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BOOK NOTES the fault lines of the most recent theory in full light and applying against them relatively modest but highly efficient remedies. Robert S. DombroskiCity University ofNew York, Graduate School SILVIA NAGY-ZEKMI. Paralelismos transatlánticos:postcolonialismoy narrativafemenina en América Latinay Africa del Norte. Providence, RI: Ediciones Inti, 1996. 195 pp. In a recent essay on postcolonialism, Aijaz Ahmad says that the term's popularity gives him a tired sense ofdéjà vu since political theory debated the issue in its political and regional specificity in the 1970s, and current literary discussions show no memory ofthe earlier debates ("The Politics ofPostcoloniality," Race & Class 36.3 [1995]: 1-20). Consequently, in literature departments postcolonialism has carried with it certain references to the differences between developing and developed nations , colonialism and imperialism, and the voices ofthe "subaltern," without satisfactory knowledge of sociohistorical and economic circumstances. Postcolonial literary theory lacks not only specificity—pushing aside thorny issues ofclass in favor ofthe vague notion ofsubalterns—but also, ironically, an up-to-date assessment ofthe world economy. Ifthis were not so, postcolonial critics would not miss their mark as often as they do. For instance, they would be unable to claim forthrightly that colonialism is a perennial force in former colonies that no independence movement can overcome. A general acquaintance with world affairs would make it clear, for example, that Chile is an emerging industrial power that gained independence in 1 8 1 8; so to call Chile a "postcolonial" nation is a belated christening. Postcolonialism is not a sociohistorical movement nor even a home-grown intellectual passion in Latin American, Asian, and African countries, so what explains its appearance in the US academy? Ahmad, I believe, is right to maintain that the previously amorphous label of"Third World" literature has now been replaced by the equally nebulous "postcolonial." Moreover, Ahmad is also correct to note that those flying the postcolonial banner are exiled "postcolonial" intellectuals, with a self-evident stake in the issue, who often overlook the question oftheir own habitus . These displaced "postcolonial" academics, such as Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak , or Walter Mignolo, who have posts in American universities, end up defining the terms ofthe debate and claiming an authority to speak because they themselves are "postcolonial" expatriates. These critics tend to claim that the center always already exploits the periphery; that writing is subversive; and that internal class differences in the "postcolonial" nations are ofless interest than imperialist policies. Silvia Nagy-Zekmi's new book follows this current ofpostcolonial criticism. In several ways her study is helpful and innovative. It is intriguing in itselfto read a unique comparative analysis ofNorth African and Latin American women writers . Where the reader may be unfamiliar with Maghreb or Latin American women 's novels, Nagy-Zekmi also provides an interesting discussion ofthese works. Her objective is to "compare feminine writing in the two areas mentioned, paying special attention to the development offeminine literary codes." She draws a parallel "between the postcolonial condition, the incorporation ofthe postcolonial subject in the Western consciousness and feminine writing in the Third World; its reception in the West in the sacred literary canons" (14-15). This is not an easy task, but Nagy-Zekmi generally succeeds in shedding light on the treatment of Vol 23 (1999): 192 ??? COHPAnATIST women in Maghreb culture, the representations ofgender roles in women's narrative , or the "triple bind" that women are subjected to in developing countries (race, class, and gender). In this study she aims at "correcting the image of women in masculine writings" (60). The faults ofNagy-Zekmi's book have less to do with her work in particular and more with the limits ofpostcolonial criticism in general. In other words, her study, as I see it, is paradigmatic ofpostcolonial scholarship. For instance, NagyZekmi assumes a priori that "decolonization becomes contestatory ofdomination in all its forms, whether these are ideological or discursive" (5). Following in the wake ofSpivak's "Can the Subaltern Speak?" she often returns to the idea that all subjects in postcolonial contexts have been silenced by neo-colonialism or imperialism . Here, as when she deals with women—"feminine" writing or writing by women—Nagy-Zekmi treats postcolonial subjects or women...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 192-193
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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