a1 Princeton University
To ask how the “third world writes its own history” appears, at first glance, to be exceedingly naive. At best, it reaffirms the East–West and Orient–Occident oppositions that have shaped historical writings and seems to be a simple-minded gesture of solidarity. Furthermore, in apparently privileging the writings of historians with third-world origins, this formulation renders such scholars into “native informants” whose discourse is opened up for further disquisitions on how “they” think of “their” history. In short, the notion of the third world writing its own history seems to reek of essentialism. Seen in another way, this formulation can be construed as positing that the third world has a fixed space of its own from which it can speak in a sovereign voice. For many, this notion of a separate terrain is rendered problematic by the increasing rapidity and the voracious appetite with which the postmodern culture imperializes and devours spaces.