Rise Of The Oppressed

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Rise of the Oppressed

Colonized And Oppressed

That postcolonial studies are not Marxist enough does not go far enough to explain the popularity of this complex field. The reasons for its ascendancy are institutional and cultural and occasion both hope and vigilance. On the positive side, clearly, postcolonial studies have opened up college curricula to third world texts in unprecedented ways. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is probably as well known by undergraduates as Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Concerns of colonization and empire have become important in all humanities fields. Postcolonial studies have realized these gains because of the momentum built up by the Civil Rights era, and the formation of African-American and ethnic studies programmes in which prominent intellectuals such as Henry Louis Gates and Ronald Takaki have argued for canon and paradigm expansion. On the more sobering side, one can see two related and troubling issues: (a) the turn toward 'ambivalence' and 'hybridity' as analytic models for colonization and the attractiveness of this turn to both practitioners and observers of postcolonial studies; and (b), the scarcely acknowledged role of post- colonial studies to defuse concerns of race (Ama, 200).

When postcolonial studies began, the radical race-based demands for Civil Rights articulated in the 1960s were experiencing a strong backlash, fuelled by the anti-affirmative action policies of the Reagan era. In the social sciences, the paradigm of race (associated with rights and inequalities) was replaced with the safer paradigm of ethnicity (Omi and Winant 1986, 12). African-American studies continued to grow, most significantly in the discovery of nineteenth-century texts and the stature of theorists such as Henry Louis Gates, Houston Baker, bell hooks and Hortense Spillers, but nobody seemed very interested in the Black Panthers. Internationally, most anti-colonial movements had been won and most revolutionary writing had been published at least a decade previously. Postcolonial studies thus entered the academy after the period of active radical politics and have, in some ways, chosen not to be activist. Unlike scholars in fields such as African- American studies, feminist studies and ethnic studies, fields inaugurated to address concerns of domination and exploitation, no postcolonialist has demanded the creation of postcolonial studies programmes (Zilversmit, 263).

Thus, despite the prestige of a handful of scholars, most postcolonialists could be easily tucked away in departments which could then claim diversity. More importantly, the general movement in postcolonial studies away from Said's model of discourse analysis which, for all its flaws, foregrounded domination and exploitation (seen as too binaristic by some critics) to negotiatory analyses of colonization popularized by Homi Bhabha has ensured the non-threatening nature of much of the field. Postcolonial studies could thus be seen as a field that, while satisfying marginality, could be used to offset the challenges posed by African-American studies and to neutralize concerns of race. As postcolonial studies grows to cover 'internal colonization', it cannot afford its separatist stance from African-American studies or real concerns of race and domination, concerns currently being addressed by theorists like Lisa Lowe (Berlin, 120).

Yet, despite its tendency ...
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