The Politics of Reading the "Postnational":
Hybridity and Neocolonial Critique
In Djibril Diop Mambéty's Hyènes
Copyright © 1999 by Adrian Fielder, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.
- For most observers, there seems to be little doubt that the recent emergence of postcolonial literary and cultural studies has effected, at many institutional sites, profound epistemological shifts in the theoretical frameworks and modes of analysis informing intellectual production. It also seems fairly clear that these shifts reflect some species of an anti-colonialist ethical imperative committed to deconstructing the cultural, linguistic, and racial categories which enabled the formulation and subsequent propagation of imperialist ideologies during European colonial expansion. However, it remains a matter of some debate whether or not the discursive strategies resulting from such shifts have succeeded in articulating productive critical perspectives on the ways in which grossly imbalanced relations of power--inherited from the colonial period--continue to circumvent the social, political, and economic conditions prevailing in many formerly colonized spaces. This lack of consensus is inscribed, for example, in the debate over the use of the term "postcolonial" itself, insofar as it falsely posits a teleological movement somehow "beyond" or "after" any problematics of colonial domination--and therefore fails to describe a global system which might be more accurately qualified (according to some observers) as "neocolonial." 
- The ideological tensions implicated in these debates are brought into clearest relief, perhaps, in the recent theorization of "postnational" affiliations that transcend the imagined communities described by Benedict Anderson, and most particularly, in a concomitant analytic preoccupation with the interstitial zones of contact and the deterritorialized modes of identification through/in which "hybrid" and "diasporic" cultural forms come to be elaborated. Wielding a variety of interpretive approaches, a prolific body of work invested in these issues has engaged in investigations ranging greatly in their analytic scope: from empirically-grounded textual studies concerning processes of cultural/linguistic cross-pollination in fairly localized, though intensively creolized, contexts (such as Lionnet's notion of "métissage", to broadly theoretical and perhaps even universalizing discourses on forms of "hybridity" (Bhabha) expressed through the cultural disjunctures indicative of what Appadurai terms our contemporary "globalscapes." Although it would be misleading to consider the entire spectrum of such contributions to literary and cultural theory under one totalizing rubric, these efforts share a common ground in their commitment to conceive of an "identity politics" which is not girded by fictive categories of ethnic, class, or national subjecthood--or what Judith Butler more accurately calls (in relation to gender politics) a politics of "disidentification" (4).
- Given the proliferation of work indebted to these ground-breaking approaches, it is not surprising that the intellectual trends thus catalyzed have been interpreted by some as the contours of a new "postnational paradigm" charged with the potential to displace, or at least destabilize, established disciplinary boundaries (especially those based on notions of unitary national cultures or languages). Although it seems unlikely that the near future will witness the summary disposal of the nation as a field of critical inquiry, a salient commentary along this vein would be that the term "postnational"--by assuming a linear temporality similar to that proposed by "postcolonial"--has the harmful potential to de-emphasize the ways in which nation-states have not simply disappeared, but have most often responded autonomously to contemporary global reconfigurations of power. Furthermore, it may well be noted that these intellectual trends have in some ways fostered the notion that the postnational is bound up with hybrid constructions of identity in ways that the nation was/is not. By losing sight of the processes of "amnesiac creolity" (Rosello, "Introduction" 5) through which the constitutively hybrid foundations of national communities are systematically "swept under the rug" in the service of dominant culture, this conceptual alignment can have the effect of preserving the very imaginary distinctions that enable official definitions of putatively coherent cultures. As Rosello points out in Declining the Stereotype,
the very notion of hybridity may be generated by a dominant nostalgia for authenticity and homogeneity. Some people are perceived as participating in different cultures (African "and" French, or Muslim "and" French, for example), although they may feel that their (one and unique) culture is simply . . . a combination of what others think of as different and sometimes incompatible cultures. . . . [a misconception generated by an] inability to understand culture as one complex and internally divergent whole. (174-75)
- On one hand, this can lead to a certain Manichean reading of culture, according to which postcolonial/postnational hybridity comes to be privileged by critical discourse as a utopian strategy of resistance to the quintessential repressive social form embodied by the nation.  On the other hand, a far more ominous ramification of the recent critical attention to hybridity in postcolonial studies, for some observers, is its marked failure to take account of the inherently uneven logics of exchange through which cultural and economic transactions have taken shape in the current world order. According to this argument, the fetishization of postnational hybridity as a focal point of "liberatory" discursive strategies ultimately elides, unwittingly or not, any analysis capable of situating postcolonial cultural production within the hegemonic structures of global capitalism. Although deeply implicated in all the debates outlined thus far, it is this latter critique that will serve as the focus of this essay.
