Postcolonialism Musings

I am on a graduate thesis committee. (This is a first for me. I have read and edited graduate theses many times, but this is the first time I will be a part of the process of writing one–aside from my own.) I hope to avoid any repetitions of the single altercation in the hallways of English at my university (which, sad to say, was in reference to my thesis) and to avoid looking like an idiot.

Reading through a bit of postcolonial discussions.

First, let me confess, I know next to nothing (at this point) about postcolonial theory. I have read a lot of the anthropology which was used in service of colonialism, at least according to some authors. Having studied history as an undergraduate, I have a bit more than a passing knowledge of the colonial imperative and the devastation it imposed on various people groups, including some of my own ancestors.

Having said that, I am using this post to ruminate on my first thoughts upon reading in the literature of postcolonial theory.

Why does postcolonialism enshrine the duality of neo-colonialism or colonialism itself? While the authors argue against Orientalism as a monolithic cultural construct created to subjugate people groups and “native countries” (which are also colonial political structures), they create Occidentalism, in which the West becomes a monolithic cultural construct which must be violently overturned in order for the subaltern peoples to reach their potential. If there is no Orientalism, there should also be no Occidentalism. If violent conquest of a people group is bad, violent reconquest of a political fiction should also be bad. If the colonialists have exited the country, why does anyone need to rebel against them violently?

I would agree with the connection of power and knowledge, but debate that knowledge of another people/culture/time/space is inherently used to minimize that people/culture/time/space. I would also argue that knowledge alone, the purely academic knowledge that so many of us pursue on a regular basis, is not powerful nor power-creative in and of itself. Instead the knowledge must be allied with some other entity/imperative/discussion/decision in order to invoke connotations or realities of power. Knowledge by itself is not power, but only a potential for power.

Foucault is obviously going back on my reading list.

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