Sunday, March 10, 2013

Understanding Gender in the Construction of East and West

In my first few posts, I have worked at deconstructing East and West through Historical States, Geographical States, and States of the Psyche.  I am still no closer to understanding the true differences that define the two.  I do know that spaces and people come into contact and certain ideas and places overlap—which results in more differences being explored and more changes that take place between the two cultures. For this post I want to explore the interstices of Gender and its social implications when it comes to defining the unequal balance in power between the West and the East. 

I will be examining Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name is Red and will also apply poco theory from Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s Feminism Without Borders.  My Name is Red examines the gender relationship between East and West, and Mohanty’s first Chapter deals with a warning of not falling into universalisms when talking about Women in Third World countries.   After all, My Name is Red is not just about art or religion—it is about the influence of patriarchy and how it can distort the existence of certain gender roles.  Much can be implied from this simple statement.

It is easy to fall into to the trap of using Universalisms when it comes to talking about the East and West, but before I start my explication of Pamuk’s novel through the use of Mohanty’s concepts of women and third world countries I’d like to propose a hypothesis.

Since we know that the West is the hegemonic force in the Binary West/East we could apply gender roles to each.  Why can we apply gender roles? Since the West (Europe) is known for its infamous patriarchal class structure we can understand where and how power is exercised in controlling the East.  Patriarchy is a hegemonic force which results in an uneven distribution of power between the Sexes and those who do not conform to certain gender roles specific to their sex.  It is also evident that many Eastern cultures were not Patriarchal as evident from certain creation stories—but that is a different post for a different time.  Therefore when it comes to the East and Binary let’s apply gender and sex into the mix.

Let’s add more to the Deconstruction Binary:


East=Non-Europe (India, Middle East, Asia etc…) =Matriarchy=Feminine=Female


East=Feminineà Sub-Dominant

I am in no way trying to be universal, but if it’s one thing I know so far is that the West holds the dominant space within this binary.  In Patriarchy the Masculine controls the relation and distribution of power—since the West is the Dominant then it would take the place of the Masculine male and the East would take the place of the Feminine Female.  I also know that before any type of colonization took place the East didn’t so easily fit into certain boxed gender roles.   It is only when the West came and needed to assert its power that Gender and Sex became inflated and Patriarchy was enforced as the appropriate from of control.

I’ll come back to this binary of Masculine/Feminine and Male/Female because it’s a major theme in Pamuk’s novel.

What does Mohanty have to say about the construction and understanding of Women as Subject to power when it comes to the colonial binary?  Mohanty says that there is a “hegemonic connections between the First [West] and Third Worlds [East] in scholarship” (37).  What is this hegemony that Mohanty speaks of?  This hegemony stems from the fact that:

the “status” or “position” of women is assumed to be self-evident because women as an already constituted group are placed within religious, economic, familial, and legal structures….However, this focus whereby women are seen as a coherent group across  contexts, regardless of class or ethnicity, structures the world in ultimately binary, dichotomous terms, where women are always seen in opposition to men, patriarchy is always necessarily male dominance, and the religious, legal, economic, and familial systems are implicitly assumed to be constructed by men…The major problem with such a definition of power is that it locks all revolutionary struggles into binary structures—possesing power versus being powerless. Women are powerless, unified groups. If the struggle for a just society is seen in terms of the move from powerlessness to power for women as a group,  and this is the implication in feminist discourses that structures sexual difference in terms of divisions between the sexes, then the new society will be structurally identical to the existing organization of power relations, constituting itself as a simple inversion of what exists…Third World women, in contrast, never rise above the debilitating generality of their “object” status...Western Feminist discourse, by assuming women as a coherent, already constituted group that is placed in kinship, legal, and other structures, defines Third World women as subjects outside social relations instead of look at the way women are constituted through these very structures (Mohanty 38-40)

I know it’s a long passage (I skipped quite a few paragraphs and sentences as well!) but this passage as I have it within this post is of fundamental importance to the work I am about to do when explicating two very important chapters within Pamuk’s novel.  So what does Mohanty mean?

1) NO single experience of oppression is the same ---This goes for both women and men

2) Just because a woman inhabits a Third World space DOES NOT mean she’s automatically oppressed, to think of her as such makes it impossible to disassociate her “object” status.

3) When we Group a Woman into the collective Women we Risk objectification

4) Finally, instead of viewing women outside of social relations we should understand them inside producers and creators of said social structures.

With these concepts firmly in hand, let’s take a look at Pamuk’s novel My Name is Red.  In short summary this novel centers on a book of illustrations that the Sultan is having created in secret.  One of his miniaturists is murdered and the story is told through a variety of perspectives all of which deliver certain narratives fundamental to understanding the entirety of the story.   The bottom line is that this story takes place because of the violence that is above all the product of the West/East binary.

But this story isn’t just a story about Art, Religion, or Philosophy—and how each is viewed in terms of the West/East binary.  It’s a story about a Woman caught up in the struggle of Patriarchy between the East and the West.  It’s a story about a Woman’s choice—a choice between East and West.

There are two Chapters I would like to examine—Chapter 54: I am a Woman and Chapter 59: I, Shekure.  Notice the Title of the Chapter starts with the Reflexive Pronoun of “I.”  The “I” denotes individuality, independence, and therefore I will not associate Shekure’s oppression or the “Woman that is not a Woman” with the universal oppression of Patriarchy—its connected to the binary that destroys the humanness of any Woman or Man.

So “Chapter 54: I am a Woman” is a chapter about a Woman that is not a Woman but more of a man.   The man is so fascinated with Woman that he decides to put on his dead mothers and aunts clothes.  Once in the clothes he looks like a woman and reflects

Only my eyes and cheeks were exposed, but I was an extraordinarily attractive woman and this made me very happy. My manliness, which took note of this fact before even I had, was erect. Naturally, this upset me. In the hand mirror I held, I watched a teardrop slide from my lovely eye and just then, a poem painfully came to mind. I’ve never been able to forget it, because at the same moment, inspired by the Almighty, I sang that poem rhythmically like a song, trying to forget my woes:

My fickle heart longs for the West when I’m in the East and for the East when I’m in the West/ My other parts insist I be a woman when I’m a man and a man when I’m a woman/ How difficult it is being human, even worse is living a human’s life/ I only want to amuse myself frontside and backside, to be Eastern and Western both. (Pamuk 354)

AH! To be Woman or Man? To be East or West? To be both? The catch here is that the oppression is not related to either East or West it’s related to the human condition.  Difference is the key factor, why is being a woman different then being a man? Why is West any different then East? WHY is humanity defined by differences?  Maybe the universalism is in being human. 

Yet, the problem this Woman who is not a Woman is not his/her sex, but the gender specificities applied to both men and women---which transcend societal boundaries and in fact define East and West.  SO this becomes an issue of gender and space. He’s a woman, yet his body betrays his desire to be a woman.   S/he performs a gender role, which becomes symbolic in h/er poem of the West/East binary.   Gender becomes a concept strictly linked with desire.  When gender and sex become synonymous universalisms run rampant. 

