dipankard at gmail dot com
Composed by dd/ts, 2010.
This book is about globalization and local identity: how the global colonizes the local and the latter resists it. It talks about colonialism as a process without a subject — the moment of colonialism that inheres in the globalization of capital.
One immediate effect of globalization is the denigration of the local. We are just beginning to realize its consequences in academics. The smarter guys flying across nation states now define the rules of academic games. The locals tied to nation states have been reduced, metaphorically, to feudal serfs. The high-flying counterparts appropriate and usurp the surplus labor and surplus meanings that the locals produce. The local voices get displaced, suppressed and silenced.
In the face of this global onslaught, one immediate (self-preserving) and ready response of the local would be to withdraw from the outside into itself: into one hundred years of solitude. We appreciate this gesture on the part of a few of our colleagues, but cannot quite join hands with them. For that would mean an intercourse only among the locals — an incest — and pagan incest, Marquez tells us, produces children with pig-tails.
We will rather choose to be bastards, the illegitimate children of the West, in order to enter into a communication with it.
What follows is the meditations of unrepentant postcolonial collaborators: the Children of Virgin Mary. We, who have seen through colonialism on the postcolonial scene, must discover its laws and lawlessness. And communicate it to the Avant-garde Westernized intellectuals (and not to their mechanical vulgar counterparts producing tons of shits a week salebrated — both in a sale and a celebration — as ‘papers’) from our unique standpoint, that of the colonized. We cannot wish away colonialism here and now, for that would mean a suppression of it and not surpassing it. We need to know ourselves that we can be and remain colonized at the level of physical reality in a postcolonial age — in order not to be colonized in the terrain of thought. The guardians of current postcolonial cultural studies take for granted freedom further on the plane of thought. One ends up with a whole lot of colonized wise minds that are unaware of their colonial chains.
This book is an encounter with this postcolonized wise mind. It problematizes the postcolonial scene — operates at two distinct levels: on the plane of economic and in the context of cultural. We take to task the current postcolonial cultural studies for their undertheorized discursive stances and interrogate the notion of cultural hybridity in it to mark out the moment of colonialism, at this fag-end of the 20th century. In this context, we explore strategies of collaboration with and resistance against postcolonial power on part of the colonized.
Our concept of colonialism without a colonizer is an encounter of postmodernism with the specter of essentialism. Postmodernist discourse claims for itself a specific space by claiming to have flayed the modernist dragon of essentialism. Much of that which were associated with the epistemological standing of essentialism — essence, unidirectional causality, mirroring, objectivity, logocentrism and so on — were considered as being illogically grounded and, under different circumstances, unethical and unjust. Postmodernism, on the other hand, celebrates the aspects of differences, otherness, decentering, multisided causality, context, differentiation of logos, etc.
Our critical encounter will be principally with one such postmodernist discourse — the neo-Althusserian school — which embraced most of the postmodernist aspects via the epistemological concept of overdetermination. Overdetermination gives a space to other but only as equal: capital constitutes and is constituted by its other: non-capital.
We announce: equal but not quite. In our scheme, other is displayed as a mimicry of overdetermination. There is a field where the mutual constitution turns asymmetric, and in extreme cases is relegated to unidirectional determination. The anti-essentialist field of overdetermination gives way to the essentialist mode of determination in disguise. The play of sameness in differences gives way to a hierarchy in differences. This displacement, relegation, fall, constitutes a mimicry of overdetermination (and postmodernism) paraded, in our scheme, by the metaphoric, metonymic (more particularly) and rarefacted transformations that are creating and re-creating the postcolonial field in many different looks and colors.
We bring out one such form: postcolonialism without a colonizer.
The key concept of the book is this mimicry of overdetermination of the processes occurring at different sites. Colonialism without a colonizer as a concept follows from this mimicry. It derives from asymmetric accesses of the agents to the sites of occurrence of the processes. The boundaries of the nation states are, of course, the most important factors responsible for this asymmetric access. But, there are other factors as well.
It is as if the center of power (or, if you like, the surrogate center of power, for one never knows if the center does exist at all) subdivides the space around it by way of a whole range of concentric circles. These concentric circles privilege a few mediums and the people closer to these mediums. The instance that immediately comes to mind is the case of language. A few languages — for example, the European languages in general and English in particular — have always dominated over other languages.
But globalization of capital turns this domination into a colonial one.
While literary practices in the mother tongue earned greater prestige during British India and in the early years of post-independence, current globalization has turned the scale in favor of English — globalization colonizes the local languages.
But we cannot just wish away this globalization that colonizes us, the locals: globalization is upon us. We, too, must make our voices heard — the voices of the scattered heterogeneous tiny locals. The new sociology of local, therefore, has to be local and global simultaneously, in one coherent and divided manner. This in-built tension has taken a new turn as a result of the postmodern counterrevolution. On the one hand, a dominant global intellectual discourse under the rubrics of poststructuralism and postmodernism validates the subjectivity of local as producer of knowledge. On the other, the unstated imagination of a specific global — formed within and propagated by the dominant intellectual discourse — denies the locals the power to imagine their own global and fashion its locality.
