Theories and Texts
Postmodernism or Post-colonialism
By Simon During
(Textual Practice, 1,1 (1987), 32-47.)
Albert Wei-min Tang
The discursive formation of Postmodern thoughts seems to wipe out
post-colonial identity. The contradiction and ambivalence among the flow
of signs and capital, the happening of phrase events, the resistant identity
toward neo-imperialist colonizer should be diacritically diagnosed
A. Postmodern thought refuses to turn the Other into the Same and recognizes
that the Other can never speak for itself as the Other.
B Postmodernity names the loss of critical distance and the delegitimation
of identified categories of culture centers and socio-economic base.
Postmodernity ought not to be conceived of as 'a cultural dominant'
Literary postmodernism as enemy of postmodernity and as its expression
Postmodern thoughts cannot be regarded as mere expression of an underlying
C. The concept postmodernity has been constructed which intentionally wiped
out the possible post-colonial identity.
Jameson cultural logic
D. Postmodernity ought not to be conceived of as 'a cultural dominant'
And the conceptual annihilation of the post-colonial condition is actually
to any argument which attempts to show that "we' now live in postmodernity.
Post-colonialism is the Need, in nations or groups which have been victims
of the imperialism, to achieve an identity uncontaminated by Universalist
or Eurocentric concepts and images.
Post-colonialism constitutes one of those Others, which might derive hope
and legitimation from the first aspect of postmodern thoughts, its refusal
to turn the other into the Same.
Jameson: culture as totality, and history a s succession of epochs.
Jameson: culture produced by multinational capitalism: a totality which
is the effect of another totality.
The only tool for analyzing an emergence as immense and total as postmodernity
is expressive causality.
Frankfurt School: Adorno's "cultural criticism and society" depicts late
capitalism as a condition that
4. Adorno's viewpoint toward dialectic analysis
The world is mediated by consciousness.
Ideology in son longer false consciousness
High culture becomes "neutralized"
a.Transcendental critique and immanent critique disappeared
as society become reified.
5. Adorno laid out Jamesonian cultural pessimism to
a. In such aestheticized totalitarian and fascist culture, poetry
cannot be written after Auschwitz.
b. Pragmatic view of "truth as correspondence into truth as practice"
c. Capitalism absorbs truth as hegemonic forces.
d. Instrumental reason, in terms of protest areas of culture, fails
because ideological function vanishes into pleasure.
e And the world is an 'open-air prison', in Marcus's term, 'men can
feel themselves happy without being so at all'.
b. Writing under fascism and late capitalism has become too trivial
to express real horror.
c. Jamesonian discursive construction was once used to denounce fascism.
6. Adorno versus Jameson in the lines of flight from late
7. Jameson's weakness
Jamesonian engagement as mapping the postmodernism condition
Adorno's liberation spirit as providing room for self-determination.
Jamesonian cognitive knowledge versus Adorno's dialectic action.
how to think postmodernity not as sublime, a totality so powerful as to
resist our older knowledge?
'internationalism' of postmodernism is to realize the end of nationalism
desired by socialism.
New post-colonial nationalism; realignment of socialist revolution with
the older nationalism.
In old spirit of enlightened modernity to eradicate cultural difference,
any 'progress must be defined by determinated negation.
In order to name postmodernity as a cultural dominant expressing itself
in postmodern artifacts, Jameson has to assume the coming to power of neo-imperialism,
and to inflect postmodernity positively he has to become complicit with
Two registers to access:
postmodernity must be seen as an effect of discrete cultural systems, and
not as a spirit of epoch, the advance guard of history
Features of postmodernity are produced within a finite field of a "cultural
machines": texts, images, discourses within particular technologies or
media, each with its own way of organizing the intervention on the real,
and each with its mode of subject formation.
C. Examplary post-modenist post-colonialist
to think postmodernity outside the totalizing categories of Western Marxism
is to interpret the ideological effect of discrete cultural systems without
assuming that these effects take the form of a whole.
Liberating moment when examines the genealogy of one's discourse, which
becomes not natural and inevitable but historical, provisional and opent
Joseph Concrad's novel, Heart of Darkness
Coppola's film, Apocalypse Now
division between modern and postmodern
5. Conrad's climax
primary shift is media and technology, not meaning. From written words(as
resistance to postmodern tech) to sound and image, from single, individual,
autonomous production to collective, high-invested pro-consumption/ circulation.
Truth and lie in the new tech. The film is activated by the neo-imperialist
war. Filmmaking equals to warmaking, not as a cultural fact or theme,
but as an outcome of specific material conditions.
The systemic effects remain ideological and reduces theories of the loss
of distance between the image and the imaged.
Principles of derealizing the world are narrativity and unity
of the subjective consciousness. The voice-over serves to help
the unity of subject, but camera with representation function block the
control of representation by subjectivity.