- Indicative of this latter critique is a recent article by Neil Larsen, in which he reads the best-selling book by Robert Kaplan, The Ends of the Earth, as an example of the "ideological fallings-out and about-faces that are being occasioned by the 'postnational' historical crisis--and that often go unnoticed by the radical readers and humanists that gravitate to the 'postcolonial'" (Larsen 2, para. 5). Using the argument elucidated by German political scientist Robert Kurz, Larsen suggests that the socio-economic conditions prevailing in "newly-industrializing" countries (i.e., the "Third World") can best be described as "a classic crisis of over-production in which existing world markets are unable to absorb the increased flow of commodities" (6, para. 7). Bound to the global circulation of commodities, but for the most part lacking the resources either to produce or to accumulate them, "billions of newly proletarianized residents of the South and East" have become, according to Kurz's formulation, "monetary subjects, but without money" (qtd. in Larsen 6, para. 17). After some rather derisive attacks on "the mock-radical cult of the exile or migrant-as-a priori-subversive" (1, para. 1), Larsen examines Kaplan's account of his journey through sub-Saharan Africa. His reading highlights some of Kaplan's most disturbing observations concerning the inherent inability of Africans to maintain effective national infrastructures which are "organic outgrowths of geography and ethnicity" (qtd. in Larsen 3, para. 9). As Larsen argues, Kaplan reaches these conclusions through an interpretive logic blind to the ways in which global capitalism has created "post-catastrophic" societies, a critical myopia which he apparently shares with postcolonial critics:
Where The Ends of the Earth attributes the social catastrophe of a progressively nonreproductive global capitalism to "natural" factors external to its logic, postcolonial theory misreads this logic itself as if the globalized exchange of culture and identities were not bound to the same acutely dysfunctional system that replaces older, bad forms of cultural-nationalist "essentialisms" with newer, ever more sinister ones. Postcolonialism forgets, or never grasps, that the flip-side of "hybridity," "diasporic consciousness," etc. is the post-catastrophic holocaust of "monetary subjects without money." ( 7, para20)
Larsen's implied antidote to this allegedly poststructuralist aporia is, of course, a concrete Marxist-materialist framework capable of acknowledging "the full, contemporary historical reality of global capitalism" (6, para. 15, my emphasis).
- Although it would be counterproductive to dismiss Larsen's observation that postcolonial studies, as manifested at many disciplinary sites, has the tendency to gloss over or to ignore completely the hegemonic structures of late capitalism, I would like to question the double assumption voiced here, that hermeneutic readings of postcolonial texts are essentially incompatible with materialist analyses of the social/economic conditions informing their production--and are consequently incapable of grasping the "flip-side" of the postcolonial coin. Indeed, one of the most important advantages of a text-based exegesis is that, by grounding its claims in empirical textual evidence issuing from specific production environments, it may avoid the trap of indiscriminately mapping onto all postcolonial spaces the kinds of interpretive paradigms that make claims regarding "the reality" of global capitalism (as if globalization were a homogenous process constituted by identical forces applied equally throughout the world). Yet I would suggest that such an approach, by considering the extent to which its object(s) of study situates itself as a localized expressive response to more global conditions of aesthetic production, can nevertheless profitably deploy interpretive models that help clarify the most dominant trends of the current world order. For instance, many texts from "formerly colonized" cultural spaces attempt very consciously to stage the postcolonial era, whether explicitly or allegorically, not as the birth of enriching intercultural dialogue and empowered "cosmopolitan" identities, but rather as a tragic coup-de-grâce, the last chapter in an ignominious history of missed opportunities, failed transactions, and uneven interchange with the industrialized world.
