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??? 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 en masse, while vacillating about issues ofsocial class and race. As a result, the categories she uses are stretched too far and the potentially interesting sociohistorical and literary material is thin (5-15). The author seems to recognize this on occasion, only then to deny that social class is important among "postcolonial" subjects. Nagy-Zekmi does address the issue of class difference in her discussion, where she cites the cases ofVictoria Ocampo, the upper-class Argentine writer, and Domitila Barrios de Chungara, the Bolivian worker/writer; but she then undermines the discussion by claiming that all classes are affected if their members are women from postcolonial nations (35-36). Consequently she favors abstractions over specific social and historical conditions. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu tells us that intellectuals are very skilled at veiling their own habitus, and Nagy-Zekmi is no exception. Despite her attempt to cast her study in sociohistorical terms, the author, like poststructuralists and postcolonialists , regards writing as a "subversive" act (33). Nagy-Zekmi must be referring to "postcolonial" intellectuals living in exile in the United States or Europe, since they are the subjects ofher analysis. For to claim that writers at work in the postcolonial world are subversive or resisting under the shadow ofdeath, as postcolonialists do, is misguided. As Ahmad affirms in his essay on postcolonialism, in "Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, the Arab world, millions ofpeople write and generally conduct the business of life in English or French," so writing from this regional context does not automatically constitute a subversive act (2). Needless to say, neither do postcolonial university professors in the United States or Europe face the angel ofdeath nor the scythe ofcensureship, so why state otherwise? I hasten to return to the point that Nagy-Zekmi is not responsible for these abstractions in her interesting book on North African and Latin American narrative; the "theoretical" model ofpostcolonialism, created in the US academy, is. Would we not be better offusing concrete biographical, historical, and political materials to bolster our analyses ofliterature in either region? Greg DawesNorth Carolina State University CARYL EMERSON. The FirstHundred Years ofMikhailBakhtin. Princeton : Princeton UP, 1998. xvi + 287 pp. Bakhtin has become a highly contested commodity on the American critical scene. Once his influence went beyond the semiotic boundaries established by his French Vol 23 (1999): 193 BOOK NOTES champions, a diverse group of Anglo-American scholars, readers, and thinkers launched a seemingly endless exposition and application of his "key concepts." This popularity fits into the larger structural pattern that, to extend a phrase of Michael Holquist's, I will call "Russia is always being discovered." Every discovery ofRussia, it seems, forges the ignorance over which the next discovery will triumph . This principle applies to Russians just as much as to their well-meaning Western colleagues: how many times have Russians claimed to have anticipated some achievement ofthe West, or even to have discovered it first? How many times have Western intellectuals looked to Russian culture for the "real" alternative to the West? By introducing an American audience to various stages ofRussian reception ofBakhtin's oeuvre, The First Hundred Years ofMichael Bakhtin attempts to break this vicious circle ofdiscovery and deception, whose effects in this case seem especially disorienting. Emerson's introduction offers a broad, but helpful and informative overview ofthe...


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pp. 193-195
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