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Autobiography of an ArchiveA Scholar's Passage to India$
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Nicholas Dirks

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169677

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169677.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 25 September 2021

In Near Ruins

In Near Ruins

Cultural Theory at the End of the Century

(p.231) 10 In Near Ruins
Autobiography of an Archive

Nicholas B. Dirks

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the state of cultural theory at the end of the twentieth century. It begins by considering Michael Ondaatje's 1993 novel The English Patient, which the protagonist is the exemplar of colonial knowledge and the epitome of colonial adventure. The chapter then discusses the notion of ruin in relation to culture and civilization, along with the argument between Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno over popular and elite culture. In particular, it analyzes Adorno's commitment to the critical potential of high modernist aesthetics and his despair about mass culture. In conclusion, he argues that the postcolonial condition is the historical precipitate of centuries of Western political and economic domination, itself enabling, even as it was enabled by, centuries of cultural and intellectual colonization.

Keywords:   cultural theory, Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, ruin, culture, civilization, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, aesthetics, colonization

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