Conclusion: Postcolonial Studies and Contemporary Politics



Writing in 1999, Robert Young diagnosed a characteristic flaw in operation within postcolonial studies when he noted: ‘the field of postcolonial studies has already tended to become limited to the invocation of orthodoxies and the impasse of self-referential critiques’ (1999: 33–4). It is imperative, then, according to this logic, to curtail the proliferative, yet characteristically insular, rhetoric of postcolonial studies, and there must be an assumption of political and critical responsibility by those with access to political and cultural discourses. Young continues: ‘we [the editors of Interventions] seek to reinvoke the politics, political objectives and commitment through which, historically, postcolonial critique was originally generated’ (Young, 1999: 33–4). The politics of the‘local space’ and the dynamics of material circumstances, then, have been elided from the gilded, academic forms of postcolonial critique. Therefore, it is incumbent on postcolonial theory, firstly, to remain sensitive to its own fractious conception and gestation, and, subsequently, to represent adequately identitarian diversity rather than simply assert or cosmetically fetishise specific marginal identities. Much cultural theory is distinguished, even defined, by the urge to assimilate, to stabilise and, most evidently, to know. It is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the linguistic basis, and medium, of critical theory, that a form of knowledge or a critical trope is both confined to, and confining within, the parameters of a linguistic process of ‘naming’; an objective process of imposition that can effectively negate the particularities of the individual subject or community.


Irish Study Irish Context Postcolonial Theory Contemporary Politics Fundamental Contradiction 
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© Eóin Flannery 2009

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