Returning the Gaze
The Manichean Drama of Postcolonial Exoticism
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- A Note to the Reader
- Introduction: Re-reading the Alterity of the Exotic in Cultural History
- Beyond Michel Foucault’s Archaeology and Said’s ‘Orientalism’ Model
- Some Methodological Difficulties of Approaching Exoticism/the Exotic
- The Catachrestical Inscription of the Other and Exotic in Western Cultural History
- The Inscription of the Exotic in Western Discourse, Culture and History
- Two Philosophical Readings of the Alterity of the Other in Cultural History
- Chapter 1: Mapping Exoticism/the Exotic on Colonial and Postcolonial Culture
- Mapping Literary Exoticism on Colonial Cultural History
- Segalen’s Re-Definition of Exoticism/the Exotic: Two Postcolonial Readings
- Mapping Exoticism/the Exotic on Orientalism
- Bhabha’s ‘Untranslatability’ of the Exotic and its Ambivalence
- Postcolonial Readings of the Exotic in Colonial Fiction
- Exoticism/the Exotic from the Viewpoint of Critical Anthropology
- Baudrillard’s Post-Hegelian Critique of the Exotic
- The Re-Invention of the Exotic in Postmodern Thought and Literature
- The Alterity of the Colonial Other and Exotic
- Chapter 2: The Articulations of Exoticism on Culture, History and Subjectivity
- The Exotic as an (Imagined) ‘Universal’ Subject
- The ‘Relativist’ Conception of the Exotic and its Ethical Subject
- The Anthropological Reading of the Exotic: ‘Reading Through Western Eyes’
- In the name of l’Exote: Some Postcolonial Interventions on the Exotic
- V.Y. Mudimbe’s Archaeological Reading of the African Exotic
- Edward Said’s Critical Intervention on Exoticism/the Exotic
- Homi Bhabha’s Semiotic Approach to the Exotic
- Deconstructing the Exotic in Cultural History
- Beyond Hegel’s Self/Other Dialectic
- The Arabo-Islamic Assimilation of the Other and Exotic
- The Inscription of the Exotic as a Colonial Subject
- ‘Returning the Gaze’: Counter-Exoticist Discourses and Their Double Binds
- Chapter 3: Beyond Michel Foucault’s Archaeology of the ‘Same’ and the ‘Other’
- Foucault’s Archaeology of Classical Culture: Two Post-Foucauldian Readings
- The Blind Spots of Foucault’s Archaeological Account of Classical Culture
- Exotic Alterity in Renaissance Culture: Foucault’s Major Blind Spot
- Re-Reading Caliban as the Colonial Other and Exotic
- The Inscription of the Exotic as a Colonial Subject in The Tempest
- The Troping of Caliban’s Exotic Alterity as Catachresis
- Chapter 4: Beyond Hegel’s Master/Slave Dialectic: Writing Back as Caliban, or as Prospero
- The Postcolonial Critique of Writing Back as Caliban or as Prospero
- The Colonial ‘Other’ as an ‘(Im)Possible’ Reading Perspective
- Beyond Hegel’s Master/Slave Dialectic: The Postcolonial Inscription of Prospero and Caliban
- Two Dialectical Rewritings of Caliban
- In the Name of L’Exote: Retamar’s Rewriting of Caliban
- The Double Binds of Writing Back as l’Exote or the Exotic Other
- The Manichean Drama of Postcolonial Exoticism: Writing Back as l’Exote, or the Exotic Other
- The Limits of Dialectical Rewritings of l’Exote/the Exotic Other
- Conclusions: Beyond the Manichean Drama of Postcolonial Exoticism
The several-year-long research that made the writing of the present book possible was fully self-financed. My thanks to the School of American Studies and the School of Critical Theory (University of Nottingham, UK), for giving me access to the School facilities and all Library facilities over many years, whenever I visited the university as a co-supervisor. My thanks to the School of Critical Theory & Cultural Studies for organizing and hosting my talk on this book project as a Visiting Professor, in September 2002. My thanks to Douglas Tallack and David Murray, Senior Lecturers in American Studies, for attending the talk and for their invaluable comments and critical responses. My special thanks to Dr Lahsen Benaziza (Dalhousie University; Ibn Zohr University), Peter Hulme (Essex University), Jon Simons (Nottingham University; Indiana University), Douglas Tallack (Nottingham University; Leicester University), Bernard McGuirk and Judith Newman (Nottingham University) for their encouragement and unfailing support, and to Dr Mohamed Syad (Sultan Mouly Slimane University, Morocco) for proof-reading the manuscript. ← ix | x →
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Having been a victim, in the past, of false publications in my name on the internet, I would like to make the following statement:
I do not have (and never had) a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, and never use social media. My academic materials will only be published on the internet by my authorized publishers.