- In what follows, I will consider a recent film by the Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty, Hyènes (Hyenas; 1992), as an example of such a text. My reading will attempt to show how the film resists a naïve celebration of the "possibilities" for cultural and material exchange presented by the elaboration of postnational affiliations--opting instead for a tragic dramatic structure which represents Senegal's entry into the world economy as a collective trauma suffered precisely because of its incorporation into the globalscapes through which people, goods, and ideas seem to move presently. Although my interpretation is indebted to work in anthropology (Mauss), sociology (Leslie Sklair), and feminist theory (Irigaray), the analysis deploys such models in response to the problematics raised in the text itself. In the process, I hope to demonstrate that reading the problematics of hybridity (either its triumphs, its failures, or its complete absence)--far from obfuscating the social realities of the postnational historical crisis--can allow for productive interpretations of the ways in which neocolonial subjects may illuminate or contest the inherently unequal relations of cultural and economic exchange characteristic of that crisis.
- Mambéty's film is a story about the end of exile. Set in a forgotten Senegalese town (Colobane) suffering from drought and extreme poverty--a place where, we are told, "planes, trains, and not even cars stop anymore"--the narrative of Hyènes begins at an unspecified date with the homecoming of a Colobane native who has been away for over thirty years. Linguère Ramatou, exiled from her community as a youth for conceiving a supposedly illegitimate child, returns to Colobane "richer than the World Bank," as the town griot announces before her arrival. When the mayor learns that the town's well-liked grocer, Draman Drameh, once knew Linguère intimately, he and the town leaders agree to elect Draman mayor and at once implore him to succeed in arousing Linguère's generosity for the welfare of her home town. The film's characters are thus implicated from the beginning in the collective hope that contact with "the outside world," established through the migration and subsequent return of one individual from the community, will provide relief from all their ills.
- Soon after her arrival, Linguère expresses her willingness to provide the citizenry of Colobane with the relief they desire, in the form of an extremely generous contribution of 10 million CFA (the currency in sub-Saharan Africa)--on one condition. Linguère wishes to "buy the court" of Colobane, and to explain what she means, her male assistant steps forward and reveals himself as the judge who presided over her case thirty years earlier. Draman, it seems, had impregnated Linguère but refused to acknowledge that the child was his own. When the case was to be presented before the court of Colobane, Draman bribed two other youths of the town with a bottle of wine to perjure themselves by claiming they had also slept with Linguère. Thus dishonored and shunned by the townspeople, Linguère was forced into exile, wandering the world as a prostitute and making a fortune in the process. She has now returned to clear her name in the courts and to seek retribution for the wrong she suffered. In order to receive her contribution, the townspeople must murder Draman. At first they stand behind Draman, claiming that "we are not savages," but eventually they capitulate, and the narrative ends with Draman's sacrifice at the hands of the same tribunal which had acquitted him thirty years earlier.
- In reading this film as an allegory of the ways in which global relations of power articulate themselves in local contexts on the imagined periphery of a former European imperial domain, it is tempting to interpret Linguère as a figure for the encroachment of "Western capital" in postcolonial Senegal. Her "gift" to Colobane, which induces the town to compromise its moral code permanently by condoning the murder of its most well-liked citizen, seems to operate by displacing a more traditional gift economy for which Draman himself seems to be the town's guardian. From the beginning of the film, it is suggested that Draman does not operate his grocery strictly according to the logic of capitalism. Although all the exchanges that take place in Draman's store cannot be described as a kind of potlatch (e.g., there is a form of currency exchange, even if it is not observed with every transaction), Draman insists that his patrons need only pay when they have the money. As we learn in the first scene, in addition to the sweets he gives to the children of his female customers, one of the gifts his male patrons most like to receive is of the fermented kind, of which he pours a generous portion after some friendly cajoling. They all proceed to imbibe an entire bottle and are soon engaged in a lively jam session, beating out rhythms while Draman dances about animatedly.
