Home(s) Abroad: Diasporic Identities in Third Spaces

Sura P. Rath, Louisiana State University -- Shreveport

Copyright © 2000 by Sura P. Rath, all rights reserved. This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the editors of JOUVERT: Journal of Postcolonial Studies.

  1. The following passage from Erich Fromm's preface to Marx's Concept of Man reflects a mindset that exorcises history in favor of a first world hegemony over the third world in an area where neither politically nor philosophically the west holds high grounds:
    The alternatives for the underdeveloped countries, whose political development will be decisive for the next hundred years, are not capitalism and socialism, but totalitarian socialism and Marxist humanist socialism. . . . The West has much to offer as a leader of such a development for the former colonial nations; not only capital and technical advice, but also the Western humanist tradition of which Marxist socialism is the upshot; the tradition of man's freedom, not only from, but his freedom to -- to develop his own human potentialities, the tradition of human dignity and brotherhood. (viii)
    Though Fromm's rhetorical strategy is designed to package Marx for the consumption of the capitalist Western readers, in retrospection his neo-colonial position belies the historical record of colonialism in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.

  2. In "A Borderless World? From Colonialism to Transnationalism and the Decline of the Nation-State," Masao Miyoshi has examined the gradual ascendancy of the nation-state around 1800 in the West as 'a function of colonialism' :
    as the industrial revolution increased production efficiency, urban areas received the influx of a large percentage of agricultural labor, creating a pool of surplus population. These potentially rebellious unemployed and displaced workers needed to be depressurized in the marginal areas of the labor market. Toward that end, the organizers of colonialism had to persuade their recruits and foot soldiers about the profitability as well as the nobility of their mission. (82)
    These 'recruits' had to believe that the country they were working for was superior to the colonies where they worked, that they themselves were superior to the people in these colonies because of their role in the material production system, that they earned their compensation -- including the luxurious lifestyle, the pecuniary benefits, and the exercise of power and privilege. Their exploitation and plunder were, in essence, highlighted as charity and benevolence. The fact that they might be the bottom of the totem pole in the class structure back home was easy to forget in the state of amnesia caused by both distance from home and by the presumption of their new role as the missionaries of progress and civilization. The blind spot in the whole scene is the heart of their own darkness; the language of humanism merely plasters the surface of there (the colonized) with the interests of here (the colonizer).

  3. Why not leave the border groups and the margins to encounter their clashes and find solutions to their mutual satisfaction, and then let them become acculturated? Two answers are readily suggested: first, historically, such resolutions have never taken shape. Left to themselves, the border groups form their own circles, and in course of time threaten the centrality of the center. As Lavie and Swedenburg note, "strategies for coping with and articulating the historicity of experience, working with and against post-modernist fragmentation, fracture not only the binaristic linear narrative of the relation between Third World Self and First World Other, but also the linearity of the Eurocenter's Self and Other as well"(5). On any national scene or on the international scene, the disenfranchised challenge and rupture the fabric of national homogeneity. As Mike Featherstone has noted, the failure to recognize the political complexity and cultural intricacy behind the disagreements, conflicts and 'clashing of perspectives' inevitably leads to the emergence of pockets of localism in the global body politics:
    It can be argued that the difficulty of handling increasing levels of cultural complexity, and the doubts and anxieties they often engender, are reasons why 'localism,' or the desire to return home, becomes an important theme -- regardless of whether the home is real or imaginary, temporary, syncretized, or simulated, or whether it is manifest in a fascination with the sense of belonging, affiliation, and community attributed to the homes of others. (47)

  4. In a 1993 interview with Jerry Brown for the Spin magazine, Noam Chomsky similarly identifies two tendencies in global capitalism going in opposite directions:
    There are tendencies [in global capitalism] going in opposite directions. On the one hand, there is a tendency toward this international centralization of power. There is also an opposite tendency. All around the world, there is much more involvement in grass-roots organizations, there is regionalism [and moves toward developing] more local autonomy. (qtd. in Rob Wilson and Wimal Dissanayake 1)
    One might see the traces of such localism in the rise of fundamentalism around the world, as well as in the rise of small splinter groups barricading themselves against the center in trenches along the border. On a more benign scale but in a more radically political level, the clamor for localism manifests in school boards, in county commissions, and sometimes even in colleges and universities whose traditional modus operandi is threatened by challenges from 'outsiders.' The second, more important and far more significant, answer is that the peripheral dissipation inevitably reduces the diametric expansion of one's territory (or empire). Hence, the loud echo of a local Muslim plight in Croatia or of the domestic economic crisis in Indonesia is heard in the political and fiscal fortresses of the world. The globalization of the local has localized the whole globe.


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Last Modified: 7 March 2002