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Prepared by Dianne Rae E. Siriban For Media 210 Dr. Elizabeth Enriquez
Postcolonialism is a movement based on a set of theories in philosophy, Literature and film that critiques and seeks emancipation from the legacy of colonial rule. PoCo articulates an awareness of power relations between Western (colonizing) and “Third World” cultures. PoCO’s efforts to analyze the cultural dimensions purposefully resist colonialism / imperialism itself. Postcolonial discourse is a question of positionality (perspective), and a critique of Western hegemony’s repressive ethnocentrism. According to Legasto, PoCo is “an interrogation of the philosophical and historical assumptions and formal (structural) elements of colonial and imperialist, modern and even some postmodern metropolitan discourses which were used to legitimize colonialism and which continue to marginalize the cultural productions/ knowledges of colonials and former colonials.” PoCo critics believe and seek to subvert the fact that models of Western thought (i.e. Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud) or of literature (Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot) have dominated world culture through colonialism/imperialism, inadvertently marginalizing or excluding non-Western traditions and forms of cultural life and expression. PoCo somewhat works in the same ways that poststructuralism and postmodernism seek to decentralize ideological systems of power that legitimize our knowledge of the world. But while postructuralist and postmodernist critiques reject representations of a unified humanist subject, PoCo seeks to undermine the imperialist subject. In studying some of the major advocates of Postcolonial criticism we shall look into specific instances of imperialistic domination and how variations of postcolonial though seek to address such oppression. This report will try to discuss how colonized cultures, through PoCo discourse, deal with issues such as: a) the dilemmas of developing a national identity in the wake of colonial rule b) the ways in which writers from colonized countries attempt to articulate and even celebrate their cultural identities and reclaim them from the colonizers c) the ways knowledge of colonized people have served the interests of colonizers d) how knowledge of subordinate people is produced and used e) ways in which the texts of the colonial powers are used to justify colonialism through the perpetuation of images of the colonized as inferior Frantz Fanon and the Plight of the “Non-white” Fanon (1925-61) was born in Martinique in the French Antilles; educated in his hometown and in France. Joined the Free French Forces in 1943 where his anti-racist sensibilities were sharpened by personal encounters with brutal wartime racial discrimination. Studied psychiatric medicine and philosophy at Lyons after the war. He resigned from his brief stint in the academic/medical field to take up arms again in 1953; this time to fight for Algerian independence from French colonial rule. This led to his political exile (expulsion) from Algeria and into a lifetime of critical, theoretical, theoretical and practical work fighting against colonialism and racism. Fanon’s work is usually classified by scholars into three section: (1) the search for black identity, (2) the struggle against colonialism, and (3) the process of decolonization. His defining work Black Skin, White Masks, heavily influence by psychoanalytical theories of Freud and Lacan, posits that the hegemonic work of colonialism to establish the racial superiority of whites over “non-whites” has created as sense of division and alienation in the self-identity of colonized, non-white (in this case, African) peoples.
