Postcolonial Studies and Beyond

Postcolonial Studies and Beyond

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An interdisciplinary collection of essays designed to map out a wide-ranging and productive future for postcolonial studies, this volume assesses the current state of the field and points toward its most promising new developments. In addressing questions about the definition and relevance of postcolonial scholarship, many of the essays consider its relation to the study of globalization. While some contributors offer broad reflections on the existing two-way influence between postcolonial theory and established university disciplines such as literary criticism and history, others forge ahead into some vital, if nascent, areas for postcolonial research such as media studies, environmental studies, religious studies, and linguistic and semantic analysis.

The contributors represent many of the fields altered by postcolonial studies over the past two decades, including literary studies, history, anthropology, Asian and African studies, and political science. They model diverse applications of postcolonial theory to Latin America, East Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. Postcolonial Studies and Beyond propels the field forward. It showcases scholars coming from intellectual precincts usually considered outside the purview of the postcolonial finding new ways to deploy classic techniques of postcolonial analysis, and scholars strongly associated with postcolonial studies offering substantial critiques designed to challenge the field’s most fundamental assumptions.

Contributors. Tani E. Barlow, Ali Behdad, Daniel Boyarin, Timothy Brennan, Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, Laura Chrisman, Jean Comaroff, Frederick Cooper, Vilashini Cooppan, Jed Esty, James Ferguson, Peter Hulme, Suvir Kaul, Neil Lazarus, Ania Loomba, Florencia E. Mallon, Nivedita Menon, Rob Nixon, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, David Scott, Ella Shohat, Kelwyn Sole, Robert Stam, Rebecca L. Stein

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822386650
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 06/10/2005
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 512
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Ania Loomba is Catherine Bryson Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

Suvir Kaul is Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

Matti Bunzl is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Antoinette Burton is Catherine C. and Bruce A. Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, Department of History, University of Illinois.

Jed Esty is Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Read an Excerpt

Postcolonial Studies and Beyond

By Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, Jed Esty

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2005 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-8665-0


Globalization and the Postcolonial Eclipse

Beyond the Straits: Postcolonial Allegories of the Globe


Mañana, mañana
Ojos sin brillo
Noche encalmada
Y no viene el día
No viene.
—RADIO TARIFA, "Mañana, mañana"

The conference on which this volume is based asked its speakers to reflect on the future directions that postcolonial studies might take. This essay begins by suggesting what new horizons might be glimpsed across the straits that have appeared in recent years to encircle postcolonial studies, defining it in narrow and restrictive ways. But it is also concerned to follow the implications of its title in ways literal, historical, and theoretical. The essay was written in the shadow of the reestablishment of one of the world's most influential frontiers, that between southwest Europe and northwest Africa: it revisits the shape of the earth verified by the European journeys from that portal, and it speculates on the survival of the allegories of globality that flowed from those journeys, allegories that might seem irredeemably tainted by the association with European imperial hegemony that they helped establish. On its own journey, the essay sails close to the contentious debates about globalization and cosmopolitanism that currently enrich postcolonial studies, but it takes too idiosyncratic and meditative a course to contribute anything of substance to them.

My personal commitment to the idea of postcolonial studies is probably as strong as it is because the appearance of that field in the late 1980s gave me a real sense of belonging: I recognized postcolonial studies as what I had been doing for fifteen years or so without realizing it. If there is one particular stance I take with respect to the current state of postcolonial studies, it is that we are still discovering, slowly, perhaps, and unmethodically, but—as far as I am concerned—with a continuing sense of excitement, the dimensions of the field. What I mean by this is both that the field is getting bigger as the characteristic language and thematic concerns of postcolonial studies spread across many disciplines and that at the same time we are unearthing a lot of earlier anticolonial work, often neglected at its time of writing, that is allowing us to piece together a fuller history of the development of postcolonial studies. So one of the fundamental "beyonds" suggested by my title is an encouragement to strip off the straitjacket of those accounts and definitions of postcolonial studies that simplify and narrow its range to the work of a handful of theorists and a handful of novelists. In the past, some of those who work within the field, or have a productive relationship to it, have even accepted that oversimplified picture of postcolonial studies. Fortunately, as this volume suggests, the picture is now beginning to broaden.