The final passage I’d like to examine is the final chapter “Chapter 59: I, Shekure.”  Shekure’s cousin Black Effendi has solved the mystery of the murder, and in doing so has proven his masculinity to Shekure.  Because Black spent some time within the West Shekure understood him as masculine.  Yet, when he’s subjected to his own society his gender becomes feminized because of Shekure’s husband’s brother.   Within the binary of East and West Black is conflated—which in turn becomes intricately linked to Shekure’s own problem.   This final chapter examines the relationship between Black and Shekure, East and West, and the violence that begets certain social constructs.

 SHEKURE on her own is not oppressed by anyone.  In fact she plays the game of independence quite well and dictates her own choices in life through the letters she writes to her lovers and friends.  But I am more concerned with what Shekure deems are the two things she’s wanted her entire life:

1. My own portrait; but I knew however hard the Sultan’s miniaturists tried, they’d fail, because even if they could see my beauty, woefully, none of them would believe a woman’s face was beautiful without depicting her eyes and lips like a Chinese woman’s. Had they represented me as a Chinese beauty, the way the old masters of Herat would’ve, perhaps those who saw it and recognized me could discern my face behind the face of that Chinese beauty. But later generations, even if they realized my eyes weren’t really slanted, could never determine what my face truly looked like. How happy I’d be today, in my old age—which I live out through the comfort of my children—if had a youthful portrait of myself!

2. A picture of Bliss: what the poet Blond Nazim of Ran had pondered in one of his verses. I know quite well how this painting out to be made. Imagine the picture of the mother with her two children; the younger one, whom she cradles in her arms, nursing, him as she smiles, suckles happily at her bountiful breast, smiling as well. The eyes of the slightly jealous older brother and those of the mother should be locked. I’d like to be the mother in that picture. I’d want the bird in the sky to be depicted as if flying, and at the same time, happily and eternally suspended there, in the style of the old masters of Herat who were able to stop time. I know it’s not easy…

….The time-halting masters of Herat could never depict me as I am, and on the other hand, the Frankish master who perpetually painted mother-with-child portraits could never stop time. (Pamuk 412-413)

As much as this is about art, Shekure is talking about her own sex—an image of her gendered self.  She represents beauty and independence associated with being a mother and a Feminine woman. But because neither East nor West can understand the gender roles evoked through her sex, none can truly understand or create the image of herself she has in mind.  Isn’t this kind of liberating? Only she has the power to depict her self portrait, when half the novel the miniaturist cannot decide between the true relationship between reality and fantasy.

Misconstrued Images of gender, and it’s imposition between East and West, is what causes Shekure’s oppression.  Her sex has nothing to do with the picture, and in fact her culture respects her individuality as a woman.  Thus her desire for a portrait is a desire for an adequate understanding of who Shekure is.


As you can see, Gender adds more confusion to the East/West binary, and I wonder why that is.  I know not all oppression is the same, but does the universal struggle between East and West gender roles create the major problem facing Women in the East and the West?  Where do we draw the line of differences? Can a woman be an individual and part of the collective at the same time if gender issues remain unresolved?

Why must the concept of gender create said differences?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Occidentalism: The Mindless, Heartless, Mechanical WEST

So far I have not touched on any theoretical work concerning Occidentalism and what exactly it might represent. I provided a very loose definition that is similar to Edward Said’s—that it represents anything that can be considered other than Orientalism.    Yet, clearly there must be more to Occidentalism than an opposition to anything considered Orientalism. 

Before I get into a major work of theory, I’d like to clarify what I have done so far and raise a few more questions.  I find myself posing more questions the deeper I get into this deconstruction study. 

 We know that Orientalism belongs to the West just as Occidentalism belongs to the East. We also know that Orientalism and Occidentalism are based on the process of fear and misunderstanding. 
But where and how far to do we stretch the geographical borders when it comes to understanding these mentalities?  Does everyone have to be from the Orient to be an Occidentalist, and does every have to be from the Occident to be an Orientalist?

What happens when we set geography not as a main factor, but a secondary qualification?

That’s exactly what Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit do because as they see it Occidentalism didn’t exactly establish itself within the far East—Asia and the Middle East.  INSTEAD it was a product of Europeans who were extremely anti-Western—Russians and Germans. BUT let make a clarification because Buruma and Margalit both keep geography in their work.  The West is still considered France and England, but they also see America as another place that represents the “New” West.

In 2004, Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit published a book called Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies.  Interesting, it only took 30+ years for anyone to investigate the opposite of Orientalism (Edward Said published Orientalism in 1978!).  Perhaps this is a declaration of just exactly how strong the binary is, or the hegemonic forces controlling the binary?   Either way, I have a problem with the title of Buruma’s and Margalit’s book.  First, it implies that all Occidentalist are Enemies of the West.  WELL that’s a little radical isn’t it? Edward Said showed that NOT all Orientalist considered the East their enemy.  I guess for the sake of the argument, I will just have to accept the title even if it does seemingly create a seedy picture of Eastern thinkers/intellectuals.

SO what is Occidentalism according to Buruma and Margalit? 

They state that “The dehumanizing picture of the West painted by its enemies is what we have called Occidentalism” (Buruma and Margalit 5).  This concept of dehumanizing reappears within their work over again.  They make the distinction that Occidentalism is not just “distaste for some aspects of modern Western, or American, culture…Symptoms become interesting only when they develop into a full-blown disease…the desire to declare a war on the West for such a reason [is a moment of great importance]”(Buruma and Margalit 5).   What an interesting way to put it, Occidentalism is only important when it becomes a “full-blown disease.” This would mean that Occidentalism only exists when it gets the momentum to start a war of destruction.   Why is that Said never called Orientalism a disease? I mean he highlights the violent domination of a culture, but never actually points out the destruction of a culture.    I wonder why it is that Occidentalism in terms of Buruma and Margalit is nothing but uncontrollable violence against the West.

