Eros, Conqueror or Conquered?:
Sex, Politics, and the Post-Colonial Predicament
From a Western perspective, power cannot be separated from the idea or expression of sex. Sex implies control, the boundaries of which are set by societies through time in various historical, economic, and cultural contexts. Throughout the development of European civilization, the West has continually sought to define the Orient, the East, all "primitive" lands outside Europe, as its erotic Other. An inherently sexist dynamic is manufactured: the rational, masculine West pursues and attempts to control the sensual, feminine East. Edward Said points toward this historically and culturally created tension as evidence of Orientalism. In Orientalism, Said describes sex and sexual imagery as a tool for colonialism. The "Orient" is infused with a sexual identity which justifies and aids in Western domination.
Ironically, these same preconceived notions can be used to dominate and control the West. In his novel, Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih explores how this manufactured idea of sex is undercut or underscored by examining the lives of those who are colonized. Sexually charged and fatally destructive clashes between men and women are played out in an African village and a European city. By linking the fates of two Western educated colonial and post-colonial subjects, Salih offers the reader both insight into and critique of the power of sex in both contexts.
In Michelle Cliff's novel No Telephone to Heaven, the West's ability to engender the East is stripped of all its supposedly benevolent intentions. The power which motivates the need for an erotic Other is essentially dogmatic in nature. Like Salih, Cliff follows two characters, their discoveries and reactions to sex and sexual imagery, in order to qualify or comment upon the authority and actions of both. Borrowing basic definitions of power (critical and dogmatic) from Gayatri Spivak, it is possible to place Clare Savage and Harry/Harriet in a thematic dialogue/debate. These definitions may also inform our reading of Salih, for Mustafa Sa'eed and the narrator of the novel are engaged in a similar struggle. Both authors push their characters toward choice: between people, between ideas, between worlds. While the choice made by each individual character may differ somewhat (possibly even profoundly), each author seems to suggest ultimately that to critique the power derived from sexual politics, one must include influences from the colonial experience. Ironically, the ability to voice an authentic opposition is, in some sense, predicated upon the very power relations they seek to condemn.
Edward Said traces the objectification of the Orient as a sexual commodity from the middle ages to the present. The sexual identity given to the Orient literally bears no relation to the realities of sex anywhere beyond Europe. The East has been orientalized to represent Western sexual fantasies, forbidden exotic "Oriental" pleasures (Said 5-6). The harem, the ornamented and veiled woman, the well endowed virile native are all stereotypical sexual images conjured by the West's idea of the Orient. Said goes on to state, "the Orient seems still to suggest not only fecundity but sexual promise (and threat), untiring sensuality, unlimited desire, deep generative energies"(188). This abstract, very complex set of assumptions had an enormous, very tangible outlet: the majority of the world's cultures and populations.
The non-European world could therefore be defined, controlled, and consumed in sexual terms. "In time 'Oriental sex' was as standard a commodity as any other available in mass culture" (Said 190). Sex becomes a currency of power. The East, posited as the negative image or opposite of the West, was the perfect receptacle for any inherently inferior or potentially radical notions about sex. The image of the East as a suppliant woman is still an active part of the Western imagination. Following this logic like a woman, the East can be dominated, easily pacified.
If not pacified, then taken by force. In its drive to possess the East, the gradual process of Orientalism has helped to create what might be termed the rhetoric of rape. A rape, on its most fundamental level, is the denial of the victim's (the Other's) most basic humanity. Though most commonly associated with an individual sexual crime, it is not at all unusual to hear the colonial enterprise described in blatantly sexual terms (the West penetrating the virgin territory of the unspoiled East, etc...) This rhetoric was alive in the cultural/historical imagination long before the ships of any colonial power left port (Said 41). In some sense, the East was raped, denied its right to an individual existence, long before being literally colonized. This existential rape thus justified the physical rapes that would follow in the centuries to come.
