Joseph Conrad : situating identity in a postcolonial space
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This thesis is premised on the notion, drawn mainly from a postcolonial perspective (which is subsumed under the poststructuralist as well as the postmodern), that Conrad's early writing reflects his abiding concern with how people construct their identities vis-a-vis the other/Other in contact zones on the periphery of empire far from the reach of social, racial and national identities that sustain them at home. It sets out to explore the problematic of race, culture, gender and identity in a selection of the writer's early works set mainly, but not exclusively, in the East, using the theoretical perspective of postcoloniality as a point of entry, nuanced by the configurations of spatiality which are factored into discourses about the other/Other. Predicated mainly on the theoretical constructs about culture and identity espoused by Homi Bhabha, Edward Said and Stuart Hall, this study proposes the idea of an in between "third space" for the interrogation of identity in Conrad's work. This postcolonial space, the central contribution of this thesis, frees his writings from the stranglehold of the Manichean paradigm in terms of which alterity or otherness is perceived. Based on the hypothesis that identities are never fixed but constantly in a state of performance, this project underwrites postcoloniality as a viable theoretical mode of intervention in Conrad's early works. The writer's early oeuvre yields richly to the contingency of our times in the early twenty-first century as issues of race, gender and identity remain contested terrain. This study adopts the position that Conrad stood both inside and outside Victorian cultural and ethical space, developing an ambivalent mode of representation which recuperated and simultaneously subverted the entrenched prejudices of his age. Conceived proleptically, the characters of Conrad's early phase, traditionally dismissed as those of an apprentice writer, pose a constant challenge to how we view alterity in our everyday lives.
- Humanities