Relationship between postmodernism and postcolonialism

TRANS Nr. Paul Michael Lützeler (St. Louis): From Postmodernism to Postcolonialism

relationship between postmodernism and postcolonialism

South Atlantic Modern Language Association Convention, Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel Atlanta, Georgia November , I have a last minute. The relationship, however, as it is mapped out in different ways around the . be the first instance of the relation between postmodern and postcolonial—two. categories as gradually swerving away from postcolonial postmodernism .. The relationship between postmodernism and postcolonialism is a troubled one.

For instance, Irish relations towards the British are rather obviously unlike those of Singaporeans or Jamaicans; and Indonesian relations to the Dutch are something else again. As we move around the globe these differences are revealed in terms of a dizzying diversity of histories and situations. But yet, certain generalities do emerge. These involve the recent historical conditions that many critical commentators have been studying in terms of the word modernity.

Here we are allowed to bracket out a number of apparently historically less relevant instances of colonialism. Alexander the Great, the Khans, the Romans, The great dynastic empires of China, the empires of Japan, the vast empires of south Asia—each of these has been responsible for colonizing parts of the globe but we can for the moment discount them by focusing on the more concentrated and in some senses more recent and more recently powerful phenomena associated with modernity, particularly western modernity.

Modernity Modernity must be grasped in terms of two distinguishing and distinguished historical processes: With the swift rise in Europe and America of powerful tendencies manifesting advances in technology and science, as well as the development of nation states, democratic political systems and the expansion of capitalist modes of production, the word modernization comes to describe them.

Associated with modernization, of course, are not only the values of humanism and enlightenment, but also those of colonialism and European Imperialism as the modernization of the west spreads around the world. The word modernism however is used to describe certain trends in art, writing, criticism and philosophy that have had a powerful influence on the development and experience of the 20th century.

Conventionally we can date these trends from the last decade of the 19th century to about the beginning of the 2nd world war in So we can provisionally accept that the phenomena of modernism were produced within a fifty-year period. Modernism is not, of course, a period in itself other kinds of art and writing occurred during this time but it does describe a wide range of textual phenomena that exerted a profound influence on the way we all think and experience our world today.

Modernity, then describes both the tendencies associated with modernization science, technology, rationality and the self-critical attitude of artists, writers and philosophers who, within modernity, have profoundly questioned its powerful limits. We can thus, provisionally at least, identify a point of confluence between postmodernism and postcolonialism.

In fact postcolonialism names a specific mode of intellectual and artistic production and has a historical provenance within the field of critical theory. In this narrower and more powerful determination we can see that the issues of postmodernism are very close to those of postcolonialism.

The following points are designed to show how the term postmodernism can be linked to the term postmodernism. Postcolonialism would thus be—both the active theorizing of the postcolonial condition and the condition itself.

So, on the one hand, postcolonial theory, with the combined resources of poststructuralist criticism and postmodernist philosophy, addresses these issues critically, i. The failures and paradoxes of colonialism are revealed to be those that are determined by any attempt to legislate a frontier without taking account of its ground the relation to the other. The logic of colonialism assumes two contradictory things: This would be the first instance of the relation between postmodern and postcolonial—two similar forms of troubling the notion of identity at its root.

The attempt to keep a boundary secure between what is valued and what threatens the valued thing reveals that this strategy of inclusion and exclusion tends to be built on paradoxical grounds that, in the full logic of the paradox, must include as part of its own condition the thing that is perceived as a threat, hence the second phenomenon. Postcolonialism cannot maintain a distinction between colonizers and colonized, between center or metropolis and periphery, without falling into paradox.

Problematizing Grounds Just as with postmodernism, the grounds of all colonial exclusions and inclusions and the frontiers and boundaries that are drawn between them turn out to be paradoxical, so we need to rethink the whole notion of grounds—along with notions like foundation, origin, beginning, etc.

The Struggle of Postmodernism and Postcolonialism

The general disappearances in postmodernism of notions of origin, source, ground and foundation have equivalents in postcolonialism. Edward Said Orientalism showed that much of what is comprehended in the West as the Orient turns out to have been an extraordinarily sophisticated and heterogeneous series of theoretical fictions—inventions disguised as facts—and constitutes one of the great myths that have governed western attitudes to the world in general for thousands of years.

Orientalism is part of a complex narrative as complex as it is contradictory concerning progress, belatedness, otherness and identity, civilization and barbarism etc. But, since the historical phenomenon was itself informed by the possibilities of repetition and substitution and manifests exactly the kind of play of forces that repetition and substitution imply, a postcolonialism would always in some sense manifest the colonialism of which it is the post.

In this sense we should look to the great god Capital, which was always anyway the main beneficiary—as well as the conqueror—of both imperialism i. So where are we going then? Here he recalled the human catastrophes like the Holocaust that occur when solidarity is absent. His book Achieving our Country" relates to the pragmatic nature of the American democratic intellectual tradition. Here, too, Rorty insists on solidarity and demonstrates its meaning under the changed conditions of He declares that one of the foremost topics of American postmodernism today is the criticism of the increasingly drastic social inequality.

