In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon raises the concern that in the process of decolonization, nations are faced with the threat of failing to make systemic changes to the colonial goverment and merely replacing the white leaders with “natives”. In Culture and Imperialism Edwards Said further examines how the process of decolonization involves a constant struggle with the colonized ideology. Said argues that the first struggle in decolonization is for land, and the second is for ideological freedom. This is more difficult than it seems because the decolonized people’s struggle for an independent identity and culture needs to include their history as an oppressed group. Said’s description of the fluidity of culture highlights why determining an independent identity (which is often required to fight colonialist ideology) is so difficult:
Cultures are not impermeable; just as Western science borrowed from Arabs, the had borrowed from India and Greece. Culture is never just a matter of ownership, of borrowing and lending with absolute debtors and creditors, but rather of appropriations, common experiences, and interdependencies of all kinds among different cultures. This is a universal norm. (217)
In my Gender and Women’s Studies class we’ve been discussing the idea of using an interesectionalist approach to understanding people’s situations (ie being careful not to over-generalize individual’s experiences — looking carefully at class, gender, sex, nationality, race, etc. to understand situations.) Though I realize the importance of this, I have struggled with the alienating and isolating view of human experiences which this creates. I think Said’s suggestion for the ways decolonized people should understand their experience offers a solution.
Said argues that decolonization creates “dangers of chauvinism and xenophobia (“Africa for the Africans”) [which] are are very real” (214). The solution to this problem, Said suggests is when decolonized people see their own history “as an aspect of the history of all subjugated men and women, and comprehends the complex truth of his own social and historical situation” (214). This offers a critique to the intersectionalist approach to understanding ones situation. In addition to looking at all of the complex factors which led to a groups experience, it is also necessary to situate this experience within a larger context. This same idea comes up in Said’s discussion of the native peoples ability to revise western narratives. One of the main means of resistance which Said highlights is the idea of “writing back.” Citing Salman Rushdie’s work as an example, Said explains how this consists of, “disrupting the European narratives of the Orient and Africa, replacing them with either a more playful or a more powerful new narrative style” (216).