Imperialism describes thedomination of one society toanother. Thus we can talk ofFrench or Americanimperialism in terms of thesphere of control that eachcountry exercises over otherparts of the world.
Colonialism describes moredirect control by settlement andmilitary subjugation. Examplesare the Spanish colonization ofSouth America or the Britishcolonization of India. Inpractice, however, these termsare used interchangeably.
Both terms refer to the period afterdecolonization and the end offormal colonial rule, butneocolonialism refers to thecontinuing control of suchcountries by imperial powersthrough military, political, andeconomic means, despite theirformal independence.
Neocolonialism ischaracterized by domination offormer colonies‟ economies bylarge transnationalcorporations and theirdependence on the export ofnatural resources and theimport of manufactured goods.
Postcolonial theory, by contrast, is acatch-all term for the theories thathave analyzed at least four distinctareas: (1) imperial cultures; (2) thecultures of resistance that opposedimperialism; (3) the cultures ofdecolonized states; (4) the relationshipbetween 1st World Metropolitan and 3rdWorld cultures.
Politics now is as much abouttextual politics or sexual politicsbecause it is about elections andparty activism. This change isbased on a set of understandingsof the world, many of which weowe to the work of theorists whothink considers it in terms of„power‟ and „power relations‟
Sexual / Textual Politics:ideas and activities that areconcerned with how poweris shared between men andwomen, and how thisaffects their relationships.
Power has become a key term incultural studies and is used in theinterpretation of the whole range ofcultural practices and products. So,if we take „politics‟ as the kingdomof power relations in general, thenit has expanded its definition tocover all social and culturalrelations, not just those of class.
We now hear of the politics ofmasculinity, queer politics, the politicsof vision, and the politics of identity.We could argue that it is bound upwith a whole series of „new socialmovements‟, most prominently thewomen‟s liberation movements; antiracist movements; lesbian and gaymovements; peace, green and anti-globalization movements.
In turn, these new politicalmovements have been responded toin various ways by new politicalideologies – of the „New Left‟ andthe „New Right‟ – which have alsochallenged the usual definitions ofpolitics, though in quite differentways.
It is important to stresstherefore that, alongside abroadening of many politicalagenda towards what we mightcall „cultural politics‟, therehas also been a series oftransformation in formalpolitics.
Examples are the collapse of theSoviet Union; the Germanreunification; the end of nation-states like Czechoslovakia and thecreation of Macedonia; theEuropean Union; the end ofWarsaw Pact, but the expansionof its adversary NATO; etc.
Our concern with culture and politics (orcultural politics) is, therefore, not justthe understanding of culture as political.We mainly want to address how formalpolitics – the world of political parties,parliaments, bureaucracies, stateformation, protest movements and therest are cultural, and how they becomegrounds of contested meaning ratherthan places of privileged sanctity andpower.
In this chapter, we will lookat examples of culturalpolitics that are concernedwith legitimation,representation, andperformance.
By legitimation, it meansthe way in whichindividuals and groupspresent themselves as theauthentic and lawfulholders of power.
Historically, the originallegitimating claim to the rightto rule in many societies is theclaim to divine right. Accordingto this claim, the ruler isappointed by divine power torepresent the interest of thepeople.
Therefore, religionfurnishes the authority bywhich rulers secure theconsent of the ruled.Government is legitimatedby using the religiousculture of the society.
Representation can mean twodifferent things in relation topolitics and culturerespectively. Politicalrepresentation refers to the wayin which rulers claim torepresent the people over whomthey rule.
However, representation has adifferent but connectedmeaning in the context ofculture, where it means „asymbol or image, or the processof presenting to the eye ormind.‟
These two things come togetherin the context of culturalpolitics. A politicalrepresentative must representthemselves and their principles,convictions, and opinion asimage of those whom theyclaim to represent.
Thus, to continue the exampleof divine right, this kind ofgovernment involved theappropriation of religiousimagery in order to representthe ruler as symbolizing divineauthority.
“Dei Gratia Regina” – By theGrace of God“Fidei Defensor” – Defenderof Faith
In a state where rule waslegitimated by divine power,intervention by or against therules normally also took itsauthority from religion. In thiskind of conflict, each side neededto legitimate itself as the proper,lawful defender of religion.
We would also argue that, in allthese cases, claims to legitimacyand battles over representation area matter of performance. Politics isalways a performance howevereach side claims to represent thetruth, in a debate, each participantmust perform a role through whichthey enact their position.
Antonio Gramsci understoodpolitics as a „war of positions‟, amuch more general conflict inwhich politics is fought out in allthe institutions of civil society –religion, the media, andentertainment. He argued thatculture can act to fortify politics.
Cultures of PoliticalPower:The Cultural Politicsof Democracy in 19thCentury Britain
The politics of 19th century Britainwere characterized by the demandfor suffrage by the majority of thepopulation who didn‟t have thevote. The Reform Bill of 1832increased the electorate from220,000 to 670,000 men in apopulation of 14 million.
The Reform Bill of 1867 extendedthe franchise to all malehouseholders in the borough,leaving voteless lodgers andworkers outside the parliamentaryboroughs. Women were denied thevote until 1920.
Conventional politics, that is thepolitics of governments andpolitical parties, appears at first tobe least open to a discussion ofcultural politics. However, closerexamination reveals thatconventional politics areconstructed by and through culture
Analysis of the cultural politicsof the British parliament isinterested in how therepresentation of tradition issustained and performed – inother words, how tradition hasto be made and remade.
One example that demonstrates thecultural politics of conventionalpolitics would be the way thatpoliticians dress. Their dress codescan be seen as evidence that therole of parliamentary politician isnot something to which individualsare born, but have to perform.
For example, male members ofthe Conservative Partycommonly wear business suitwhen they are in London butare often filmed wearing tweedjackets when they giveinterviews in theirconstituencies on weekends.
These two „uniforms‟ allow thepolitician to perform a particularrole which signifies somethingabout the kind of politics theyrepresent. The business suit iscommonly worn by men who workin London and might be seen tosignify knowledge and control offinancial matters.
The tweed jacket, on the otherhand, has association of moreleisured, rural, upper-class life.The two dress codes indicate thedifferent aspects of the male MP‟slife. During the week, he‟s anefficient worker in London; onweekends, he leads a more leisuredexistence in his rural constituency.
It is easy for such codes to becomenaturalized as normal dress forpoliticians, so that they gounquestioned. The fact that theperformance of being a politician isenacted through dress codes onlybecomes apparent when they aretransgressed in a public way.
One example of transgression inthe sphere of conventionalparliamentary politics occurred inNovember 1981 when the leader ofthe Labor Party, Michael Foot,attended the ceremony at theCenotaph in London tocommemorate those who died inthe two World Wars.
We can clearly see from theseexamples that conventional politicalidentities are performed within sharplydefined cultural boundaries. Culturalexpectations are a key determinant ofpolitical identities and thus cultureitself is an enormously powerful factorin limiting the terrain on whichtraditional politics is conducted.
Bureaucracya system for controlling ormanaging a country, companyor organization that isoperated by a large number ofofficials who are employed tofollow rules carefully.
Max Weber argued that what he called“characteristics of bureaucracy” or“modern officialdom” could be setapart from the ways in which otherforms of rules operated. For example,they‟re different from oldermonarchical states where theadministration was an extension of theking‟s household run by patronageand tradition.
Bureaucracy is a rationallyorganized and objective systemwhose rules operate „withoutregard for persons‟ rather than onthe basis of doling out personalfavors or on the basis of tradition.What all this suggest is that it issomehow outside the sphere ofculture.
However, if you study it carefully,you‟ll notice that bureaucracy is amatter or performances, identities, andpower. The way buildings look makesstatements about what goes inside, forexample, animals on the Ministry ofAgriculture, Food, and Fisheries andthese small signs help to make thesemore than just anonymous officeblocks.
Bureaucracy society forms „a concreteenvironment from which eachindividual obtains his own identity.‟Indeed, as in all workplaces, there is acomplex process by which theorganizational culture shapes theidentities that are available to workers,so we need to understand organizationand identities at the same time.
Anne Witz and Mika Savage haveargued that these organizational formscan be seen to „rest upon particulargendered foundations‟. Instead ofbeing a matter of technical efficiency,bureaucracy is seen to be a matter ofsocial and power relations. They showhow hierarchies within bureaucracieshave been gendered.
Example, the employment of womenwithin subordinate, often clerical,offices was essential to guaranteeingmeritocratic career structures for malebureaucrats. Moreover, they show howthese careers are also dependent onhaving a wife at home to do all thework necessary to send the bureaucratback to the office, day after day, clean,fed, rested, and ready for work.
