Archive for the 'Postcolonial' Category

Postcolonial Hybridity and Economics

Eiman O. Zein-Elabdin and S. Charusheela argue for a melding of postcolonial theory and economics in order to smash the disciplinary dividing walls that currently separate them as disciplines:

The strength of postcolonial theory lies in its emphasis on the problems of cultural hegemony/subalternity and identity formation, which has generated a number of key concepts that provide potentially rich applications in the realm of economy.  The contributions in this volume show that the notions of orientalism, ambivalence, and transmigrancy can all be productively deployed in a critique of Economics.  Even the beleaguered concept of hybridity – if understood as an indication of advanced cultural mixing and instability, instead of being dismissed as a playful, perhaps even politically irresponsible, celebration of migrancy and transnationalism – can provide a powerful resource for troubling the homogenizing epistemology of economics.  A concrete example of the significance of taking on board such insights can be given by the case of post-development literature which could benefit tremendously from the more complex theoretical rendering of culture and contemporary life, and the nonessentialist understanding of subalternity offered by postcolonial theory.

Economics, on the other hand, regardless of all its ailments, affords the central concern with understanding the organization of material life.  However, this organization cannot be assumed a priori as a manifestation of a universal economic truth.  Postcolonial sensibility is antithetical to the common epistemological urge in Economics to strip all social/cultural phenomena down to a calculable quantum, and, in effect, occlude heterogeneity.  But, several perspectives in Economics – their modernist limitations notwithstanding – offer important insights for catachrestic postcolonial appropriation.  For example, building on the Veblenian institutionalist emphasis on culture and path dependence, a non-modernist position can argue for an economic approach that theorizes postcolonial societies as contemporary cultural constructions, with coeval modes of being and provisioning, rather than ‘less developed’ or ‘pre-modern,’ without disputing either the instrumental value of technological improvement or instrumental valuing as an aspect of human behavior.  Placing the valuation of instrumental value itself within cultural context opens up more space for truly substantive economic analysis.  Similarly, the Marxian preoccupation with exploitation and class continues to have tremendous relevance although it can no longer be sustained within the theoretical framework of classical Marxism.  A postcolonial reappropriation may dispose of these elements and reconceptualize class relations on the basis of their specific, indeterminate contemporary formations, with no presumption of a particular historical trajectory (8-9).

It would be interesting for the editors to expound on “classical Marxism” and what that means as well as why a class analysis “can no longer be sustained within” its theoretical framework.  Especially because they are arguing for sustaining the theoretical framework(s) of postcolonial theory(ies) by having it subsume (but not displace) contemporary economic theory.  Through this line of thinking one could also argue for a Marxism(s) that is essentially sustained but through complementing and subsuming parts of postcolonial and contemporary economic theories.  This leads to continuous fluidity between all theories which lead to more than just the sustaining of (simply) postcolonial theory.


Zein-Elabdin, Eiman O. and S. Charusheela.  2004.  Introduction: Economics and postcolonial thought.  In Postcolonialism Meets Economics.  Eds. Eiman O. Zein-Elabdin and S. Charusheela, 1-18.  New York: Routledge.

The Gospel of John as Colonial Text

Musa W. Dube writes that the Jesus of the Gospel of John must be understood in the context of Roman colonialism and modern day imperialism:

Western academic biblical readings, therefore, tend to read the Johannine texts, and other books of the Bible, as if they only refer to ancient times and having nothing to do with our current world.  The reluctance to cross the borderline of the ancient setting and to assess how the biblical texts, together with such texts as Heart of Darkness and the Aeneid, inform contemporary structures and power of the world…is one way in which biblical studies are not only colonized, but become a colonizing body of knowledge.  Biblical studies vigilantly guards the boundaries, insisting on reading biblical texts without assessing or relating them to modern and contemporary world politics.  For the most part biblical texts are read in isolation from other secular works of literature.  Whether this is intended or not, this approach maintains and perpetuates the imperialistic power of the West over non-Western and non-Christian places, peoples and cultures.

…I therefore hold that the Johannine approach to exalting Jesus to divine status, above all Jewish figures and above all other cultural figures of the world, is a colonizing ideology that is not so different from the ideology of the Aeneid and Heart of Darkness.  More importantly, John’s colonizing ideology calls upon academic readers to go beyond just expounding and explaining the construction of John’s text.  Rather, readers are called upon to decolonize its ideology and to work on readings of liberating interdependence between Christians and Jews, One-Third World and Two-Thirds World, Western and Non-Western, Christian and Non-Christian cultures, women and men, etc. (Dube, 131-132)


Dube, Musa W.  “Savior of the World but not of This World: A Post-Colonial Reading of Spatial Construction in John.”  In The Postcolonial Bible edited by R.S. Sugirtharajah, 118-135.  Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998.

Postcolonialism and Globalization


Charting the trajectory of postcolonial studies, R. S. Sugirtharajah writes about globalization and colonialism:

The current globalization is not something that happened suddenly.  Its roots go back to colonial history and it is a legacy of European colonialism and modernity…Recently, the flow has been mainly from West to the rest of the world.  Previously it was the other way around.  It was Europe which was assimilating Arabic science and technology and Indian mathematics, and consuming goods from China. Like most of the cultural forces of our time, globalization manifests itself in a variety of ways – economically, politically, and culturally – and all of these evolved over several centuries of European imperialism.  In some ways, what the present globalization does, following the demise of the old colonialism, is to intensify the power relations in a more acute manner.  The crucial difference between the old colonialism and the current globalization is the unrivaled grip of the United States on the world economy through military and foreign policies, its financial and mercantile corporations, and its hold on world culture through its massive media outputs – television, film, and publishing. (Sugirtharajah, 20-21)


Sugirtharajah, R. S., “Charting the Aftermath: A review of Postcolonial Criticism,” in The Postcolonial Biblical Reader, ed. R. S. Sugirtharajah.  Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.


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