So far it has been established that Occidentalism is a disease whose main goal is to reduce the West to something non-human.  With that said, I am more interested in the way the West is defined by Buruma and Margalit.   According to Buruma and Margalit, the West is connected to a variety of different concepts, and as such it is defined in relation to these concepts—it is not just directly chained to a geographical space, as I mentioned earlier Occidentalism wasn’t born in the East.  The “Modern” is associated with the West, but what does it mean to be modern (Buruma and Margalit 2)?  Well in simple terms, the Modern=Knowledge and Science=Technological Advances (2).  Therefore we have another binary!  West=Modern/East=Anti-modern.  Buruma and Margalit argue that because the West had “splintered the wholeness of Oriental spiritual culture…Science was to blame. And so were capitalism…and notions of individual freedoms and democracy [for the disease that had infected the East]” (2).   A lot can be gained from this sentence alone.  First the West—in terms of Modernity—is responsible for infecting the Spirituality of being human in the East.   Second, Eastern culture is based on spirituality, and Western culture is based on technology and the benefit of individual freedoms associated with Capitalism.   By forsaking spirituality, the West becomes a mindless mechanical global capitalist.   This is related to the concept of Rationalism—which is associated with the West:

Rationalism is a belief that reason and only reason can figure out the world.  This is tied to the idea that science is the sole source of understanding natural phenomena. Other sources of knowledge, especially religion, are dismissed by rationalist as superstitions.  Then there is political rationalism, which pretends that society can be run—and all human problems solved—by a rational blueprint, guided by general and universal principles.  The arrogant West, in Occidentalist eyes, is guilty of the sin of rationalism, of being arrogant enough to think that reason is the faculty that enables humans to know everything there is to know.  Occidentalism can be seen as the expression of bitter resentment toward an offensive display of superiority by the West, based on the alleged superiority of reason.  More corrosive even than military imperialism is the imperialism of the mind imposed by spreading the Western belief in scientism, the faith in science as the only way to gain knowledge. (95)

I understand what Buruma and Margalit are trying to do, make the argument that Occidentalism is a mode of Anti-Western thought—in fact they call this desire to free the mind from the mechanical west, “Westoxification” (29).  YET, I feel as though they are buying into the binary by doing so.  They set the binary up that the West is more civilized through scientific gain and knowledge.  The East is naturally civilized due to its spirituality.  THE Clashing of natural and un-natural ideology is where Occidentalism is given birth.  But the overall problem I have with these concepts and ideas that Buruma and Margalit present is that Occidentalism covers a variety of different modes of thoughts when it comes to the West.  The only thing that I agree with Buruma and Margalit is the fact that Occidentalism exists as a form of decolonization—decolonization of the mind, society, religion, politics which are all equal to CULTURE!  They never really say this out straight, or I would have not found myself questioning their motives.   OVERALL, I think this is more of a work that tries to not highlight the West in the eyes of its Enemies, but more like the East in the Eyes of its Enemies.   After all, it seems to harp on this notion that the ultimate goal of Eastern intellectuals is the complete and utter dehumanizing destruction of the West.   

These stereotypes appear over and over again within the text, and the West is constantly defined as an ideology, a geographical space, a certain group of people….and so on just as the East is vice versa. 

My overall disagreement comes from the fact that this study on Occidentalism is very broad, and narrow at the same time.   However, I do like the attempt that is made to historicize exact moments of occidental thought, and how geography and space do not limit its creation and production.

Occidentalism is no more a disease than Orientalism.  Labeling it as such is a cop out.  The disease doesn’t lie within the thought of Occidentalism or Orientalism.  The disease is the way each corrupt and instill fear of people who constantly fear the other of their own existence.

 Fear is the disease, not the label. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reversing the Passage: The Orient meets the Occident, Conflating the Binary

So far in deconstructing the binary of Orient/Occident and West/East I have focused specifically on the anthropological discourses and phenomena that define Orientalism and those who practice it. Yet, I think if I am able to deconstruct the binary I must also focus on the concept of crossing borders—the borders that mark the differences between West/East and Orient/Occident. 

So I have established, with the help of Edward Said’s work, that:

1st that the Occident representsàEuropeàEngland and France

2nd that the Orient representsà?à India

I have filled in one part of the Orient half of the binary.  India represents one country that can be covered under the umbrella term of the Orient. I don’t agree with the whole binary, and in fact the point of this class it to show that the differences that have been created are a form of power that is used to separate and create fear.  With that said, I find myself hesitating in filling in a continent where the question mark is when it comes to the Orient.  If I were to fill in the blank I would do so with either the Middle East, or Asia. As of right now these are only hypothetical inferences.  Asia is a continent, and I know the Middle is NOT considered a continent.  Yet, I believe that Edward Said pointed specifically to the Arab world—which is clearly defined as the Middle East and parts of North Eastern Africa. 

So the Middle East is the geographical place in which the Orient is most clearly represented.  

I think it is important to point to specific geographical boundaries when dealing with this binary because Orientalism stems from the fact that people have crossed certain borders and have been introduced to new cultures.  In doing so people that cross borders assign certain feelings and emotions to certain geographical spaces.  As I pointed out in the last post, people even came up with theories about the way people act in conjunction to certain longitudes and latitudes. 

There is no better way to study and deconstruct the binary than by explicating the actions and thoughts of those who navigate between geographical and cultural spaces.   It is within these spaces and border that one can better understand the thoughts and actions that guide the cultural fear that creates the binary in the first place, but I will get to that in a minute.

I haven’t defined what Occidentalism is.  Said points out that it is the opposite of Orientalism, and gives no further explication or definition. WHY?  Simple, we know that the hegemonic force-Orientalism—represents a far greater power in the binary. 

We know this: Orientalism is the mentality, and the colonial discourses, in which the West dealt with the East.  It was so deeply invested that it became an entire culture of its own manifested through politics, science, art and religion.  

Occidentalism would then represent the polar opposite of Orientalism—yes I just stated that Said pointed this out.  Occidentalism then can be defined as the mentality, and the anti-colonial discourses, that arise when the East begins to offset the relationship that has been forced upon it by the West.

I loosely defined the two—Orientalism and Occidentalism—and I’d like to point out the concept that creates a similarity between the two.  Each—for now I will call them mindsets—establish their power from the fact that they exist entirely on the basis of fear.  But not just any fear, it’s a fear based on the projection of difference. Each constantly defines itself in opposition to what it considers “Other.”

I examined a book in which the Occidental took a passage to the Orient, and the ways in which Orientalism projected the process of Othering.  But now I will examine a film in which the Oriental meets the Occident—Bricklane. The movie is an adaptation of Monica Ali’s novel Bricklane.

This film is a great visual representation of both Orientalism and Occidentalism—in fact it does a great job of deconstructing the binary and it shows the way people can shift and become conflicted with the cultural boundaries that define certain societies.

 I say this because the main protagonist, Nazneen, undergoes a transformation and is in essence torn culturally in half by both Orientalism and Occidentalism.  Yet it is not just Nazneen that suffers from the conflict that arises from this binary.   Her husband Chanu, and her daughter Shahna, also suffer from a cultural war that takes place within their own minds over their bodies and the geography that divides the fabric of their very lives.  For the sake of this post I would like to specifically explicate Nazneen’s own experiences.

To understand Nazneen’s own transformation I will focus on a few scenes because I want to argue the fact that Nazneen is first an Occidentalist and then she becomes an Orientalist and rejects the culture that both gave her life and took it away.

