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The Empire Writes Back…Back: Postcolonial Studies in an Age of Autogenic War

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Abstract:

This essay attempts to disclose a uniquely volatile nexus that implicates – and perhaps, reinvigorates – a postcolonial analytics of insurgency. This nexus includes three strands of inquiry: the first is the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), which really is – albeit in a qualified sense – revolutionary. War is doing new things with time and space through culture, media, and data technology, and in the process is mutating not only what it means to be a part of this or that national group but is also changing what it means to be human. The second strand of inquiry focuses on the legacy of postcolonial studies, particularly the notion of ‘writing back’ which, I contend, is an apposite starting point for writing critically about the RMA. Apposite though it is, there are limits to postcolonial studies in the contemporary war context. This is so because while the divisions of individual difference are shifting, the coherence of the nation state itself is undergoing radical change. Moving outward in scope to a planetary scale, the human being per se is no longer a primary category by and for which war is happening today. Thus the third strand of inquiry is focused on the residual anthropomorphic tendencies within postcolonial studies that too narrowly limit discussions of violence and collective belonging. The concept of the human being per se remains reliant on early models of technology and media (namely, writing and literature, usually novels). Therefore, in the context of an ever-expanding global war machine, ‘writing back’ is a concept that requires fine-tuning and revision.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14735784.2012.657914

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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