Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Refashioning Futures

Refashioning Futures: Criticism after Postcoloniality

David Scott
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Refashioning Futures
    Book Description:

    How can we best forge a theoretical practice that directly addresses the struggles of once-colonized countries, many of which face the collapse of both state and society in today's era of economic reform? David Scott argues that recent cultural theories aimed at "deconstructing" Western representations of the non-West have been successful to a point, but that changing realities in these countries require a new approach. InRefashioning Futures,he proposes astrategicpractice of criticism that brings the political more clearly into view in areas of the world where the very coherence of a secular-modern project can no longer be taken for granted.

    Through a series of linked essays on culture and politics in his native Jamaica and in Sri Lanka, the site of his long scholarly involvement, Scott examines the ways in which modernity inserted itself into and altered the lives of the colonized. The institutional procedures encoded in these modern postcolonial states and their legal systems come under scrutiny, as do our contemporary languages of the political. Scott demonstrates that modern concepts of political representation, community, rights, justice, obligation, and the common good do not apply universally and require reconsideration. His ultimate goal is to describe the modern colonial past in a way that enables us to appreciate more deeply the contours of our historical present and that enlarges the possibility of reshaping it.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2306-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  3. INTRODUCTION Criticism after Postcoloniality
    (pp. 3-20)

    What is the demand of criticism in the postcolonial present? I mean this question in a double sense, in the sense of a double demand. On the one hand, what does our cognitive-political present demand of a practice of postcolonial criticism? And on the other, what ought postcolonial criticism’s demand on this present to be? Assuming, as I will, that the answers to these questions are not transparently self-evident and not adequately covered by the vocabularies of the cultural-political we currently inhabit, how do we begin to formulate responses to them? How, in other words, and with what conceptual resources,...


    • CHAPTER 1 Colonial Governmentality
      (pp. 23-52)

      The above remarks on modernity by the late Michel Foucault and Talal Asad mark out the problem-field in which the argument in this chapter is to be situated. I want to inquire into what appears to me a problem in the now considerably advanced discussion about colonialism—a problem that turns very much on the question of what is distinctive about the political rationality of forms of power, on the one hand, and on the other, on those transformations effected bymodernpower, the consequence of which is that the old, premodern possibilities are not only no longer conceptually approachable...

    • CHAPTER 2 Religion in Colonial Civil Society
      (pp. 53-69)

      It is generally assumed that religion has always played a political role in Sri Lankan history. After all, so it is said, since the dawn of recorded history in the island, there has been a well-established relation between Buddhism and the state, one moreover which, it is further supposed, has shaped to a very considerable degree the “national identity” of the Sinhalas. Consider, for example, the following passage taken from a recent book by the estimable Sri Lankan historian, K. M. de Silva:

      The introduction of Buddhism to the island around the third century bc had an impact on the...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Government of Freedom
      (pp. 70-90)

      Reading and writing after Michel Foucault it is scarcely a controversial matter to assert that the investigation of the past ought to be connected to questions derived from the present. This, after all, is the now familiar idea of a history of the present. Such histories are concerned to destabilize the seeming naturalness or inevitability of the present, to show the ways in which the present is in fact assembled contingently and heterogeneously. They are concerned, in short, to historicize the present, in order to enable us to act—and actdifferently—upon it. But while this Foucauldian idea may...


    • CHAPTER 4 Dehistoricizing History
      (pp. 93-105)

      My concern in this chapter is to engage Jean-Luc Nancy’s provocation quoted above—a provocation, as I shall read it, todehistoricizehistory—on the intellectual and ideological terrain of the contemporary debate about the relation between community and history in Sri Lanka.¹ In so doing I wish to take issue with a prevalent way of conceiving this relation between community and history, one that makes the shape of the former dependent upon the story the latter tells about the past. The crux of my preoccupation here is with theseemingnature of this dependence. How we make a (political)...

    • CHAPTER 5 “An Obscure Miracle of Connection”
      (pp. 106-128)

      These inimitable sentences are, recognizably, Kamau Brathwaite’s.¹ They are, to my mind, among the most movingly evocative sentences in black diaspora writing. For what they summon up so vividly is something of the quality of a black diasporic form of belonging. I read them in fact as offering to us the vision of a very special kind of community: the community of those for whom “Slavery” is the permanent name of a trial and tribulation which they are yet to overcome, and “Africa” the name of a difference, of a refusal, and therefore of a horizon of hopes at once...


    • CHAPTER 6 The Aftermaths of Sovereignty
      (pp. 131-157)

      When Aijaz Ahmad published his notable reply to Fredric Jameson’s characterization of Third World literatures as “national allegories,” there was a modest enough elation among the Left postcolonial intelligentsia, those of us anyway who were, in Amitav Ghosh’s felicitous phrase, “travelling in the West.”¹ Ahmad’s intervention struck a chord. It did so, at least in part, because its “postcolonial” criticism of a sophisticated Marxist for his Eurocentric construction of the “Third World” and the cultural practices that were supposed to be representative of it was nevertheless instituted within the theoretical field of Marxism itself. So that from a point of...

    • CHAPTER 7 Community, Number, and the Ethos of Democracy
      (pp. 158-189)

      Shortly after midnight on April 20, 1995, women divers, cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the principal Tamil politicomilitary organization, bomb-blasted two gunboats belonging to the Sri Lankan navy at anchor in the Trincomalee harbor. It marked the sudden end of the Cessation of Hostilities that had been formally signed into effect by LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, and the head of state of Sri Lanka, President Chandrika Kumaratunga, in early January of the same year.¹ It had been the most optimistic three and a half months in recent Sri Lankan history. The Sinhala chauvinism that had so...

    • CHAPTER 8 Fanonian Futures?
      (pp. 190-220)

      The postcolonial state in Jamaica is in crisis. Indeed, more fundamentally than this, the entire thirty-odd-year-old project of what I shall call the postcolonial nationalist-modern in Jamaica is in a profound crisis. This project, principally of course a “creole” middle-class project, really begins its cultural-political career in the nationalist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, and finds its paradigmatic embodiment in the People’s National Party of (its founding leader) N. W. Manley and subsequently (in radicalized form) his son, Michael Manley.¹ What this nationalist-modern project was about, what distinguished it from its immediate competitor (a more commercialist-modern, embodied in the...

    • CODA After Bandung: From the Politics of Colonial Representation to a Theory of Postcolonial Politics
      (pp. 221-224)

      The death of Michael Manley on March 6, 1997, signals much more than the death of one of Jamaica’s—or even the Caribbean region’s—most distinguished statesmen and political visionaries. His death has a larger, a Third World, signification. It signals, in a very tangible way, the end of Bandung. By this I mean that Michael Manley’s death at the age of seventy-two, after a long and eventful political career on the local and international stages, signals the end of the historical form of the whole problem of anticolonial sovereignty in the postcolonial world. This is an historical form of...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 225-226)
  8. Index
    (pp. 227-234)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-237)