28.2 | Akin Adesokan

Postcoloniality and the “Cultural Turn”


This essay discusses a significant theme in the field of postcolonial studies, that is, the paradox that culture as a political legitimation of identity is also subject to the violence of representation. Focusing on Kwame Anthony Appiah’s much-cited essay “Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in Postcolonial?” as useful but limited meditation on this paradox, I highlight the importance of “the cultural turn” in postmodernity in entrenching the asymmetry between postcoloniality and other
fields in the humanities and the social sciences, with particular examples of the marketability of African and “non-European” experiences. This discussion enables me to contrast prevalent ideas of culture with classic texts (Cabral; Fanon) on the nature of national culture. In conclusion, I stress the becomingness and partiality of culture, at every historical point, as a set of practices that do not and cannot reflect the totality of social expressions of all sections of a given society.