Any comments on my work and/or other peoples’ publications (and any electronic mail) cannot be attributed to me. ← xi | xii →
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Introduction: Re-reading the Alterity of the Exotic in Cultural History
[A]lthough there is an irreducible subjective core to human experience, this experience is also historical and secular, it is accessible to analysis and interpretation, and – centrally important – it is not exhausted by totalizing theories, not marked and limited by doctrinal and national lines, not confined once and for all to analytical constructs.
— EDWARD W. SAID, Culture and Imperialism (1993)
European history is no longer seen as embodying anything like a Universal human history.
— DIPESH CHAKRABARTY, Provincializing Europe (2000)
The concerns of the present book are with the exotic as a phenomenon of colonial cultural difference and, correlatively, the articulations of exoticism on colonial and postcolonial culture, subjectivity and history.1 Such concerns are justified partly by the under-theorization of the concepts of ‘exoticism’ and ‘exotic’ and their putative referents in Postcolonial Theory and criticism, and partly by the large-scale reification of such concepts in critical discussions of the concepts. Despite the impressive scope of postcolonial critiques of exoticism conveyed, in the last thirty years or so, by a whole spate of publications on the subject, ‘exoticism’/the ‘exotic’ have long been considered to be under-researched and under-theorized by several Anglophone and Francophone critics, from Hargreaves (1986) and Moura (1992; 1998) to Forsdick (2001), among others. The colonial Other has long been the object of critical investigation in postcolonial thought and criticism – from Frantz Fanon’s Peau Noire/Masques Blancs (1952) and Les Damnés de la Terre (1961), to Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978; 1993), Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture (1994) and Gayatri ← 1 | 2 → Spivak’s A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999), among other postcolonial writers and texts. Yet Bhabha’s critical intervention on the colonial exotic in The Location of Culture (1994) represents the only postcolonial theorization of the ‘exotic’ as a representation of colonial cultural difference to date. Although Postmodern literature registers several post-Exoticist trends – exemplified by Henri Michaux, Paul Morand and Victor Segalen, among other writers – only Segalen stands out by his re-definition of ‘exoticism’ and the ‘exotic’ beyond colonial and Eurocentric conceptions of the exotic. Despite this, Segalen has either been rejected or totally ignored in Postcolonial Theory and criticism. Paradoxically, as the present book shows with evidence, no postcolonial theoretical and/or critical intervention on the exotic as a phenomenon of colonial culture has either managed to move beyond Relativist conceptions of the exotic, or produced an alternative model for approaching the exotic as a phenomenon of colonial cultural difference. Again, despite the wide-ranging scope of critical engagements with the subject in the last three decades, no Postmodern or postcolonial critique of the exotic accounts, in any substantial way, for the articulations of exoticism on colonial/postcolonial culture, subjectivity and history.
The Relativist conception of the exotic running from Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Anthropologie Structurale (1973), to Tzvetan Todorov’s Nous et les Autres (1989), to James Clifford’s Predicament of Culture (1988) and Routes (1997) sees all cultures as experiencing each other as the exotic. Underlying all Relativist approaches to the exotic is the assumption of a ‘universal’ subject of exoticism, in the name of which the ‘exotic’ is read in cultural history. With the exception of Segalen’s Essai, which redefines ‘exoticism’ and the ‘exotic’ beyond colonial and Relativist conceptions of the terms, the Relativist conception of the ‘exotic’ is the major paradigm underpinning Postmodern and postcolonial discussions of the subject – including Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism (1993), and (arguably) Bhabha’s The Location of Culture (1994). The present book throws into question and critically engages with the articulations of exoticism on colonial and postcolonial culture, history and subjectivity, beyond established Postmodern and postcolonial interventions on the exotic, and their underlying models and paradigms of analysis. ← 2 | 3 →
Despite the longstanding concern in postcolonial thought and criticism with the alterity of colonial identity and history, the postcolonial project of re-reading and rewriting the alterity of the colonial Other and exotic in cultural history basically subscribes to such Eurocentric Master-Narratives of the Self/Other as Hegel’s Master/Slave dialectic, and Michel Foucault’s archaeology of the Same and the Other, among others. Apart from this, one characterizing feature of postcolonial interventions on the colonial Other and exotic – amply conveyed by a variety of resistance and postcolonial texts – can be traced in writing back as the colonial Other and exotic, exemplified by numerous Caribbean, African and Latin-American oppositional rewritings of Shakespeare’s The Tempest identifying with Caliban. As a matter of fact, identifying with, and writing back as, the colonial Other and exotic have long been considered to be subversive of colonial representations of the Other and exotic by several generations of postcolonial critics, down to Said (1993) and Bhabha (1994). Roberto Fernandez Retamar’s identification with Caliban in Caliban Cannibale (1973), and V.Y. Mudimbe’s archaeological recovery of the African exotic in The Invention of Africa (1988) are two illustrative instances.
