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Postcolonial International Relations Theory

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Published: 29th Oct 2021 in International Relations

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This paper aims to explore how postcolonial IR theory offers an alternative to mainstream IR, which is known to have neglected Third World issues. I shall investigate ideas of 'Orientalism' (Said,1978) and 'Hybridity' (Bhabha,2012), as these works attempt to deconstruct the misrepresentation of colonised societies and more importantly strive to develop the existence of selfconsciousness for the next generation of Third World people in mainstream ideology. First, this essay shows the fundamental idea and origin of postcolonialism (Tickner, 2003). Second, I shall outline the arguments of neocolonialism (Biswas,2016). Eventually, the essay contrasts postcolonialism to the mainstream IR: realism and predominantly neoliberalism (Blaney and Inayatulla,2008).

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The postcolonial theory can be seen as an appealing tool from the socalled Third World perspective (Watson, 2009:p.297). The theory suggests a more comprehensive examination of IR on a regional and national level that is not a part of the mainstream vision about IR. This counterview is an outsider in comparison to the core scholarships which have been rooted in the US and Europe. There were first-time depictions of IR by scholars with American descent, and consequently, they influenced and shaped the significant development of IR theories. In the current time, the American centrality and 'exceptionalism' are still the starting point in global politics, wherefore predominantly American and European authors published academic writings of IR. The First World dominance caused an intellectual crisis and imbalance for the independent judgment of IR. For example, South America has been determined as an entirely irrelevant player by the Western theorist, Kenneth Waltz in world politics (Tickner, 2003:295-8). According to Seth's clarification (2013:20), the neo-colonialism intends to narrate the effect of colonialism on native lands and nations as opposed to being a historical time era after decolonisation. The theory (Yang, Zhang and Wang,2006:280) has been intensified after World War II when many colonial countries declared independence in Asia, Africa and South America. The newly emancipated societies have looked for reference relations to the West's colonial history in order to reconstruct their identical descent and identity for further independent and national growth.

On the whole, Barker outlines that themes such a race, ethnicity, nation, subjectivity, hybridity and power (2001:24;287) play fundamental roles in postcolonial researches. Postcolonial criticism centres the issues of some cultural 'Otherness' (Barry,2017:191). There are two main concerns for postcolonial theorists. The first problem is how the culture of natives, it-so called 'subaltern' (Morris,2010) has undergone an ambiguous transformation by an imperial and colonial power (Barry,2017:191). In this, the emphasis is on the relationship through communication between the coloniser 'self' and colonised 'the other' (Bhabha,1984:126-133). The settler language shaped the function of colonial law and education processes for native people. Consistently, colonised humans have perceived these unnatural changes in a specific way on an individual and communal level too.

The second poser is the legacy of 'hybridity' (Bhabha,2012) that the colonist and colonised mix the character of language and culture traits and this 'worlding' blurs cultural boundaries of the low-class natives, for example, British Asians or Latino-Americans in future. That is called cultural hybridity that raised several dissonances regarding the identity of the 'other' people and their agency representation (Barker, 2001:25). Barry adds two other characteristics of discourse to neo-colonialism theory (2017:193-5). The first is that the indigenous ethnics primarily East Asian and Indian people are viewed as the 'Other' and exotic in the Western mind after the colonisation period. Another issue focuses on the process of representing the peripheral Third World, as the criteria of legitimacy after the decolonisation. For example, there is dissonance of hidden stimulation with Avatar movie, where the Western material production revisits the period of colonisation in a sci-fi blockbuster (Fujiki, 2016:199-200). This cultural context of production informs the audience that the idea of colonisation has yet to pass and warns the Third World civilisation to create global policies for independent representation.

