To conceptualize future directions of cultural studies depends on how the origins and genealogy of that discipline has been conceptualized. Two stories of origins have emerged, the textual and the sociological, the first of which is probably dominant within British academia. On the contrary, the sociological account is illuminating, even if one prefers to privilege the textual. Cultural studies are historically derived from adult education institutions, which determine the forms of knowledge that once passed as cultural studies, but such institutional contingencies are rarely regarded as being of theoretical significance. A cultural study has something particular to offer the rest of the academy because of its fluid intellectual boundaries and its newness as a university discipline. South African cultural studies provide an institutional matrix in which the traditional distinctions between academic and aesthetic production, like those between theoretical reflection and policy development, are deliberately interrogated, challenged and transformed.
‘Cosmopolitics’ is what a number of liberal thinkers now advocate: a freely created, cosmopolitan cultural identity based on notions of ‘global’ citizenship. This chapter focuses on Achebe's historical account of imperialism through the Royal Mail, his suggestion that its promise of global citizenship is not only false but also fatal. Achebe's Home and Exile subtly and powerfully implicates contemporary cosmopolitical thought in the historical violence practised by European colonialism in Africa. Cosmopolitan perspectives are ultimately present-day expressions of the old ‘Pax Britannica’: the liberal story that Empire likes to tell about itself. Economic theft, social chaos and physical violence are beautifully condensed in the phrase ‘The Killer That Doesn't Pay Back’, which Achebe's youthful villagers used to describe the colonial British Post Office.
This chapter focuses on the interplay of critique and affirmation in Parry's work. It begins by looking at her analysis of ethnic solipsism in the metropole, while also discussing her contribution to the understanding of resistance. Parry is concerned to analyse the problem of the left's non-engagement with colonialism, locating as crucial the ‘shift away from the political’ in European Marxism that began in the 1930s. Her accounts of metropolitan fiction writers demonstrate the refusal to subscribe to white racial or European continental essentialism. Furthermore, in Parry's resistance writings, changes of style that are also changes in political conceptualization can be seen. Her Oxford Literary Review makes heavy use of the ‘discourse’ word, which it uses interchangeably to designate aesthetic literature and anti-colonial political thought. Taking up Parry's critical cue, it is suggested that her relative lack of engagement with the aesthetic accomplishments of anti-colonial and post-colonial cultures is perhaps where her own historical utopian imagination gives way to a critical sensibility nourished by more restrictive metropolitan aesthetic values.