Identity, Text, Positioning: On Edward Said’s “Voyage in” as Politics of Resistance

Zhaoguo DING


Critics often accuse Orientalism of totalizing Orientalist discourse and failing to theorize resistance both within and outside it. Probably in response to this criticism, Edward Said proposes “voyage in” as a mode of resistance in Culture and Imperialism, which is defined as the conscious effort of Third World writers and critics to enter into and transform the dominant Western discourses so as to repatriate their marginalized histories. “Voyage in” cannot be simply regarded as “write back” or counter-discourse; it actually covers three aspects of Said’s politics of resistance: how to construct ethnic or national identities and guard against identity politics, how to adopt and adapt the colonial discourse while being aware of its colonialist ideologies, and how to position Third World writers and critics within the Western metropolis. The paper aims to explore these problems through a systematic study on the textual and political implications of Said’s “voyage in” as politics of resistance. It argues that Said’s “voyage in” as politics of resistance constitutes the problematic: 1) it asserts counter-discourse as a mode of resistance without any explicit discussion of other issues involved, such as the construction of ethnic and national identities, the subjective agency of the colonized natives, the metropolitan location and positioning of Third World intellectuals; 2) it insists on holding a resisting position from within the power structures of metropolitan discursive and institutional practices, and valorizes the individual’s critical consciousness as the self-sufficient subjective agency immune from the constitutive effect of those practices for producing resistance; 3) it provides a potential mode of theorizing resistance that depends on both the hybrid nature of colonial discourse and the colonial subject’s agency embodied as critical consciousness.

Key words: Edward Said; “Voyage in”; Resistance; Politics of resistance


Edward Said; “Voyage in”; Resistance; Politics of resistance


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