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The Mellon Fellowship: New Citizens

Blurring boundaries: Fragments of an urban research agenda. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Ahluwalia, P. Google Scholar. Alvesson, M. Ashcroft, B. Bishop, R. Routledge, London, pp. Crawford, M.

London: Post-Colonial City - Part 6

As such, Julian Go has referred to these individuals as the first wave of postcolonial thought. Not surprisingly, on the continent of Africa, intellectuals and activists who have been retroactively considered as the intellectual antecedents of postcolonial thought are male. Amina Mama has thus argued that we also consider the anticolonial critiques of women such as Funmilayo Ransome Kuti of Nigeria and Bibi Titi of Tanzania p. Hill has posited that we need to theoretically diversify postcolonial theory, if this is done and we include the anticolonial work of intellectuals, including grassroots activists, the canon of postcolonial theory would become more global Tageldin, Drawing from Foucauldian and Gramscian concepts of power-knowledge and hegemony, respectively, Said introduced the concept of Orientalism to describe the discourse that has constructed the Orient and the Occident as binaries of each other.

He also uses the concept to highlight the discursive, historical, cultural normalization of the Occident as the central world power. Said argues that the Orient is a discursively constructed system of representation that brought the Orient into Western scholarship, consciousness and empire. He thus claims that all European scholarship on the Orient is racist, imperial, and ethnocentric. Said intimates that scholarship on the Orient needs to prominently figure the narrative and self-representation of the Orient. He also calls for a humanist epistemology that transcends racialized identities.

In addition to Said, Homi Bhabha is also considered one of the key contributors to postcolonial theory. In Location of Culture , Bhabha challenges Said for oversimplifying the binaries of Orient and Occident and colonizer and colonized. Informed by psychoanalysis and poststructuralism, Bhabha complicates colonial discourse by noting its contradictory and ambivalent nature.

He also used the terms hybridity and mimicry to further illuminate the complex relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. Mimicry, as performed by the colonized, can be subversive and signals that the colonizer did not always have all the power. Bhabha also critiques modernity and offers the concept of time-lag as a way of enabling colonial subjects, who were relegated to the status of non-human when founding categories of modernity were constituted, to interrogate Western hegemony.

Gayatri Spivak , informed by poststructural theory, is skeptical about the ability of the subaltern oppressed individual with limited hegemonic power to contribute to revisionist history. Thus, the British misrepresent the women as agentless victims and the nationalists mis-re-present the women as docile and unquestioning of culture. As such, Spivak cautions against counternarratives that in effect reproduce colonial practices of epistemic violence. The popularity of Said, Bhabha, and Spivak in the postcolonial canon cannot be overstated—such that this article has devoted space to briefly summarize some of their core arguments.

Shaden Tageldin , for example, argues that Africa is denied a position in postcolonial theory p.

Organising Discontent in the Postcolonial City

In addition to these criticisms of exclusion, several Africanists have also hesitated to use postcolonial theory because of its epistemological indebtedness to Western discourses such as postmodernism and poststructuralism Ahluwalia, , p. Further, Ahluwalia , p. Moreover, postcolonial theory has been faulted for beginning its inquiry with the colonial encounter. Rita Abrahamsen has justified the focus on colonialism because of its role in the reordering of the world p. It has also been accused of being inattentive to materiality and overly focused on culture.

Overall, postcolonial theory criticizes colonial episteme and representations and seeks to disarm the power and legacies of colonialism. The brief overview of Said, Bhabha, and Spivak indicate that there are some variations in postcolonial thought.

International Journal of Postcolonial Studies

It is also clear that there has been hesitation to use postcolonial theory; the concerns center around its privileging of colonialism, its foundation in poststructuralism and postmodernism, its lack of attention to materiality and its elision of African theorizing. Despite these criticisms, particularly the exclusion of African theorizing, there exist postcolonial approaches to the study of Africa by Africanists, including those of African origin.


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I provide three examples to highlight Africanist contributions to postcolonial studies. The need to redress Eurocentric representations of women and imposition of neo colonial gender paradigms have been of paramount concern. This concern is particularly salient given the development discourses on Africa that often target women as the key subject of intervention using a Western feminist approach.

The discourse on development as it pertains to African women is in turn intricately linked to functionalist anthropological studies conducted by Western scholars, especially in the s and s, which, consciously or unconsciously, constructed African women as the homogenous Other Ajayi-Soyinka, ; Lewis, Since the s, there has been a proliferation of research and publications on African women—mainly by African scholars. In many precolonial societies in sub-Saharan Africa, women had access to political power and governed their own affairs. Colonial rule has been argued to have altered the position of women.

Economically, the precolonial economy was restructured and the new economic system that was introduced provided men with more opportunities than women. Egodi Uchendu , for example, argues that though Igbo women had a certain level of political rights and privileges, they were still under the control of men. Nina Mba and Olabisi Aina have also asserted that women did not receive equal representation in key decision-making bodies in society. Holly Hanson and Iris Berger and E. Frances White have also noted that men had more access to political power. However, Mba maintains that the public domain was the world of both men and women, and each had significant roles to play.

In contrast to Uchendu, Mba and Niara Sudarkasa have argued that precolonial African women occupied a complementary, rather than subordinate, societal position to men Mba, ; Sudarkasa, Berger and White through their examples of societies such as the Hadza of Tanzania, the Mbuti of eastern Congo, and the!

