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Essay Exam on Theory: Questions & Answers (2009), 2  

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  Take-Home Essay Exam on Theory: Questions & Answers (2009), Part 2

Shiner, “Reading Foucault.”

1.      Why is Foucalt’s method called an anti-method?

2.      What’s the difference between “archaeology” and “genealogy”?

3.      How is Foucault’s idea of subject different from Descartes’ and similar to Bacon’s or Nietzsche’s? (Decker)

4.      How is Foucault’s concept of “power” different from those in traditional political theories? Discuss two from the following list: Locke, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. (Decker)

5.      What does Foucault mean by “disciplines”? Use examples to illustrate his point.

Final Exam (Take-home)

Student Essay

Foucault’s Anti-Method and Genealogy of Power-Knowledge

The French philosopher, critic, and historian Michel Foucault is an original and creative thinker who has made significant contributions to the study of the history of ideas. Yet he is not a philosopher or historian in the conventional way. Foucault’s notion of history is characterized by discontinuity, rupture and arbitrariness—a departure from the traditional belief in an integrated and unified history. His works on sexuality, madness, medicine and punishment are more than just an account of their development or a philosophy about their foundations. This essay attempts to give an introduction to Foucault’s anti-method, or genealogy, which is adopted in his study of the history of ideas, including such key concepts as subjectivity, power-knowledge and discipline.

In the study of the history of ideas, Foucault offers a new method of his own—the anti-method, which challenges conventional methods that usually demonstrate their objectivity, comprehensiveness and desperately in search of apolitical nature. Foucault’s method is an anti-method in the sense that it has a clear and strong statement of its political purpose and intends to dispel the illusion of the existence of an apolitical method. The political question in Foucault’s scholarship has nothing to do with electoral or even ideological performance but with the politics of truth, in terms of “what kinds of discourse are true, what the mechanism and sanctions are for distinguishing true from false, the techniques for acquiring truth and the status of those who are empowered to say what is true” (131).

Foucault at first called his new method “archaeology” and not until the beginning of the 1970s did he develop his more adequate “genealogy” to denote his anti-method. Foucault believes that there are many forms of subjugated knowledges, that is, knowledges which have been excluded and rejected by the mainstream knowledge. For Foucault, archaeology is the process of digging out and analyzing the “theoretical system of knowledge,” whereas genealogy is a method dealing with “power and real practical struggles” (O’Farrell 64). In other words, archaeology is about discourses while genealogy is about power relations. If we take archaeology as an analysis of subjugated knowledges, the aim of genealogy is to activate them so that they can be effective for people’s struggles. The missions of archaeology and genealogy are essentially the same, but a shift from the former to the latter reveals Foucault’s growing concern for power relations and disregard of the “origin-continuity-subject-event” matrix of the traditional history of ideas.

Traditional historians are always trying to seek the origin of an idea or institution, assuming that an essence always exists and is first revealed in the founding era; the continuous development would then be considered as “the progress of ‘fall’—away from the original and essential meaning”; the “events” thus, in the case of the history of ideas, are the “work” or “theory”, and they are closely associated with the idea of “subject” or the “author”, as Larry Shiner puts it, “the individual as creator and bearer of history (387). Foucault’s genealogy rejects the “origin-continuity-subject-event” complex at every point, which is opposed to the traditional search for ahistorical foundations and metaphysical essence. His genealogy traces not “origin,” but “descent.” He frees us from the illusion of a presupposing essence or truth, and without an origin, continuity is also impossible. “Genealogy is the analysis of how one constellation of power-knowledge relations is displaced by another; it attends to the breaks that punctuate history” (381). For Foucault, discontinuity is a fact, and the whole Western history is accidental—it has neither origin nor essence but only nexuses of power-knowledge relations.