This book — our book — presents our vision of global and our visages of local. This book is a bid to interfere with, meddle in, and change the postmodern order of discourses. The protagonist of the book, the colonized without a colonizer — its single-most important concept — resists being integrated at the level of postmodern discourse. While postmodernism valorizes on difference, this colonized without a colonizer talks about a postmodern difference — the moment of colonialism (essentialism) within postcolonialism (postmodernism). Something that postmodernism would like to turn into a differend, for it is a violence to its morality.
This book is an appeal to the postmodern mind to look the global reality in its face and accept it — colonized without a colonizer — as an entry-point concept to a hitherto unknown discourse that is struggling to announce itself. Then, if not in reality, we will at least be in a position to contest and contain colonialism working at the level of discourses.
This requires, firstly, that we bring back political economy in the terrain of postcolonial studies. What follows, then, is a dialogue between postmodernism, postcolonial cultural studies (couched in terms of speculative philosophy) and re-thought Marxian political economy (running in terms of school level algebra) — all at their highest level of development.
It makes this book methodologically distinct and distances it from a whole lot of current and ongoing cultural studies. If colonialism on the postcolonial scene marks the book’s distinctiveness at the level of formation of an entry-point concept, a supplementation of formal logic (algebra) to speculative philosophy is its point of intervention on the plane of methodology.
Many will find the book hard to grasp at places, particularly at the end, where it deploys tools of algebra. Not many people in our shared capitalist reality are at home in postmodernism as well as in school algebra. It is unfortunate, but a fact — a legacy of capitalist division of labor, celebrated as specialization.
We, who know neither roots nor home, who are not specialists but jack-of-all-trades, and feel equally uncomfortable with French poststructuralism and British political economy, are indifferent between philosophy and mathematics. It hardly matters to us — the colonized cannot be choosers.
"What are you doing, guys, political economy, or, cultural studies?" wise women, moving around, ask us. We better keep mum. Postmoderns have interpreted the order of discourse. The point is to change it.
And that sets the tone of the book: how local can interfere with the global order of discourse. The two beginning chapters of the book deal precisely with this question: the writing strategy of the savage. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak says that the subaltern — here, the local — can never speak, that is, make its voice heard. In order to speak, it must look for a benevolent Western intellectual, make the latter’s inaudible rebellious voice loud, and deconstruct out of it a surrogate voice standing for its own.
And of course, it is hard to speak for us who are tied to the soil of what is popularly called the Third World. One stream of third world writing (mostly by third world intellectuals living/ residing in the West) posits a negative essence in relation to the West. Perhaps this is one important way the oppressed minority in the West can express itself. But the grievances of the minority in the West get sold in the market as sentiments of the third world. This displaces the third world, effaces the many heterogeneous identities in it. People who produce this ‘third-worldism’ have better access to resources (books/ journals/ conferences) and therefore can sell their products more efficiently. Thus get suppressed the many other voices of the third world.
If the nationalist discourse in India represents the negative identity of the Indian upper class intellectuals during the British rule, there are reasons to believe that third-worldism today is a direct continuity of this tradition. And thus, a third world perspective, as it is often called, carries this tradition too.
And so, we will not be speaking from a third world perspective. The world, the one that includes both the first and third, and the second, and all other worlds, has become too fragmented for a position like that to remain unaffected. The recent spate of globalization has fragmented the third world, dispersed and distributed it over the entire global space: liquidated it, rendering its people refugees. The third world is everywhere on the globe, that is, nowhere. The refugees from the third world can only search for third world, theoretically, and reconstitute it, as a discursive space. Third world can no longer be a point of departure: it can only be a theoretical point of arrival.
Instead, we speak from the standpoint of the local intellectual, who inheres the here and hears the rest of the world as the voice of its other. She knows, immediately, only the tiny space around her, for she is immobile, a non-immigrant non-frequent flying local intellectual — a metaphor of a serf tied to the tiny subdivided ancestral plot of land. Or, better still, an epitome of a human being in a village community of the forgotten Asiatic mode of production with a distant center, that is, without a center. She is born into a decentered postmodern totality, as you can see.
Look: we are not lamenting over our fate. If a global intellectual is Muhammad, we constitute the mountain. The mythical mountain, as local intellectual, will invaginate this book. She cannot enter the rest of the world; the rest of the world enters into her. So, remember the point once again: third-worldism can no longer be a point of departure — third world as a discursive site invites us to arrive at.
We are pleased to see that our immigrant friends in the West have come up and out with a unique position of their own that jettisons the earlier brand of third-worldism. The discursive stance of cultural hybridity articulating itself as a positive moral position is an important contribution made by our immigrant friends in the West to cultural studies. As such, we appreciate it.
But we do not feel pleased as we see this hybrid space being salebrated as a close totality without any gaps — the postmodernist pretensions of their architects notwithstanding. What ideological fantasies quilt this hybrid space? How does one distinguish between their hybridity and our hybridity? These are the questions that promote and prompt us to write.
