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date: 18 November 2019


Abstract and Keywords

Postcolonial studies has been linked to globalization within what the sociologist Ankie Hoogveldt calls the “reshuffled context” of a global economy, in which First World countries have appeared in the Third World and vice versa. The relationship between postcolonial studies and global studies may be interpreted as a dialectical one. This article explores the complex connection between contemporary postcolonial social/cultural formations and economic globalization and the extent to which social divisions have largely replaced geographical divisions in a contemporary world order characterized by the politics, and political management, of exclusion. It looks at the emergence of new transnationally incorporated regions as a result of an economically re-organized world and situates both postcolonial and global studies within the context of the “new regionalism.” It offers a series of intersecting perspectives on globalization and subalternity, with the latter providing a further link between globalization and postcolonialism. It also discusses globalization and postcolonialism in relation to Asia, the Pacific, Europe, and Africa and its diasporas.

Keywords: postcolonial studies, globalization, global studies, new regionalism, subalternity, postcolonialism, Asia, Pacific, Europe, Africa

Despite those who would see global studies as more fitting than postcolonial studies for the critical analysis of the contemporary era (see for example During 2000; also Loomba et al. 2005), the term ‘postcolonial’ has always had a global reach to it, and the multiple impacts and legacies of colonialism are nowhere more apparent than in the context of (late) global capitalism today. Postcolonial studies, in this sense, constitutes both a continuing engagement with and a renewed contestation of globalization within what the sociologist Ankie Hoogvelt (1997) calls the ‘reshuffled context’ of a global economy in which First Worlds have appeared in the Third World and Third Worlds in the First, confirming a contemporary world order in which earlier binary distinctions—First/Third, north/south, core/periphery—seem no longer serviceable without necessarily diminishing the economic imperatives that drove them, and without which we could hardly speak of a globalized (or any other kind of) capitalist world at all.

The relationship between postcolonial studies and global studies is perhaps best seen as a dialectical one in which the complementary terminologies of each are understood as being equally inadequate (During 1998, 2000). As Simon During puts it, ‘postcolonialism and globalism are reductive, often internally divided, names for forces which work, and long have worked, in transaction with one another’—although he goes on almost immediately to assert that this transaction also has the means to be productive, and that one of the effects of contemporary world unification has been, by ‘reconfiguring the past in its own image, [to rekindle the] colonial struggles [that help] keep old pasts alive’ (2000: 392). During tacitly recognizes that theories of globalization often contain valuable ‘postcolonial content’, a content readily identified in the migratory vocabulary—‘deterritorialization’, ‘transnationalism’, ‘cosmopolitanism’—they commonly deploy (Krishnaswamy 2008: 3; see also Appadurai 1996, Spencer 2011). However, whether the relationship between the postcolonial and the global is oppositional or complicit is moot—hence the ongoing debate as to whether postcolonialism registers an ethical response to globalism or merely presents an economic effect of it: the simplest, though not necessarily most illuminating, answer to this would probably be that it does both. One version of this debate might ask whether postcolonialism unwittingly serves the expansionist needs of neoliberal globalism or whether globalization, seen from a postcolonialist perspective, offers both a platform for coordinated resistance and an opportunity for the world’s marginalized and exploited to negotiate modernity in their own terms (Hoogvelt 1997; Stewart-Harawira 2005). Another version might point out the productive overlaps between two fields—postcolonial studies (p. 549) and global studies—that evolved separately but have since fashioned a quasi-symbiotic relationship with one another (Brennan 2008; During 2000). Such overlaps include the reinvigorated call for transnational alliances and affiliations in an era of unprecedented mobility; the powerful if potentially disingenuous recognition that today’s global problems (poverty, inequality, disease, climate change, etc.) require global solutions; and the urgent need, pressing beyond this, to address the new and intensified forms of capitalist imperialism that underwrite social and economic conflict in the modern globalized world (Krishnaswamy 2008; see also Part II of this volume).

However the debate is framed, it seems necessary to insist that there are different kinds of globalization with very different effects and consequences; also different scales and temporalities of globalization (Appadurai 1996; Sassen 2008). This emphasis on plurality is needed to counteract the ‘presentist’ assumptions and polarizing tendencies that are often embedded within contemporary discourses of globalization (globalization ‘from above’ and ‘from below’; ‘euphoric’ versus ‘catastrophist’ accounts of globalization; globalization as the latest iteration in the long history of capitalism or as the distinctive signature of our times). It also seems necessary to see globalization in both economic and cultural terms (Hoogveldt 1997), as both a localizing and a de-localizing process (Appadurai 1996), and as both a profoundly divisive ideology (‘globalism’) and a potentially unifying vision (‘global consciousness’) of the world as an interconnected whole (Huggan 2009; see also Robertson 1992). This section of the Handbook aims, accordingly, to look at the complex interplay between contemporary postcolonial social/cultural formations and economic globalization without reducing the one to the other or setting up an implacably antagonistic relationship in which postcolonialism is seen as a ‘cultural front’ against economic globalization-cum-‘fiscal imperialism’ (Spivak 1999) in the overarching context of today’s unevenly developed world. Rather, the section opens out the debate on globalization by considering the extent to which (1) social divisions have largely replaced geographical divisions in a contemporary world order characterized by the politics, and political management, of exclusion (Hoogveldt 1997; see also Part II of this volume); and (2) new transnationally incorporated regions have emerged both as the effect of and in response to an economically reorganized world.

In this latter context, both postcolonial and global studies can be situated within the context of what David Harvey (2003) and others have called the ‘new regionalism’. The most obvious thing to say about the ‘new regionalism’ is that it is no longer new—if it ever was. Most commentators ally it with a combination of political and economic elements relating to the immediate post-Cold-War era: the geopolitical move towards a ‘multipolar’ rather than ‘bipolar’ world order; the economic ascendancy of the Asia-Pacific; the increasing globalization of finance and concomitant development of ‘globe-girdling’ (Spivak 1999) free-market ideologies; and the breathless ‘rise of new technologies that have [since definitively] reorganized human calculations of time and space’ (Larner and Walters 2002: 410). As the political scientists Wendy Larner and William Walters—whose provisional list this is—suggest, the ‘new regionalism’ may be distinguished from the ‘old’ by its acceptance of, and capitalization on, the (p. 550) region as part of a fully evolved world system rather than as an economically oriented amalgamation of nation states (2002: 410). But it is no more new than globalization itself is new, and—as with the ‘older’ nation-state-oriented models it is prematurely argued to have replaced—its political and economic consequences are similarly conflicted. Thus, it may act as a vehicle for democratization, allowing for participatory forms of international politics within the context of a non-hegemonic world order; but it may equally well act as the catalyst for a re-hierarchized world economy in which competitive (and/or protective) regional units square off against one another, thereby re-enacting the centuries-old capitalist struggle for ‘global supremacy in terms of economic power’ (Stewart-Harawira 2005: 13–14).

Postcolonial critics and theorists have been suspicious, by and large, of the promises held out by the ‘new regionalism’, seeing it as being intrinsically connected to, though not necessarily reducible to, globalization ‘from above’ (see Harvey 2003 and his postcolonial followers). Accordingly, one of the most important recent projects of postcolonial studies has been to develop a ‘critical regionalism’ that is at once attentive to the political and economic hegemony of the current world order and the flagrant injustices that stem from it, and aware of vernacular responses to it in which the region, often understood as an internal alternative to the nation, is reconceived as being largely external to it; as sharing some of the benefits of national identity but also reaching out beyond these to embrace transnational and/or diasporic modes of affiliation and conviviality that would normally be more characteristic of globalization ‘from below’ (Spivak 2008; see also Mignolo 2000).