By rejecting “origin” as well as “continuity,” genealogy also rejects the idea of a priori and transcendental “subject,” best illustrated by Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” For Descartes, subject is a person who thinks about and perceives an objective world, and subjectivity is independent of material conditions. In other words, the thinking subject is split from an external world of objects that he thinks about and it is a transcendental existence unaffected by material conditions. The Cartesian theory of subjectivity is challenged by later thinkers who see subject as not a truly free agent but bound by specific exterior material conditions. The major influence on these later thinkers is Francis Bacon who questions the notion of “a truly autonomous subject” and argues that “institutions, language and even biology” all serve to establish a subject which is “shaped by acculturation” (Decker 18-19). Following the tradition of Baconian subjectivity, Foucault also opposes the notion of a universal and timeless subject and sees subject as a changing form created by power relations. His rejection of subject as the creator of history shows his intention to organize history in a different way which “can account for the constitution of knowledges, discourses, domains of objects, etc., without having to make reference to a [transcendental] subject…” (Shiner 387). In place of subject, Foucault proposes organizing principles and governing rules which are a part of power relations. Therefore, in the study of the history of ideas, it is not a matter of analyzing the “subject” who is the originator or author of a certain work, but in looking at what principles and rules underlie the formation of this history.

If one side of Foucault’s genealogy can be read as a critique of the transcendental tendencies of traditional history of ideas, the other side can be read as a critique of the traditional political theories of power which regard power as prohibition, repression and oppression. Marxist theory, for example, views power as an apparatus of political and economic oppression. It states that society is split up into two opposing classes, and power is primarily exercised from the Bourgeois class above downward to the Proletarian class below. Freudian theory, in analyzing the tripartite model of the human psyche, sees power as repression which concerns the perpetual struggle between id, the container of our primitive desires that demand immediate satisfaction, and superego, the embodiment of social values and rules. For Freud, repression is a part of social and cultural development: it suppresses individual desires for the good of community. In Freud’s own words, “every culture must be built on coercion and instinctual renunciation” (qtd. in Decker 38). Foucault, however, holds a view of power that is opposite to these traditional ones. According to Foucault, power is a “relation between different individuals and groups and only exists when it is being exercised” (O’Farrell 99). It is possessed not merely by some social classes, but by everyone; it is not exercised from above, but operates at every micro level of the social body; it is not restricted to political and economic areas, but permeates every aspect of life. The most important feature of Foucault’s view of power is that it is not only prohibitive but also productive. By this he means that power generates different types of knowledge and cultural order. Power relations form a kind of war, where various parties attempt to control the modes of behavior in the same domain of actions. During this war, those different micro technologies of power fight and reinforce one another, and end up converging in a global strategy adopted by the majority of the war participants. It is just in the war of power relations that the idea of subject, the rules of truth, and our modes of behavior come into being. The knowledge gathered in this way in turn reinforces the exercise of power.

Foucault proposes several historical forms of his web of power relations, one of which is disciplinary power. By “discipline” Foucault means the “micro-techniques of teaching the body efficient and correct behavior through carefully supervised training and carefully designed surroundings” (Shiner 393). Schools, hospitals, factories and prisons are all organized in a way where people are locked away into small spaces (classrooms, wards, workshops and cells) under the surveillance of a central observer (doctors, teachers, foremen and prison guards). Within these institutions, people are trained to perform the same set of movements; for instance, students are taught to hold a pen in the same way; workmen are trained to tighten the screws with the same gesture. The sense of constant surveillance and the training of body aim at making the body an efficient unit which would waste the least time in performing useful activities. According to Foucault, the most important instrument and technique of “discipline” is “examination” which combines surveillance and training, and turns people into objects of knowledge and self-subjection. Examination forces individuals to follow constructed modes of behavior and records their performance into a data bank which compares theirs with others’ and gives each individual the power to both subject himself/herself and others to those modes of behavior. During this process, people become “cases” which are measured against other “cases” and used by the social sciences to generate further knowledge.

