Sunday, September 28, 2008

Keywords for Prof. Alastair Pennycook's Critical Applied Linguistics #5

2 Key Background Knowledge

2.1 Postcolonialism

As Prof. Dr. Visam Mansur says, it is important to understand colonialism to understand postcolonialism, for the latter does not exist without the former.

As Prof. Dr. Visam Mansur summarizes, the basic assumptions in defense of colonialism are:

1. The colonized are savages in need of education and rehabilitation

2. The culture of the colonized is not up to the standard of the colonizer, and it’s the moral duty of the colonizer to do something about polishing it.

3. The colonized nation is unable to manage and run itself properly, and thus it needs the wisdom and expertise of the colonizer.

4. The colonized nation embraces a set of religious beliefs incongruent and incompatible with those of the colonizer, and consequently, it is God’s given duty of the colonizer to bring those stray people to the right path.

5. The colonized people pose dangerous threat to themselves and to the civilized world if left alone; and thus it is in the interest of the civilized world to bring those people under control.

Let's also see how Dr. Visam Mansur summarizes the assumption of postcolonialism:

The Assumptions of Post-colonialism

While defending its position against colonialism and imperialism, post-colonialism in literature and the arts assumes the following:

Cultural relativism. This means that the colonialists’ defilement of culture is socially, morally and politically incorrect.

The absurdity of colonial language and discourses. A careful study of recent colonial narratives like Passage to India and Heart of Darkness suggest that the colonialist is always rendered short of expression to comprehend and fathom his colonial experience.

Ambivalence towards authority. This ambivalence is born out of the struggle and conflict between native and settler with the outcome of the settler’s disposal. This victory over the settler leads the native to question all forms of authority.

Colonial alienation. Colonialism leads to the alienation of the native in his own land. This is described as a traumatic experience that erodes the individual’s identity.

As Wikipedia says, we tend to see things in binary opposition like the Oriental and the Westerner. However, "postcolonialism seeks out of hybridity and transculturalization", which is increasingly becoming relevant in the process of globalization.

"Postcolonial/Decolonial Theories" by Prof. T.V. Reed is a relatively short introduction.
Many genealogists of postcolonial thought, including Bhabha himself, credit Said's Orientalism as the founding work for the field. Said's argument that "the Orient" was a fantastical, real material-discursive construct of "the West" that shaped the real and imagined existences of those subjected to the fantasy, set many of the terms for subsequent theoretical development, including the notion that, in turn, this "othering" process used the Orient to create, define, and solidify the "West." This complex, mutually constitutive process, enacted with nuanced difference across the range of the colonized world(s), and through a variety of textual and other practices, is the object of postcolonial analysis.

If you read Japanese, the following works may be a good start.
Postcolonialism by T. Motohashi.
Postcolonialism by R. Young

Perhaps the three most influential postcolonial critics are Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi Bhabha.

Edward Said

See a general introduction to Edward Said in Wikipedia

See On Orientalism - Edward Said on YouTube.

The most renowned book by Said is Orientalism
(The Japanese translation is here.)

Read some excerpts from the Japanese translation of Orientalism.  (Download from here: password requested)

If you like, take a look at my PowerPoint presentation slides on "Self-Orientalism" in Japanese discourse (written in Japanese(Download from here: password requested)

I wrote a clumsy essay on culture in Japanese, inspired by Said and Derrida.  If you're interested, please have a look.

The overview of Orientalism in Wikipedia is succinct:

In Orientalism, Edward Said says that all discourse, especially cultural discourse, is inherently ideological, therefore, regardless of the subject, historical discourse occurs in a given ideological structure. Orientalism, especially the academic study of, and discourse, political and literary, about the Arabs, Islam, and the Middle East that primarily originated in England, France, and then the United States actually creates (rather than examines or describes) a divide between the East and the West. The book's examples situate the West as culturally superior to the East. This "Western superiority" became politically useful when France and Britain conquered and colonised "Eastern/Oriental" countries such as Egypt, India, Algeria and others.

Wikipedia quotes Said's own words from Orientalism.
"My whole point about this system is not that it is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence -- in which I do not for a moment believe -- but that it operates as representations usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economic setting" (p. 273).

You should also take a look at the section of Criticism:

Read this book if you're interested in the role of the intellectual (and you should be!)
(The Japanese translation is here.)

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

A good introduction of Gayatri Spivak is given by Prof. Michael Kilburn, in which Spivak's self-description is quoted:

My position is generally a reactive one. I am viewed by Marxists as too codic, by feminists as too male-identified, by indigenous theorists as too committed to Western Theory. I am uneasily pleased about this. (Post-Colonial Critic).