Nazneen is forced from her homeland in Bangladesh, and sent to live within the confines of an arranged marriage to Chanu, a man living in England desperate to embrace the money that seems to be the status of English men.  From the beginning of the movie Nazneen states “I always said I will not marry and be sent far away. I will go no farther than these patty fields, but our mother said we must not run from our fate” (Bricklane 1:30).  From the beginning there is a sense of ill boding. After all, Nazneen’s mother commits suicide over the fact that her daughter is to be married off and sent to England.  Fear of that which is different—therefore Nazneen’s own mother was an Occidentalist which is also what Nazneen was. It is interesting that it is marriage, a vital part of culture in Bangladesh, which separates Nazneen from her geographical sense of comfort.  Marriage takes Nazneen’s life, and culture, and instills a fear which permeates the beginning of the film.    After Nazneen is married, and leaves her home, she states that “You can spread your soul over a patty field you can feel the Earth beneath your toes.  You can tell this is the place where your life ends and begins. What can you tell from a pile of bricks?” (Bricklane 6:10).  Disdain for a place that does not accept her for who she is which accompanies the fact that she in turn misunderstands the place she now inhabits.

Nazneen’s life and Occidental mentality changes when she purchases a sewing machine.  Suddenly, her life becomes entangled between two cultures.  The sewing machine represents the bridging of cultures if you will. She meets Karim, and her fear suddenly disappears. But before she meets Karim, and posses a sewing machine, Nazneen is culturally ignorant and her Occidentalism/fear manifest itself through her actions—She walks with eyes cast down, answers “Yes, No, and Sorry”, and speaks in broken language.  Her sari serves as the protection from which she fears and hides her body and minds within its folds.  Yet, when she gets the sewing me machine she changes.  Each week Karim brings fabric, and as Nazneen sews pant together, she begins to unravel the fabric of her own life.  Her sari gets lower, and lower, and eventually Nazneen loses herself in a passionate love affair.  Fear no longer defines her life.  Instead she fears returning to the place that took her life away in the first place.

At this point it is clear that Nazneen finds herself in the position of the Orientalist. She no longer desires to return home, and finds fear in having to. She had found solace in the tenuous letters that defined her and her sister’s relationship. But Karim represents the West in his material success.  But this is quickly changed when two significant events happen—9/11 and the revelation that her sister has become a prostitute.

These two events change Nazneen’s own life.  Karim, her lover, becomes embroiled with a political agenda of making the world believe that Islam is not different, nor does it represent the violent act that created further opposition.  He changes his appearance, no longer Anglicized, and grows his beard out and wears a robe.

She’s once again suspended between the two cultures, forced into a space of confinement because of Orientalism and Occidentalism.

Eventually, she rejects the two and decides for herself exactly what she wants—an identity separate from any man or culture.  Yet, it’s ironic because her freedom resides within the culture that took her life away in the first place.

Unlike her mother she decides to live, and reject the fate that tries to constantly define her life.

I don’t do the movie the visual justice it deserves, nor do I focus on the other characters that deal with the binary on their own.  Yet, this simple explication reveals a lot about the way Occidentalism/Orientalism create conflict within the cultures that practice both. 

They both give life, and they both take life away.  

Is one more civilized than the other?

It’s simple, one is no better than the other.  We must look within the spaces, and the people like Nazneen who occupy those spaces, in order to deconstruct and reject the binary that has firmly controlled those involved.
Am I any better for trying to understand it?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Passage: Knowing, Experiencing, and Being in the Orient

As I distinguished in my first post, Edward Said gives a better description of the Occident and which countries represent the hegemonic control of the Orient. Once again the Occident, according to Said, is made up of two European powers, France and England, and Orientalism is established through the relationship between the two and the Orient. Therefore, we have a place to begin the deconstruction of the Orient/Occident binary through the lens of Said's Orientalism. But just because Said gives greater power to what countries represent the Occident it doesn't mean that one can't discern what constitutes the Orient.

However, let’s not forget that Orientalism is a product of colonialism. So it is through the anthropological discourse of colonialism that it can be understood.  It is colonialism towards which I will turn my task of deconstruction through a comparative study.  I want to continue with understanding the way the Occident/Occidentals understood the East, and will (in the post to come) explicate the way the Orient/Orientals understand the West.

I find it fitting to start with a passage to the theoretical East, but not just any passage. E.M. Forester's A Passage to India is more than just a trip, or a crossing of borders, it's a rite of passage and an introduction to understanding the Orient.

(Definition: Rite of Passage--a ceremony or event marking an important stage in someone's life, especially birth, initiation, marriage, and death (Oxford Reference).)

It's an experience of the way in which English established, and exploited its colonial rule over India and its people.  However, Orientalism is much more than just the discourse in which colonial society was constructed.  It penetrates the psyche of both the colonizer and the colonized, and creates a mental state of fear, discrimination, distrust, and racial hate.

But before any explication can be attempted there are two more passages I would like to visit in Said’s Orientalism because they have to do with controlling the Orient/Oriental and viewing the Orient/Oriental.

I mentioned previous factors/qualifications in my initial post for this class.  There is one final qualification from the “Introduction” that I would like to examine.

The final qualification—or aspect of Orientalism—that Said points out is that:

One ought never to assume that the structure of Orientalism is nothing more than a structure of lies or of myths which, were the truth about them to be told, would simply blow away.  I [Edward Said] believe that Orientalism is more particularly valuable as a sign of European-Atlantic power over the Orient than it is as a veridic discourse about the Orient…Never the less, what we must respect and try to grasp is the sheer knitted together strength of Orientalist discourse, its very close ties to the enabling socio-economic and political institutions, and its redoubtable durability. (6)

The most important part about this passage is that Said points out that the way Orientalism functioned most successfully is that it was an “Enabling” form of discourse.  But what enabled it? Said points out that established Economic/Socio/Political institutions were all factors that Enabled control over the Orient. England had money, the military strength, and the “superior” social position.   But there’s more, control over the Orient stems from a mental state of “European Superiority” and Orientalism depend[ed] for its strategy on [the] flexible positional superiority, which [put] the Westerner in a whole series of relationships with the Orient without ever losing the relative upper hand” (Said 7).

The relationship between the Occidental and the Oriental is important and it comes in many forms.  I will get to that a bit later in this post.  There is one final passage I’d like to visit within Orientalism before I get to A Passage to India and leave Orientalism behind—Chapter 1: “Knowing the Orient.” 

Said states that “Knowledge of subject races or Orientals is what makes their management easy and profitable: knowledge gives power, more power requires more knowledge, and so ion in an increasingly dialectic of information and control” (Said 36).   Well that’s obvious isn’t it? Knowledge is power, and if colonial authority created and instilled a certain knowledge within, and without, the Orient they would be the people in charge.  Knowledge created a strict code that every Orientalist followed.

Said examines the way Lord Cromar (Evelyn Baring) ruled over Egypt and the knowledge he propagated as his seat of power enabled him to do so.  According to Said Lord Cromar established the knowledge (I think it more colonial propaganda than knowledge) that:


“There are Westerners (Said refers to the English) and there are Orientals (Said refers to the Egyptians). The former dominate the latter must be” (36).

Orientals/Arabs—(Said is specific here when it comes to identifying the Oriental) are gullible (38).

