De-imperializing Writing

Writing can be an act of imperialism. Feminists have alleged that writings are patriarchal. Anti-race and anti-caste activists have demonstrated that writings are also race or caste laden. Like Martin Heidegger who thinks that our language is already metaphysical, several thinkers think that our language is already value laden and as such is already biased towards the interest of the writer and his community. Postcolonial critique attempts to expose how colonial writings were infused with what Edward Said named as Orientalism that privileged the West over the East and legitimated the colonization of East by the West. There are attempts to invent feminine writing, decolonial writing, subaltern writing and the like. All these modes of writings strive to de-imperialize writing. De-imperializing writing is a disarticulating mode of writings that remains sensitive to power hierarchizes that writing constructs and validates while silencing or marginalizing other voices. Imperial writing is act of violence that silences the voice of the subalterns.

Imperial writing thinks that time is homogenous and concepts remain unchanged over its passage. Besides, often there is a construction of subject when there is actually individuals who is then ascribed responsibility for some faults as well as crimes of the past. Such construction of subjects and objectified people is particularly found in writings that deal with history. Subjects like the West, the East, the Third World, Muslims, Hindus, Christians etc., are constructs that attribute motives to large masses and project them as actors of history as well as of the present of societies. Such text writes about life that somehow then becomes life of communities who may not have anything to directly do with it. Often some communities are innocent victims of such imperialist narrativization of history. The canonization of these narratives often provides legitimacy to the power elite to weld power in the present. The power elite feels interpelled or called to get back at the villians constructed by the imperialist narrativization of history.

Ethnocentric as well as nationalist writings also exhibit imperialism and exclude other ethnicities that are considered minorities and marginal. Often the minorities are blanked out or aligned with the villians of the past into the play of the text and thus, the text is opend to free and imagined interpretations. Such narratives often legitimate the present of the elite who often puts on the garb of victim and considers the present as his/her moment of access to subjecthood and agency of history. This is why post-colonial critique is often guilty of constructing monsters that it itself wishes to expel. Such texts renders the readers into accomplishes of their imperial project. The narrative energy of such texts missionizes the readers to join the battle which is imagined as a battle for justice. The discursive field generated by such texts then converts imperialism as a social mission. This is why we have to interrogate this imperialism that works like the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant. One of the most important way to do this is to embrace ethics of writing that is sensitive to power play of the text. The ethics of writing is not just to write in de-imperialist mode , it is also important to contest and deconstruct imperialist texts and modes of writing.

Kant’s categorical imperative seems to support imperialism as a social mission. The categorical imperative of Kant becomes a moral universal given by pure reason in this way: where the principle ‘ in all creation everything one chooses and over which one has any power maybe only used as a means; man alone and with him every rational creature is an end in itself’ becomes flexible and is displaced to a level where one feels duty bound to use everything available as a means to achieve what has been conceived as a social good. What is masked as a social good is actually often imperialism as a social mission. This is why it is difficult to interrogate imperialism when it reaches the level of our society. Hence, embracing of writing ethics and deconstruction of imperial texts appear to be one important way of de-imperializing our society. Perhaps, it is only through the above twin ways that we may be able to interrogate and derail imperialism that often selects itself as natural, normal and even moral order of things in our society.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao