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  • Figurations of "India" and the Transnational in W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Biman Basu (bio)
Biman Basu
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Biman Basu

Biman Basu is Assistant Professor of English at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. He is writing a book tentatively titled The Political Economy and Economies of Desire in African American Literature and is the author of several articles, including "Public and Private Discourses and the Black Female Subject: Gayl Jones' Eva's Man" (Callaloo, 1996); "The Black Voice and the Language of the Text: Tony Morrison's Sula" (College Literature, 1996); and "Allegories of the Transnational Intellectual: Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions" (Ariel, 1997).


1. For Louis Althusser, for example, the (Repressive) State Apparatus "belongs entirely to the public domain," and the Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) belong to the "private domain. Churches, Parties, Trade Unions, families, some schools, most newspapers, cultural ventures, etc., etc., are private" (144). For Althusser, then, the private domain, including culture, is the space where the ISAs operate. He later lays down "two conjoint theses": that "there is no practice except by and in an ideology" and that "there is no ideology except by the subject and for subjects" (170). Ideology and the subject, then, are central to Althusser's theory of "interpellation."

Distinguishing himself from the Marxist position, Michel Foucault writes, "I'm not one of those who try to elicit the effects of power at the level of ideology." He adds, "what troubles me with these analyses which prioritise ideology is that there is always presupposed a human subject on the lines of the model provided by classical philosophy, endowed with a consciousness which power is then thought to seize on" (58).

2. The failure to articulate the distinction between the subject and subject positions often results in the "commonly used term 'subject'" being "inaccurately used to describe what is actually the series or the conglomeration of positions, subject-positions, provisional and not necessarily indefeasible, into which a person is called momentarily by the discourses and the world that he/she inhabits" (Smith xxxv).

3. The language of "disruptive articulation" and "significant deformation" may seem a little exuberant in the face of the exploitation of Third World immigrant labor in the United States or the complicity of Third World professional immigrants with this exploitation. But the creation of new disciplines such as postcolonial studies, African American studies, and women's studies cannot be entirely dismissed. They are "disruptive" at least to the extent that they have changed or "deformed" research and curricular agendas and created new forms of study.

4. By producing these potential subject positions, Du Bois, among other things, undermines what the United States has repeatedly attempted to impress on African Americans—that theirs is an isolated position, scripturally sanctioned, as a people specially chosen for servitude. Instead, he demonstrates irrefutably that the oppression of non-Western peoples around the world, like that of African Americans, is based on race.

5. The Swadeshi or Khadi movement was the movement to boycott foreign goods and, more specifically, the movement to boycott foreign cloth. But the Swadeshi movement is also shorthand, more generally and popularly, for the nationalist movement in India.

Hundreds of unarmed Indians were massacred in Amritsar on 13 April 1919, also a year of extraordinary racial violence for African Americans.

6. Although the rhizomorphic constructions I analyze here can be read as historical or political, I have used the term "cultural" because Darkwater, for example, from which I take my second example of a rhizome, is more a literary achievement than a historical or political analysis.

7. The "rhizomorphic" may seem like an unwieldy metaphor, specially to critics of postmodernism. It is useful, however, because "the rhizome is an antigenealogy" (Deleuze and Guattari, Thousand Plateaus 11) and opposes "arborescent culture" which has "dominated Western reality and all of Western thought" (18). It "ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains [and] organizations of power" (7) and "pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight" (21). For a fuller discussion of the rhizome, see...


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