Tayeb Salih presents the power of sexual politics in a paradoxical context. Mustafa Sa'eed, Western-educated but Sudanese by birth, practices sexual colonialism on a personal level. He exploits the same Western exotic and erotic stereotypes to seduce European women. He embraces his image as "a naked, primitive creature, a spear in one hand and arrows in the other, hunting elephants and lions in the jungle" (Salih 38). Submerged rage against the totalizing, dehumanizing effects of stereotypes promoted by Orientalism, as well as selfish physical gratification motivate him to enter relationships with four different women. Rather than stage an open revolt, Mustafa attempts to subvert (replace?) his colonizers using methods he has learned from them. Sex is his weapon and women are the means of achieving his revenge (Said 41). "He [Mustafa] used to say, 'I'll liberate Africa with my penis (120)...I, over and above everything else am a colonizer. I am the intruder whose fate must be decided" (Salih 94). Mustafa harvests the love of Ann Hammond, Sheila Greenwood, and Isabella Seymour like a natural resource to be mined and exported to the mother country. He is the hunter, the women his prey (Salih 142). Their love gives Mustafa the power to destroy them. He states, "My bedroom had become a theatre of war; my bed a patch of hell" (Salih 33-4). All three women commit suicide. Mustafa empties them emotionally and then casts them aside. "The infection had stricken these women a thousand years ago, but I had stirred up the latent depths of the disease until it had got out of control and killed" (Salih 34). Implicit in this statement is the suggestion that the women are forced to see past imbedded Oriental images manipulated by Mustafa Sa'eed. It is this discovery of falsehood and manipulation which ultimately drives them to their deaths.
Salih sets Mustafa's marriage to and murder of Jean Morris in stark contrast to Mustafa's three previous seductions/suicides. Jean Morris is an adversary equal to Mustafa in every respect. She is an adept player in the power struggles of sexual politics. He recognizes in her the same destructive power he wields but he cannot avoid being drawn to her. Precisely because she refuses to buy into his colonial image, because her love cannot be harvested like the others, Mustafa pursues Jean Morris relentlessly. Such a "conquest" would be the crown jewel of his "empire". At the same time, however, Mustafa realizes with some degree of terror that he may be sowing the seed of his own destruction. He admits, "...against my will, I fell in love with her and was no longer able to control the course of events...she was my destiny and in her lay my destruction" (Salih 156, 160).
Salih likens the struggle between Morris and Sa'eed to a war in which Mustafa was ultimately doomed to defeat. They are bound together, hopelessly intertwined, locked in a self destructive embrace (Salih 160). A confession of love requires a secession of power, on some level an act of surrender. Mustafa's love thus gives Jean power over him, and she uses this power to push Mustafa to fulfill her desire for death (Salih 164). The roles of East as feminine and West as masculine are again reversed and subverted. A woman gains power over, conquers, a man, using his own tactics to achieve victory. Because of their understanding of the power relation implied by love and employed by them both as a tool for controlling others, Jean confesses her love only at the moment of her death, calling Mustafa to join her.
Union in sex or reunion (?) in death bring release or relief. Mustafa and Jean experience joy or ecstasy only in the fleeting moments of intensely passionate sex (Salih 160). Salih seems to suggest that Jean cannot or refuses to survive in a relation where power exists in a chaotic, constantly negotiated tension between individuals. Does this apply to Mustafa Sa'eed's eventual death/suicide as well? Having been stripped of his facade by Jean, can he survive without Jean and without a facade? He attempts to leave one "lie", his image as "the black Englishman", in England and return to his roots in the Sudan (Salih 53). Even in the rural village where he settles, however, Mustafa Sa'eed creates a life/image full of duplicity. He cultivates his role as a wizened earthy village elder and gains the respect and admiration of his neighbors (Salih 101-2). Yet, he preserves, literally enshrines, the memory of his first life, locked away in his wood paneled library complete with residual fireplace (Salih 136). In succumbing to the river, which shows neither mercy nor malice, does he ultimately succumb to, find union with, Jean Morris? Does the river carry him back to that moment in time where Jean beckons him to join her, to reunite in death?
In order to speculate on such questions the reader is forced first to reckon with the narrator. The actions and events of Mustafa Sa'eed's life are inscribed within and prejudiced by the narrator. Salih presents the reader with an intermediary, an interpreter who is like Mustafa in many ways but capable of making individual assessments. All information about Mustafa is thus colored by the opinions and ideas of the narrator. The narrator struggles to come to terms with the Mustafa as the reader does. In this manner Salih is able to qualify or critique Mustafa's use of sex as a tool for domination and destruction.
The narrator rejects Mustafa's sexual colonialism. The narrator is aware of and angered by Western images of Africa that motivate Mustafa, "How strange! How ironic! Just because a man has been created on the Equator some mad people regard him as a slave, others a god. Where lies the mean? Where the middle ground?" (Salih 108). However, the narrator is repelled (disgusted) by Mustafa's behavior. He expresses a great sense of empathy for the women who committed suicide (Salih 138-47). Exploring the secret library, the narrator's strange fascination with Mustafa is quickly transformed from disgust to hate (Salih 134).