Perhaps the most obvious of my titular straits are the straits of Eurocentric thinking that postcolonial studies is dedicated to surpassing. As one might have predicted, the most resistant categories of Eurocentrism are those so deeply embedded that we have come to think of them simply as parts of a natural geohistorical landscape; and probably none of these categories has a deader hand than that of historical periodization. Until recently, postcolonial studies largely situated itself in the modern world, giving consistent attention to the notion of modernity, though that narrowness of historical range is beginning to broaden. However, even when postcolonial studies has looked back beyond the nineteenth century, it has tended to thump into the backstop of 1492, reinforcing the idea of the Middle Ages as some kind of dark hole out of which modernity seems magically to have emerged. Certainly by the eighteenth century, medieval had already become a colonial term in the sense of giving Western modernity a period into which to shunt at least some of the social formations it encountered. Not accidentally, the term medieval has now made a reappearance as the period in which Islam, in at least certain of its forms, can be fundamentally situated: "the medieval savagery of the Taliban," for example—as if the Middle Ages could teach the modern world anything about savagery. Anyway, standing against these various simplifications and stereotypes there is now a growing body of work by self-defined postcolonial medievalists who tend to ask some of the most searching questions about the nature of nationalism and of colonialism.

In geographical terms, to look back beyond the straits of 1492 would be to give more postcolonial attention to the Iberian Peninsula and to the empires developed there. One indication of what might be possible comes with the essay Gayatri Spivak contributed to a recent volume in honor of Edward Said, which takes the form of an extensive critical tribute to a book by a distinguished Native American historian, Jack Forbes, called Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples. In this book, Forbes attempts to understand the shifting terminology of racial and color classifications by means of a detailed tracking of the fourteenth-century Arabic and Portuguese origins of words like mulatto, pardo, and moro—not to show what they really mean, but to demonstrate the vertiginous shifts in their meanings over the centuries, in fact to unmoor them from their conventional definitions. Spivak sees in this what she calls—in an unaccountably tender phrase—an "empirical intuition of affirmative deconstruction."

Spivak relates Forbes to Said in a purely conventional way: Said is the groundbreaker, while "Forbes belongs to the group of social scientists who have been chipping away at the monolithic Eurocentrism of their disciplines ... during the two decades after Orientalism" (which actually does Forbes less than justice since his first contribution to the rewriting of American history was published as early as 1960). But by putting Forbes and Said in the same frame, Spivak both draws Forbes's work into the postcolonial field, where its intellectual and political allies are grouping, and extends and deepens that field by adding to it the complexity of Forbes's American concerns and the breadth of his lexicographical scholarship.

It is profoundly telling that it was a Native American historian, interested in why the mixing between Americans and Africans had remained so invisible to scholarship, who took the trouble to undertake this extraordinary work, which leads back to the equally invisible trafficking of Arabic terms into the developing European vernaculars—most traces of which would eventually be purged by the great European etymological dictionaries, those monuments to scholarship and amnesia. Traffic—a word now almost synonymous with modernity—may itself be of Arabic origin. In any event, traffic—in this case human traffic across the straits—is where the main part of this essay will begin.

During September and October 2000, the Spanish photographer Javier Bauluz documented the illegal immigrants arriving on the southern coast of Spain near the towns of Tarifa and Zahara de los Atunes. An exhibition of his photographs has been shown in Spain under the title España: Frontera Sur (Spain: Southern Border). One particular photograph (figure 1) shows a young couple, presumably Spanish, almost certainly European, in swimming costumes, sitting on the beach at Zahara under a parasol. A few yards away lies a third figure, the body of a would-be refugee or migrant, drowned on the attempted crossing of the straits of Gibraltar and washed up onto the beach. The couple gaze with apparent indifference in the direction of the dead man, their own bodies betraying no evident discomfort or anxiety. If the corpse were removed from the picture, it would just look as if they were enjoying a pleasant day at the seaside. The photograph dramatizes contrasts in some evident ways: between the leisure and comfort of the young couple and the stillness in death of the single man; between their bronzed skin and his shabby clothes; between their togetherness and his isolation. In one sense, this essay meditates on the implications of that photograph, which casts its shadow back to the sixteenth century and beyond.

