Postcolonial theory originated from the colonial experiences and the liberation struggles around the world, particularly of the tri-continental countries in Africa, South and South East Asia, and Latin America. It operates on the notion that Imperialism and Colonial domination have affected the whole world, not only the colonized nations, thus engages the psychology of both the colonized and the colonizer in the process of decolonization. Stuart Hall declared- ‘Postcolonial is not the end of colonization. It is after a certain kind of colonialism and certain moment of high imperialism and colonial occupation, but it is also something new’ (Drew 1999).
It is concerned with aftermath of colonialism, not just as a political or historical reality but also as a felt and lived experience.
The integral aspect of PC theory is the creation of counter- discourse and techniques to destabilize the dominant narratives. The key concerns are the questions of language, power, and subjectivity of the subaltern. Postcolonial theory approaches the world normatively, to understand not only how the world is but also how it ought to be.
Thus, it challenges the dominant narratives given by Mainstream IR, and allows for alternative reading of history beyond European Historicism.
PC as a theory has borrowed critical theoretical frameworks such as- Power/Knowledge from Michael Foucault, Hegemony and Subaltern from Antonion Gramsci, Deconstruction from Jacques Derrida. The central aspects of Postcolonial inquiry are- language, literature and cultural terminology. Postcolonial theory has been used as a methodology to research about issues like- cultural identity, gender, race, social class, ethnicity, and nationality in postcolonial societies.
It also focuses on the questions of identity, image and ideology.
The Mainstream IR theories reflect the underlying structure and essence of International politics, which is known as Essentialism. This essentialism has been used to define and stereotype the representation of the ‘Other’ in literature, media, and society. Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’ (1978) challenged this stereotypical representation of ‘The East’ as orient, which is easy to subordinate and servile to power. Postcolonial theory questions the essentialist representation using the tool of Catachresis, as contributed by Spivak, which problematize the use of incorrect words for an entity that does not represent it. PC theory employs ‘Strategic Essentialism’ which can be used by the East to represent their real identities to the world, thus essentialize their ignored identity. For instance- The understanding about Islam in Mainstream IR has narrowed it down to violence and hatred, using the negative stereotype of othering. This narrative gets more affirmation with every new act of terrorism since 9/11. However, The PC theory problematizes this one sided and limited understanding which ignores unity, identity, mobilization and rationalism and other aspects of Islam. Thus, the West is incapable of representing the East and its culture in adequate way, as their definitions belong to the definers not the defined.
The conceptual framework of Binaries is used as instrument to create polarized categories- such as self/other, White/Black, Occident/Orient, civilized/barbaric. Homi Bhabha found ambivalence in the binary concept, as it involves a strange symbiotic relationship of love/hate, attraction/repulsion, and admiration/derogation between colonizers and colonized. The Postcolonial probes this symbiotic relationship and, claims that the Mainstream theories use the binaries to justify their narratives. As Edward Said claimed that for west, in order to look better than East, the East has to be defamed. For instance- The West continuously maintains the Islamophobia to make its action against Islam as legitimate. It helped USA to justify its invasion in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) as part of Global war on Terror. The PC Theory, however, claims the ambivalence in their action as USA on the one hand was punishing the suspect Afghanistan, while on the other hand continued its foreign assistance to Pakistan.
The knowledge, power and culture continued to be defined by Historicism of Imperial Europe in Mainstream theories. Eurocentric Big Bang Theory dominates how ideas were created, used and disseminated, and constructed Europe at the center of the world. The PC theory attacks the Eurocentric narrative, which grants agency only to West and ignore the East, and thus marginalize many important aspects of world history. The PC theory probes this Politics of Knowledge, and claims that theories and narrative developed from a particular history should not be universalize. Thus PC theory emphasizes to bring Eastern cultures, Literatures, geopolitics, and other half of the globe from the margins to the center. The ontology of the Sovereignty and Renaissance concept, for instance, claimed as European contribution to the world. However, the PC theorist John Hobson claimed that the East developed the concept of sovereignty in 6th century BCE by series of interlinked empires, way before than European. The concept of Renaissance first originated in Islamic Medieval world in 8th century, even called as Golden Islamic age. The Eurocentric framework negates the contribution of the rest of the world in history making.