To be an Oriental was a crime, period. If an Oriental deviated from any standard behavior predetermined by Colonial authority they were unnaturally a worst criminal (39) Hypocrisy?

Finally, “…the Oriental is irrational, depraved, (fallen), childlike, different” (40).

By clarifying each of these different “knowledges” of the Oriental, Said demonstrates that “the point is that in each of these cases the Oriental is contained and represented by dominating frameworks” (40).


It’s important to understand this final qualification of Orientalism, as well as the way the Oriental is understood, in order to thoroughly explicate the relationship between the English colonial authorities in India during the time period in which A Passage to India takes place.  These two passages provide the framework in which we can understand Orientalism in A Passage to India.


So let's start at the beginning even though we know no two colonial narratives are ever the same but the colonial experience often is.


The setting and place: 1920's India, under British Colonial Control

The Conflict: A Rising Racial Tension between the "Orientals" and the English.

The English: Miss Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, Mr. Cyril Fielding, and Colonel Ronny Heaslop, and the Turtons and the McBrydes. 

The Indian (Or as the English prefer to call them the curios, odd, lowly, Orientals): Dr. Aziz, Professor Godbole.

Each of these characters is divided by their “Race” or I should say their experiences with Orientalism.  I could write a book on the way each of these characters understands their “other” through the lens of Orientalism, but for the sake of time there are a few specific passages I would like to illuminate or examine side by side with Said’s theory.  Take note though that the list of English characters is substantially bigger than the list of Indian characters.  There are only two specific Indian characters that are scrutinized because of Orientalism—Aziz and Godbole.  The other Indian characters that are represented in the book are only recognized as masses of people—inhuman at that for all of their qualifications have to do with their bodies—after Miss Quested renounces Aziz’s crime “Mass of Indians” (Forster 257) to the beautiful punkah (Fan) man when she enters the courtroom (241

The first passage coincides perfectly with Lord Cromar’s beliefs that Said so expertly outlines when he confirms the last qualification of Orientalism.  This passage concerns Mr. McBryde—the District Superintendent of the Police.  He is reflecting on the impending trial about to take place concerning Dr. Aziz’s indecent assault on Miss Quested. Mr. McBryde says to Dr. Aziz “‘I have to detain you until you get bail...But no doubt your friends will be applying for it, and of course they will be allowed to visit you, under regulations. I am given certain information and have to act on it—I’m not your judge.’” (Forster 184).  Mr. McBryde than thinks to himself and reflects that:

[He] was shocked at his downfall, but no Indian ever surprised him, because he had a theory about climatic zones. The theory ran “All un-fortunate natives are criminals at heart, for the simple reason that they live south of latitude 30. They are not to blame, they have not a dog’s chance—we should be like them if we settled here.” Born at Karachi, he seemed to contradict his theory, and would sometimes admit as much with a sad, quiet smile. (184).

This passage is EXACTLY the knowledge of the Oriental that Said points out—it even shows the hypocrisy and invalidity of such knowledge.  Mr. McBryde as a colonial official possesses a certain knowledge of the Orient.  YET, he thinks that Indians are unable to be anything else but criminal.  He goes so far as to feign surprise at Dr. Aziz yet expected it of him all along.  Finally, it demonstrates the “superior” complex that permeated the English conscious—he thinks his superiority stems from the fact that he lives north of latitude 30.  AS IF the physics of geography has any affect on the behavior of any people! The binary of control is one founded on scrupulous principles that are hypocritical and ridiculous! Every colonial official that Forster characterizes has this mindset when dealing with the Indian Orientals.  

Before I end this posts, because there is a lot of sections within A Passage to India that I can explicate in terms of Orientalism I would like to assign different levels of Oriental thought to the key characters within the novel.  Say we were to judge Orientalism on a scale of 1-5-10.

1) This number would represent Pre-Oriental thought

5) This number would represent being stuck between Pre-Oriental thought and Oriental thought

10) This number would represent a full Oriental mentality.

Of course there would be numbers between because each character within the novel responds differently.  However, the numbers represent certain thresholds, or tolerance, of Orientalism.  Let me determine, however, that some characters transcend the whole scale of Orientalism, but ONE can never go back to Pre-Oriental thought/naivety.  Orientalism changes everyone permanently. So let’s apply this theory to the characters. Also, the middle stage is extremely susceptible and can be easily influenced to sway either way.

Figure of Orientalism Scale

Miss Quested: traverses each threshold and becomes fully immersed in Oriental thought—it’s what leads her to accuse Dr. Aziz of such an atrocious act. She arrives in India with pre-conceived thoughts.  Eventually, she becomes a 5 on the Scale of Orientalism. I associate this with guilt for having become an associate of colonial authority.

Mr. Fielding: Occupies a space of 5 on the scale.  Even though he’s takes the side of his Indian friends Godbole and Aziz, he is still bound by his own society.
Mrs. Moore: Is 1 on the Oriental scale of thought.  Her thoughts are always Pre-Oriental, and eventually she leaves India because she cannot stand how Miss Quested occupies the space of Orientalism, a mentality Mrs. Moore never fully understands.
Colonel Hysop: Occupies the space of 10.  He is a full Orientalist that uses his superior position to control the Natives.  He is constantly trying to move his way up the proverbial colonial ladder.
I'm sure many of the other characters can be placed on the scale as well, but the overall point is that Orientalism comes in many different forms, but the types of people never change.

I’d like to end this post pointing out that I believe Forster himself was an advocate for Indians and was extremely against colonial authority and the oriental thought that goes along with colonial rule.  His wide spectrum of characters that occupy the different levels of oriental thought proves this? I admit I’m guilty of analyzing only one side of the Oriental binary, but I did so because I think Said’s theory reveals alout about Orientalism within A Passage to India.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Intro for English 599: A Comparative Study of Orientalism and Occidentalism

It’s good to be back. However, I will skip the formal introductions (I feel no need to repeat my first post, if you want to know about me or my work check it out).

The purpose for this new introduction will be the starting point for the blog posts that follow for the next few weeks. Needless to say, I started this blog for a class on Post-colonial theory/literature, and will continue it—although for the time being for a slightly different purpose, a purpose that will offset the rest of my work as a graduate student. Hopefully it will give me more insight into Orientalism and the thoughts, theories, and ideas that that followed this major piece of post-colonial work.

During my Post-colonial Theory/Literature class, I had the privilege to read an excerpt from Edward Said's Orientalism, specifically the Introduction. His theory had a major impact on me, and I found myself questioning and wanting to learn more. And that's how I came up with the idea to do an independent study, under the helpful guidance of Dr. Clemens. Therefore I would like to begin my attempt to deconstruct the binary of West/East and Orientalism/Occidentalism.

For this first post I will revisit the Introduction for Orientalism for my post next week I will apply portions of Said's theoretical insights to E.M. Forster's A Passage to India.