The search for black identity. Under colonialism, the history, culture, language, customs and beliefs of the white colonizers have been propagated and legitimized as universal, normative (right, good), and superior to the indigenous cultures of the colonized. The “inferior” peoples are subjected to debilitating stereotypes which tend to infantilize, primitivise, decivilize and essentialize them. As a way of compensating for ensuing feelings of inferiority among the colonized, they try to adopt the culture and ways of thought of the colonizer, leading to their alienation from their own history, language, indigenous culture, etc. To undermine this perpetuation of white hegemony, Fanon’s PoCo critiques work against oppressive ethnocentrism by reclaiming “black” racial identity from its position as “condemned”: “As I begin to recognize that the Negro is the symbol of sin, I catch myself hating the Negro. But then I recognize that I am a Negro. There are two ways out of this conflict. Wither I ask others to pay no attention to my skin, or else I want them to be aware of it. I try then to find value for what is bad—since I have unthinkingly conceded that the black man is the color or evil. In order to terminate this neurotic situation, in which I am compelled to choose an unhealthy, conflictual situation, fed on fantasies, hostile, inhuman in short, I have only one solution: to rise above this absurd drama that others have staged around me, to reject the two terms that are equally unacceptable, and, through one human being, to reach out for the universal.” The struggle against colonialism. Fanon’s active struggle against colonialism underscored his concern with history. For him, as articulated in another work The Wretched of the Earth, decolonization would entail a claiming back of one’s own history and a rejection of negative of originally non-existent historical narratives produced and imposed by colonizers. Alienation from one’s history inevitable led to estrangement from one’s cultural identity. “…colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people and distorts, disfigures and destroys it…to fight for national culture means in the first place to fight for the liberation of the nation, that material keystone which makes the building of a culture possible.” The process of decolonization. According to Fanon, it is not enough to reclaim identity and history to fight colonization. Post-colonial nations should follow through by developing new forms of social democracy rather than utilize existing colonial institutions and simply fill existing administrative positions with indigenous people (which is what happened during and after the Commonwealth period in the Philippines). Maintaining these colonial institutions (i.e. national government, laws, education, religion, and even literature and art) which are inherently racist and oppressive against certain social classes, will merely reproduce the concepts and beliefs of the colonizers and become a hindrance to post-colonial rebuilding. Edward Said and the Critique of Orientalism Said (1935- ) is a Palestinian-American academician and writer who was born in Jerusalem but schooled in Egypt and America. Has taught in a number of prestigious American universities (Stamford, John Hopkins, and currently Columbia) and, to this day, writes in the national press on issues concerning the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and Middle Eastern political affairs. His ground-breaking work Orientalism (1978) is an analysis of the stereotypes and colonial assumptions that are inherent in western representations of the ‘Orient”, i.e. originally referred to North African Arab and Middle Eastern cultures, but now taken to be anyone and anything that is not white nor western in origin. Put simply, Western predilection for Orientalism has at its core a colonial concept of the ‘Orient.’ The Orient is a western fantasy, a construct meant to articulate everything that the West finds uncomfortable or unsettling to its superior image, and which it projects onto its negative conceptualization of the Middle-East and other non-white cultures (generally Asian, African, Latin, etc.).
The Orient as the Occident’s Other. To be able to reaffirm its superiority and unified stature, the West (Occident) needs an other against which it can contrast itself. This where a manageable and negative concept of the Orient becomes necessary. Orientalist representations in media and through other institutions (i.e. airline commercial that show whites in powersuits and Asians as feeble elderly in white kung-fu suites or slouched over walking sticks), function to reimpose colonial domination by suggesting that Western values, beliefs and forms of culture are imposed to counter the inherently negative ‘traits’ of these so called inferior cultures (cite Karnow in Legasto, p. 5). The following are some instances of Orientalist representation or stereotypes put forth by Said: 1) The Orient is ‘timeless,’ that is without a concept of history until given one by the West. 2) The Orient is ‘strange’, meaning odd, bizarre, weirdly irrational in contrast to the ‘rational normality’ of the West. 3) The Orient is ‘feminine’ that is possessive and submissive in opposition to the West’s ‘masculine’ features of activity and domination. 4) The Orient is ‘degenerate’ or lazy, weak, lustful and peopled by criminals and shady immoral characters. In short, the East is everything morally negative in comparison toe the West’s moral superiority. Strains of structuralist thought are evident in Said’s propositions, particularly the application of Derrida’s work regarding deconstruction. The practice of deconstruction aims to unmask the conceptual binary oppositions which make up the Manichean structures of Western thought. Example, man/woman, western/eastern, good/bad, night/day, mind/body, public/private. Derrida suggests that these binary oppositions are unstable (as they are defined only by its opposite) and are hierarchically structured, one term being privileged over the other. Another influence in Said’s study is Michel Focault’s notion of discourse to identify orientalism. Discourse, in simple terms is a ‘framework of thought’ formed from the coagulation of ‘talk’— individual utterance or statements regarding a certain subject. Foucault’s (and likewise Said’s) method is to uncover the conditions which make such ‘coagulations’ possible and then to analyze the rules of formation which transform these instances of ‘talk’ into legitimate, powerful ‘discourse.’ Rules of formation—from ‘talk’ to The formation of Orientalism as discourse discourse They should have a common object of The orient or non-white/non-Western cultures analysis Common mode of speaking which unites all Speech of colonizers (English and its metathese statements lanugages) and their assumptions of western superiority Statement should employ a common a System of concepts employed in representations of coherent system of concepts the Orient are theoretical and conceptual principles such as liberal humanism, capitalism, enlightenment-based philosophies and scientific rationality. Statements have a consistent theme which Notions of the Orient being timeless, feminine, unites them degenerate, and morally and culturally inferior to the West. Dangers and negative effects of the emergence of discourse on the production and dissemination of knowledge or speech inhibits the production and expression of other (new or pre-existing ) knowledge. Discourse is exclusive and privileged talk (from individuals and institutions regarded as authoritative or credible or licensed) that produces ‘truths,’ wherein statements or concepts are taken for granted as true rather than being actually or empirically true.