The emancipation of women has achieved immeasurable success, and minorities have been able to defend, demonstrate, and maintain their cultural differences. In the future we will have to occupy ourselves more intensively with social topics. Postmodernism is associated much more strongly than modernism with the discourses of feminism, multiculturalism, and postcolonialism.

Postcolonialism created a climate in which these discourses were able to unfold.

Comparing Post-Modernism and Postcolonial theory | Gabriel Gradi -

How strongly postmodern thinking influenced the multicultural discourse is especially evident in Charles Taylor's study Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition. This acknowledgment of cultural difference is at the center of Charles Taylor's contemplations on multiculturalism and its politics.

The unencumbered life of minorities is not possible without recognition. Taylor states that laws in Western democracies, while seemingly the same for all citizens, are directed at the needs of majorities, not minorities. Thus nations, purportedly blind to cultural difference, can evolve as societies that propound a particularism that easily turns into discrimination. In order to avoid a situation in which the language of one negotiator overcomes that of the other, one cannot rely on either one of the legal languages but must develop a new legal language that can be understood by both.

In order to accomplish this, one must look for commonalities in both languages. According to Lyotard, in postmodern societies one must discern what is not yet codified instead of simply reiterating what has already been stated in one of the languages. The theory of multiculturalism has essentially been developed in the U. The diversity of this theory is exemplified by the divergent studies of, for example, the Americans Avery Gordon and Christopher Newfield, the Canadian Charles Taylor, and the Australian Stephen Castle.

What these theories share is that they replace the older cultural identity paradigms such as specific national identity or the so-called "melting pot" with models that propagate the acceptance of the diversity and hybridity of varying, even contrasting cultures. Feminism and multiculturalism are emancipation discourses typical of the West. The theory and practice of postcolonialism, however, has its roots in the so-called Third World, that is to say, in the former colonies as well as in South Africa.

In a modified way, postcolonialism continues the anticolonial discourse of earlier decades; one must mention here the works of Frantz Fanon. It is significant for the postmodern concept of Western countries that the postcolonial theory was developed above all by academics from colonial countries who are teaching today at leading universities of the West, particularly North America, like Edward Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Homi Bhabha.

It is no coincidence that the discourses of multiculturalism and postcolonialism overlap and strengthen each other, as is especially the case with Homi Bhabha. During the study of the works on the postcolonial discourse, two prominent aspects emerge: The descriptive aspect deals with the examination of the relationships between the formerly or presently colonizing and colonized countries; the programmatic concept, however, marks the political goals, goals that have to do with the overcoming of old and new colonial structures, racial bias and cultural prejudice, as well as overcoming the imbalance of power between the "First" and "Third World" or "North" and "South.

The theory of postcolonialism is focused on working out the intellectual means by which one can descriptively enable the understanding of early as well as recent colonial dependencies and programmatically deconstruct these inequalities in the sense of decolonization. The operative aspect, whose foremost proponent is Radhakrishanan, intends to achieve that state which is marked by the prefix "post," that is, it is lastly a matter of presenting the future relationship of the so-called "Third World" to the so-called "First World" on a new basis, in the true sense of the word post-colonial.

The postcolonial view is thus at once detached and visionary: Since the 60s, the postmodern concept has been expanded continuously; it has attracted an increasing number of disciplinary discourses and has thus been able to develop into a cultural periodization concept. In contrast, the postcolonial view continues to be confined essentially to its usage in the humanities.

The theoreticians and historians of this discourse are largely professors of literature or philosophy. In the meantime, the discourse has achieved international acclaim within literary scholarship, and there is hardly a country in the "First" or the "Third World" where academics of the most diverse backgrounds have not contributed their share to the theory and practice, method and goal of the postcolonial discourse.

An internet search in the "World Catalog" for bibliographical material yields under the term postcolonial a list of several hundred book publications for the English-language sector alone. A look at the abbreviated comments quickly reveals that the contributions are in general of a literary nature, dealing with aspects of literature from all continents. Since literary scholarship has tendentiously developed into an interdisciplinary cultural field during the past few decades, there are a number of studies that touch strongly on historical, sociological, anthropological, psychological, and ecological areas but are rarely written by representatives of these very fields.

Since it is impossible to gain a complete overview of what has been written on postcolonialism, one is thankful for collections and readers that provide at least an impression of the variety and internationality of the literature dealing with postcolonial aspects. The discussion initially centered on works of authors from former colonial countries of countries of the so-called "Third World.

The application of postcolonial theory has since been expanded considerably. First, those authors from the past who thematized colonialism are examined from a postcolonial viewpoint, and second, contemporary literary documents written in the vein of the postcolonial project are analyzed.

