Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The fetish of “the West” in postcolonial theory

by Neil Lazarus, 2004

In a commentary entitled “East isn’t East,” which appeared not long
ago in the Times Literary Supplement, Edward Said proposed that one
of the essential gestures of postcolonial criticism, and one of its enduring
achievements, rested in what he called its “consistent critique
of Eurocentrism” (1995: 5). In the pages that follow, I would like to
put some pressure on this assessment. My intention is not, of course,
to suggest that the postcolonialist critique of Eurocentrism has not
been significant in helping to expose the tendentiousness, chauvinism,
and sheer pervasiveness of the ideological formation that Said
himself, in his seminal study of 1978, addressed under the rubric of
Orientalism. I take it for granted that it has, and believe moreover that
to argue otherwise would be simply perverse. Rather, my aim in this
chapter is to suggest that in the field of postcolonial studies at large,
including in the work of some of the field’s most audacious and theoretically
sophisticated practitioners, Eurocentrism has typically been
viewed not as an ideology or mode of representation but as itself the
very basis of domination in the colonial and modern imperial contexts.

Click here to download this essay in pdf.