How can we best forge a theoretical practice that directly addresses
the struggles of once-colonized countries, many of which face the
collapse of both state and society in today's era of economic reform?
David Scott argues that recent cultural theories aimed at
"deconstructing" Western representations of the non-West have been
successful to a point, but that changing realities in these countries
require a new approach. In Refashioning Futures, he proposes a strategic
practice of criticism that brings the political more clearly into view
in areas of the world where the very coherence of a secular-modern
project can no longer be taken for granted.
Through a series of
linked essays on culture and politics in his native Jamaica and in Sri
Lanka, the site of his long scholarly involvement, Scott examines the
ways in which modernity inserted itself into and altered the lives of
the colonized. The institutional procedures encoded in these modern
postcolonial states and their legal systems come under scrutiny, as do
our contemporary languages of the political. Scott demonstrates that
modern concepts of political representation, community, rights,
justice, obligation, and the common good do not apply universally and
require reconsideration. His ultimate goal is to describe the modern
colonial past in a way that enables us to appreciate more deeply the
contours of our historical present and that enlarges the possibility of
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