Postcolonial theory foregrounds cultural difference as the fundamental category: it is culture that distinguishes the colonisers from the colonised, while such key concepts as hybridity and postcoloniality itself are defined as resulting from an inter-cultural encounter. This approach has proven its value through decades, but it is also evident that it is prone to ultraconservative essentialist interpretations. Nationalist anti-European forces in Poland, Hungary, the UK and Russia have all been using anti-colonial rhetoric to present their cultures as being threatened by globalisation, free trade, migration and other ‘anti-national’ forces. I will argue that there no way to resist such an appropriation from within the postcolonial paradigm, due to its own essentialist core. As a way out, I suggest replacing the concept of culture, as the fundamental ontological category, with hegemony, understood in the spirit of neo-Gramscian poststructuralism.
Viacheslav Morozov is Professor of EU-Russia Studies at the University of Tartu. Before moving to Estonia in 2010, he had taught for 13 years at the St. Petersburg State University in Russia. His current research explores how Russia’s political and social development has been conditioned by the country’s position in the international system. This approach has been laid out in his most recent monograph Russia’s Postcolonial Identity: A Subaltern Empire in a Eurocentric World (Palgrave, 2015), while the comparative dimension is explored, inter alia, in the edited volume Decentring the West: The Idea of Democracy and the Struggle for Hegemony (Ashgate, 2013).