Wikipedia quotes how Spivak referred to herself: "A practical Marxist-feminist-deconstructionist." She sees each of these fields as necessary but insufficient by themselves, yet productive together.

See also "Glossary of Key Terms in the Work of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak."

Below is a YouTube video of Spivak's lecture "Gayatri Spivak: The Trajectory of the Subaltern in My Work" (90 minutes) kindly offered by University of California Television.

Homi K. Bhabha

Homi K. Bhabha (born 1949) is an Indian-American postcolonial theorist, who is currently teaching at Harvard University

The section of Works in Wikipedia succinctly summarizes Bhabha's arguments:
Nation and Narration (editor 1990)
In Nation and Narration, Bhabha challenges the tendency to treat post-colonial countries as a homogeneous block. This leads, he argues, to the assumption that there is and was a shared identity amongst ex-colonial states. Bhabha argues that all senses of nationhood are narrativized.
Bhabha then goes on to identify a relationship of antagonism and ambivalence between colonizers and the colonized.

The Location of Culture (1994)
In The Location of Culture, Bhabha advocates a fundamental realignment of the methodology of cultural analysis in the West away from metaphysics and toward the "performative" and "enunciatory present"[4] Such a shift, he claims, provides a basis for the West to maintain less violent relationships with other cultures. In Bhabha's view, the source of the Western compulsion to colonize is due in large part to traditional Western representations of foreign cultures.
Bhabha's argument attacks the Western production and implementation of certain binary oppositions. The oppositions targeted by Bhabha include center/margin, civilized/savage, and enlightened/ignorant. Bhabha proceeds by destabilizing the binaries insofar as the first term of the binary is allowed to unthinkingly dominate the second.
Once the binaries are destabilized, Bhabha argues that cultures can be understood to interact, transgress, and transform each other in a much more complex manner than the traditional binary oppositions can allow. According to Bhabha, hybridity and "linguistic multivocality" have the potential to intervene and dislocate the process of colonization through the reinterpretation of political discourse.

Here is Homi Bhabha on "Writing Rights and Responsibilities" (90 minutes lecture) offered by University of California Television.

2.2 Postmodernism

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy gives an ironical but compact definition of postmodernism.
That postmodernism is indefinable is a truism. However, it can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning. ... [P]ostmodernism is a continuation of modern thinking in another mode.

Glossary Definition is very useful to understand postmodernism.
(...) Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. (...) Postmodernism is "post" because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody - a characteristic of the so-called "modern" mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. (...)

Wikipedia gives a summary table of Philosophical Movements and Contributors in postmodernism. This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to have an overview of the concept.

The entry of Postmodern Philosophy is also very helpful.
Postmodern philosophy is skeptical or nihilistic toward many of the values and assumptions of philosophy that derive from modernity, such as humanity having an essence which distinguishes humans from animals, or the assumption that one form of government is demonstrably better than another.
Postmodern philosophy is often particularly skeptical about simple binary oppositions characteristic of structuralism, emphasizing the problem of the philosopher cleanly distinguishing knowledge from ignorance, social progress from reversion, dominance from submission, and presence from absence.

For further inquiries, Prof. Martin Ryder's "Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory and Postmodern Thought" is an extremely useful list of links. You may want to bookmark this link on your computer.

Perhaps, the most important term in Postmodernism is "deconstruction."

2.3 Poststructuralism

A short introduction by Prof. Roger Jones is very illuminating in that it makes clear the connections among Saussure, Marx, Freud, existentialists, Foucalt and Derrida. Poststructuralism is an attempt to supersede structuralism and the criticism of structuralism by existentialists.
In the 1960's, the structuralist movement, based in France, attempted to synthesise the ideas of Marx, Freud and Saussure. They disagreed with the existentialists' claim that each man is what he makes himself. For the structuralist the individual is shaped by sociological, psychological and linguistic structures over which he/she has no control, but which could be uncovered by using their methods of investigation.

Originally labelled a structuralist, the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault came to be seen as the most important representative of the post-structuralist movement. He agreed that language and society were shaped by rule governed systems, but he disagreed with the structuralists on two counts. Firstly, he did not think that there were definite underlying structures that could explain the human condition and secondly he thought that it was impossible to step outside of discourse and survey the situation objectively.

Jacques Derrida (1930- ) developed deconstruction as a technique for uncovering the multiple interpretation of texts. Influenced by Heidegger and Nietzsche, Derrida suggests that all text has ambiguity and because of this the possibility of a final and complete interpretation is impossible.