The narrator's judgments themselves are also suspect, however. Though he does not use orientalized sexual stereotypes to dominate others, the narrator falls victim to his Western education in other equally ironic, equally fundamental ways. His sense of decency is Western. He refuses to take Hosna Bint Mahmoud as a second wife, disregarding an Islamic custom in wide use throughout his village. He attacks the suggestion as preposterous (Salih 103). This refusal is most ironic, especially considering with it his confessed love for Hosna Bint Mahmoud. His Western values are at odds with one another. The narrator has embraced (possibly subconsciously) the peculiarly Western, overly romanticized notion of love. He is painfully aware of this fact, but he is helpless to prevent it. He confesses, "...in one form or another I was in love with Hosna Bint Mahmoud, the widow of Mustafa Sa'eed, and that I - like him...was not immune from the germ of contagion that oozes from the body of the universe" (Salih 104). It is love that infects both Mustafa and the narrator; and it is love that pushes them toward destruction.
Like Mustafa, the narrator wades into the river to find his fate. The river becomes a central metaphor in defining the struggle of each man.
"I heard the reverberation of the river and the puttering of the water pump. Turning to left and right, I found that I was half way between north and south, I was unable to continue, unable to return" (Salih 167).
Sounds mechanical and natural, shores north and south, the metaphor sets up a conflict between the industrialized West and "uncivilized" Africa. Having learned and used sex as a means of acquiring power, Mustafa wages a personal campaign of colonialism, hoping to supplant the West on a personal level. There is a paradox inherent in his actions. He attempts to shatter colonial (Westernized) structures/ideas by using colonial constructs. In the end, his actions reinforce the structures he rebels against. His obsession ultimately allows the river to consume him.
The narrator's negotiation with his own death broadens the discussion in both scope and complexity. His cry for help poses an alternative to (or at the very least qualifies) the inherently destructive nature of sex and relations between the sexes. He attempts to raise his struggle above categorization, above meaning. He is pulled by the village on one side and by London and Khartoum on the other. He floats literally and metaphorically between the two. He acknowledges the magnitude and force of the river but refuses to succumb to it. When the narrator chooses life, he rejects neither the river nor his African heritage nor his Western education. In choosing however, he is forced to admit that he must exist as an individual estranged at some fundamental level, apart from them all.
This same sense of estrangement is essential to Michelle Cliff's novel as well. In fact, she goes to even greater lengths to displace central characters. Clare Savage and Harry/Harriet are of mixed racial heritage. Clare is alienated further by her light complexion. Her light skin removes her from the plight of the most destitute in Jamaica. "...one of the most charming things about Jamaica. Everyone is Black, its just that some are blacker than others" (Cliff 153). The social hierarchy is based on color rather than any notion of racial purity, and Clare, through no fault of her own, exists at one of the highest tiers. She has a chance few people on Jamaica possess. As Clare's uncle states, "You have a chance to leave that narrow little island behind you...by chance he meant light skin" (110). Clare's Western education, ironically brings her to the realization that she cannot function as a full fledged member of either American or European society. This realization, this step toward cultural and intellectual displacement, is crucial to Clare's heightened sense of estrangement. Clare's discovery is made as the novel progresses. Thus, as Clare becomes estranged from the worlds around her, she also becomes estranged from herself, especially her sexual identity.
Before continuing with this line of inquiry, a short digression might facilitate our discussion by providing us with a meaningful but succinct theoretical vocabulary. In her essay "More On Power/Knowledge", Gayatri Spivak suggests that a "dystopic representation of decolonization" is derived from a space that did not exist before in either colony or colonizer (170). This space is inhabited by the characters created by Tayeb Salih and Michelle Cliff as well as the authors themselves. Do their representations possess any authentic power? In order to accommodate this possibility, Spivak defines a specific notion of power. She applies two key terms to describe different expressions of power: dogmatic and critical.