We device our own writing strategy, set up our parallel antiestablishment platforms, turn their voices into a noise in order to smuggle our voices into it. Chapter One of this book records precisely the method — how we do it.
Postmoderns do away with the concept of other and valorize on that of difference. We announce — constitute — that erased other beyond modern man’s negation and postmodern negotiation. This erased other moves like a flicker of light, or, perhaps, a shadow, leaving no footprints behind to be retraced, that is, deconstructed, ever following that which is capital, the West, the elite — whispering to its ears, but eluding its gaze and mimicking it, from behind.
Then, comes the moment of drama when the one that is followed gets shocked by an intuition and suddenly becomes aware that there is someone behind. The followed one now swings around and spots the follower. And then the hunter gets hunted — and is pushed out of the terrain of academic discourse only to be encountered in its altered forms. Yes, altered forms, remember it. As symptoms, offshoots of uncertainty in the stable and certain, and may be a bit macho, stance of the discourse that is the West, capital, elite.
We call this ineluctable other margin of margin: that which resists being integrated into the discourse — the mimicry of discourse.
Take note: margin of margin, and not simply margin, because the terrain of discourse is always already punctuated by hierarchical sites and subject positions from which its utterances are made. Margins are internal to discourses — Derrida’s Margins of Philosophy, for instance.
Margin of margin is a gaze upon discourses, from the outside — a surveillance. And as such, it defies integration into a discourse. Neither can it always be rejected out of hand, because it follows the rules of discourse quite often to catch the guardians of discourse unguarded to entice them into a conversation with it, that, then, ironically, backfires on them.
Our point of departure is the postcolonial studies done by Spivak. And then comes Bhabha. We might add that Spivak, Said and Bhabha are celebrated in textbooks (Young, 1990; Guilbert, 1997) as the holy trinity of postcolonial cultural studies. No surprise, then, that we take off from one of them (here, Spivak) whose viewpoint we share most. (One might say that we are Spivak fans — Spivak is our mother.) That is not to say that we will not register our reservations when and where we differ. And like all usual underdogs we put our voice of dissent loudly. (Underdogs must bark.) But, the point is that, this question of Spivak — Can the subaltern speak? — motivates us, prompts and promotes us to speak.
Chapter One of this book is a search for an answer to Spivak’s question. Our answer, to this particular question of Spivak, is: "Yes, but with qualifications, in disguise, by smuggling our voices into the dominant discourse read (that is, distorted) through our eyes". Anything and everything is possible in our world. Here Derrida goes with Lyotard. Deconstruction with Differend. Spivak with Bhabha. And (mind it, charming guys appear last) Marx goes with everything and everyone else.
And, thus, in this process of meddling with and in everyone, we join (with) all of them.
But, we have made a small alteration in the composition of the holy trinity, swapping Said by Guha, who is more pertinent to our concerns, which, we must admit, are parochial (because local). We speak as Guha-Spivak-Bhabha’s other. And therefore, as the other of Foucault-Derrida-Lacan on which they build. Guha on Foucault, Spivak on Derrida, Bhabha on Lacan. If Foucault-Derrida-Lacan’s postmodernism has liberated a discursive postcolonial space for Guha-Spivak-Bhabha etc, then the latter’s discourse on postcolonialism ushers in a yet new discursive space for us. That we articulate here, in and through this book.
Ironically, a hitherto unknown margin can inscribe its mark in social space only by speaking against its adjacent margin, at least in its formative stage, for the center (Kafka’s ‘Castle’, Tarkovsky’s ‘Room’) is a long way off from Calcutta: in the United States? (We can imagine a postmodern decentered totality only in the image of a far-off center in a pre-modern Asiatic mode.)
How far it is — the Castle, the Room? They asked it, the same question. It seems so near, the music, you can hear the music, coming from there, so near it is, you can almost touch it by your hands. "No". The stalker said. Whatever may seem, it is far far away. So far that maybe you don’t reach it in one lifetime. You have to stalk unto there, the labyrinth is so intricate, the streets of insidious intents. Hush, keep silent. We have to proceed stealthily, surreptitiously, under cover. If you let yourself be known from the start, you do never reach there. I know the path. In my room, where I return after every journey, to my woman and my child, there, in the silence of unknownness, voodoo and specters and magic loom, around my child, without anyone knowing about it, in the darkness of third world. I live with this magic. And I, me only, know the path to go there. Let me show you. The stalker said.
Another figure that comes up in our book is Partha Chatterjee, repeatedly, because of our primarily local interest. Unlike others (Spivak, Bhabha), he lives in Calcutta (with, of course, frequent trips abroad) and writes transparently. His strong point is to translate the local discourse of Bengal in colonial India into English, in terms of a given and very familiar Western theoretical framework. This has served to turn the local discourse here into some prestigious entity in the Westernized academic world preparing the background for our writing. Without Chatterjee’s success, it would have been much more difficult for us to write. If we make a critique of his writings that is often harsh and seek to dismantle his system — as in Chapter Three and a Half — that is our own way of showing respect to his works; not all deserve to be critiqued, that is, noticed. And remember: we have no ready academic platform, no steady publishers and no visa into international academics. So, often we need to do a little bit shouting in order to break through a silence that is sometimes a bit of a conspiracy.
