Three postcolonial concepts for social entrepreneurs

 

By Editor of SocialBusiness.org

Prayer on the Housetops, Jean-Leon Gerome, 1865

Orientalism Orientalism is one of those books that changed the world. And in my undergraduate education, probably around my third year in university in Montreal, I was exploring beyond my traditional International Development Studies courses, and found myself in both a Gender and Postcolonial Lit class and a Theories of Difference English course. It was then that Orientalism changed me, too. Orientalism is a concept developed by postcolonial theorist Edward Said and is also a book published in 1978 under the same name. For Said, orientalism is “a manner of regularized (or Orientalized) writing, vision, and study, dominated by imperatives, perspectives, and ideological biases ostensibly suited to the Orient.” It’s essential to think about when entrepreneurs talk for or even about marginalized subjects. Orientalism creates objects, especially, as we see in Gerome’s piece, in art. It’s the way we (read: The West) talk about, present, re-represent and imagine the Other. Hybridity Hybridity is a term typically attributed to being developed to the postcolonial intellectual Homi Bhabha in his 1996 book The Location of Culture. It can be, and it is to me, a little more optimistic than orientalism. Hybridity, as you can imagine, is an in-between state. Or rather, an in between process. “The borderline engagements of cultural difference may as often be consensual as conflictual; they may confound our definitions of tradition and modernity; realign the customary boundaries between the private and the public, high and low; and challenge normative expectations of development and progress,”  writes Bhabha. Hybridity can be creative, it can also be a site of resistance so think about productivity and creativity when you’re straddling two worlds, whatever those worlds are. Maybe it’s business and social good or maybe it’s the United States and Kenya. Subaltern Antonio Gramsci’s idea of cultural hegemony laid the grounds for the postcolonial concept of the subaltern as it is viewed today. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is maybe the poster woman for “subaltern” as a concept and she insists that

subaltern is not just a classy word for “oppressed”, for [the] Other, for somebody who’s not getting a piece of the pie. . . . In post-colonial terms, everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is subaltern — a space of difference. Now, who would say that’s just the oppressed? The working class is oppressed. It’s not subaltern. . . . Many people want to claim subalternity. They are the least interesting and the most dangerous. I mean, just by being a discriminated-against minority on the university campus; they don’t need the word ‘subaltern’ . . . They should see what the mechanics of the discrimination are. They’re within the hegemonic discourse, wanting a piece of the pie, and not being allowed, so let them speak, use the hegemonic discourse. They should not call themselves subaltern.

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