Detours: Theory, Narrative, and the Inventions of Postcolonial Identity

Dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz (1989)

Vivek Dhareshwar
University of California, Santa Cruz
The framing problematic of this dissertation is the political and epistemological relationship between metropolitan theory and post-colonial narrative. By providing multiple determinations to that problematic, I seek to situate the inventions of post-colonial identity. Using "detour" both as a privileged figure of contemporary theory and as the lived socio-historical experience of post-colonials, I examine the theoretical and political consequences using the former to translate the latter. Placing my own discourse at the limits of theory, I show that the predicament in which contemporary theory finds itself is a result of the reduction of narrative to theory . ;I stage the negotiation between metropolitan theory and post-colonial narratives as an allegory of the post-colonial predicament. Finally, through a critique of certain post-colonial theorists , I plot the limits of the post-colonial space in the First World. I conclude that to invent the post-colonial space as a signifying space, we need to develop a poetics of retour which will be as complex and as ambiguous as the poetics of detour that the post-colonials have been living, narrating, and theorizing. ;Chapter I sets the theoretical context for posing the problem of post-colonial self-fashioning. In Chapter II, I sketch the trajectory of post-colonial detour through a close reading of V. S. Naipaul's The Mimic Men. In Chapter III, I interrogate Homi Bhabha's theory of cultural hybridity as a version of the poetics of detour. In Chapter IV, I offer a characterization of the predicament of theory. In the final chapter, I discuss the uses of theory by post-colonial intellectuals and offer a critique of their politics of cultural description and self-description. I argue that post-colonial theorists have evaded the question of inventing the post-colonial space as a signifying space by rewriting the narrative of their detour as a narrative of diplacement, as immigritude
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