Defining my subject position seems…infinite. I can easily say female and white – the two broadest categories; add in cisgender and heterosexual – for the less interesting bits. Class? Well…when? I’ve gone from lower-middle to upper-middle to middle-as-you-can-get-middle and back again. All of those levels have their own nooks and crannies, if you will, and each has constructed my subject position at each time. I am more interested in where this positional classification actually ends (probably at the quantum level, but there position is only in potential).
I am also an atheist, overweight, a smoker, peanut-hater (non-allergic), lover of 1970s R&B, Moon-landing defender, possible Highlander, cat owner, book reader, and confessor that at this point in the list it becomes increasingly less humorous and more like a terrible eHarmony profile. Does having access to a public park as a child affect my subject position? The age I lost my virginity? Does being a non-traditional (middle-aged) student make my academic positions more or less conservative? Is turning the dehumanizing act of categorization back upon ourselves instead of toward others an essential part of postcolonial studies?
By assessing “what am I” instead of declaring “what are you” we include ourselves in the broader scope of humanity, instead of sitting above it, looking upon a people as specimens swimming in microscope slides. We remove the unspoken superiority when placing people into checkbox-shaped compartments. We stop being an “us” and realize we are all “them.” Yet, this realization is not an end game. I do not wake up the next day all of a sudden…woke. It is the start of a process; the absorption of the stories that paint a fuller picture of the world and the deconstruction of the stories that have shaped it thus far. The Western stories written in and about the colonized world shape(d) the lives of people newly independent and those struggling under a colonial legacy. Yet, it is important not to stop at that new lens on the old cannon, satisfying as it may seem. Keeping focus on Western stories, even within the postcolonial view still only tells part of the whole story. Opening up the colonized narratives expands the story from the “flat” experience that Adichie speaks about in her video.
Others than Kipling wrote of India.
And here is where, even in week one, postcolonial studies intersects with my own research. Columbus’ letter is a brilliant example of the earnestness of the colonizer in his (and I use his most emphatically here) infantilization of the colonized. They are “of simple manners and trustworthy” like children, eager for the paternal affection of a far away crown (Desai and Nair 20). And it’s through stories–travelogues, treaties, psalms–that this infantilization is reflected back on the colonized and internalized. Adichie’s words, when confronting the Western stories she read as a child, cannot be understated: “how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.” The stories we tell about ourselves are in constant discourse with the stories told about us, and therefore, I think, postcolonial studies is about giving voice and validity to the fuller volume of stories that shape people’s lives.