Rather than an institution or specific structure, power exists within a web of relations (between individuals, societies, institutions, ideas). Spivak replaces the ambiguous and ubiquitous English word with two French verbs, savoir and pouvoir, when referring to power. Her goal seems to be to accentuate the connection (or to forge a stronger one) between power and knowledge. Savoir literally means knowledge. Knowledge, the act of knowing, is a statement of power, of ownership. This quality is then linked to pouvoir, which is roughly equivalent to the verb can or to be able to; it is an ability. Put simply, Spivak defines pouvoir/savoir (power/knowledge) as "being able to do something only as you are able to make sense of it" (158).
There are two distinct methods of approaching this concept of power/knowledge. One is critical, the other dogmatic. A dogmatic philosophy "advances general principles without sufficient interest in empirical details", while a critical one is "aware of the limits of knowing" (Spivak 149). Any institution fueled by ideology (is there any other kind?) houses a dogmatic philosophy on some level. Edward Said's concept of Orientalism depends upon dogmatic power/knowledge. Orientalism moves forward, relentless in its enforcement of a specific vision of the world (the West dominates and rehabilitates the East in openly sexual terms) without regard to the desires and feelings of those who inhabit the actual Orient (Said 40). Clare Savage's mother senses the overwhelming scope of this power/knowledge during her stay in America. "...people in America seemed always to be...lumping the islands together with an ignorant familiarity, as though they were indistinct places, sharing history and custom, white sands and blue waters indiscriminately" (Cliff 64). This realization causes her return to Jamaica.
She does recognize, however, in her daughter a space which may provide Clare with a strength she could never possess. "There is a space between who you are and who you will become. Fill it" (Cliff 103). It is in the attempt to fill this unbreachable gap that a critical approach to power/knowledge is possible. Critical power/knowledge is oriented toward the individual. It is based, at least in part, on a person's ability to reconcile their experiences in everyday life with accepted knowledge, truths. An authentic critique is thus rooted in the space that exists between knowledge that is gathered empirically and knowledge that is spoon fed. Harry/Harriet is the most overt example of critical power/knowledge in either novel. While Clare moves towards a discovery of her own submission to dogma, Harry/Harriet's life in the novel stands as a reaction, an open revolt, to this same realization, painfully made years earlier as a child. He/She recognizes and calls into question discrepancies between his personal and general knowledge.
"Even if you were to live your entire life on this island and never see nor smell the Dungle, nuh mus' know it there? It stand as warning for all a we- no matter how light? How bright? How much dem labrish [gossip] we master? Nuh mus' question?" (Cliff 123).
At the same time, however, Harry/Harriet epitomizes the problematic nature of critical power/knowledge: it is dependent on the existence of the dogmatic mode. "The so-called private individual and the public citizen in a decolonized nation can inhabit widely different epistemes, violently at odds with one another yet yoked together by way of the many everyday rises of pouvoir/savoir" (Spivak 169). While the tension created by such duality is stressed to the point of laughter in Harry/Harriet's character it is a quality present in each character we have brought under close scrutiny. Mustafa Sa'eed and his English library is another telling example. He has an identity, separate and distinct, behind a locked door blanketed by his books and polished mahogany shelves, which is in direct opposition to his public persona in the Sudanese village. His character is forged from this dynamic, from his expressions of power/knowledge within and without. Having introduced this new vernacular, we can now return to the thread which instigated the digression, namely: Clare's brush with the seductive powers of Western education and literature in specific.
Clare's journey toward a critical existence begins in earnest at an almost epiphanal moment while reading Jane Eyre. She reacts with great anger and passion when she realizes how the book had manipulated her "in an almost clandestine way" (Spivak "The Burden of English" 137).
"The fiction had tricked her. Drawn her in so that she became Jane. Yes. The parallels were there...Comforted for a time, she came to. Then with a sharpness reprimanded herself...No, she could not be Jane. Small and pale. English. No, she paused. No, my girl, try Bertha. Wild maned Bertha...Captive. Ragout. Mixture. Confused. Jamaican. Caliban. Carib. Cannibal. Cimarron. All Bertha. All Clare" (Cliff 116).
Ultimately the text, its dogma, pushes her away. Not unlike Mustafa Sa'eed, Clare realizes the distance between the Western mode of thought (its sexually charged image of the Orient, Oriental) and her individual identity.
