After the Second World War, nationalism emerged as the principle expression of resistance to Western imperialism in a variety of regions from the Indian subcontinent to Africa, to parts of Latin America and the Pacific Rim. With the Bandung Conference and the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement, many of Europe’s former colonies banded together to form a common bloc, aligned with neither the advanced capitalist “First World” nor with the socialist “Second World.” In this historical context, the category of “Third World literature” emerged, a category that has itself spawned a whole industry of scholarly and critical studies, particularly in the metropolitan West, but increasingly in the homelands of the Third World itself.
Setting himself against the growing tendency to homogenize “Third World” literature and cultures, Aijaz Ahmad has produced a spirited critique of the major theoretical statements on “colonial discourse” and “post-colonialism,” dismantling many of the commonplaces and conceits that dominate contemporary cultural criticism. With lengthy considerations of, among others, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, and the Subaltern Studies group, In Theory also contains brilliant analyses of the concept of Indian literature, of the genealogy of the term “Third World,” and of the conditions under which so-called “colonial discourse theory” emerged in metropolitan intellectual circles.
Erudite and lucid, Ahmad’s remapping of the terrain of cultural theory is certain to provoke passionate response.
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Aijaz Ahmad is a renowned cultural theorist who has taught in several western and Indian universities. A frequent contributor to Frontline magazine, he currently lives in New Delhi.Review:
“In Theory is an erudite and brilliant work—one of the few books in recent years on politics, and literature, which deserves to be taken completely seriously.”—The Guardian
“A sustained and searching polemic ... A powerful dissenting voice to the two orthodoxies—‘Third Worldism’ and post-structuralism—which have succeeded each other in misrepresenting, as Ahmad convincingly shows, the nature of the many different literatures and cultures flourishing in Africa and Asia. Because of this vigorously argued claim, Ahmad’s voice is one of the most important in the current critical debate.”—Financial Times
“Aijaz Ahmad addresses the work of Frederic Jameson, Edward Said and Marx as a theorist of colonialism ... an important and intermittently brilliant book, ‘must’ redaing for any students of ‘world literature’.”—Choice
“Aijaz Ahmad’s In Theory is a brilliant polemic which remorselessly undoes some Western illusions about post-colonial societies. Ahmad examines the historical roots of Western Third-Worldism ... His book is a sharp reminder that there is only one world—that of international capitalism—within which some post-colonial nations have needed to struggle and resist more energetically than others.”—Times Literary Supplement
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