Critical regionalism, says Gayatri Spivak, its most vocal postcolonial exponent, is best understood as a device for ‘rewriting postcolonialism into globality’ (2008: 131). Spivak presents critical regionalism as a set of practices rather than a set of slogans; cooperatively inclined but pragmatically oriented, it is obstinately immune to the blandishments of nationalism and ‘post-nationalism’ alike. Although critical regionalism, Spivak-style, is anti-programmatic, some of its key aspects can readily be identified: its displacement of ethnic history and primordialist cultural nationalism; its non-discriminatory support for transnational collaboration and cultural pluralism; its resistance to the global managerialism and ‘regionalist unilateralism’ (235) that underlie regional economic imperatives (2008: 212); and, perhaps above all, its vehement rejection of the global-capitalist mantra of ‘growth’ (245). It is with this kind of critical regionalism in mind that this section’s essays engage with their respective regions (‘Asia’, ‘the Pacific’, ‘Africa’, ‘the Americas’, ‘Europe’)—areas which, in radically different ways and from radically different perspectives, are still fighting to free themselves from the triple stranglehold of geopolitical determinism, economic managerialism, and the attitudinal legacies of imperialist cultural myth. In this last context, the essays are attentive to the ways in which these regions have been historically identified, and have attempted to redefine themselves in their own image, but also the ways in which their social realities are structured by the global ideologies within—and against—which most of us currently live.

The section begins with an overview chapter by the social theorists Nikita Dhawan and Shalini Randeria. Dhawan and Randeria offer a series of intersecting, mostly South- (p. 551) Asian-oriented perspectives on globalization and subalternity in which the latter term provides a further link between globalization and postcolonialism (though this link is not necessarily direct and the chapter vigilantly guards against reductivism, e.g. the uniform view of postcolonial ‘resistance’ to globalization or the equally sweeping prospect of a subaltern ‘globalization from below’). The chapter begins by asking to what extent globalization can be seen as a continuation of the imperial project. The answer, as might be expected, is yes and no, depending on the degree to which globalization is seen as (1) a destructive ideology and (2) an ambivalent vehicle for contemporary processes of accelerated change. Globalization is caught between competing narratives of celebration and crisis. The former is connected to new, enabling global flows and the proliferation of alternative ‘modernities in the margins’; the latter, in foregrounding those who have been left out of contemporary globalization processes, advertises the growing ‘asymmetries of wealth and power’, many of them inflected by colonial legacies, that exist between the global north and the global south.

Globalization is further inflected, Dhawan and Randeria suggest, by regionalism (which complicates the local/global binaries that haunt globalization discourse) and by gender (which counteracts the common tendency of globalization theory to ignore ‘the contradictory consequences of globalization for the [everyday] lives of women across the world’). Most of all, perhaps, it is inflected by subalternity: by the continued, sometimes intensified existence of the poor and disenfranchised within a global system that further marginalizes them even as it mobilizes to support them in the name of ‘civil society’ and ‘good governance’. Subaltern agency, Dhawan and Randeria insist, must be uncoupled from those forms of civic engagement that are premised on western normative conceptions of the ‘rights-bearing citizen’; it also stands in conflicted relation to those contemporary (left-liberal) activist movements that seek to ‘interrogate global hegemony [by] using the languages of global justice and human rights’ (see also Farrier and Tuitt in Part II of this volume). Subaltern groups may be paradoxically effective, they suggest, precisely because they operate at levels perceived to be insignificant to national and international politics, although the liberating possibilities of subalternity remain pitted against the repressive production of subalternity, defined by Spivak in neo-Marxian terms as ‘a condition of not being able to represent oneself’.

Following Spivak again, Dhawan and Randeria suggest that the political and economic empowerment of the subaltern is incomplete without ‘epistemic change’, as much in the global north as the global south; and that one form this might take is a radical rethinking of human rights, which are still far too often seen in Eurocentric terms as a ‘western gift to the non-western world’. Arguing against the claim of universal human rights as a western invention (a claim also interrogated elsewhere in this volume, e.g. in the General Introduction), Dhawan and Randeria conclude that human rights discourses—while still routinely exploited by the dominant—remain useful when reattached to ongoing histories of anti-colonial struggle and to all those contemporary subaltern agents who, in the conspicuously uneven contexts of globalization, seek to ‘arrest the abuse of public power under conditions of endemic appropriation by the postcolonial state’.