To summarize, Foucault’s anti-method, or genealogy of power-knowledge, is a sharp new tool in the study of intellectual history. Rejecting the Cartesian assumption of a transcendental subject, Foucault largely incorporates the Empirical tradition of subjectivity, and goes beyond it with the analysis of power-knowledge relations. Foucault should not be viewed as a methodologist or theorist, since he develops neither an overall method nor any definitive theory in the sense of a set of unambiguous answers to a set of time-worn questions. What Foucault promotes is an interrogatory practice rather than a search for essentials in the study of history and philosophy.

Works Cited

Decker, James M. Ideology. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon, 1980.

O’Farrell, Clare. Michel Foucault. London: Sage Publications, 2005.

Shiner, Larry. “Reading Foucault: Anti-Method and the Genealogy of Power-Knowledge.” History and Theory, 21.3 (1982): 382-398.

 

Wilkerson, “Is There Something You Need to Tell Me?”

1.      What is Mohanty’s theory about?

2.      What does Wilkerson mean by saying that “the realist theory avoids the pitfalls of foundationalist epistemologies without having to go the route of postmodernism”?

3.      Why does Wilkerson say that “on either the Cartesian or Freudian picture, coming out is nearly inexplicable”?

4.      What is Wilkerson’s argument about experience and identity?

5.      What is your evaluation of Wilkerson’s critique of Fuss’s and Scott’s postmodernist theories on experience and identity?

Final Exam (Take-home)

Student Essay

I Do Have Something to Tell You

In his essay “Is There Something You Need to Tell Me?” William S. Wilkerson adopts Satya P. Mohanty’s theory to explain “coming out”[1] of a homosexual and argues against essentialist and postmodernist views of experience and identity.

Before introducing Wilkerson’s argument, first of all, we need to have a general idea of Mohanty’s theory. In his essay “The Epistemic Status of Cultural Identity”, Mohanty argues that experience is not self-evidently meaningful but “socially and ‘theoretically’ constructed”, and knowledge gained from experience is ideological; however, “there are better or worse social and political theories, and we can seek less distorted and more objective knowledge of social phenomena by creating the conditions for the production of better knowledge” (Mohanty). That is to say, by adopting a less distorted ideology, one can have a better understanding of one’s identity.

Wilkerson agrees with Mohanty and further emphasizes that “experiences do not have meanings apart from mediation, but they are not without latent meanings that can be interpreted, and, moreover, the accuracy of these interpretations can be measured by continued verification” (254). In other words, experiences are not self-evidently meaningful as essentialists believe, but mediated and with latent meanings.[2] One can get an accurate or inaccurate interpretation of experiences and thus gain an accurate or inaccurate understanding of one’s identity. What is more, one can validate one’s interpretation by future experiences. For example, if a straight person one day comes to realize that he is gay, this new identity he takes according to his reinterpretation of his former experiences can be right and be wrong as well. Whether it is accurate or not can be tested by his further experiences (as a gay) in life.

Here, Wilkerson, like Mohanty, denies the foundationalist view of identity that it is stable and is based on shared, self-evidently meaningful experiences. Instead, he agrees with postmodernism at the point that experiences are culturally constituted, but he does not agree with the postmodernist view in claiming that such mediated experiences cannot be a source of knowledge nor identity. According to Wilkerson, by denying foundationalist theory, postmodernism goes to another extreme: both of the two theories “assume as a starting point a false dichotomy between an absolute and self-evidently meaningful experience and an experience that is produced, contingent, and typically ideological” (274). In other words, they view experiences only in two categories: “totally mediated and therefore inaccurate or totally self-present and without outside mediation and influence” (275). When one view (self-evidently meaningful experiences can be a source of knowledge) falls (experiences are proved to be not self-evidently meaningful), postmodernists are forced to take another view that such experiences are not reliable and thus cannot be the starting point of knowledge.

However, when taking such a route, postmodernism fails to find a way to distinguish ideology from truth, since all experience is ideological production. Moreover, postmodernist theory also fails to provide the origin of knowledge, since knowledge, as it claims, does not come from experience. These two arguments are also the bases of Wilkerson’s evaluation of two essays by postmodernists Diana Fuss and Joan Scott.

Judging from Wilkerson’s introduction of Fuss’s points,[3] he is right in saying Fuss has loopholes in her discussion.[4] However, when critisizing Scott, we think on the one hand, Wilkerson does not work on her central point, meaning he does not argue against what she argues for; instead, he questions (actually, he poses the same questions as those he does on Fuss) the source of her coming to such an idea.[5] On the other hand, we think Wilkerson has misread Scott’s opinion. Scott does not “commit herself to a contradictory position”[6](274); in fact, she is consistent throughout her discussion. When discussing the case of Delany, she says “the available social categories aren’t sufficient for Delany’s story,” this is not what Wilkerson understands as an implication of some meaning of Delany’s experience awaiting better interpretation; instead, Scott, in the following paragraph, explains this statement: there is also something personal in his story apart from social categories, for

he makes entries in a notebook, at the front about material things, at the back about sexual desire…Although one seems to be about society, the public, and the political, and the other about the individual, the private, and the psychological, in fact both narratives are inescapably historical; they are discursive productions of knowledge of the self. (795)

Scott’s point is to claim that the social and the personal are both discursive and ideological, even the meaning of experience is discursive, too. Therefore she is not contradictory to her former statement.

Wilkerson tries so hard to claim that Fuss and Scott and all other postmodernists are trapped in their own theory, in order to introduce a realist theory that both avoids the pitfalls of foundationalist epistemologies and evades postmodernist aporias, because realist theory views “experience as mediated from the start,” and the mediated experience is a source of knowledge. In addition, the realist theory regards “mediated knowledge as the only kind of knowledge that we have,” which serves as a solution to distinguish ideology from (mediated) truth (276).

When discussing coming out, Wilkerson points out that it is impossible to explain coming out with Cartesian or Freudian theory, since in both theories, it is impossible not to be aware of one’s own “sexual and emotional desires and needs” (256). To be more specific, Cartesianism, first of all, stresses the superiority of mind: “‘nothing can be more easily or more evidently perceived by me than my mind’; that I know the nature of my mind ‘more distinctly’ than any body (AT VII, 275-7; HR I, 156-7)” (Wilson 93). To Descartes, “the mind is in some sense transparent to itself: ‘there can be nothing in me, that is in my mind, of which I am not conscious’ (AT III, 273; PL 90; cf. AT VII, 107)” (98). Namely, if one is gay, he cannot be unaware of it when he poses the question about who he is. In other words, the knowledge that the mind perceives is not mediated and thus is true, which makes it impossible to be wrong about one’s identity and therefore makes coming out inexplicable.

As for Freudianism, sexuality as “the internal stimulus is said to be instinctual” and cannot be run away from since “a stimulus of internal origin defines need” (Mullahy 3-4); therefore one cannot be wrong about one’s sexual orientation, because when one realizes one’s sexual desire, the instinct will tell him/her the most potential group of people that can best satisfy his/her desire. Even if such sexuality is sometimes an unconscious impulse, it is still

forever pressing toward expression instead of being passive, static and inert. The unconscious mental life manifests tendencies striving towards a goal. Thus, sexual impulses when repressed still press toward some kind of fulfillment and are said to manifest themselves often in devious forms such as in the symptoms of mental illness. (15)

That is to say, sexuality is forever trying to find a way to influence one’s activity and to declare the existence of its being. So if one is gay, it is impossible for him not to know it. Thus, for the Freudian explanation, there is no such thing as “coming out” in one’s process of understanding one’s identity.[7]

Works Cited

Mohanty,Satya P. “The Epistemic Status of Cultural Identity: On Beloved and the

Postcolonial Condition.” 11 June 2009 <http://clogic.eserver.org/3-1&2/ mohanty.html>.

