robl:matic enlisting an epistemology of dialectical process, replete WIth notions of alienation, existential freedom and authentic human experience; nor does it invariably read the texts as discourses of emancipation.

The theoretical coordinates to Fanon's thinking were phenomenology and a leftexistentialism penetrated by Marxism, and in his writings Hegelian categories are historicized and politically engaged to expose the construction and structure of colonialist ideology. By disclosing the social andcultural positioning of the preconstitut~d and metaphysical poles of white and bla:k, Fanon's wri~in~ is dir~cted at. lib:ratm~ tl~e consciousness of the oppressed from Its confinement 111 the white man s artefact. 10

14· Problems ill current theories

this end, the dichotomy construed by colonialist thought, white as the sovereign law and black as its transgression, with its attendant chain of naturalized antitheses, is shown to be axiologically fixed in discourse ('Good-Evil, Beauty-Ugliness, White-Blaclc such are the characteristic pairings ... that we shall call "manicheismdelirium" 'l while existentially it operates to deform the dialogical interaction of self with other selves, constitutive of and indispensable to being, and coterminous with consciousness, into the conflictual self-other colonial relationship.

To those concerned with deconstructing the texts of colonialism, Fanon's offensive strategy, directed at repossessing the signifying function appropriated by colonialist representation, could appear as a necessary but insufficient intervention. Critics working from such a position might concede that a procedure identifying the loaded oppositions used to organize colonialism's discursive field does demystify the rhetorical devices of its mode of construction; however, they could argue, a reverse discourse replicating and therefore reinstalling the linguistic polarities devised bya dominant centre to exclude and act against the categorized, does not liberate the 'other' from-a colonized condition, where heterogeneity is repressed in the monolithic figures and stereotypes of colonialist representation, into a free state of polymorphous native 'difference'. To dismantle colonialist knowledge and displace the received narrative of colonialism's moment written by ruling-class historiography and perpetuated by the nationalist version, the founding concepts of the problematic must be refused, Thus Homi Bhabha rejects the notion of the colonial relationship as a symmetrical antagonism on the grounds that the ambivalence of the colonial presence and the object it constitutes 'makes the boundaries of colonial positionality - the division of self! other - and the question of colonial power - the differentiation of colonizer/colonized - different from both the Hegelian masterslave' dialectic - or - the phenomenological projection of "otherness" ,3 In a related vein, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak states: 'I am critical of the binary opposition colonizer! colonized. I try to examine the heterogeneity of "colonial power". and to disclose the complicity of the two poles of that opposition as it constitutes the disciplinary enclave of the critique of imperialism'."

The strategies used in effecting a change of terrain are: to expose how power secretly inheres in colonialism's system of 'natural' differentiations and to show that in the process of producing meaning, these dualisms are undermined and repositioned as interdependent, conjunct, intimate;to clecentre the native as a fixed, unified object of colonialist knowledge through disclosing how colonialism's contradictory mode of address constitutes an ambivalently positioned colonial subject; to dislodge the construct of a monolithic and deliberative colonial authority by demonstrating the dispersed space of power and a disseminated apparatus, wielded by diverse agents and effecting multiple situations and relations; andto dispel the representation of brute, institutional repression by making known the devious techniques of obligation and persuasion with which the native colludes but simultaneously resists. In the territory cleared of metaphysical divisions, undifferentiated identity categories and ontological absolutes which provide the ideological justifications for colonialism's system, criticism then reveals for analysis the differential, variously positioned native - for some critics a self-consolidating other, for others an un consenting and recalcitrant self - and in place of the perman-

( cntly embattled colonial situation constructed by anti-colonialist theory, installs either a silent place laid waste by imperialism's epistemic violence, or an agonistic space within which unequally placed contestants negotiate an' imbalance of power, How then do

Pmblems in CU177!nt theories 15

these deconstructions of colonialism's signifying system act more radically to disrupt the hegemonic discourse than does Fanon's method of exposing, through defamiliarization, the taxonomy of colonialist knowledge in order to break its hold over the oppressed? And what are the politics of projects which dissolve the binary opposition colonial self! colonized other, encoded in colonialist language as a dichotomy necessary to domination, but also differently inscribed in the discourse of liberation as a dialectic of conflict and a call to arms?

In Fanon's writings the colonized as constructed by colonialist ideology is the very figure of the divided subject posited by psychoanalytic theory to refute humanism's myth of a unified self Denied the right to subjectivity, internalizing and refracting the colonizer's address to its other as darkness and negation, alienated from a ravaged natal culture, the colonized is condemned to exist in an inauthentic condition: 'To speak is to exist absolutely for the other ... To speak ... means above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization ... Every colonized people - in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality - finds itself face to face with the language of the civilizing nation; that is, with the culture of the mother country ... To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture'.' The problem Fanon addresses is the constitution of a selfidentity where native difference is validated and which empowers the native to rebel. Thus although distancing himself from a rediscovery of tradition which instead of reconceiving and dynamizing the autochthonous cult-ure from within, violently reaffirms customs and beliefs and resumes the worship of ancestors, Fanon argues that such a resurgence assumes an incomparable subjective importance in effecting a break with the colonized condition: 'On emerging from these passionate espousals, the native will have decided . . . to fight all forms of exploitation and of alienation of man. ,6 Here Fanon's writings intercede to promote the construction of a politically conscious, unified revolutionary self, standing in unmitigated antagonism to the oppressOl~ occupying a combative subject position from which the wretched of the earth are enabled to mobilize an armed struggle against colonial power:

Decolonisation is the meeting of two forces, opposed to each other by their very nature ... Decolonisation is the veritable creation of new men ... the primary Manicheism which governed colonial society is preserved intact during the period of clecolonisation; dlat is to say, the settler never ceases to be the enemy, the opponent, the foe that must be overthrown ... The immobility to which the native is condemned can called into question if the native decides to put an end to the history of colonisation - the history of pillage - and to bring into existence the history of the nation - the history of decolonisation. 7

That a radically subversive move can be effected through the inversion and active alteration of categories by which the hegemonic ideology produces and marginalizes a dominated or deviant group, has been argued by Jonathan Dollimore:

Jacques Derrida reminds us that binary oppositions are 'a violent hierarchy' where one of the two terms forcefully governs the other, A crucial stage in their deconstructioninvolves an overturning, an inversion 'which brings low what was high' .. The political effect of ignoring this stage, of trying. to jump beyond- the hierarchy

16 Problems in current theories

into a world quite free of it, is simply to leave it intact in the only world we have. Both the reversal of the authentic/Inauthentic opposition ... and the subversion of authenticity itself ... are different aspects of overturning in Derrida's sense. Moreover they are stages in a process of resistance. B

Such a process of resistance is initiated by Fanon's oppositional discourse when the definition colonizer/colonized conceived under the old regime of thought is displaced by a different usage of the same term, one invoking implacable enmity both as analysis of a political condition and as a galvanizing political slogan. This gloss on Fanon's theory would not be acceptable to Homi Bhabha, who in his foreword to a new edition of Black Skin, H1/zite Masks, 'Remembering Fanon', locates the insurgency in his writings elsewhere.9 Because for Bhabha no interventionary strategy can derive from an inversion of colonialist Manicheanism, he dissents fr0111 Fanon's reinscription of the colonial self! colonized other ('he is too quick to name the Other, to personalize its presence in the language of colonial racism' (p. xix)), while valorizing those inscriptions when that 'familiar alignment of colonial subjects - Black/White,Self!Other -is disturbed ... and the traditional grounds of racial identity are. dispersed' (p. ix). In a deconstruction ofFanon's text which criticizes Fanon's recourse to Hegelian concepts, the phenomenological. affirmation of self and other and the Marxist dialectic, Bhabha proffers Fanon as a premature poststructuralist:

It is through image and fantasy - those orders that figure transgressively on the borders of history and the unconscious - that Fanon most profoundly evokes the colonial condition. In articulating the problem of colonial cultural alienation in the psychoanalytic language of demand and desire, Fanon radically questions the formation of both individual and social authorityas they COl11e to be developed in the discourse of Social Sovereignty ... In shifting the focus of cultural racism from . the politics of nationalism to the politics of narcissism, Fanon opens up' a margin of interrogation that causes a subversive slippage of identity and authority, , (pp; xiii, xxiv)

This reading rescues Fallon as theorist of the ideology of cultural representation as well as retrieving his radical insights into the politics of race/sexuality and the 'complexity of psychic projections in the pathological colonial relationship' (p. xx) from appropriations which would claim him as the author of univocal propaganda tracts, But does it not also annex Fanon to Bhabha's own theory? By displacing Fanon's work fromione political moment or movement', relegating' the extent to which it 'historicizes the colonial experience' and privileging the agonism and uncertainty of the colonial relationship over Fallon's specifications ofrelentless conflict, Bhabha's construction shifts the political chargc of the text from inscriptions urging the colonized to insurrection in the uncertain hope of a transformed condition beyond the imperialist world order - a revolutionary impulse which Bhabha reads as Fanon's 'desperate, doomed search for a dialectic of deliverance' (p. x) - to Fanon's meditation on the ambivalent identification, black skin, white masks, which makes it possible 'to redeem the pathos of cultural confusion into a strategy of political subversion' (p. xxii), Such a reading'; where aspects of Black Skin, l'I1hite Masks congenial to Bhabha's deconstructive practice are abstracted [rom the body of Fanon's writings - within which this privileged mode can be seen as a

Problems in current theories 17 provisional exploration of the colonial syndrome that was subsequently directed, 'with the poetry intact, towards cultural analysis and programmes for political action _ obscures Fallon's paradigm of the colonial condition as one of implacable enmity between native and invader, making armed opposition both a cathartic and a pragmatic necessity.

Fanon's anti-colonialist critique, read as a text of resistance and liberation is the principal landmark from which AbdulJanlVlohamed's Manichean Aesthetics: The P~litics if Literature in Colonial .fij1icalo takes its theoretical bearings, and the divide between the problematic within 'which his study is developed, and the work of poststructuralist critics who propose a model of colonialism at critical points incommensurable with the terms of Fanon's theory, can be used to bring different analyses of colonial discourse into focus. Here the proviso must be that neitherJanMohamed's mode of ideological analysis nor the work of Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak, which will be discussed as instances of de constructive practice, are to be taken as representative, but rather as

, particular performances of methods with divergent notions of textual politics and criticism's emancipator), role. Because those engaged in deconstructing colonialist knowledge necessarily connect the. signifying system to social forces, and overtly ally their writings with the. victims of imperialism's violence, the charge of political quietism cannot be levelled against their work, which like ideological criticism positions itself as implementing a politics of reading. II

What then is the politics, on the one hand, of a criticismthat sets out to identify both the dominant and oppositional ideologies embedded in texts as expressions, transformations and functions of an extra-linguistic situation, and on the other, of textual paradigms where discourse is privileged as the primary form of social praxis and which seek to expose the making, operation anel effects of ideology by stirring up and dispersing the sedimented meanings dormant in texts? There is moreover a further political question to be. asked of colonial discourse theory itself as it is now constituted: can a practice which is predominantly concerned with the text of colonial authority which does not address itself to colonialism's culture and neglects to engage with its heterogeneous system of knowledge, produce, as it Claims, a critique displacing the west's 'white mythology'? Since this essay questions the parameters within which colonial discourse analysis works, it seemsimperative to acknowledge its signal achievement in moving the discussion away from the colonialist text as an authentic portrayal of reality, to the system of ideological representation which such writing produced.

Before the intervention of this analysis - and despite the protests of a long-standing scholarship exposing the western-centric images and suppositions of the 'ethnographical nove!,12 - the study of colonialist writing was ruled over by a liberal criticism which from an untold landmass had carved out aterritory it named The Literature of Empire or The Colonial Fiction, to hold in thrall generations of self-professed anticolonialist scholars and students ill both the metropolitan and postcolonial worlds. Affiliated to the hegemonic explanatory order and written within the same ideological code as the discourse of colonialism, this putative oppositional discussion rebuked colonialism as the unacceptable. face of' western., civilization, while endorsing the affirmations and prohibitions authorized by the culture pursuing and implementing colonial power.

The commentaries of this school thus succeeded both in splitting the notion of colonialism from that of an expansionist western capitalism, and in underwriting a way

18 Problems in current theories

of dividing the world invented by colonial discourse. Mimeticism was the name of its interpretative mode; establishing the historical accuracy, psychological truthfulness and humanist perceptions of the fictions, its game. The verisimilitude was checked out against other fabrications - the books, reports, surveys, treatises and ruminations written by 'western scholars, colonial civil servants, army officers, missionaries, journalists, explorers' and travellers. The ethics were judged by the effort to understand the incomprehensible ways of the native, or the censure delivered at colonialist unkindness and insensitivity Because the critics shared the cultural assumptions and commitments of the fictions they were discussing, they were unable in their gloss to, distance themselves from inscriptions of the colonial worlds as deviant; and by colluding in displacing a conflictual political relationship with a metaphysical and moral contest" their exegesis constituted itself as yet another discourse of colonialism. A contiguous disciplinary mode of occluding tl~e structure of domination in an embattled colonialist past and of mystifying the continuing asymmetricalnexus between the hegemonic centres and their peripheries, has been procured by 'commonwealth studies' and its progeny 'commonwealth literature', where the choice of an anodyne name denoting a multi-cultural community existing ill perfect harmony, acts to suggest that there exists an association of diverse peoples joined together in a past of common endeavour and a present of

shared purpose. ,

Having freed the study of colonialist writing from an empiricist criticism and a liberal politics to disclose the ideological construction of colonialism's objects of knowledge, colonial discourse analysis has generateclits own theoretical difficulties. One problem,I would suggest, hinges on a model of colonial discourse overwhelmingly concerned with processes of othering which is detached from the more extensive and multivalent discursive practices of the imperial project. When the writing of an alternative history of colonialism on theoretical grounds refuses the authority of, official western' historiography, rejects a Marxist version charged with 'reducing out imperialism-as-history', and d~stances itself from Iiberationisthistories accused of weaving a seamless narrative, but does not produce its own account of change, cliscontinuity, differential periods and particular social conflicts, there is a danger of distinctive moments being homog-enized. Thus colonialism as a specific, and the most spectacular, mode of the imperial project's many and mutable states, one which preceded the rule of international finance capitalism and in mutated forms has survived its formal ending, is treated as identical with all the variable forms.

Since the colonial space is taken to be coextensive with the entire discursive zone of the imperial project, the constitution of the European self, by defining and encoding its colonies as other; is privileged over Europe's diverse modes of self-presentation that were reassembled in the triumphalist culture of colonialism-as-imperialism, and in permuted form has persisted in a cultural hegemony where western norms and values are equated with universal forms of thought.Tor Spivak the 'axiomatics of imperialism' an'; an unspecified 'territorial and subject constituting project'; and Bhabha's engagement with the civil discourse of England's liberal conservative imperialist culture is restricted to examining how the text of post-enlightenment civility alienated its own language in normalizing the colonial state or subject. The other notable absence in theorizing colonial discourse is a necessary consequence of analytical strategies which in focusing on the deconstruction of the colonialist text, either erase the voice of the native or limit native resistance to devices circumventing and interrogating

Problems in current theories 19 colonial authority. Positions against the nostalgia for lost origins as a basis for counterhegemonic ideological production (Spivak), or the self-righteous rhetoric of resistance (Bhabha), have been extended toa downgrading of the anti-imperialist texts written bynational liberation movements; while the notion of epistemic violence and the occluding of reverse discourses have obliterated the role of the native as historical subject and combatant, possessor of other knowledges and producer of alternative traditions.

The work of Spivak and Bhabha will be discussed to suggest the productive capacity and limitations of their different deconstructive. practices, and to propose that the protocols of their dissimilar methods act to constrain the development of a radical anticolonial critique in which resistance is privileged. It will be argued that the lacunae in Spivak's learned disquisitions issuefrom a theory assigning an absolute power, to the hegemonic discourse in constituting and disarticulating the native. In essays that are to form a study on master discourse! native informant," Spivak inspects 'the absence of a text that can "answer one back" after the planned epistemic violence of the imperialist project' ('The Rani of Sirmur', p. 131), and seeks to develop a strategy of reading that will speak to the historically muted native subject, predominantly inscribed in Spivak's writings as the non-elite or subaltern woman. A refrain, 'One never encounters the testimony of the women's voice-consciousness', 'There is no space from where the subaltern (sexed,) subject can speak', 'The subaltern as female cannot be heard or read', 'The subaltern cannot speak' ('Can the Subaltern Speak', pp. 122, 129-130), iterates a theoretical, dictum derived from studying- the discourse of Sati, in 'which the Hindu patriarchal code converged with colonialism's narrativization ofIndian culture to efface all traces of woman's voice. '

What Spivak uncovers are instances of doubly oppressed native women who, caught between the clominations ofa native patriarchy and a foreign masculinist-imperialist ideology, intervene by 'unemphatic, ad hoc, subaltern rewriting(s) of the social text of Sati -suicide' ('Canthe Subaltern Speak', p. 129): a nineteenth-century princess who appropriates 'the dubious place of the free will of the sexed subject as female' ('The Rani of Sirmur', p. 144) by signalling her intention of being a Sati against the edict of the British administration; a young Bengali girl who in 1926 hanged herself uncler circumstances that deliberately defied Hindu interdicts ('Can the Subaltern Speak'). From the discourse of Sati, Spivak derives large, general statements on woman's subject constitution/ object formation in which the subaltern woman is conceived as a homogeneous ancl coherent category, and which culminate in a declaration on the success of her planned disarticulation. Even within the confines of this same discourse, it is significant that Lata Mani does find evidence, albeit mediated, of woman's voice." Aq Chandra Talpade lVlohanty argues in her critique of western feminist writings on 'Third World ''''omen',15 discourses of representation should not be confused with material realities. Since the native woman is constructed within multiple social relationships and positioned, as the product of different class, caste and cultural specificities, it should be possible to locate traces and testimony of women's voice on those sites where women inscribed themselves as healers, ascetics, singers of sacred songs, artisans and artists, and by this to moclify Spivak's moclelof the silent subaltern.

If it could appear that Spivak is theorizing the silence of the doubly oppressed subaltern woman, her theorem on imperialism's epistemic violence extends to positing

20 Problems in current theories

the native, male and female', as a historically muted subject. The story of colonialism which she reconstructs is of an interactive process where the European agent, in consolidating the imperialist sovereign self, induces the native to collude in its own subjcct(ed) formation as other and voiceless. Thus while protesting at the obliteration of the native's subject position in the text of imperialism, Spivak in her project gives no speaking part to the colonized, effectively writing out the evidence of native agency recorded in India's two-hundred-yearstruggle against British conquest and the R~ - discourses to which she scathingly refers as hegemonic nativist or reverse ethnocentric narrativization.

The disparaging of nationalist discourses of resistance is matched by the. exorbitation of the role allotted to the postcolonial woman intellectual, for it is she who must plot a story, unravel a narrat-ive and give the subaltern a voice in history, by using 'the resources of deconstruction "in the service of reading" to develop a strategy rather than a theory of reading that might be a critique of imperialism' (Tmperialism and Sexual Difference', p. 230). Spivak's 'alternative narrative of colonialism', through a series-of brilliant upheavals of texts which expose the fabrications and exclusions in' the. writing of the archive, is directed at challenging the authority of the received historical record and restoring the effaced signs of native consciousness, and it is on these grounds that her project should be estimated. Her account, it is claimed, disposes of the old story by dispersing the fixed, unitary categories on which this depended, Thus it is argued that for purposes of administration and exploitation of resources, the native was constructed as a programmed, 'nearly-selved' other of the European and not as its binary opposite. Furthermore, the cartography that became the 'reality' of India was drawn by agents who were themselves of heterogeneous class origin and social status and whose (necessarily) diversified maps distributed the native into differential positions which worked ill the interest of the foreign authority ~ for example, a fantasmatic race-differentiated historical demography restoring 'rightful' Aryan rulers, and a class discourse effecting

the proto-proletarianization of the 'aborigines'. -

Instead of recounting a struggle between a monolithic, near-deliberative colonial power and an undifferentiated oppressed mass, this reconstruction displays a process more insidious than naked repression, since here the native is prevailed upon to, internalize as self-knowledge, the knowledge concocted by the master: 'He (the European agent) is worlding their own world) which is far from mere uninscribed earth, anew, by obliging them to domesticate the alien as Master', a process generating the force 'to make the "native" see himself as "other" , ('The Rani of Sirrnur', p. 133).-Where military conquest, institut-ional compulsion andideological interpellation was, epistemic violence and devious discursive negot-iations requiring of the nat-ive that he rewrite his position as 'object of imperialism, is; and in place .of recalcitrance ancl refusal articulated in oppositional discourses and enacted in movements of resistance, a tale is told of the self-consolidating other and the disarticulated subaltern,

This raw and selective summary of what are complex and sub tie arguments has tried to draw out the political implications of a theory whose axioms deny to the native the ground from which to utter a reply to colonialism's ideological aggression or to enunciate a different self:

No perspective critical of imperialism can turn the Other into a self, because the project of imperialism has always already historically refracted what might have

Problems in current theories 21 been the absolutely Other into a domesticated Other that consolidates the imperialist self ... A full literary inscription cannot easily flourish in the imperialist fracture or discontinuity, covered over by an alien legal system masquerading as Law as such, an alien ideology established as only truth, and a set of human sciences busy establishing the native 'as self-consolidating Other'.

('Three Women's Texts and a Crit-ique of Imperialism', pp. 253-254-)

In bringing this thesis to her reading of Wide Sargasso SealG as Jane E)re's reinscription, Spivak demonstrates the pitfalls of a theory postulat-ing that tile master discourse preempts the (self) constitution of the historical native subject: When Spivak's notion is juxtaposed to the question Said asks in Orientalism, 'how can one study other cultures andp~oples from a libertarian, or anon-repressive and non-manipulative perspective?'," andJean Rhys's novel is examined for its enunciation (despite much incidental racism) of just such a perspective which facilitates the transformation of the other into a self, then' it. is possible to construct a re-reading of Wide Sargasso Sea iterating many of Spivak's observations while disputing her founding precepts.

Spivak argues that because the construction of an English cultural identity was inseparable from othering the native as its object, the articulation of the female subject within tile emerging norm of feminist individualism during the age of imperialism necessarily excluded the native female, who was positioned on the boundary between human and animal as the object of imperialism's social-mission or soul-making. In applying this interactive process to her reading of T'f1ide Sargasso Sea, Spivak assigns to Antoinette/Bertha, daughter of slave-owners and heiress to a postemancipation fortune, the role of the native female sacrificed in the cause of the subject-eenstitution of the European ·female individualist. Although Spivak does acknowledge that f;flide Sargasso Sea is a novel which rewrites a canonical English text within the European novelistic tradition in the interest of the white creole rather than the native' ('Three ''''omen's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism', p. 253), and while she does situate Antoinette/Bertha as caught between the English imperialist and the black Jamaican,· her discussion does not pursue the text's representations of a creole culture that is dependent on both yet singular, or its enunciat-ion of a distinctive settler discourse; The dislocations of the creole position are repeatedly spoken by Antoinette, tlle 'Rochester' figure and Christophine; the nexus of intimacy and hatred between white . settler and black servant is written into the text in the mirror imagery of Antoinette and Tia, a trope. which for Spivak functions to invoke the other that could not be selved: ""'e had eaten. the same food, slept side by side.. bathed in the same river, As I ran, I thought, I. will live with Tia and I will be like. her , .. ''''hen' I was close I saw the jagged stone in her hand but did not see her throw it .. , I looked at her and I saw her face crumble as she began to Gr)C 'Ve stared at each other, blood on face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking-glass' (J;l1ide Sargasso p. 2L1). But while themselves not English, and indeed outcastes, the creoles are mastersto the blacks, and just as Bronte's book invites the reader via Rochester to see the creole Bertha Mason as situated on the humanv'animal frontier ('One night I had awakened by her yells . . . It was a fierce "\Test Indian night ... those are the sounds of a bottomless pit', quoted in 'Three "\Tomen's Texts and a Crit-ique of Imperialism', pp. 247-248), so does Rhys's novel via Antoinette admit her audience to the regulation settler view of rebellious blacks: 'the same face repeated over and over,

22 Problems in current theories

eyes gleaming, mouth half-open', emitting 'a horrible noise .. -. like animals howling but worse' (J;J.1ide Sargasso Sea, pp. 32, 35).

The idiosyncrasies of an account where Antoinette plays the part of 'the woman from the colonies' are consequences of Spivak's decree that colonialism's linguistic aggression obliterates the inscription of a native self: thus a black female who in Wide Sargasso Sea is most fully selved must be reduced to the status of a tangential figure, and a white creole woman (mis)construed as the native female produced by 'the axiomatics of imperialism', her death interpreted as 'an allegory of the generalepistemic violence of imperialism, the construction of a self-immolating subject for the glorification of the social mission of the colonizer' ('Three 'Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism', p, 251). "'''hile allowing that Christophine is both speaking subject and interpreter to whom Rhys designates some crucial functions, Spivak sees her as marking the limits of the text'sdiscourse, and riot, as is here argued, disrupting it.

What Spivak's strategy of reading necessarily blots out isChristophine's inscription as the native, female, individual self who defies the demands of the discriminatory discourses impinging on her person. Although an ex-slave given as a wedding present to Antoinette's mother and subsequently a caring servant, Christophine subverts-the creole address that would constitute her as domesticated other; and asserts herself as articulate antagonist of patriarchal, settler and colonialist law. Natural mother to children and surrogate parent to Antoinette, Christophine scorns patriarchal authority in her personallife by discarding her patronymic aneLrefusing her sons' fathers as husbands; as Antoinette's protector she impugns 'Rochester' for hiseconomic and sexual exploitation of her fortune and person, and as female individualist she is eloquently and frequently contemptuous of male conduct, black and white, A native in command of the invaders' language - 'She could speak good English if she wanted to, and French as well as patois' (FVi'de Sargasso Sea, p. 18) - Christophinc appropriates English to the local idiom and uses this dialect to deride the post-emancipation rhetoric which enabled the English to condemn slavery as unjust while enriching themselves through legitimized forms exploitation: 'No more slavery! She had to laugh! These new ones have Letter of Law. Same thing. They got Magistrate. They got fine. They got jail house and chain gang. They got tread machine to mash up people's feet. New Ones worse than old onesmore cunning, that's all' (T/Vide Sargasso Sea, pp. 22-23). 'Andas an obeah woman, Christophine is mistress of another knowledge dangerous to colonialism's official

epistemology and the means of native cultural disobedience. IB . •

Christophinc's defiance is not enacted in a S111all and circumscribed space appropriatec! within the lines of the dominant code, but is a stance from which she delivers a frontal assault against antagonists, and as such constitutes a discourse that answers back. Wise to the limits of post-emancipation justice, she is quick to invoke the protection of its 1mI' when 'Rochester.threatens her with retribution: 'This is free country and I free woman' (Wide Sargasso Sea, p. 131) - which is exactly how she functions in the text, her retort to him condensing her role as the. black, female individualist: . 'Read and write 1 don't know. Other things I know' (WideSarga.sso Sea,p.133; emphasis added). In Spivak's reconstruction, Christophine's departure from the story after this declaration and well before the novel's end is without narrative and characterological explanation or justice. But if she is read as the possessor and practitioner of an alternative tradition challenging colonialism's authorized cognitive system, then' her exit at. this point appears both logical and entirely in character:

Problems in current theories 23 'England,' said Christophine.who was watching me. 'You.think there is such a place?'