(p. 552) In the first of the section’s ‘regional’ chapters, Daniel Vukovich takes on the impossible task of accounting for Asia and its relationship to both globalization and post-colonialism. This impossibility is announced from the outset. ‘Asia’ makes little sense, Vukovich suggests, for the people that actually live there. Nor are people in ‘Asia’ very likely to identify as ‘Asians’. Rather, the identity of ‘Asia’ is either bound up in diaspora (the subject of Quayson’s chapter later in the section) or ‘arises from, and is dependent on, real or perceived contact with the west’. The term ‘Asia’ traces its roots to a long imperialist history in which ‘Asia’ has been pitted against ‘the west’; and this false binary persists, re-emerging in ‘new’ Orientalist discourses that have adapted ‘older’, more conspicuously racist ways of thinking about Asia to those more social science-based forms of knowledge, and the ‘modernizationist’ vocabulary that accompanies them, that dominate the ‘current neo-imperial globalized scene’.

It might be best, in fact, to do without ‘Asia’ altogether, though its spectral presence lingers, not least in nominally decolonizing discourses such as those of the Singapore-based ‘inter-Asian’ studies project, which looks to study Asia inter-regionally, i.e. comparatively from within. Vukovich is sceptical of such ‘home-grown’ moves, as he is of their western neoliberal counterparts, e.g. the oft-recycled global-capitalist fiction of Asia’s ‘opening up’ to the west. In fact, Vukovich suggests, the rise of Asia, and of the PRC in particular, has brought with it a newly configured (if still inherently unstable) world system in which the west has been effectively reprovincialized. In so far as the provincialization of the west—and of Europe in particular—has always been part of the postcolonial critical project (see, for example, Chakrabarty 2000), one might think that opportunities exist here for postcolonialism. However, as Vukovich points out, postcolonial studies has yet to come to terms with China, in part because it is seen as a poor fit for colonial/postcolonial paradigms. After all, for Lenin and others, China was ‘only ever semi-colonial’, while there is a long and insufficiently challenged tradition of area studies scholarship in which China is categorized as ‘not colonized’ at all.

Such scholarship ignores the ways in which China has historically been affected by ‘imperialist contact as well as by the political brinkmanship of the Cold War’; it also either represses or reductively moralizes China’s past and present status as a global imperial power. The last of these views, Vukovich suggests, is another example of those forms of globalist Orientalism through which China, (rightly) seen as a serial violator of human rights, has been strategically grafted onto a liberal ‘civil-rights-as-democratization narrative’ that effectively reinforces western authority—an uncritical ‘modernizing’ narrative sometimes used by self-styled progressives in China itself (see Dhawan and Randeria in this section of the volume; also Gopal in Part II). Meanwhile, other contemporary forms of Orientalism can be found in post-Cold-War discourse, which maps ‘new’ globalist homogenization onto ‘old-style’ Asian totalitarianism; in the persistent assimilation of Chinese and other revolutionary legacies to Eurocentric models; and in anti-communist documents such as Charter 08 which use the language of human rights while simultaneously drawing on neoclassical economic ideology. In these and other examples, Vukovich convincingly shows that the PRC, while still presenting something of an exceptional case to postcolonial studies, exemplifies today’s pervasive (p. 553) triangulation of colonial discourse, globalization realpolitik, and the ‘unabashed deployment of “universal” modernizationist terms’.

Like ‘Asia’, the ‘Pacific’ is a densely mythologized cross-cultural space in which discrepant narratives of the real and the imagined have competed and commingled. Unlike Asia, however, the Pacific has not enjoyed the attention it deserves in postcolonial studies. The primary task of Michelle Keown and Stuart Murray’s chapter is to show how this space, far from being distant from postcolonial concerns, is in fact proximate to them: in terms of the complex relationship between the local and the global; in terms of the interwoven histories of Pacific Island communities; in terms of the colonialisms, both past and present, that the Pacific’s inhabitants have repeatedly contested; and in terms of the intricately interconnected understandings of themselves, and of each other, that they have continuously evolved. A secondary objective of the chapter is to break down the internal distances that separate the Pacific in order to account for it as a region; thus, while Keown and Murray acknowledge that the Pacific Ocean ‘contains one of the most heterogeneous groups of cultures and languages in the world’, and that these cultures and languages are stretched across vast expanses of space, it has always been productively linked through trade and travel, through politico-economic cooperation, and through home-grown cross-cultural initiatives which, adopting and adapting traditional myths and cosmologies, have helped unite and protect Pacific Islanders against the destructive forces of global capitalism, military imperialism, and—more recently—those expedient forms of ‘planetary management’ (Ross 1991; see also Mount and O’Brien in Part IV) that have accompanied the global drive to combat climate change.