I’d like to start the deconstruction process with a story:
I was at work one day over Winter break, and a customer asked what I was studying in graduate college. Like the dutiful graduate student I am, I told her politely that I was studying Post-colonial literature and theory—in essence I revealed that I loved reading and learning the differences that define the many cultures of our world.  I then proceeded to tell her that I love to read Arab, African, and Indian literature because I find it so enriching and powerful.  The person then said to me “I sure hope you don’t become a terrorist reading that filth. I might just have to hurt you then.” I was shocked with this response and awkwardly laughed.  I laughed because I was horrified, but then I was horrified that I had no response to such a remark.  

Why didn’t I say something in return?  How does someone respond to such a statement? WHY was this statement was even made in the first place? What does this say about our own culture, and other cultures? What happens when people refuse to respond to such ignorance?

This simple comment was such a powerful one, but I knew it was made out of ignorance. However, it reassured me that my studies have a purpose, and that it is important to understand both sides of the binary in order to establish a place where both sides can finally understand each other. Ultimately I realized that the purpose of my studies is to rectify the damages that arise from these types of comments and statements. 

After all it gave me a place to begin because this anti-Eastern sentiment is a product of modern American orientalism. But this type of thought had to come from somewhere right?

I’d like to give a quick disclaimer before I begin my work, or more like a warning and understanding for myself.

Therefore let’s start at the beginning, but only one beginning because I believe Orientalism has many—Said’s theoretical work of Orientalism.

What is Orientalism?  Edward Said sees:

Orientalism, [as] a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western Experiences. The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other. In addition, the Orient has helped to define Europe (the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience. Yet none of this orient is merely imaginative. The Orient is an integral part of European material civilization and culture. (1)

There are a few concepts that Said establishes within this passage.  Europe is established as the factor of control over the way the Orient is understood.  However, the control is derived from an initial fear of superiority and domination.  The Orient, according to Said, is special because it is seen as the place in which all humanity first has its existence. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Europeans stake a major claim on its existence, not out of superiority but out of inferiority.  A binary is established through this fear.  However, the relationship is one in which the other constantly reaffirms itself through the other’s existence—thus Said calls the Orient Europe’s “cultural contestant.” 

The Orient is a geographical space, and Said sets this binary up as East (Orient) and West(Europe).  However, orientalism transcends geographical space and is present with European society itself because Said states that it is deeply invested in Europe’s material civilization and culture.  This means that Europe depended on the concept of Orientalism as a means of financial stability, and did so under the premise of materialism and material production.

This is a somewhat challenging and broad definition. Yet, Said provides more insight into the way he establishes the Oriental discourse that defines his work.  There are several fundamental aspects to Orientalism all of which are “interdependent” (Said 2).  The first is that any person—be it scholar, artist, scientist, or historian—is a guilty of practicing Orientalistic thought and even though it is primarily a product of European colonialism it still exists today though it is an even broader category than it once was (Said 2).   The second aspect is that Orientalism “is style of thought based upon ontological and epistemological distinction made between “the Orient” and (most of the time) “the Occident””(Said 2).   This means that the Occident—once again this refers to Europe—validates its own existence through defining that which is different from itself.  Difference is the key—I’ll return to the concept of the Other in a future post.  In doing so there are different levels of categorization with the Occident/West/European at the top.  The next aspect is that of “material production” (3). According to Said this is done by corporate reproduction of the Orient by a variety of ways most of which are “making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” (3).  The final aspect of Orientalism is that it focuses on a specific and closely linked relationship between France/Britain and the Orient. 

What Said seems to repeat within his Introduction, is the locus of power and how it is determined through a specific anthropological discourse—one that is extremely unbalanced.  From these definitions it is easy to pinpoint who controls the way Orientalism is understood—it is no surprise that this is Europe.

I’d like to end this post on one more thing that Said states which is really interesting considering the principles he basis for the establishment of Orientalism.    This is the fact that the relationship between Britain, France, and the Orient “is enormously productive even if it always demonstrates the comparatively greater strength of the Occident” (Said 4).

Even though control and domination are the main premise of Oriental thought, it is a binary of production—one that functions for both sides of Orient/Occident.  I noticed that throughout this post I have navigated between different terms when describing the binary. Therefore I want to end this post by matching these terms to each other because I think they reveal something about the binary of power:


Occident=West=Europe=Britain and France

Through these analogies is it clear that the Orient is a much more vague term than the Occident because we can see that Said is very specific in his categorization of the West.   Orientalism, in accordance with Said’s work is one sided and it seems that he neglects to define the Orient on a more specific level.

How do we define the Orient other then the way it is defined by the occident? What countries fall into the category of Orient? Is it ok to group countries and people under one term?

These are all questions I hope to answer as I continue this course.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crossing Borders: A "Global World"

As I was reading through Arif Dirlik's "Third World Criticism in the Age of Capitalism" I couldn't help but feel critically nostalgic--feeling as if some of his ideas are rather outdated, or are presented in a fantasized way. 

It is also one I don't necessarily agree with.  There are several issues that beg to be questioned.

Dirlik highlights the fact that capitalism has become decentered and is no longer dominated by Eurocentrism(Postcolonialisms 577).  Because of this the "transnationalization of production is the source at once of unprecedented global unity and the unprecedentied fragmentation in [the] history of capitalism [and] the homogenization of the globe economically, socially, and culturally is such that Marx's predictions finally seem to be on the point of vindication" (Postcolonialisms 578).

I have to disagree with Dirlik on this one.  THERE is no such existence of  unity in global production and cultures.  In fact I would have to argue that the center of capitalism has not really been "decentered" but "recentered" in a place directly across the sea from Europe.  This place my fellow poco scholars would be the United States of America.   The United States has become a culture of capitalistic nature, even worst than what was going on in the 1960's.   The very fact that Black Friday has turned into "Gray Thursday" and "Cyber Monday" is the very proof one needs for the justification of our "bourgeousis" type society.  The poor want to be richer, so they spend money they don't have, to maintain the appearence that they have expensive taste.  Must I continue? The United States my friend is the new capitalist center, which has begun to assert its own imperialist reach across seas, and then some.   Must we be reminded of the factory fire in Bangladesh this past week killing how many workers? Not to mention they were producing American goods. 

The other issue I have with this statement within Dirlik's work is the fact that cultures have become unified.  Really?? In the United States alone, a person of different ethnicity can not go down the street without illiciting a degrading stare from some culturally ignorant hypocrite.  In fact how many hate crimes against ethnic or racial others are commited within the United States in one day? I don't know the exact statistics, but I would have to guess that they are extremely high.  If a country like the United States who is founded upon the ideals of equality and is the supposed "melting pot" of the world is not culturally unifed, then it is no way possible for the world to become one culture. 