Edward Said invented a term- ‘Colonial discourse’ to describe systemic practices, policies and forms employed by the Mainstream theories. The focal points of the meta-narrative are Power politics and security, reproducing the status quo and narrow reading of global hierarchies. The colonial discourse underlies structures and codes, based on power relations between the colonized and the colonizers. It is a complex method of exploitation and oppression, which can arouse resistance and anger in the colonial person’s consciousness. PC theory offers to develop Counter-discourse and acknowledge the spaces for resistance, recovery and agency. The counter narrative gives attention to relation of race, class, and gender with power to generate critique of global power and hierarchies. The counter discourse is a process of re-inscription, rewriting and re-presenting, thus emphasize on the strategy of ‘writing back’ as a form of resistance. For instance- The narrow and limited knowledge about Islam in colonial discourse ignites the urge to re-write about the nature and characteristics of Islam. The PC theory emphasize to take the peaceful aspects of Islam into consideration like- the Mughal Empire followed the principles of secularism, Peace and Prosperity; the Islamic renaissance, and so on.
The Conventional IR overlooked the meaning of global interactions, and considers their ideas and theories taught the world the modern behavior. The ‘Hybridity’ concept of PC theory, as advanced by Homi Bhabha, negates the imbalance of power between colonizers/colonized by stressing on mutual cultural exchange. Bhabha articulated the notion of mimicry, to support the Hybridity claim, which involves mimicking or copying the practices of the colonizers, for instance-The Comprador or Native elite. The Hybridity goes to the other side too, which has never been acknowledged by the West. The mimicry once reached from formal to substantive, the learner becomes the competition. For instance- The Europeans helped the Iraq to develop its first petroleum industry, followed by the American companies later, in order to access Iraq’s energy reserves. However, When Iraq nationalized the oil industry and cut off the foreign companies from controlling their assets, the competition was on. The USA’s invasion in Iraq was more to prove its hegemony to Iraq and the world, and less because of the Global war on Terror.
Thus, PC theory problematizes this ‘I know all’ aspect of colonial discourse, and seeks to provide an alternative and wider narrative.
My Research will be dealing with the ‘Rising Geo-economic competition between India and China in the Persian Gulf’. The study would follow the concept of ‘Geo-economics’- a strategy of territorial control or geographic influence using the economic means (trade and investment), instead of military force. The study would further follow the Neo-realist concept of Relative gains, which leads India-China relation and their action to be driven by competitive self- interest. The liberal concept of Absolute gains would govern the actions of investment receiver Persian Gulf countries. The study would choose three Persian Gulf monarchies- Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait- for case study. The rationale for choosing them is the availability of energy reserves (among World’s Top 20) combined with their underdevelopment (or poverty). The requirement of Economic security leads these gulf monarchies to accept the investment policies and attached conditions with them. While the Energy security and strategic energy needs are leading India and China to involve in the Persian Gulf geo-economically. So, the study would also borrow the ‘Interdependence’ concept from Neo-liberal institutionalism, which is being used negatively by both countries to expand the influence in the region.
However, if my research would need to use the variables of Postcolonial theory it can use some. The study can use the concept of strategic essentialism for representation, in place of Geo-economics, which is being used by India to represent itself as a global player in the field of investment and trade. Thus India can essentialize its ignored identity by China and other global powers. The study could further use the concept of Formal mimicry, in place of Absolute gains, to explain how the investment receiver gulf monarchies are expected to feel obliged towards the investors. The relative gains could be replaced by substantive mimicry, which can analyze how China being the first and powerful geo-economic player would consider India’s growing geo-economic ability as competition.