- The revelers' mirth is soon interrupted by the sounds of a much louder rhythm coming from a group of people approaching the store. It is the staccato incantation of a griot, who is spreading word throughout the town about Linguère's impending visit. The music emanating from Draman's store does not resume: the celebration initiated by his humble gesture of pouring wine is eclipsed by the griot's loud broadcast, in which we hear the stirrings of hope for a much more ample contribution from the long-departed Linguère. Thus, before Linguère even arrives, Draman's form of generosity is overshadowed by Linguère's benevolent extravagances, which are then inaugurated, symbolically, by her very first gesture upon arrival: no sooner has she descended from the train than she makes a donation of 300,000 CFA to the "Colobane Women's Foundation." When she is told that no such organization exists, she brusquely insists that it be created at once. Yet she bequeaths this gift in the same breath as she gives a bribe of 500,000 CFA to the train conductor, who has approached her angrily (not knowing her identity) for stopping his express train in the desolate town of Colobane by pulling the emergency cord. After he learns that she is the famous Linguère Ramatou, he attempts to return the money and offers to wait as long as she wants, but she impatiently demands that he unload her baggage and take the train away at once.
- In contrast to Draman, who seems to give to his friends without any explicit evidence of an ulterior motive, Linguère's ostentatious gift-giving is shown from the start to be caught up in an overtly utilitarian logic calculated to serve her own ends. And her primary intention (as she reveals to the town), Draman's annihilation, is swiftly accomplished by the promise of her overtly poisoned gift. Not long after she places the bounty on Draman, it becomes clear that a profound change has come over the citizenry of Colobane. Draman's usual customers start asking for the most expensive items in stock, including food, liquor, and tobacco imported from Europe. In order to pay for the goods, they tell Draman to "write it up" in his ledger. Then he notices that his poor friends are wearing bright new pairs of yellow shoes, which they obtained, as they tell him, "on credit." When hordes of people subsequently storm Draman's grocery asking for expensive luxury items on credit, the film cuts to a shot of Linguère, who hears the racket and says to her male assistant, "The time of the hyenas has already arrived."
- Draman leaves his store having come to the realization that his customers and peers have been seduced by the promise of 10 million CFA into desiring goods that they cannot presently afford. Fearing for his life, Draman seeks protection from a number of authority figures in town, but each time he arrives at a potential sanctuary he learns that it has already been co-opted by Linguère's money. The police chief, bedecked in the same fashionable yellow shoes, refuses to arrest Linguère; the mayor, whose town hall is equipped with new Remington typewriters, also finds the idea preposterous and criticizes Draman for not wanting the best for Colobane; and even the pastor of the local Christian church--which is now stocked with electric fans, a new chandelier, and a television set--recommends that Draman leave town immediately. Before the end of the narrative, Linguère has literally purchased the town of Colobane and shut down its only source of income (a strip mine), and the entire populace seems to have acquired televisions, refrigerators, or automobiles through credit earned on the imminent donation which will only follow Draman's execution.
- Thus, it becomes clear that the form of credit Linguère brings to Colobane, by effectively exploiting and ultimately displacing the gift economy through which Draman has maintained his status in the community, succeeds in elaborating a new system of social relations: hoarding/stockpiling and a (vertical) dependency on deferred capital will now reign over any logic of reciprocity based on a (horizontal) interdependency among equal social agents. From this perspective, her purchase of Colobane itself--enabled by buying power accumulated through relations with the industrialized world--might symbolize the ongoing privatization of communal lands throughout Africa, through which forms of collective ownership continue to be translated into the propriety structures of late capitalism. According to such a reading, her successful bribes of the political, juridical, and disciplinary institutions governing Colobane would evoke the familiar critique that African governments have become "puppet regimes" manipulated by powerful interest groups centered in the West. The allusions to the World Bank, then, would suggest an analogy between the uneven logics of exchange structuring, on one hand, Linguère's gift to Colobane, and on the other, the forms of "development aid" disseminated throughout the Third World by organizations representing industrial capital. In this sense, the contributions meted out by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund could be conceived as postmodern--and postnational--instantiations of the vertical structures of charity which, as Starobinski has suggested, have been instrumental in legitimizing hierarchical relations of power throughout European history. 
