[Colonial & Postcolonial Theory]

The Performative and Processual: A Study of Hypertext/Postcolonial Aesthetic


Part Two: The Performative and the Processual

Jaishree K. Odin, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Lanham's static AT/THROUGH oscillation in the hypertext environment would become dynamic if it was conceived in terms of the performative and processual. The performative in the hypertextual environment is the dominant Western/patriarchal cultural text and the processual is the space of the reader's/writer's actual experience of these texts, shaped by the multiple subject positions that the reader occupies based on gender, race, class, and sexual orientation. The split space between the two thus becomes the site of the minority voice and minority discourse. The processual thus marks the gap or the interstitial space where the same is reiterated with and in difference in the contemporareinity of the present moment.

Theorizing the hypertext environment in terms of the performative and the processual denies supremacy to any cultural text as no text can exist apart from the living experience of these texts. The notions of purity and mythic origins belong to the linear temporality of print aesthetic which must seek claims to an origin in order to justify its end‹something that has been reinforced by western colonialism, nationalism, and the scientific materialism of the preceding centuries. Hypertext aesthetic is rooted in active and interactive reading like oral storytelling. Multilinear narratives of hypertext can be regarded as a return to oral story telling which Walter Benjamin reminds us "permits that slow piling one on top of the other of thin, transparent layers which constitutes the most appropriate picture of the way in which the perfect narrative is revealed through the layers of a variety of retellings" ( 93). Benjamin's lamentation about the death of storytelling in the age of information finds its apotheosis in the birth of hypertext, since hypertext marks the beginning of storytelling once again. The linear and horizontal temporality leading to closed texts of both the East and the West is rejected in the decentered and non-hierarchical hypertext environment where both texts and subjectivities are experienced as processual entities whose essence does not lie in synchronous presence but in asynchronous realization of moments of repetition and difference. Here the past of long time ago and the future of over beyond are both joined in the contemporeneity of the present which gives an improvisational character to any hypertext/postcolonial experience.

Such a theorizing rejects binary dualism of the Western and Eastern culture and intead opens the western/patriarchal cultural text from within and shows how it is comprised of heterogeneous discourses which speak through the gaps and the interstitial spaces. Without seeking for origins in the East or the West, such an approach also brings out the intertextuality and interdisciplinarity of texts. The liberatory nature of electronic media then does not lie in its capacity for disembodiment nor does it lie in its providing a virtual stage on which we can perform roles where we leave our embodied existence because that departure from our material bodies can only be a chimera. The real potential of this media lies in the creation and experience of art forms as well as genuine virtual communities where materiality and virtuality of the body are not two different states of being but they coalesce in the moment of interaction.

Postcolonial OV PoCo Theory Themes