Pacific regionalism, Keown and Murray insist, has by no means rendered nationalism defunct; on the contrary, it can be seen to have reinvigorated it by supplying a comparative frame for ‘nationalist traditions that present the cultural politics of the present through [progressive] reworkings of the past’. However, ongoing histories of Indigenous protest across the region (e.g. in Australia and New Zealand) provide a salutary reminder of the discriminatory legacies of settler nationalism, while long-standing ethnic rivalries (e.g. in Hawai‘i and Fiji) have been restoked by a neoliberal global economy which, in intensifying already heavy pressures for migration, has simultaneously freed up opportunities for some and further entrenched the dependency of the rest. Thus, while cooperative models of ‘critical regionalism’ (Spivak 2008) do exist, they must contend with several complicating factors, which operate across a sliding scale that belies generalization: extreme linguistic and ethnic diversity; considerable economic and environmental fragility; and a long history of incorporation into totalizing cultural and/or economic discourses which, generated from metropolitan centres located well beyond the region, lay false claim to a knowledge and understanding of how the Pacific functions—and can be made to function for those whose livelihoods are not necessarily dependent on it, and whose lives are mostly experienced elsewhere. Caught in a vortex of global flows—money, goods, people—the Pacific remains in many ways a vulnerable space, yet cultural and political autonomy are by no means beyond it. As the Tongan writer and anthropologist Epeli Hau‘ofa suggests, (p. 554) Oceania (his chosen term) may be insular in form but it is not insular in spirit, and, buffeted though it is by globalization, it will continue to draw on the collective ‘cultural achievements of its own histories’ in order to give shape and meaning to its individual inhabitants’ lives.

One of the distinctive features of the Pacific, for Keown and Murray, is that it is a diasporic space, imaginatively fashioned in part by people who no longer live there. This emphasis is upheld in Ato Quayson’s historically wide-ranging chapter on Africa and its diasporas. As Quayson suggests, how Africa is seen today depends as much on how it is perceived ‘from without’—from the vantage point of its diasporas—as on how it imagines itself ‘from within’, in relationship to the west. However, the concept of ‘diaspora’ also complicates this ‘inside/outside’ binary, just as it questions politically expedient notions of bounded territory; similarly, the fashionable invocation of an ‘African diaspora’ obscures as much as it reveals, e.g. the semantic distinction between ‘diaspora’ and ‘dispersal’, the historical entanglement of African and other global diasporas, and the conflicting ideas and ideologies embedded within the term ‘Africa’ itself.

‘Diaspora’, for Quayson, is by definition a relational term and needs to be understood both historically and comparatively, within multiple frames of reference. Colonialism provides one of the key frames. Thus, while enforced child migration to North America and Australia, peaking in the mid-nineteenth century, was obviously different in kind (and in degree) to the relocation of London’s black poor to Sierra Leone in the late eighteenth century, the colonial structures that underpinned them were broadly similar. Two larger points follow: that the instrumentalization of population dispersal has always been an important part of colonial policy, of whichever form and at whatever historical juncture; and that this policy has created very different diasporic communities, including those fashioned from within a given region (e.g. the African continent) as well as those manufactured from ‘elsewhere’.