Unlike all such postcolonial writers and critics for whom identifying with the colonial Other and exotic is essentially subversive, and represents an effective means of rewriting colonial cultural identity, both Frantz Fanon (1961) and Jean Baudrillard (1990; 1994) see identifying with the exotic as a serious predicament of postcolonial cultures. For example, in Les Damnés de la Terre (1961) and Toward The African Revolution (1970), Fanon sees identifying with the exotic, in colonized/postcolonial cultures, as a phenomenon of a cultural predicament and ideological crisis. For Jean Baudrillard (1990; 1994), postcolonial cultures have a very limited set of epistemological possibilities for cultural self-representation. For example, the exotic can know itself only as the exotic, read its own history only as it has been written by the West, or prescribed by Western historical narratives, and so on.2 Such polarized views on the postcolonial identification with the exotic raise the crucial question of whether the postcolonial identification with, and replication of, colonial representations of the Other and exotic can be totalized in the name of its subversive potential. Both Fanon (1961; 1964; 1970) and Baudrillard (1990; 1994) have, to my knowledge, long been ← 3 | 4 → ignored in both Postmodern and postcolonial critiques of exoticism. While saying this, it is important to point out that Fanon’s intervention on the subject is limited to denouncing the postcolonial quest for, and identification with, the exotic. As the present book hopes to show with evidence, the predicament of postcolonial exoticism is more far-reaching than what Fanon (1961; 1970) and Baudrillard (1990; 1994) suggest.
Contrary to Bhabha’s views on the subversive effects of identifying with the colonial Other and exotic (Bhabha 1994), such postcolonial rewritings of colonial identity as Aimé Césaire’s Une Tempête (1969), Retamar’s Caliban Cannibale (1973), Tayeb Salih’s A Season of Migration to the North (1969) and V.S. Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness (1964) convey a postcolonial subjectivity and consciousness trapped in the double binds of identifying with, and writing back as, Prospero or Caliban – l’Exote or the exotic Other. The analogous counterparts of a postcolonial agency identifying with the Other and exotic can be traced in the entry of Black consciousness to Modernity described by Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic (1990), and the Negro’s intellectual and cultural identification with Primitivism and the African exotic in the 1930s as an attempt to recapture the African heritage documented, for instance, by George Hutchinson’s The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White (1995).
My basic concerns, in the present book, are with what I trace and characterize as the Manichean drama of postcolonial exoticism, with reference to some trends within postcolonial exoticism, the double binds of which are identified with reference to writing back as Prospero or Caliban – what I further investigate and characterize (beyond Hegel’s Master/Slave dialectic) as writing back as l’Exote, or as the exotic Other.3 I am using Segalen’s concept of ‘l’Exote’ beyond Segalen, to designate the Western Sovereign subject of exoticism. I shall develop the concept of ‘l’Exote’ into a useful critical concept and analytical category, to analyse the articulations of exoticism on colonial/postcolonial culture, history and subjectivity. One of my central theses and arguments, in the present book, sees the colonial representation and inscription of Prospero and Caliban, in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611), as also involving their inscription as l’Exote (the Western Sovereign subject of exoticism) vs the exotic Other – the colonial Other constituted as the exotic subject and object. In such inscription of the ← 4 | 5 → Self/Other as l’Exote/the exotic Other exemplified by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the exotic as a colonial subject is divided by colonial power, and inscribed as en effect of colonial discourse and Western cultural hegemony.
