During the 1960s and 1970s movements emerged such as second wave feminism, civil rights and gay “liberation” whose previously silenced and marginalized voices suggested that the white male was no longer the only hero of the story. These voices variously and collectively claimed the right to speak in their own name and attempted to foster a sense of group “identity” as a way of resisting the systematic oppression that was experienced by each group in different ways. At the same time post modernist theories were also gaining currency. Patricia Waugh (1989:307) has described postmodernism as a “mood expressed theoretically across a wide range of discourses involving a collapse of grand narratives” and this “mood” incorporates the post structuralism notion of the death of the “subject”. My argument in this paper will be that while postmodernist theories were once useful positions to challenge patriarchal, heterosexist, racist society they have become double edged swords for the marginalized and disenfranchised groups who still need to articulate themselves through the now debated “identity politics”. Theorists such as Elizabeth Wheeler (1991:6) have pointed out the irony that just as female and/or non-white subjects began to make themselves heard, the white male declared the death of the subject. The fetish of the textual beckoned in an age where white intellectuals were threatened with the disposition of their words.
The central postmodern project is the end of dualism. This challenge to dualism was a feminist project before it was a postmodern one and part of my discussion will be an elaboration of what I believe to be the more sinister implications for women regarding the end of dualism as it is articulated in postmodern epistemological theory, (especially its challenge to the epistemological foundations of feminist theory.) I will be arguing that postmodernism absolutely supports the status quo, which, in our culture is that of consumerism and commodifation. I will also be arguing that postmodernism, whilst claiming to have no stake in its own hegemony (like queer theory) does extreme ‘violence’ to identity politics and only totally reinforces the hegemonic position of white males in our culture. My contention throughout this paper will be that post modernism’s logical outcome can only be a political vacuum where “meaning” is destabilized, commodity fetishism is the only “verity” and organized opposition an absurdity in a culture without a “meaningful” language.
First, 'White' is a singular population entity only in terms of a heritage of privileges and in the delusional theories of demagogues. North American caucasians are a beyond-mutt ness amalgam of dozens of ethnic, tribal, and national root groups, many of which have fought bitter wars with one another over the past few centuries. (The biggest of those wars were started by jerks like Napoleon and ...
I will be urging the point that the postmodern promise of pleasure and playfulness which was to be the result of its challenges to what Schwichtenberg (1993:140) describes as ”the ontological notions implicit in the sex/gender/sexuality triumverate” has been broken. In fact the actuality is that people whose race, gender or sexual identification previously placed them ‘outside’ of dominant discourses are merely being saturated with textual representations of “themselves” and the commodification and exploitation of what is perceived to be their “style “. For example the clothing worn by the early punks or by some of the feminist s in the 1970s was a form of Refusal and had subversive implications (which I will elaborate on later) Postmodern capitalist culture has a tendency to appropriate signs (in this case the sign of clothing which signified resistance) and reconstituting them as commodifiable and chic but divested of political significance.
I’ll also be arguing that in spite of the postmodernist’s suspicion of the notion of authenticity or autonomy I believe that a marginalized ‘sensibility’ does have legitimacy and power for a real historical community’s struggle with oppression. While I agree with the notion that the ‘subject’ is crossed by multiple signifying discourses and different social experiences which are normally dependent on one’s ethnicity, class, gender and sexual practices, I believe that the post structural linguistic failure to adequately map the subject as anything else but an unstable site of constant transformation fails to address the problems of people who are currently oppressed.
The Essay on The Status of Native Culture and Identity In Contemporary Society Depicted In Thomas King’s Borders
Thomas King’s Borders, is a first person narrative designed to represent the continuing loss of identity experienced by the native population in contemporary North America. Borders tells the story of a native family living on a reservation located close to the Albertan-Montanan boarder in Western Canada. The protagonist of Borders is the unnamed mother of the family, who by refusing to properly ...
Postmodernism is elitist and its theories are frequently inaccessible to people outside the academic environment. People who organize within identity politics may often have an (untheorised) sense of social solidarity. These people are demeaned by the postmodern suspicion of identity politics but people live untheorized lives and are oppressed in ways that dispassionate theorists in privileged positions may not have access to. A political prisoner of conscience rotting in a cell would probably take little comfort in Beaudrillard’s theories of terrorism but would be very glad to hear from Amnesty International.
Postmodernism originally offered the possibility of a ‘revolution’ for ‘marginalized people. Its focus on the collapse of metanarratives and its emphasis on the endless and multiple points of entry for everyone in a pluralistic culture and the validity of everyone’s “story” challenged the construction of the white male as being ‘inherently’ superior to all of his constructed ‘others’. But the utter dissolution of identity, which is the logical outcome of the death of the subject problematizes all notions of resistance or opposition to dominant culture. My argument throughout the paper will be focused on the fate of the ‘subject’ in a postmodern culture; a subject which Terry Eagleton has characterized as “a dispersed de-centered network of libidinal attachments, emptied of ethical substance and psychical interiority, the ephemeral function of this or that act of consumption, media experience, sexual relationship, trend or fashion. “ I will argue that postmodernism supports the status quo and far from shaking the position of the ruling white male is actually reinforcing it.