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Returning the Gaze

The Manichean Drama of Postcolonial Exoticism

Asma Agzenay

This book is proposed as a contribution to postcolonial critiques of the colonial and postcolonial exotic. It investigates the exotic as a representation of colonial cultural difference in colonial discourse, culture and history, and its oppositional rewritings in postcolonial thought and literature. Its analyses of the exotic include classical Arabo-Islamic ethnographic texts, Marco Polo’s and Mandeville’s travel accounts, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes, and a variety of colonial and postcolonial texts. Its Deconstructive approach to the exotic breaks new grounds of analysis beyond the Saidian problematic of «Orientalism», Homi Bhabha’s intervention on the exotic, Hegel’s Master/Slave dialectic, Michel Foucault’s archaeology of Western cultural history, and Sartre’s theorization of the «gaze» and its underlying Phenomenological subject. The scope of critical discussions of the exotic in this book includes – apart from Western cultural history – postmodern and postcolonial critiques of the colonial Other and exotic, and anthropological and philosophical discussions of the exotic. While tracing the divided inscription of the exotic as a colonial subject with reference to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the author throws into question l’Exote and the exotic Other as problematic subject positions for reading and rewriting the exotic in cultural history, and the double binds of counter-Exoticist discourses.
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Chapter 1: Mapping Exoticism/the Exotic on Colonial and Postcolonial Culture



Mapping Exoticism/the Exotic on Colonial and Postcolonial Culture

Exotisme. Mot compromis et gonflé, abusé, prêt d’éclater, de crever, de se vider de tout. J’aurais été habile en évitant un mot si dangereux, si équivoque. En forger un autre?

— VICTOR SEGALEN, Essai Sur L’Exotisme (1978)

Exotic Otherness may not be so much the result as the prerequisite of anthropological inquiry. We do not ‘find’ the savagery of the savage, or the primitivity of the primitive, we posit them.

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