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university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 2, spring 2004 DIANA BRYDON Postcolonialism Now: Autonomy, Cosmopolitanism, and Diaspora Some argue that postcolonial theory has reached a dead end and it is time to move >beyond postcolonial theory= (See Hardt and Negri; San Juan). Robert Fraser provides more nuance to this position, suggesting that >Postcolonial theory in the old sense is dead= (230). I find all such arguments premature. The project of postcolonialism needs to be more fully articulated, particularly in relation to defining the goals of such work, its appropriate starting points, its shifting terminologies, and its limits, especially now that globalization appears to have appropriated much of its discursive space. In >When Was the Post-colonial?= Stuart Hall defined the need to rethink postcolonialism in dialogue with globalization. That task seems more useful than pronouncing premature obituaries for a mode of theorizing whose work remains to be done. To facilitate this rethinking, it may first be helpful to examine some of the key words that function pivotally (but sometimes implicitly) within both discourses. In this paper, I address three of these: autonomy, cosmopolitanism, and diaspora. At this stage in my thinking, I am more interested in the slipperiness of these terms and in the contestations over their meaning and employment than in trying to establish any normative definitions for them. Cosmopolitanism and diaspora are familiar concepts within contemporary discussions of postcolonialism and globalization. Autonomy may be more familiar to political theorists and philosophers than to literary critics, yet assumptions about autonomy underlie many current beliefs about postcolonial and globalization struggles. In arguing for autonomy as key to democracy, David Held points out that >Knowledge is generated within the framework of traditions and the discernment of truth always has a temporal structure. As a consequence, there can be no such thing as the correct or the final understanding of autonomy: its meaning is always open to further interpretations from new perspectives= (166). Anyone attending to the complex contexts of postcolonialism today is acutely aware of this point; indeed, it forms one of the central principles on which postcolonial thinking is based. That recognition, however, necessitates another: the need to negotiate >ground rules for dialogue= (Held, 167) before a contextual understanding of autonomy may be reached. Yet ground rules for dialogue are precisely what is absent at a time when imperial certainties have begun to be successfully questioned without yet being replaced by agreed-upon postcolonial 692 diana brydon university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 2, spring 2004 conditions for dialogue. The postcolonial field is still negotiating its own >ground rules for dialogue,= both internally among those with different priorities for postcolonial work, and externally in its attempt to move beyond the generating assumptions of residual and mutating forms of Eurocentrism, including those beginning from the premises of postmodern critiques of such >grand narratives.= I cannot address this larger framework but I can identify the ground rules for dialogue on which it begins its own analysis. Here I describe and negotiate some of the radically different uses to which the concepts of autonomy, cosmopolitanism, and diaspora (and of postcolonialism and globalization as the framing discourses for this discussion) currently seem to be put. In attending to the complexity of these terms, I hope to establish some understanding of their implications as one of the first foundations on which such ground rules may be built. David Scott, in Refashioning Futures: Criticism after Postcoloniality, suggests that when a concept such as postcoloniality becomes normalized, it becomes time >to ask whether the critical yield= continues to be productive, and >if not, to ask what set of questions is emerging in the new problemspace that might reconfigure and so expand the conceptual terrain in which an object is located= (8B9). Globalization, diaspora, and cosmopolitanism have each emerged as contenders for describing a new problem-space that might replace the postcolonial, yet the current situation is more complicated than Scott=s analysis suggests. It is not entirely clear that postcolonialism has been fully normalized, far less that it has accomplished the work it set out to do. Despite a proliferation of texts, special issues, research resources, and introductions to the field, postcolonial theories have yet...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 691-706
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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