'How can you ask that? You know there is.' .

'I never see the damn place, how I know?'

'You do not believe that there is a country called England?' . . . .

'I don't say I don't believe, I say I don't know. I know what I see with my eyes and I never see if'

(Wide Sargasso Sea, p. 92) .

This articulation of empiricism's farthest reaches spoken by ablack woman who knows from experience that her powders, potions and maledictions are effective in the West Indies, undoes through its excess the rationalist version valorized by the English, while at the same time it acknowledges the boundaries to the power of her knowledge. Officially condemned and punishable in Jamaica - 'Rochester' tries to intimidate Christophine with mention of magistrates and police - this wisdom of the black communities is assimilated into creole culture.Antoinette calls on and has faith in its potency. But when the novel transfers to England, Christophine must leave the narrative, for there the writ of her craft does not run, which is why after making her statement, 'She walked awa)i without looking back' (T+'i:de Sargasso Sea, p. 133).

Spivak's deliberated deafness to the native voice, where it is to be heard, is at variance with her acute hearing of the unsaid in modes of Western feminist criticismwhich, while dismantling masculinist constructions, reproduce and foreclose colonialist structures and axioms by 'performing the lie of constituting a truth of global sisterhood where the mesmerizing model remains male and female sparring partners of generalizable or universalizable sexuality who are the chief protagonists in that European contest' ('Imperialism and Sexual Difference', p. 226). Demanding of disciplinary standards that 'equal rights of historical, geographical, linguistic specificity' be granted to the 'thoroughly stratified larger theatre of the Third World' (p. 238), Spivak in her own writings severely restricts (eliminates?) the space in which the colonized can be written back into history, even when 'interventionist possibilities' are exploited through the deconstructive strategies devised: by the postcolonial intellectual,

Homi Bhabha on the other hand, through recovering how the master discourse was interrogated by the natives in theirown accents, produces an autonomous position for the colonial within the confines of the hegemonic discourse, and because of this enunciates a very different 'politics'. The sustained effort of writings which initially concentrated on deconstitutingthe structure of colonial discourse, and which latterly have engaged with the displacement of this text by the inappropriate utterances of the colonized, has been to contest the notion Bhabha considers to be implicit in Said's Otientalism, that power and discourse is possessed entirely by the colonizer. I!! Bhabha reiterates the proposition of anti-colonialist writing that the objective of colonial discourse is to construe the colonized as a racially degenerate population in order to justify conquest and rule. However, because he maintains that relations of power and knowledge function ambivalently, he argues that a discursive system split in enunciation constitutes a dispersed and variously positioned native who by (mislappropriating the terms of the' dominant ideology. is . able to intercede against and resist this mode of construction.

In dissenting from analysis ascribing an intentionality and unidirectionaliry to colonial power, which, in Said's words, enabled Europe to advance unmetaphorically upon

r! t [!

24. Problems in current theories 11 Problems in current theories 25

the Orient Bhabha insists that this not only ignores representation as a concept articu-I~ conflict with its means of social control, so that the incompatibility of the ideas of lating both the historical and the fantasmatic, but unifies the subject of colonial ~nunci-!: English liberty and British imperialism is exposed: 'in "normalizing" the colonial state ation in a fixed position as the passive object of discursive domination. By revealmg the Ii ~r subject; the dream of post-Enlightenment civility alienates its own language of multiple and contradictory articulations in colonialism's address, Bhabha as con- ~ liberty and produces another knowledge of its norms'(,Of Mimicry and Man: the temporary critic seeks to demonstrate the limits .of it~ discursive l~ov:Ter an~ to ~o~n.ter- t·, Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse', p, 126).

mand its demand 'that its discourse (be) non-dialogic, Its enunciation unrtary (SIgns b The process of deconstructing the text of colonial authority is completed by the taken for ·Wonders', p. 100); and by showing the. wide range of stereotypes and the 11 product of this discourse. Where Spivak,· in inspecting the absence of a text that can shifting subject p~sitions a~signed to tl~e cO~01:ized in the co!onialist ~ex~, he sets out to t~ answerback after the planned epistemic violence of the imperialist project, finds pockliberate the colonial from Its debased mscnpuon as Europe s monolithic and shackled! ets of non-cooperation in 'the dubious place of the free will of the (female) sexed other and into an autonomous native 'difference' .20 However, this reappropriation,il subject'('The Rani ofSirmur', p. 144), Bhabha produces for scrutiny a discursive although effected by the deconstructions of the postcolonial intell~ctual, is made pos-I! situation making for-recurrent instances of transgression performed by the native from sible by uncovering how the master-discourse had already been 11lterr~gated .by the ~ within and against colonial discourse. Here the auto-colonization of the native who colonized in native accents. For Bhabha, the subaltern has spoken, and hIS readmgs of ~n:e.e:s;he requirem.ents of col~nialist address !s coextensive with the evasions and 'sly the colonialist text recover a native voice. ! civility . through which the native refuses to satisfy the demand of the colonizer's narra-

Throuzh transferring psychoanalytic propositions onthe constitution of the subject~. tive. This concept of mimicry has since been further developed in the postulate of to the COl~1Position of the text, Bhabha deconstrncts the cO~lflict~al ~conomy of col~nial ! 'hybridity' as the problematic of colonial discourse.

discourse to expose its recognition and disavowal of racIal/hI~to~·Ical/ ~ultural. differ-I Bhabha contends that when .rearticulated by the native, the colonialist desire for a ence; and by using Foucault's notion of an apparatus of power within which relatron.s ofl reformed, recognizable, nearly similar other is enacted as parody, aclramatization to be knowledge and power are always a strategic response to .an urgent need at a givenidistinguished from the exercise of dependent colonial relations through narcissistic historical moment, Bhabha specifies the force of colonial discourse as the need 'to j identification. For in the 'hybrid moment' what the native rewrites is not a copy of the contest sino·ularities of difference and to articulate modes of differentiation' ('Differ-l colonialist original, but a qualitatively different thing-in-itself, where misreadings and ence, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism', p. 201). The production of the 1 incongruities expose the uncertainties and ambivalences of the colonialist text and deny colonial as a fixed reality, at once other and knowable, is interpreted as analogous to the! it an authorizing presence. Thus a textual insurrection against the discourse of colonial

. Freudian fable of fetishism, while the field of identification within which the stereotype! authority is located in the natives' interrogation of the English book within the terms of is located as all. arrested, fetishistic mode of representation is correlatedwith the] . their own system of cultural meanings, a displacement which is read back from the

Lacanian schema of the imaginary: 1 record written by colonialism's agents and ambassadors:

The construction of colonial discourse is then a complex articulation of thel tropes. of fetishism - metaphor and metonymy - and the forms of narcissistic a~ldl aO"gressive identification available to the imaginary ... One has then a repertoire I of conflictual positions that constitute the subject in colonial discourse. The tak-J ing up of anyone position, within a specific c)iscursive ~orm, in a pa~·ticularj historical conjuncture,is then. always problematic - the SIte of both fixity and1

fantasy.' i

('Difference, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism', p. 204);

. '

. . I

In this account relations of power are theorized in terms of psychoanalytic c~tegor~esjj and native resistance is limited to its returning the look of surveillance as thedlsplacmgj gaze of the disciplined. Bhabha has subsequently extended the gl'ound of the cliscuss~odf to examining the textual production of difference by introducing the notion of'mlm'l icry' as both 'a strategy of colonial subjection t~1rou~h reform, .reg~la~i01~ and disciJ)liI~e;~ which "appropriates" the Other' ,and the native's inappropriate imitanons of this dIS-J! course which have the effect of menacing colonial authority." Here Bhabhai reconstructs a twofold process of displacement. In the slippage between .th: enunciationJ of the western sign and its colonial significance, the strategies of colomal:st ~mowledgel are undermined. As the civil discourse of a culturally cohesive comrnumty IS mutated' into the text of a civilizing mission, its enunciatoryassutnptions are revealed tobe in!

Through the natives' strange questions it is possible to see, with historical hindsight, what they resisted in questioning the presence of the English - as religious mediation and as cultural and linguistic medium ... To the extent to which discourse is a form .of defensive warfare, then mimicry marks those moments of civil disobedience within the discipline of civility: signs of spectacular resistance. When the words of the master become the site of hybridity - the warlike sign of the native then we may not only read between the lines, but even seek to change the often coercive reality that they so lucidly contain.

('Signs taken for Wonders', pp, 101, 104)

Despite a flagrantly ambivalent presentation which leaves it vulnerable to innocent misconstruction, Bhabha's theorizing succeeds in making visible those moments when colonial discourse, already disturbed at its source by a doubleness of enunciation, is further subverted by the object of its address; when the scenario written by colonialism is given a performance by the native that estranges and undermines the colonialist script. The argument is not that the colonized possesses colonial poweI~ but that its fracturing of the colonialist text by rearticulating it in broken English perverts the meaning and message of the English book ('insignia of colonial authority and signifier of colonial desire and discipline', 'Signs taken for Wonders', p. 89) and therefore makes an absolute exercise of power impossible,

26 Problems in current theories

A narrative which delivers the colonized from its discursive status as the illegitimate and refractory foil to Europe, into a position of 'hybridity' from which it is able to circumvent, challenge and refuse colonial authority, has no place for atotalizing notion of epistcmic violence. Nor does the conflictual economy of the colonialist text allow for the unimpeded operation of discursive aggression: ',,,That is articulated in the doubleness of colonial discourse is not the violence of one powerful nation writing out another [butJa mode of contradictory utterance that ambivalently re-inscribes both coloniz:r and colonized'.22 The effect of this thesis is to displace the traditional anti-colonialist representation of antagonistic forces locked in struggle with a configuration of discursive transactions: 'The place of difference arid otherness, or the space of the adversarial, within such a system of "disposal" as I've proposed, is never entirely on the outside or implacably oppositional' ('Signs taken for Wonders', P: 95). Like Spivak's alternative narrative, Bhabha's interrogation of received historical authority takes place on the territory of colonial cliscourse itself, and since colonial povver is theorized here as

a textual function, it follows that the pi'operfonn of combat for a politically engaged critical practice is to disclose the construction of the signifying system and thereby 1 deprive it of its mandate to rule: I

If the effect of colonial power is seen to be the production of hybridisation rather I than the hegemonic command of colonial authority or. the silent repression of I native traditions, then an important change of perspective occurs. Itreveals~he I ambivalence at the source of traditional discourse and enables a form of subversion] founded on that uncertainty, that turns the discursive conditions of dominance illtoi the grounds of intervention. . . i

(,Signs taken for Wonders', lj· 97) I,

Problems in current theories 27

·"Vithin ,another critical mode which also rejects totalizing abstracts of power as falsifying situations of domination and subordination, the notion of hegemony is inseparable from that of a counter-hegemony. In this theory of power and contest, the process of procuring the consent of the oppressed and the marginalized to the existing structure of relationships through ideological inducements necessarily generates dissent and resistance, since the subject is conceived as being constituted by means of incommensurable solicitations and heterogeneous social practices. The outcome of this antagonistic exchange, in which those addressed challenge their interlocutors, is that the dominant discourse is ultimately abandoned as scorched earth when a different discourse, forged in the process of disobedience and combat, occupying new, never-colonized and utopian territory, and prefiguring other relationships, values and aspirations, is enunciated. At a time when dialectical thinking is not the rage amongst colonial discourse theorists, it is instructive to recall how Fanon's interrogation of European powerand native insurrection reconstructs a process of cultural resistance and cultural disruption, participates in writing a text that can answer colonialism back, and anticipates a condition beyond imperialism: 'Face to face with the white man, the Negro has a past to legitimate, a vengeance to extract ... In no way should I dedicate myself to the revival of an unjustly unrecognized Negro civilization. I will not make myself a man of the past ... I am not a prisoner of history ... it is only by going beyond the historical, instrumental hypothesis that I will initiate the cycle of my freedom' (Black Skin, White Masks, pp. 225~226,229, 231).

The enabling conditions for Fanon's analysis are that an oppositional discourse born in political struggle, and at the outset invoking the past in protest agaillst capitulating to the colonizer's denigrations, supersedes a commitment to archaic native traditions at the same time as itrejects colonialism's system of knowledge:

Those who have been or are still engaged in colonial struggles against contemporary I forms of neo-colonialism could well read the theorizing of discourse analysts with ! considerable disbelief at the construction this puts on the situation. they are fighting l against and the contest in which they are engaged. This is ~10t a cha:'ge against ~he ! difficulty of the analyses but an observation that these alternative narratives of colol1lal~ ! ism obscure the 'murderous and decisive struggle between two protagonists',23 and j discount or write out the counter-discourses which every liberation movement has! recorded. The significant differences in the critical practices of Spivak and Bhabha arel submerged in a shared programme marked by the exorbitation of discourse andal related incuriosity about the enabling socio-economic and political institutions and i other forms of·social praxis. Furthermore, because their theses aclmitof no point! outside of discourse from which opposition can be engendered, thoirprojcct is con- ! cerned to place incendiary devices within the dominant structures of representation and i not to confront these with a different knowledge. For Spivak, imperialism's epistemic J bellicosity decimated the olel culture and left the colonized without the ground from ~ While conceding the necessity of defending the past in a move away from unqualified which they could utter confrontational words; for Bhabha, the stratagemsan<:i subter- S assimilation of the occupying power's culture, Fanon recognizes the limitations on the fuges to which the native resorted, destablized the effectivity of the English book but did) writer and intellectual who utilizes 'techniques and language which are borrowed from not write an alternative text - with whose constitution Bhabha declines to engage, j. the strangerin his country'. Such transitional writing, reinterpreting old legends 'in the maintaining that anm:ti-~olonialist discourse 'I:e~":ir~s an altern~tiv:: o.fquestions,! light of a borrowed aestheticism and of a conception of the world which was discovered techniques and strategies 111 order to construct It (Difference, Discrirriination and the I under other skies', is for Fanon but a prelude to a literature of combat which 'will ... n:"~~.".oo ~r r:"l"n;~li~ni'. n. 198), :, disrupt literary styles and themes ... create a completely new public' and mould the

The colonialist bourgeoisie ... had in fact deeply implanted in· the minds of the colonized intellectual that the essential qualities remain eternal in spite of all the blunders men may make: the essential qualities of the ''''est, of course. The native intellectual accepted the cogency of these ideas and deep down in his brain you couldalways find a vigilant sentinel re ady to defend the Greco-Latin pedestal. Now it so happens that during the struggle for liberation, at the moment that the native intellectual comes into touch again with his people, this artificial sentinel is turned into dust. All the Mediterranean values, - the triumph of the human individual, of clarity and of beauty - become lifeless, colourless knick-knacks. All those speeches seem like collections of de ad words; those values which seemed to uplift the soul are revealed as worthless, simply because they have nothing to do with the concrete conflict in which the, people is engaged.

(The Wi'etched of the Earth, pp. 37-38)

28 Problems in current theories

national consciousness, 'giving it form and con to ill'S and flinging open before it new and boundless horizons'r" Fanon's theory projects a development inseparable from a community's engagement in combative social action,' during which a native contest initially enunciated in the invaders' language culminates in a rejection of colonialism's signifying system. This is a move which colonial discourse theory has not taken on board, for such a process to be investigated, a cartography o"rcolonial ideology more extensive than its address in the colonialist space, as well as a conception of the native as historical subject and agent of an oppositional discourse,is needed.

The problem has been recognized by Abdul JanMohamed in his essay 'The Economy of Manichean Allegory: the Function of Racial Difference in Colonialist Literature', where he argues that because the indigenous peoples during colonialism's dominant period were subjugated by military coercion and bureaucratic control, the ideological function of such writing 'must be understood ... in terms of the exigencies of domestic, that is European and colonialist politics and culture' (pp. 62-63). If such a perspective condemns the colonized in the age of imperial conquest and consolidation to a condition of passive consent, it does serve as a necessary reminder that colonialism was a protean phenomenon and its discursive violence inseparable from material and institutional force. Manichean Aesthetics: the Politics qf Luerature in Colonial Afiica, however, which studies the anglophone fiction of colonial Africa in the hegemonic phase, and is itself open to the charge of failing to specify imperialism as a moment of colonialism, belongs with colonial discourse analysis. As such its contribution to the area study will be discussed as a mode of ideological analysis seeking to make known the relations of the text to the objective conditions within which it is produced, and concerned to demonstrate the generation of counter-hegemonic discourses interrogating European representations. Fanon's account of colonialism's Manichean and conflictual structure provides the theoretical ground on which JanMohmned constructs a thesis of the 'Manichean allegory' as the central trope of the discursive field within which colonialist literature is written and African fiction initiates its antagonistic dialogue. Rejecting the insistence of liberal criticism on parity between English and African writing, JanMohamed maintains that each fulfils a different ideological function, the one 'solving' contradictions in order to secure a coherent colonialist world and thereby justify . the established ascendancy, the other making known the conflicts afflicting this world

and through realist representations of Africa's cultures, wiping out the negative ancl

derogatory images purveyed by European literature. . .

