To What Extent Have Things Really Changed in a Post Colonial Era?

by auro909

Previous novels we have read only allowed us to remain as outsiders in the stories. Yet, in “A Small Place” Jamaica Kincaid provocatively opens blaming us for the harm cause to the island. Kincaid accuses us not only of being a tourist, but also an ugly thing, a bad mannered empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish. She further accuses our ancestors of teaching corruption and tyranny, of murdering, of stealing and imprisoning people. Kincaid’s provocative and harsh words integrate us to her story.  She reminds us that the major obstacles that developing countries face are man-made and we are the responsible.

Has it “ever occurred to you that the people that inhabit the place [you visit] can not stand you?” (47). Did Kincaid words make you aware of the poor people’s discomfort regarding tourism or you had thought about it before?

Theoretically, developing countries have been given their freedom but the colonial mentality persists. According to Kincaid, it is no longer the British Empire the exploitative one, but the global tourism industry that has taken an invasive attitude. Kincaid’s essay reflects how the end of colonialism and the shifts of power in the so called globalization era have not allowed independent nations like Antigua to become really independent and work their way out of poverty.

“Is the Antigua I see before me, self-ruled, a worse place than what it was when it was dominated by the bad minded English and all the bad-minded things they brought with them?” 41

The authors whose work we have read throughout the term discuss similar issues in different places and points in time. We have found commonalities among the novels that reinforce how post-colonial concerns prevail and are shared worldwide.

Feel free to comment only on the novel/ or question you felt more engaged with!

The Fortunate Traveler

Walcott poem says: “Indeed, indeed, sirs, I have seen the world. Spray splashes the portholes and vision blurs” (92). This is exactly the kind of people Kincaid is arguing against: all the tourists who only see what they want to see, they only see “what a beautiful island Antigua is” (3) but “…since[they] are tourist[s], the thought of what it may be like for someone who had to live day in, day out in a place that suffers constantly from drought, and so has to watch carefully every drop of fresh water used… must never cross [their] mind” (4).

How do the authors contrasting techniques of describing travelers influence the moral responsibility you feel as a tourist?

The Tree of Wad Hamid

“Teenagers are familiar with the rubbish of North America- compared to the young people of my generation who were familiar with the rubbish of England” (44)-Kincaid

This indifference towards the origin of authorities parallels Salih’s story as the old man doesn’t care whether they are ruled by white or black government since for him they are both rubbish because they want to change the lifestyle of the village (15). Would you say that in the globalization era, poor people from countries like Antigua don’t care about where the power comes from because they still feel globally powerless?

Nervous Conditions

“And so everywhere they went they turned into England; and everybody they met they turned English. But no place could ever really be England, and nobody who did not look exactly like them would ever be English, so you can imagine the destruction of people and land that came from that” (24). In this quote Kincaid explains the effects of assimilation in a similar way that Dangarembga exemplifies it with Nyasha’s character whose identity was destroyed as she developed a psychological condition while trying to assimilate the Shona and the English culture.

Did you see more links between these literary pieces?

How Late it Was, How Late

In “A Small Place”, Kincaid offers us her point of view about the oppression of Antigua and its inhabitants. Would you say that this point of view is shared among all Antiguans, or is it only Kincaid’s personal view?

While Sammy is blind but is aware of the social inequality and corruption that surrounds him, would you agree that like Sammy, Antiguans are blind but unlike him they fail to recognize the corruption and exploitation that surrounds them?

The God of Small Things

In Roy’s novel Chako explain to the twins “…Our minds have been invaded by war. A war that we have won and lost…a war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves” (52). However, Kincaid’s perception of foreign occupation is different. She says that “we [Antiguans] thought they were like animals, a bit below human standards as we understood those human standards to be. We felt superior to all these people” (29).

What might be the factors that evoke those different perceptions about the same issue?

Blog created by: Hannali Joyce and Aurora Gomez




3 Comments to “To What Extent Have Things Really Changed in a Post Colonial Era?”

  1. In reference to the first question “has it ever occurred to you that the people that inhabit the place [you visit] can not stand you?”

    My answer is yes, i am sure the places i have been do not like me.I thought that before reading the book. For example In Mexico i am sure its a love, hate relationship. They love our money but hate being in their area. I know for myself, whenever their is a bad driver on the road or a horrible snowboarder blocking the run, and i discover they are a tourist. I also have the same reaction of being mad at “the tourist” getting in my (the locals) way so i would believe they would think the same.

  2. In my experience of traveling I have encouter a bit of everything and i think it really depends on the places you go and on the attitude you have as a tourist.
    For example, I am from Chile and when travelling across South America people have had a welcoming attitude towards me. However, if you are a”Gringo” (how english people are called in South America!) they will receive you even better!! Perhaps they do want your dollars more than my pesos!
    But on the other hand, when traveling to Europe i’ve found that it doesnt really matter where you come from. Perhaps it is because Europe is such a mixed place and there is such a variety of people that one becomes just an extra in the crowd.
    What i have also noticed is the difference of traveling to a country and really going to see the country, than going somewhere just to stay in a resort. When backpacking people are so friendly and since you are showing interest in their country and culture they are more than happy to show you around. But when traveling to a resort and pratically staying in the resort the whole time everything becomes more superficial. Its like you are there but not becuase it is the place it is, but because it happens to have good weather and flights were cheap! And i think this is the kind of tourist Kincaid is addressing and I would agree that they are in all their right to despise us

  3. (With regards to the Fortunate Traveller question)
    Walcott solidifies the idea of the blissfully ignorant traveller. I think that Jamaica Kincaid’s frustration stems from the ironic fact that often, when people travel, they justify taking on the role of some sort of experienced authority (despite the fact that they spend their 4-10 days of vacation in a Westernized resort, far removed from the realities of local life.) Both Walcott and Kincaid, in their respective ways touch on how tourists’ perceptions of both themselves and the local population of any given place are usually mistaken. This already strained scenario becomes more hostile when the residue of colonialism is added to the picture.
    I think your question about the moral responsibilities of tourists is a really great way to tie Walcott and Kincaid together on the subjects of travel vs. tourism. It also got me thinking about whether there is some sort of ethical guidelines that travellers should be familiar with (and if so, whether they apply universally.) I think it comes down to questioning our motives as travellers, and being conscious of the two different realities that often exist in tourist destinations. That’s not to say that we are somehow immoral if we choose to take advantages of the luxuries of resorts or buy tacky souvenirs. However, we as tourists need to recognize that these experiences do not give us any credibility to judge the actual realities and circumstances of the place we are visiting (whether they are good or bad.) What I’m trying to get at is that as North American tourists, finding ourselves anywhere else in the world, we often let a patronizing attitude creep in without even realizing it. At the same time it is this patronizing hand that feeds the unwillingly dependant nations like Antigua, and keeps them in a cycle in which they don’t want to say yes, but are in no position to say no.

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