You may want to bookmark the following general index covering Enlgitenment, Romanticism, Analytic Philosophy, Existentialism, Post Structuralism, God, Mind, Science, and Moral Philosophy.

Another very accessible introduction is given by Prof. John Lye, which lists some of assumptions of poststructural thought including:

I Post-structuralism is marked by a rejection of totalizing, essentialist, foundationalist concepts.

II Post-structuralism contests the concept of 'man' as developed by enlightenment thought and idealist philosophy.

III Poststructuralism sees 'reality' as being much more fragmented, diverse, tenuous and culture-specific than does structuralism.

IV Post-structuralism derives in part from a sense that we live in a linguistic universe.

V All meaning is textual and intertextual: there is no "outside of the text," as Derrida remarked. Everything we can know is constructed through signs, governed by the rules of discourse for that area of knowledge, and related to other texts through filiation, allusion and repetition.

VI Discourse is a material practice; the human is rooted in historicity and lives through the body.

VII In Foucault's terms, the production of discourse, the (historical, material) way we know our world, is controlled, selected, organized and distributed by a certain number of procedures.

VIII The Derridean concept of differance links up with Freudian suppositions and marxist ideas to highlight concepts of repression, displacement, condensation, substitution and so forth, which, often by following metaphoric or metynomic links carefully, can be deconstructed or revealed; what is 'meant' is different from what appears to be meant.

IX Texts are marked by a surplus of meaning; the result of this is that differing readings are inevitable, indeed a condition of meaning at all. This surplus is located in the polysemous nature of both language and of rhetoric.

X A 'text' exists as read.

The above quotation is only a portion of Prof. Lye's introduction. Click below and learn more.

Take a look at the section of Theory of "Post-structuralism" in Wikipedia:
Post-structuralists hold that the concept of "self" as a singular and coherent entity is a fictional construct. Instead, an individual comprises conflicting tensions and knowledge claims (e.g. gender, class, profession, etc.). Therefore, to properly study a text a reader must understand how the work is related to his or her own personal concept of self. (...)

The author's intended meaning, such as it is (for the author's identity as a stable "self" with a single, discernible "intent" is also a fictional construct), is secondary to the meaning that the reader perceives. (...)

A post-structuralist critic must be able to utilize a variety of perspectives to create a multifaceted interpretation of a text, even if these interpretations conflict with one another. (...)

2.4 Foucault 

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was a French historian and philosopher, associated with the structuralist and post-structuralist movements. He has had wide influence not only (or even primarily) in philosophy but also in a wide range of humanistic and social scientific disciplines. (

"Foucault's work is frequently referred to in disciplines as diverse as art, philosophy, history, anthropology, geography, archaeology, communication studies, public relations, rhetoric, cultural studies, linguistics, sociology, education, psychology, literary theory, feminism, queer theory, management studies, the philosophy of science, political science, urban design, museum studies, and many others." ( ) provides a glossary of key concepts.

Its Frequently Asked Questions is a relaxing way to know about Foucault.

It may be a good idea for Japanese students to have a quick look at the Japanese Wikipedia.ミシェル・フーコー

It is indeed a daunting task to try to summarize Foucault's works.

Among various introductionary books on Foucault written in Japanese, I recommend the following two books written by Mr. Nakayama, which relate Foucault's key concepts and his life. The books are very accessible both in terms of intellectual elucidation and price.

Yosensha Shinsyo

Chikuma Sensyo

As Wikipedia explains, Foucault developed a postmodernistic notion of "discourse":
French social theorist Michel Foucault developed an entirely original notion of discourse in his early work, especially the Archaeology of knowledge (1972). In Discursive Struggles Within Social Welfare: Restaging Teen Motherhood, [Lessa (2006)] summarizes Foucault's definition of discourse as “systems of thoughts composed of ideas, attitudes, courses of action, beliefs and practices that systematically construct the subjects and the worlds of which they speak." He traces the role of discourses in wider social processes of legitimating and power, emphasizing the construction of current truths, how they are maintained and what power relations they carry with them.” Foucault later theorized that discourse is a medium through which power relations produce speaking subjects.[Strega, 2005] Foucault (1977, 1980) argued that power and knowledge are inter-related and therefore every human relationship is a struggle and negotiation of power. Foucault further stated that power is always present and can both produce and constrain the truth.[Strega, 2005] Discourse according to Foucault (1977, 1980, 2003) is related to power as it operates by rules of exclusion. Discourse therefore is controlled by objects, what can be spoken of; ritual, where and how one may speak; and the privileged, who may speak.[ Foucault, 1972] Coining the phrases power-knowledge Foucault (1980) stated knowledge was both the creator of power and creation of power.

