top of page

Deconstruct of Eurocentrism through a postcolonial lens

One is familiar with Carl Oglesby's notion of the idea of Global north and south. The very notion of bifurcation brings the idea of different value judgments associated with each region which ultimately led to jeopardizing the positing of the Global South as developing, unstable, abusing human rights, lacking scientific thinking, etc.  Edward Said in his book ‘Orientalism’ provided the very idea of the power hierarchy of the knowledge system between the occident and the Orient. We all have come across the news of the migration crisis on the island of Lampedusa (Italy), military coups in various African countries, and conflict or war in the third world in all these cases. In the quest to identify the root causes of issues, our attention is often fixated on surface-level factors such as the absence of democratic values, the economic status of the state, or resource deficiencies. However, what frequently escapes scrutiny is the influence of exploitation or colonialism in these nations, contributing significantly to their current circumstances. I will try to deconstruct all these superimposed crises associated with third-world affairs. 


Eurocentrism - Mystifying the idea of Europe 

The central tradition of Europe is evident from the Rudyard Kipling poem:  “East is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet.”Colonialism has culturally scripted the consciousness of the colonial people with the perspective of greater analysis of power relations between the West and third-world countries. West's perception of the East has been necessarily grounded in the European notion of modernity, leading to a Eurocentric, and thereby distorted, understanding of the Orient; it is not only about the perspective of the West but the whole East believes in the mystical power of the west because of the whole oriental knowledge system being scripted by the west, the very notion reflected in Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, in her influential essay, ”Can the Subaltern Speak? that hint upon the role of knowledge discourse of western over the east.


Dipesh Chakravarthy in his book ‘Provincialising Europe’ talks about Europe which is often taken to be the original site of modernity in many histories of non-Western countries. For example, history textbooks talk about the Enlightenment or Industrial Revolution of the West as the beginning of the modern world but often neglect their own history of the evolution of the empire and its sovereignty. We are more concerned with the historizing of the whole European assumption of disenchanted space, secular time, and sovereignty. Even the political discourse is characterized in terms of Western thinkers. For example, we often tend to call Kautilya as Machiavelli which led to disregarding the original work of Kautilya. It is essential to move away from the mystic understanding of Europe to deconstruct the whole power dynamics of domination of superiority or inferiority.


Image credit: Wikipedia


Cultural Hegemony of Eurocentrism: Mimicry 

In contemporary times, cultural homogeneity is becoming the proven fact form of the language domination of English to the consumerist Western culture from Western food (KFC, McDonald) to clothes (formals). In the words of Homi Bhabha in his book ‘Of Mimicry and Man’ talks about ‘mimicry’ which “emerges as one of the most elusive and effective strategies of colonial power and knowledge.” as the colonized takes on the culture of the colonizer. Postcolonial studies have brought up the issue of subordination of the eastern countries to the hands of the ruling classes and the resultant effect of this domination is mimicry. Though aping is a very man-made phenomenon (to perceive something foreign and superior to us) yet when this natural becomes unnatural the problem arises: the tendency to consider themselves (natives of the ex-colonized countries) inferior and backward to their colonial masters (European powers).


During colonial times the manipulation and diplomacy of the West led them to feel frustrated, dispossessed, disillusioned, and destroyed while trying to grasp the white man’s dream which undermined their particular identity. There was neither a single case nor a single place where this colonization of the mind existed but there were several individuals in the colonies who were the victims of such maltreatment. To imitate the White became the ultimate goal of all the racially marginalized people. It is essential to move away from mimicry and respect and understand our culture and tradition. This doesn’t mean antagonism toward Western culture, but rather respect for the multicultural (hybridity) aspect of life away from the linear Eurocentric point of view.


Image credit: Reproduction Gallery


Migration crisis: Seeds of one's own creation

There is a lot in the news about the migration crisis on the island of Lampedusa (Italy) which is the general story of the whole of Europe. The issue of migration provides an opening to the far-right or conservative party in Europe. For example, recently The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill caused a split in the conservative party over the immigrant issues where conservative or far right demanded more stringent measures of deportation and to control immigration.  It is often regarded as an attack on the local resources of Europe by outsiders or an invasion or attack on the sovereignty of Europe. In the words of European Union President Ursula von der Leyen, “Irregular migration is a European challenge and it needs a European response, we are in this together.” 


Due to this eurocentric understanding of migration one often neglects the depth of the problem lies in the exploitation during the colonial times. It is the European seeds- uneven or lopsided European colonization which led to the development of the underdevelopment in the pristine state of affairs with the lack of basic amenities, resources, or technology for maintaining the basic means for the people which ultimately resulted in the large scale migration of the African people due to mystic idea of the west as a wonder solution and lack of the basic resources in their own country. 


Image credit: Rediff


Conflict or coup: A Western construct 

In contemporary times, the coup in Niger or the military conflict between Israel and Palestine or for that matter, every conflict in the global south through a Eurocentric lens traced to the idea of the development of fundamentalist religion (Islam, etc.), poor socio-economic conditions or often to the ethnic and regional division between tribes but they often neglect the deeper roots of colonialism that go back to the time of the differential policy and policy of fissures between communities by the colonial heads. It is this hierarchical mindset of creating the superior and inferior within the community itself that provides the roots of the conflict and tension in the cooperative lifestyle of the community. For example, the Rwanda crisis of 1994 dates to the ethnic division between the Hutu and Tutsi communities by the Belgian and German colonizers ethnic division. Even similar is the case of the Israel-Palestine conflict which dates to the British coloniser.


Conclusion 

We need to have a pluralistic perspective rather than clinging to the framework provided by the linear Eurocentric perspective of the West. Postcolonialism along with the concepts of postmodernism and poststructuralism provided an extensive alternative discourse to the worldview and overall current development through a colonial lens for both hard and soft politics issues. It is with this postcolonial thought that a major debate over the role of colonial power in culturally scripting the consciousness of the colonial people and its aftermath development and exploitation in various spheres continues. It provides a multidimensional field of research which was earlier very much laden with eurocentric and ethnocentric biases and provides voices or proper understanding of the Global South or the third world countries 

 

By: Harshit Kumar

Harshit Kumar is a second-year student pursuing political science honours at Hindu College. He is an avid reader and writes on contemporary issues and politics and the changing discourse in society.

 

References

149 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page