POSTCOLONIAL CRITICISM IN THE AGE OF GLOBALIZED TERRORISM (A Prospectus. circa 2003)
–E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
Is the postcolonial agenda of abrogation and appropriation of colonial discourse still valid and viable after 9/11?
The emergence of a U.S. “Homeland” consensus or climate of thought (codified, for example, in the USA Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act) seems to have rendered suspect the deconstructive project of postcolonial theory to repeat as a reflexive mantra the news about the death of the “nation-state,” the self-identical subject, and all totalizing forms of rationality (including varieties of marxist critiques of the “free market” and neoliberal ideology). Born of the Cold War reaction to the utopian critique of capital, postcolonial thought has so far invested its chief energies in the analysis of difference as manifest in the “fractured and ambivalent discourse of colonial power.” Premised on nominalist-relativist axioms, deconstruction and its variants congratulate themselves on being more radical than classical marxism. Negri and Hardt’s Empire, in fact, seeks to pass itself off as the authentic “communist” manifesto!
Postcolonialists may be the prescient heralds of neoliberal finance-capital globalization now in irreversible crisis. Postcolonialist thinking (e.g., Bhabha, Spivak, Ashcroft and other epigones) reject the universalist claims of national-liberation struggles as forms of Eurocentric mimicry. It celebrates the ideals of hybridity, in-between or borderland experience, and other fantasmatic performances of agency parasitic on the neoliberal market and the circulation of heterogeneous commodities. Consequently, it found itself endorsing the war against Islamic fundamentalism (the “internal enemies” of the pluralist order). It unwittingly became complicit with the decentering program of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. What needs attention today is the exposure of this complicity, together with a practical critique of U.S. hegemonic imperial discourse legitimized by the current “war on terrorism” (a euphemism of extremist finance-capital predatory globalization). In my Beyond Postcolonial Theory, Working Through the Contradictions, and In the Wake of Terror, I elaborated on how postcolonial criticism can renew its oppositional and emancipatory vision by addressing aspects of the “terrorism” problematique, among others: 1) the ethos and pragmatic schemes of the new American Century ideologues; 2) the globalizing strategy of finance capital as mediated through the WTO, IMF and World Bank; and 3) the intellectual apologetic and rationalization of the “clash of civilization” scholasticism that functions as the postmodern reincarnation of “Manifest Destiny” and the “civilizing mission” of the old-style colonialists and imperialists. Themes of the Other (alterity), subaltern identity, the question of difference, materialist locality, performative bodies, and other conjunctural phenomena have been thoroughly interrogated from a historical-materialist point of view in the works of Peter McLaren, Arif Dirlik, Fredric Jameson, Teresa Ebert, Masu’d Zavarzadeh, and many others..–###