Two other pairs of names that figure prominently in our book are Laclau-Mouffe and Resnick-Wolff. Laclau and Mouffe are quite familiar in Calcutta’s intellectual circles for their reformulation of the Gramscian idea of hegemony, though we find little reference to their works in postcolonial cultural studies done by the established Indian academicians frequenting or staying in the West. In this book, we have sought to mobilize and push forward their ideas of hegemony to bring out the moment of postcolonial hegemony that current postcolonial cultural studies seek to hide, suppress and wish away. We render a thorough critique of Guha and Bhabha in this context. Chapter Three and Chapter Five deal at length with such issues concerning postcolonial hegemony.
While Laclau and Mouffe abjure Marxism — Marxian political economy, to be precise — Resnick-Wolff’s ground-breaking works offer a rethought Marxian political economy on a postmodern line. Their principal achievement is to offer a version of strategic essentialism — a combine of epistemological openness and discursive closure. It is interesting to note that this is also one of Spivak’s overriding concerns. We must say that Resnick and Wolff do this job more succinctly, rigorously and transparently because of their anchor in Marxian political economy. A postmodern Marxian political economy is anything but an easy genre. No chance of cheating here, of escaping into the ivory tower of the misunderstood. Chapter Two of this book engages with a dialogue between Spivak and Resnick-Wolff.
As far as this book goes, our principal task is to reformulate the problematic of postcolonial cultural studies (that talks about an ever-open hybrid space) in the light of theories of closure rendered by Resnick-Wolff and Laclau-Mouffe. That sets the stage for raising our kinds of questions: what are the limits of such discursive closure? In other words: what, precisely, are the symptoms of a discourse? An answer to this question in the area of cultural studies will be book, another book that we will definitely write. For now, we only raise the question — and answer it in terms of postmodern political economy by way of a supplement to this book that involves a little bit of school algebra. Let us hope that there are people in our shared Westernized world who know both postmodernism and school algebra. Chapter Four of our book answers this question in non-algebraic terms.
Borges has told us a story about globalization — in his usual style, in terms of metaphors that would turn real. The name of the story is: The Aleph.
A first world guy saw the whole of the universe compressed into a tiny space in his own house which he named as Aleph. The Aleph is the counterpart in space of what eternity is in time-axis: instead of all time meeting into one moment, all space concentrates into one point that Aleph is. Let us pretend that the name of the first world guy is Edward Soja.
Soja, like all great men, wished to share his experience with another guy, his other. So he invited a third world guy to his house and took him to the basement where the Aleph was.
And then he put out the candle, left the basement and closed its doors, leaving his friend alone. So that the third world guy could see it for himself all alone. And the third world guy did see it, the Aleph. But the Aleph could not bear with his sight. It exploded into pieces.
Did they see the same Aleph, both of them — the first world guy and the third world one? Now that the Aleph has exploded, there is no way we could verify it.
But that begs the question: why did the Aleph explode after the third world guy had seen it?
Answer: because they did not see quite the same Aleph.
The third world guy saw the Aleph, same but not quite. He saw its mimicry: a third world made in the image of the first world — a dwindled substitute. A third world Aleph made in the image of the first world Aleph, albeit with postcolonial differences — as its (post)colonized other. Hegel’s master turns his other into a servant and thereby liquidates this other that could serve as a mirror of the master. But the refined postcolonial first world does preserve it, its other — third world — its postcolony.
This is, of course, a third world way of reading the story by Borges. As the first world guy and the third world guy saw the Aleph differently, their readings of the story are, as a result, different. Edward Soja would read the story in a first world way and third world in its own way.
Current mainline cultural studies, developed mostly by our immigrant sistren and brethren in the West, are mainly extensions of the story by Borges on a first world line. Homi Bhabha is its principal architect. And there are many others to follow him, improvise upon him and re-discover him.
They all talk about a hybrid Aleph. Everything on this globe is hybrid, therefore the same and therefore fused into one — the Aleph. For them, the globe is made in the image of an immigrant. The philosophy of hybridity negates negation that marks Hegelian dialectics: the thesis negating the anti-thesis — Capitalism negating Feudalism.
They say that, instead of binary opposites, there are only differences — things understood as what they are not, red as not-blue not-yellow not-green etc. Differences that do not negate themselves but negotiate with one another. Consequently, what emerges is a hybrid space. Bhabha gives it a cute name: third space. He, of course, names it after a lot of philosophization.
Hybrid space is a world of people with nomadic identities. Neither they have roots nor they are rootless. And so they have no nation states — and therefore are citizens of the world that is hybrid. There is neither a first world nor a third world, but only a hybrid world.
That, in a nutshell, is the story of the Aleph told by a first world guy — here, a first world immigrant guy: the story of hybrid Aleph. And the book that follows here will also tell a story of hybrid Aleph, but as viewed by the third world guy in the mirror — the Lacanian mirror — as a mimicry of this Aleph.
