[ilds] hyphens and posts...

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Tue Jul 10 02:19:30 PDT 2007

Pamela wrote:

>> Bill had recently asked about the hyphen which is sometimes and 
>> sometimes
>> not employed in the term postcolonial.  There are pages and pages 
>> written
>> about this, but in short, the word WITH the hyphen, that is, 
>> post-colonial,
>> generally refers to the actual literature coming from formerly 
>> colonized
>> nations.  For instance, Arundhati Roy, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi, etc., are
>> considered post-colonial writers.  However, without the hyphen it 
>> refers to
>> the MUCH larger area of discussion surrounding issues of Empire,
>> decolonization, race, neocolonization, gender, etc. and so forth, all 
>> of
>> which, according to most contributors on this list serve, seem not to 
>> have
>> any relation to literature worth discussing...

I bet that pages and pages have indeed been written about the hyphens 
in this matter.  I cannot see that it matters a whit.  Not that there 
is even agreement with the distinction that Pamela offers above.  
Wikipedia for example is indifferent:

'Postcolonialism (also known as postcolonial theory, or spelled with a 
hyphen) refers to a set of theories in philosophy, film and literature 
that grapple with the legacy of colonial rule. As a literary theory or 
critical approach, it deals with literature produced in countries that 
were once colonies of other countries, especially the major European 
colonial powers Britain, France and Spain; in some contexts, it may 
include also countries still under colonial arrangements. It may also 
deal with literature written in or by citizens of colonizing countries 
that takes colonies or their peoples as its subject matter. People from 
colonized countries, especially the British Empire, came to 
universities in Britain; their access to education that was then still 
unavailable in the colonies opened a new criticism, mostly in 
literature, especially in novels. Postcolonial theory became part of 
the critical toolbox in the 1970s, and many practitioners take Edward 
Said's book Orientalism to be the theory's founding work.'

Not that I am holding up Wikipedia as anything but the example it is, 
and its definition may not represent the views of formerly and 
currently colonised people in Texas.  The reference to Edward Said's 
bogus work Orientalism is more to my point.  Here we have 
'practitioners' directing Said's farrago of malignant nonsense to the 
books they read as a 'crucial toolbox' -- plumbers one and all blocking 
their own drains.

The Wikipedia definition is so broad, and at the same time so 
exclusionary and ideologically driven, that it is almost meaningless.  
The definition offered by Pamela is flabbier yet and includes race and 
gender, not to mention 'etc', the latter to allow for whatever the 
latest fashion may be among the 'practitioners' and high priests of 
this particular cult.

The reason I have brought this up in the context of Bitter Lemons is to 
question what imperium we are talking about.  The major imperiums in 
this case are Ottoman and Byzantine.  And then there is the Venetian 
imperium, and the Arabo-Muslim assaults on and occupation of much of 
the Middle East and the Mediterranean.  Which is not to deny that there 
was a French or a British imperium, but my suspicion is that 
'postcolonial' is very narrowly and parochially defined by certain 
self-aggrandising elitist groups, 'practitioners' of moribund 
ideologies.  Unfortunately academics are the chief purveyors of these 
mind-numbing tools.  Too often they fail to think, fail to be curious 
or original, and fail to stimulate thought, curiosity or originality 
among those they teach.  But they do write a lot of papers on hyphens, 
it appears.

I have mentioned before that Durrell's experience of the Mediterranean, 
particularly the Eastern Mediterranean, has been an experience of 
post-Ottomanism.  Indeed it was a progression; as he moved from place 
to place he got deeper into the difficulties created by that Ottoman 
heritage.  It is not that I think such a thing is not relevant. It is 
very relevant indeed.  Rather that I suspect that it goes unrecognised 
by so-called postcolonialists whose historical and cultural awareness 
begins somewhere around 1948 and is no wider than a campus.


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