Zahara has more resonance as a place than might be immediately apparent. It owes its name to the Arab invasion of the Iberian Peninsula at the beginning of the eighth century which swept across these southern beaches, as did —in the other direction—the Jews and Muslims expelled in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries so that Spain could define itself as white and Christian. The final expulsion of the moriscos was ordered by Philip III in 1609, leading to the forced removal of 250,000 inhabitants of Spain over the following five years. One "representative" figure here—from the second part of Don Quijote, published in 1610—would be Sancho Panza's neighbor, the morisco Ricote, so acculturated that he even agrees with the king's decree, but so in love with the country of his birth that he returns to Spain in disguise after wandering through North Africa and much of Europe. "Wherever we are," he says, "we weep for Spain; for, in short, here we were born, and this is our native country." Here we have an early representative of the hundreds of thousands of Europeans who have subsequently been seen as not really European.

Another image, this one dating from 1620, Simon van der Passe's engraving for the frontispiece of Francis Bacon's Instauratio Magna (figure 2), shows the ships of modernity sailing through the Pillars of Hercules into the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Bacon obviously intended this picture as a great visual monument to the alliance between European exploration and the development of scientific rationalism. The limits of traditional knowledge, symbolized by the Pillars of Hercules, were now being surpassed. As Bacon's epigraph to the engraving announces: "multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia" (many shall go to and fro and knowledge shall be increased). The northern pillar, pebbles and sand at its foot in the engraving, is traditionally located just a few miles from Zahara.

Europeans had in fact begun to sail out past that beach and through those straits early in the last millennium on voyages of exploration and colonization. The first major European colonization in the Western ocean was of the Canary Islands, the Fortunate Islands of classical mythology, which had been established by Claudius Ptolemy as the prime meridian for the calculation of longitude. The Canarians were written about by Giovanni Boccaccio and by Petrarch, establishing within fourteenth-century European writing many of the tropes characteristic of the colonial accounts of indigeneity that would become more familiar after 1492 in respect to the newly discovered Americas. In particular, Petrarch found in the Canarian the type of non-European man against which to define his ideal of secular individualism. The Canary Islands proved to be, ethnographically as well as geographically, the degree zero of European culture.

In a literal sense, beyond the straits lies the ever-receding horizon of the globe itself. The representation of the earth as a globe is indissolubly connected with the project of European colonialism, initially through Columbus's circumnavigatory plan, which finds its shape in the first surviving European globe, dating from 1492 (and therefore lacking the Americas). Eventually, in 1519, a truly pan-European voyage—Spanish in name but with German finance, a Portuguese captain, and an Italian chronicler—set off past the straits on a voyage that three years later returned to Seville having completed the first circumnavigation of the world, thereby engraving on European consciousness the sphericity of the earth, celebrated through the making of a series of terrestrial globes on which were plotted the courses of Magellan's ship and, eventually, those of his successors, such as Francis Drake and George Anson.

There are many reasons to be suspicious of global thinking. On one level, globality—even in a restricted sense of the term—is clearly directed at the attainment of military and commercial power. The Spanish motive behind Magellan's voyage was to circumvent the papal division of the world enshrined in the Treaty of Tordesillas. Spain's global reach was never fully achieved, but it was that country's defeat in 1898, in the founding gesture of modern geopolitics, that gave the Unites States of America—through its acquisition of Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam, to go along with the recently acquired Hawai'i—an equatorial girdle, immediately reinforced by the building of the Panama Canal, itself one of those ruthlessly commercial projects presented by their backers as selfless attempts to unify the world: in Ferdinand de Lesseps's formulation, to "trace across this very globe the sign of peace." Alfred Thayer Mahan, author of The Interest of America in Sea Power (and incidentally, or not, coiner of the term the Middle East) is rarely given his due as the great strategist behind this circumnavigatory policy that has underpinned US global power since the beginning of the twentieth century and whose sea channels are still crucial to waging war in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

For the tradition of rationality that Francis Bacon represents, the global accomplishment foreshadowed by Columbus and achieved by Magellan's voyage across open seas and around the world offers an allegory of universal knowledge divorced from the local exploration of coastal waters. In the next section of the essay, I want at least to pose the question about the possible survival of versions of that global allegory in the face of postcolonial studies' fundamental commitment to ideas of the local and the marginal. The shape of the world always dictates return, so, having begun on the European coast, the essay will finally circle back to Europe—unlike Magellan himself, who only ever reached the Philippines.