The essay presents three examples of postcolonial view to show how they offer distinctive thinking against mainstream IR theories, although they argue with each other as well. The first is Edward Said's work, often seen as the founder of postcolonial studies in our modern time. Said established critical thoughts of Orientalism in 1978 (Kapoor, 2002:650). He (Biswas, 2016:228) enunciates the importance of domination in culture and how actors and agencies interpret politics. He surveys his subject of colonised people' them': the Orient and constructed it by Western colonial perspective 'us': the Occident. In this sense, Said illuminates how the West 'Orientalist' undermined the Middle East in cultural hegemony, subsequently making the imperialized regions and their nations underdeveloped, and unable to achieve self-representation in a long-standing tradition. He elucidates (Yang, Zhang and Wang,2016:284) a colonisation leaves a more profound impact on the native culture than political or economic consequences.

On top of this, he argues (Biswas, 2016:228), the 'orientalist' had taken advantage of the unresponsive Middle East and defined the Third World for its purpose. Said's Western 'Oriental' studies include sources and rhetoric devices of literature, media and opera. He argued that Western society prominently distinguishes itself from the Eastern one. This Western categorical thinking (Pooch,2016:45) has been based on myth, stereotypical fear of the stranger and lack of knowledge of a different culture. This methodology led the European universal influence and its possibility for territorial expansion, for instance, the British and French colonisation. As a result, the Third World suffered from adverse European imperialism. Said contrasts that Western civilisation considers itself, as a liberal, logical, rational and educated. Whereas, Eastern humankind is exotic, degenerate, unsophisticated and primitive in Western perception. Herein, He (Pooch,2016:41) manifests that there is a strong polarity between the centre and the margin, and no other determination is available like in-between. This separation has solid and soft factors. Said's (Ganguly,2015:73-5) explanation associates with Foucault's notion of power and knowledge about the method how the Western modernity arrived at Third World lands but more importantly it has a common currency with Gramsci's theory of hegemony in Orientalism. The latter says that Western practice has been a hegemonic authority for defining worldview, and there has seldom been for alternative opinion or belief to question its justification. This theory (Yang, Zhang and Wang,2016:279294) suggests that leader classes and groups with power reasonably control and standardise the way of living and thinking for others in society. This phenomenon can be understood as cultural leadership by consent. As Western authority covered the rest of the globe during the colonisation period, its culture and interest have become widely dominant and the Eastern one neglected. For instance, Pooch points out (2016:41) that these elements of soft power have appeared in clothes wearing and drinking teas in afternoons in British India.

The second example of a postcolonial sense intends to reject the binary opposition by Homi K. Bhabha in 'The Location of Culture' (1994:38). The postcolonialist had reinvented a few theories and notions within culture diversity studies. If Said presents a compelling picture of the radical realism of the West (Nayak,2009:256), Bhabha's approach has a different mindset and considers another idea for identity studies in postcolonialism. He disagrees with Said's project of binarism that a settler and native are two distinct classifications averse to each other. Thus, He refuses any assimilation of colonialism to the Hegelian argumentation about Master-Slave dialectic (Polat,2011:1259). Bhabha asserts (Pooch,2016:43) the colonising process had left an impact on both parties, the colonialist and colonised as well: the theory of 'hybridity'. In this theory, he sees a room optimistically in cultural space for 'in-between': the concept of Third Space, where a hybrid identity can exist, and imperial power cannot influence native culture (Easthope,2008:145). The theorist muses this mixing process 'hybridisation' in neo-colonialism, as an ambivalent relation nexus rather than the issue of differences between two divisions. These two subjects are the settler's modern science and the colonised traditional beliefs (Prakash,1992:153). In Bhabha's understanding (Pooch,2016:44), natives do not convincingly resist colonialist force; because, natives shows neutral, sometimes ironical and simultaneously cynical attitude to the coloniser's authority for the author, double-consciousness (Dayal,1996:57). Wherefore, this relationship is interdependent, but at the same time, it is unbalanced because of despotism between settlers and natives. That reflection is presented about subalterns' circumstances in acting and living under the coloniser rules and structure of power in Sly Civility (Bhabha, 1985:71-80).

The third instance is the area of 'Subaltern studies' by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in the 'Can the Subaltern Speak?'(Morris,2010). Spivak composed own idea about colonised people's situation, who are named, as subalterns by the author. Jacques Derrida's liberating thoughts: concept of deconstruction influenced Spivak's initial researches (Yang, Zhang and Wang:2016:284-8). Where Derrida says that the language can interpret endless meanings depending on a reader perception, he notices (Pooch,2016:41) that Western language communicates binary opposition wherein one term sets to be more standard and appropriate over another. This model structures a hierarchy in order to empower the preferred term or side in a debate. The developed opposition and entity introduce the issue of difference for another side but also determine a sort of rightness and relevance for the primacy term. Concisely, Western has identified Eastern societies as a negative dichotomy to approve their positive civilisation values and norms.

In an argument with Said and Bhabha, Spivak says (Yang, Zhang and Wang:2016:288) if there is any cultural space for subalterns, it is blank and silent under colonial despotism. That means colonised people cannot convey any thought, and they are classified for no expression by colonisers. Gospal outlines (2004:146-7) Spivak's three claims for the 'Subalternist' project. The first is that Subaltern studies emerged from the elementary principles of Marxism, means of production. In particular, capitalism substituted from feudalism in India and this was in parallel with colonialism. The native society perceived the transition of an economic and political system, as a confrontation against itself. The second is that the 'Subaltern' academician assumes that the theory is based primarily on culture and self-awareness as opposed to the time era of decolonisation even though, the theorist is interested in history and structure questions as well. The last claim is the selfidentity concern, which arises after the end of the slavery period. In this case, Spivak is more concerned about the term of slavery than Bhabha.

In postcolonialism, the key arguments are distinguishing from limiting thought pattern of realism and liberalism. These interrelated claims prioritise on cultural and economic assumptions (Blaney and Inayatulla,2008:671). Seth (2013:21) generalises that classical and structural realists do not consider cultural analyses and moral diversity in the development of IR whatsoever. Whereas, postcolonialists have an intellectual inquiry to understanding the colonial impact on Third World nations in an aspect of race, psychology and culture. Moreover, the writer says that the postcolonial idea is a relativist, and it links theoretical outcome to geographical, historical and cultural knowledge to a particular and marginalised place. Tickner (2003:298-301) continues that the concept of realism has been the main engine of IR discipline for American academicians. Therefore realist's core claims influenced contemporary frameworks, such as state of war, a state is a dominant actor in world politics and the philosophical question of how much power is enough. The realism is out of fashion among its thinkers though.

Furthermore, realists' ideologies made the advent of empirical knowledge and backward theorisation in IR that excludes even realities if it is not suitable to realists' assumption. In response to the Third World cultural inequality (Biswas, 2016:220), Bull outlines (2002:37) that there is a historically controversial categorisation of nations into three divisions. There are modern such as American and European, traditional such as Turkish,

Persian, Siamese, Chinese and Japanese and primitive societies are the rest of the world. Nevertheless, currently, the Western states are the minority, and the non-Western countries represent the majority on the international level, as global outsiders. Besides, Biswas maintains (2016:224-5) the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was an ideal of sovereignty and longstanding concept of peace for postcolonial states in Asia and Africa even though it was dramatically eroded by European colonisation in the 19th century later. The European enlargement and a sort of superpower policies sequentially indicate the concern of realism paradigm concerning colonial power and hegemony. In the same time, it struggles for political autonomy for the colonised in postcolonialism. Therefore, postcolonial authors criticise realists who rarely pay attention to the systemic instability for 'Third Worldism' (Berger,2004:9). The critic concludes (Biswas,2016:222) that realism and liberalism premises are based on Orientalism about Third World people that treat marginalised countries and indigenous nations as backward and passive players.