- Furthermore, Linguère's presence in Colobane transforms the collective desires of the community in ways comparable to a global process which sociologist Leslie Sklair has theorized as the corporate-driven propagation of a "culture-ideology of consumerism." Sklair starts from the fundamental premise that human beings have always sought out that which they need for biological survival (food, shelter, etc.), and consequently, any attempt to sell goods extraneous to those needs must necessarily mobilize promotional mechanisms designed to produce a simulacrum of "necessity" for the goods in question. As Sklair points out, this is reflected in the primary marketing strategy employed by transnational corporations seeking to expand into territories outside the already-industrialized world: "projective advertising," which aims to create consumer markets by inducing "needs" for mass-produced commodities in the collective imaginaries of Third World populations. In a remarkable scene following Draman's search for a sanctuary, Mambéty provides what seems to be a surreal depiction of the "dream world of mass consumption" upon which such fantasies hinge. The whole town has descended on a newly-erected amusement park; music is playing everywhere as people dance and sing praises for Linguère Ramatou. As great bursts of fireworks explode overhead, the women of the town have gathered around a stage in the middle of the hullabaloo, where an enormous stockpile of refrigerators, rotating fans, and televisions are being given away: "presents" from Linguère. Apparently facing a TV camera, one woman points to the various items on stage while a man holding a microphone (the "host" of this game show in which everyone is a winner) hails the various qualities of the commodities, the most important of which seems to be that they are imported. One at a time the women of the town go on-stage to tell the man with the microphone which items they wish to acquire--even Khoudia Lo, Draman's wife, who takes the entire stockpile for her store and yet seems either oblivious or unconcerned that the goods are only available to her because of the credit earned on her husband's imminent death.
- Significantly, it is during this scene that Draman attempts to escape by jumping a night train out of town. Yet the people of Colobane, who need Draman to be present in order to commit the act that will allow them to obtain more of the products they have begun to worship, show up at the station to prevent Draman from boarding the train. A series of cuts shows a gang of hyenas approaching a food source at the same time that Draman's peers surround him, clearly equating scavengers in the natural world with those in the social space of Colobane. While further elaborating the metaphor on which the film's title turns, Mambéty also echoes an earlier scene in which Linguère's arrival is compared to a vulture landing for a feed--thus suggesting that through Linguère's intervention, Draman has become the carcass of whatever social or corporeal body he may represent. The end of the narrative reinforces this opposition between Draman as prey/victim and Linguère (along with the recipients of her gift) as predator/scavengers. The final scene, in which the court of Colobane decides to accept Linguère's contribution, raises the specter of cannibalism which the citizenry so adamantly denied earlier in the narrative ("we are not savages"). Draman is literally consumed by the judgment passed: enclosed on all sides by the tribunal members, Draman's body completely dematerializes, leaving only his coat lying in the dust. Draman in effect becomes a sacrificial victim whose ritual murder heralds the imposition of a moral code structured by the desire to acquire and accumulate commodity goods imported from the West. Linguère's "gift" to the people of Colobane thus catalyzes the consolidation of a new social order whose most visible manifestations are then presented in the last image of the film: accompanied by the sound of an airplane roaring overhead, a bulldozer scars a desolate landscape, on which suddenly appears, as if by magic, an urban conglomeration of skyscrapers and tenement housing. Urbanization and industrial development, then, become the incontrovertible marks of Colobane's incorporation into the global capitalist system.
- The Manichean reading I have sketched thus far--according to which Linguère figures a Western social/economic hegemony to which an exploited indigenous population is subjected--is problematized by the fact that Linguère is not, in fact, entirely "foreign." Although she certainly maintains an almost supernatural distance from her surroundings, Linguère is a native of the town upon which she visits her vengeance. As an ambivalent figure both alien and native to Colobane, Linguère attains symbolic currency precisely through her interstitial position between her homeland and the industrialized world. Yet, while her liminality in many ways recalls the doubly-constituted subject positions we have learned to associate with postcolonial hybridity, Hyènes refuses to celebrate this mise en relation, this "putting into relation" (Glissant)  between Colobane and the outside world, as the birth of an intercultural "dialogue" or of an empowering "cosmopolitan" identity. In fact, the only evidence that Linguère has become anything different than she was when she left Colobane is the fact that, after a plane accident, she had her hand and leg replaced by gold limbs. She does not speak any language other than the Wolof spoken by the other characters, nor does she make reference to any cultural phenomenon either in Senegal or elsewhere. The group of people who attend Linguère seems to represent some form of hybrid identity, in that it includes an Asian woman wearing a police uniform, a group of black women splendidly bedecked in regal African garb, and one Colobane native, the former judge, sporting sunglasses and a European-style suit (the only one of the group to speak Wolof). However, while the group is in some sense international and at least biracial, it can hardly be considered the product of a cultural or linguistic métissage, for there is no dialogue either among them, nor between them and Linguère. The former judge is the only one of the entourage to speak at all in the film, but they are all more servants than companions of Linguère, doing her bidding in silent obedience.
