Postcolonialism incorporated?

Obendorf, Simon (2011) Postcolonialism incorporated? In: Living Past Theory: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Postcolonial, 10-11 February 2011, University of York. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

For many of us within the field somewhat hazily defined as “postcolonial studies”, it was postcolonialism’s political focus and interdisciplinary reach that first attracted our interest. Postcolonial studies seemed to hold out new ways of engaging with the legacies of colonialism that transcended mere description or prediction and offered us paths towards alternative futures and political change – in the formerly colonised world, in the metropolitan centres and in our own scholarship and pedagogy. To research, write about or to teach the postcolonial world was to engage in a project spanning historical analysis, cultural and literary criticism, political studies, transnational and intercultural exchange and psychoanalytic theory. Early postcolonial scholarship brims with optimism of accomplishing both political and intellectual change: of undoing Eurocentrism, of challenging racist stereotyping and of forging alliances between the victims of history. Similarly the very interdisciplinary nature of postcolonial studies seemed to suggest new ways of thinking about the structure, disciplinary divisions and institutional location of contemporary scholarship.

Yet as postcolonialism has established itself within the academy (especially in schools of literature and cultural studies), much of the optimism, interdisciplinarity and normative focus seems to have drained away. This paper argues for a retrieval of both the political dimension of postcolonial scholarship and a commitment to interdisciplinary problem solving. Drawing on the author’s own experience researching and teaching at the intersection of postcolonial studies, sexuality studies and disciplinary international relations, this paper suggests that as well as identifying what postcolonialism doesn’t say (and why), we also need to critically analyse its relationships with other discourses and disciplines. The paper also suggests that as scholars of postcolonialism we need to be critically aware of the knowledge politics and disciplinary divisions of the contemporary university and their impact on the possibilities for interdisciplinary collaboration and political activism.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Additional Information:For many of us within the field somewhat hazily defined as “postcolonial studies”, it was postcolonialism’s political focus and interdisciplinary reach that first attracted our interest. Postcolonial studies seemed to hold out new ways of engaging with the legacies of colonialism that transcended mere description or prediction and offered us paths towards alternative futures and political change – in the formerly colonised world, in the metropolitan centres and in our own scholarship and pedagogy. To research, write about or to teach the postcolonial world was to engage in a project spanning historical analysis, cultural and literary criticism, political studies, transnational and intercultural exchange and psychoanalytic theory. Early postcolonial scholarship brims with optimism of accomplishing both political and intellectual change: of undoing Eurocentrism, of challenging racist stereotyping and of forging alliances between the victims of history. Similarly the very interdisciplinary nature of postcolonial studies seemed to suggest new ways of thinking about the structure, disciplinary divisions and institutional location of contemporary scholarship. Yet as postcolonialism has established itself within the academy (especially in schools of literature and cultural studies), much of the optimism, interdisciplinarity and normative focus seems to have drained away. This paper argues for a retrieval of both the political dimension of postcolonial scholarship and a commitment to interdisciplinary problem solving. Drawing on the author’s own experience researching and teaching at the intersection of postcolonial studies, sexuality studies and disciplinary international relations, this paper suggests that as well as identifying what postcolonialism doesn’t say (and why), we also need to critically analyse its relationships with other discourses and disciplines. The paper also suggests that as scholars of postcolonialism we need to be critically aware of the knowledge politics and disciplinary divisions of the contemporary university and their impact on the possibilities for interdisciplinary collaboration and political activism.
Keywords:Postcolonialism, Critical Theory, Interdisciplinarity
Subjects:L Social studies > L370 Social Theory
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:5972
Deposited By: Simon Obendorf
Deposited On:13 Jul 2012 20:32
Last Modified:13 Jul 2012 20:32

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