Quayson gathers examples accordingly. The history of indentured labour in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, for instance, has created diasporas that are as ‘African’ as they are ‘Indian’; as he pointedly asks, ‘are the descendants of Indian indentured labourers less African, say, than the Zulu or the Gikuyu? Or is it rather that the diasporic culture of the Indians of East Africa marks a cosmopolitan “Africanity” that has not yet been fully understood?’ The history of military diasporas likewise suggests a heady blend of ‘intra-‘and ‘extra-African’ dispersals, not all of these coalescing into recognizable diasporas. Similar question marks hover over diasporic and non-diasporic constituencies in British colonial ports such as Liverpool. Quayson rightly insists here that there is ‘no straightforward way in which we can speak of a singular identification of black Liverpool with Africa’; rather, it seems necessary to speak of multiple identifications, with only some of these being formed within Britain itself. Finally, plantation slavery certainly produced diasporas in, e.g., the American South, Brazil, Cuba, and the Caribbean islands, but far less certain is whether the residues of African culture these diasporas produced were ‘sure marks of Africa itself or whether they were creolized products forged out of an altogether new amalgam’. Here as elsewhere, Quayson implicitly critiques homogeneous views of an African diaspora that reinforce colonial myths of Africa as a static space (p. 555) or a lost continent (see Sharp in Part II of this volume). On the contrary, he concludes, Africa is not the bounded entity to which its diasporas attach as so many geographical extensions; rather, both the continent and its diasporas speak to the diversified ‘social landscapes that have been forged among peoples of African descent everywhere’—never more so than in today’s globalized world.

If African scholarship, by and large, has had an ambivalent relationship with postcolonial theory, then a different if not wholly unrelated set of problems obtains for American scholars. One version of the problem is a not-unjustified perception of the American dominance of the field, of the powerful institutional processes by which postcolonial studies has effectively become an ‘Atlantic phenomenon, the result of various strands of thought and theory … travelling beyond their point of origin [and then] emerging in a new form in the Anglophone academy, most notably in the United States’ (see also Schulze-Engler in this section). Another concerns the place of the US itself, and of the Americas more generally, in postcolonial studies. The question is not so much of who is included and who not, although the usual caveats need to be borne in mind about the location and institutional authority of postcolonial criticism. It is rather one of method—postcolonialism’s ongoing need to extend its range beyond the English-speaking world, to acknowledge alternative critical discourses in alternative European and non-European languages, and to interrogate its own tendencies to nationalist and/or regionalist parochialism, not least by seeking to develop a globally conscious if locally inflected comparative approach (see the General Introduction to this volume).

In his chapter Charles Forsdick suggests, after Quayson, that a ‘postcolonializing’ gaze on America may help, paradoxically perhaps, to do this; and that a retooled form of transcultural comparatism, drawing in part on earlier traditions of Inter-American studies, may prove useful in pursuing this particular critical goal. ‘Postcolonializing’ the US, specifically, must steer between the twin traps of positing its originary status (the ‘first postcolonial nation’) and reinforcing its obdurate exceptionalism (America’s colonial past is ‘like no others’); but it must also work towards correcting the countervailing tendency to see colonialism as having little to do with the historical formation of US national identity and/or the present multiethnic concoction that is ‘American culture’ at all. ‘Postcolonializing’ the Americas, more generally, involves broader, ‘hemispheric’ conceptions of the US and more flexible, ‘multidirectional’ models that look both east and west (e.g. to the Atlantic and the Pacific), but north and south (e.g. to Canada and Latin America) as well.

Forsdick turns his attention, accordingly, to Quebec, aptly described by Rachel Killick as both ‘semi-attached participant and semi-detached observer on the northern fringe of American (US) empire’; and to Haiti, the geopolitical and socio-historical dimensions of which seem actively to require ‘post-national, transnational and diasporic’ understandings as well as revealing the extent to which ‘postcolonial accounts of history and culture are only ever partial if they restrict themselves to [a] national or monolingual [approach]’. As Forsdick suggests, Haiti’s importance in ‘postcolonializing’ the Americas may be disproportionate to its size, but it is ‘wholly proportionate to the world-historical significance of its revolution’; similarly, a postcolonial perspective on (p. 556) Haiti counteracts what some historians have seen as the ‘systematic silencing’ of Haiti in North American Atlanticist accounts. In advocating a properly inclusive American studies, allied to if not necessarily identical with postcolonialism, Forsdick goes some way towards supporting Spivak’s ‘critical regionalist’ project even though he does not go so far as to name it. He also makes it clear—as does Quayson—that postcolonial studies exists in tandem rather than in competition with the critical paradigms (‘diaspora’, ‘transnationalism’, ‘globalization’) that some prematurely see as having replacing it; and that ‘postcolonialization’, acting together with these global forces, also works against their ‘presentist’ tendencies by showing the historical role of empire in underpinning them all.

