Anti-Capitalist Objections to the Postcolonial: Some Conciliatory Remarks on Žižek and Context.

Ian Almond


The article has three parts. First of all, it considers a series of overlaps between the postcolonial and Žižek’s own work. Then, it examines three objections of Žižek against the postcolonial – that it reduces issues of political-economic struggle to cultural/psychological analysis, that it involves a ‘prettification’ or detraumatization of the Other, and that its notion of ‘alternative modernities’ ultimately embodies a collusion with global capital to provide a facade of diversity – and considers some of the problems these create not merely for the postcolonial theorist, but also for Žižek’s own project. In particular, it argues Žižek’s frequent lumping together of postcolonialism with political correctness overlooks what really drives the postcolonial critique of Western-centered discourse – a desire to restore, as fully as possible, the dimensions of the Real to both sympathetic as well as hostile versions of the non-Western Other, a re-introduction of ontological complexity to idealisations/demonizations which, whilst not synonymous with Žižek’s own notion of an “ethical stance”, certainly come a lot closer than he is willing to admit.

Finally, the article examines the possibility that Žižek’s selective indifference to historical context, particularly in his treatment of the non-Western world, ironically reflects the late capitalist evaporation of history he has critiqued elsewhere. Ending with the late Marx’s turn to ethnography, the essay argues that Žižek and the postcolonial have things to learn from one another, and that a more historically –inflected critique of hegemony on Žižek’s part would supply a much-needed concretization of the universal in his work.


theory, Zizek

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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