Thursday, November 17, 2011

Abdul JanMuhamed / "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" – summary


Abdul JanMuhamed / "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" – summary part 1 - 2

 In "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" Kenya born critical theoretician Abdul JanMuhamed is attempting to describe the central hardship facing every "marginal" writer which attempts to tell himself to a culture that has signed him off as inferior. JanMuhamed talks of the difficulty in escaping the system of representation enforced on the other by the hegemonic western center.

JanMuhamed's central claim is that every writer from the former colonies which seeks to tell the story of his marginalized community to the cultural center will have a difficult task on his hands. The difficulty, JanMuhamed holds, is in locating the postcolonial subject in the center of a literary text. This is because the discursive forces which interpolate literary production work to marginalize such subjects. In other words, JanMuhamed argues that western literature, and its constitutive discourse, is structured, from its very vocabulary to the collective psychology which underlies it, to accommodate a white protagonist, and it will require great ingenuity in order to replace him with a black one.

The post-colonial writer, according to JanMuhamed, needs to avoid duplicating the inscribed identities fixed by the center in regards to his culture of origin, or the general non-western other. JanMuhamed argues that the colonial site has been designated in advance by the cultural center (violent, emotional, sensual, lazy etc.). these stereotypes need to be subverted, and the writer needs to clear the "white" paper from its pre-inscribed representations of the colonial other.

According to JanMuhamed (and others like Edward Said) the cultural center projects its fantasies on minority groups in a manner that denies them the right to an independent formulation of identity, history and self perception and representation.

This turns JanMuhamed to the central question of "The Economy of Manichean Allegory" – how is it possible to be emancipated from the symbolic coercion dictated by the cultural center and to directly, without mediation, to represents the marginal in a manner which does not adhere to preexisting "knowledge" of him?

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Abdul JanMuhamed / "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" – summary  part 1 - 2

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