Mullahy, Patrick. Oedipus: Myth and Complex. New York: Hermitage Press, 1948.

Scott, Joan W. “The Evidence of Experience.” Critical Inquiry, 17.4 (1991): 773-797.

Wilkerson, William S. “Is There Something You Need to Tell Me?: Coming out and the Ambiguity of Experience.” Ed. Paula M. L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia. Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernism. Berkeley: U of California P, 2000. 251-78.

Wilson, Margaret Dauler. Descartes. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.




[1] According to Wilkerson, “coming out” is “neither the recognition of one’s self-evident and immutable essence nor an arbitrary and fragmented reinterpretation but instead the simultaneous recognition and reordering of experiences along the lines of a new identity that is simultaneously discovered and constructed” (266). That is to say, first of all, one’s identity is not stable; experiences, the basis of one’s interpretation and recognition of one’s identity, are not self-evidently meaningful, and the process as well as the result of understanding one’s identity is mediated and socially constructed.

[2] Here, by “latent meanings,” Wilkerson does not mean that the meaning of experience is simply self-evident like what the experiential foundationalist believes but something can be figured out only when we relate the elements of our experience to one another. While, as Wilkerson also points out, sometimes “we lack the keys necessary to unlock their interrelation and see the meaning that emerges” (264), then the adoption of a less distorted ideology enables us to realize the formerly “unrealized meaning.” Here, what Wilkerson tries to emphasize is the interrelation of experiences and one’s act of interpretation.

[3] Fuss, according to Wilkerson, claims that experience itself is ideological, but this does not mean that experience cannot provide evidence; instead, it can still be used to understand “processes of identity formation and distortion,” but not as a reliable evidence of understanding identity (Wilkerson 271).

[4] Actually, Wilkerson is using postmodernist logic to argue against postmodernist thoery. According to him, firstly, if Fuss means, which we think she does, that all experience is an ideological production, she owes us an explanation of how we get such knowledge, because our knowledge of the world “must come from some source.” If the knowledge comes from experience, and experience is ideological, knowledge then is ideological. Thus we can come to a conclusion that everything is ideological, but when everything is ideological, we will not be able to distinguish ideology as ideology. To make his argument invulnerable, Wilkerson further assumes that there may be a possibility that Fuss means that only some of our experience is ideological, but then she will have to explain how we can distinguish ideological experience from nonideological one and how it is possible, which she certainly does not mention in her essay.

[5] Scott focuses on analyzing the discursive characteristic of experience and identity. She also claims that the meaning of experience is not fixed. However, “treating the emergence of a new identity as a discursive event is not to introduce a new form of linguistic determinism, nor to deprive subjects of agency.” She points out that “subjects do have agency,” but this “agency is created through situations and statuses”, meaning the agency is ideological, too (Scott 792-93). She does not discuss the relationship between experience and knowledge which Wilkerson questions. Wilkerson is not evaluating what Scott is claiming, instead, he is questioning how Scott has got such knowledge which is discursive practices that produce experience and identity. So the later evaluation is basically his argument against his own hypothetic possible answer to his question. He points out that Scott’s knowledge of discursive practices must come from some source. If it is from experience, it will go back to the point that experience is the starting point of knowledge, which is certainly unacceptable to postmodernism; if it comes from some nonexperiential source, either innate (which is refused by postmodernism) or learned (meaning knowledge comes from a third party apart from experience and innate capacity), according to Wilkerson, it comes from “an inference to the best explanation of the source of my knowledge” (273). But such a hypothesis makes it impossible to test the reliability of the understanding of such a source. Wilkerson’s explanation is that if knowledge comes from an inference of the best understanding of the source of my experience, I could not verify the credibility of my understanding, because I could not use my experience to test it since experience is mediated. Apparently, such an explanation falls into an either-or fallacy: either my understanding can be tested by experience, or it cannot be tested at all; it is inexplicable.