Ironically, Clare invokes Shakespeare's Caliban, another literary icon created in the West, in order to establish her identity in and out of the text. Caliban is a particularly compelling choice for Clare for two reasons: his sexual motives/image and his command of language. Clare realigns herself with the primal, sensual image of the native placed on Caliban. In doing so, however, she is also able to embrace Caliban's approach to sex. Caliban is concerned with sex only as a means of procreation. When accused of rape by Prospero he does not even attempt to deny his actions. "Would't had been done. Thou didst prevent me; I had peopl'd else this island with Calibans" (Shakespeare I, ii, 348-50). Consistent with the rhetoric of rape, Caliban's attention is on the result, not the other participant. This theme resurfaces in the nightmares of Vietnam which plague Bobby, Clare's lover. "'Why will you rape me?...You cannot rape me you are Black'"(Cliff 148). The idea of rape is thus tied to white men and Western civilization by default.
Clare is able to relate herself to Caliban's attitude toward sex because she is, at the moment of her discovery, almost completely isolated from her own sexual identity. Sex is an act which she witnesses, almost as an outside observer. "Clare could entrust her body to this boy she barely knew and watched herself as he fondled her and felt pleasure in her parts but still apart from him. Feeling free, the word she put to it then" (Cliff 88). Unlike Mustafa Sa'eed, Clare does not attempt to use sexual dogma to place herself in a position of power over others. After her initial paralysis in relationships that follow, Clare attempts to understand and rehabilitate herself, including her sexual identity.
Caliban's use of language also provides Clare with a possible model for a critical response. Caliban serves to highlight the failings in Prospero's supposed superiority. He speaks with language (well crafted verse) that has greater authority than even some of the noblemen stranded on the island, but Caliban cannot enter refined civilized European society. He acquires a language that is ultimately useless to him. Caliban laments, "You taught me language, and my profit on't/ Is I know how to curse" (Shakespeare I,ii, 363-4). It is the language of obedience. Clare drops out of school and eventually returns home searching for a more authentic way of living. She wants to escape her ties to her Western education, but she cannot. Ironically, she can never fully embrace it or completely sever its connection to her. She is tethered to this dual existence. She raises her voice in protest, but her words are always mouthed in the language she was taught as a child, the language of the colonizer, the language of obedience. Only death breaks this bond. "She remembered language. Then it was gone" (Cliff 208).
Harry/Harriet is similar but more direct than Salih's narrator is his/her attempt to comment on and even shape the thoughts and actions of his counterpart, Clare. Harry/Harriet is in many ways responsible for Clare's fate. His/her voice beckons Clare to return throughout the novel. "Jamaica's children have to work to make her change. It will be worthwhile" (Cliff 127). Harry/Harriet's life and choices affect Clare in a most profound way. Being raped as a young boy of ten shattered Harry/Harriet's vision of the world permanently. Like looking at the world on pieces of a broken mirror, no reflection gives the same image. To Harry/Harriet, absolutes cease to exist. Pain and triumph exist solely on a personal level.
"I only suffered what my mother suffered - no more, no less. Not symbol, not allegory, not something in a dialogue by Plato. No, man, I am merely a person who felt an overgrown cock of a big white man pierce the asshole of a lickle black bwai - there it is. That is all there is to it" (Cliff 130).
He/she refuses to attach a sense of dogma to his suffering.
Harry/Harriet asserts critical power/knowledge over himself by engendering himself as a woman. His ability to comment on and possibly avoid dogma depends upon the choice of his own free will to adopt this paradoxical existence, a partitioned persona. His female identity gains authority as the novel progresses. Cliff eventually drops the masculine pronoun when referring to Harry/Harriet. She (Harry/Harriet) is not able, however, to escape the mundane realities of her masculine physiology. Harry/Harriet uses the exotic, therefore, both in terms of gender and race to corrupt any single unified (dogmatic) notion of them. This exercise in self exoticization operates on two distinct levels. Harry/Harriet wears women's clothing and dons flamboyant makeup in order to assume the female persona she has created. This act is fundamentally private in nature. Harry/Harriet tries to establish a sexual identity based upon her own personal will. Once accepted (by herself if not by others) she is able to discover and develop other talents. With all its maternal and supposedly feminine overtones, Harry/Harriet is a healer, a nurse. This reversal of gender stereotypes/roles is not lost on Cliff.
"Harriet nursed all manner of illness and wound turning from none...None of her people downtown let on if they knew a male organ swung gently under her bleached and starched skirt. Or that white powder on her face hid a five o'clock shadow. Had they suspected, what would they have been reduced to? For her people...did not suffer freaks gladly - unless they became characters, entertainment. Mad, unclean diversion" (Cliff 171).
