Temporal alternatives: Postcoloniality and the politics of the event
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"Temporal Alternatives" argues that the past informs the present not only through colonial hauntings or traumatic ruptures but as a force of emergence: time transforms perception, insinuates itself into action, and inflects political dimensions of postcolonial struggle. I elaborate my argument through the work of four major thinkers of time and the event: Henri Bergson, Frantz Fanon, Gilles Deleuze and Elizabeth Grosz. Postcolonial critics and artists emphasize alternative epistemologies of time, history, and radical diasporic subjectivities. In doing so, time is reduced to the human. I take an alternative route, insisting that time's ontology is fundamentally inhuman--like specters themselves--yet continuously effects the organization of life, bodily perception, action, and material states of affairs. First, I articulate the disjunction between the temporality of the postcolonial event and its narration, examining how postcolonial nationalisms figure spectral pasts of the nation. My readings disclose a double prescription of this address as exemplified by South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission: first, an injunction against forgetting state-sanctioned, everyday colonial violences persisting in the present, and second, a demand to usher in the absolved, unified nation to come. I trace how these tensions of what Pheng Cheah calls spectral nationalism permeate the writing of Zoë Wicomb, Antje Krog, and Jacques Derrida, all of whom directly respond to apartheid's ghosts. Within the context of this reckoning, the dissertation then turns to the question of precipitating events. I argue that events, both incorporeal and material, are provocations to action that can propel us toward an unanticipated future, a future that might escape the bounds of the archival, memorialized, or spectral past. Becoming open to the force of time while remaining attuned to discursive and material constraints of the present demands an ethics of action: it requires a leap outside ourselves and the verifiable. I argue Nadine Gordimer's post-apartheid novels and essays elucidate such an ethics. My analysis suggests that the imperceptible force of time within the living present--within everyday lives, politics, sexual practices, desires, and action--transforms the sense as well as the material constraints of the postcolonial event in globalization.