M. Foucault (1972). Archaeology of knowledge. New York: Pantheon.
M. Foucault (1977). Discipline and Punish. New York: Pantheon.
M. Foucault (1980). "Two Lectures," in Colin Gordon, ed., Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews.. New York: Pantheon.
M. Foucault (2003). Society Must Be Defended. New York: Picador.
I. Lessa (2006). "Discoursive struggles within social welfare: Restaging teen motherhood". British Journal of Social Work 36: 283-298.
S. Strega (2005). The view from the poststructural margins: Epistemology and methodology reconsidered. In L. Brown, & S. Strega (Eds.), Research as resistance (pp. 199-235). Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press.

Despite the international appraisal of Foucault, there are some criticism particularly on his historical descriptions. Keith Windschuttle's Foucault as Historian is an example.
A Japanese translation is available.


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shakti said...

Hi, I tried to give some comments although I do hate writing in English.

>Let's also see how Dr. Visam Mansur summarizes the assumption of postcolonialism:

I cannot understand his definition of postcolonialism, or his adherence to this term. Why does he not use the word “anti-colonial” instead of postcolonialism? Is he really against colonialism or simply want to find an opportunity among Western academic community? This is a serious question I have in mind. While his definition seems political correct, I have come to believe postcolonialism as politically very ambigious.

For example, let us read his sentence
>A careful study of recent colonial narratives like Passage to India and Heart of Darkness suggest that the colonialist is always rendered short of expression to comprehend and fathom his colonial experience.

Everybody knows that Edward Said began his career as a Conrad student, and would highly admire Joseph all his lifetime. ( It is somewhat interesting to read a dialogue between Achebe and Caryl Phillips—another key figure among postcolonial black writiers who admires Conrad. You can easily find out it in the internet.). Also, Mr. Saito, who devote himself to the cause of Edward Said, seems to appraise Joseph Conrad in his book. .

Is Post-colonialism so simple and easy as Mr.Visam Mansur or Mr. Motohashi claim? Let’s say V.S. Naipaul, a postcolonial writer, who seems to make a fool of colonized people and socities.

>The most renowned book by Said is Orientalism

I dare say that the book has been too much overevaluated. Is it really worth reading ? Have you found anything new in this book? Come on, be honest.. I suggest you rather read “After the Last Sky” in stead of “Orientalism”

shakti said...



Yosuke YANASE said...

Thank you, Shakti-san, for your immediate comments.

Your description of "anti-colonial" in contrast to "post-colonial" is very illuminating. Also, your point that postcolonialism is politically ambiguous seems very true. Regarding "Orientalism", the book is certainly, as you would agree, one of the most frequently mentioned books in postcolonialism, if not "renowned" as you point out. Your comment that the book is “over- evaluated” is quite revealing.

Your comments are always highly appreciated. I never pretend I understand postcolonialism thoroughly; in fact, I'm only beginning to understand it. If you keep paying attention to bias or errors that I regrettably have or make, I'd very much appreciate it. Thank you very much.

shakti said...

By the way, I have something to ask your opinion as you are the only Google Blogger among friends of mine.. .

Let me explain; I am not very sure yet, but it might be possible that the Google search is heavily biased in favor of Google bloggers, or that the yahoo Japan search is against Google bloggers. Why? If you put the world 水村美苗 and 日本語 (or あんだーそん)in the Google search, my message of my Google Bolg is almost always No.1, while it is nearly nil according to the Yahoo Japan search. I cannot understand the reason at all. I have never my google blog linked with other bloggers whether it be google, yahoo, or hatena. I am simply afraid that we are in a very distorted environment without noticing it clearly.

So, if you would feel or realize the invisible huger power of the internet, please tell us so. I am not sure if there is any bias. If not, I am simply happy.
Well, but I am very sure that is very biased toward the commercialism. Because some of my critical comments that I tried posting on the Amazon Homepage have been turned down. For example, a TOEIC BRIDGE workbook issued from Kirihara Shoten has no answer booklet. So, I tried to give the important message to those who may wish to purchase the one. And, yes, the Amazon Japan has never accepted me. This seems the reality of the internet world in which we are living

Yosuke YANASE said...

Thank you again for your comment. I never compared different web search services, but your hypothesis seems very plausible. Since I like the stories told about Google and its founders, I just assumed that Google is a (or even THE) reliable platform for the entire Web. However, as you suspect, manipulation on the Google engine would have enormous effect without our knowledge. Hope some entirely new enterprise will arise and compete with (or even supersede) Google.

P.S. Your episode of Amazon Japan is really worrying. Certainly what Amazon Japan did to your positing is AGAINST the interests of consumers!