Sunday, February 8, 2015

Diachronous vs. Synchronous Colonization

The establishment of colonial narratives stemming from Said's Orientalism is quite apparent. However, Said was concerned with a synchronous form of colonization, one in which the West colonized upon its counterpart--the Orient--by a means of academic rhetoric via the subject of 'orientalism.' As he defines, "The Orient is...the place of Europe's greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other" (1). The definition of the colonized other deals with a contemporary, coexisting other, one which the West manifests through this academic discourse. Nevertheless, such critique begs the question of how might one avoid such colonialist narratives--is it even possible?

Archaeology is a western-designated discipline that is very much involved with this issue. Matthew Liebmann in "Introduction: The Intersections of Archaeology and Postcolonial Studies" is very much concerned with archaeology's ability to unveil itself of its 'theory lag' and its marked origins in the orientalist narrative. He dons this body of critique 'post colonialism.' But as he expresses, postcolonialism is a rather problematic term insofar as the current period could not be considered one that is temporally post-existing that in which colonialism manifested itself, for as Said argued, the effects of colonialism are still large and prevalent.

So what might a postcolonial narrative entail? Could archaeology become a postcolonial discipline? To this I make the suggestion that the archaeologist could never become naked of his/her colonizing garb. The archaeologist is inherently looking at an other, whether it be time or place. If the archaeologist is making an attempt to let a place speak for itself (however he/she might figure a way to do such), I argue that he/she could never avoid the colonizing of time that the profession endures. Seemingly, the past cannot speak for itself, nor can the object. As Said notes, "...there is no such thing as a delivered presence, but a re-presence, or a representation" (21). If the archaeologist is the interpreter and representer of the past, how ought one do so void of the colonizing rhetoric that Said is wary of? Archaeology is inherently colonial in its processes and effects; is it possible to have such a discipline analyzing an 'other' that could be inherently postcolonial? This begs the questions of whether it is even possible to be postcolonial?

Liberian suggests that "...postcolonial approaches challenge traditional colonials epistemologies, questioning the knowledge about and the representation of colonized 'Others' that has been produced in colonial and imperial contexts" (2). Nevertheless, in doing so is this process not creating another colonizing dynamic, whether it be of a different past, the imperially-influenced historian, or whatever subject of a postcolonial critique becomes? The act of critiquing, analyzing, and studying inherently involves a subject, which by being spoken for, is void of self-representation and therefore inherently being colonized. The creation of others is seemingly inherent within humanity, particularly the field of archaeology. Ought there be anyway to forego this issue, or might we accept an immortal sort of colonialism that functions both diachronously and synchronously? The act of being self-conscious of this dynamic that is formed through archaeological research is imperative to defeat colonial rhetoric, but might we also be conscious of the newfound colonizing dynamics created in doing so?

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