Abstract

To observe that postcolonial studies as a field appears to be plagued by a guilty conscience—a persistent anxiety over its potential complicity with colonialism—is to state the obvious. Drawing on Emmanuel Levinas's philosophy, this essay exploits and extends this observation to argue that this guilty conscience reveals a largely overlooked ethical dimension in a field that derives its raison d'être from political, not ethical, concerns. Focusing on the concept of le regard, the essay suggests that Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm offers an exemplary dramatization of such a guilty conscience, simultaneously revealing le regard's complicity with colonial violence and its ethical interruption.

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