When Subalternist theorists put up this gigantic wall separating East from West, and when they insist that Western agents are not driven by the same kinds of concerns as Eastern agents, what they’re doing is endorsing the kind of essentialism that colonial authorities used to justify their depredations in the nineteenth century. It’s the same kind of essentialism that American military apologists used when they were bombing Vietnam or when they were going into the Middle East. Nobody on the Left can be at ease with these sorts of arguments.Vivek Chibber (Professor of Sociology, New York University) discusses the pitfalls of postcolonialism in the wake of his controversial book Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital. [more inside]
How Things Fell Apart, By Chinua Achebe - 'In an excerpt from his long-awaited memoir, the inventor of the post-colonial African novel in English discusses his origins as a writer and the seeds of revolt against the British Empire.'
I can say that my whole artistic career was probably sparked by this tension between the Christian religion of my parents, which we followed in our home, and the retreating, older religion of my ancestors, which fortunately for me was still active outside my home. I still had access to a number of relatives who had not converted to Christianity and were called heathens by the new converts. When my parents were not watching I would often sneak off in the evenings to visit some of these relatives.[more inside]
Being an object of compassion is not the same thing as being the subject of a story. “I used to joke—and I want to emphasize this is a joke—that you could write that you’d wandered into some obscure backwater in Africa where people had three ears", tells a former NYT correspondent to the Boston Review. The expression white savior industrial complex, coined by Teju Cole in response to the Kony 2012 debâcle highlights the problem of reifying historical processes: it becomes something to be used and milked either as NGO "margins" or as fodder for disaster media. How many older people equate India with "endemic hunger" rather than "emerging power", and how many roads must Africa walk down before we stop calling them war-hungry savages? And is the objectifying discourse a cause or a symptom (or both) of the complex problem of even thinking about Africa?
"We could all do worse than to write like Saul Bellow. And when I say write like Saul Bellow, I mean be Saul Bellow. And when I say be Saul Bellow, I mean unzip the skin from his body and wear it as a sort of Saul Bellow suit so that we can get cozy in it and truly inhabit it and understand the Old Macher." [more inside]