In the apocalyptic final scene ofWole Soyinka's Madmen and Specialists, the Old Man signals his intention to operate on the Cripple with the words: 'Now, let's see what makes a heretic tick'.1 This statement expresses one of the play's most insistent concerns: the connection between language and power, or, perhaps more accurately, between linguistic play and political resistance. As such, Madmen and Specialists is a key play in any discussion of the relationship between post-colonial literature-in-English, which by its very nature raises the issue of the political function of language, and post-structuralist theory, which spends so much of its time rehearsing the links between discourse and power. In this paper I will quite deliberately adopt a post-structuralist strategy and attempt a dialogistic reading of Madmen and Specialists: firstly, I will strategically deploy a tool crafted from the theories of Foucault and Derrida to re-forge the play's political critique, a critique underestimated because of the theoretical blindness of the Soyinka orthodoxy to date; and, secondly, I will use the text's claims as drama, as a text written for potential performances, to then interrogate the theories themselves, and any claims they might have to either universality or totality? Through its self-reflexive foregrounding of the subversive role of performance, the play serves to 're-materialize' theory again, re-placing it within the material practices that re-produce it, and re-inscribing it upon the performing body of the neo-colonial subject, thereby preventing it from ever being finished or closed. Such a reading might show that the question of the relationship between post-colonial text and (potentially) neo-colonial theory is a complex, dialectical one: that no theory writes triumphantly upon a theory-less, pure pre-colonial space; and that any use of such theory must be specific, strategic and selfconscious.
Moody, David, The Tick of a Heretic; or, on Using the Poison of Theory in the Post-Colonial Operation, Kunapipi, 15(2), 1993.