Because of the constraints of this discussion, I suggest referring to other important works related to Postcolonialism, specifically those accomplished by: Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, Ashis Nandy, Reynaldo Ileto, Caroline Hau, Uma Narayan, Bill Ashcroft and Ernesto “Che” Guevarra. Further issues of hybridity, ethnicity and location are taken up in most of these writings as a way of “writing back” to the center. I will discuss them briefly: Hybridity. Hybridity as used in postcolonial discourse referss to the intergration or mingling of cultural signs and practices from the colonizing and colonized cultures. This takes place in postcolonial societies “both as a result of conscious movements of cultural suppression, as when the colonial power invades to consolidate political and economic control, or when settlerinvaders disposes indigenous peoples and force them to “assimilate” to new social patterns. Hybridity would pertain to the layers of meaning produced in the event of assimilation and adaptation of cultural practices, the cross-fertilization of cultures, etc. The concept breaks down the false sense that colonized cultures, or colonizing cultures for that matter, are monolithic, or have essential unchanging features. (Ex. folk Catholicism, Santeria, Rastafarianism, etc.) Ethnicity. A later awareness of the impossibility of consolidating indigenous cultures, that make up larger entities or encompassing identities such as nation or race (example: Philippines, African), into a unified whole in an attempt counter colonization, has necessitated replacing the term “race” with “ethnicity.” For instance, Fanon’s reclaiming of African identity centered on the positive reconstruction of the concept of “blackness.” However, “black,” primarily based on common physical features and characteristics as markers of identity, denies the existence of a multitude of diverse communities within the black community and tends to homogenize and universalize the experiences of all black people. Location. The term location in postcolonial discourse is less concerned with analysis of a particular geographical area and its relationship to identity, but rather with the analysis of the social, cultural, religious and linguistic processes in which these occur. This concern with the non-geographic aspects of cultural location results in a more sophisticated analysis of political struggles against racism and colonialism, and takes into account both the migrations of diaspora communities and their interaction with other social groups. A relevant issue in the academe is mentioned in Legasto’s introductory essay (p. 7-8). ---------------------------------------References: 1) Pantoja-Hidalgo, C. & Patajo-Legasto, P. (eds). (1993). Philippine postcolonial studies: Essays on language and literature. Q.C.: U.P. Press
2) Littlejohn, S.W. & Foss, K.A. (2005). Theories of human communication, 8th ed. CA: Thomson Wadsworth 3) Selden, Raman (1985). A reader;s guide to contemporary literary theory, 4th ed. N.Y. : Prentice-Hall 4) Postcolonialism on Wikipedia (31 January 2007). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-colonialism. 5) Lye, John (1998). Some issues on Postcolonial theory. http://www.brocku.ca/english/courses/4F70/postcol.html
6) Said, Edward (1978). Orientalism. Penguin, Harmondsworth
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