Kung on the desert fringes of Botswana, Angola, and Namibia, have highlighted that many precolonial societies were highly egalitarian. Perhaps the question of subordination is not the appropriate query. As such, it can be agreed that women in precolonial Africa do not fit neatly into the framework of subordination that has been previously posited by Western scholarship; rather the history of precolonial African women challenges the simple dichotomy of subordinate or superordinate. It also defies the myth that precolonial societies were similar to the patriarchal structures of Europe that restricted women to the private sphere.

Although the issue of subordination has been clarified, nevertheless, it is still constructive to consider that some aspects of gender hierarchy were present in precolonial society and may be beneficial for understanding contemporary societies as well as cultural practices in Africa. As Patricia McFadden , Desiree Lewis , Amina Mama and Olabisi Aina have argued, it is important to critically interrogate precolonial African social structures and consider that gender hierarchies may have been present, and consequently interacted with colonial structures to marginalize women and exacerbate gender inequities.

Not everyone has agreed that it is useful to question gender hierarchy in precolonial societies. For example, Ifi Amadiume argues that gender relations were reinterpreted under the umbrella of colonial rule, Western education and Christianity. Other African scholars have rejected gender as a relevant concept for the African context. Using the Yoruba language, Oyewumi notes that Yoruba is gender neutral and therefore claims that gender-based social categories are absent in the indigenous conception. She further argues that seniority instead of gender was the organizing principle in precolonial Nigerian societies.

Therefore, there was no gender system in place and thereby no gender hierarchy. Bibi Bakare-Yusuf disagrees with Oyewumi and argues that the presence of a gender-neutral language does not necessarily have to reflect social practices and realities Bakare-Yusuf, While language has been linked with culture and practices, knowing the language and the foundation of the language does not necessarily illuminate all social practices, performances and actions.

Non-gender specificity in language may mean that there may be no rigid gender hierarchy, but it does not incontestably rule out that there was no gender hierarchy present in African societies before colonialism Bakare-Yusuf, Gender-neutral language does not indubitably translate into an absence of gender differences in society.

Postcolonial urbanism : Southeast Asian cities and global processes

Moreover, Oyewumi cannot ascertain that the meanings and connotations of Yoruba words have not changed over time. Zulu Sofola also highlights that gender is a postcolonial issue, and an issue that is only relevant for a specific part of the population, elite women. For Sofola, Western-educated, elite women have been dewomanized, and have fallen into the trap of Westernism where women have become dependent on men.

Sofola argues that there was a conceptualized system of co-rulership and no gender conflicts in precolonial Nigeria. Moreover, Sofola argues that an illiterate woman does not care about the things that matter to the elite and educated women. The former sees her role as empowering, and always takes control over her situation and mobilizes other women to resolve any arising issues.

The argument centers on how Western feminism has othered African women and failed to capture the reality of African women. Kolawole boldly asserts that African women are more interested in a womanist ideology that addresses their specificity. Along this line, she places large emphasis on the difference between values of Western women and African women. She claims that African women have different cultural needs. However, in attempts to highlight cultural differences, African women have been essentialized as binarily opposed to Western women in a manner that reproduces the dominant discursive construction of Africa as everything the West is not Lewis, , p.

Western feminism has also been essentialized with little regard for the plural forms of feminism in the West. Tamale thus posits that feminism and African culture should not be viewed in opposition to each other but that cultural norms and values can be deployed to attain justice for women. Ama Ata Aidoo and Aina both postulate that a political space exists for gender and feminism in contrast to what scholars like Sofola and Oyewumi may claim.

Aidoo argues that African women were feminists long before feminism and that the African continent will only be independent when every man and woman becomes feminist. She indicates that a stronger feminist consciousness is needed in Africa so that unequal gender relations can be specifically targeted. She proposes that the feminist movement in Africa needs to cut across class divisions and also include grassroots women in the agenda.

In analyzing the status of women in Africa, an anticolonial lens, as well as caution against cultural imperialism is important. Thus, while it is relevant and valid to challenge Western narratives of African history and the elision of African women from history, it is dangerous to eschew the interrogation of power structures and socializing mechanisms that are present within tradition, custom and culture.

Postcolonial approaches have also been used in critical studies of African urbanisms. This urban civilization thesis is premised on a Eurocentric and untruthful construction of Africa as primitive. The new policy agenda focused on improving urban productivity, alleviating urban poverty, protecting urban environments, and increasing understanding of urban issues. Within this context, studies on Africa were concerned with urban management and the increased informalization of urban life. While the neoliberal urban policy agenda was busy constructing African cities as unproductive, inefficient, and non-functional, contemporary Western hegemonic approaches to urban studies and theories also began to emerge.

In the s, with the increasing dominance of neoliberal globalization, studies of cities shifted and became more concerned with the connection between urbanization processes and global economic forces Friedmann, , p.

Rather than focusing on the hopeless portrayals of Africa, alternative visions of theory and practice that challenge Westernized ideas about the urban have been posited. In this light, Abdul Maliq Simone effectively argues that people in Africa should be seen as infrastructure and valued for the ways in which they negotiate and survive in urban spaces.

She argues that in urban studies, cities in the south are often only considered from a colonial and developmentalist framework and are therefore disqualified as cosmopolitan, modern, and producers of knowledge. Increasingly, most postcolonial approaches to urban research reject the developmentalist approach to urban development and planning in African cities, whereby urban planning as promoted through development intervention is expected to operate within a neoliberal, capitalist, Western paradigm.