Both Spivak and Bhabha haverepudiated efforts to rebut colonialist misconstructions with valorizations of native traditions..For Spivak, the 'nativist' attempt driven by talgia for lost origins' to restore the sovereign self of the colonies, cannot grounds for counter-hegemonic ideological production and is not a model for interventionist practice." In a related but different argument Bhabha maintains that a nationalistic criticism which takes over from 'universalist' criticism the mimetic view of the text's transparent relationship to a pre constituted reality, represses the ","_V'Vi".,''-'ll and discursive construction of difference, reducing the problem of representing cnce to the demand for different andmore favourable representations." 'Where Spivak and Bhabha deny the radical force of transgressive appropriations in a reverse discourse that contests the master text on its own terrain, JanMohamed argues for the power of positive representations subverting through inversion the received colonialist version.

Problems in current theories 29

Thus according to his thesis, the ideological mission of African writing is to retrieve the value and dignity. of a past insulted by European representation, and to counter the eternal verities and universalities of a liberal criticism which either deforms colonial difference to make it conform with western notions of intelligibility, or reproves it as deviant. The means of fulfilling this emancipatory role is realism.

For colonized and postcolonial cultures traumatized by colonialism, subjected to a 'peripeteia of values' culminating in 'historical catalepsy', a fiction that recuperates Africa's autonomous resources anclreconstitutes the fragmented colonial subject makes an active contribution to the collective aspiration of regaining a sense of direction and identity. Such remembrance does not encourage a passive yearning for reinstalling an unrecoverable past, butis an intercession winning back a zone from colonialist represenration: 'Achebe's nostalgia must be distinguished from the romantic ethnology of the Negritude movement, for unlike the latter, he neither portrays an idealized, monolithic, homogenized,and pasteurized "African" past, 1101' does he valorize indigenous cultures by reversing the. old. colonial Manichean allegory as, for instance, Leopold Senghor does'." \I\;here European fiction fabricated a traditional Africa (the fabulous and simplified country of Joyce Cary's racial romances, or the natives ofBli .. xeri/Dinesen tales who are literally the edenic land in flesh and blood), African writers reacted with realist representations of African existence; thinking,· perceptions and values. Where the hegemonic fiction contrived apologias for colonialism, African novels answered with a story of socialhavoc and psychic damage inflicted by the white invasion. By representing the dialectical relationship between 'man-as-individual' and 'man as social-being' proposed by. Lukacs in his writings on realism, such fiction restores to the dislocated colonial the.image of the collective subject, of'.the integrated self in vital interactions with an authentic cultural community

In affirming the radical potential of historical memory to the anti-colonialist struggle, JanNIohamed· resorts to appropriations of hegemonic values, since he implies that to recover from the assaults of an expansionist and belligerent bourgeois occupation, the colonial and postcolonial cultures must aspire to possess the ideals of bourgeois humanism.Absent fromJanMohamecl's exposition is Fanon's grasp of the paradoxes anel pitfalls. of 'rediscovering tradition': and re-presenting it within a western system of meanings, What for Fanon is a transitional process ofliberating the consciousness of the oppressed into a new reality; JanMohamed treats as the arrival of the definitive opposit-ional discourse. His argument is crucially different from \!\Talter Benjamin's construction (also bypassed by Spivak and Bhabha) of the 'fight for the oppressed past ... nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors' which when reinscribed in the present, 'completes the task of liberation in the name of generations of the downtrodden'i" ~ a position Julian Roberts describes as positing 'absolute discontinuity between the conditionsof our present historical existence and those that will follow after messianic transformation' . 29

Thus while JanMohamed's 'reading does validate the significance of authenticating the past in producing a counter-discourse, his account of an alternative is without a ;'visionary gaze' that displaces received constructions, a lack that can be attributed both to his chosen material and his method. To argue' his case on African writing as a challenge to European representation, he discusses English-language, social! psychological realist novels where tile politics is foregrounded in tile subject matter. In this sense his model is already self-circumscribing since the area he studies is largely

-------- ,-- ~~.-.-.----.--------------

30 Problems in current theories

populated by writings which manipulate but do not break with established fictional'


forms. All the same, by treating both 'realist' and 'modernist' fictions, both African and!

European, within a referential mode of criticism as portrayals . and interpretations of J the existing world, Manichean Aesthetics produces readings which neglect textual polyph- !, ony when it does operate to enunciate contradictory meanings, and where it is nott present, omits to explain its absence." A commitmentto mimeticism furtherconstrains] the examination of the problems inherent in politically heterodox texts working within)' the structures and redeploying the procedures of modes that naturalize authorizedj norms and values; Thus Alex La Guma's books are acknowledgecl for their graphici portraits of the marginalized worlds of South Africa's 'coloured people', averacityj ascribed to arbitrary and circumstantial plotsenacting the characters' inability to coiitrolj' their lives or shape their destinies. What is 110t discussed is how the recycling of stale or ~ purple language, of received narrative practices and exhausted modes of address, ji normalizes the fictions' ex-centric material and defuses their confrontational stances. . j;

A declared project of defining 'modes of relationship between a society and its li literature' through examining 'the ideological structure which provides the common H denominator between socio-economicandliterarystructures',3J is one which this study£' amply realizes in analyses of theme and genre that succeed in giving access to thef] disjunctive and internally contradictory fictional universes of English and African colo-] nial writing. However, it is also the stated intention of the book to implement that more 11 complex critical mode enunciated and performed by Fredric Jameson's The Political Ii Unconscious: 'the rewriting of the literary text in such a way that the latter may itself 11 be seen as the rewriting or restructurationof a prior historical or ideologicalsubtext, it f; being always understood that "subtext" is not immediately present as such, not some g. common-sense external reality ... but rather must itself always be (re)constructed after jJ the fact' .32 h


'I\'hile JanlVIohamed's work does el~gage with the 'strategies of containmentf

inscribed in narrative form and aesthetic convention (the mythic consciousness of the t, Blixerr/Dinesen stories, the preoccupation with messianic emancipation,prophecy l~ and salvation in the early writings ofNgugi wa Thiong'o), there is a tendency to ~ establish one-to-one relationships between text and context .. When discussing Nadineb Gorclimer's novels, Jan:r-.ifohamed reads their enuneiationof the white liberal con- J) sciousness negotiatingthe splits of South Mricansociety as an authentic articulation~1 of an existential condition, and not as a contrivance bearing an interpretation of a j;\ crisis which occludes alternative anel emergent discourses of dissent. That there is no f!; significant connection in Gorclil11er's fiction between the white and black worlds is II

. . . .... . . .... r

attributed by JanMohamedto the restraints on a socially formed and positioned f; author; while the 'objective narration' of African culture is ascribed to the writer's 2 awed refusal to violate its rhythms, meanings and mysteries. Here explanations f;l derived fi'0111 the author intentionally mediating her own historical situation and social j;i inhibitions are substituted for an examination of the fictional conventions and narra- N tive forms which repress such a clialogue and attenuate what 'African' discourse isl! enunciated. For whereas the Africans are speaking subjects, the voices of servants; ~d intellectuals and political activists alike are all written as 'heard' by their white inter-Il l?cutors, so that multiple difference is erased by ageneric otherness. Writing infonna-Il LIon about the author into readings of the texts leads Jan1ifohamed to inferthat the fi fictions disclose a 'liberating rupture between Gordimer and bourgeois culture', .~

, ,

Problems in curreni theories 31

Gordimer's integrity and courage are abundantly manifest in her personal posture and public statements -how many self-professed white radicals would say, as she did in aitelevision interview with Susan Sontag, that there is nothing of white South Africa she wanted to . preserve? But in the face of novelistic practices which make intelligible and celebrate, even while interrogating, the ideology of the personal, and which are bound in their affirmations and aspirations to western systems of meaning, it is difficult to sustain this assertion of an ideological break with the hegemonic culture, or to confirm that the fundamental thrust of her fiction is 'a deliberate dissolution and reconstruction of white consciousness that will allow it to transcend the Manichean bifurcations of the present and to work towards a more integrated and coherent [uture'(JVlanic/zean Aesthetics, p. 144).

The importance of JanMohamed's book is that it sets out to study literature as a cultural text and rhetorical practice produced and performedwithin determinate historical, social anclpolitical conditions which enable and constrain the construction of meaning .. As such it does read the fictions against the grain; and by bringing to the discussion the story of colonialism's military conquest, coercive institutions and conflictual relationships, marginalized in some analyses of colonialist discourse, it restores to these texts a sense of their historical density and effectivity But because the argument propounding a symbiotic relationship between discursive and material practices has not been formulated in dialogue with theories which have rendered mimeticism problematic, there are difficulties in assessing the particular mode of ideological analysis brought to Manidtean Aesthetics. 'I\Thatis missing is an engagement with' the manifold and conflicting textual inscriptions -'. the discontinuities, defensive rhetorical strategies an~l unorthodox language challenging official thought, the disruptions of structural unity effected by divergent and discordant voices - as the location and source of the text's politics.

