The second edition of White Mythologies was published by Routledge in 2004, with a Preface by Homi K. Bhabha, a Bibliography, and a new 15,000 word Introduction. In the Introduction, I look back at the circumstances in which the book was written, and the intervention it was trying to make at that historical moment..
elaborate in some detail the links between postructuralism and the uprisings of May 1968, both of which were challenging the orthodoxies of a party-led, exclusively class-based Marxism. The anti-colonial struggles had led to a significant revision of Marxist theory, but the theoretical work of the anti-colonial movements was largely ignored in Europe. In May 68, however, lived experience finally erupted against theoretical closure even in Europe itself.
These contradictions came together particularly in the work of Althusser, who himself came from an Algerian colon family and therefore displayed an ambivalent relation to the struggle for Algerian independence, leaving Althusser’s Marxism problematic in terms of his relation to the third world and anti-imperial struggle.
On the one hand, Althusser infiltrates
radical populist Maoist notions into the dirigist elitism of Marxist theory, invokes a new, more open theoretical discourse, and aligns himself with the history of ‘socialist revolutions’ and ‘revolutionary struggle’ around the world. On the other hand, he dismisses Sartre’s humanist identifications with the wretched of the earth and downgrades the anti-imperial struggles of the intellectuals and students to a subordinate role.
What Althusser did not recognise was that the passionate places on the street where they organised and debated these issues in the ethnic mixture of the Latin Quarter became also, symbolically, a subaltern space that demanded the advent of the postcolonial, and the turn towards the transculturation of Marxism outside the European arena. These were the radical, ineradicable locations for the formation of my own political identity, in Paris, in
May 1968. In spaces no longer blanked out by ruthless whiteness.