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This essay examines the "pastness" of postcolonial theory by locating it in the project of an "uncompleted" modernity. It argues that as a theoretical problematic "postcolonialism" seems to have lost two of its crucial "memories": the memory of lexicon (especially the etymology of the word "colony") and the memory of a revitalised understanding of the links between imperialism, labour and modernity. Invoking a reworking of a Marxist analytic that would not ignore premodern forms (including religion) the essay examines a number of decisive theoretical texts (Bhabha, Spivak, Lazarus, Viswanathan, Chakrabarty) to argue that we must rethink the program of postcolonialism as a departure, a release, an exit, a way out, a way of considering the difference that "today introduces in respect of yesterday." The latter quote from Foucault reminds us that this is how Foucault had read Kant's influential letter "What is Enlightenment?" The essay locates its mode of interrogation and its discursive form in Kant's letter and in Foucault's well-known response.