White Mythologies: Writing, History and the West
We are still living under the Empire of the Selfsame. The same masters domimate history from the beginning ...history, as a story of phallocentrism hasn't moved except to repeat itself.' Helene Cixous's indictment of history' as a story of phallocentrism' provides the starting point for Robert Young's exploration of the operations of history' in Western theory. History', Young argues, has always been a problematical concept. In the wake of Postmodernism, with its celebration of dislocation and disunity, the status of history has become ever less certain. White Mythologies traces various attempts to produce a coherent theory of history, from Hegel and Marx to Lukacs and Sartre, and to the more recent work of Althusser and Foucault who tried without success to produce a non-historicist history. Young suggests that all efforts to subsume history into a single narrative are doomed to failure: there remains always an unassimilable surplus. In Marxist accounts, in which history' is the struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie, the Third World appears as this excess, surplus to the narrative of the West. Young goes on to consider strategies for a hon-historicist history which avoids the trap of Eurocentricism. While Edward Said's influential critique of Orientalism ends by repeating the very structures it attacks, Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak have successfully exploited the ambivalence of history to deconstruct its totalising authority. At the same time, they suggest a way forward by means of a shift in the locational specifity of historical argument.
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