The article applies postcolonial approaches to economic discourses in regard to Habsburg Galicia at the turn from the 18th to the 19th century, focusing on the reform discourses of the state bureaucracy, the Galician landlords and the Polish national movement with regard to serfdom and agrarian reform. Making use of Said’s concept of “orientalism”, the article’s main section is dedicated to the analysis of how the definition and construction of peasants as social actors influenced reforms of serfdom until it was finally abolished in course of the revolution of 1848. Here, several different simultaneous narratives, as well as varying positions in the course of time can be observed, where cultural differences were overlapping with social cleavages. Thus, a polycentric, but not polyvalent approach of power and rule could help deconstructing or at least questioning binary dichotomies, in the way that hegemony is always dependent on a complex web of political, social and economic relations in a spatial context.
The article deals with the appropriation of postcolonial studies to look at Central Europe and Galicia. Beginning with the concept of“internal colonialism“, we follow the evolution of postcolonial theory from a basically economy-based concept into a poststructuralist cultural theory, presenting the development and uses of its central concepts, such as Orientalism or othering. Based on some examples, we also highlight its previous appropriation to Central Europe and the political implications it carries in this region.