The Lacanian baby looks at the mirror and knows itself: as erect, upright and full-grown. This is actually a fantasy. For the baby is held by its mother from behind, unseen. The baby has a lack — it cannot stand on its own feet. The mirror provides the baby with an object to fulfill its desire to be erect like the grown ups. Complete woman — here a self-contained complete hybrid Aleph — is an image of a baby in the mirror supplemented by its fantasy.
The image of the baby in the mirror is simultaneously its mimicry: its dwindled two-dimensional substitute which behaves the way the baby does, but not quite.
The baby hybrid Aleph produces its image in the mirror — and, third world is born.
The agent of the third world does what the babies in the first world do. First world rational baby maximizes utility. So does its image in the mirror. First world talks about equality and freedom; its image parrots them. But the image does all these a little, but differently, in implicit forms, by way of a whole set of metonymic transformations. With their hidden laws of formation that need to be discovered. Third world is a discursive site produced out of such transformations. In short, third world is a mimicry of first world discourses. To put it the other way round, first world discourses produce their own mimicries — such as development studies and cultural studies — which map a discursive space called third world. And as in Borges stories — mimicries and fantasies turn real and acquire a life of their own, this discursive space too would not remain a paper-space for an indefinite period. Gradually, the paper-space becomes proper, concrete, real: corporeal. And that way, postcolonial first world produces its postcolony and the postcolonized minds that help to reproduce, sustain and extend it. Our knowledge object is this postcolonized wise-mind. So, what follows is a dialogue with the wise — the wisest — people far removed from the reach of lay-women, as it stands now. But we firmly believe that what is at stake in this book concerns common people around us. And our story can be written in a much simpler way accessible to average educated women. But for now, we have to fly high — and strike high — for that which is involved here is Star War.
We can as well tell our readers how we weave the story. The idea of the story has already been told.
The reader will have noticed that mimicry is an important concept that we deploy. Originally a Lacanian category, we lift it from Homi Bhabha who makes use of the concept in the context of characterizing colonial difference (Bhabha, 1994). Colonial ideal woman, for Bhabha, is a re-presentation of bourgeois woman in its dwindled and dwarfed form. Both are the same — subject to laws of equality, freedom etc — but not quite. The colonized woman has partial right of representation in the administration in the government, not to speak of the legislature. Partha Chatterjee (1993) enumerates quite at length such differences. It is Bhabha’s merit that he comes up with a rendition of colonial differences in distinct theoretical terms: colonial difference is one flowing from a metonymic transformation of a parent body leading to a mimicry of the parent body (1994, 1989).
It is our belief that Chatterjee’s empiricist bent of mind misses this specificity of colonial difference entirely. Which in turn would have fatal consequences for the later part of his narration in the book (1993). For instance, he is quite right in claiming postcolonial difference as colonial difference. But inasmuch as he loses from view colonial difference as an enactment of mimicry, he simultaneously misses that postcolonial difference would also be such — leaving little room for his concept of ideal community and Swadeshi modernism. Our book is a theorization of postcolonial difference as one marked by a mimicry of the parent body.
That way, we are Bhabha’s students. But we are struck by his forgetfulness of this point as he proceeds to problematize the postcolonial scene. In Bhabha, it turns out to be a version of what we have called a hybrid space devoid of traces and mutations of colonial mimicries. We appreciate Bhabha’s theorization of hybrid space (which he calls third space). He has come up with a specific theoretical position — that of an immigrant — which deserves elaboration. Instead of being repelled (like many of our colleagues) by its loud immigrant stance, we feel drawn to him because he is one of the rarest of thinkers who come up with specific positions of their own. A lot of people have propositions, but not many can announce a position. But we fear that Bhabha is too innocent to comprehend the specificity of his concept of hybrid space: how it produces its own mimicries reminding one of those following from colonial differences.
We bring out this point in the last chapter of the book and in the supplement to it that follows. All that precedes it is a preparation for an articulation of this point at a theoretical level.
Indeed, a lot of spadework is necessary to arrive at this point. The innocent world-outlook of Bhabha and followers flow, fundamentally from their undertheorization of hybrid space. Our book supplies these missing theoretical details. And the cat comes out of the bag: we learn that the postcolonial world is a variant of and variation upon the theme of the colonial world.
We appreciate Bhabha’s and his followers’ epistemological commitment to postmodernist premises of variableness and contingency. Frequent uses of such terms as difference (as distinct from diversity), negotiation (instead of negation), ‘relocation, realignment, and translation of categories’ reaffirm this faith. In spite of this merit, they have not been able to devise, theoretically, a method to differentiate among differences. And the philosophy of hybrid space stumbles upon this limit: it knows no theoretical strategy to distinguish between the hybrid and the hybrid. It is here that we intervene in the discourse on hybrid space and relocate postcolonial difference as one of its instances.