With the way the world looks now, I would have to argue that there is no such concept of a "Globalized World" according to the type that Dirlik outlines. I would have to argue that there are Global Superpowers that extend their imperialistic practices to try and colonize our current world.  I do believe that people are intermixing between cultures, and that people are becoming more culurally aware.  Borders are being crossed, yet there are still powerful divsions between North America, Europe, and Asia.  I would argue that each continent is fighting for global control.  AND if that were to happen our culturally "diverse" world would cease to exist and we would all become mindless global capitalist.

I know my views are somewhat negative, but it is because of the current state of our "Global World" that I am doing my best to become a post-colonial scholar.


I had read the entire book of Rushdie short stories in East, West and I must say the two that really stuck out in terms of globalization were "Good Advice is Rarer Than Rubies" and "At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers." I'm sorry to say but I must make this explication of these text rather short because I have three final papers I need to finish so I will give you my thoughts in a rather short way.

In "Good Advice is Rarer Than Rubies" there is emphasis placed on the discussion between Muhammad Ali and Miss Rehena's eyes.   Miss Rehana wishes to leave her cultural home, India.  Muhammad Ali represents cultural purity--or anti-globalization.  He tries over and over again to convince Miss Rehena not to go and argue for a permit to leave, but alas the tempation for Miss Rehana to leave her own poor statis and travel is great.  However, Muhammad Ali knows the power of money and wealth is the equivalent to the passport he is witholding from Miss Rehena.  It can be implied that Ali was in the possession of a forged passport, therefor he was aiming at improving his own pocket wealth through the process of allowing globalization. Overall the story, plays with the concept of identity, and the crossing of borders--eventually Miss Rehena passes the colonial interagation that will alow her to leave.  She passes through the colonial gaze, and gains her ticket to globalization.

In "At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers", the concept of global capitalism is at its finest.  The ruby slippers represent one of the most important piece of capitalist propoganda for they come from a movie that would become a global hit, The Wizard of Oz.  When it first premiered in 1939 the movie grossed 3,017,000 dollars (IMDB) but after each realease it gained more and more gross income.  However, whats important is that The Wizard of Oz has become a global icon, to the equivalent of Star Wars. Everyone knows these iconic movies, and the Ruby Slippers are the most iconic.  Everyone has travelled from all over to see and bid for the Ruby Slippers including "politcal refugess, conspirators, deposed monarchs, defeated factions, poets, bandit chieftens" (91).  The people stand and "pools of saliva begin to form" (90).  The low down people, and the higher up people come and are unifed in wanting this one object--a pair of ruby slippers.

However, the most important passage of this short story is the one that reads:
We revere the ruby slippers because we believe theycan make us invulnerable to witches...because of their powers of reverse metamorphosis, their affirmation of a lost state of normalcy in which we have almost ceased to believe and to which the slippers promise us we can return; and because they shine like the footwear of gods. (92)
There is longing in this passage, a want to revert to what was before.  Yet, it is only through the capitalistic practices that the people can regain their salvation.  To revert from a globalized society, to become something other more defined in ones own culture. 

Both these short stories were awesome, but I have more to say about where I want to go and what I have learned.


 As a post-colonial scholar I feel like we can learn the secrets, and create the vocabulary, that can help us become better global citizens by promoting dialogue between cultures and people that are different.   Some might say that as a White American Male I couldn't possibly succeed in the field of post-colonial studies because I don't understand or live in a post-colonial society. I couldn't possibly understand what it's like to be colonized and fight against the types of injustices that occur everyday in our post-colonial world.  Sometimes I feel like I am intruding in a field that isn't my own cultural inheritance. But then I realize that I know what its like to suffer the colonial gaze, to have the government control my body, to suffer injustice at the ideology of sexual oppression. I also realize that colonization is EVERY person's inheritance in this world.  Afterall, the first humans were nomads who migrated across millions and trillions of frozen Earth to populate it, we are more interconnected than we like to think.  As a post-colonial scholar I want to seek to create healthy cultural relationships, understand the world in terms of its diverse people. I also want to understand sexuality and its place in different cultures.  I want to rectify the division that global capitalism has created within our  every changing world.

Above all though  I want to question the existence of homosexuality in the Arab world, because homosexuality has been such a major issue in my own world. 

This is where I see myself going as a post-colonial scholar.

As for now, I will continue my journey to understanding our post-colonial world.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Colonized Desire: "S/he yearns for two things only: To be loved, of course, and to be safe."

There are those in the Post-colonial world of theory that believe that homosexuality doesn't exist in the colonized world.  In fact theorist, like Franz Fanon and Joseph A. Massad, believe that homosexuality in the colonized world is, and was, a product of colonial taint, enforced upon the indigenous people by the colonizers.   However, I like to think that homosexuality did exist in the world of the colonized way before the Europeans showed up—sexual acts between people of the same sex were normal, not questioned as obscene, nor even given a name.  In fact love between two men, or women, was considered the purest form of love.   It is only when Europeans showed up and introduced the politics of heterosexism that are completely ingrained in post-colonial societies today, where the violence and persecution against homosexuals is extremely violent.  In doing so, the colonizers declared that sexual relations between people of the same sex were abhorrent homosexual acts condemned by the religious doctrines of Christianity.

Whatever the case, somewhere along the line the concepts of sex and gender became completely misconstrued, and policing of sexuality in the post-colonial world is a result of this misconstruing. 
The Caribbean is a post-colonial society where sexuality is policed through gendered behavior.  In fact the Caribbean is a special place when it comes to colonization and sexuality, because it is a place full of people from many cultural backgrounds—both West and East—who have different views when it comes to sexual behavior.  Because the Caribbean was a place of violent colonization and decolonization, sex became the new way to either control—whether it is colonization or decolonization.

Before I get to the readings for this week, I’d like to introduce some of my own theory on the way sexuality is constructed within the Caribbean.  I build off of the works of social oppression theorists to construct the way in which sexuality can be understood within the Caribbean.

Here is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on sexuality within the Caribbean. It focuses on the way homosexual men are forced into a space of sexual hybridity within the nation of Cuba.  I am in no way assuming that the way homosexuality is treated in Cuba is the way it is treated for the entirety of the Caribbean.  The colonial story varies from country to country.  However, several nations have created laws against homosexuality, and more times than not, homosexuals are forced to hide their sexuality through gendered behavior. 
You will notice in my paper that I bring up the concept of sexual hybridity, and I explain the reason why homosexual men are forced into this space of sexual enunciation.   

To better understand this concept I would like to focus on two of the readings for this week.  The first is one of my personal heroes and role model, Reinaldo Arenas.  For those who don’t know who Arena’s is, I suggest you read the rest of his memoirs, or see the movie, Before Night Falls.   “Eroticism” is a chapter from these memoirs.  To make a long, and important, story short Arenas was a political hero for homosexuals in Cuba.  He fought long and hard to write novels against the Castro Regime—ironically a regime he helped put into power.  Many of his manuscripts were confiscated by police, as well as homosexual men who were “supposedly” his friends.  Arenas was exiled to the United States in the Mariel Boat Lift in 1980—Castro finally gave those who wanted to leave, who he called the scum of the Earth, the permission to do so.

