The Kinship of Colonialism and Traditionalism

1 Mar

To prime our discussion of the breakdown of the binary in Seasons of Migration, I’ll begin with B. Caminero-Santagelo’s “Legacies of Darkness: Neocolonialism, Joseph Conrad, and Tayeb Salih’s ‘Season of Migration to the North'”, which critiques of Said’s reading of Seasons of Migration as a novel predominantly concerned with colonialism:

However, because Said places Salih’s novel in the context of such a struggle with the “colonist,” he, like Makdisi, fails to see that the real object of scrutiny in Season of Migration is the Sudanese themselves, who have inculcated the colonial mindset and ignored their own particular manifestations of it (Caminero-Santangelo, 9).

Instead of just critiquing the dichotomy of neo-colonialism, Caminero-Santagelo argues Salih highlights the close kinship of colonialism and traditionalism, which both resist change and blame “foreign” influences for any problems that occur.  For instance, when the narrator returns after Hosna Bint Mahmoud’s murder and suicide, no one in the village tells him what happened, except for Bint Majzoub only after she receives outside support from the “foreign” whisky.  When the narrator asks his grandfather, Hajj Ahmed – the embodiment of the best of Sudan’s traditional society – his grandfather blames the “trouble” on Hosna’s ‘foreign’ tribe, not on the exploitation of women present in the village’s traditionalist patriarchal society (Salih, 102).  The objectification of women also characterizes European colonial society, which condones Mustafa Sa’eed’s exploitation of women in his quest to “‘liberate Africa with [his] penis’” (Salih, 100). Sa’eed’s colonial exploitation of his lovers and wife, like Wad Rayyes’ objectification of Hosna, both result in the death of women refusing to subject themselves as objects to their husbands’ socially-approved sexual desires.

            To keep this post a reasonable length, I’ll leave the discussion of other examples of this parallel between colonialism and traditionalism for class (if everyone else finds this argument as interesting as I do).  I’ll simply conclude by questioning how far Caminero-Santangelo’s parallel can extend, given the unequal power relationship between the progressive ‘colonial’ and the backwards ‘traditional’ – even though the problems of traditionalism are prevalent in Seasons of Migration, the subtle intrusion of the ‘neo-colonial’ through the simple transfer of colonial power from colonists to the elite, Western-educated Sudanese (e.g. Sa’eed).  Instead of just dealing with the resistance to unwanted change in traditionalism (e.g. the liberation of women), Sudan is also ideologically and economically dependent on its former colonizers.  Together, these two factors make finding an independent identity difficult, although not impossible. 

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