Post-Imperial Discourse and the Emergence of a new Racism

Recently I had a discussion with a professor in training regarding history and approaches to it. Though our fields are different, both are subject to a “post-imperial” discourse. (Latin America and East Asia, respectively, for those who do not know) Though he tends to favour the post-imperialist approach, he stated that it has its own number of defects — namely that it tends to pressure people not from that cultural background to avoid studying it on the ground that to understand a culture, one must come from a culture. We were in agreement that this was too extreme.

It would seem that this mentality brings up a new sort of racism — a revised racial exclusivity in which the “other” can be neither scrutinised nor fully studied. Rather than promoting cross-cultural understanding in any meaningful way, white-wash is applied to one and the other is subject to unquestionable rights to vilify. To clarify this, less developed regions such as Latin America, Africa, and South Asia are not to have their historical record or traditional defects questioned while developed regions such as North America, the UK, Europe, and Japan are subject to having their histories scrutinised and subject to unfair, unfounded commentaries and these are to be respected as “new approaches”.

This does not apply only to history. I recently had a rather severe falling out with a classmate over the nature of linguistics and their application. I knew that this man is in many respects a racist and does little to hide this fact, as he is of Chinese ancestry this is not to be challenged as he is allowed to be as racist as he wishes. The nature of our falling out was in how to classify languages. Cantonese, Mandarin, Hoklo, and Hakka, among others, are categorised as different languages within the family of Chinese languages, not dialects. This is a result of the fact that they evolved independently of each other. While language classification is at times arbitrary and imperfect, general guidelines are usually followed. He did not wish to accept this fact and said that these guidelines were set up by “ignorant whites who don’t have a clue” and said that he can back his thesis up by saying a single word in Cantonese and then in Mandarin. (The word was “you”) (Quite, German, Danish, Italian, and Portuguese forms of “you” are even closer)

Author: Christopher-Dorset

A Bloody Kangaroo

25 thoughts on “Post-Imperial Discourse and the Emergence of a new Racism”

  1. Christopher – I bow down to your discourse concerning History and Language, however racism is a subject which I deal with every day.

    I have reason to deal with people from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds, visible or otherwise, and have been frequently abused racially by persons ‘different’ to me. (Their classification, not mine)

    I take a zero tolerance and challenge them every time. In turn, I get called a racist by the abuser. I have also frequently been subject to heterophobia as well as sexism from women. This offends me on a personal scale but is still just as bad.

    I always challenge their opinions, not because I’m offended, I rarely am, but I won’t accept they have any more right to act like that when the EUSSR declines to allow me to express whatever prejudice I have. (Let’s face it, we all have prejudices – I dare not talk about imaginary friends or royalty in some quarters)

    I hope you said the same to your Asian classmate – he can’t have his cake and eat it – whether the point he makes is correct or not.

  2. Cuprum: I’m of the view that the EU is in decline and is doing the best it can to shore up its collapsing legitimacy and credibility. Hence its increasingly hostile behaviour.

    Generally, those from Asia are not that bad and are not as concerned about the matter.
    Most Chinese, for example, are more than happy to discuss history and philosophy with me and are flattered that I study theirs. When we discuss the matter of language, they are not necessarily hostile to the description of the “dialects” as separate languages as they recognise that they are so radically different. Said individual is American-born and has only seen Asia in pictures. He is also not fluent in any Chinese language and can only write a few characters. The falling-out came as a result of my being in a rather prickly mood that day and telling him that “standards and rules should not be altered to suit your agenda”. It is my belief that we all have the right to our opinions and to express them, but there is no right not to be offended.

  3. What was his thesis?
    What is your point, Christopher?
    What is the significance of “quite”?

    Is there perhaps a terminal paragraph missing?

    The Bear is puzzled. Néih and Nǐ are similar, sure, but … ? 😕

  4. Cuprum – Indian who lights fire in canoe soon learns that “you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.” 🙂

  5. Bearsy 😀 (and I too wonder about the quite comment – my ignorance of the variations of Danish and Portuguese made me be too shy to ask!)

    Christopher – how infuriating – did you point out that he should be a little more appreciative of the white man culture that raised him? And I can’t believe you can be prickly!

    And your last sentence applies here to the Chariot too I believe!

