Postcolonial/ Cultural Studies Key concepts and their applications
Post-Colonial/Postcolonial • Hyphenated (-) Postcolonial implies the effects of colonialism on cultures after the end of colonialism, such as the legacy of Eurocentric modernity. Gandhi, Leela .1998. Postcolonial Theory: An Introduction • Run-on Postcolonial refers to the effects of colonialism on cultures from the beginning of colonialism to the present date. Ashcroft et. al (1989) Empire Writes Back
Eurocentrism • Eurocentrism refers to Europe as the center of the world; Europe’s history as the only endured history in the world history and its colonies being the mere extension of Europe, without having a history of their own. • Eurocentrism also refers to the constant analysis, judgment and comparison of the non-European subject (person) in relation to the European subject; European subject as the central reference of analysis. Chakrabarty. 2000. ProvincializingEurope
Postcolonial Theory • Is commonly attributed to the writings of Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi Bhabha • Their work represents a critique of European thought and attempts to forge an understanding of the European reason and its ideological depredations; the effects of colonialism, Eurocentrism as well as the prevailing forms of imperialism. Gilbert-Moore. 1999. Postcolonial Theory
Key Figures: Edward Said • Said’s Orientalism is considered as the departure point of postcolonial theory which exposes, through a reading of mostly 19th century literature, colonial state archives, travelogues, and biographies, how Orient (the East) as a collective spatial entity was perceived, produced, and consumed by the academics, individuals, and the institutions alike as a place without proper history, without a sense of progress, a place which is static, unchanging, and even despotic. • The Orientalist ideology, in Said’s argument, provided an apriori moral consensus to the generous colonialist, to go to the Orient and civilize it – a white man’s burden at its best. Although Said’s Orientalism was restricted to the East, it served as a methodological diagnosis for the intellectual histories of all colonialisms, elevating Orientalism’s critique to a theoretical status under the popular rubric of the ‘postcolonial’. Said, Edward (1979) Orientalism.
Spivak • Spivak employs Derridian deconstruction to critique Eurocentrism. • Her essay Can the Subaltern Speak, argues that sublatern (oppressed individual, peasant, proletariat) cannot be represented adequately in the academic textual tradition; this consists of failures of representation at two levels: • Mimic representation – through which we try to represent the subaltern by emulating what he/she would say about his/her oppression • Political representation – through which we try to speak for the oppressed subaltern. • Academic text fails to represent because subaltern speaks in a language, hidden in a history, in which he/she cannot be heard.
Spivak, Guha, Subaltern Studies • Subaltern Studies is group of scholars who critique colonial historiography • Subaltern is a term used by Antonio Gramsci, which refers to individuals who are on the margins of the power structures. • Subaltern Studies’ aim is to show that in the colonized history, subalterns were articulate and politically conscious subjects who resisted colonialism through various political means. Spivak and Guha. 2000. Collective Subaltern Studies
Bhabha • Bhabha's seminal contribution to postcolonial theory is the concept of hybridity • The concept of hybridity refers to the ambivalence of the colonizer which is produced through the interruptions of the colonized natives in the actualization of colonial discourse. In other words, while trying to “civilize” or “humanize” the native subject, colonizer himself becomes colonized – a process which produces supplemental political space for the latter to manipulate the colonial power. This transcultural formation is generally rendered as a hybrid third-space in today’s diasporic communities. Bhabha. 1994. The Location of Culture
Cultural Studies • Cultural studies can be defined as a field of knowledge which investigates the “creation of meaning in and as a formative part of “a whole way of life," the whole world of sense-making (descriptions, explanations, interpretations, valuations of all kinds) in societies understood as historical material human organizations” (Mulhern 1995: 36). Not only do such ‘descriptions, explanations, interpretations...’ become the exegesis of ‘culture’, but they refer to the holistic forces of material social organization. Mullhern, F. (1995). The Politics of Cultural Studies, Monthly Review 47: 31-39.
Cultural Studies contd.. • Cultural studies is rooted in the Marxist tradition of scholarship which concerns with the relationship between ‘base’ and ‘superstructure.’ Base, which refers to economic conditions of production (labour, land, and employer), is counterpoised in a reciprocal relationship with the ideological means by which a society establishes its governance, culture, and political system – superstructure. • While Cultural Studies as a domain has moved away from this approach, the concepts of base and superstructure are still relevant to the understanding of the economic conditions which reinforce colonial governance structures, humanistic ideals, and the economic spheres of ideology (‘development’) that determine the fate of the postcolonial societies today.
Cultural Studies Key Concepts • Hegemony • Psychoanalysis • Poststructuralism • Postmodernism • Simulation/Hyperreality • Deconstruction
Hegemony • Hegemony refers to conferred dominance, unlike pure dominance which is imposed by force, hegemony is a dominance which is exercised by eliciting a consent of the dominated. Guha. 1997. Dominance Without Hegemony • Cultural Studies originated with the aim of understanding why people willingly elect dictatorial leaders (such as Margaret Teacher). • Employing Grmscian concept of hegemony, Cultural Studies as a discipline attempted to articulate the ways in which dominant dictatorial regimes appealed to the masses to produce hegemonic power structures. • Most of the colonial powers operated on hegemonic power.
Psychoanalysis • Is a method of exploring the human behaviour through unconscious mind based on the writings of Freud and Lacan. • Instead of analysing human behaviour in terms of what is consciously expressed and felt, psychoanalysis maintains that the essence of human behaviour lies with the unconscious mind. • In Cultural Studies, the concepts such as Self and the Other, Mirror Stage, Ego and Super Ego formation are used to understand the differences in cultural developments. Freud. 1962. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis.
Poststructuralism • A movement that came after, by way of the rejection of, structuralism. • Structuralism originated in the writings Fernando De Saussure, which was fully developed by Claude Levi-Strauss. • Structuralism deals with the connection between langue and parole. As in language, how grammar (langue) serves as a structure to words (parole), all cultures are organized around deeper structures such as kinship, myth, food preparation, etc. • These structural elements are organized and understood around the system of oppositions. For instance, colour red is understood only in opposition to black or blue, raw is understood in opposition the cooked, kinship is organized against incest.
Poststructuralism Contd. • Post-structuralism argues that structures (langue) are not self-contingent and autonomous, influenced by other forces unbeknown to both the structures and the subjects who are part of the structures. Some examples include discourse, discipline (Foucault), superstructure (Althusser).
Postmodernism • Postmodernism: Human phenomenon cannot be understood by a supreme logic at the high point of modernism and modernity, nor can it be explained by grand theories (class analysis, structuralism, functionalism, structural functionalism etc.). It is inherently fragmented and fissured, as such, needs to be understood in terms of plural subjectivities. This has led to ideological and emancipatory politics in contemporary culture (such as gay rights, women rights, identity politics, ethnic rights).
Deconstruction • Deconstruction refers to a body of thought developed by Jacques Derrida which exposes the non-representativeness of the text in the Western philosophy and literature. Deconstruction aims to show, by dint of its ability to identify the text left out on the margins and the periphery, that text is ultimately non-representative of what it actually claims.
Simulation/Hyperreality Simulation • Refers to the real ascription of value to a false object. For instance, a simulated burger consists of vegetarian food but tastes like meat. Modern media, according to Jean Baudrillard, is capable of simulating all our experiences of reality. Hyperreality • Related to simulation, is a process of hyping what is actually real. For instance, a video footage of war, through its repetition and multiple angles, zoom in and zoom out, produces more realities than the naked eye can see. Baurdirllad uses these terms to analyze the emergence of the postmodern society in the West. Baudrillard, Jean. 1995. The Gulf-War Did Not Take Place.