Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Conceptualizing the Gift

Based upon the readings for this coming meeting I think there may be some basic questions to address. While I read Cesaire first then Wynter and Nelson's piece last as a random ordering, it will be the order I will address my comments. The main theme to stand out in Cesaire's Discourse for me was a formulation of inter-subjectivity that laid bare the disguises of colonialism. In other words, colonialism and domination were consistent with modernist claims to progress and etc. so long as the colonies and the colonized had no means to narrate the historical process themselves. The question for me here is the role of decolonization movements in the later half of the 20th century and the processes which led to nationalist revolutions and the circumscribing of decolonization in the discourse of the nation. This question has been taken up by David Scott in Conscripts of Modernity in which he questions why decolonization took the route of national states and why such an outcome is more usefully characterized by tragedy than by the romanticism of the literature that emerged from cultural production during this period of decolonization. Scott would characterize narratives of the colonized in terms of romanticism for a state apparatus of their own which never fully permits the escape from what Quijano calls the coloniality of power.
With Wynter's article I paid attention to the historical construction of her "politics of being." I found the article very useful, the final point about the "politics of being" as a matter of "introducing invention in to being" was also an inspiring positionality given the previous 75 pages of annihilation and destruction. The question I have here is simple, what is feminist about Wynter's article? I have a notion of what might be feminist about it but I thought there could be a lot of different opinions about it. For instance, I noticed her nod to Quijano in terms of the treatment of gender as being biogenetically fixed and thus outside the boundaries of racializing procedures (p. 264).
Lastly, I enjoyed Nelson's article too because it situated Cesaire's work as a framework or theoretical position from which to address questions of decolonization: the gifts of decolonization actually are the subjectivities held back in Wynter's "politics of being." The notion that the colonized have been erased from humanity because colonization took the means by which to contribute to humanity was really useful for me. The question I want to pose then is how can we conceptualize the gift of decolonial feminisms? How can we articulate this position as both a theoretical and scholarly issue and a social form to embody?