One can conceptualize hybrid space as a kind of overdetermined totality understood in neo-Althusserian sense of the term (that is, marked by contingency and gaps). It is our general criticism of the neo-Althusserian school (that applies with equal force to the notion of cultural hybridity) that it cannot differentiate among transformations that follow owing to overdetermination. We invoke the Lacanian concept of symbolic space (a kind of overdetermined space) to illustrate the specificities of such transformations. For instance, a metaphoric transformation and a metonymic one, both following from overdetermination, are not quite the same thing.
When Edward Soja says that LA (Los Angeles) contains also third world, he means the metaphors for third world. Third world is metaphorically present in first world. But, in Calcutta, we encounter metonyms of LA (its part objects standing for the whole). And when Calcutta adores and is adorned by the metonyms of LA, we understand Calcutta as a postcolony of LA.
Note: Ravishankar goes to LA, but Michael Jackson never comes to Calcutta. Our academicians rush to American universities, but their professors do not crowd this place. Still they all are present here — represented by their part-objects — their ideas.
The discourse on cultural hybridity — indeed all that goes by the name of postmodernism — suppresses this instance of postcolonial difference. It is against this background that we are writing. In order to have freedom to say that we are not free but colonized. Hegel’s servant was fortunate enough. He had the freedom to be stoic and skeptic: he was free to understand and represent himself as servant in order to be free to write a servant’s discourse. He was free to have his unhappy consciousness.
Postmodernism forces on us a happy consciousness. It celebrates difference, universalizes it and thereby writes off the specificity of our being different, our colonized existence. Postmodernist difference — in our context, overdetermination — reduces, for us, to become and be its mimicry.
And that sets for us our epistemological entry-point concept: mimicry of overdetermination. Or, more specifically, colonialism without a colonizer. Let us, then, pretend to be colonized on a postcolonial scene and re-view all that is going on earth and heaven, in real life and discourses. It is only on this term that we can meet our colleagues in the Western world and the guardians of academic discourses nearer home. That is, on our terms, in terms of our jargons and nomenclature, from our perspective of the colonized, involving our style and tonality — in savage English picked up and taught in the lanes and by-lanes of postcolonial India that cares neither for Grammar nor for editors’ etiquette. It’s a game. Ice-hockey, baseball, American football and neo-classical economics are not the only games being played in God’s space.
Let us quickly restate the bottom line of the book. Its theoretical cutting edge derives from the concept of mimicry of overdetermination. Another concept, margin of margin, lays down the philosophical foundation. The other concepts — such as synthetic space, symptom, sinthome, overdetermination — come along the way to build up the above two concepts. Mimicry of overdetermination designates a space of dominance (or, hegemony) in the context of overdetermination. This unhooks the concept of dominance from its essentialist mooring and re-articulates it as a discursive formation deriving from a closure done to an overdetermined field. We claim this to be a novel concept that has significant theoretical potential. A significant portion of the book (Chapter Two, Chapter Three, and Chapter Four) brings out its explosive possibilities in the context of works of Resnick-Wolff and Laclau-Mouffe on postcolonial cultural studies.
Margin of margin, on the other hand, is a constituency that exceeds attempts to embrace it within such limiting concepts as dominance and subordination. The concept builds on the Lacanian concept of symptom (as distinct from its Freudian counter-part) modified to fit in with the context of strategic essentialism. It is a surrogate outside that allows us to have a gaze on the workings of society and discourses from the inside. It embodies a distinct moral position that calls into question the existing moral values associated with concepts such as nationalism, collaboration with the master, servitude and so on. The protagonist of the book — its anti-hero, an unrepentant postcolonial collaborator — striding from the pages of the Ramayana to those of Marx’s Capital embodies these moral values. This book is a recordation of this unrepentant collaborator’s concept of time, space and of people that inhabit this time and space.
Our encounter with the Ramayana is brief but revealing. It prises open the limit of Ramrajya — the concept of ideal state in the Ramayana. It unravels moments that allow for no righteous actions: whatever the agent chooses would turn out to be immoral at the twilight zone between right and wrong. The Ramayana is the itinerary of its hero, Lord Rama, through these critical moments signaling the symptoms of an ideal state.
What will the anti-hero (Anti-Christ/Anti-Rama) do when God must traverse through the travesty of truth? How will he deal with the symptom of Ramrajya? The anti-hero embodies, then, margin of margin, whose codes of conduct resist being captured in terms of our familiar moral science.
The book then moves from Ram to Marx, from the Ramayana to Marx’s Capital. We bring out the same story from Marx’s Capital: of symptom, mimicry of overdetermination and margin of margin. While our discourse on the Ramayana intends to be westernized, our reading of Marx’s Capital seeks to Indianize it in that it is a rendition on Capital from the perspective of Asiatic society (Asiatic Mode of Production). It embodies a desperate attempt by a local ‘village intellectual’ to image the distant center. That way, it is an intervention in Western readings of Capital.
Postmodern Marxian political economy has also become, entirely, one of their games. It is a discourse of the West by the West for the West.
