This article examines William V. Spanos’s works in relation to those of other postcolonial thinkers such as Partha Chatterjee, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Edward Said. Like many of these writers, Spanos draws from Michel Foucault’s critique of the power-knowledge relation. However, Spanos also throws into sharp relief similar justificatory grounds deployed by the present global powers and the ancient Roman Empire. Spanos’s contribution to postcolonial scholarship shows itself in his analyses of terms such as profane, conscious pariah, and exile vis-à-vis the disciplinary mechanisms of the nation-state. Surprisingly, postcolonial scholarship has not paid enough attention to Spanos. This article hopes to address this resounding silence by arguing that Spanos’s historical approach to the genealogy of Western imperialism proves useful in retrieving fragmentary temporalities that the nation-state suppresses. The article examines the parallel Spanos uncovers between today’s Western hegemony and the Roman Empire, a disclosure that distinguishes Spanos from postcolonial thinkers such as Chatterjee. Spanos convincingly argues for the need to investigate underlying principles informing an imperial power, beginning with the Romans. Finally, akin to Said in his commitment to the worldliness of life and art, Spanos contends that the messiness of life does not lend itself to the clear-cut oppositions that the nation-state tries to establish.
Ubaraj Katawal; Thinking Postcolonial Temporalities with William Spanos. boundary 2 1 February 2015; 42 (1): 153–177. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2828314
Download citation file: