My interest in Joseph Conrad is centered around understanding what brought him to the Congo and how the events that transpired there influenced his attitudes in Heart of Darkness. I also wanted to gain a greater understanding of the historical events that led to the colonization of the Congo. This interest is basically grounded in the fact that prior to my exposure to Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart, I knew virtually nothing about what actually led to the colonization of the area. It is my hope that through researching these areas I will have a deeper understanding of the two novels that focused on the Congo.
In the article, "Post-colonial Literatures and Counter-discourse," Helen Tiffin raises a number of issues in regards to the hybridization of the colonized and how European universals invariably clash with that of the native. From the very beginning of the article, Tiffin notes that there is a "call to arms" (so to speak) that encompasses the "demand for an entirely new or wholly recovered 'reality,' free from all colonial taint" (95). This hope is idealistic, especially when evaluating the role that the English language plays in the lives of those who are colonized. Tiffin realizes this fact and views most post-colonial literature as a "counter-discursive" mode of expression that is highly involved in "challenging the notion of literary universality" (96).
The most interesting challenge raised by this European universality is the fact that many post-colonial authors use English as the means to express or disassemble notions of these supposed commonly held mores, thereby creating a hybridized literature. Tiffin notes that in a "canonical counter-discourse . . . [the] post-colonial writer . . .takes . . . basic assumptions of a British canonical text and unveils those assumptions" (97). This is clearly seen in Things Fall Apart where Chinua Achebe creates an environment that fully explores Ibo culture and often draws parallels between the European "universals" and the native traditions. By composing the novel in this way, Achebe succeeds in (as Tiffin so eloquently notes) deconstructing "assumptions from the cross-cultural standpoint of the imperially subjectified 'local'" (98). In other words, a hybrid voice evolves in a way that can be aligned with a distinct Minority Literature theme: by dismantling universal European values and using the English language to do so the colonized people are using the dominant cultures words and/or values against them to not only pick apart these values, but to hold a mirror up to what has been lost by the native people of a particular land.
There is, however, a likelihood that there will be some level of recovery that begins to take place for the native as a result of this discourse, which is not addressed in Tiffin's article. Hopefully, through the hybrid that is created by these institutions, post-colonial literature can serve...