As Savage and Witz argue, women are„housekeeping‟ in the office as well asat home. They are facilitating,cleaning, tidying, bolstering, soothing,smoothing over, sustaining, andrelieving men if having to bother withmessy, untidy, unpredictable bodilymode of existence. Therefore, genderis there right at the root ofbureaucracy.
Moreover, the bureaucratic life is avividly emotional one where onebonds and divisions between men –young and old – animate workinglives via a struggle to maintain amasculine identity: an identitywhich is strongly heterosexualwhile operating throughhomosocial relationships.
It should be clear now thatbureaucracy needs to beunderstood as cultural, as part ofthe world of cultural politics. Itinvolves questions of performanceand identity which cannot simplybe understood as matters oftechnical rationality.
According to Peter Corrigan andDerek Sayer, states define in greatdetail the acceptable forms andimages of social activity andindividual. Its statements can beseen in the monuments that iterects and maintains (including thebureaucratic buildings that we haddiscussed).
These monuments give meaning tocertain and carefully selectedgroups, institutions, people, places,and events. In the process, theyalso make those groups, people,institutions, and so on by markingthem as important and definingthem in certain ways.
For example, theVictoria Monument– erected between1908 and 1911 as amemorial to theQueen – stands infront of BuckinghamPalace and at a pointwhere several majorroads meet.
Along with the palace, it is part ofthe marking of the symboliccenter through the monarchy,showing in its grandeur and massof symbolic figures theimportance and moral virtues thatthe states associate with itssymbolic head.
It also marks this place as thecenter of Empire. Each of thegates through which we must passto approach the monument has itsgateposts inscribed with the nameof an imperial dominion: Southand West Africa, Australia,Canada, the Malay States, etc.
The ways in which thissymbolism is gendered iscrucial. The figure on the sideof the monument facingBuckingham Palace is awoman suckling a baby. Itsymbolizes that Victoria is themother of the nation.
This symbolic marking is astatement about power,monarchy, nation and empirewhich presents a particularversion of how they are related.Thus, Victoria monument triedto legitimate Britain‟s imperialpower.
As you can see, the practice offiring missiles is represented bya woman. More importantly,the destructive power of theBritish Navy is represented bya maternal figure: a motherwho cradles a cannon in herarms as if it were a baby.
By representing gunnery as amother, the statue makes astatement about warfare as anatural action, and of the navyas a protecting force ratherthan an institution built uponviolence.
Another one of the few statuesto a woman in the city is EdithCavell, who was a nurse whotrained in England and movedto Belgium in 1906 to helpestablish a training school fornurses.
Edith Cavell is presented as afigure that Klaus Theweleit hascalled the „white nurse‟. Thisimage was used by both the Britishand the Germans in WW1 toencourage soldiers and to justifythe punishing and killing ofwomen whose political and militaryaction made them „impure‟
For the Germans, shewas a spy – an evilwoman whose position asa nurse made her crimeall the worse. She had tobe shot.
For the British, her deathmeant that she could bepresented as a martyred„white nurse‟ and her imageused to demonize theGerman enemy for theirinhumanity.
The monument carries the thewords „Humanity‟, „Devotion‟,„Sacrifice‟, and „Fortitude‟ andthe inscription „Faithful untoDeath‟. This stresses how EdithCavell is less important thanthe values and moralities thatshe might inspire the nation.
Instead of topping a pedestal, she isbacked and overshadowed by agrey stone block. Finally, themonument is capped by ansymbolic woman and baby. Thebaby is protected by the maternalfigure while she also gazes into thedistance.
In the contrary, monuments arealso sites of resistance to themeaning that they try to fix.Indeed, it is the power ofmonuments as symbols that setsthem up as sites where challengesto authority can hit at what thepowerful hold most dear.
For example, in 1871, thecolumn erected in the PlaceVendome as a monument to theEuropean and imperialvictories of Napoleon‟s GrandArmy was pulled to the groundand its destroyers dancedamong the rubble.
In part, this was a workers‟ revolt,many of them women; in part, itwas a massive rent strike; in part itwas a revolt of the city against theprovinces; in part it was a battleover who had the right to definewhat sort of city Paris should be.
“The Vendome column is France, yes,the France of yesteryear, the Francethat we no longer are, alas! It‟s reallyabout Napoleon, all this, it‟s about ourvictories, superb fathers moving acrossthe world, planting the tricolored flagwhose staff is made of a branch of thetree of liberty.-Catulle Mendesan observer and opponent of the Commune
It may have been a symbolicgesture of resistance, but its targetwas evidently a good one. A morecontemporary example of symbolicresistance can be seen in thetoppling of the giant statue ofSaddam Hussein in Baghdad inApril 2003.
However, resistance here iscircumscribed, as it is located within thecontext of the spread of US imperialismsince the events of 9/11 in 2001. Thissymbolic gesture of resistance istherefore as much a celebration of USimperialism and military might as it is aform of resistance symbolizing theIraqis‟ dissatisfaction with SaddamHussein‟s regime.
Therefore, on the one hand,monuments give meanings andmarkings to the specific people,places, qualities, etc. that theyrepresent. On the other hand it canalso be the sites of resistance to themeanings that they try to fix.
What is resistance?Resistance is a kind ofcounter power always likelyto surface in response topower‟s expression.
What is transgression?Transgression involvesexceeding the acceptableboundaries set byestablished customs,hierarchy and rules.
Carnivalesque is a term used in theEnglish translations of workswritten by the Russian criticMikhail Bakhtin, which refers to aliterary mode that challenges andreleases the assumptions of thedominant style or atmospherethrough humor and chaos.
Julia Kristeva‟s view of thecarnivalesque suggests thatits transgressions actuallyequalize the power relationsbetween the official law andthat which challenge it.
Carnivalesque discourse breaksthrough the laws of a languagecensored by grammar andsemantics and at the same time, isa social and political protest. Thereis no equivalence, but ratheridentity between challengingofficial linguistic codes and officiallaws.
This section gives some examplesof political protests which are alsoperformances that challengepolitical power in an attempt totransform it. One example isduring the periods of militarydictatorship in Argentina andChile.
Women used various types ofsymbolism as part of their protestsin an attempt „not just to getwomen to participate more intraditional politics, but to find waysof engaging in politics.‟ Theycarried photos of their children andmissing people, covered their headswith kerchiefs and used silence.
An even starker example of the useof culture to make a politicalstatement was the use of theChilean national dance, theCuenca, by Chilean women whoserelatives had disappeared. TheCueca is usually performed by aman and a woman.
Wives of political prisoners who„disappeared‟ during the Pinochetdictatorship (1973-89) danced theCueca alone in public, to make thepoint how the regime‟s repressionhad destroyed the families andnatural culture it was claiming topreserve.
The Cueca was alsoappropriated as a form ofprotest by gay men in Chile,who danced together to protestagainst the regime‟s familypolicy which denied thelegitimacy of gay relationships.
Kiss-ins and public marriageceremonies between lesbians andgay men have been used in Londonby the group called „Outrage‟ toattract maximum press attention tolaws that discriminated againstsame-sex relationship.
In San Francisco, USA and inSydney, Australia, gay and lesbiancarnivals have appropriated thetraditional forms of cross-dressing,satirical floats and parodic styles asa way of asserting the diversity oflifestyles that exist in those cities.
Marriage is aHUMAN RIGHT,not aHETEROSEXUALPRIVILEGE.
Asking you forEQUAL HUMAN RIGHTSimplies that it is for you togive. What I‟m asking youis NOT to deny me theEQUAL HUMAN RIGHTSthat we all deserve.
These performances are politicaland cultural both in theirsubversion of the expected normsof public behavior and in theirskillful use of the media toannounce the presence of lesbianand gay men and women in thepolitical scene.
Cultures of resistanceare, therefore, mosteffective when theyinvolve the symbolicperformance of somekind of cultural conflict.
The Satanic Verses weredeliberately transgressive in theircriticism of the post-independencegovernment of India and Pakistan.The author had also beenconsistently critical of racism ofEngland, where he has lived sincehe was 14.
The Satanic Verses‟ centralidea is the way in whichthings that are consideredsacred in one culture aretreated irreverently whenthey come into contact withother cultures.
In The Satanic Verses, the nameMahound, an insulting referenceto Prophet Mohammed, is given toone of the characters. Thenarrators „s argument is that it ispossible to reappropriate this name,as a part of reinterpretation ofmyth in the context of the modernworld.
There is complicity with and a failureto get rid of the official dominantculture. The Satanic Verses affairillustrates many of these problems, notleast the difficulty of defining what isthe official or ruling law and what canbe counted as oppositional culture.These problems are, however, the verymeat and drink of cultural politics.