The first word of Ella Shohat and Robert Stam's book title, Unthinking Eurocentrism, one of the early landmarks in postcolonial studies, needs to be taken in two ways. The embedded categories of Eurocentrism give unthinking as adjective—the assumed, the naturalized. But the task the authors set about is verbal unthinking, the unraveling and remapping of what the West had once, from its own viewpoint, mapped so definitively in accordance with the universal coordinates it claimed to have discovered: the universalization of Western culture, as the Mexican historian Edmundo O'Gorman called it as long ago as 1958. At a fundamental level—perhaps the deepest in the sense of the most embedded—that unthinking necessarily involves the dismantling and reassembling of the very literal terms in which areas of the world were divided and named and visualized within European maps. The conventional founding moment for postcolonial studies saw the unthinking of the geohistorical category of the Orient, but the contribution of geohistorical unthinking to postcolonial studies has a much longer and broader tradition, initially in the work of figures such as Carl Sauer and O'Gorman himself, more recently in that of Arno Peters, Brian Harley, Enrique Dussell, Fernando Coronil, José Rabasa, Patricia Seed, Walter Mignolo, and J. M. Blaut. The listing of those names—the enlisting of that work of what might be called cultural geography into postcolonial studies—is intended to make one of my points: the need to enrich postcolonial thinking by going beyond the usual suspects. As with Jack Forbes, let us pay some attention—and tribute—to where the work of unthinking Eurocentrism has actually been happening, for at least the past fifty years. And as those names suggest, much of that work has gone on in Latin America or at least in Latin American studies. To enlist Mignolo's work, in particular, means inevitably to raise the question he asks so persistently about the location of what he now prefers to call postoccidentalism. For Mignolo, this work takes place "in the margins"— yet another spatial term, and one offering a location that seems more comfortably postcolonial than anything that global imagery might have to offer. Beach, horizon: margins, globe: physical location, the rhetorical position of knowledge production. It is those dialectics to which I now turn.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Beyond What? An Introduction / Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, and Jed Esty 1

Part 1. Globalization and the Postcolonial Eclipse

Beyond the Straits: Postcolonial Allegories of the Globe / Peter Hulme 41

On Globalization, Again! / Ali Behdad 62

The Ruins of Empire: The National and Global Politics of America’s Return to Rome / Vilashini Cooppan 80

The Economic Image-Function of the Periphery / Timothy Brennan 101

Part 2. Neoliberalism and the Postcolonial World

The End of History, Again? Pursuing the Past in the Postcolony / Jean Comaroff 125

A Flight from Freedom / Elizabeth A. Povinelli 145

Decomposing Modernity: History and Hierarchy after Development / James Ferguson 166

“The Deep Thoughts the One in Need Falls Into”: Quotidian Experience and the Perspectives of Poetry in Postliberation South Africa / Kelwyn Sole 182

Between the Burqa and the Beauty Parlor? Globalization, Cultural Nationalism, and Feminist Politics / Nivedita Menon 206

Part 3. Beyond the Nation-State (and Back Again)

Environmentalism and Postcolonialism / Rob Nixon 233

Beyond Black Atlantic and Postcolonial Studies: The South African Differences of Sol Plaatje and Peter Abrahams / Laura Chrisman 252

Pathways to Postcolonial Nationhood: The Democratization of Difference in Contemporary Latin America / Florencia E. Mallon 272

Traveling Multiculturalism: A Trinational Debate in Translation / Robert Stam and Ella Shohat 293

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe: Israeli Leisure, Palestinian Terror, and the Post/colonial Question / Rebecca L. Stein 317

Part 4. Postcolonial Studies and the Disciplines in Transformation

Hybridity and Heresy: Apartheid Comparative Religion in Late Antiquity / Daniel Boyarin 339

Eugenic Woman, Semicolonialism, and Colonial Modernity as Problems for Postcolonial Theory / Tani E. Barlow 359

The Social Construction of Postcolonial Studies / David Scott 385

Postcolonial Studies and the Study of History / Frederick Cooper 401

The Politics of Postcolonial Modernism / Neil Lazarus

Bibliography 439

Contributors 479

Index 483

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