If as Dipesh Chakrabarty (1992; 2000) suggests, one can only articulate ‘sublatern subject-positions’ in the name of the ‘West’ (the Sovereign subject of history), in postcolonial historiography,4 then by analogy, reading/rewriting the exotic in cultural history in the name of l’Exote amounts to reading/rewriting the exotic from a Subaltern subject-position to l’Exote – the Western Sovereign Subject of exoticism. In my estimation such trend within postcolonial thought and literature is already thematized and epitomized by Rica’s predicament in Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes (1721). Rica’s dilemma and predicament is either to dress in Oriental garb (a token of his exotic alterity), and be the object of spectacular exotic interest in Parisian society, or adopt French dress and be totally ignored.5 As an Exoticist text of Enlightenment culture, Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes ironically begs the question of the alterity of the exotic – one implication of which is that Oriental exoticism was itself an impediment to knowledge of the Islamic Orient. What is interesting is how the alterity of Rica’s Persian identity is, in both cases, lost – in the first instance, in Rica’s inscription as the ‘Oriental exotic’; in a second instance, in Rica’s masquerade as a European. As the present book hopes to make clear, Rica’s predicament prefigures the predicament of postcolonial exoticism and its double binds.
One of the conceptions of colonialism, in current Postcolonial Studies, sees colonialism as ‘the defining experience of humanity in our epoch’ and as overriding colonial occupation and colonial rule, suggesting that both pre-colonial and colonial histories of non-European cultures have been written from the vantage point of Europe, with the consequent loss of indigenous historical traditions. For Vasant Kaiwar (2007), postcolonial critics are caught up in the Universalist meta-narrative of capitalism, right, justice and so on – characterized as ‘a meta-narrative of resignation punctuated by small acts of defiance.’6 The way in which postcolonial theorists and critics have taken a stand on such issues has long polarized postcolonial thought and criticism into the Theory/Politics, or History/Theory divide – the code names for Marxism versus Poststructuralism. In my estimation, the problem raised by the alignment alongside ‘History’ ← 5 | 6 → vs ‘Theory’ (Marxism or Poststructuralism) is much more complex than what Kaiwar (2007) suggests, and it is not reducible to just such alternative options. The alterity of the colonial Other and exotic in cultural history requires more than a Marxist approach and reading, for reasons that have to do partly with the complexity of colonial cultural history, and partly with the problematic character of all Eurocentric Master-Narratives of history, including Marxism. The lesson of the Subaltern Studies Group should be taken seriously.
As a postcolonial intervention on the exotic, the present book throws into question, and critically engages with, the postcolonial reading and rewriting of the exotic as a major trope of colonial/postcolonial cultural difference. It asks: What strategies of reading and rewriting the exotic are available to postcolonial thought and literature beyond Western grand narratives, when these are packaged to postcolonial cultures as the postcolonial condition – i.e., the condition and limit of self-knowledge, and when even such radical philosophies of history as Foucault’s archaeology of cultural history offers very little beyond Eurocentric Master-Narratives on the West/Other? Is there a way out of the double binds of identifying with l’Exote (the Western Sovereign subject of exoticism) and the exotic Other? Can Deconstruction provide a way out beyond Hegelian dialectics and Foucault’s archaeology? The project of the present book consists partly of moving beyond reading and rewriting the exotic, in cultural history, from what it identifies as the problematic subject-positions of l’Exote and the exotic Other.
It is useful to outline my basic concerns and methodologies. The present book starts by throwing into question the relevance and adequacy of reading and rewriting the exotic Other from the vantage point of Eurocentric, essentialist and Relativist conceptions of exoticism/the exotic, and their underlying conceptual frameworks. My approach to the exotic moves beyond all existing approaches, models and paradigms of analysis, including Said’s and Bhabha’s interventions on the exotic, both of which assimilate colonial representations of the exotic into a problem that is native to language and representation itself. My move beyond Said (1978; 1993) and Bhabha (1994) consists of shifting the grounds of analysis of the exotic as a representation of colonial cultural difference, from the ← 6 | 7 → linguistic premises of their respective approaches, to the terrain of cultural history itself – particularly the articulations of exoticism on colonial/postcolonial culture, subjectivity and history. My approach to the articulations of exoticism on culture, subjectivity and history moves beyond Hegel’s Self/Other dialectic and the Master/Slave dialectic, and beyond Michel Foucault’s archaeology of the Same and the Other as documented by The Orders of Things (1970). The present book also moves beyond all Relativist conceptions of the ‘exotic’, and their underlying ethical subject – the assumed, or imagined ‘universal’ subject of exoticism – in the name of which the exotic has been read in cultural history, from Lévi-Strauss (1973) to Clifford (1997).
