How Justified is the Unprecedented Success of the Postcolonial Theory in Eastern Europe?

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Monika Baar, Leiden University, Netherlands


    In 2001 David Chioni Moore published the article: ‘Is the Post – in Post-Colonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique’ which launched the enormous and unprecedented success of application of postcolonial context and postcolonial critique to the study of Central and Eastern Europe by philosophers, literary critiques, linguists, historians and social scientists. Chioni Moore argued that the category ‘postcolonial’ might be reasonably applied to the former Soviet-controlled territories post-1989/1991 (alongside with the accompanying terminology such as ‘resistance’, ‘liberation’ and ‘hangover’). He also claimed that the postcolonial condition had become as fundamental to world identities as other ‘universal’ categories of race, class, age and gender. In 2005 Gyatri Spivak gave a talk in which she pointed out the different historical configurations in the Middle East, South Asia and Latin America and in Eastern Europe but on the whole she endorsed the application of the postcolonial perspective. The paper considers the reasons for this success and claims that an important one is that using the postcolonial ‘academic language’ allowed its representatives in Central and Eastern Europe to enter into a global dialogue with those in other regions. Moreover, the fact that the postcolonial method is not a consistent or coherent methodology might have also helped, as it made its application smoother to the most diverse contexts. At the same time, the paper also points to the possible pitfalls in the application of the theory. For one thing, Eastern European countries were not classical colonies and often in the region a two-sided postcolonial perspective applied, for examples Poland or Hungary acted both as ‘colonizers’ and were victims of ‘colonization’. A further problem that has both academic and ethical implications is that the application of the postcolonial method carries with it the danger of victimization. Once the countries in the region are placed into the ‘subaltern’ category, and they may lose some of their agency, as the impression arises that they were passive sufferers rather than active agents of their countries’ fate.