Deconstruction and the Postcolonial

Deconstruction and the Postcolonial: At the Limits of Theory

Michael Syrotinski
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Deconstruction and the Postcolonial
    Book Description:

    As postcolonial studies shifts to a more comparative approach one of the most intriguing developments has been within the Francophone world. A number of genealogical lines of influence are now being drawn connecting the work of the three figures most associated with the emergence of postcolonial theory – Homi Bhabha, Edward Said, and Gayatri Spivak – to an earlier generation of French (predominantly ‘poststructuralist’) theorists. Within this emerging narrative of intellectual influences, the importance of the thought of Jacques Derrida, and the status of deconstruction generally, has been acknowledged, but has not until now been adequately accounted for. In Deconstruction and the Postcolonial, Michael Syrotinski teases out the underlying conceptual tensions and theoretical stakes of what he terms a ‘deconstructive postcolonialism’, and argues that postcolonial studies stands to gain ground in terms of its political forcefulness and philosophical rigour by turning back to, and not away from, deconstruction.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-292-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Introduction: a few liminal remarks
    (pp. 1-8)

    Such has been the breathtaking pace of developments in what is broadly referred to as postcolonial theory that it is almost surprising to recall the relatively recent occurrence of these developments. Indeed, the more comparative approaches that are taken for granted in postcolonial theory, such as the now well established field of Francophone postcolonial studies, have entered only fairly late into the game, after a decade or so of largely Anglophone-based research and criticism.¹ It may, on reflection, come as a further surprise that the dialogues now informing debates among postcolonial writers, critics and intellectuals did not begin much earlier,...

  5. Part I. Postcolonial deconstruction
    • CHAPTER 1 Deconstruction in Algeria (Derrida ‘himself’)
      (pp. 11-25)

      In a series of books and essays beginning with his groundbreaking studyWhite Mythologies: Writing History and the West(1990), Robert Young has been a leading critic in debates on the relationship of deconstruction to postcolonial theory.¹ Young offers in a more recent essay, ‘Deconstruction and the postcolonial’ (2000), a strong critique of materialist postcolonial theorists who dismiss deconstruction on the grounds of its alleged ‘textualist’ bias.² In particular, he challenges what he sees as Aijaz Ahmad’s rather crude and dogmatic account of the linear progression of French theory (a narrative according to which ‘post-structuralism’ has no significance or relevance...

    • CHAPTER 2 Hybridity revisited
      (pp. 26-39)

      The concept of hybridity has been so central to postcolonial studies, but at the same time so variably interpreted and deployed, and so wildly productive and reproductive, that writers and critics have generated a seemingly infinite range of ‘hybrids’ (theories of the hybrid, or hybrid theories). This horticultural analogy is, of course, highly over-determined by the etymology and history of the term. As Robert Young reminds us inColonial Desire, the word ‘hybrid’ in English comes from the Latinhybrida, ‘the offspring of a tame sow and a wild boar’, and thus comes to mean more generally a transgression of...

    • CHAPTER 3 Spivak reading Derrida: an interesting exchange
      (pp. 40-62)

      At the end of the previous chapter, hybridity was conceived of as a double articulation that would allow for a move beyond the hegemonic absorptions of identitarian thinking, or of a politics of subjective agency, and we saw the critical potential of Homi Bhabha’s ‘savage hybridity’ in this regard. As Alberto Moreiras notes, Gayatri Spivak’s ‘strategic essentialism’ provides one early model for such a double articulation, in this case one that would address the apparent logical impossibility of finding a way to give voice and agency to subaltern women, when all access is by definition denied according to the law...

  6. Part II. Deconstruction and postcolonial Africa
    • CHAPTER 4 Defetishizing Africa
      (pp. 65-81)

      As we have seen in the preceding chapters, the concept of fetishism is a key element in Homi Bhabha’s critical lexicon, and in his interweaving of psychoanalysis, deconstruction and postcolonial theory. In Jacques Derrida’s reading of sexual difference in Hegel and Genet inGlas, it also functions as an ironic architectonic and typographical structuring device of the text. In terms of the broader ethico-political concerns that are at the heart of Derrida’sSpecters of Marx, and of Gayatri Spivak’s reading of Derrida, the operation of commodity fetishism in Marx is indissociably bound up with exchange value, and by extension informs...

    • CHAPTER 5 Reprendre: Mudimbe’s deconstructions
      (pp. 82-97)

      I would like in this chapter to reprise, or to take up again, the question of V. Y. Mudimbe’s ‘deconstruction’, but more precisely in light of his own postcolonial inflection of the termreprendre, as a question of rereading and rewriting (both Africa and the West).¹ He uses the termreprendre, in relation to contemporary African art, to mean both the act of coming back to something that has been interrupted (literallyre-prendre) and the assessment of the ‘tools’ at our disposal, but also to signify a third, interstitial critical reflectionbetweenthese two meanings:

      The wordreprendre– strangely...

    • CHAPTER 6 Violence and writing in the African postcolony: Achille Mbembe and Sony Labou Tansi
      (pp. 98-116)

      Although much of the discussion about the relationship between deconstruction and the postcolonial in the previous chapters has challenged and problematized the model of history as a continuous causal flow, or genealogical narratives of intellectual influence and indebtedness, it would be fair to say that we could trace a direct line of descent from Frantz Fanon to the Cameroonian social theorist Achille Mbembe (passing, more indirectly, through Homi Bhabha). We might even say that if Fanon took on the mantle of spokesperson and principal theoretician of the anti-colonialist cause in Africa, Mbembe has similarly assumed the role of the most...

  7. Conclusion (Postcolonial Blanchot?)
    (pp. 117-123)

    ‘Nous étions sidérés’: ‘We were left dumbstruck’; or, ‘Fate – its sidereal influence, its unmasterable power to pull us apart, in repeated acts of outrageous disruption or interruption – struck once again’; or even, ‘Disaster, as ever, has the last word’. It would not seem inappropriate to render the final words from Sony Labou Tansi’sLe Commencement des douleursas a ‘writing of the disaster’, echoing Maurice Blanchot’s powerful meditation on writing in its confrontation with disaster’s infinite threat. With this in mind, it might also translate Achille Mbembe’s efforts to write ‘la nuit-du-monde-africain-postcolonial’ (‘the night-of-the-postcolonial-African-world’). Postcolonial Africa is indeed,...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 124-132)
  9. Index
    (pp. 133-136)