  6. My Bear:
    Yes, my rants can be rather circuitous at times, can’t they?

    My point: this new “post-imperial” discourse is dangerous for academic thought and freedom. It creates “victim” classes that cannot be challenged while “oppressor” classes can be attacked, often with little justification, and are not allowed to refute any of it.

    His thesis: linguists don’t know what they’re talking about because China’s different and should not be treated like everyone else and should someone choose not to hold it to different standards, they are simply ill-informed and must be re-educated to agree with his thesis.

    “Quite” was meant to indicate sarcasm on my part.

  7. Cuprum: “you” can be expressed, often informally, as this: German: du, Norwegian: du, Swedish: du, Danish: du, French: tu, Spanish: tu, Portuguese: tu, Italian: tu, Icelandic: thu. Interestingly, even Hindi has one variant of “you” which is “tu”.

  8. Aha – well, he needs to have a few life experiences happen to him then. It must be difficult wearing blinkers.

    One day being a white male non-disabled heterosexual republican atheist with a job and an accent from the Home Counties will be an official minority and I will get my revenge!

  9. Christopher, in the same simplistic terms, you can refute it by asking him about ‘study;’ ‘shooway’ in Mandarin and ‘hok’ in Cantonese. While it is clear that Cantonese and Mandarin are part of the same family, there are quite profound differences in grammar, structure and pronunciation, you mentioned Koklo and Hakka, and then, of course there’s Shanghainese…

    As for ‘racism,’ you are quite right to say say that the Chines are some of the most racist people on the planet. I have a story…

    In the West, I think we now have ‘post-normal’ racism, along with a brow-beaten layer of white guilt.

  10. Thanks, Christopher. 😀

    I reckon he’s more than a tad jealous that you speak his language better than he does! And a dozen others! My Chinese colleague, who I’ve mentioned before, reckoned that some might be considered dialects but most had to be languages since mono-speakers can’t understand the others.

  11. Cuprum: I think you just might be a minority already! (I, a staunch monarchist and deist, say)

    Bravo: yes, exactly. Mandarin and Cantonese also have a different number of tones — this cannot simply be explained away as a difference within a dialect. There is some debate on the nature of the Taiwanese language — is it its own language, or is it Taiwanese Hokkien? I consider it a separate language based on the fact that it developed over the past few centuries in isolation and received a strong Japanese and English influence over the past century.

    Bearsy: I do not actually speak Chinese, though I can write several hundred characters — a product of learning Japanese. From birth I’ve had difficulty in annunciating sounds clearly and, with much help, been able to speak several Western languages relatively well (French, Spanish, German, Italian, and English) but struggle with tones — both hearing and pronouncing.

  12. Bravo: I spoke to someone else present in the conversation, a Mexican, in Italian to show how languages even closer than Cantonese and Mandarin are not necessarily that easy for others to understand. He simply dismissed that as “white” things which could not be compared to anything Chinese. Needless to say, he has not spoken to me since and makes a habit of turning around and walking the other direction when he sees me somewhere.

  13. And I meant, ‘Hoklo, of course :-(.

    There are a number of dialects in Cantonese – some sources say more than a dozen – the most extreme being almost mutually unintelligible to monoglots.

  14. Bravo: yes, Cantonese is especially prone to have extreme dialects.
    Taisanese is one of them, I believe. It’s very commonly spoken in San Francisco
    and has actually merged with the Guangzhou dialect to form a distinctly San Franciscan
    variety.

    As for being “post-normal”. Yes, you do have a point. I see it as post sane and rational myself. the process of moving on in Germany and embracing national pride is offering some promise, I hope it spreads.

  15. Christopher, Hong Kong dialect is also quite distinct. A heavy influence from English has given it a character all of its own.

    I agree, young Germans have suffered quite enough from the guilt syndrome imposed upon them.

  16. Bravo: there is the Hong Kong dialect and the Macau dialect. The Portuguese didn’t fail to leave their mark on it.

    My guilt syndrome (one made stronger by the fact that two of my family members in that generation were involved with politics and the Holocaust) was relieved when Holocaust survivors looked me in the eye and shook my hand without a trace of hatred or resentment toward me. That, however, is the subject of another blog which will only be written if someone shows interest in reading my thoughts on that subject.

  17. Christopher, you’re right – as a Hong Konger I tend to follow the herd and look down on the neighbours, a bit 😦 They make the greatest egg tarts, though and if anyone is thinking og going there I can recommend a fantastic little boutique hotel built into one of the old gun emplacements.

    I would most certainly like to read your thoughts on how you overcame your guilt syndrome. Just as a little point of interest, the daughter of the Doctor in Israel who fixed my head after the Cypriot doctor had screwed up – an absolutely smashing young lady who was my patient advocate at the hospital, (part time, she was still at Uni,) has just upped sticks and moved to Munich with her German fiancee.

  18. Bravo: *sigh*, I will actually be going there this June (Hong Kong and Macau), but have booked a hotel in Hong Kong already as I could not find anything too interesting in Macau when I looked.
    I would appreciate any travel advice you might have, however.

    Germany is starting to see its Jewish population grow once again, especially in Berlin which has no overtaken Paris and Poo York as the dream destination for Israeli youth. Perhaps a broader-themed blog regarding the shedding of the guilt-complex as well as recent changed in German-Israeli relations might be in order?

  19. I would certainly be interested – and it should generate some interesting discussion.

    I will think about the ravel th8ing and put up a little post 🙂

  20. I don’t think anyone will be surprised to know that I am of the opinion that no opinion, belief, or culture should be ‘off limits’ to scrutiny or debate. I’m a little tired of being told that I might offend someone with my opinions, especially when it seems that most of those who complain most loudly seem to have few sensibilities about whether anyone might be offended by their opinions …

    As you rightly say, no one has the right not to be offended – not even me – so if I have to tolerate other people’s opinions why should they not tolerate mine? Sauce – goose – and gander comes to mind!

    I look forward to a post on Germany overcoming it’s guilt – I think a lot of younger people (especially males) in the West are beginning to question the ‘guilt’ that has been foisted upon them by former colonial countries, feminism and ‘minorities. Good thing, too. The sins of the fathers should not be visited upon the children unto the third or fourth generations..

  21. Guilt, wot guilt? Don’t believe in it. Losers get the boot, look at us in 66 BC 1066 AD! People will be complaining about Darius II next!

    Interesting about Jews and Germany, but if you look at precedence, every country that has seriously persecuted Jews big time have only done it once, UK, Russia, Poland and Germany. So odds on going back to Berlin would be quite safe!
    Whilst one is at it I am seriously tired of the tactics of guilt spraying by the Jewish anti defamation league! About time they called it a day! Next time ‘they’ want a pogrom they should try the Jewish bankers in New York! Some of them could be burnt at the stake with profit or at least satisfaction by the unemployed and homeless.

    Apart from that digression-

    ‘My point: this new “post-imperial” discourse is dangerous for academic thought and freedom. It creates “victim” classes that cannot be challenged while “oppressor” classes can be attacked, often with little justification, and are not allowed to refute any of it.’

    One seriously wonders why they bother with this revisionist crap. The wheel will turn as it always does throughout human history. It all goes round again and again, no-one ever learns anything, empires rise and fall, peoples are subjected to slavery and genocide, political thoughts swing like the ‘Pit and the Pendulum’. Wars rage for no real reason at all except egos.
    It is all one hell of a way to practice birth control for the planet!
    Personally I bet the planet is already in quarantine by the rest of them out there as a bunch of savage psychos. I would if I were them!
    Sounds like Armageddon should be a soft option!

  22. Like Boadicea I would be interested in your proposed blog, Christopher.

    I remember going to watch a film, whose title I have forgotten, with a German colleague. It was about a trio of singers building their careers in prewar Germany. They were doing well until Hitler came along and it turned out two of them had Jewish ancestors. Collapse of careers. All the way home my friend kept saying, “How could we have done that? How could my country have allowed that?”

  23. CO: your comment makes far too much sense. It would never pass in San Francisco or any other third-world, cockroach-infested Fabian fantasy land.

    Sheona: Germany never really recovered from the Holocaust. The Jews had been in Germany for so long and had generally been so well integrated into society that Jewish Germany and Christian Germany became in many ways dependent on each other. But I will leave this as it is in order to prevent sounding repetitive on my next blog.

  24. No, it wouldn’t which is why I keep as far away as possible from San Francisco and it’s ilk!
    Anyway, might catch something undesirable.

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