Autonomy of bourgeois subject depends not only on a clear division of self
and world, but on a means by which the self can absorb the world.
Conrad's narrative is a journey away from light to darkness and back to
light as darkness. It requires a world with a boundary between civilization
and savagery, even if those distinctions ultimately vanish.
Conradian journey is an echo, within the technology of war, a teleological
narrative exist as no more than nostalgia.
Coppela uses Conrad's narrative to tell the truth about Vietnam, but only
left with historical incongruity and a mere monumentalization of modernism.
the values of honor, truth and work for works' sake, which Conrad upholds
as he reveals their limits, have disappeared along with the autonomous
subject an work of art.
postmodernity consumes history, in the sense of nullifying it. It remains
an effect rather than an expression or theme.
Nothing now is irreproducible, it is just that cultural reproduction has
divorce itself from cultural values.
Filmmaking as a system creating effects of postmodernity within
a quite specific technological, economic and ideological frame, rather
than an instance of that octopus 'postmodernity' or even 'multinational
capitalism'. The film itself becomes war within the frame of neo-imperialism.
Conrad's representation of African inhabitants as cannibals, as the West's
Other to itself. But Vietnamese enemy is un-represented in Coppola's film.
The right of existence of Third World nationalism, the will to totality
and failure to imagination coincides with Jameson's ideas on the third
world cultural criticism.
A. condition of knowledge behind modernity, in the spirit of Marcuse
and Adorno. modernity is the process of social rationalization,
and the modern is marked by the emergence of instrumental reason.
2. cognitive utterance can be verified an permit control over nature.
.Performaticity overcome appeals to tradition or metaphysical truth, depending
on how efficient and to what immediate end a though is acted.
Science itself must act in terms of prescriptives, cannot validate itself
(self-ligitimacy), only in its service to power, its instrumentality.
Reconnection between the local and the global
examines oral consequences an the philosophical ground s of discursive
heterogeneity. Phrase or phrase event occurs as a differend; to link one
phrase to another is to commit an injustice to possible genres which th
efirst phrase might obligate.
"politics is a matter of linkage between phrases' and is constituted within
the 'civil war of language with itself'
the groundlessness of language, its edging out on to nothing, its character
as a mere event, leads to disagreement, cultural difference, violence,
and the mirage of self-identity.
Lyotard returns from transcendental to history. In modern history it becomes
impossible to ignore certain cultural differends, recognized in the feelings
signalled by the silences around certain proper names.(e.g. Auschwitz)
capitalism also undo the force of the order of discourse, e.g. MONEY, instals
exchangeablity as the dominant relation between objects in the world. Money
also store time and security, even pleasure. Capitalism also implies the
end of effective political institutions
Lyotard's derationalized capitalism is close to Jameson's multinational
capitalism, and like Jameson, Lyotard sees post-colonial nationalism as
not just archaic but dangerous.
Post-colonial nationalism articulates itself in the "narrative mythic'
which constructs an immutable cultural origin; it neutralizes the phrase
as event, and it projects a "home' in which difference is suspended. (e.g.
B. Post-colonial desire is the desire of decolonized communities for an
New Zealand-> Aotearoa
"all langue is translatable" In its flight from categorires of totality,
Lyotard's linguistic turn evades the one totality- 'natural ' language
- which it cannot reduce or ignore on its own terms. It is precisely to
this totality that post-colonialism today appeals.
C. other (novel, English)
language as site for identity politics in post-colonial drive, not in postmodernity.
To write in the imperial tongues is to call forth a problem of identity
into mimicry, ambivalence
The question of language for post-colonialism is political, cultural and
literary, not in the sense that the phrase as differend enables politics,
but in the material sense that a choice of language is a choice of identity.
Anderson in Imagined Communities, nationalism in a product of "print-capitalism",
grounded in Babel, the history of nationalism.
D. History is not derealized, affect is not atomized into intensity, narrative
triumphs, other cultures are not confined with Occidental myth, nor uotside
the Western screen. When confronted by his post-colonized accuser, R is
starteled into an articulation of th eproblematic of the differend, but
when faced with modern Pakistan, he acts as accuser in turn.
VI. Question Time
Through what kind of mechanism (cultural, economic, political, institutional),
are "we" articulate the past (modern nationalism) with the new (postmodern
multinationism), in terms of everyday appropriation of language, sound,
Can the dead speak? In the cultural formation between the colonized and
B. In what context During discuses the postmodern/ postcolonial juxtaposition?
What are his possible specific target of address? And in what way, his
problematic in linking Jameson, Lyotard to "pre-post-colonial" condition
in New Zealand, or with comparison to Australia, helps map out "our" cognitive
knowledge toward the post-modern-post-colonial world?