Self and the Other in the Colonial Life-world:
An Existential Phenomenological Analysis

M.P. Terence Samuel
Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan

The ways by which the natives are represented and the modes of perceptions by which the self and the other are defined are used as the cultural weapons by the colonial powers to keep the colonised masses subjugated and subservient to the colonial reality. Certain ways of seeing and certain specific modes of understanding the world and one’s place in the reality justify the presence and continuation of colonialism, persuading the colonised people to internalise the logic and immanence of colonialism. Though colonialism is an aspect of the imperialist political-economical design, it operates also in the cultural life-world of the natives in order to legitimise the subjugation of the colonised natives by constituting/splitting the reality/life-world into certain units and making them into a hierarchical order. By defining the Orient and the colonised world as exotic, irrational, despotic and mythical, the theatrical representations are enacted by the Occident about the Orient for the consumption of the non-Orient and these representations and modes of perceptions are justified through grids of knowledge systems. Through the manipulative knowledge discourses, the power of the West over the Orient and the colonised masses is legitimised as natural and necessary order of life in which the native loses his/her identity and wants to bleach his body in order to become like the colonial master. In this way of disempowering the colonised masses, the psychological and the social trauma are enacted on the colonised to look upon themselves negatively, through the means of language, culture, colour, geography, etc, as an object of aberration, as an objectified subject who has no hope for emancipation without internalising the logic of Western knowledge discourses. The identity of the native is something that the colonial master and his institutions make for the colonised, and not by the will and wish of the native.

So the self of the colonised splits into two, which could be reconciled either through the hybrid formation of the self, as propounded by the postcolonial critiques, or through white-washing of the social body. By placing them at the mercy of the Western representations and the perceptions, the colonised wants to become human either through perpetrating violence on the colonial master or through the inheritance of colonial knowledge practices on his social body, according to Frantz Fanon and Edward Said. Interestingly, the colonial knowledge system is inversed by the natives and applied on the West, as a means to emancipate themselves from colonial subjugation. The same tools which were used by the colonial masters to colonise the native are subverted by the natives to liberate themselves from the cultural hegemony of the West. This complex existential phenomenological process and the dialectical relation between the coloniser and the colonised as the process between the self and the other is explored through the theoretical elaborations of W.E.B Du Bois, Frantz Fanon and Edward Said in this article.

Keywords: Knowledge and Power, Orientalist Representations and Perceptions, Colonial Life-world, Double Consciousness, W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Edward Said.