When JanIvIohamed reiterates this critical stance in 'The Economy of Manichean Allegory', the proposition that writing is infused by and implicated in an extrinsic situation is presented as an axiom where the objective condition is the cause of an utterance, anddiscourse the malleable mediator of its producer's intentions: 'V'le can . .. understand colonial discourse . . . through an analysisthat maps its ideological function in relation to. actual imperialist practices. Such an examination reveals that any evident "ambivalence" is in fact a product of deliberate, if at times, subconscious, imperialist duplicity' (p. 61). The causal nexus proposed here returns us to a text/ context paradigm where the writing is 'determined'and 'controlled' by political and economic imperatives and changes 'external to the field itself, where the acquiescent discourse, already dictated by ideology, performs the automatic service of 'articulating and justifying' the aims of.the colonialist.

'The Economy of Manichean Allegory' situates itself as in dispute with both a liberal criticism and discourse analysis for 'severely bracketing the political context of culture and history' (p. 59), and outlines a programme for restoring the worldly situation of texts. But since writing is theorized as the instrument of material practices, there is no place for emergent discourses initiating new modes of address to construct not-yetexisting conditions, while the notion of a counter-discourse is bound. by its role as a defensive, reactive reply to the hegemonic construction delivered within the frontiers of its terms: 'The Third ''''orldliterary dialogue with western cultures is marked by two broad characteristics: its attempt to negate the prior European negation of colonized




r .


cultures arid its adoption and creative modification of western languages and artistic. i is indifferent to the implosions being made into the traditions of 'western writing by

forms in conjunction with indigenous languagesand forms' (PI). 84~85). Analysis of this ~ postcolonial literary. cultures, . and suggests an insularity that. has no place in' radical

dialogu.e, itbisl proposed, 'tl"'ill delnlo.nsl~rate tlhat ~thle d.°all~ain ?f liteb· rar~ and :ult1Tlral ~ theTolry. .. f 1 l' 1 Ii I b 'b l bv cri . tl demi

syncretism e ongs not to re co oma ist ane neoco oniz 1St .wnters ut mcreasmg y to [' . 'ie eurovision 0 the metropo itan e t las een attn utee y critics to ie en el111C

Third \'\TorId artists' (p. 85). r: coexistence of 'historicism' ,and 'universalism; in Marxism's narrative of world history,

This affirmation of 'syncretism', which I take to be the resolution of colonialism's t where-the non-synchronous experiences of Europe's others are incorporated into a cultural Manicheanism in the harmonization of alterities, appears to underwrite the I,' story of unilinear processes.i" Certainly the perdurable perspective on colonialism's goal. of a cultural Esperanto assembled out of existingmodes, and is .one that Jan- [: trajectory as subjugation and liberation, dislocation and reconstruction, rests on western Mohamed himself countermands in his important essay, 'Humanism and. Minority h definitions of meaning and value,40 and is an instance of what Spivak refers to as 'the Literature: Toward a Definition of Counter-Hegemonic Discourse', 33 where the making t! willed (auto )biography of the ''''est (masquerading) as disinterested history' ('The Rani of an alternative postcolonialtradition is posited as the outcome of a dialectic between r! of Sirmur ', p. 131). However, critiques confronting the problem of constructing alterthe heg~l:l~nic cult;u'~ an~l 'Th~r~ .\'\T~rlcl' writers. ~er~ the argument is it is .the~j native analyses, where imperialism no longer features as the 'necessary' catalyst of responsibility of a rnmonty criticism to rescue this literature from the ideological if world history, are being produced from within Marxism, InA1mx and the End of Orientalascendancy of western liberal humanism by cultivating and celebrating 'marginality': f; ism;11 a study he' describes as 'a work of personal decolonisation', Bryan Turner argues 'If minority literature repeatedly explores the political, collective' and marginal aspects j:j the need for new theoretical readings to replace the versions of Marxism which in of human experience, then minority criticism must also systematically avoid thetempta-~; treating history as a series of invariable stages in modes of production, privilege the tion of a seductively inclusive, apolitical humanism: it must articulate and help to bring F western route as thenorm and place the colonial world outside of history. Spivak's just to consciousness those elements of minority literature that oppose, subvert, or negatefJ rebuke of varieties of radical criticism where 'the narrative of history-as-imperialism' is the power of the hegemonic culture" (pp, 298-299). What this project endorses is not.the f:0reduced out is' the occasion for her censuring Jameson's project for restoring an 'syncretism' whichJan.Mohamed elsewhere commends, but the affirmation ofmultiplefil'uninterrupted narrative', a 'fundamental history' as the attempt to rewrite an 'origiforms of' difference'. m nary text'. This criticism, which is aimed at all legitimizing narratives of progress and

F;c liberation, repuc1iates'the story.of capital logic' for repressing the discontinuous version The perspective on colonial culture as a western system of representation and excluc~ii of colonialism that is yet to be told, while itself repressing how the continuities, cons telsion devised by the imperial power to police the globe in the name of their values, .i$,\ lations and traditions 'revealed by historical materialism Cali accommodate plural forms tradition and civilization,' elaborated by Fanon but common to. the literature of anti-~M· ofresistance and insurrection against non-identical systems of power within 'the Unity colonialism, points up the failure of colonial discourse analysis to engage . with the fi$ 6f a single great collective story ... sharing a single fundamental theme - for Marxism, range and effectivity of colonialism triumphalist address.-This omission is repeated bY}:;; the collective struggle. to wrest a realm of Freedom from a realm of Necessity' (The other radical criticisms, and Said's observation that the literary-cultural establishment 1M:' Political Unconscious, P: 19).

has declared the serious study of imperialism and culture off-limits" canmore readily JO~; .!;iA theory of colonial discourse which refuses both a 'eurocentric' world history be accounted for than the neglect by the left in the homeland of empire to produce ~Lihlhdervvritingthe west's cultural hegemony and nationalist narratives of liberation, has work on colonialist ideology and discourse - a significant absence which is now being~:~wrned in on itself and awayfrom redrawing the map of the world drawn by the texts of recognized by the left as a suitable case fortheoretical enquiry." When wide-ranging ;f,ctC:ijlonialism. It is not accidental that whereas projects deconstructing colonialist knowprojects in cultural materialism addressed the processes by which meanings are socially~{g~dgehavenot as yet delivered their promised critiques of'.the imperial project, they constructed and historically transformed, socialist theorists paid scant attention to thef?llaVe stimulated studies which by extending 'colonization' as an explanatory notion making and articulation of England's imperialist culture.i" Raymond Williams's influen- F.",'HPplicable to all situations of structural domination, are directed at formulating a grand tial Culture and Sociel:J! (1958) and The Long Revolution (1961), which spanned the years of }i.j,~ieory valid for each and every discursive system of discrimination and oppression. The colonial conquest and the consolidation of empire, found no place for this narrative, 37t:;,AAnouncement of the 1984 Essex Sociology of Literature Conference, 'Europe and its and not until The Count1]! and the Cil:J! (1973) did Williams write of England as the centTer;:',~thers', from which 'colonialism' and 'imperialism' are. conspicuously absent,' stated of political, economic and cultural POWel; standing in the same relationship to the J;j:; the objective of the conference was to produce 'a general archaeology of europoperipheries as did the city to the country within the boundaries of the 'Europeank: """tricdiscourses'which wouldidentify strategies of discrimination and control and

nation-state. (We will return to.the suggestive connection Williams was subsequently to gage with theories of the psychological constitution of the subject. Following this

make between imperialist ideology and its mode of production.j.More recently, Francis ference, a Gl'OUp for the Critical Study of Colonial Discourse was formed, with the

Mulhern has proposed that a 'socialist politics of literature' be constructed from the oose of linking those whose work critically examines historical and analytic dis-

writings of western women.i'" This exorbitant demand on the work of First World rses of domination where these address cultural and racial differences: 'while for

women to effect the subversion of metropolitan cultural hegemony - that Mulhern's ny of us the focus of our work is primarily the colonial context, others in the network

schema includes Afro-American women writers does not compensate for what it omits extending their enquiry to ex-colonial societies, the colonial legacy in the "Vest, and

- displays a parochial perspective on the sources' of 'alternative+literary modes which ' temporary systems of domination where race, class, ethnicity, gender and/or sexuality


