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Colonial Extensions, Postcolonial Decentrings

Cultures and Discourses on the Edge

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Edited By Salhia Ben-Messahel and Vanessa Castejon

The essays assembled in this volume explore the meaning of the term "postcolonial" through various theoretical perspectives and disciplinary fields of expertise. They address issues ranging from culture, politics and history to literature and the arts, with particular emphasis on colonialist discourses within a postmodern and globalised world. Identity-formation, cultural space, indigeneity, colonial perspectives and anti-colonial struggles suggest that former imperial (and often marginalized) colonies/territories operate as decentring spaces, becoming dynamic postcolonial centres. The consequences of colonial history in postcolonial environments in the Americas, the Caribbean, the Middle East and the South Pacific regions are being analysed. This shows that postcolonial subjectivities call for a reconceptualization of the nation as political agency. The essays interrogate the social and psychological effects of colonialism, the political subjugation and instrumentalisation of colonial pasts and the perception of the self through the colonizer’s eyes, that may still surface in discourse on identity and belonging. The "postcolonial" is then a floating concept in a global environment where some individuals still experience a neo-colonial condition while others dismiss the colonial past but may yet re-enact colonial practices. The volume shows that the extension of a colonial centre, often raised in postcolonial criticism, is synonymous with the decentring of identity, and that the re-conceptualization of a Diasporic condition initiates a new postcolonial moment based in translation and on a new modernity.

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Introduction (Salhia Ben-Messahel / Vanessa Castejon)

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Introduction

The 21st Century, marked by discourses of war and peace under the umbrella of “globalization” is most certainly a time to reflect on the effects of the past and the extension of models inherited from imperial and/or colonial history. As political events show, former imperial or colonial nations sometimes re-enact colonial perceptions of otherness to advocate a sense of national identity and yet support multiculturalism as the tenet of a free and diverse society. Such a complex view operates on the balancing of colonial thought and postcolonial designs so that perceptions of “otherness” and “sameness” interact and subvert discourses of belonging to the nation. Colonial extensions, from the past to the present, initiate a systematic decentring of the postcolonial nature of former colonized places and tend to operate as “prophetic visions of the past” (Edouard Glissant) whereby the postcolonial engages with the traumatic histories of colonized and subaltern subjects, and in so doing generates a new and unpredictable future.

Postcolonial theoretical approaches often relate to the supremacy of the centre over the margins to deconstruct narratives of the nation and the perceptions of alterity. In her celebrated article “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, published in 1988, Gayatari Spivak insists on the necessity to give a voice to those forgotten Others or the “Other Object” of colonialism, arguing that voicing otherness would subvert and deconstruct the orientalising of colonial history. Her theoretical work on the perception of otherness from the perspective of the...

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