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Exloring alterntaives in IR analysis: Postcolonialism

There exist multiple parallel realities that render a single deterministic approach to the analysis of power, politics and society futile. Postcolonialism is the approach that recognizes the vitalities of alternative and subaltern perspectives to the analysis of politics among the states. This approach relies heavily on the historical experiences and grievances of the colonized people to highlight the atrocities committed by the imperial states that happen to the perpetrators of a self-proclaimed egalitarian world order. Postcolonialist scholars argue that the current world order followed a path set previously by colonial subordination. Hence, they treat it as a tacit continuation of colonialism and as an instrument to maintain Western dominance over the rest.

At the very foundations of Postcolonial theory are the disputes about ‘truth’. Postcolonialists posit that most of the literature produced by Western scholars, which happens to be mainstream literature in many fields, reflects colonial bias and is rooted in scientific racism and mystified accounts of the colonized people. They suggest that Colonial scholars wrote a derogatory history of mankind by illustrating West as a superior, cultured and civilized category, while portraying Rest as inferior and barbarian. Through this methodical and blatant calumnies West essentialized backwardness, hostility, and permanence to the characters of the subjugated communities. Hence, the primary goal of Postcolonialist scholars is debunk these deliberate fallacies in knowledge. They suggest that truth and knowledge are never full and accurate account of events. There remain gaps between what had happened and what was recorded – or selected or ignored. Hence, Postcolonialism invites scholars to analyze Western texts with irony and figure out the gaps in the information. Kant’s texts are a striking example in this regards. He lived through revolutions in USA, France and Haiti – the last one being a slave revolt. He chronicles and extrapolates the experiences of the White people, but for some reasons ignores the slave grievances. Hence, a postcolonialist reading of Kant would render his ideas limited in their scope and application, instead of holding a universal veracity.

Postcolonialists dispute ‘expert knowledge’ based on colonial arthrography that legitimize Western domination in the name of capacity, race, and culture. They reject the idea that the West has the sole responsibility to setting and changing the course of human history. Instead, they try to delineate alternative paths of historical progression of colonized communities through archeology and genealogy of historical junctures. Postcolonialist scholars trace the contemporary problems like lack of development, law and order, and social issues back to the colonial episode. Though they embrace rationalism, humanism and other modes of thinking, Postcolonialists are skeptical of their claim of objectivity and neutrality.

When it comes to international relations, as already mentioned, Postcolonialist scholars aim at creating a fair and just system. They trace the lineage of the existing institutions to the colonial epoch to criticize their design and practices that reflect the interests of the same states that had be subjugators in the past. They reject the ‘native essentialism’ and repudiate the Western claim of being the sole possessor of reason, judge of morals, and creator of laws. Postcolonialist approach applies local memories, arts, and sciences to the subjects of History, Literature, and Philosophy to include alternative perspectives that have the potential to challenge and criticize the existing paradigms. In the field of international relations, they aim to decolonize literature and expose the insufficiencies of current institutions and norms to ensure international justice and political pluralism. By propagating an corrective and egalitarian discourse, they try to undo the legacies of imperialism and colonialism as well as impede the tacit continuation of the Western dominance through international institutions and norms.

Postcolonialism is particularly interested in international norms: in what context they emerge; how are the propagated; and what purpose or interests they serve. They see the mainstream attempts to create a uniform world order that defies pluralism and spurns the ambitions and interests of international underdogs as yet another tacit project of domination. They ironically dissect the historical (Western) construction of human nature, order, power and interest to underscore the domination of West in international relations. They unravel the fact that Western construction of norms involves two streams. One is presence that aims legitimizing the European authorship and discourse through moral and civilizational justification. The other is erasure which involves covering up derogatory imperial and fascist past, concealing the underlying interests and portraying an identity that is contradictory to the historical facts. In this regards, they repudiate liberal institutionalist discourses are as rationalizations of hegemony disguised as universal humanism that is defunct of cosmopolitan justice. In the similar fashion, constructivist notions of ‘mutuality’ and ‘co-constitution’ of norms are seen as ironic attempt to delude weak and previously colonialized states into an hierarchical world order.

Global governance is yet another matter of analysis. Postcolonialist thinkers state that the false colonial constructions of native identities influence the current policy making on international level. For example, the oriental description of Arabia as a barbarian, despotic and nomadic territory that was misrepresented in the works of philosophers like Mill and Montesquieu are reflected in the contemporary policies. War on terror is marketed as a war between ‘civilized nations’ and ‘barbarians’ in which the former holds every right to use violence. Postcolonialism also exposes the democratic deficit at international level. At this level, interstate relations are regulated through politics of difference: negotiations and regulations take place at various levels of power, institutions, identities, and interests. Scholars postulate that there exist two distinct modes of global governance: colonial and postcolonial. While the former emulates the colonial model of dictation and imposition of policies; the later makes space for more democratic and egalitarian agenda setting. Postcolonialists label the existing world order as colonial one in which states are divided into two categories: the subjects of order who have the ability of using productive power and the objects of order on which the productive power is applied. This situation is a conspicuous manifestation of dominance on tacit imperial and colonial patterns.

The existing literature in international relations needs to be revised for its narrative gaps and rewritten to acknowledge the grievances of the underdog states and to establish a fair and just order. Postcolonial literature neither prescribes a radical action, nor a corrective one. Instead, it posits reformist goals by inviting the scholars and practitioners of the system to acknowledge the systemic biases and produce countermeasures to it. The starting point of Postcolonialism is truth that not includes the native perspective but also underlines the flaws in dominant perspective. The ending point, on the other hand, can be establishment of a fair, plural and just order.

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