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Colonialism and Postcolonialism

Paul Bowman. Cardiff University

Paul Bowman

on 19 February 2013

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Transcript of Colonialism and Postcolonialism

Colonialism and Postcolonialism post-colonialism & postcolonialism after colonialism set of problems intellectual / academic field Disputes and conflicts concerning the ‘ownership’ of particular geographical areas The ramifications of ‘ownership’ go beyond geography to include political representation as well as sovereignty over ethnic and cultural history. NB: Though these "postcolonial" disputes and conflicts date back to the days of territorial colonialism, they remain the reality of daily life in places such as South Africa, Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan. problems of postcolonialism There are debates around reclaiming native cultural traditions that were systematically distorted by the colonial powers in the process of exploitation In the case of India, for instance, historians argue for the need to wrest India's past from colonialist historiography - that is, from the ways in which India was ideologically as well as economically and territorially dominated by the British In other words, even though India has been territorially independent since 1947, the Indian people's "postcolonial" struggle against British colonialism remains an urgent cultural task Neocolonialism Then there is the question of neocolonialism in countries that were once European colonies and that, after national independence, have been targeted for aggression and exploitation by the United States during its period of global power We think here especially of the United States' "client states" in Central and Latin America, and the Middle East. Colonialism and Culture Languages, like classes and nations, exist in a hierarchy: as does translation itself, traditionally thought of in terms of an original and an inferior copy. Under colonialism, the colonial copy becomes more powerful than the indigenous original that is devalued. It will even be claimed that the copy corrects deficiencies in the native version. The colonial language becomes culturally more powerful, devaluing the native language as it is brought into its domain, domesticated, and accommodated. The initial act in colonization was to translate significant indigenous written and oral texts into the colonizer's language. In this way, translation transformed oral cultures into the webs and snares of writing, into what the Latin American critic Angel Rama calls 'the lettered city', a proliferation of writing which, unlike the social construction of oral cultures, would be accessible only to a privileged few. Translation becomes part of the process of domination, of achieving control, a violence carried out on the language, culture, and people being translated. (140) As a practice, translation begins as a matter of intercultural communication, but it also always involves questions of power relations, and of forms of domination. It cannot therefore avoid political issues, or questions about its own links to current forms of power. No act of translation takes place in an entirely neutral space of absolute equality. Someone is translating something or someone. Someone or something is being translated, transformed from a subject to an object... The Spaniard who goes to North America finds herself translated from a first-world individual to a third-world 'Latino'. The Ghanaian princess goes to the United States and finds that she has become a second-class citizen, treated as if she were just another African-American. The colonized person is also in the condition of being a translated man or woman. (140) In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon argues that the black man and woman have already been translated not only as colonial subjects in the regime of French imperialism, but also internally, psychologically: their desires have been changed into another form, carried across into the desire for whiteness through a kind of metempsychosis. Their very desires have been transposed, though they have never, of course, actually become white. They have black skin, with a white mask. (144) Postcolonial Politics The specific conditions, therefore, for women in postcolonial states, or the postcolonial conditions in metropolitan states for migrants, vary according to location, with the result that there cannot be a single form of postcolonial politics. What makes a politics postcolonial is a broader shared political philosophy that guides its ethics and its practical aims. Postcolonialism as a political philosophy means first and foremost the right to autonomous self-government of those who still find themselves in a situation of being controlled politically and administratively by a foreign power. With sovereignty achieved, postcolonialism seeks to change the basis of the state itself, actively transforming the restrictive, centralizing hegemony of the cultural nationalism that may have been required for the struggle against colonialism. It stands for empowering the poor, the dispossessed, and the disadvantaged, for tolerance of difference and diversity, for the establishment of minorities' rights, women's rights, and cultural rights within a broad framework of democratic egalitarianism that refuses to impose alienating western ways of thinking on tricontinental societies. It resists all forms of exploitation (environmental as well as human) and all oppressive conditions that have been developed solely for the interests of corporate capitalism. It challenges corporate capitalism's commodification of social relations and the doctrine of individualism that functions as the means through which this is achieved. It resists all exploitation that results from comparative poverty or powerlessness - from the appropriation of natural resources, to unjust prices for commodities and crops, to the international sex trade. Postcolonialism stands for the right to basic amenities - security, sanitation, health care, food, and education – for all peoples of the earth, young, adult, and aged; women and men. It champions the cause not only of industrial workers but also those underclasses, those groups marginalized according to gender or ethnicity, that have not hitherto been considered to qualify for [113→14] radical class politics. While encouraging personal authenticity of sincerity and altruism, it questions attempts to return to national or cultural 'authenticity', which it regards as largely constructed for dubious political purposes. It considers the most productive forms of thought those that interact freely across disciplines and cultures in constructive dialogues that undo the hierarchies of power. (113-14) Postcolonialism, with its fundamental sympathies for the subaltern, for the peasantry, for the poor, for outcasts of all kinds, eschews the high culture of the elite and espouses subaltern cultures and knowledges which have historically been considered to be of little value but which it regards as rich repositories of culture and counter-knowledge. The sympathies and interests of postcolonialism are thus focused on those at the margins of society, those whose cultural identity has been dislocated or left uncertain by the forces of global capitalism - refugees, migrants who have moved from the countryside to the impoverished edges of the city, migrants who struggle in the first world for a better life while working at the lowest levels of those societies. At all times, postcolonialism stands for a transformational politics, for a politics dedicated to the removal of inequality - from the different degrees of wealth of the different states in the world system, to the class, ethnic, and other social hierarchies within individual states, to the gendered hierarchies that operate at every level of social and cultural relations. Postcolonialism combines and draws on elements from radical socialism, feminism, and environmentalism. Its difference from any of these as generally defined is that it begins from a fundamentally tricontinental, third-world, subaltern perspective and its priorities always remain there. For people in the west, postcolonialism amounts to nothing less than a world turned upside-down. It looks at and experiences the world from below rather than from above. Its eyes, ears, and mouth are those of the Ethiopian woman farmer, not the diplomat or the CEO. (114) Where is postcolonial?
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