Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead … Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

— The   Wasteland, T.S. Eliot

French sociologist Michel de Certeau argued that ‘narrations about what’s-going-on constitute our orthodoxy’. We can say the same about narrations about what’s-next. From journalism to political representation, from legacy to new media, the torrent of narrations engulfing our waking hours and encroaching on our sleep ‘organise in advance our work, our celebrations, and even our dreams.’ These narrations – which de Certeau also terms masks, simulations, and the ‘results of manipulations’ – fabricate the realities to which they seemingly refer and are thus ‘circular’ and ‘objectless.’ The unrelenting sound and fury of de Certeau’s ‘recited society’, or in the absence of any ‘believable object’ of abyssal reference to the belief of others, or the ‘citation’ of experts and public opinion polls, certifies the validity of the mask. If our credences are emphatically entangled with and conceivably produced by the multiplying mechanisms of discipline, by a global control culture and normalised systems of surveillance, if selves too are ‘recited,’ then we must seek without delay the formulae for transmuting credence into ‘denunciation’ and dissent and thus ‘manipulate the mechanisms of discipline and conform to them only in order to evade them.’

Such quarry led de Certeau to an exposition of the customary network of antidisciplinary tactics whereby the ‘dominée’ already ensnared in disciplinary nets also engages in ‘free’ and ‘creative’ work. If our futures are the ‘development projects’ of predatory totality or have long since been occupied by the plutocrats who own our world, if Thatcher’s ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA) named an incipience not yet in fullest flower and therefore yet to come, the question stands: is idiosyncratic work disguised as work for the proprietors (what de Certeau termed la perruque or ‘the wig’) a tactic available to knowledge workers on the trail of a viable PostWest from within the embrace of the West and its institutions and beneath its superintendence? More, if we retain some regard for a West or fathom both the intensity and extensity of its dissemination, then we should ask with Boaventura de Sousa Santos, ‘is there a non-Occidentalist West?’ Is there an ‘other West’ open to ‘counterhegemonic globalisation’ and to participation in ecologies of knowledges and productions with differential, context-dependent, real-world interventions and outcomes? Is such a West, which would constitute a veritable PostWest, not only thinkable but even more urgently actionable?

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

Access our entire archive of 350+ articles from the world's leading writers on Islam.
Only £3.30/month, cancel anytime.


Already subscribed? Log in here.

Not convinced? Read this: why should I subscribe to Critical Muslim?

Elsewhere on Critical Muslim: