As established and practised in the Anglo-American academy, postcolonial theory has been largely oblivious to non-western articulations of self and identity, and has thus tended to interpellate the non-western cultures it seeks to foreground and defend into a solidly Eurocentric frame of consciousness. Postcolonial theory thus operates with the paradoxical tension of relying on the secular, European vocabulary of its academic origins to translate non-secular, non-European experiences. Despite brilliant attempts to elucidate (or perhaps theorize away) this dilemma, the question of the non-western Other's agency remains suspended and unresolved, while the material conditions that generate a culture of dubious virtues (such as "hybridity" and "identity politics") acquire more theoretical legitimacy. The question finally is: Will the subaltern be allowed to speak?
Majid's paper, based on the argument advanced in his recently published book, Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World (Duke 2000), explores the work of Bobby Sayyid, Antonio Negri, and Michael Hardt to argue that the double critique of capitalism and the various forms of culturalism remains indispensable for establishing a more humane and egalitarian global civilization.
Last modified: 7 May 2001