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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Williams and the Young Post-Colonial Theorist

I admit, I know very little about post-colonial, race, and ethnicity theory. The only expert work I have read on these theoretical topics comes from our Donald Hall textbook Literary and Cultural Theory. That stated, I felt that Adebayo Williams’ criticism “Ritual and the Political Unconscious” struck me as a great example of post-colonial theory for a young, inexperienced theorist. Williams’ criticism regarded many of Hall’s post-colonial principles, including acknowledging that the “hegemony of the empire had long ago been fissured…by the antagonistic supplied by the conquering invaders” (190), regarding Elesin’s struggle to perform ritual sacrifice as a metaphor for “what is going on between the indigenous culture and the alien culture” (188), as well as a fairly in-depth analysis of certain aspects of the culture of Yoruba. These examples uphold principles 1, 2, and 5 of Hall’s broad definition of post-colonial, race, and ethnicity analysis.
However, most important in the essay that makes it a true post-colonial criticism is that it not only regards the dominance of one group over another in the literature but also it exposes and attacks the dominance of one ideology over another in the realm of literary criticism. Williams’ essay, in fact, performs the same role as Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman by exposing the negatives of ideological or political dominance. Williams applies Frederic Jameson’s critique of Marxism—“to restore the utopian dimension to the work of art” (193)—to explain how previous attitudes towards ritual and religious practices in colonial, “Eurocentric” circles are contradictory (195). To Williams, Soyinka is “an unabashed horseman (‘Elesin’ in the Yoruba language) of a besieged culture, fighting a desperate battle against the cultural ‘other’” (194). Williams fights those critics who have been “insisting on the decadent and oppressive nature of the indigenous culture” (195) by explaining that the sacrifice is commonly viewed as a “symbolic conquest of death itself” (192), and that one culture “insists upon forcing its hardware its hardware on another culture without making a commensurate purchase in return” (188-189). This upholds Hall principle #4 in which the critic “explores a text’s characterizations…in order to pinpoint the roles and social values attributed to the groups it portrays” (Hall 271).

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