Empire of Language
Toward a Critique of (Post)colonial Expression
Publication Year: 2013
The relationship between power and language has been a central theme in critical theory for decades now, yet there is still much to be learned about the sheer force of language in the world in which we live. In Empire of Language, Laurent Dubreuil explores the power-language phenomenon in the context of European and, particularly, French colonialism and its aftermath. Through readings of the colonial experience, he isolates a phraseology based on possession, in terms of both appropriation and haunting, that has persisted throughout the centuries. Not only is this phraseology a legacy of the past, it is still active today, especially in literary renderings of the colonial experience-but also, and more paradoxically, in anticolonial discourse. This phrase shaped the teaching of European languages in the (former) empires, and it tried to configure the usage of those idioms by the "Indigenes." Then, scholarly disciplines have to completely reconsider their discursive strategies about the colonial, if, at least, they attempt to speak up.
Dubreuil ranges widely in terms of time and space, from the ancien régime through the twentieth century, from Paris to Haiti to Quebec, from the Renaissance to the riots in the banlieues. He examines diverse texts, from political speeches, legal documents, and colonial treatises to anthropological essays, poems of the Négritude, and contemporary rap, ever attuned to the linguistic strategies that undergird colonial power. Equally conversant in both postcolonial criticism and poststructuralist scholarship on language, but also deeply grounded in the sociohistorical context of the colonies, Dubreuil sets forth the conditions for an authentically postcolonial scholarship, one that acknowledges the difficulty of getting beyond a colonialism-and still maintains the need for an afterward.
Published by: Cornell University Press
Download PDF (46.5 KB)
Title Page, Copyright
Download PDF (35.3 KB)
Download PDF (38.0 KB)
Download PDF (67.7 KB)
...pers, journals, and books; at conferences, lectures, and symposia. At times it seems as though the present has been invaded by the colonial past. And not just in Europe. What are we to make of the former colonial “possessions” that remain in thrall to an unresolved history, or to the nations of the Ameri-cas (from Brazil to the United States) that still resist complete repudiation ...
...every colonial empire speaks, and speaks of itself. The colony is also a site within language, often a topos . Writing both describes and alters it. This book is itself an addition to the seemingly innumerable texts already produced on this site, bookish continents. It thus interrogates, reflexively, the fact of speaking the colonial and the postcolonial. We have seen a growing body of ...
Chapter 1(Post)colonial Possessions
Download PDF (107.6 KB)
...speak first in French. We may then see how our examination might be extended to other languages. This choice of language is clearly a function of the space I am privileging in this work. The concern with discrepancies among languages will make extrapolations possible. We will have the oppor-tunity to remember that language is not irrelevant when it comes to colonial ...
Chapter 2Haunting and Imperial Doctrine
Download PDF (107.4 KB)
...of possession also helps us to grasp the principal colonial and postcolonial doctrines, which tend both to invoke and to revoke enchantment. Reestab-lishing the tacit links these doctrines bear to haunting is thus a supplementary gesture of interpretation. I want to show here that theories and words are articulated all the same, and that it is permissible to rearrange them in their ...
Chapter 3The Revenant Phrase
Download PDF (114.5 KB)
...sible by the encounter of multiple elements: these include a discourse relating to the appropriation of the earth, the language of the slave trade, and a de-scription of the supernatural. Depending on the histories of the specific places and languages, this possibility is more or less achieved both in the colony and in the texts that contribute to the life of empire. Discursive ex-...
Part IIGiving Languages,Taking Speech
...instance that authorizes us to speak, or to write? Social language usage cer-tainly privileges some actors and orators over others. However, speech cannot be given unless someone in fact takes it. In other words, it is only the right to proffer that may be conferred; to withhold a word, that is another story: here, it is ours. These opening sentences doubtless bring us to the nagging question ...
Chapter 4The Languages of Empire
Download PDF (99.3 KB)
...guage and speech ( langue et parole ), we enter a more clearly theologico-political space. The term “theologico-political” merits clarification. It is taken from Spinoza’s 1670 Tractatus theologico-politicus , written in Latin. This text aimed to establish the possibility of a philosophy that would be indentured neither to religion nor to secular power. The final chapter of Spinoza’s work affirms ...
Chapter 5Interdiction within Diction
Download PDF (100.3 KB)
...concerning linguistic transmission; we will now examine how a modifica-tion in the practice of French becomes fused with all these uncertainties. The ultimate goal of these changes is the canceling out of the speech of the colonized. The phrase remade syntax. Because language is henceforth charged with a power that identifies it with the colonial nation, French can ...
Chapter 6Today: Stigmata and Veils
Download PDF (72.1 KB)
...and for all. And although it does not definitively undo interdiction, indig-enous speech does open a breach in the colonial edifice. The insistence of indigenous discourses in French, in tandem with the wars for independence, has made it difficult for colonial verbiage to claim to represent the language without being ridiculed. Has interdiction disappeared? I suspect that it hasn’t. ...
Chapter 7Reinventing Francophonie
Download PDF (88.9 KB)
...guage, it alters already existing connections, it reforms usage. It can contribute to the construction of a phrase —that collection of sedimented utterances, words, idea-grammars, and parts of speech. Speech is therefore an event, never original, that breaks with an established order with which it com-municates; it is also liable to be combined with other discourses. One never ...
...to decide which discourse of knowledge is capable of such speech, and by means of which disciplines. What I first called the phrase designates the build-able linguistic agglomerate that encircles and expresses the colonial adventure. We have seen how a political theology of languages attempted to determine how the indigene could speak up , including the double-sided invention of ...
Chapter 8Formations and Reformationsof Anthropology
Download PDF (78.7 KB)
...to trace the first anthropological narratives back to antiquity, to Herodotus, for example. We see these narratives renewed by the experience of the New World, by authors such as Jean de Léry. However, if we consider “anthropol-ogy” in terms of a discipline, as a way of organizing knowledge in the enact-ment of a shared method, then the first attempts are instead found toward ...
Chapter 9The Impossible Colonial Science
Download PDF (104.0 KB)
...there is nothing about anthropological discourse that makes it particularly adequate in relation to colonial diction. On the contrary, in the multiplicity of its postures, anthropology always requires recourse to a disciplinary exterior-ity. The project Marcel Mauss announces, where research would be joined to imperial expansion, is exemplary on this point. It was a matter of simultane-...
Chapter 10Who Will Become a Theoretician?
Download PDF (82.9 KB)
...what it says and the saying of it. Interdisciplinarity is in no way adventitious, but its ambition must be distinguished from the concept of hybridization that it explains. In general, the new forms within the Anglo-American uni-versity must pass through interdepartmental clusters. Bhabha moves beyond the logic of the multiple, where Spivak decided to remain. The inter is not, ...
After the Afterward
Download PDF (47.5 KB)
...the colony, to evoke it as little as possible, as happened for several decades in France, may entail the unremitting return of a jargon that has already been heard so many times. In public speech, in the clamor of the media, in lan-guage teaching, scholarly discourse, and literary texts, a postcolonial phrase still persists, with its own accents and syntax. So-called rational thought exploited ...
Download PDF (140.8 KB)
Download PDF (78.3 KB)
Download PDF (64.6 KB)
Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013