Postmodern Theories and Texts
Postmodernism or Post-colonialism Today
By Simon During
(Textual Practice, 1,1 (1987), 32-47.)
Albert Wei-min Tang
I. Thesis II. Reflecting Postmodern thoughts (Jameson compared with Adorno) III. How to think postmodernity not as sublime IV Lyotard's postmodernity 
V. Reconnection between the local and the global  VI. Question
I. Thesis 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 II. Reflecting Postmodern thoughts

A. Postmodern thought refuses to turn the Other into the Same and recognizes that the Other can never speak for itself as the Other.

  1. Postmodernity ought not to be conceived of as 'a cultural dominant'
  2. Literary postmodernism as enemy of postmodernity and as its expression and helpmeet.
  3. Postmodern thoughts cannot be regarded as mere expression of an underlying postmodernity.
B Postmodernity names the loss of critical distance and the delegitimation of identified categories of culture centers and socio-economic base.
  1. Jameson cultural logic
  2. Lyotard paralogism
C. The concept postmodernity has been constructed which intentionally wiped out the possible post-colonial identity.
  1. And the conceptual annihilation of the post-colonial condition is actually necessary
  2. to any argument which attempts to show that "we' now live in postmodernity.

  3. 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.

  5. 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.
D. Postmodernity ought not to be conceived of as 'a cultural dominant'

Jameson: culture as totality, and history a s succession of epochs.

  1. Jameson: culture produced by multinational capitalism: a totality which is the effect of another totality.
  2. The only tool for analyzing an emergence as immense and total as postmodernity is expressive causality.
  3. Frankfurt School: Adorno's "cultural criticism and society" depicts late capitalism as a condition that
    1. The world is mediated by consciousness.
    2. Ideology in son longer false consciousness
    3. High culture becomes "neutralized"
     4. Adorno's viewpoint toward dialectic analysis
a.Transcendental critique and immanent critique disappeared as society become reified.
b. Pragmatic view of "truth as correspondence into truth as practice" reveals that
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'.
    5. Adorno laid out Jamesonian cultural pessimism to postmodernity a. In such aestheticized totalitarian and fascist culture, poetry cannot be written after Auschwitz.
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 capitalism.
  1. Jamesonian engagement as mapping the postmodernism condition
  2. Adorno's liberation spirit as providing room for self-determination.
  3. Jamesonian cognitive knowledge versus Adorno's dialectic action.
   7. Jameson's weakness
  1. 'internationalism' of postmodernism is to realize the end of nationalism desired by socialism.
  2. New post-colonial nationalism; realignment of socialist revolution with the older nationalism.
  3. In old spirit of enlightened modernity to eradicate cultural difference, any 'progress must be defined by determinated negation.
  4. 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 it.
III. how to think postmodernity not as sublime, a totality so powerful as to resist our older knowledge?

Two registers to access:
A. Archaeological

  1. postmodernity must be seen as an effect of discrete cultural systems, and
  2. not as a spirit of epoch, the advance guard of history
  3. 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.
B. genealogical
  1. 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.
  2. Liberating moment when examines the genealogy of one's discourse, which becomes not natural and inevitable but historical, provisional and opent ot change.
C. Examplary post-modenist post-colonialist
  1. Joseph Concrad's novel, Heart of Darkness
  2. Coppola's film, Apocalypse Now
  3. division between modern and postmodern
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The systemic effects remain ideological and reduces theories of the loss of distance between the image and the imaged.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Conradian journey is an echo, within the technology of war, a teleological narrative exist as no more than nostalgia.
5. Conrad's climax
  1. Coppela uses Conrad's narrative to tell the truth about Vietnam, but only left with historical incongruity and a mere monumentalization of modernism.
  2. 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.
6.Cultural production
  1. postmodernity consumes history, in the sense of nullifying it. It remains an effect rather than an expression or theme.
  2. Nothing now is irreproducible, it is just that cultural reproduction has divorce itself from cultural values.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
IV Lyotard's postmodernity

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.

  1. Performaticity
  1. .Performaticity overcome appeals to tradition or metaphysical truth, depending on how efficient and to what immediate end a though is acted.
2. cognitive utterance can be verified an permit control over nature.
  1. Science itself must act in terms of prescriptives, cannot validate itself (self-ligitimacy), only in its service to power, its instrumentality.
  1. Le differend
  1. 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.
  2. "politics is a matter of linkage between phrases' and is constituted within the 'civil war of language with itself'
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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. Nazism)
V. Reconnection between the local and the global

A. examples

  1. Auschwitz
  2. New Zealand-> Aotearoa
  3. "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.
B. Post-colonial desire is the desire of decolonized communities for an identity.
  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. Anderson in Imagined Communities, nationalism in a product of "print-capitalism", grounded in Babel, the history of nationalism.
C. other (novel, English)
  1. Rushdie(Shame)
  2. Ngugi (Kenya)
  3. Aotearoa
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

  1. Can the dead speak? In the cultural formation between the colonized and colonizer,
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, image?

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?