5. Hegemonic struggle (Gramsci) the chance to reclaim . .
As an early critical thinker of postcolonialism, Frantz Fanon took an active role, proposing the first step required for ‘colonialised’ people to reclaim their own past by finding a voice and an identity. The second, is to begin to erode the colonialist ideology by which that past had been devalued. (Barry, 2017:195). In the chapter ‘On National Culture’ (pp;168-178) Fanon presents three phases of action ‘which traces the work of native writers’:
- Assimilation of colonial culture corresponding to the ‘mother country’ Chinua Achebe talks of the colonial writer as a ‘somewhat unfinished European who with patience guidance will grow up one day and write like every other European.’ (1988:46)
- Immersion into an ‘authentic’ culture ‘brought up out of the depths of his memory; old legends will be reinterpreted’
- Fighting, revolutionary, national literature, ‘the mouthpiece of a new reality in action’.
As Achebe writes, ‘a new situation was slowly developing as a handful of natives began to acquire European education and then to challenge Europe’s presence and position in their native land with the intellectual weapons of Europe itself’ (p. 273)
Antonio Gramsci – Hegemony
‘It is well known that Alhussser drew part of his inspiration from Gramsci’ (Althusser, 2016: xxiv) the way in which class relations and subject is ‘exercised through a whole set of institutions . . . the place where encounters between private individuals occur.’ (ibid)
However, Gramsci suggests that power relations can be understood as a hegemonic struggle through culture. In other words, Gramsci raises the concept of Hegemony to illustrate how certain cultural forms predominate over others, which means that certain ideas are more influential than others, usually in line with the dominant ideas, the dominant groups and their corresponding dominant interests. In terms of postcolonialism Said, notes how ‘consent is gained and continuously consolidated for the distant rule of native people and territories’ (1993:59).
However, this form of cultural leadership is a process of (cultural) negotiation where consent is gained through persuasion, inculcation and acceptance. Where dominant ideas, attitudes and beliefs (= ideology) are slowly, subtly woven into our very being, so that they become ‘common sense’, a ‘normal’, ‘sensible’, obvious’ way of comprehending and acting in the world.
For example, a way of reiterating European superiority over Oriental backwardness though image, sound, word, text, which in terms of postcolonialism, is ‘a flexible positional superiority, which puts the Westerner in a whole series of possible relationships with the Orient without ever losing him the relative upper hand.’ (Said, 1987:228) In other words, ‘being a white man was therefore an idea and a reality.’ (ibid)
However, hegemony is a struggle that emerges from NEGOTIATION and CONSENT. As such, it is not total domination (not totalitarianism or explicit propoganda) but a continual exchange of power, through ideas. In this sense, postcolonialism articulates a desire to reclaim, re-write and re-establish cultural identity and thus maintain power of The Empire – even if the Empire has gone. Put another way, it is the power of representation, played out in the realm of the cultural and civic, looking to make an affect on the political and economic.
Fight the Power, the struggle continues
According to Said , ‘Imperialism did not end, did not suddenly become ‘past’ . . . A legacy of connections still binds countries . . . a vast new population . . . from former colonial territories now resides in metropolitan Europe’ (1993:341).
Indeed, in 1982, Noam Chomsky indicated that ‘new forms of domination will have to be devised to ensure that privileged segments of Western industrial society maintain substantial control over global resources, human and material, and benefit disproportionately from this control.’ (cited Said, 1993:343). But as we have already seen, culture is both accepting and subverting, reactionary and radical. It is also an evolutionary and organic means of expression and understanding that develops out of specific historical moments of interaction.
So the idea of a MEDIA LITERACY is to equip students with knowledge and understanding that allows them to see the legacy of connections. So that rather acting as an accepting, passive consumer of media texts, they are able to actively engage in the process of meaning-making. Breaking down the layers of construction to grasp the sociological history behind the message. This can be found in any text that you may be asked to look at for your course of studies. At present in the AQA Media Studies A level, students are asked to look at music videos by Common – Letter to the Free, and The Specials- Ghost Town. So in the next section, we can apply some of the ideas that we have presented so far.