- All Best Essays, Term Papers and Book Report

'discuss the Role and Usage of the Notion of Universalism in Postcolonial Theory'.

Essay by   •  March 21, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  2,159 Words (9 Pages)  •  2,502 Views

Essay Preview: 'discuss the Role and Usage of the Notion of Universalism in Postcolonial Theory'.

Report this essay
Page 1 of 9

'Discuss the role and usage of the notion of universalism in postcolonial theory'.

Postcolonialism and universalism have been gaining eminence since the 1970s and have been major post-modern theories since the 1990s as many fought back against colonialism, imperialism and euro-centrism. I intend to analyse the relationship between universalism and postcolonialism, and the role and usage of universalism in postcolonial theory. I want to see how they function together, what influences they have, and how they would function if they stood alone.

Postcolonialism originated from the backlash to the colonisation of countries worldwide, it was a want for independence, freedom; it is the awareness of the changing relationships between the colonised and the colonisers. It takes into account races as a whole, as opposed to individuals, and gives voices to nations that were previously thought of as secondary in politics, education, and freedoms by the West. The concept of the West is a European one, which during the colonial era, came to symbolise progress, rationality as well as a built-in sense of superiority; the same people that thought this, also saw the 'East' as representing stagnation, despotism, and poverty. Bill Ashcroft defined postcolonialism as dealing with 'the effects of colonisation on cultures and societies', a 'hegemonic view of existence by which the experiences, values and expectations of a dominant culture are held to be true for all humanity' ; but this, like the subject it describes, it academic, and I do not believe that it relates fully to the situation it is dealing with. The ideology behind postcolonialism was critical of Eurocentrism, where in one believes in the pre-eminence of the European culture; there was a need for a globalisation that broke the barriers between the 'East' and the 'West', and to learn how the world could function together after colonialism, whilst bringing about a change in cultural identities and attitudes in colonised societies.

However, developing these national identities has proven to be a struggle, especially as the nation's histories of struggle and colonisation, coupled with their fear at the lack of certainty towards their futures hinders their "progression". As an academic concept, that has ironically been mostly developed in Western academies, postcolonialism only seems to take into account the West's view of progression, and not the consequences it leads to, something I will come back to later. I believe that in order for postcolonialism to work, one must react to more than the sequential formation of post-independence, and the knowledge subsequently gained from experiencing imperialism. Universalism, as the name suggests, should take into account everyone and not just the Western supremacy of the past. It appears to be a postcolonial structure that theoretically should fit perfectly with postcolonialism; as a theory, it implies that those who had been previously looked down upon and silenced by colonial rule should have an equal voice and footing in society, and that the subaltern voice should be embraced. Its role within postcolonial theory could be said to be enhancing the want for progression and independence by encouraging the mixing of cultures, global migration as well as the importance of every nation. As a hybrid theory, it seems perfectly placed to interact with the mixing of the above; however, I will use Orientalism to show how this may not be the case.

Orientalism was a term coined by the Europeans that was meant to encapsulate aspects of the Eastern nations, specifically included in this meaning was China and Japan; to American's, the Orient included other nations, but to the European westerners, it was the East, one of the oldest, largest and richest colonial conquests. Edward Said described the term "the Orient" as 'a European invention produced in order to contain difference' and this is appropriate, as it bundled together many nations that were not only different to the West, but to each other. The definition of the 'East' came to represent subordination and nations of a secondary nature, again, colonial ethnocentrism, whereby one places 'one's own land in the centre of the map [and] one's own people in the centre of history' . These terms imposed a binary separation of the nations, resulting in the "Occident" and the "Orient" , something which rendered the Easterner's unable to articulate their feelings and opinions. An example of this separation can be seen in Rudyard Kipling's poem 'And never the Twain shall meet' in which he says 'East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet'; postcolonialism aimed to rid of these oppressive views, and through the use of universalism, create a new, united, worldwide culture that rejected Western exceptionalism and stereotypes. However, the question is, did the members of the "orient", that had for so long been oppressed, want to be universal as well as postcolonial? The two terms may seem mutually exclusive, but universality with nations that had been previously oppressive is not an easy or ideal situation for a lot of nations. There is no-doubt that they wanted a sense of their own nationalism, however, the consequences of them being decolonised has since led to their annexation of Tibet , something which neither fits in with universalism or postcolonialism. China's situation is very similar to that of the United States, who should also be considered as a postcolonial state, and who more than most, speak of embracing universalism; however, their political dominance in world politics, coupled with their former treatment of black slaves, and Native Americans as well as their occupation of other countries, such as in the Middle East, go against everything that post-colonisation stands for.

The type of universalism that they seem to be embracing is a very subjective one, and still seems to see the Western view as predominant; this universalism does not attend to cultural, social, historical and geographical differences. Universalism emerged from the European's inability to deal properly with the intricacies and diverse cultural origin of postcolonialism. So it is debateable as to whether ethnocentrism has been replaced by postcolonialism, because, although it seems that ethnocentrism is anti-universalist, due it not being interested in other nation's notions of human evolution, it does present itself as being so, by claiming that European or Western models are the only resolution to modern challenges. Western universalism therefore seems to rest on its claim to have changeable capabilities, its capability to understand the method



Download as:   txt (13.4 Kb)   pdf (149.6 Kb)   docx (14 Kb)  
Continue for 8 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2012, 03). 'discuss the Role and Usage of the Notion of Universalism in Postcolonial Theory'.. Retrieved 03, 2012, from'discuss-the-Role-and-Usage-of-the-Notion/23401.html

"'discuss the Role and Usage of the Notion of Universalism in Postcolonial Theory'." 03 2012. 2012. 03 2012 <'discuss-the-Role-and-Usage-of-the-Notion/23401.html>.

"'discuss the Role and Usage of the Notion of Universalism in Postcolonial Theory'..", 03 2012. Web. 03 2012. <'discuss-the-Role-and-Usage-of-the-Notion/23401.html>.

"'discuss the Role and Usage of the Notion of Universalism in Postcolonial Theory'.." 03, 2012. Accessed 03, 2012.'discuss-the-Role-and-Usage-of-the-Notion/23401.html.