Postmodern/Postcolonial Intersections

More recently there are also tendencies to read the literature of minorities and foreigners in a postcolonial light, which at times brings forth interesting fusions of the multicultural and the postcolonial discourse. The focal point of the postcolonially oriented literary research, however, continues to be, on the one hand, the confrontation with the literature of the colonial era and, on the other hand, the discussion of the European and non-European literature that deals with the neo-colonial or post-colonial relationships between the "Third "World" and the "First.

With his book OrientalismSaid set postcolonial literary research in motion. He stressed that this work as well as his book Culture and Imperialism were intended to provide comparative literature with new impulses, new tasks, and new fields of interest.

With the counterpoint method Said wishes to confront the literature and history of the colonizing states with the culture of the formerly colonized countries, thus raising the level of awareness for the spectrum of interrelationships between the two worlds. In this process he is concerned with the profiling of two rival perspectives, two irreconcilable historical approaches, two discrepant experiences: He calls to mind that monolithic-autonomous cultures existed neither in the colonies nor in Europe, but that the civilizations of the colonists and of the colonized have for centuries influenced each other.

Said compares the interplay of the divergent perspectives to the counterpoint method of classical European music, in which different themes are played out against each other and where each theme is accorded a period of its own. At this time of increasing globalization, it is difficult to imagine a more appropriate kind of literary analysis. In a manner similar to the American theory of New Historicism influenced by Foucault, Said is interested in the power aspects of related discourses, in his case the discourses of colonialism and imperialism.

He demonstrates how the literary, historical, social, and ideological variants of these discourses rely on each other, thus determining cultural production.

For example, when Said interprets Jane Austen's Mansfield Park in his work Culture and Imperialism, he is able to document how the novel's passing mention of British Antigua signaled the dependence of the English upper middle class on the colonies: However, Said is interested not only in the colonialist and imperialist literature from Defoe to Kipling, but also in the literature of opposition that was written during the waves of emancipation in the colonized nations during the 20th century.

In the latter part of Culture and Imperialism he addresses not the imperialism of the past but rather the neo-colonialism of the present and the discussion of the North-South relationship. Like other representatives of postcolonialism, he is not only a historian, but also a critic of the times. Said acknowledges his exile existence and sees in it the fact that one may live in the West - he teaches in New York -while at the same time belonging to the "other side.

Like Homi Bhabha, he stresses the non-monolithic condition of the cultures, their flowing into each other, their hybrid nature.

relationship between postmodernism and postcolonialism

In so doing, he manages to avoid or to overcome the sort of thinking in opposites that is representative of Huntington's book about the Clash of Civilizations. The contrast between the Islamic and the Christian worlds is at the center of his interest.

While Huntington proceeds from fixed, collective identities, Bhabha and Said point to the cultural mixtures and stress the continuously changing hybrid cultural pluralism. Said takes a stand expressis verbis against intellectuals, such as Allan Bloom, who wish to perpetuate the fantasy of a "purely" Western culture and who miss no opportunity to emphasize their superiority over other cultures.

In his literary and cultural analysis it is not Said's intention to contribute to the politics of confrontation, to enmity and accusation, but to bring about mediation and understanding. Consequently, he ends his book on the note that it is more worthy to think about others than to think only about "us," but he also says that this entails giving up the constant need to repeat that "our" culture or "our" land is number one.

After the postmodern criticism of the totalitarian comcepts of modernism, the urge must be suppressed to construct a "spirit of postmodernity," a sort of master key that would explain all historical and cultural phenomena of the postmodern decades at the end of the 20th century.

relationship between postmodernism and postcolonialism

Instead, an attempt should be made to enumerate a few outstanding characteristics of the postmodern constellation, characteristics that distinguish postmodernity from the dominant tendencies of modernity in the first half of the 20th century.

This can only be done in an additive and descriptive manner, keeping in mind that this list is certainly incomplete. The following comparisons are not concerned with the establishment of binary opposites but with a description of the changes in direction, each with different degrees of radicality.

These tendentious changes make clear that one can speak less of a break between modernity and postmodernity than of a postmodern self-criticism of modernity, a kind of reworking and understanding of modernism in the postmodern constellation.

Finally, in art, architecture, and literature, it is a matter of the movement away from merely functional beauty toward a pluralism of style, a rediscovery of the ornament and the consideration of the historical architectonic surroundings; from a dogged seriousness to an acceptance of the playful, which brings with it a preference for pastiche techniques; from a favoritism toward elitist art and "pure" styles to a preference for popular forms and eclectic and hybrid styles; from aristocratic and exclusionary aesthetic forms to a more public-oriented and reader-friendly literature; from a search for constant innovation requiring originality to the recollection of older or the discovery of foreign styles; from a preference for monologic discourses to dialogic interaction; from definitive categorization to multi-coding; from ambivalence to polyvalence; from an avant-garde anti-historicism to an occupation with the past.

The question arises whether postmodernity is already a closed period or whether one can still describe this turn-of-the-century millennial period with the postmodern characteristics that have been mentioned. The postmodern discourse had its highpoint in the Western world during the 70s and 80s.