The Tick of a Heretic or on Using the Poison of Theory

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114 David Moody The, that is there is an argument against European theory in general and 0. a more serious one perhaps against post structuralism in particular ne. The first argument warns against the Eurocentric nature of such th it. aries what Soyinka has called their implicit and explicit missiona and. function 3 Helen Tiffen and Stephen Slemon put it well in a recent collec for. tion of papers on the issue Theory after Europe becomes a discurs liru. ive tool by which dominant culture ideologically reinscribes its imperial ism. centrality However that is not the end of the sentence for Tiffen and and. Siemon go on to say and yet for all that theory remains a potentially to 1. enabling mechanism for furthering the continuing practice of post colonial ide. critical resistance into new vectors 4 To try and claim a theory free zone be 1. for post colonial literature is doomed to failure the practice of post ow. colonial criticism is already a battle ground for contesting European and pot. American theories Indeed as Chidi Amuta has argued for Africa alone cer1. the neo colonial market place offers the critic a wide choice of theoretical. hats ranging from Leavisite practical criticism to a Marxist materialism of. the most mechanistic kind 5 Indeed to argue that such theories can have. no validity to post colonial literature is to other the native once again. fixing her him as once again being essentially and naturally different. from us The danger is that such theories can become new orthodoxies. themselves claiming to have the one true Word instead of the timely. strategic and above all materialist heresy with which arrogant cultural. priesthoods can be unseated, However post structuralism has its particular risks The warnings. against its uncritical use are loud and legion Craig Tapping for example. notes that despite theory s refutation of such absolute and logocentric. categories as these truth or meaning purpose or justification. the new literatures are generated from cultures for whom such terms. as authority and truth are empirically urgent in their demands. Similarly Bob Hodge and Vijay Mishra have noted the implicit tendency. in post colonial theory for Political insurgency to be replaced by. discursive radicalism and for the post colonial to be reduced to a. purely textual phenomenon 7 These criticisms and there are numerous. others are well aimed post structuralism can easily end in making the. specific local struggles of post colonial peoples just another scene in the. great play of difference Nevertheless it must also be said that some of the. common sense assumptions subverted by post structuralism are alive and. well and holding court in post colonial literary debate among th em the. notion of an authentic essential voice the idea of presence the v1r ue of. representation and the search for an organic tradition as an alterna IVe to. that of Eliot Arnold and Leavis 8 These dogma reify the practice of literat. ure separating it from the exploitative oppressive apparatus of the neo. colonial society in which it plays an important part The discourse of post. structuralism when used strategically and with awareness of its own con. The Tick of a Heretic 115, structed nature can help re materialize post colonial literature re placing. it within the material institutions which produce it as a discourse. Dismissed so often as pessimistic nihilistic and or absurdist Madmen. and Specialists is not a play a critic immediately thinks of when searching. for an example of the post colonial text For example Obi Maduakor in. linking the play with the work of the absurdists comments that pessim. ism and cynicism have been nurtured to a point in both Soyinka himself. and the characters that discussion and meaningful exchange are thought. to be unnecessary 9 However if approached not in search of essences or. identity but from the perspective of post structuralist theory the play can. be seen as more radical than wrist splitting It is ironic given Soyinka s. own well publicized distrust of European theories and their missionary. potential that so much of Madmen and Specialists seems to echo the con. cerns of French post structuralist Michel Foucault s the concentration on. the figure of the specialist the concern with practice and the ironic play. on what we might call after Foucault the politics of truth 10 Moreover. the concern with priesthood of the power elite with the religious func. tion of language and with the gaps within language reminds the reader. of the work of yet another French post structuralist Jacques Derrida. In a paper this size is impossible to deal with these theories in any great. detail However I am more interested in appropriating some of the con. cepts and insights of these theories in the interest of a re staging of Mad. men and Specialists than with providing an adequate reading of the the. ories themselves What I find useful in Foucault s work is his linking of. power discourse and knowledge Power he argues does not principally. act repressively but productively, it doesn t weigh on us as a force that says no but it traverses and produces. things it induces pleasure forms knowledge produces discourse It needs to be. considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social body. much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression11. The way this power works is through a whole network of technologies. of power which involve the surveillance discipline and even the pro. duction of the subject him herself In books dealing with some of the. most significant of these technologies Foucault has detailed the social. production of the institutions of medicine madness criminality and. exuality 12 The importance of these genealogies as Foucault calls them. Is that they show how the modern state itself works in detail common to. both so called capitalist and communist states Here a rigidly Marxist. analysis fails to detail both the scope of the issue and also to deal with. power s specificity its techniques and tactics the way it works con. cretely Where Soviet socialist power was in question its opponents. called it totalitarianism power in Western capitalism was denounced by. the Marxists as class domination but the mechanics of power in. 116 David Moody, themselves were never analysed 13 In a sense a Marxist response is n t T.
materialist enough failing to detail the way in which power actua I. marks the body of social subjects This is a particularly valuable aid. reading Soyinka for one of the strongest political criticisms of his work i. that it is also not materialist enough s, What these technologies establish moreover are what Foucault calls. regimes of truth In this sense Truth is to be understood as a system. of ordered procedures for the production regulation distribution circula. tion and operation of statements Here Foucault s concentration on dis. course is especially useful for it reminds us that what a society deems. true its knowledges is a matter of language and not just language op. erating in a vacuum but as part of a whole material economic and polit. ical network of material practices 15 Foucault continues to list some of the. characteristics of the current Western regime, Truth is centred on the form of scientific discourse and the institutions which pro. duce it it is subject to constant economic and political incitement the demand for. truth as much for economic production as for political power it is the object. under diverse forms of immense diffusion and consumption circulating through. apparatuses of education and information whose extent is relatively broad in the. social body not withstanding certain strict limitations it is produced and. transmitted under the control dominant if not exclusive of a few great political and. economic apparatuses university army writing media lastly it is the16issue of a. whole political debate and social confrontation ideological struggles. The title of Soyinka s Madmen and Specialists itself turns on this very. problematic the link between institutions and discourses of normalization. incarceration recuperation and knowledge I would argue that the spe. cialist becomes an even more crucial figure in a post colonial regime of. truth where the demand for such know ledge is so immediate and urgent. and the supply so much less reliable, The work of Jacques Derrida is perhaps even more elusive than that of. Foucault and the two approaches are certainly not to be seen as being in. fundamental agreement However Derrida like Foucault argues that. power is very much a question of language Indeed it might be argued. that Derrida goes further than Foucault in showing how the will to. power is integral to the production of language itself. the play of differences involves synthesis and referrals that prevent there from. being at any moment or in any way a simple element is present in and of itself and. refers only to itself Whether in written or in spoken discourse no eleme t can. function as a sign without relating to another element which itself is not simply. present This linking this weaving is the text which is produced only through t e. transformation of another text Nothing either in the elements or in the system. anywhere simplf present or absent There are only everywhere differences an. traces of traces 1,The Tick of a Heretic 117, This play of presence and absence where meaning is produced through. an active difference from a presence always deferred is given the name. differance by Derrida 18 By showing that no sign carries within itself the. grounds of its own authority Derrida is able to deconstruct through me. ticulously close reading those places spaces in utterances where the struc. ture deconstructs itself where its claims for closure or totality are shown. to depend upon the very term it marginalizes or denies While the various. strategies Derrida uses to undertake this operation are not in any sense. identical they do have the common virtue of showing how linguistic. power carries with it its own hubris Whether through the trace of some. prior term or through the supplement which displays the insufficiency. of the main body of the text the metaphysical discourse is shown to. depend on its other for its very existence, All metaphysicians have proceeded this good before evil the positive before the.
negative the pure before the impure the simple before the complex the essential. before the accidental the imitated before the imitation etc This is not just one meta. physical gesture among others it is the metaphysical exigency the most constant. profound and potent procedureY, Significantly while all discourse must in some degree be metaphysical. Derrida has traced the dominance of one kind of metaphysics in Western. culture that which he labels both logocentric and phonocentric and by. linking this with the related term phallocentric he is able to show the. links between linguistic political and sexual power 20 The partnership. between the primacy of the Word and the authority of the Father lead us. rather obviously to Soyinka, For like metaphysical discourse itself Madmen and Specialists is based on. a series of oppositions moreover these oppositions centre on the issue of. the appropriate practice of knowledge between traditional father and. rebellious son between professional specialist and the marginalized. women abnormal and between inside outside or colonized and colonizer. There are two central traditions of specialization in the play one which. is carried in the male line from Old Bero to his son and which centres on. the key neo colonial title of Dr and the other which is passed from. mother to daughter and stresses the primacy of the earth and its seasons. The battle between father and son in the play should not blind us to. he r essential identity they both see knowledge as being a matter for. IndiVidual transcendence and freedom In other words the Father has. bred the Son in the individualistic idealistic search for truth of the Father. is the will to power of the Son in the Christ like speciality of the hero. artist redeemer professional there is the megalomaniac madness of the. son The Specialist is literally the son of Soyinka s own characteristic. Ogunnian heroes the celebration of the individual will to power taken. to its logical conclusions the Will to know even the taste of death In Old. 118 David Moody, Bero s passion for the need to choose there are the seeds of his son. passion for Control In the father s willingness to try anything with argu. ment there are the beginnings of Bero s own more sinister experimenta. tion If the play questions who is the real madman of the title it also. problematizes the issue as to who is the play s chief specialist It is the. concept and practice of specialization which is the issue here and the. cult of individual mastery and elitism it embodies. Moreover it is a specialization which speaks also of both metaphysics. and colonialism In Bero s frantic search for the name a quest parodied. by his father and ridiculed by Iya Agba we see the need for the master. word which Derrida sees as the characteristic of metaphysical discourse. Similarly Bero s quest for transcendent knowledge can be seen as linked. to his neo colonial status as a Dr for in the neo colonial social formation. The Tick of a Heretic 115 structed nature can help re materialize post colonial literature re placing it within the material institutions which produce it as a discourse Dismissed so often as pessimistic nihilistic and or absurdist Madmen and Specialists is not a play a critic immediately thinks of when searching for an example of the post colonial text

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