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"Z is for Zero and N is for Nigger:" Postcolonial Theory of Theory for Recolonization?

Biko Agozino


You can't judge a book by its cover, goes the saying. However, the disturbing cover illustration of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's book, A Critique of Post-colonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present (Harvard University Press, 1999) says a lot about its content. I will save comments on the cover until the concluding section of this commentary. The first response to Spivak's book is, what, no Frantz Fanon or Kwame Nkrumah in a book that promises to critique postcolonial reason? Just a bunch of dead white men after another bunch telling us about universal reason! Since these theorists had very little to say about colonialism, Spivak could have presented a better and clearer analysis from the perspective of victims of colonialism. Consider the intellectuals that Spivak dismissed as migrant "native informants," Chinweizu, Amina Mama, Ifi Amadiume, Nuruddin Farah, Ama Ata Aidoo, Biodun Jeyifo, and Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, to name but a few African theorists that were conveniently silenced. This strategic silencing is perhaps based on the fact that the book announces itself as a feminist text, an alibi that fails to wash because many of these authors are gender sensitive while many of those given pride of place, because they are not Africans, are undoubtedly chauvinist pigs.

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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