The Postcolonial Unconscious
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The Postcolonial Unconscious is a major attempt to reconstruct the whole field of postcolonial studies. In this magisterial and, at times, polemical study, Neil Lazarus argues that the key critical concepts that form the very foundation of the field need to be re-assessed and questioned. Drawing on a vast range of literary sources, Lazarus investigates works and authors from Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and the Arab world, South, Southeast and East Asia, to reconsider them from a postcolonial perspective. Alongside this, he offers bold new readings of some of the most influential figures in the field: Fredric Jameson, Edward Said and Frantz Fanon. A tour de force of postcolonial studies, this book will set the agenda for the future, probing how the field has come to develop in the directions it has and why and how it can grow further.
of domination and control made from the standpoint of either a completed political independence or an incomplete liberationist project. Yet whereas post-modernism, in one of its most famous programmatic statements (by Jean-Franc¸ois Lyotard), stresses the disappearance of the grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment, the emphasis behind much of the work done by the first generation of post-colonial artists and The Postcolonial Unconscious 185 scholars is exactly the opposite: the
era.93 and I come from the nigger yard of yesterday leaping from the oppressors’ hate and the scorn of myself; from the agony of the dark hut in the shadow and the hurt of things; from the long days of cruelty and the long nights of pain down to the wide streets of to-morrow, of the next day leaping I come, who cannot see will hear.94 The idiom of this writing – not merely its idiom, indeed, but its very raison d’eˆtre – is nationalist. But ‘nationalism’ here is not at all the cramping,
emphasises instead the struggle for national liberation, the struggle of colonial societies to emerge into nationhood in a world of nation-states. Inasmuch as Jameson proceeds from the ground of ‘third-worldism’, Ahmad argues, he is more or less bound to valorise nationalism as the overarching political value, such that the ‘national allegory’ hypothesis emerges as something in the nature of a truism or tautology, constructed internally and immanently in accordance with the terms of his theory
is, in its interventionist aspects, at least, demonstrably of the order described by Guha. Thus, when Le Duan, for instance, opens 124 The question of representation in ‘postcolonial’ fiction his pamphlet, The Vietnamese Revolution, with an historical synopsis, we can see clearly that his reconstruction of the past is profoundly overdetermined by contemporary – that is to say, by liberationist – political insights and imperatives: During the long process of struggle to build and defend their
writing has sought to ‘revision’ or ‘unwrite’ prior Eurocentric narratives; but it has also sought to recover and transmit or provide access to modes of life, forms of culture, and ways of thinking that have been obliterated, destabilised, or rendered invisible by the systematic operations of power (global, national, and local) over the course of the past several hundred years. Achebe’s desire, in writing Things Fall Apart, to demonstrate the cultural depth and integrity of a people denigrated