What Is a World?: On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature
Pheng Cheah is Professor of Rhetoric and Chair of the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of
Of Other Worlds to Come
This chapter suggests that decolonization has to be understood in terms of its temporal structure and argues that its teleological time has given way to reassertions of multiple precolonial temporalities because of the failure of the promises of decolonization in postcolonial capitalist globalization. It offers a critical assessment of theories of heterotemporality and alternative modernities and suggests that the inhuman dimension of the opening of the world by the coming of time is more fundamental as a force of transformation in contemporary globalization.
This chapter is a study of Michelle Cliff’s Clare Savage novels as an attempt to initiate a new time for the Jamaican people who inhabit a place that has been deformed by the temporal calculations and technologies of colonial sugar capital and postcolonial tourist capital. Cliff suggests that the revival of precolonial history and its cultural traditions can stimulate revolutionary consciousness and facilitate the Jamaican people’s emergence as an autonomous subject. The chapter suggests that Cliff’s acknowledgment of the impossibility of revolution in contemporary global capitalism suggests that the primary force for opening new worlds is the inhuman gift of time.
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