Table of Contents
Postcolonial Literature in the Global Moment
Postcolonial Literature in the Society of the Spectacle
Postcolonial Literature in the Global Culture
In an attempt "to construct what John Hinkson calls a "social theory of postmodernity" that is adequately global (Hinkson 1990)" (Appadurai 1996), I propose to bring the theorization of postcolonial literature to bear on the treatise on The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord (1994). To forge the connection between two such disparate texts I take recourse to Arjun Appadurai’s book Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (1996) that in important respects touches both on literature as cultural practice and on the global moment in which Debord’s society of integrated spectacle is situated. Debord’s notion of the society of integrated spectacle defines the specificity of the global moment of modernity where “the interlinked diasporas of people and images” (Appadurai 1996) play increasingly decisive role. The postcolonial literature that is intricately connected to multiple landscapes of flow explores their effect upon “the work of the imagination” (Appadurai 1996) as collective social fact. Equally constitutive of the "[d]iasporic public spheres, diverse among themselves” (Appadurai 1996), these flow-scapes produce in the global culture of the society of the spectacle multiple arenas “for conscious choice, justification, and representation” (Appadurai 1996).
In an attempt "to construct what John Hinkson calls a "social theory of postmodernity" that is adequately global (Hinkson 1990)" (Appadurai 1996), I propose to bring the theorization of postcolonial literature to bear on the treatise on The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord (1994). To forge the connection between two such disparate texts I take recourse to Arjun Appadurai’s book Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (1996) that in important respects touches both on literature as cultural practice and on the global moment in which Debord’s society of integrated spectacle is situated.
Thereby I attempt to encompass within the confines of this paper the problématique of modernity as a universal phenomenon (Appadurai 1996). On one hand, literature encompasses that experience of modernity that is “synaesthetic and pretheoretical" (Appadurai 1996). On the other hand, Debord’s efforts at thematization of “certain cultural facts" (Appadurai 1996) provide an account of modernity from the perspective of “the theory of the spectacle" (Debord 1994). The emphasis on postcolonial literature will aid in delineating the place of culture both in the global moment of modernity and in the society of the spectacle.
Postcolonial Literature in the Global Moment
In their book The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (1989), Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffith, and Helen Tiffin define the term "post-colonial” as covering “all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day” (1989). In this respect the global moment of modernity reaches in its duration to the beginning of the world system that "has been a congeries of large-scale interactions for many centuries" (Appadurai 1996). Even through dispersed across the globe, “the historical process initiated by European imperial aggression" (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1989) has engendered the continuous processes of imagination variously serving and battling it.
Among the multiplicity of the forms that such work of imagination took, literature, as part of the process of appropriation of the Enlightenment project, has provided “the basis for a permanent traffic in ideas of peoplehood and selfhood” (Appadurai 1996). Out of these processes the imagined communities (Anderson 1991) of various nationalisms took shape. In the peripheries of the “intricate and overlapping set of Eurocolonial worlds (first Spanish and Portuguese, later principally English, French, and Dutch)” (Appadurai 1996), the emergence of the post-colonial literature has been part of the process in which “the imagination has broken out of the special expressive space of art, myth, and ritual and has […] become a part of the quotidian mental work of ordinary people in many societies" (Appadurai 1996). Thereby the importance of the post-colonial literature as the work of imagination lies in it being source of agency alternative to that of the colonial centers. Similarly, Ashcroft, Griffith, and Tiffin highlight that
[w]hat each of these literatures has in common beyond their special and distinctive regional characteristics is that they emerged in their present form out of the experience of colonization and asserted themselves by foregrounding the tension with the imperial power, and by emphasizing their differences from the assumptions of the imperial centre. It is this which makes them distinctively post-colonial (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1989)
Such literary works can be seen “as transcending individual volition, as weighted with the force of social morality, and as objective social realities" (Appadurai 1996) much in the manner of Émile Durkheim’s social facts (1982; 1997). In this interpretation, literature is inextricably linked to ”the nineteenth-century colonial form of imperialism [(Batsleer 1985)]” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1989) when it was discovered as an ally in support of “maintaining control of the natives under the guise of a liberal education. (Viswanathan 1987)" (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1989). However, this institutionalization of English literature, alongside other colonial ones, as a social fact of collective significance has contained seeds of “the plurality of imagined worlds" (Appadurai 1996). That these processes of empire-building and the spread of the project of Enlightenment that aspired to “to create persons who would, after the fact, have wished to have become modern" (Appadurai 1996) are intertwined with ideology is illustrated on the example of the English language and literature about which
[i]t can be argued that the study of English and the growth of Empire proceeded from a single ideological climate and that the development of the one is intrinsically bound up with the development of the other, both at the level of simple utility (as propaganda for instance) and at the unconscious level, where it leads to the naturalizing of constructed values (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1989)