According to neoliberal's assumption after the end of the Cold War, the author says that colonised society should have taken the values of Eurocentric universalism through institutions by the Western system. As a consequence, postcolonial states earned little influence to control the development of its destiny. The entire political model has a drastic fundament led by the Western-centrism, and it underrepresents the interest of postcolonial states by the First World policymakers. Fanon maintains (Barry, 2017:186) that colonised humans desperately strive to reclaim their once own past and seeking the capability to be emancipated from the foreign and Western ideology in the sense of national identity. For this reason, postcolonial discourse problematizes Western essentialism and uniqueness like modernisation and progress. It seeks agency and resistance to preserve the sovereignty of Third World countries (Blaney and Inayatulla,2008:668). By the same token, Barry (2017:185-6) highlights that the postcolonialism rejects universalism, liberal and humanitarian claims concerning race and class norms as well. The postcolonial criticism ascertains the European intellectual movement: Enlightenment, as a harmful nature of the issue for Western expansion over Third World regions (Jusdanis, 2005:139). Yang says (2006:281) the appearance of modernity can be interpreted through the reflection of globalisation. He continues that globalisation leads back to imperial behaviour and logic. In this globalisation, capitalism is the inseparable part of the colonialism.

Concerning the economic rights of colonised (Biswas, 2016:233), postcolonialism view unveils the third world's problems about economic inequality, and herein the postcolonial experience has a specific relation to Marxism wherefore the two theories contribute to each other for a critic of neoliberalism. These theories give a precise observation of the negative effect of neoliberal capitalism that primarily reveals financial exploitation, disproportional wealth increase against particular geographical regions, racial and ethnic groups. Said describes (Yang, Zhang and Wang,2006:282) that wealthy states expand their production over deprived countries and increase the value of means. Then, they resell their products from the location of manufacturing, poor regions to high-income places.

Also, dependency theorists (Blaney and Inayatulla,2008:664-671) submit that capitalistic interest is a primary cause for colonial arrival at Third World territories. In particular, there is a dramatic economic disparity between North and South, which delivers political purpose for the First World financial arrangements. Even if the dependency theory articulates similar concerns with postcolonialism, there is evidence for their dissimilarity ultimately. Kapoor determines (2002:647-8) that these theories foreground the Third World politics against the Western liberal modernity and its capitalist system: globalisation. The author continues that postcolonial the idea is crucially based on cultural perspective, self-identity, how to represent colonised people. Whereas, dependency thinkers prioritise socioeconomic angle to criticise imperialism for capitalistic development, as a cause of long-term economic repercussions in the Third World countries. Johnson (1981:55) puts the lack of consideration regarding the relation between capitalist and labour to central in dependency theory.

On the contrary, there is scepticism about how the future of neo-colonialism is diverse from Marxism's way. Bart Moore-Gilbert (2001:23-4) explains the productive relationship between the two theories indicates the postcolonial theory's dependence on Marxism's sources. Therefore, the postcolonial theory does not offer another conclusion for itself ultimately than the shared objective with the Marxist theory of a postcolonial state.

The above showed that postcolonial discourse is a corresponding field of study to decentre the dominant Western narration about colonised people, regions and history of cultural colonialism. In postcolonialism, various theories partially intersect such as postmodernism, marxism and dependency that creates an eclectic approach by theorists of the field. Postcolonial criticism determines issues such as cultural and economic inequalities. For instance, the underdevelopment crisis in Latin America can be seen as 'unfavourable exchange relations of surplus products and values' (Johnson,1981:72). Critiques associate the colonial force with trends such as modernity like political and globalisation like economic. Post-colonialists present variable, sometimes, contradicting ideas to perceive the interrelationship and its adverse consequences between First and Third World civilisation. As shown through Said's Orientalism (1978) on could say the colonised nations are still in decline. However, there is apparent disagreement between Said and Bhabha's view (1988) about the identity of colonised natives and what kind of future with they face. As a minority, The First World ignores the vast majority of 'other' humans in the world; nonetheless, the essential message of postcolonialism urges a democratisation of Western core IR to include the Third World knowledge and experience in global affairs.


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