I hope you take the opportunity to learn more about Arenas because he was truly an amazing person. 
“Eroticism” was the first piece I read of Arenas, and it helped form the topic for my undergraduate colloquium paper.  Plus, it helped me decide where I want to situate myself in the field of post-colonial studies—homosexuality within the post-colonial world.  I’d like to point out that Arenas uses autobiographical anecdotal writing to create a gay aesthetic—this process is what Audre Lorde first called biomythography.  Biomythography combines narrative form with autobiographical form to convey one’s own personal life with other homosexuals—somewhat similar to the mbari process.  It is used to celebrate queer life within the Caribbean by uniting, and embracing other homosexuals.  

The first autobiographical anecdote that Arena describes in “Eroticism” is of a young male who he and his friend Tomasito La Goyesca met while on a bus.  Arena’s narrates that “the young man had signaled Tomasito several times and touched his very erect penis. [But] when Tomasito grabbed it, the man reacted violently, beat him up, and called him, and all of us queers” (34).  From this little bit of narration, it is clear that the man was obviously interested in both Arena and Tomasito, yet when approached for a sexual handout he was unable to cross the liminal threshold and identify as a homosexual man even though his erect penis said otherwise.  Arena later narrates that Tomasito had accidently switched wallets with the violent man who turned out to be “an official of the Ministry of the Interior” (34).  

Arena comments that “[This] man, who was persecuting us for being gay, probably wanted nothing more than for us to grab his penis, rub it, and suck it right then. Perhaps this kind of aberration exists in all repressive systems” (35).  Arena is not only describing the psychological oppression that the official was facing, but that something was preventing him from acting out what was obviously his same-sex sexual desire. It also shows that even people in power during the revolution were forced to act out the laws of nationalism.   In this case the official was acting out his repression through violence because of his inability to cross the liminal threshold into same-sex desire, a product of his place within the government.

Another place where Arena describes the representation of sexual hybridity and gender identification is when he is the recipient of a brutal beating by a man he has had sex with.  Arena recounts this violent memory and says that:

Things were settled with a look, asking for a cigarette...The young man accepted, and once  inside my room, surprisingly asked me to play the role of the    man. Actually that gave me pleasure to, and the man went down on me.  I fucked him and enjoyed it like a convict. Then, still naked, he asked me, “And if anybody catches us here, who is the man?” He meant who fucked whom. I replied perhaps a little cruelly, “Obviously, I am  the man, since I stuck into you.” This enraged the young man…and he started to throw     me against the low ceiling…I was getting an awful beating… [and] I was afraid to die. (41)

Arena shows that even the physical act of sex doesn’t escape the oppressive chains of heterosexism and gender identity.  Masculinity is equaled to the act of performance and insertion, and femininity is labeled as submissive and receiving. Because Arena challenged the young man’s masculinity he was seen as challenging the systems of gender that embody the physical act of sex.   Arena himself identifies his act as that of a “convict” because he is taking away his sexual partner’s masculinity. This results in sexual hybridity being forced upon both participants through gender identification, and sexual freedom is denied from taking place.

The final part of “Eroticism” Arena describes, in autobiographical form, the setbacks he faced while writing down his memoirs, manuscripts, and novels.  He writes that “By the year 1969 I was already being subjected to persistent harassment by State Security, and I feared for the manuscripts I was continually writing” (49). He juxtaposes the appropriation of his writing by the government, to how the sea “[was] a way to escape from the land where were repressed; perhaps in floating on the waves we escaped our cursed insularity” (49).    His writing served as a way to express the repression he was experiencing at the hands of gay men and the government which wreaked havoc on his sexual identity.   Because he was making his voice known, and not conforming to sexual repression, he became visible as betraying the gender of the nation.  So because his writing was compromised—an intimate part of his identity—the sea, a place separate from land/nation, was the only escape from the daunting confines of heterosexism.  

The second reading that I would like to focus on for this post is Thomas Glave’s “Whose Caribbean? An Allegory, in Part.” Thomas Glave is from Jamaica and is an activist who fights for gay rights.  In fact, he helped create an organization called the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays( J-FLAG).  He is also the editor of Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing From the Antilles—the first anthology of Gay Caribbean Literature.  (The readings for this week come from this book, which I am extremely fond of!).   
This short allegory/political speech is full of questions on sexuality, gender, and democracy.  However, it’s interesting that Glave would use the term allegory, because it is significant to a National allegory—which connects both heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals. (Refer to my blog post on National thought).  I call it a speech because it switches from narrative to speech half way through the text.  But what is most interesting is that Glave manifest the concept of sexual hybridity through his narrator/protagonist.  The manifestation of sexual hybridity functions as a way to unite both sexes—in essence a connection between homosexuality and heterosexuality.  In the very beginning the narrator states:

 I am fairly certain…that the child was both female and male—a common enough occurrence in that place of the child’s origin at that time, as, contrary to numerous  prevailing opinions, happens frequently today. The child—let us know him/her as “s/he”—possessed a slender penis of startingly delicate gree…s/he also possessed a pair of luminous blue breasts…The child also possessed a vagina and uterus, which, as was             common knowledge among all who knew him/her, produced at least two or three times     per year (Glave 177).

Glave uses gendered pronouns and connects the two, but let us remember that gender is a social creation so by doing so Glave is deconstructing the binary of he and she by combining the two. A manifestation of sexual hybridity through gendered pronouns.  WOW!!! He also uses physical reproductive organs, penis and uterus, to "re-gender" a human being. Glave, as a gay political activists is “Hope[s] that [they] could engender social and political change in a nation that , broadened through [their] efforts, would ultimately be worthy of all Jamaicans:a nation welcoming to all, irrespective of sexuality and perceived gender transgressions.

As I was reading through Glave's narrative, I reverted back to Spivak’s assertion that the subaltern cannot speak.  Maybe I reacted too harshly to this idea. Even though I am gay I live in a society where I can express it freely without fear of consequence.  I must say I have to reformulate my own opinion on this subject.  If sexual hybridity exists, and homosexuals are forced to conceal their sexuality within the space of sexual enunciation then in fact they cannot speak authentically—thanks Cait Turner for making me question this.  They are forced to share “Darkness and silence…For all time….un-voicedness, complete despair” (Glave 179).  They can only demonstrate their sexuality—which in essence serves as their “voicedness”—through heterosexual norms.  However, Glave by “gathering” these narratives, poems, and speeches work to give an authentic voice that isn't suppressed or colonized by heterosexism. Instead their voices work to un-colonize their sexual desire which is policed through gender and sexual politics. 

Homosexual desire in the colonial world is often met with forceful resistance.  It is often considered disgusting, taboo, and unnatural.  It isn't that homosexuality doesn't exist in the colonial world. Instead it is re-colonized by the colonized. Therefore, sexuality, a significant aspect of culture, is appropriated and distorted so that it can never be purely the same.