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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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Conclusions: Beyond the Manichean Drama of Postcolonial Exoticism



Beyond the Manichean Drama of Postcolonial Exoticism

we [the West] must either imperialistically ‘tell our story’ as the Other’s, or imperialistically speak for the Other, violent translation or insidious ventriloquism, the only alternatives.

— ARNOLD KRUPAT, Ethnocriticism: Ethnography, History, Literature (1992)

Although Shakespeare was great, we cannot merely continue to act out the part of Caliban …

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