The two epigraphs are meant to convey the parameters of the issues under discussion in this opening section of the book. This Introduction can be situated within the parameters of Said’s view and argument and Chakrabarty’s. Taking up Chakrabarty’s call in Provincializing Europe (2000) to read history ‘Otherwise’, the present book proposes to re-read and rewrite the colonial and postcolonial exotic in cultural history ‘Otherwise’, and to recover the exotic as a colonial representation of cultural difference deconstructively and catachrestically. It asks: if – as Dipesh Chakrabarty suggests – ‘European history is no longer seen as embodying anything like “a universal human history”’7, if ‘Europe’ is no longer considered as an adequate model for reading and rewriting postcolonial histories, how can we – as postcolonial readers, critics and writers – still be bound to reading and rewriting the exotic in cultural history in the name of the West/L’Exote – the Western Sovereign subject of History/exoticism? The present book proposes a Deconstructive reading and rewriting of the exotic in cultural history, as a move beyond the (assumed, or imagined) ‘universal’ subject of exoticism underpinning Postmodern and postcolonial discussions of the exotic, but also beyond what I identify, characterize and call the Manichean drama of postcolonial exoticism. As such, the project of the present book situates itself in the space opened up by Spivak’s A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999) and Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe (2000).
My methodological approach to the exotic in the present book counterpoints the view that postcolonial subjectivity can write back only as the ← 7 | 8 → exotic Other, and only by identifying with colonial representations of the exotic – conveyed by all of Baudrillard (1990), Célestin (1996) and Huggan (2001), among other Western writers and critics. To accept Baudrillard’s views on the exotic, for instance, is to assume that the predicament of postcolonial exoticism is so totalizing that the only thing left to the postcolonial subject is to see and know itself only as the ‘exotic Other’ – that is, only as it was constituted and codified by colonial discourse, and colonial representations. What this amounts to, for instance, is that Indians see India only as it is seen by Hegel and nineteenth-century Indologists – as ‘a land of Dreamy Imagination’, in Ronald Inden’s useful phrase (Inden 1990); that Africans identify only with the Africa produced by Africanist discourses, as the ‘authentic’ identity of Africa; that postcolonial subjectivity and agency reads and rewrites the colonial Other and exotic only as it was experienced, documented and codified by the West/l’Exote – the Western Sovereign subject of History/exoticism, and so on. As a matter of fact, the move beyond the Manichean drama of postcolonial exoticism has long been taking place within various trends of postcolonial thought and literature – exemplified by Ronald Inden’s Imagining India (1990); Assia Djebbar’s rewriting of Delacroix’s ‘Femmes d’Alger’ as an Orientalist representation of the exotic female (Djebbar 1980; 1992); Fatema Mernissi’s Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (1994) and her more recent book, Le Harem et L’Occident (2001), both of which rewrite the Oriental woman beyond exoticism and colonial history; and Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (1996), to cite just a few illustrative instances.
Central to my project is to re-read the articulations of exoticism on culture, subjectivity, and history beyond Eurocentric, essentialist and Relativist approaches and models, but also beyond all available postcolonial interventions on the exotic, including Said (1978; 1993) and Bhabha (1994). Unlike Said (1978), rather than being interested in denouncing exoticism as a colonial discourse and its representations of cultural difference, my concerns are rather with postcolonial exoticism itself, and the double binds of reading/rewriting colonial and postcolonial identity by identifying with l’Exote and/or the exotic Other. Hence my concerns with the important methodological and ethico-political question – of whether postcolonial ← 8 | 9 → cultures have to read and rewrite colonial cultural difference and postcolonial identity only from the vantage point of Eurocentric, Relativist, essentialist and Postmodern perspectives. Rather than proposing itself as an exhaustive study of such issues, the present book merely hopes to open up exoticism and postcolonial exoticism to critical discussion, beyond the conceptual and critical frameworks of existing critiques on the subject.
- XII, 304
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- Publication date
- 2015 (February)
- Cultural difference Western history Postcolonialism Orientalism
- Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. XII, 304 pp.