Stoler, A (2002). Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power (pp. 1-78). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Berry,E (2008). The Zombie Commodity: Hair and the Politics of its Globalization. Postcolonial Studies, 11 (1), pp. 63-84.
Bannerji, H (2000). The Dark Side of the Nation: Essays on Multiculturalism, Nationalism and Gender (pp. 1-86). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Stoler starts off with a Georges Hardy quote: “A man remains a man as long as he stays under the gaze of a woman of his race” (p.1) that highlights the main themes of gender roles, racial segregation and virility, and sexuality (regulation/ vulnerability/ control) which will be the focus throughout the first three chapters. Stoler implies that Hardy’s quote suggested a prescription that was not practiced, and reminds us that “the colonial “gaze” was to be at once broad, reflexive, and intimate” (p.1) and very much ingrained in the regulation of sexuality.
Stolers analysis of colonial race, sexuality and gender and the control exerted upon these “identities” is based heavily on Foucauldian theory and very much links to the ideas of power and (sexual) regulation that we looked at last week. Looking to question why sexual politics (specifically surrounding inter racial relations) were a primary concern in colonial policy, Stoler uses her research of the Netherlands Indies from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to “trace how frequently the political and personal were meshed, to identify what was created as private and public, and to ask what affections were perceived as cultural defections on colonial terrain (p.7). Stoler argues for a deeper historical engagement with the range of practices in which racism was produced (p.13) and calls to re-examine colonial ideas and to “challenge certain givens of colonial histories” (p.21).
Until the 20th Century colonial administrators had imposed marriage restrictions and “promoted” relationships between European men and native women. They believed local women could help European men become acclimatized to the native culture, language, etc and that they would be invaluable in not only doing the domestic work, but also in minimizing the need of prostitutes (as well as preventing male homosexual relations). However, in the early twentieth century white women were introduced into the colonies to control male sexuality by preventing “mixed race” children, and therefore enforcing certain divisions between colonizer and colonizee based on race. Stoler shows that women were also strictly controlled and that “a denser spread of European women did not inadvertently produce stronger racial divisions” (p.33), suggesting that white endogamy was a strategic policy used to counter the social and political “problem” of mixed-blood children who could potentially blur the line between the superior “white colonial” race and the inferior “native colonized” race.
We see examples of race and gender discrimination in the sections on eugenics, on medical discourse, on race-specific rape laws (which only prosecuted black men) and on the social and political dilemma of how to educate white children born outside of Europe. We see that sexual control was a “fundamental class and racial marker implicated in a wider set of relations of power” (p.45) that was at the “core of defining colonial privilege and its boundaries” (p.39). Stoler ends by suggesting that further investigation into sexual control might show that it was “an instrumental image for the body politic… and itself fundamental to how racial policies were secured and how colonial projects were carried out” (p.78).
I was surprised to enjoy this reading as much as I did, not having much previous experience with postcolonial theory, and wrongly assuming a lack of interest. Being interested in Foucault I really enjoyed that Stoler often seemed to work through a Foucauldian lens and I would love to spend time discussing how this can be a positive, and a negative, way of looking back at colonial history.
I was also interested in what seemed to be the many contradictions that colonial administrators presented to their staff… that what was “socially lauded at one time (was) seen as a political menace at another” (p.54) seemed to be a common theme and I feel that it must have been incredibly confusing to be a European man living and working under those changing rules.
I’m always interested in how the personal becomes so public, and how sexual control seems to seep into just about everything we discuss – although I am biased being obviously interested in sexuality and any attempt to regulate or control “it”. Reading about sex tourism and globalized sex markets (for Health 333) this week I kept thinking about how Hardy’s quote, discouraging the globalization of sexuality, often seems to still be prevalent to a certain extent today…
In both essays by Bannerji she looks at Canada, as a nation, in relation to multiculturalism, sexism, racism, and imperialism/ globalization through an “antiracist feminist Marxist” lens of analysis. She looks at the current political scene in Canada (as well as speaking about the U.S., Britain, and India) and speaks of the gathering strength of right wing politics, here in Canada and abroad. She looks at Western capital and third world labour and talks about the alienness or “otherness” of hidden labour, and uses Marx’s idea of “hidden struggles” to analyze cultural political identities. She argues that globalization is threatening liberal democracies, especially in third worlds, and says that “popular multiculturalism… must articulate itself through a politicized understanding of cultural representation using antiracist and feminist class politics” (p.5). Concentrating on the politics of historical and cultural reifications that have created our current racist capitalist state Bannerji suggests that we have to work within the realities of colonial and Canadian history to express the inequalities of class and gender and race.
Bannerji argues that Canada’s “official” multiculturalism actually sets apart “immigrants of colour”. She looks at the history of the language of “women of colour” and some of the problems that arise in surrounding discourse. Looking at the idea of “otherness” Bannerji shows how “Canadian” status is not obtained through official citizenship, as individuals are still labeled as immigrants and minorities and talks about the paradox of belonging and non belonging. She states that “the making of Canada is accomplished through the exclusion and marginalization of women” (p.67) and looks at gendered issues such as the regulation of motherhood both within and between white and non-white women and the idea that poverty is “feminized” by the state and media (p.71). Bannerji ends the second essay by stating that “by its very organization of social communities in “race” and ethnic terms, the state constantly creates “Canadians” and “others”… this “racist culture” is in a mutually constitutive relationship with the state” (p.72).
I found these two essays to be full of excellent examples of how the history of colonialism is so intertwined with our culture today. I also found it interesting to see how current issues in Canadian politics can be looked at and analyzed differently. I think that Bannerji is trying to articulate a critique in order to challenge our current cultural inequalities surrounding race, class, and gender – possibly to start a “social revolution” that she alluded to earlier. I could be reading this entirely wrong, but in her critique of current Canadian politics it sounded like she was condemning us to live in a racist sexist culture indefinitely…
Berry uses the example of Victoria Beckham’s hair extensions to show readers how the “female body has become part of multidirectional global flow” (p. 63) where the exchange of human hair has become a commodity in the global capitalist arena. Berry suggests that bodily products exist as much outside of bodies as within or on them (p.64) and shows how the Global West’s desire to express a “femininity” that needs to be produced and consumed might contribute to reinscribing colonial boundaries.
Berry looks at one of the largest multinational hair extension companies, Great Lengths International, who obtain all their hair from Indian Temples, (excluding any non-Indian hair in a “hierarchy of beauty and femininity” p.73) and who have patented “the world’s only pre-bonded extension system” (p.64). Berry suggests that in the sanitation/ depigmentation/ pigmentation process a de-ethnicization occurs in which “ethnic differences in looks are fabricated in the interests of both social control and commodity innovation” (p.79). Berry shows how hair has historically been associated with femininity, youth, sexuality, etc and that in self-governing their hair females may perceive an “incompleteness” that they can attain through consumption of third world hair and a sense of control over their own bodies. Berry talks about the invisible labour behind the hair-market and uses Marxist ideas and reification to analyse the transnational hair market. She looks at the idea of cultural cannibalism, as well as at the state of hair, between life and death (hence “zombie” commodity) and how saving the “life” fails as the hair extensions can never last forever.
Berry theorizes that the global hair trade might be read as post imperialism and that mixed emotions towards wearing the hair of an “other” might reflect the “conflicted nature of colonial desire” (p. 80).
I found Berry’s practical application of gender and race in colonial theory to be a very useful way to look at global hair trade, and a fun article in general to read. I would be interested to discuss the idea of cultural cannibalism and Luce Irigary’s suggestion that it “implies an adoration and absorption of the other precisely because one identifies with the other” (p.77) as I really like this idea but am not sure that I understand it correctly…
Happy Blogging :)