- Although the polyvalent identity of Linguère's group is implicated in the utilitarian logic that she wields in order to transform Colobane, Hyènes is not suggesting that any attempt, on the part of African countries, to establish multicultural dialogue leads inevitably to their continued subjugation to the powers of the industrialized world. On the contrary, the film challenges us to consider the ways in which the imbalanced forms of cultural and economic exchange characteristic of the current world order have made it inadequate to think in terms of Manichean distinctions between "the West" and "the rest." This point is implicated in the very act of adapting Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt's play Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit of the Old Lady) to the context of postcolonial Senegal. By appropriating this tragedy about the transformation of an early-twentieth-century rural Swiss town by the impending forces of modernity, this transpositional gesture suggests that the relation of the alpine community in Dürrenmatt's play to the burgeoning centers of trade and industrial production in urban Western Europe might in some ways be analogous to the peripheral position occupied by late-twentieth-century Senegal within the world economy.
- Yet the binarism posited by the formulation "the West" versus "the rest" is most explicitly problematized by the fact that Linguère, while a dictator and harbinger of a destructive social order, is also a victim. Indeed, Linguère's case thirty years earlier could be considered as a quintessential example of what Lyotard calls a différend (a litigation in which the plaintiff's tort, or "wrong," cannot be adequately articulated within the idiom in which judgment is passed). Silenced by the dominant juridical discourse, Linguère would have no justice until attaining enough buying power to enforce retribution for her tort (although it is arguable whether or not this enacts any real change in the juridical idiom). In some ways, Linguère even seems to embody the land itself--or at least its transformation by the very impetus toward modernization she simultaneously seems to represent. It is thus significant that her relations with the outside world take shape through the commodification of her own body and its circulation across international borders. Her enforced exile might then allegorically suggest the mass exportation of natural resources characteristic of the role played by so many African countries within the world economy. Just as the raw materials that leave countries like Senegal for processing in the "developed world," Linguère returns to Colobane transformed by industrial technologies into a simulacrum of her former self, sporting a golden leg and hand, and bringing with her a host of imported commodities. In this light, her entry into a life of prostitution--precisely that which has allowed her to accumulate enough wealth to purchase Colobane--would serve as a powerful metaphor for an endemic exploitation of the feminized "body" of the African continent: a local response to postcolonial sub-Saharan Africa's marginal position within the global system.
- Due directly to Draman's betrayal and to the negligence of a patriarchal system that repudiated her allegedly illegitimate child, the unfortunate history of Linguère's exile would also affirm Irigaray's seminal argument that the reigning economic system in "this new matrix of History" is one which "requires that women lend themselves to alienation in consumption and to exchanges in which they do not participate, and that men be exempt from being used and circulated like commodities" (171-72). From this perspective, Draman's refusal to acknowledge the offspring engendered by his affair with Linguère seems to have performed what Irigaray claims is the founding act of this economic order: the denial of any relationship to (re)productive nature as embodied by woman-as-mother. As Linguère reports it, his betrayal was motivated by a pragmatic desire to betroth the wealthier Khoudia Lo (whose family owned the store), a strategic gesture which enabled him to attain his ambivalent success as owner of Colobane's humble grocery. If we take Linguère's observation to be valid, the apparently selfless economy maintained in the space of Draman's store is revealed to be structured by the same logic as that inaugurated by Linguère's overtly poisoned gift. The bottle of wine with which he induced his friends to bear false witness now resurfaces as the discretely suppressed exchange which has subtended Colobane's economic order these thirty years. Linguère and Draman's dead child might thus be considered the originary sacrificial victim of this masculinist social/economic order, its death standing as the pre-narrative event that set into ineluctable motion the subsequent acts which must lead to Draman's ritual murder.