An outsider — a non-immigrant non-frequent-flying third world reader tied to her/his soil — gets stunned by its forgetfulness of and indifference towards the third world issues and its people. The current Marxian discourse, dominated mostly by post-1968 Western Marxian intellectuals, no longer finds third world wine to be intoxicating enough: Emmanuel’s theory of unequal exchange is no longer in fashion. North-South models are fast becoming anachronistic in the new-born global village. And third world’s Mao, like the Beatles and Godard in the West, represents only a vanishing moment of the sixties. Third world Marxian voices remain absent, unrepresented: third world rethinking of Marxian political economy is now condemned to be a differend.
But, nature abhors vacuum. So, mainstream political economy — neoclassical economics — fills in the gap, displaces its Marxian counterpart and becomes the mouthpiece for a new third world struggling to problematize itself in the language of mainstream political economy, in terms of game-theoretic tools and the theory of industrial organization. While globalization of capital serves to put the last nail on third world Marxian political economy’s coffin, mainstream development economics is becoming more and more youthful, vibrant, vivacious and seductive. Day after day. It took the wind out of the sails of third world radical economics and added riches and varieties to it and involved a whole lot of third world intellectuals. So much so that its hegemony in the third world at present is unquestionable. Another feather of Nobel Prize to Professor Sen’s cap epitomizes this process.
There is a growing feeling in the third world that only the postcolonial power would listen to us — because it has to rule us and therefore it recognizes us. Rank and file radical Western intellectuals who mind business and hate non-sense (rhetoric, expressions of emotion and high-thinking on part of the plain living) have no business with third world. And therefore, they can remain indifferent to it: third world settles down on the television screen, a scene to be observed whenever and if it is bombed — as a moment in foreplay — before one goes to bed. But the ruling class just cannot afford to be that myopic; it must be larger than itself and overflow into its outside — its other — third world.
But that is not enough to explain the giddy height of development of development economics. There has to be a truth-content in it. Actually, it represents the truth of the postcolonial economic: third world is a site of mimicry of rational woman. Mainstream rational individual explicitly maximizes utility. And its third world counterpart does the same maximization in an implicit fashion whose rules need to be dis-covered — mainstream development economics is a collection of these discoveries. That way, development economics articulates the truth of the postcolonial world: all women are the same, but not quite. Some have their rationality complete and full; and others have it bounded.
It is here that Marxian political economy stumbles. It wishes away the moment of mimicry on the postcolonial scene, and thus, remains blind to it. Marxian political economy does not dare to face the consequences of its own discourse: that, whatever get articulated in the dominant Marxian discourse — equal exchange, class, overdetermination — in their turn, must have their mimicry elsewhere, in the mirror. And third world is what this mirror shows. Marxian political economy cannot see, and therefore discover itself in this mirror that third world is: its symptom. Lacan says that a human child learns to discover himself through the mirror, as a site of its mimicry. A monkey cannot. And that is what distinguishes a human child from a monkey.
Our interrogation of the Western discourse on Marxian political economy foregrounds this moment of mimicry constituting third world. Third world is a discursive field where the categories of the dominant discourse undergo metonymic transformations. In mainstream development economics, one observes this metonymic transformation for the assumption of rationality: the agents in the third world too does their quota of utility maximization, but only implicitly. The corresponding metonymic transformations in Marxian political economy are: mimicry of equal exchange, mimicry of overdetermination — mimicry of North as a whole.
A whole series of inflows and outflows occur in the terrain of exchange of goods and services in an economy. And overdetermined economic field is that which is marked by the mutual constitutivity of these inflows and outflows. Our interrogation of Western Marxian political economy adds a qualifying clause to this statement: the inflows and outflows get constituted by each other, but not quite in the same (equivalent) manner. While in one economic field, the constitutive moment is contingent and accidental, for the other it is logically necessary. This asymmetric mode of mutual constitutivity is what we call mimicry of overdetermination in the economic field. The dominant discourse on Marxian political economy is silent on this theoretical field, deferring forever its announcement and discursive articulation. Our discourse on political economy is about this suppression, trauma and denial.
Our focus is on a certain school of Western Marxism epistemologically committed to the concept of overdetermination. Our intervention points to its other: mimicry of overdetermination — the concept as formulated by the overdeterministic Marxian school. This intervention starts off postmodern Marxism. Our discourse signals that theoretical field where all shades of modernism and postmodernism stumble — err — yeah — f-fumble and stutter.
This particular Marxian school we focus upon is, of course, one among many contending Marxian schools. The reason for our choice seems obvious enough. This particular Marxian school embraces the basic premises of postmodernism — such as difference, absence of logos, impossibility of a closed totality etc. And, our prime objective is to push a postmodern totality to its limit in order to bring to light its other: third world as a discursive space constituted by mimicries.
One merit of the overdeterministic Marxian school is that it is the only interdisciplinary school of thought in the West we know of that endeavors to link up cultural studies and political economy, speculative philosophy and formal logic, literature and science. Western wise women, in general, are victims of capitalist division of labor. The gaping gaps between cultural studies and political economy is alarming, and doubly alarming is that gap for that political economy which deploys, among others, tools of algebra. In this respect, overdeterministic Marxian school is a rare exception. We who are jack of all trades and master of none need to be the servant of some master. We choose overdeterministic Marxian school to be our master as an entry-point into the Western discourse.