The public response to the exotic, the freakish, is the second level at which Harry/Harriet operates. It is on this level that she is able to mock the exotic image of the oriental which Said discusses. Like Harry/Harriet's own people, Europeans devour the exotic with an insatiable appetite if it is placed in a framework that is obviously inferior. When given the opportunity, Harry/Harriet creates the characters Prince Badnigga and Princess Cunnilinga, African royalty on holiday in the islands (Cliff 125). She understands all too well that Europeans are victims of dogmatic power/knowledge, of Orientalism. They are incapable of perceiving any native as an individual removed from all cultural preconceptions. Harry/Harriet obliges them with his fiction, mocking their unknowing complicity.
"...jus' give dem what dem want. No need to get deep. No need to tell them my asshole was split when I was a bwai by an officer...that t'ing didn't make me who I am. Didn't form me in all my complexity. But the man's brutishness made my journey hard, hard" (Cliff 128).
Again, this is an act of individual freedom, not a gesture toward a larger sense of cultural revolt, Harry/Harriet is quick to point out. Harry/Harriet's ability to think and act critically is based upon her sense of personal liberation. She is isolated from many things, not unlike Clare, but the space in which she exists is, to the greatest extent, self imposed.
Harry/Harriet's influence over Clare leads to an interesting paradox. She encourages Clare to undergo a similar sense of personal liberation by returning to Jamaica. When questioned by the resistance movement Clare states, "I have not been sent from somewhere. I came here because I could not go elsewhere" (Cliff 195). Clare tries for most of her adult life to keep her Jamaican heritage at arm's length. She returns supposedly to embrace her past in order to better understand herself. Her choices, choices supported by Harry/Harriet, seem to contradict these motives, however. They both volunteer to serve in an institution, admittedly a small one, the rebel cadre, which has its ideological foundation deep within Western thought: Communism. This choice leads ironically and sadly to violence and destruction. While they seem to advocate a personal, critical resistance with respect to themselves, ultimately they return to dogma as the more potent form method of organized resistance.
Salih seems to suggest that the will to live, to survive, exists above all other categories. The narrator does not assign a higher meaning to his actions. In fact, the narrator yearns to relive or return to the "feast without meaning" (Salih 114-5). Fleeting moments of joy and ecstasy are housed there. Mustafa understands this fact all too well. Mustafa was never able to tread water, to hang in the balance. His obsession with power through sex carried him from shore to shore and, eventually, the river's swift currents pulled him away. While certainly not immune from these same ideological currents, the narrator makes a choice to survive. Having made this choice, his struggle will end only when his life does. Perhaps this is why the narrator's fate remains in question at the end of the novel. Sex and relations between men and women are thus only imbued with destructive powers when they are restricted by absolute, ideological (essentially artificial) boundaries; they lose their buoyancy and we sink with them.
This idea seems to be supported and expanded by Cliff. We follow the characters past the moment of choice. Clare freely chooses to join the armed resistance, whether she agrees completely with their doctrine or not, and she meets a violent end. Not unlike Mustafa, her choice to submit to dogmatic power/knowledge results in death. Harry/Harriet's words, however, compel her to make a choice. "...the time will come for both of us to choose...Cast our lots. Cyaan [can't] live split. Not in this world" (Cliff 131). The power of this statement is immediately undercut, since Harry/Harriet lives a life with many splits. Like Salih's narrator, Harry/Harriet's fate is undecided. Any tension or ambiguity created by Harry/Harriet's unresolved fate is ultimately undermined, because Cliff's narrative focus remains fixed on Clare.
Both authors try to articulate a critical response to sex and politics in a post-colonial context. The destruction that results from the two, in isolation or intertwined, does not reflect a quality inherent to either sex or politics. Instead, it is a dogmatic philosophy, when applied to either concept which results in destruction. Neither author attempts authentically to tear down one world, one set of dogmatic assumptions, only to replace it with another. Mustafa Sa'eed and Clare Savage serve as powerful testimony to the futility of this struggle. Instead, a critical response must seek not to destroy the dogmatic mode (for the existence of the critical is hopelessly connected to it). Such a response should attempt to make a creative synthesis rooted in its unique vantage point. The challenge of the post-colonial author then becomes to create a new but limited source of knowledge (savoir) which incorporates the colonial experience (its dogma) as well as the ongoing process of Orientalism. This synthetic knowledge could provide the basis for powerful commentary on sex, politics, and colonialism.
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