Star of the Sea : A Postcolonial/Postmodern Voyage into the Irish Famine
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Other Scholars of Postcolonial Theory and Their Opinions
FRANTZ FANON is a theorist and third world struggle activist who claimed that establishing a nation is a necessary condition of creating a culture after colonial domination. He stated that the national itself “gathers together the various indispensable elements necessary for the creation of a culture” (qtd. in Habib 743). That is the number one priority, and it is only the colonized that can establish their own natural culture and their identity. This is because their culture has historically been dominated and destroyed, so later they must work to rebuild it.
Fanon was a vocal spokesperson for a national literature, which according to him is a “literature of combat’ because ‘it calls on the whole people to fight for their existence as a nation” (qtd. in Habib 743). It is a way of defending their culture and language by using writing instead of actual weapons, as well as cloaking their rebellion through references only understandable to the colonized people. Literature is one of the better ways of fighting a culture battle because the words can do so more than violent actions of war.
In 1961, Fanon wrote Wretched of the Earth where “Western racism is seen as a form of scapegoating that permits the West to cling to its power and leads to violent reaction by the colonized” (Gugelberger 757). In his writing, Fanon focused on the dehumanizing effect on the society, but also the effect on the individual. When a colonized people is oppressed for a long period of time, a violent reaction is almost unavoidable. Therefore, Fanon criticized this form of scapegoating and its after-effects on the people. In the book, he writes that “For it is the settler who has brought the native into existence and who perpetuates his existence” (Flannery 57). However, it does not dwell on the colonizers, possibly because Fanon focuses more on fighting back on the oppression.
EDWARD SAID is a literary and cultural theorist who studied orientalism and postcolonialism throughout his life and contributed greatly with written works such as Orientalism. Orientalism is one of the central texts of postcolonial studies and started the discussion on the relevance of orientalism. One of his main concerns was to highlight the long-lasting Palestinian struggle to regain their homeland through examining “the historical production and motivations of Western discourses about the Orient in general, and about Islam in particular” (Habib 745). By focusing on this part of the world, he goes against the old definition that requires a postcolonial situation to be outside of Europe and involving race.
Said also focuses on the regaining and preserving of language as a way of keeping an identity and culture intact. Language is extremely important, and he redefines writing “as the act of ‘taking hold’ of language, which means beginning again rather than taking up language at the point ordained by tradition” (Habib 745). Said focuses attention on language to change the way scholars think about the culture and identity in a postcolonial and/or oriental situation.
In Said's opinion, the western explorers, novelists, philosophers, and administrators have created a false image of the Orient and the East. While some believe that colonialism is over, Said does, according to David Lloyd, “believe that the consequences of colonialism are still persisting in the form of chaos, coups, corruption, civil wars, and bloodshed […] mainly because of the residues of colonization” (“Regarding Ireland” 40). The leftovers of colonization will continue to be visible in a formerly colonized area and influence the people on a daily basis. He believes it is therefore impossible to study one side of the colonial experience without the other because “the present is a mirror to the past” (“Regarding Ireland” 41). The colonial and postcolonial periods overlap and it is essential to study both at the same time as studying the colonizer and the colonized. Both cultures are historically connected to each other and cannot escape that fact.
GAYATRI CHAKRAVORTY SPIVAK is known for her concern with historical teaching or the colonial past as “our ideological acceptance of error as truth” (qtd. in Gugelberger 757). She insists that errors of the past are now accepted as truth, but Spivak will not accept. She wants to rework this concept, and create a new truth that can be worked out as a multicultural curriculum. Spivak rejects any possibility of opposition between the colonizer and colonized, victim and oppressor and explains: “even radical intellectuals […] who would speak on behalf of the oppressed, effectively romanticize and essentialize the other […], the intellectual is complicit in the persistent constitution of the Other as the Self’s shadow” (Habib 749). This connection between the Other and the Self is quite important in Spivak’s studies and shows that even those who attempt to understand might not be legit in the ways they portray it.
HOMI BHABHA, professor and postcolonial theorist, views colonization as a formation of subjects, and he draws both colonizer and the colonized into a close relationship. However, he deconstructs Edward Said’s binaries and follows another theorist instead. According to Firdous Azim, “Bhabha examines various aspects […] using Lacan’s concept of the mirror image where colonizer and colonized are seen to be locked in a dialectical relationship” (238). The two are mirror images, simply because they automatically learn and mimic one another, even if they are not aware of it. Bhabha studies this relationship and finds that they develop a hybrid identity instead of a binary through constantly learning from each other.
Bhabha’s theory of hybridity challenges the norms of all aspects of society, though especially the notions on identity and nation. He shows how these unified individuals exhibit a development that is in fact linear, but also that it is quite complex. According to M. A. R. Habib, Bhabha’s hybridity “expresses a state of ‘in betweenness,’ as in a person who stands between two cultures” (750). Through postcolonial studies it is evident that while the cultures learn from each other, on an individual level they are stuck between two cultures. Through his research it shows that an individual in a postcolonial situation does not belong to simply one culture, because the process of colonialism has made a slight mirror image of the colonizer’s culture.
Azim, Firdous. “Post-Colonial Theory.” The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism: Twentieth-Century Historical, Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, vol 9. Ed. Christa Knellwolf and Christopher Norris. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Print.
Flannery, Eoin. “Irish Postcolonial Criticism and the Utopian Impulse.” Ireland and Postcolonial Studies: Theory, Discourse, Utopia. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Web.
Gugelberger, Georg M. “Postcolonial Cultural Studies—1. Origins to the 1980s.” The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism, 2nd ed. Ed. Michael Groden, Martin Kreiswirth, and Imre Szeman. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. Print.
Habib, M. A. R. “Postcolonial Criticism.” A History of Literary Criticism: From Plato to the Present. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. Print.
Lloyd, David. “Regarding Ireland in a Post-Colonial Frame.” Cultural Studies 15.1 (2001): 12-32. Web.