Saturday, 19 November 2011

Taking the post-Western seriously

I have not been able to post here the past week as I've been caught up with preparing for a conference that our Centre (MnM) is hosting. It is the annual conference of the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA). The conference is titled "Cultural ReOrientations and Comparative Colonialities". Those interested can check out the conference's homepage here . I am presenting a paper at the conference, on Wednesday. Typically, I still have to begin writing this paper but I'm hoping to get it done in time! Here's my abstract:
Taking the ‘post-Western’ seriously
In this paper I explore the category of the ‘post-Western’. This category occurs in the context of a world inscribed with the hierarchy of the West and the non-West. In such a context, theorising the post-Western is a decolonising enterprise as it attempts to challenge the hierarchy inscribed by colonialism. Articulating the post-Western is, accordingly, the successful horizon of the decolonisation project. Specifically, I address two questions: 1) Is the post-Western here? 2) If it has happened, what would be different? Superficial attempts to understand the post-Western locate it within the context of various crises: 9/11, the financial decline of America and Europe, the relative stability and growth of the Chinese, Indian, Russian and/or Brazilian economies and so on. The focus on these ‘new’ economies is sometimes ‘positive’, which is a recitation of all the things that they are doing ‘right’, such as education or IT, with a corresponding bewailing of Western backwardness in that field. An underlying anxiety about the rise of the non-West can be read in arguments that ‘rising’ economies will not continue to be as prosperous, and so though America may collapse, no other single country will replace it as the pre-eminent superpower, i.e. the future world is multipolar. Needless to say, the nature of such predictions usually depends on one’s current position in the hierarchy. I would argue, however, that to take the post-Western seriously is to examine its radical challenge to the global hegemony and the implications of the dismantling of that hegemony. The very articulation of the concept of the post-Western challenges the hegemon, showing its constructed nature. What it means to be ‘western’ or ‘non-Western’, as signifiers, are open to change in this moment of the political.