I used to appreciate postmodernism until I read Kumkum Sangari, whom I am tempted to call the writer from hell. But if hell keeps such a critic, then there is a reason why she was placed there – that is to play devil’s advocate to postmodernism’s imperious role in the contemporary world order. While I was condemned to understand Sangari’s almost indecipherable language, postmodernism’s punishment was its blatant exposure as “another form of internalization of the international role of the West”.
Postmodernism appealed to me because my mind was naively framed into understanding postmodern concepts within the Euro-American sociocultural movement. Reading Kumkum Sangari however, made realize that postmodernism cannot contain the emergence the nonmimetic writings by postcolonial writers within its epistemological framework. The social, cultural, and historical formation of colonized subjects who gave rise to nonmimetic fiction is just too rich and distinct to be part of postmodern preoccupation.
Nonmimetic fiction is nonmimetic fiction. Postcolonial writers inhabit a distinctively rich historical placement that it is almost ironic and inconceivable to categorize nonmimetic, non-western texts into Western epistemological lens. Sangari could not have been more correct when she suggested that perhaps it might be a “meaningful gesture” for postmodernism not to reclassify nonmimetic writings into its epistemological preoccupation until the monologue of the self and other are replaced by a “genuinely dialogic and dialectic history that can account for the formation of different selves and construction of different epistemologies”.
But the question is: is it possible to construct an epistemology that can genuinely articulate and confine the profundity of colonial experience?
In my view, the answer to this question lies in the very title of the article, The Politics of the Possible. Nonmimetic writing is a catalytic attempt to articulate the almost unimaginable havoc brought about by imperialism to the lives of people in colonized countries. In other words, the differentiation between what is real or marvelous cannot be ascertained in marvelous realism precisely because the effects of colonial experience are unthinkably real to indigenous subjects.
For Sangari, marvelous realism is attached to both “the real and the possible”. For hybrid writers of nonmimetic fiction, the depiction of their simultaneous existence within the “national and international, political and cultural systems of colonialism and neocolonialism” can only be made sense by presenting what is unimaginable and real through nonmimetic narrative modes of writing.
Indeed, marvelous realism becomes a space of possibilities for postcolonial writers. For them, it is possible to emphasize “qualitative differences”, especially in the concept of time, between postmodernism’s historical singularity and non-mimetic fiction’s richness in time quality. It is also possible to make sense and depict the brutalities and devastation caused by colonialism through non-Western narrative texts.
It is possible to liberate themselves from the conventions of the West and convey their aspirations for national change through their fiction. Most importantly, it is highly possible for the postcolonial writers to produce a “genuinely dialogic and dialectic history and epistemology” that can articulate, account, and contain colonial experiences of indigenous subjects.
However, the task in producing such epistemological framework should definitely come from among us and not from the West. For Sangari, her task was to point out the dangers of Western classification and give postmodernism hell.