[6] Wilkerson stresses that on the one hand, Scott implies Delany’s “experience does have some meaning awaiting better interpretation; on the other, she implies there is nothing there but the production of historical discourses” (Wilkerson 274).

[7] Here, we should pay attention to a crucial difference between Wilkerson’s “coming out” and Cartesian and Freudian understanding of one’s identity. Wilkerson’s “coming out” is that, for example, if I were lesbian, before coming out, I would not know it. That is to say, although I have feelings that are very like a lesbian’s, I do not want to admit that they are because of the homophobic ideology, i.e. I am afraid that I may be a real lesbian. However, for the Cartesian or Freudian picture, I know I am a lesbian, but because of the homophobic world, I pretend to be straight.

 

Tiffin, “Post-colonial Literatures and Counter-Discourse.”

1.      What does Tiffin mean by “it is not possible to create or recreate national or regional formations independent of their historical implication in the European colonial enterprise”?

2.      What are “counter-discursive strategies” or “englishes” writing back to “English”?

3.      What point does Tiffin want to prove in her discussion of Moses Ascending?

4.      How does Foe write back to Robinson Crusoe?

5.      Why does Tiffin emphasize the fact that postcolonial inversions are “deliberately provisional”?

Final Exam (Take-home)

Student Essay

Post-colonial Literatures and Counter-Discourse

In the past centuries, colonialism and imperialism have not only influenced world history greatly, but also the minds of both the colonized and the colonizer. In the post-colonial period, the colonized people inevitably want to reestablish their own culture and history free of the Eurocentric values. However, this dream can never come true.

After conquering the colonized land by military force, the colonizers imposed their educational system on the colonized to maintain colonial domination. By teaching the colonized to speak the colonizers’ language and to read the canonical literature, they imposed the colonial code on the colonized people. Even after the colonized have succeeded in overthrowing the colonizer’s rule in their society, they cannot get rid of the colonial culture. As Fanon says, “To speak means to …assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization.”( Innes 97). As long as the colonized speak the colonizers’ language, they are influenced by the colonizers’ culture. Therefore, postcolonial culture is inevitably hybridized, and it is impossible to recreate a pre-colonial culture free of colonial taint.

However, though the possibility is little, people from the postcolonial land never give up their effort to fight against European hegemony, which can be called counter-discursive strategies. One of the basic and fundamental way is to challenge the “universal” language—English. English had been regarded by both the colonizer and the colonized as the language of the erstwhile imperial centre. It is the standard code which establishes truth, order, and reality. It represents central power. The universality of English is the result of colonization, of colonizer’s imposed education. Following Michel Foucault and Edward Said, Ashcroft, et. al. believe that post-colonial discourse “is to invoke certain ways of thinking about language, about truth, about power, and about the interrelationship between all three” (167). In a certain society, what is truth is defined by the ruling class, which means by those who have power. And this kind of power focuses on the control of language. Therefore, to fight for that power, the postcolonial writers from the former British Empire use englishes with their own national characteristics instead of the standard English. Those englishes are the “variants shaped by an oppressive discourse of power” (Ashcroft, et. al. 7). By using englishes, postcolonial writing challenges the established cannon and privileged usage of the standard English. Therefore, it challenges the universality of European values. Furthermore, it exposes the way how the Europeans imposed their values onto the local peoples. But it also keeps a sameness with English to make sure that their voices can be heard by the central power, and themselves can be understood.

Among the post-colonial counter-discursive strategies, the one Helen Tiffin wants to engage is what we will call “canonical counter-discourse.” This is what counter-discursive strategy applied to the British canon, which post-colonial writers regard as the medium through which the colonizers facilitate the psychical capture of the colonized. The European colonizers, through the educational system, assert that their canon is “great,” thus making the cultural specific imperial terms embodied in these works to be accepted as axiomatic and the colonized countries’ culture marginal. Robinson Crusoe is such a canonical work, and Samuel Selvon’s Moses Ascending and J. M. Coetzee’s Foe, according to Tiffin, are two works writing back to Robinson Crusoe by making use of counter-discursive strategies.

In Moses Ascending, Selvon mainly exposes and dismantles those imperial intentions through a series of inversions of many things in Robinson Crusoe. The first inversion involves the Crusoe/ Friday paradigm. Moses, being a thoroughly colonized Trinidadian, becomes a landlord in this work and employs a “white Friday” – Bob, from the “Black Country” of Midland of England as his labor force. The white lord employing or even enslaving the black employee paradigm is subverted here. The white and black roles actually inscribe into each other, and there is a “double-consciousness” in each other. The assumption that the whites are born to be superior to the blacks is thus subverted. The second point in Tiffin’s discussion of this book is about the complexity of language, literature and culture as the medium though which the imperial values and power are perpetuated. The study of English under the guise of liberal education leads to the naturalizing process at the unconscious level of the colonized to regard the Western values as axiomatic and central and their own “peripheral.” The power of language and text and the complexity of language, literature and culture are fundamental to imperial control. Mimicking the form of Crusoe’s memoir, Moses also writes his memoir in English to show that he can also write things in English. Yet what we see here is the power of language in the subjectification of the colonized people. Now that he writes in English, Moses’ mind has been manipulated by this language and the cultural codes lying behind this language. Unavoidably, he internalizes the imperial culture and regards his own cultural values as marginal. When Moses finds that Bob is illiterate, he decides to teach him the Bible, as Crusoe does to Friday in Robinson Crusoe, only that the role of the teacher is now played by a black man and the student a white man. Yet when being asked about the classics belonging to his own culture, Moses seems ignorant. This fact shows how language, literature and culture facilitate imperial control. After this exposure of the imperial-intentioned language study and its aftermath, Selvon dismantles the assumption of English as the standard norm through the use of variants of englishes in the memoir writing. Crusoe’s English employed in the narration is definitely unproblematic, yet Moses’ memoir is written in all kinds of englishes carrying the tints of other dialects. Actually, the englishes Moses uses to write is the guise under which Moses’ native language is exerted to think and to narrate. Therefore, the novel completely undercuts the idea of regarding English as the standard norm.

Another sample of post-colonial writing back to the British canon, according to Tiffin, is J. M. Coetzee’s Foe. Coetzee, as a white South African writer exposes not only European imperialism in Africa but also the legacy in Africa today. The underlying implication in Crusoe’s act of teaching Friday English in Robinson Crusoe is economic individualism and the middle-class values. According to his narration, Crusoe feels delighted in doing so, yet in Foe, Crusoe teaches Friday no more than those needed to obey his orders. As it shows, the teaching is not liberal education as it seems but an instrument to enforce imperial control. Besides this point, in Foe, the oppression imposed on Friday is dramatized because Friday’s tongue has already been cut off before the story unfolds; therefore, his story has been lost and can only be speculated by the colonizers. He tries to make meaning by using gestures, yet the colonizers cannot understand him. Any interpretation by white people of his real intention would be frustrated by his silence. The history of the colonized is just the colonizer’s own interpretation rather than the truth.

Through the multiple inversions, the above two works expose the imperial intentions in Robinson Crusoe and subvert them for post-colonial purposes. However, by subverting the European dominant discourse, post-colonial writing runs the risk of becoming the dominant themselves. The purpose of post-colonial writing is not only to expose and dismantle the imposed European colonial code but also to consume their biases towards the local culture caused by their internalization of the European dominant. Therefore, the postcolonial inversions should be provisional.

Work Cited

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back. London and New York: Routledge, 1989.

Innes, Catherine Lynette. The Cambridge Introduction to Postcolonial Literatures in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Tiffin, Helen. “Post-colonial Literatures and Counter-Discourse.” Kunapipi 9.3

(1987): 17-34.

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