Travel: An Introduction
Bishop, "Questions of Travel," in The Complete Poems:
1927-1979J 94.
This book does not argue that all culture can be read through the lens of
colonial discourse. Yet it does participate in the interdisciplinary effort
to link cultural studies and contemporary theory to the history of im-
perialism. I am mindful that some practitioners of "colonial discourse"
or "postcolonial criticism" make overly general claims and totalizing
arguments that mask extremely diverse and complicated experiences of
domination and resistance. The critique of an ahistorical postcolonial
critical practice centers around the tendency of critics in the United
States and Europe to, as Michael Sprinker puts it, "ignore the complex
material determinations of imperialism's history," reducing all inter-
action with this manifestation of capitalist expansion to the same. Such
attacks on the "colonial discourse" school tend to target poststructural-
ists and lament the demise of Marxism. While I heartily agree that
material differences often disappear, especially in the institutionaliza-
tion of "postcolonial literature" in the academy, I would caution against
wholesale dismissal of the alliances between poststructuralism, cultural
studies, feminist theory, ethnic studies, and regional studies that "colo-
nial discourse" signals in many instances. Rather than choose between
ahistorical "culturalism" and narrowly conceived "materialism," it might
be better to push the parameters of both paradigms in an effort to
understand what methods can best analyze contemporary complex con-
ditions. For recent critiques of "culturalist" totalizations in the form
of "colonial discourse" and "postcolonial" studies, see Sprinker, intro-
duction to Late Imperial CultureJ• Ahmad, "Postcolonialism: What's in a
Name?"; and Dirlik, "The Postcolonial Aura."
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