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Debates about postcolonialism are unresolved, yet issues raised in Said’s Orientalism (1978), a critique of Western descriptions of Non-Euro-American Others, suggest that colonialism as a discourse is based on the ability of Westerners to examine other societies in order to produce knowledge and use it as a form of power deployed against the very subjects of inquiry. As should be readily apparent, the issues of postcolonialism are uncomfortably relevant to contemporary anthropological investigations.
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“If a certain individual is nicknamed ‘Scarface’, this does not signify only the simple fact that his face is full of scars; it implies at the same time that we are dealing with somebody who is designated as ‘Scarface’ and will remain so even if, for example, all his scars were removed by plastic surgery. Ideological designations function in the same way: ‘Communism’ means (in the perspective of the Communist, of course) progress in democracy and freedom, even if – on the factual, descriptive level – the political regime legitimized as ‘Communist’ produces extremely repressive and tyrannical phenomena.” (121) from ‘the Sublime Object of Ideology’ by Slavoj Zizek