- In this light, although Linguère does wield buying power, her role as the benefactress of Colobane's new social system would not be considered that of a negotiator. Her body itself, having been partially replaced by members referring to the "gold standard" through which all commodities gain their exchange value, is constituted by that split which Irigaray describes as the fate of "woman" in capitalist societies, "divided into two irreconcilable 'bodies': her 'natural' body and her socially valued, exchangeable body" (180, Irigaray's emphasis). Since Linguère's "assets" have been accrued through her circulation within a system which has "used up" her nature (as both industrialized and newly industrializing countries "use up" raw materials from the Third World), she has become, as in Irigaray's analysis of woman-as-prostitute, "no more than a vehicle for relations among men" (186). By allowing for the articulation and elaboration of relations between foreign and indigenous capital, Linguère becomes both victim and herald of the social order which the populace of Colobane adopts at the end of the film.
- By making this comparison, I certainly do not mean to suggest that the hegemonic structures characteristic of the present world system can be adequately described by the model of "sociocultural endogamy" (172) elucidated by Irigaray, nor that African men are somehow responsible than women for the social and economic plights currently plaguing their regions. Indeed, the plot of Hyènes is ingenious in that it manages to avoid any facile assigning of guilt for the catastrophe facing Colobane/Senegal: Linguère is despotic and vengeful, but perhaps rightfully so; and Draman may be the sacrificial victim of this tragedy, but he is also responsible for Linguère's exile and subsequent wrath. Through this refusal to acquit or condemn any one scapegoat, the film is perhaps suggesting that it is the entire town which is on trial. It is in this respect that Irigaray's model is useful, insofar as it describes conditions under which seemingly empowered social agents can enter into relations and engage in practices which are ultimately detrimental to or exploitative of those very individuals. For if Hyènes does, as I have argued, present Linguère's exile and subsequent life of prostitution as an allegory for a profound shift in postcolonial Senegal's relations with the rest of the world, then it seems likely that Mambéty is attempting to illuminate the ideological stakes involved in participating in the forms of "global exchange" highlighted in the film.
- It would thus seem that, from the perspective of many neocolonial subjects, "postnational" identities--when articulated through the consumption of images, commodities, and cultural products disseminated from the industrialized world--are a far cry from the forms of hybridity which postcolonial critics have become accustomed to theorizing. In this light, Hyènes becomes a cautionary tale against any tendency to privilege or extol all forms of intercultural translations and transactions without considering the ways in which the hegemonic structures of late capitalism enable, and in many cases regulate, such exchanges. In addition to providing a critical perspective on a problematic that often goes unexplored in postcolonial studies, the film also warns us to be wary of totalizing discourses that make sweeping claims about "postnational" modes of imagining communities throughout the "formerly colonized" world. Far from some universal psychic drama experienced similarly by all postcolonial subjects, Mambéty's version of "hybridity" is a commentary on essentially local--and materially-based--ramifications of the uneven logics of cultural and economic exchange that characterize our present global system.
For insightful commentaries on this debate, see McClintock and Shohat. Back
See, in particular, the first chapter in Autobiographical Voices. Back
For an application of systems theory to this problematic, see Jessop. Back
On this note, see Kortenaar, who provides a useful admonition against the celebration of hybridity as a necessarily liberating discursive strategy in postcolonial texts. Back
As described by Mauss, potlatch is an elaborate system in which social relations are articulated and affirmed through the exchange of gifts that carry with them the expectation of return; see especially The Gift. Back
See chapter III, 68-69, but especially the analysis of largitio in chapter I. Back
Of course, once a given market has been thoroughly indoctrinated into this "culture-ideology of consumerism," it is hoped that the strategy for that region will change to that used in the industrialized world: "suggestive advertising," which assumes that the target audiences have already been instilled with the urge to purchase superfluous products, but need only have that urge channelled toward specific products; see Sklair, chapter V. Back
This term is offered by Williams in her book about the rise of consumer culture in Europe and the U.S., and it describes the ways in which consumerized spaces produce fantasies (on the part of the patrons) of absolute availability/accessibility of the items being marketed (strategies which, as she argues, were first developed at exhibits of the Expositions Universelles and in department stores such as La Samaritaine in Paris). Back
On Glissant's notion of "La Relation" (his term for the totality of cultural convergences to which the modern world is witness), a concept that certainly does not assume all intercultural contact on the model of a dialogue among equal social agents, see his Le discours antillais and particularly his Poétique de la Relation. Back
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