So, that is one of our projects: to push a postmodern Marxian school of thought in the West (here, the overdeterministic Marxian school) to dis-cover another suppressed discursive space on its margin. We might call this discursive space margin of margin, or, third world, or, postcolonial (post)colonized economic. It is a matter of naming a theoretical space. And, Saussure said, naming is arbitrary.
Instead of interrogating a postAlthusserian reading of capital, we might have well contested a Derridean reading of capital. In that case, we would end up with a scene of mimicry of supplementation, instead of mimicry of overdetermination. Unfortunately, we do not yet know of any Derridean reading of Capital dealing in depth its politico-economic counterparts — that we can put to an interrogation. We find Spivak’s reading of capital very stimulating. But that is far removed from the core of political economy.
We can well say in advance why we feel uneasy with all these postmodern readings of capital. For us third world as a discursive space is a product of the encounter of Reason with the Unreason inherent in it. As far as we understand, the project of deconstruction — at least, that of the practice of carrying it out — presumes reason: supplementation is reason’s discovery of traces of something in a text such that this something can be supplemented. We believe that this is a very challenging project, this project of supplementation, or more generally, that of deconstruction.
But sometimes we might stumble upon a few traces in a text that resist supplementation when they are blown up. This typically happens when one encounters traces of unreason in a text; we would be happy if we could accommodate this instance in terms of another Derridean concept: spectrality. But we fear spectrality is not the best term to designate this situation.
In our opinion, Lacan-Žižek’s concept of symptom will be the most appropriate concept that can be deployed in order to conceptualize this predicament. Symptom, as Žižek puts it, is unreason implicit in reason. What supplements to the gap emanating from symptom is not supplement in the Derridean sense of term, but something else: mimicry and fantasy. Žižek’s focus is on the instance of fantasy. But in the context of conceptualizing third world we find the concept of mimicry to be more useful. Confronted with unreason, reason produces that, which is neither reason nor unreason, but something intermediary: mimicry of unreason. We call this discursive space informed by unreason third world. Something intermediate and midway between God and Demon — that is, woman.
This, in nutshell, is the story of our discovery of third world. We needed a few master-minds in order to weave our story and tell it. Žižek has been of the greatest help in the last lap, though we differ on many counts from Žižek. Particularly where the details of Marxian political economy are involved. One problem with Žižek is that he deploys his very refined Lacanian tools to deal with a very orthodox reading of capital. For instance, he identifies the simultaneous existence of freedom in the terrain of the market and lack of it in the interior of the workshop for the laborer as symptom, reason revealing its unreason.
We do not find this argument to be very persuasive. In our opinion, the interior of the workshop represents the limit of the market, and not of its unreason. The site of a factory signals a space where the market ceases. Inasmuch as exchange of labor power does not violate the law of value — the rule of equal exchange — the market for labor power itself never shows any sign of unreason. In order to locate the symptom in a market economy, we need to point to the space in it where the law of equal exchange abrogates itself, or, at least, undergoes a mutation.
It is our impression that one can never locate this symptom on the pages of Capital in its present form. We need to move beyond it.
We extend, first of all, the scope — the domain — of Marxian political economy. As it stands now, Marxian political economy is a prisoner of Capital. One is used to reading Marx’s Capital only in the context of a capitalist market economy. We never were happy with this conflation of market economy with capitalist market economy, that is, of commodity and capital. Although it is our proposition that the story of a self-exploitative market economy is a myth, one can conceptualize it on the margin of capital.
We, actually, do it. And doing this necessitates deployment of the conceptual tools of political economy that requires, among others, use of algebra. We cannot help making use of it. Our philosophy begins where the algebra of political economy ends.
We are aware of the seriousness of our project: weaving Hegel, Althusser, Derrida, Lacan-Žižek, cultural studies and a political economy running in mathematical terms is no easy job. The gap that prevails between postmodernism and political economy and that between cultural studies and development studies is alarming for us.
The culture of division of labor in the core of the Westernized academia is a hindrance for such a beginning to be initiated. More: the dominant order of discourse will perhaps not encourage such a project. Many guardians of discourse will find the new discourse of the margin of margin incomprehensible — and, therefore, absurd. In all probability, they will remain silent, lofty silence of tall gods — no, more than that — they will give a million dollar smile. A silence everywhere and a smile in their private circles.
But we believe, deep in our hearts.
We have a deep conviction that we will have many mails — responses from many quarters that include our friends in the West, our immigrant and quasi-immigrant brothers and sisters there, and our colleagues nearer home.
Like all totality, this book too has its gaps that can only be filled in by fantasy. Fantasy of ours. Fantasy of the naked fakir reaching at stars. A time will come when there will be takers for this fantasy, and for many such others, produced in the lesser known quarters of third world. The half-starved people with their gaping mouths and hanging jaws will no more strive to produce H-bombs and missiles to make believe an unbelieving Westernized world that they too can think — that they are women too. The world will then see the other side of the coin: ideas that explode like bombs and hit like missiles.