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Introduction

Postcolonial studies and postsocialism in Eastern Europe

Jill Owczarzak

The introduction to this special section explores the ways in which postcolonial studies contribute a deeper understanding of postsocialist change in Central and Eastern Europe. Since the collapse of socialism, anthropological and other social science studies of Eastern Europe have highlighted deep divides between “East” and “West” and drawn attention to the ways in which socialist practices persist into the postsocialist period. We seek to move beyond discourses of the East/West divide by examining the postsocialist context through the lens of postcolonial studies. We look at four aspects of postcolonial studies and explore their relevance for understanding postsocialist Eastern Europe: orientalism, nation and identity, hybridity, and voice. These themes are particular salient from the perspective of gender and sexuality, key concepts through which both postcolonialism and postsocialism can be understood. We thus pay particular attention to the exchange of ideas between East/West, local/global, and national/international arenas.

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From Ebony to Ivory

‘Cosmetic’ Investments in the Body

Chiara Pussetti

This article discusses the impact of skin colour inequality in the individual aspirations and prospects of social inclusion and success, social mobility aspirations, professional ambitions and career opportunities. Ethnographically, it studies specific forms of cosmetic investments and self-optimisation in Portugal and its effects on the micropolitics of bodies, correlating the agency of individuals (how they empower themselves maximising certain aspects and minimising others) with the ways in which a European white appearance circulates as a form of capital and commodity, creating body narratives that are very much racialised. By inquiring the actual European understanding of value in bodies, we can also understand the colonial legacy and how it is reproduced through the mutation of bodies.

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Les circulations entre France et Algérie

Un nouveau regard sur les migrants (post)coloniaux (1945–1985)

Muriel Cohen

This article studies circulations between Algeria and France from the 1950s to the 1980s to analyze the social dynamics characteristic of Algerians in France and to highlight their range of choices and trajectories. Bypassing the historiographically dominant focus on male guest workers, this article claims that most flows between Algeria and France involved women and children, as well as men who had settled in France a long time ago. Moreover, it shows a large emigration flow from France to Algeria: of business men, vacationers or people moving back to Algeria. This analysis relies on statistical data as well as migrants’ testimonies.

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Many a Standard at a Time

The Ottomans' Leverage with Imperial Studies

Marc Aymes

This article aims to explore the consequences of including Ottoman studies in the larger field of imperial studies. It strives to combine a close reading of the Ottoman imperial epithets with considerations of how the Ottomans may contribute to theorizing empire as a model. In particular, the article engages in a discussion of whether the "sublime sultanate" developed into a colonial pattern of empire over its final century of existence. As it turns out, the Ottoman practice of administration did not come down to a simulacrum of European colonialism; the article points instead to a semiotics of empire that took its cue from a multidimensional logic of governmentality. Accordingly, archival idiosyncrasies are taken to imply the contrary of an Ottoman exceptionalism. They serve rather to highlight that concepts carry with them a vast repertoire of meanings to be activated in practice.

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Ania Loomba

This article offers a reflection on the importance and impact of Jonathan Dollimore's book Radical Tragedy, situating it in the context of the critical and political climate of the 1980s and the author's own engagement with both early modern studies and postcolonial studies. It suggests that the book's engagement with both philosophy and history remains important to both fields today.

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Tomaz Carlos Flores Jacques

African philosophy, as a negritude, is a moment in the postcolonial critique of European/Western colonialism and the bodies of knowledge that sustained it. Yet a critical analysis of its' original articulations reveals the limits of this critique and more broadly of postcolonial studies, while also pointing towards more radical theoretical possibilities within African philosophy. Jean-Paul Sartre's essay 'Black Orpheus', a philosophical appropriation of negritude poetry, serves as a guide for this reflection, for the text reveals the inspiration and wealth of expressions of negritude, as well as their ambiguity. Sartre's essay however also renders possible a further act of re-appropriation that takes us beyond culture and identity-centred readings of African philosophy and postcolonialism, readings whose conceptual and critical potential is far greater than what has hitherto been explored.

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Tracking Skilled Diasporas

Globalization, Brain Drain, and the Postcolonial Condition in Nigeria

Nduka Otiono

This essay examines the trajectories of skilled labor migrants within a global South-North migration matrix using an interdisciplinary framework. Focusing on Nigeria's huge brain drain phenomenon, the essay draws from the limited available data on the field, interpreting those data through theoretical perspectives from postcolonial studies, Marxism, cultural studies, and human geography. The study spotlights the example of the United States of America as a receptacle of skilled migrants and raises questions of social justice along the North-South divide. The research demonstrates that contrary to the dominant image promoted by some elements in the Western media of migrants as irritants or criminals who disturb well-cultivated, advanced World economies and social spaces, 1 those nations benefit highly from Africa's (and other migrant countries') labor diasporas, especially the highly skilled professionals.

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Post-colonial Piracy

Anxiety and Interdisciplinarity

David Huddart

Questioned by W. J. T. Mitchell on the importance of theory for postcolonial studies, Homi Bhabha proceeds to distinguish two forms of interdisciplinarity. The first form is familiar in its emphasis on joint degrees and teaching in order to widen the teaching or research base, juxtaposing disciplines which yet maintain their solid foundations. The second form of interdisciplinarity acknowledges disciplinary limits, and marks the shaking of apparently solid foundations; Bhabha argues that it ‘is not an attempt to strengthen one foundation by drawing from another; it is a reaction to the fact that we are living at the real border of our own disciplines, where some of the fundamental ideas of our disciplines are being profoundly shaken. So our interdisciplinary moment is a move of survival – the formulation of knowledges that require our disciplinary scholarship and technique but demand that we abandon disciplinary mastery and surveillance.’ Elsewhere, in ‘DissemiNation’, Bhabha expands his point to argue for the necessity of this second form of interdisciplinarity: ‘To enter into the interdisciplinarity of cultural texts means that we cannot contextualize the emergent cultural form by locating it in terms of some pre-given discursive causality or origin.

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Meals in Foreign Parts

Food in Writing by Nineteenth-Century British Travellers to the Balkans

Ludmilla Kostova

The interest in the narrative and ideological parameters of travel writing,1 which has been an important feature of the Western European and North American academic contexts over the last fifteen years or so, is undoubtedly a reflection of the unique position of the genre as an area thematising and problematising cultural difference and otherness and as a meeting point of varying discourses of gender, race/ethnicity, class, power, domination and counter-domination. Travel narratives have played a key role in current theoretical debates in postcolonial studies, feminism, cultural studies and comparative literature. To my mind, a considerable number of the critical texts that they have engendered in those fields, appear to privilege a particular analytical strategy focusing on the interpretation of what Laura E. Ciolkowski has termed ‘gender-coded visual power’ (1998: 343). This power operates through the travelling subject’s gaze, which is intent upon the construction of the relatively stationary object(s) of his/her observation. By persistently privileging the analysis of the gaze critics have tended to ignore and even erase other aspects of the complex processes of mediation and negotiation in which travellers and ‘travellees’ are involved.

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Living History, Performing Coloniality

Towards a Postcolonial Ethnography

Sitara Thobani

The self-reflexivity of anthropologists entails engaging with the forceful critiques emanating from within the discipline with regard to its relationship to the colonial project. However, the question remains as to what a postcolonial ethnographic project might look like. That is, while anthropologists engage with critiques from postcolonial studies in theory, how might they do so in practice? I address this question in my article by examining contemporary performances of Indian classical and Contemporary South Asian dance in Britain. An historical analysis of the trajectory of Indian classical dance reveals an intimate relationship between colonial, Orientalist and Indian nationalist discourses. Investigating contemporary performances in the U.K. can thus provide a fascinating glimpse into how discourses of coloniality are reiterated in the present. Focusing on performative narrativisations of the dance's history and its constructions of an idealised femininity, I show how ethnographic research can usefully excavate contemporary practices to better understand the capacity of coloniality both to endure and transform in its contemporary articulations.