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Many historians have been intent on indicting the Old Work of Europe by exposing a uniform pattern of imperialism in the New World of the Americas. Thus they conscripted the West Indies into a mere adjunct of imperialism and overlooked a subtle and far-reaching renascence. In a sense therefore the new historian-though his stance is an admirable one in debunking imperialism-has ironically extended and reinforced old colonial prejudices which censored the limbo imagination as a "rowdy" manifestation and overlooked the complex metaphorical gateway it constitutes a rapport with Amerindian omen.

-Wilson Harris (10-11)

In Putting Together a Volume on "colonial resistance," I took Harris' comments to heart. The searching for victims and outcasts may well obscure the "originality" that Harris knew was the best and final challenge to the image of the underdeveloped native weeping by the rivers of Babylon. Indeed, much of the critical work at present on "third world" literature turns to the problem of minority representation, to the problem of institutional forgetting, to the important archival work necessary to bring to light the unique creativity of non-Western cultures without burying them under the rhetoric of a specious "pluralism," where ethnicity and race are seen as an a priori essence or a celebration of diversity for its own sake.

The idea of this issue, on the other hand, was to create a more deliberate sense of historical grounding. We focus on "colonial resistance" [End Page 3] here for two reasons. First, the history of our times is, in a very real sense, the history of decolonization. The grand dramas of World Wars One and Two, "postmodernism," the formation of the Common Market, existentialism, the rise of De Gaulle, the fall of Lyndon Johnson, cultural studies, the future of the auto industry, and much else that seems hermetic to the experience of the West-all have to be recast and restaged against the background of the social forces that since the late 1940s have carved more than ninety new nations out of the Western imperial body politic. As a whole, European cultural history is in bad need of revisionary scholarship that would recapture some of this sense of interlocking, mutually affecting relationships.

From a certain perch, imperialism was always merely a phase of European exploration, with certain shameful interludes, but with an overall aura of tragic necessity and global drama. From another and lower one, it was simply the truth of the present time: the still-living legacy of the Spanish conquest, the Middle Passage, indenture, "Indian" wars, the "scientific" creation of racial supremacy, the strategic underdevelopment of the developing world-the entire web, in fact, of European and (later) North American "progress" that collectively constitutes modernity. The "modern" has been experienced quite differently, but with equal intensity, on the boulevards of the European capitals and in the ravaged countrysides of the world's southern regions. Thus, in contrast to the excellent and varied work published recently in mainstream journals under the rubric of "minority" or "colonial" discousure1-I felt that specific attention should be paid to the social upheavals underlying the renewed interest in minority discourse itself.

The point is not that "resistance" narratives are equivalent to that disparate body of literatures given the amorphous slogan "third world," or even that they form a distinct subcategory of them. We are speaking instead of a mode of writing linked to a process of nation-building and identity-formation that has been carried out at the expense of an empire consisting not only of occupation armies, World Bank ultimatums, and saturation bombing, but of a network of tastes and values. Western culture is an imperial culture, and literary studies as we know them were first created under its (often unconscious) directives.

The second rationale for our focus has to do with the problem of reception. Even as "third world" authors receive attention and even acclaim in the book reviews and in the academy, the ones so chosen for notoriety are usually those whose stylistic and thematic "complexities" [End Page 4] fit comfortably within established critical norms. Some of the most characteristic narratives from the zones of decolonization are both politically and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-658X
Print ISSN
0026-7724
Pages
pp. 3-8
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-01
Open Access
No
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