IR2501 – week 8 lectures II – Postcolonial Studies Postcolonial Studies Inter-disciplinary field of study involving all humanities, arts and social sciences Especially prominent in literary and cultural studies, but recent impact on IR Aim: to analyse ‘the postcolonial condition’ Questions that transition to independence is smooth, or unproblematic Initial questions: What is the long term legacy of the Imperial era (political, cultural, economic…)? How meaningful is independence? Who writes the history of colonialism? – have the ‘victors’ created a fantasy of a positive impact rather than oppression and exploitation? Founding Parents Edward Said Power-knowledge nexus of Imperialism deconstructive critique of techniques of Othering Gayatri Spivak Subjectivity of subaltern subjects Debates on the representation of marginalised voices in social research Homi Bhabha conceptions of the nation Hybrid identities Ranajit Guha and the ‘Subaltern Studies Group’ Rewriting history from the perspective of the colonised ‘Decentering’ the production of academic knowledge Intellectual agendas in Postcolonial Studies How can we re-write history to account for the perspective of native populations? What would be the impact on contemporary analyses and categories? How can we have a non-oppressive academic discourse? ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ Does Western scholarship have the tools of speak of ‘other’ cultures? Debates on universalism in values Why are the concerns and views of Western scholars and policy-makers taken more seriously than those of thinkers from the ‘margins’? Agenda-setting by the powerful that excludes voices and indigenous concerns of most of the world Challenges and Debates Main debate in postcolonial theory: Neo-Marxist vs. post-structuralist emphases Over-stating the discursive aspects hides the material components of neo-imperialism? i.e. too stuck with talking about texts? Importance of discussing increasingly subtle mechanisms for surveillance, control and exploitation should not be dismissed: discursive masks of colonialism change over time… Resilience of Orientalism as a mechanism for Othering E.g. civilising mission of the War on Terror? Risk of over-emphasising colonialism as a marker: p/c states vary, and elites should take share of the blame for ease of their own corruption Implications for International Relations Seemingly very focused micro-theory, but the implications are fundamental to IR: Theorisation of power, in terms of Empire, relating to the material and discursive aspects of power Fundamentally challenges: Realist Foreign policy and the international system as a ‘rational’, predictable setting…IR is full of cultural assumptions and lacks objectivity E.g. racist US assumptions about Japan shaping WWII policy and academic discourses on the ‘developing’ world Categories chosen and linear, Western-centric, scale of development set out ill-suited goals which postcolonial societies cannot but fail to reach Assuming a level playing field of globalisation that hides growing inequalities steeped in a long history, and structurally reinforced Hides ideological underpinnings of ‘good governance’ discourse Can there be an IR without ‘Othering’? Connection to wider post-structuralist agendas: is exclusion a feature of identity? David Campbell: the state defines its identity through perceived enemies… Greater regional cooperation maintains boundaries – e.g. EU: even common identities need an ‘outside’ Connection to wider neo-Gramscian thought and World Systems Theory/Dependencia School Is the developed world ‘developed’ precisely because the developing world isn’t? Discourse of the liberal growth (through free trade) and the liberal peace (through intervention) imply that everyone is can be a ‘winner’ in IR… Is this structurally possible? Conclusions Does Orientalism apply to analyses of the contemporary Middle East? Does it apply to other parts of the ‘Global South’? What lies behind dominant discourses in IR, and IR theory? Is IR theory fundamentally Western-centric? Does it put a veneer of legitimacy and rationality on exclusion and exploitation? What opportunities are there for marginalised sections of populations, cultures or parts of the world to speak for themselves... and to be heard?
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