Problems in current theories

Problems in current theories




34· Problems in current theories I Problems in current theories 35 intersect' .'12 This trend towards conflating distinct and specific modes of oppression is ~ benefit its industrial classes and feed its hungry; a utilitarian discourse joined to a one against which Spivak has warned: 'the critique of imperialism is not identical, and B teleological one - Europe'S obligation to exploit the world's natural and labour cannot be identical, with the critique of racism. Nor is our own. effort to see the Ii resources in the interests of promoting international progress; a racial! sexual disidentification of the. c~nstitut~on; of.race :.yi~hiil. !irst "'/orld countries, .identical with ~i course ~ the natives' unfitness for organizing a rational. society and exercising selftl~e problem OfC~PI,t~stterrItOrIalllnperIahsm 111 the context of the eighteenth and[.i government because of their teeming sexual proclivities and unlicensed sexual nineteenth centuries'. 13, 'Ii performance (this representation also provided a sanctioned pornography for metro-

Here Spivak could be seen to bemarching under the banner bearing jameson;sl,\ politanconsumption); a nationalist/utopian discourse - the divinely ordained task of slogan: 'Always historicize!', an allegiance which when brought to colonialism would tG Europeans to rille, guide and elevate backward peoples as a trust for civilization. That e.ngage in deconstructing an h~strionic and hyperb~lic rhet.·o .. ric innovat.i:lg represent.acl.'.;,: the language of ascendancy in these virtuoso texts was shared by the spokesmen of nons addressed to both the native and the metropolitan subject, and which reached ItS! empire and their self-described critics suggests its hegemony; where the 'utterances of apotheosis in the moment of imperialism. JohnlVIackenzie's Propaganda and Empire: The n the first declaimed racial power, a conquering nation and a belligerent civilization, Manipulation if Briusli Public Opinion1880-1960'~' collates the staggering range and fi the apologias of the liberal anti-imperialists deplored the linguistic excesses of their quantity of printed and visual material produced by state institutions and civil agencies[r opponents while conceding that because of its progressive culture, the west was to present and promote the imperial project - a body of texts distinct from officiad:j indeed able to offer the colonized the benefits of both its industrial skills and its writings, 'scientific' discourses, travellers' tales, memoirs and fiction. This studyestab-J.1 moral and intellectual qualities. This magniloquent self-representation, with its meslishes that a vast and complicated machinery operated to solicit the metropolitan individ-l,i sianic notions of subjugation and its mystical conception of exploitation, is condensed ual as subject and agent of imperialism. Through.its network of cultural affirmatiOlisI'j in Conrael's laconic remark on 'the temperament of a Puritan joined with an insatiand denigrations, colonialist discourse offered to the English an imaginary mapping 11 able imagination of conquest', and 'the misty idealism of the Northerners.who at the of their situation within the domestic social formation and of their relationship to t" smallest encouragement dream of nothing less than the conquest of the earth' the peripheries, and it did so in a language of social inclusiveness, linking people tOl;) (Nostromo).

~'ul?'s i.n a faith described. by Hugh Cunningham as 'above class, loyal ~o establisheclu, To analyse the texts of colonialism in its imperialist incarnation is to confront a mstitutions and resolute 111 the defence of the country's honour and interest"." Iny: discoUl~seof triumphalisrn celebrating gladiatorial skills. Said has, drawn attention to invoking working-class women as proud mothers ()f empire and working-class men' asi,~ Orientalism, with its routine representations' of the Orient's' feminine penetrability natural rulers of lower races, imperialism's address invited the subject simultaneolislYl"1 supine malleability and fertile riches, as 'a praxis of the same sort, albeit in different constituted by class and gender discourses to reposition her/himselfwithin a privilegedfl: territories, as male gender dominance, or patriarchy; in metropolitan society' ('Orientalcommunity, a solicitation inducing social conformity and class deference at home, and,f:~ ism Reconsidered', p. 23).' For Said, this discursive practice, which produces the 'conracial arrogance and bellicosity abroad. (The resistance to this address is another storYl~i figurations of sexual, racial and political asymmetry underlying mainstream modern yet to be told.). . '. ...'!:J western culture" makes it possible to perceive 'the narrow correspondence between

On a level more fundamental because it seeks to establish 'that deeply symbioticl'~ suppressed Victorian sexuality at home, its fantasies abroad, and the tightening hold on relationship ... between modern western imperialism and its culture' and tomakef:<) the male-late nineteenth century imagination of imperialist ideology' (pp. 23-24). This connections between colonialist ideology in the centre and the peripheries, E<;lward,t-i! same congruence contextualized within material practices is registered in Raymond Said has pointed the study towards coristructing an archaeology for 'knowledge whoseJ\ Williams's observation that the basic concepts of capitalist and imperialist ideology, actualities lie Considerably below' the surface hitherto assumed to be thetrue texture"Jr;,' 'limitless and conquering expansion, reduction of the labour process to the appropriandtextuality, of what we study as literature, historyculture, and philosophy'. As an!Y'G arion and transformation of raw material', repeat the triumphalist version of 'man's instance of such work, Said cites the researches of Gauri Viswanathan, which have1:;!i conquest of nature', an analogy to which he returns when identifying the capitalist drive 'uncovered the political origins of modern English studies, and. located dlem in the",tS; to mastery, over nature as the foundation of the dominative tendencies pervading system of colonial education imposed on nativesm the nineteenth century India ... .'~t,t bourgeois social relations from labour to sexuality."

what has conventionally been thought of as a discipline created entirely by and for:!" In the taxonomy of values enunciated by imperialist discourses - virllit)~ mastery, British youth was first created by colonial administrators for the ideologicalpacificationjf ":~xploitation, performance, action, leadership, technology progress - it may be possible and re-formation of a potentially rebellious Indian population, and then imported intoli~!:itb Tead' the strident affirmation of a modernity from which modernism recoiled, a the metropolitan center for a very different but related use there' (Intellectuals in the Post; .... nsion that can be studied in the writings of Conrad, that old favourite of literature

Colonial World, pp. 63-64). and empire criticism. Here different languages produce disjunctive ideological sites, as

A. critical reading of the texts of late nineteenth-century imperialism will reveal the re positivism of fictions registering modernity's thrust to external control and under-

. ingenious use and permutation of race, class; sexual, ethical and nationalist. discourses.' -iting . its freight of. moral confidence and certainty (hymned by Kipling as Law,

in the west's representations of itself as possessing a knowledge and a moral authority rder, Duty and Restraint, Obedience, Discipline) are disrupted by the. ambiguities,

that was its entitlement to exercise global power: a i'ace/class/ ethical discourse ;doubts, anxieties and aliemttions' of a stylistic modernism. These conflicting in-

Europe's right and duty to appropriate the bounty of nature wasted by the natives scriptions act to consolidate and disown imperialism's ideological tenets and social

6 Problems in current theories

spirations, m~d to ~he e~tent that such texts are discourses of imperialism, they are ~so the 10~atlOn. of an internal interrogation. The labour of producing a counterIScou~'se displacing the ~ystem of knowledge installed by colonialism and imperialism .sts with those engaged in developing a critique from outside its control, and in further- 19 a contest be gun byanti-colonial movements, theorists of colonial discourse will eed t? pursue' the cOl~necti?ns between 'epistemic violence' and material aggression,

.: ad dlsc~ose the relationships between its ideological address to the colonial and ietropolitan worlds.


Resistance theory / theorizing resistance or two cheers for nativism.

[I]t is not the literal past, the 'facts' of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language ... we must never cease renewing those images, because once we do, we fossilize.

Brian Friel, Translations (1981), p. 66

That the colonized were never successfully pacified is well known to the postcolonial study of colonialislTlaJi~l the long and discontinuous process of decolonization.' But proposals on how resistance is to be theorized display faultlines within the discussion that rehearse questions about subjectivity, identity, agency and the status of the reversediscourse as an oppositional practice, posing problems about the appropriate models for contemporary counter-hegemonic work. An agenda which disdains the objective of restoring the colonized as subject of its own history does so on the grounds that a simple inversion perpetuates the colonizer/colonized opposition within the terms defined by colonial discourse, remaining complicit with its' assumptions by retaining undifferentiated identity categories, and failing to contest the conventions of that system of knowledge. it supposedly challenges. Instead the project of a postcolonial critique is designated as .deconstructiug and displacing the eurocentric premises of a discursive apparatus which constructed the Third World not only for the west but also for the cultures so represented. 2

The performance of such procedures supports Richard Terdiman's contention that 'nodiscourseisever a monologue; nor could it ever be analyzed intrinsically ... everything that constitutes it always presupposes a horizon of competing, contrary utterances against which it asserts its own energies'." However, the statements of the theoretical paradigms, in which it can appear that the efficacy of colonialism's apparatus of social . control in effecting strategies of clisempowerment is totalized, are liable to be read as _pmducingthe colonized as a stable category fixed in a position of subjugation, hence foreclosing on the possibility of theorizing resistance. Even if this is a crass misrepresentation of the projectthe colonized's refusals of their assigned positions as subjected and disarticulated are not - and within its terms cannot be ~ accorded centre stage.

The premise to modes of criticism within the postcolonial critique which are attentive to those moments and. processes when' the colonized clandestinely or overtly took up countervailing stances is that no system of coercion or hegemony is ever able wholly the range of subject positions. For although-the colonial is a product of colonialism's ideological machinery, the formation of its differentiated and