The last chapter in the section, by the German literary/cultural scholar Frank Schulze-Engler, returns us to a region of the world which, though frequently posited as the (false) origin of postcolonial thinking, has not featured until relatively recently in postcolonial critical debates. ‘Postcolonial Europe’, as Schulze-Engler admits, is an awkward term in several ways, confronting Europe with a colonial past it often seeks to suppress, but also confronting postcolonial critics with a seemingly amorphous space, ‘literally everywhere and nowhere’, that belies the persistent critical inclination to ‘write Europe out of the idea of a postcolonial world’. Schulze-Engler’s chapter resists the temptation to construct ‘Europe’ as a straw category for postcolonial resistance while examining contemporary processes of ‘Europeanization’ and their implications for a field he sees as being persistently dominated by Anglo-American transatlantic perspectives (see Forsdick). His primary concerns, accordingly, are to break up the binary thinking he sees as dominating popular left-liberal conceptions of Europe as either high-minded cosmopolitan ideal or crude repository of imperial ideology, and to focus instead on different areas of ‘unfinished business’—historical, geographical, cultural, political—that underlie contemporary ‘Europeanization’ debates. The decisive question for Schulze-Engler is not what Europe is but what kind of Europe is preferable to live in. Here, he sides with Balibar and others in pointing to the alarming discrepancy between Europe’s continuing history of diversity and the contemporary ‘politics of exclusion’ that implicitly denies it (see Part II of this volume); he also draws attention to an equally long history of migration—both external and internal—that contradicts recent attempts to vouchsafe a ‘core’ European identity, e.g. by creating polarized political narratives of ‘Europe and its others’, or by shoring up national borders against those perceived to be incompatible with ‘European values’ and the ‘common Christian heritage’ of (western) Europe’s increasingly fearful nation states.

But if ‘postcolonial Europe’ cannot be reduced to the ‘cleavages and exclusions’ it has inherited from its colonial past, nor should it be lazily indexed to the conflicts that surround global hypermobility in the present; it is also an arena of convivial possibility in which what the political philosopher Jürgen Habermas has perhaps optimistically called ‘the transnational amplification of civic solidarity across Europe’ is set firmly in place. This positive remaking of Europe can be seen, Schulze-Engler believes, in the ‘wide-ranging network of transcultural connections to Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific that is re-embedding contemporary European identities in a global (p. 557) setting’. Notwithstanding, Europe remains ‘structurally invisible’ in much postcolonial theory and criticism, either to be folded into its composite ideological counterpart, Eurocentrism, or to be identified with the equally undifferentiated colonialisms that have historically been constructed as the raison d’être for postcolonial studies as it looks to forge ‘post-European commonalities’ in an incompletely decolonized world. There is no doubting the need for appropriately decentred understandings of the kind that show, for instance, that Europe’s is only one among many competing versions of global modernity (see Hindess in Part IV of this volume); but equally needed is the kind of decentring of Europe from within that might lead to a renewed appreciation of the region’s linguistic and cultural diversity—a diversity also paradoxically missing in the postcolonial studies field, which still operates largely in English with an agenda far too conveniently shaped by dominant Anglo-American concerns. What is needed, Schulze-Engler concludes—and I can think of no more fitting conclusion to this volume—is an alternately decentred and polycentric postcolonial studies which, in complicating the easy binaries that continue to impede it, acknowledges the wide variety of critical-regionalist perspectives (‘Asian’ and ‘African’, but also ‘European’) that might best enable its geographically dispersed practitioners to negotiate the challenges of a globalized world.


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Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (2008) Other Asias (Malden, MA: Blackwell).Find this resource:

Stewart-Harawira, Makere (2005) The New Imperial Order: Indigenous Responses to Globalization (London and Wellington: Zed Books).Find this resource: