Postcolonialism is the academic study of the cultural legacy of colonialism and imperialism, focusing on the human consequences of the control and exploitation of colonized people and their lands. Postcolonialism is a critical theory analysis of the history, culture, literature, and discourse of European imperial power. The name postcolonialism is modeled on postmodernism, with which it shares certain concepts and methods, and may be thought of as a reaction to or departure from colonialism in the same way postmodernism is a reaction to modernism. The ambiguous term colonialism may refer either to a system of government or to an ideology or world view underlying that system—in general postcolonialism represents an ideological response to colonialist thought, rather than simply describing a system that comes after colonialism. The term postcolonial studies may be preferred for this reason. Postcolonialism encompasses a wide variety of approaches, and theoreticians may not always agree on a common set of definitions. On a simple level, it may seek through anthropological study to build a better understanding of colonial life from the point of view of the colonized people, based on the assumption that the colonial rulers are unreliable narrators.

On a deeper level, postcolonialism examines the social and political power relationships that sustain colonialism and neocolonialism, including the social, political and cultural narratives surrounding the colonizer and the colonized. This approach may overlap with contemporary history and critical theory, and may also draw examples from history, political science, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and human geography.

Sub-disciplines of postcolonial studies examine the effects of colonial rule on the practice of feminism, anarchism, literature, and Christian thought.

Purpose and basic concepts

As an epistemology (the study of knowledge, its nature and verifiability), as an ethics (moral philosophy), and as a politics (affairs of the citizenry), the field of postcolonialism addresses the politics of knowledge—the matters that constitute the postcolonial identity of a decolonized people, which derives from: (i) the colonizer's generation of cultural knowledge about the colonized people; and (ii) how that Western cultural knowledge was applied to subjugate a non–European people into a colony of the European mother country, which, after initial invasion, was effected by means of the cultural identities of 'colonizer' and 'colonized'.[1]

Postcolonialism is aimed at destabilizing these theories (intellectual and linguistic, social and economic) by means of which colonialists "perceive", "understand", and "know" the world. Postcolonial theory thus establishes intellectual spaces for subaltern peoples to speak for themselves, in their own voices, and thus produce cultural discourses of philosophy, language, society and economy, balancing the imbalanced us-and-them binary power-relationship between the colonist and the colonial subjects.

Colonialist discourse

Colonialism was presented as "the extension of civilization", which ideologically justified the self-ascribed racial and cultural superiority of the Western world over the non-Western world. This concept was espoused by Joseph-Ernest Renan in La Réforme intellectuelle et morale (1871), whereby imperial stewardship was thought to affect the intellectual and moral reformation of the coloured peoples of the lesser cultures of the world. That such a divinely established, natural harmony among the human races of the world would be possible, because everyone has an assigned cultural identity, a social place, and an economic role within an imperial colony. Thus:

The regeneration of the inferior or degenerate races, by the superior races is part of the providential order of things for humanity.... Regere imperio populos is our vocation. Pour forth this all-consuming activity onto countries, which, like China, are crying aloud for foreign conquest. Turn the adventurers who disturb European society into a ver sacrum, a horde like those of the Franks, the Lombards, or the Normans, and every man will be in his right role. Nature has made a race of workers, the Chinese race, who have wonderful manual dexterity, and almost no sense of honour; govern them with justice, levying from them, in return for the blessing of such a government, an ample allowance for the conquering race, and they will be satisfied; a race of tillers of the soil, the Negro; treat him with kindness and humanity, and all will be as it should; a race of masters and soldiers, the European race.... Let each do what he is made for, and all will be well.

La Réforme intellectuelle et morale (1871), by Joseph-Ernest Renan [2]

From the mid- to the late-nineteenth century, such racialist group-identity language was the cultural common-currency justifying geopolitical competition amongst the European and American empires and meant to protect their over-extended economies. Especially in the colonization of the Far East and in the late-nineteenth century Scramble for Africa, the representation of a homogeneous European identity justified colonization. Hence, Belgium and Britain, and France and Germany proffered theories of national superiority that justified colonialism as delivering the light of civilization to unenlightened peoples. Notably, la mission civilisatrice, the self-ascribed 'civilizing mission' of the French Empire, proposed that some races and cultures have a higher purpose in life, whereby the more powerful, more developed, and more civilized races have the right to colonize other peoples, in service to the noble idea of "civilization" and its economic benefits.[3][4][5]

Postcolonial identity

Decolonized people develop a postcolonial identity that is based on cultural interactions between different identities (cultural, national, and ethnic as well as gender and class based) which are assigned varying degrees of social power by the colonial society. In postcolonial literature, the anti-conquest narrative analyzes the identity politics that are the social and cultural perspectives of the subaltern colonial subjects—their creative resistance to the culture of the colonizer; how such cultural resistance complicated the establishment of a colonial society; how the colonizers developed their postcolonial identity; and how neocolonialism actively employs the Us-and-Them binary social relation to view the non-Western world as inhabited by The Other.

The neocolonial discourse of geopolitical homogeneity relegating the decolonized peoples, their cultures, and their countries, to an imaginary place, such as "the Third World", an over-inclusive term that usually comprises continents and seas, i.e. Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. The postcolonial critique analyzes the self-justifying discourse of neocolonialism and the functions (philosophic and political) of its over-inclusive terms, to establish the factual and cultural inaccuracy of homogeneous concepts, such as "the Arabs" and "the First World", "Christendom" and "the Ummah", actually comprise heterogeneous peoples, cultures, and geography, and that accurate descriptions of the world's peoples, places, and things require nuanced and accurate terms.[6]

Difficulty of definition

As a contemporary-history term, postcolonialism occasionally is applied temporally, to denote the immediate time after colonialism, which is a problematic application of the term, because the immediate, historical, political time is not included in the categories of critical identity-discourse, which deals with over-inclusive terms of cultural representation, which are abrogated and replaced by postcolonial criticism. As such, the terms postcolonial and postcolonialism denote aspects of the subject matter, which indicate that the decolonized world is an intellectual space "of contradictions, of half-finished processes, of confusions, of hybridity, and of liminalities".[7]

In Post-Colonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics (1996), Helen Gilbert and Joanne Tompkins clarified the denotational functions, among which:

The term post-colonialism—according to a too-rigid etymology—is frequently misunderstood as a temporal concept, meaning the time after colonialism has ceased, or the time following the politically determined Independence Day on which a country breaks away from its governance by another state. Not a naïve teleological sequence, which supersedes colonialism, post-colonialism is, rather, an engagement with, and contestation of, colonialism's discourses, power structures, and social hierarchies.... A theory of post-colonialism must, then, respond to more than the merely chronological construction of post-independence, and to more than just the discursive experience of imperialism.

Post-Colonial Drama (1996).[8]

The term post-colonialism is also applied to denote the Mother Country's neocolonial control of the decolonized country, effected by the legalistic continuation of the economic, cultural, and linguistic power relationships that controlled the colonial politics of knowledge (the generation, production, and distribution of knowledge) about the colonized peoples of the non–Western world.[7][9] The cultural and religious assumptions of colonialist logic remain active practices in contemporary society, and are the basis of the Mother Country's neocolonial attitude towards her former colonial subjects—an economical source of labour and raw materials.[10]

Notable theoreticians

Frantz Fanon

In The Wretched of the Earth (1961), the psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon analyzed and medically described the nature of colonialism as essentially destructive. Its societal effects—the imposition of a subjugating colonial identity—are harmful to the mental health of the native peoples who were subjugated into colonies. Fanon wrote the ideological essence of colonialism is the systematic denial of "all attributes of humanity" of the colonized people. Such dehumanization is achieved with physical and mental violence, by which the colonist means to inculcate a servile mentality upon the natives. For Fanon the natives must violently resist colonial subjugation.[11] Hence, Fanon describes violent resistance to colonialism as a mentally cathartic practice, which purges colonial servility from the native psyche, and restores self-respect to the subjugated. Thus, Fanon actively supported and participated in the Algerian Revolution (1954–62) for independence from France as a member and representative of the Front de Libération Nationale.[12]

As postcolonial praxis, Fanon's mental-health analyses of colonialism and imperialism, and the supporting economic theories, were partly derived from the essay Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), wherein Vladimir Lenin described colonial imperialism as a degenerate form of capitalism, which requires greater degrees of human exploitation to ensure continually consistent profit for investment.[13]

Edward Said

Cultural critic Edward Said is considered by E. San Juan, Jr. as "the originator and inspiring patron-saint of postcolonial theory and discourse" due to his theory of Orientalism explained in his 1978 book of the same name.[14] To describe the us-and-them "binary social relation" with which Western Europe intellectually divided the world—into the "Occident" and the "Orient"—Said developed the denotations and connotations of the term Orientalism (an art-history term for Western depictions and the study of the Orient). Said's concept (which he also termed "Orientalism") is that the cultural representations generated with the us-and-them binary relation are social constructs, which are mutually constitutive and cannot exist independent of each other, because each exists on account of and for the other.[15]

Notably, "the West" created the cultural concept of "the East", which according to Said allowed the Europeans to suppress the peoples of the Middle East, of the Indian Subcontinent, and of Asia, from expressing and representing themselves as discrete peoples and cultures. Orientalism thus conflated and reduced the non–Western world into the homogeneous cultural entity known as "the East". Therefore, in service to the colonial type of imperialism, the us-and-them Orientalist paradigm allowed European scholars to represent the Oriental World as inferior and backward, irrational and wild, as opposed to a Western Europe that was superior and progressive, rational and civil—the opposite of the Oriental Other. In "Edward Said: The Exile as Interpreter" (1993), about Said's Orientalism (1978), A. Madhavan said that "Said's passionate thesis in that book, now an 'almost canonical study', represented Orientalism as a 'style of thought' based on the antinomy of East and West in their world-views, and also as a 'corporate institution' for dealing with the Orient."[16]

In concordance with the philosopher Michel Foucault, Said established that power and knowledge are the inseparable components of the intellectual binary relationship with which Occidentals claim "knowledge of the Orient". That the applied power of such cultural knowledge allowed Europeans to rename, re-define, and thereby control Oriental peoples, places, and things, into imperial colonies.[9] The power–knowledge binary relation is conceptually essential to identify and understand colonialism in general, and European colonialism in particular. Hence,

To the extent that Western scholars were aware of contemporary Orientals or Oriental movements of thought and culture, these were perceived either as silent shadows to be animated by the Orientalist, brought into reality by them, or as a kind of cultural and international proletariat useful for the Orientalist's grander interpretive activity.

Orientalism (1978), p. 208.[17]

Nonetheless, critics of the homogeneous "Occident–Orient" binary social relation, said that Orientalism is of limited descriptive capability and practical application, and proposed that there are variants of Orientalism that apply to Africa and to Latin America. Said replied that the European West applied Orientalism as a homogeneous form of The Other, in order to facilitate the formation of the cohesive, collective European cultural identity denoted by the term "The West".[18]

With this described binary logic, the West generally constructs the Orient subconsciously as its alter ego. Therefore, descriptions of the Orient by the Occident lack material attributes, grounded within land. This inventive, or imaginative interpretation subscribes female characteristics to the Orient and plays into fantasies that are inherent within the West's alter ego. It should be understood that this process draws creativity, amounting an entire domain and discourse.

In Orientalism, Said mentions the production of "philology [the study of the history of languages], lexicography [dictionary making], history, biology, political and economic theory, novel-writing and lyric poetry" (p. 6). Therefore, there is an entire industry that exploits the Orient for its own subjective purposes that lack a native and intimate understanding. Such industries become institutionalized and eventually become a resource for manifest Orientalism, or a compilation of misinformation about the Orient.

The ideology of Empire was hardly ever a brute jingoism; rather, it made subtle use of reason, and recruited science and history to serve its ends. —Imperial Fictions: Europe's Myths of Orient (p. 6)

These subjective fields of academia now synthesize the political resources and think-tanks that are so common in the West today. Orientalism is self-perpetuating to the extent that it becomes normalized within common discourse, making people say things that are latent, impulsive, or not fully conscious of its own self.[19]:49–52

Gayatri Spivak

In establishing the Postcolonial definition of the term subaltern, the philosopher and theoretician Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak cautioned against assigning an over-broad connotation. She argues:

... subaltern is not just a classy word for "oppressed", for The Other, for somebody who's not getting a piece of the pie. ... In postcolonial terms, everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is subaltern—a space of difference. Now, who would say that's just the oppressed? The working class is oppressed. It's not subaltern. ... Many people want to claim subalternity. They are the least interesting and the most dangerous. I mean, just by being a discriminated-against minority on the university campus; they don't need the word 'subaltern' ... They should see what the mechanics of the discrimination are. They're within the hegemonic discourse, wanting a piece of the pie, and not being allowed, so let them speak, use the hegemonic discourse. They should not call themselves subaltern.

Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: New Nation Writers Conference in South Africa (1992)[20]

Spivak also introduced the terms essentialism and strategic essentialism to describe the social functions of postcolonialism. The term essentialism denotes the perceptual dangers inherent to reviving subaltern voices in ways that might (over) simplify the cultural identity of heterogeneous social groups and, thereby, create stereotyped representations of the different identities of the people who compose a given social group. The term strategic essentialism denotes a temporary, essential group-identity used in the praxis of discourse among peoples. Furthermore, essentialism can occasionally be applied—by the so-described people—to facilitate the subaltern's communication in being heeded, heard, and understood, because a strategic essentialism (a fixed and established subaltern identity) is more readily grasped, and accepted, by the popular majority, in the course of inter-group discourse. The important distinction, between the terms, is that strategic essentialism does not ignore the diversity of identities (cultural and ethnic) in a social group, but that, in its practical function, strategic essentialism temporarily minimizes inter-group diversity to pragmatically support the essential group-identity.[6]

Spivak developed and applied Foucault's term epistemic violence to describe the destruction of non–Western ways of perceiving the world and the resultant dominance of the Western ways of perceiving the world. Conceptually, epistemic violence specifically relates to women, whereby the "Subaltern [woman] must always be caught in translation, never [allowed to be] truly expressing herself", because the colonial power's destruction of her culture pushed to the social margins her non–Western ways of perceiving, understanding, and knowing the world.[6]

In June of the year 1600, the Afro–Iberian woman Francisca de Figueroa requested from the King of Spain his permission for her to emigrate from Europe to New Spain, and reunite with her daughter, Juana de Figueroa. As a subaltern woman, Francisca repressed her native African language, and spoke her request in Peninsular Spanish, the official language of Colonial Latin America. As a subaltern woman, she applied to her voice the Spanish cultural filters of sexism, Christian monotheism, and servile language, in addressing her colonial master:

I, Francisca de Figueroa, mulatta in colour, declare that I have, in the city of Cartagena, a daughter named Juana de Figueroa; and she has written, to call for me, in order to help me. I will take with me, in my company, a daughter of mine, her sister, named María, of the said colour; and for this, I must write to Our Lord the King to petition that he favour me with a licence, so that I, and my said daughter, can go and reside in the said city of Cartagena. For this, I will give an account of what is put down in this report; and of how I, Francisca de Figueroa, am a woman of sound body, and mulatta in colour […] And my daughter María is twenty-years-old, and of the said colour, and of medium size. Once given, I attest to this. I beg your Lordship to approve, and order it done. I ask for justice in this. [On the twenty-first day of the month of June 1600, Your Majesty's Lords Presidents and Official Judges of this House of Contract Employment order that the account she offers be received, and that testimony for the purpose she requests given.]

Afro–Latino Voices: Narratives from the Early Modern Ibero–Atlantic World: 1550–1812 (2009)[21]

Moreover, Spivak further cautioned against ignoring subaltern peoples as "cultural Others", and said that the West could progress—beyond the colonial perspective—by means of introspective self-criticism of the basic ideals and investigative methods that establish a culturally superior West studying the culturally inferior non–Western peoples.[6][22] Hence, the integration of the subaltern voice to the intellectual spaces of social studies is problematic, because of the unrealistic opposition to the idea of studying "Others"; Spivak rejected such an anti-intellectual stance by social scientists, and about them said that "to refuse to represent a cultural Other is salving your conscience […] allowing you not to do any homework."[22] Moreover, postcolonial studies also reject the colonial cultural depiction of subaltern peoples as hollow mimics of the European colonists and their Western ways; and rejects the depiction of subaltern peoples as the passive recipient-vessels of the imperial and colonial power of the Mother Country. Consequent to Foucault's philosophic model of the binary relationship of power and knowledge, scholars from the Subaltern Studies Collective, proposed that anti-colonial resistance always counters every exercise of colonial power.

Homi K. Bhabha

In The Location of Culture (1994), the theoretician Homi K. Bhabha argued that viewing the human world as composed of separate and unequal cultures, rather than as an integral human world, perpetuates the belief in the existence of imaginary peoples and places—"Christendom" and "The Islamic World", "The First World", "The Second World", and "The Third World". To counter such linguistic and sociologic reductionism, postcolonial praxis establishes the philosophic value of hybrid intellectual spaces, wherein ambiguity abrogates truth and authenticity; thereby, hybridity is the philosophic condition that most substantively challenges the ideological validity of colonialism.[23]

R. Siva Kurkuma

In 1997, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of India's Independence, Santiniketan: The Making of a Contextual Modernism was an important exhibition curated by R. Siva Kumar at the National Gallery of Modern Art.[24]

In his catalogue essay, Kumar introduced the term Contextual Modernism, which later emerged as a postcolonial critical tool in the understanding of Indian art, specifically the works of Nandalal Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Ramkinkar Baij and Benode Behari Mukherjee.[25]

Santiniketan artists did not believe that to be indigenous one has to be historicist either in theme or in style, and similarly to be modern one has to adopt a particular trans-national formal language or technique. Modernism was to them neither a style nor a form of internationalism. It was critical re-engagement with the foundational aspects of art necessitated by changes in one's unique historical position.[26]

In the postcolonial history of art, this marked the departure from Eurocentric unilateral idea of Modernism to alternative context sensitive Modernisms.

The brief survey of the individual works of the core Santiniketan artists and the thought perspectives they open up makes clear that though there were various contact points in the work they were not bound by a continuity of style but buy a community of ideas. Which they not only shared but also interpreted and carried forward. Thus they do not represent a school but a movement.

Several terms including Paul Gilroy's counter culture of modernity and Tani E. Barlow's Colonial modernity have been used to describe the kind of alternative modernity that emerged in non-European contexts. Professor Gall argues that 'Contextual Modernism' is a more suited term because "the colonial in colonial modernity does not accommodate the refusal of many in colonized situations to internalize inferiority. Santiniketan's artist teachers' refusal of subordination incorporated a counter vision of modernity, which sought to correct the racial and cultural essentialism that drove and characterized imperial Western modernity and modernism. Those European modernities, projected through a triumphant British colonial power, provoked nationalist responses, equally problematic when they incorporated similar essentialisms."[27]

Dipesh Chakrabarty

In Provincializing Europe (2000), Dipesh Chakrabarty charted the subaltern history of the Indian struggle for independence, and countered Eurocentric, Western scholarship about non-Western peoples and cultures, by proposing that Western Europe simply be considered as culturally equal to the other cultures of the world, that is, as "one region among many" in human geography.[28][29]

Derek Gregory

Derek Gregory argues the long trajectory through history of British and American colonization is an ongoing process still happening today. In The Colonial Present, Gregory traces connections between the geopolitics of events happening in modern-day Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq and links it back to the us-and-them binary relation between the Western and Eastern world. Building upon the ideas of the other and Said's work on orientalism, Gregory critiques the economic policy, military apparatus, and transnational corporations as vehicles driving present day colonialism. Emphasizing ideas of discussing ideas around colonialism in the present tense, Gregory utilizes modern events such as the September 11 attacks to tell spatial stories around the colonial behavior happening due to the War on Terror.[30]

Amar Acheraiou

Acheraiou argues that colonialism was a capitalist venture moved by appropriation and plundering of foreign lands and was supported by military force and a discourse that legitimized violence in the name of progress and a universal civilizing mission. This discourse is complex and multi-faceted. It was elaborated in the 19th century by colonial ideologues such as Joseph-Ernest Renan and Arthur de Gobineau, but its roots reach far back in history. In Rethinking Postcolonialism: Colonialist Discourse in Modern Literature and the Legacy of Classical Writers, Amar Acheraiou discusses the history of colonialist discourse and traces its spirit to ancient Greece, including Europe's claim to racial supremacy and right to rule over non-Europeans harboured by Renan and other 19th century colonial ideologues. He argues that modern colonial representations of the colonized as "inferior", "stagnant" and "degenerate" were borrowed from Greek and Latin authors like Lysias (440–380 BC), Isocrates (436–338 BC), Plato (427–327 BC), Aristotle (384—322 BC), Cicero (106–43 BC), and Sallust (86–34 BC), who all considered their racial others – the Persians, Scythians, Egyptians as "backward", "inferior", and "effeminate".[31] Among these ancient writers Aristotle is the one who articulated more thoroughly these ancient racial assumptions, which served as a source of inspiration for modern colonists. In The Politics, he established a racial classification and ranked the Greeks superior to the rest. He considered them as an ideal race to rule over Asian and other 'barbarian' peoples, for they knew how to blend the spirit of the European "war-like races" with Asiatic "intelligence" and "competence".[32]

Ancient Rome was a source of admiration in Europe since the enlightenment. In France, Voltaire (1694-1778) was one of the most fervent admirers of Rome. He regarded highly the Roman republican values of rationality, democracy, order and justice. In early-eighteenth century Britain, it was poets and politicians like Joseph Addison (1672–1719) and Richard Glover (1712 –1785) who were vocal advocates of these ancient republican values.

It was in the mid-eighteenth century that ancient Greece became a source of admiration among the French and British. This enthusiasm gained prominence in the late-eighteenth century. It was spurred by German Hellenist scholars and English romantic poets: Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768), Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), and Goethe (1749–1832), Lord Byron (1788–1824), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), and John Keats (1795–1821). These scholars and poets regarded ancient Greece as the matrix of Western civilization and a model of beauty and democracy.[31][33]

In the nineteenth century when Europe began to expand across the globe and establish colonies, ancient Greece and Rome were used as a source of empowerment and justification to Western civilizing mission. At this period, many French and British imperial ideologues identified strongly with the ancient empires and invoked ancient Greece and Rome to justify the colonial civilizing project. They urged European colonizers to emulate these "ideal" classical conquerors, whom they regarded as "universal instructors". For Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), an ardent and influential advocate of la "Grande France," the classical empires were model conquerors to imitate. He advised the French colonists in Algeria to follow the ancient imperial example. In 1841, he stated: 'what matters most when we want to set up and develop a colony is to make sure that those who arrive in it are as less estranged as possible, that these newcomers meet a perfect image of their homeland....the thousand colonies that the Greeks founded on the Mediterranean coasts were all exact copies of the Greek cities on which they had been modelled. The Romans established in almost all parts of the globe known to them municipalities which were no more than miniature Romes. Among modern colonizers, the English did the same. Who can prevent us from emulating these European peoples?'.[34] The Greeks and Romans were deemed exemplary conquerors and "heuristic teachers",[31] whose lessons were invaluable for modern colonists ideologues. John-Robert Seeley (1834-1895), a history professor at Cambridge and proponent of imperialism stated in a rhetoric which echoed that of Renan that the role of the British Empire was 'similar to that of Rome, in which we hold the position of not merely of ruling but of an educating and civilizing race."[35]

The incorporation of ancient concepts and racial and cultural assumptions into modern imperial ideology bolstered colonial claims to supremacy and right to colonize non-Europeans. Because of these numerous ramifications between ancient representations and modern colonial rhetoric, 19th century's colonialist discourse acquires a "multi-layered" or "palimpsestic" structure.[31] It forms a "historical, ideological and narcissistic continuum," in which modern theories of domination feed upon and blend with "ancient myths of supremacy and grandeur".[31]

"Postcolonial literary study"

As a literary theory, postcolonialism deals with the literatures produced by the peoples who once were colonized by the European imperial powers (e.g. Britain, France, and Spain) and the literatures of the decolonized countries engaged in contemporary, postcolonial arrangements (e.g. Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and the Commonwealth of Nations) with their former mother countries.[36][37] Postcolonial literary criticism comprehends the literatures written by the colonizer and the colonized, wherein the subject matter includes portraits of the colonized peoples and their lives as imperial subjects. In Dutch literature, the Indies Literature includes the colonial and postcolonial genres, which examine and analyze the formation of a postcolonial identity, and the postcolonial culture produced by the diaspora of the Indo-European peoples, the Eurasian folk who originated from Indonesia; the peoples who were the colony of the Dutch East Indies; in the literature, the notable author is Tjalie Robinson.[38] J.M Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians(1980) depicts the unfair and inhuman situation of people dominated by settlers.

To perpetuate and facilitate control of the colonial enterprise, some colonized people, especially from among the subaltern peoples of the British Empire, were sent to attend university in the Imperial Motherland; they were to become the native-born, but Europeanised, ruling class of colonial satraps. Yet, after decolonization, their bicultural educations originated postcolonial criticism of empire and colonialism, and of the representations of the colonist and the colonized. In the late twentieth century, after the dissolution of the USSR (1991), the constituent soviet socialist republics became the literary subjects of postcolonial criticism, wherein the writers dealt with the legacies (cultural, social, economic) of the Russification of their peoples, countries, and cultures in service to Greater Russia.[39]

Postcolonial literary study is in two categories: (i) that of the postcolonial nations, and (ii) that of the nations who continue forging a postcolonial national identity. The first category of literature presents and analyzes the internal challenges inherent to determining an ethnic identity in a decolonized nation. The second category of literature presents and analyzes the degeneration of civic and nationalist unities consequent to ethnic parochialism, usually manifested as the demagoguery of "protecting the nation", a variant of the Us-and-Them binary social relation. Civic and national unity degenerate when a patriarchal régime unilaterally defines what is and what is not "the national culture" of the decolonized country; the nation-state collapses, either into communal movements, espousing grand political goals for the postcolonial nation; or into ethnically mixed communal movements, espousing political separatism, as occurred in decolonized Rwanda, the Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; thus the postcolonial extremes against which Frantz Fanon warned in 1961.

Regarding sociolinguistic interpretations of literary texts through postcolonial lenses we may refer to Jaydeep Sarangi's book, Indian Novels in English: A Sociolinguistic Study (2005).


The Middle East

In the essays "Overstating the Arab State" (2001), by Nazih Ayubi, and "Is Jordan Palestine?" (2003), by Raphael Israel, the authors deal with the psychologically fragmented postcolonial identity, as determined by the effects (political and social, cultural and economic) of Western colonialism in the Middle East. As such, the fragmented national identity remains a characteristic of such societies, consequence of the imperially convenient, but arbitrary, colonial boundaries (geographic and cultural) demarcated by the Europeans, with which they ignored the tribal and clan relations that determined the geographic borders of the Middle East countries, before the arrival of European imperialists.[40] Hence, the postcolonial literature about the Middle East examines and analyzes the Western discourses about identity formation, the existence and inconsistent nature of a postcolonial national-identity among the peoples of the contemporary Middle East.[41]

In the essay "Who Am I?: The Identity Crisis in the Middle East" (2006), P.R. Kumaraswamy said:

Most countries of the Middle East, suffered from the fundamental problems over their national identities. More than three-quarters of a century after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, from which most of them emerged, these states have been unable to define, project, and maintain a national identity that is both inclusive and representative.[42]

Independence and the end of colonialism did not end social fragmentation and war (civil and international) in the Middle East.[41] In The Search for Arab Democracy: Discourses and Counter-Discourses (2004), Larbi Sadiki said that the problems of national identity in the Middle East are a consequence of the Orientalist indifference of the European empires when they demarcated the political borders of their colonies, which ignored the local history and the geographic and tribal boundaries observed by the natives, in the course of establishing the Western version of the Middle East.

In the event, "in places like Iraq and Jordan, leaders of the new sovereign states were brought in from the outside, [and] tailored to suit colonial interests and commitments. Likewise, most states in the Persian Gulf were handed over to those [Europeanised colonial subjects] who could protect and safeguard imperial interests in the post-withdrawal phase."[42] Moreover, "with notable exceptions like Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, most [countries] ... [have] had to [re]invent, their historical roots" after decolonization, and, "like its colonial predecessor, postcolonial identity owes its existence to force."[43]


In the late 19th century, the Scramble for Africa (1874–1914) proved to be the tail end of mercantilist colonialism of the European imperial powers, yet, for the Africans, the consequences were greater than elsewhere in the colonized non–Western world. To facilitate the colonization the European empires laid railroads where the rivers and the land proved impassable. The Imperial British railroad effort proved overambitious in the effort of traversing continental Africa, yet succeeded only in connecting colonial North Africa (Cairo) with the colonial south of Africa (Cape Town).

Upon arriving to Africa, the Europeans encountered the native African civilizations of the Ashanti Empire, the Benin Empire, the Kingdom of Dahomey, the Buganda Kingdom (Uganda), and the Kingdom of Kongo, all of which were annexed by imperial powers under the belief that they required European stewardship, as proposed and justified in the essay "The African Character" (1830), by G. W. F. Hegel, in keeping with his philosophic opinion that cultures were stages in the course of the historical unfolding of The Absolute.[44] Nigeria was the homeland of the Hausa people, the Yoruba people and the Igbo people; which last were among the first people to develop their history in constructing a postcolonial identity. (See: Things Fall Apart, 1958).

About East Africa, the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o wrote Weep Not, Child (1964), the first postcolonial novel about the East African experience of colonial imperialism; in The River Between (1965), with the Mau Mau Uprising (1952–60) as political background, he addressed the postcolonial matters of native religious culture, and the consequences of the imposition of Christianity, a religion culturally foreign to Kenya and to most of Africa; and the essay Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (1986).

In postcolonial countries of Africa, the Africans and the non–Africans live in a world of genders, ethnicities, classes and languages, of ages, families, professions, religions and nations. There is a suggestion that individualism and postcolonialism are essentially discontinuous and divergent cultural phenomena.[45]


French Indochina was divided into five subdivisions: Tonkin, Annam, Cochinchina, Cambodia and Laos. Cochinchina (southern Vietnam) was the first territory under French Control. Saigon was conquered in 1859. Then, in 1887, the Indochinese Union (Union indochinoise) was established.

In 1924, Nguyen Ai Quoc Ho Chi Minh wrote the first critical text against the French colonization: Le Procès de la colonization française (French Colonization on Trial)

Trinh T. Minh-Ha has been developing her innovative theories about postcolonialism in various means of expression, literature, films, and teaching. She is best known for her film "Reassemblage", made in 1982, in which she tried to deconstruct anthropology, as a "western male hegemonic ideology". In 1989 she wrote "Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism", where she focuses on the acknowledgement of oral tradition.

Structural adjustment programmes (SAPs)

Structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) implemented by the World Bank and IMF are viewed by some postcolonialists as the modern procedure of colonization. Structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) calls for trade liberalization, privatization of banks, health care, and educational institutions.[46] These implementations minimized government's role, paved pathways for companies to enter Africa for its resources. Limited to production and exportation of cash crops, many African nations acquired more debt, and were left stranded in a position where acquiring more loan and continuing to pay high interest became an endless cycle.[47]

Osterhammel's The Dictionary of Human Geography uses the definition of colonialism as "enduring relationship of domination and mode of dispossession, usually (or at least initially) between an indigenous (or enslaved) majority and a minority of interlopers (colonizers), who are convinced of their own superiority, pursue their own interests, and exercise power through a mixture of coercion, persuasion, conflict and collaboration".[48] The definition adopted by The Dictionary of Human Geography suggests that the Structural adjustment programmes implemented by the Washington Consensus is indeed an act of colonization.


Undermining of universal values

Indian Marxist scholar Vivek Chibber has critiqued some foundational logics of postcolonial theory in his book Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital. Developing on Aijaz Ahmad's earlier critique of Said's Orientalism[49] and Sumit Sarkar's critique of the subaltern studies scholars.[50] Chibber focuses on and refutes the principal historical claims made by the subaltern studies scholars, claims which are representative of the whole of postcolonial theory. Postcolonial theory, he argues, essentializes cultures, painting them as fixed and static categories. Moreover, it presents the difference between East and West as unbridgeable, hence denying people's "universal aspirations" and "universal interests". He also criticized the postcolonial tendency to characterize all of Enlightenment values as Eurocentric. According to him, the theory will be remembered "for its revival of cultural essentialism and its acting as an endorsement of orientalism, rather than being an antidote to it."[51]

Fixation on national identity

The concentration of postcolonial studies upon the subject of national identity has determined it is essential to the creation and establishment of a stable nation and country in the aftermath of decolonization; yet indicates that either an indeterminate or an ambiguous national identity has tended to limit the social, cultural, and economic progress of a decolonized people. In Overstating the Arab State (2001), by Nazih Ayubi, the Moroccan scholar Bin 'Abd al-'Ali proposed that the existence of "a pathological obsession with ... identity" is a cultural theme common to the contemporary academic field Middle Eastern Studies.[52]

Nevertheless, Kumaraswamy and Sadiki said that such a common sociological problem—that of an indeterminate national identity—among the countries of the Middle East is an important aspect that must be accounted in order to have an understanding of the politics of the contemporary Middle East.[42] In the event, Ayubi asks if what 'Bin Abd al–'Ali sociologically described as an obsession with national identity might be explained by "the absence of a championing social class?"[53]

Foundation works

Postcolonial literature

Contemporary authors of postcolonial fiction

Postcolonial works of non-fiction until 2000

  • The Myth of the Lazy Native (1977), by Syed Hussein Alatas.
  • Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983, 1991), by Benedict Anderson. London: Verso. ISBN 0-86091-329-5
  • The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literature (1990), by B. Ashcroft, G. Griffiths, and H. Tiffin.
  • The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (1995), B. Ashcroft, G. Griffiths, and H. Tiffin, Eds. London: Routledge ISBN 0-415-09621-9.
  • Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies (1998), B. Ashcroft, G. Griffiths, and H. Tiffin, Eds. London: Routledge.
  • L'eurocentrisme (Eurocentrism, 1988), by Samir Amin.
  • The Heathen in his Blindness. . ." Asia, the West, and the Dynamic of Religion. (1994, 2005), by S. N. Balagangadhara. ISBN 90-04-09943-3.
  • The Location of Culture (1994), H.K. Bhabha.
  • The Post-Colonial Question (1996), I. Chambers and L. Curti, Eds. Routledge.
  • Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, P. Chatterjee, Princeton University Press.
  • Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction (1998), by Leela Gandhi, Columbia University Press: ISBN 0-231-11273-4.
  • Colonialism is Doomed, by Ernesto Guevara.
  • Woman, Native, Other. Writing postcoloniality and feminism (Indiana University Press, 1989)
German Edition: trans. Kathrina Menke, Vienna & Berlin: Verlag Turia & Kant, 2010.
Japanese Edition: trans. Kazuko Takemura, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1995. by Trinh T. Minh-ha
  • The Commonwealth, Comparative Literature and the World: Two Lectures (1998), by Alamgir Hashmi. Islamabad: Gulmohar.
  • African Philosophy: Myth & Reality (1983), Paulin J. Hountondji.
  • Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World (1986), by Kumari Jayawardena.
  • Manichean Aesthetics: The Politics of Literature in Colonial Africa (1988), A. JanMohamed.
  • Inventing Ireland (1995), by Declan Kiberd.
  • Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism" (1916), by Lenin.
  • Prospero and Caliban, the Psychology of Colonization Octave Mannoni and P. Powesland.
  • The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism (1983), by Ashis Nandy.
  • Traditions, Tyranny, and Utopias: Essays in the Politics of Awareness (1987), by Ashis Nandy.
  • "The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term 'Postcolonialism' " (1994), by Anne McClintock, in Colonial Discourse/Postcolonial Theory (1994), M. Baker, P. Hulme, and M. Iverson, Eds.
  • Local Histories/Global designs: Coloniality (1999), by Walter Mignolo.
  • Infinite Layers/Third World? (1989), by Trinh T. Minh-ha.
  • Under Western Eyes (1986), by Chandra Talpade Mohanty.
  • The Invention of Africa (1988), by V. Y. Mudimbe.
  • Dislocating Cultures (1997), by Uma Narayan.
  • Contesting Cultures(1997), by Uma Narayan.
  • Delusions and Discoveries (1983), B. Parry.
  • Postcolonial Student: Learning the Ethics of Global Solidarity in an English Classroom, by Masood Ashraf Raja.
  • "Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality" (1991), in Globalizations and Modernities (1999), by Aníbal Quijano.
  • "Calibán: Apuntes sobre la cultura de Nuestra América" (Caliban: Notes About the Culture of Our America, 1971), in Calibán and Other Essays (1989), by Roberto Fernández Retamar
  • Culture and Imperialism (1993), by Edward Said[56]
  • "New Orientations:Post Colonial Literature in English" by Jaydeep Sarangi, Authorspress, New Delhi
  • Can the Subaltern Speak? (1988), by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
  • The Postcolonial Critic (1990), by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
  • Selected Subaltern Studies (1988), by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
  • A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present (1999), by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
  • Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (1986), by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.
  • White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (1990), by Robert J.C. Young.[57]
  • Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race (1995), by Robert J.C. Young.

Postcolonial works of non-fiction after 2000

  • Cahiers du CEDREF on Decolonial Feminist and Queer Theories (2012), by Paola Bachetta
  • Iran: A People Interrupted (2007), by Hamid Dabashi.
  • At the Risk of Being Heard: Indigenous Rights, Identity, and Postcolonial States (2003), B. Dean and J. Levi, Eds. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-06736-2.
  • "Postkolonial Theorie. Eine kritische Einführung" (Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Enquiry, 2005), by N. Dhawan
  • Beginning Postcolonialism (2010), by J. McLeod, second edition, Manchester University Press.
  • The Idea of Latin América" (2005), by Walter Mignolo.
  • "The Postcolonial Ghetto" (2010), by L Paperson
  • Prem Poddar and David Johnson, ed. (2008). A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures in English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-3602-0. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  • The Disappointed Bridge: Ireland and the Post-Colonial World (2014), by Richard Pine
  • New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy (2018), by Roopika Risam
  • Postcolonial Theory and the Arab–Israeli Conflict (2008), Ph. C. Salzman and D. Robinson Divine, Eds. Routledge.
  • Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (2001), by Robert J.C. Young.
  • "Presentations of Postcolonialism: New Orientations" (2007),Jaydeep Sarangi,Authorspress,New Delhi
  • Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations, by G. Ankerl. Geneva INU PRESS; 2000 ISBN 2-88155-004-5.
  • On the Postcolony (2000), by Achille Mbembe. The Regents of the University of California.

Scholarly projects

In an effort to understand postcolonialism through scholarship and technology, in addition to important literature, many stakeholders have published projects about the subject. Here is an incomplete list of projects.

See also


  1. On the power dynamics between Western cultural knowledge production and Indigenous knowledge systems, see Laurie, Timothy; Stark, Hannah; Walker, Briohny (2019), "Critical Approaches to Continental Philosophy: Intellectual Community, Disciplinary Identity, and the Politics of Inclusion", Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy, 30, pp. 1–17
  2. Edward Saïd, "Nationalism, Human Rights, and Interpretation", Reflections on Exile, and Other Essays (2000) pp. 418–19
  3. "Colonialism", The Penguin Dictionary of International Relations (1998) Graham Evans and Jeffrey Newnham, p. 79
  4. "Imperialism", The Penguin Dictionary of International Relations (1998), by Graham Evans and Jaymee Newnham. p. 244
  5. "The Clash of Definitions", in Reflections on Exile, and Other Essays (2000), Edward W. Saïd. p. 574.
  6. Sharp, J. (2008). "Chapter 6, "Can the Subaltern Speak?"". Geographies of Postcolonialism. SAGE Publications.
  7. Dictionary of Human Geography 2007, p. 561.
  8. Gilbert, Helen; Tompkins, Joanne (1996). Post-Colonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-09023-0.
  9. Sharp, J. (2008). "Chapter 1, On Orientalism". Geographies of Postcolonialism. SAGE Publications.
  10. Fischer-Tiné 2011, § Lead.
  11. Fanon 1963, p. 250.
  12. Fanon 1961.
  13. The Globalization of World Politics (2005), by John Baylis and Steve Smith, pp. 231–35
  14. E. San Juan, Jr. (November–December 1998). "The Limits of Postcolonial Criticism: The Discourse of Edward Said". Against the Current. 77 via Marxists Internet Archive.
  15. Said 1978.
  16. Madhavan, A. (1993). "Review: Edward Said: The Exile As Interpreter". Culture and Imperialism Representations of the Intellectual: The Reith Lectures. 20 (4): 183–86.
  17. Said, 1978: 208
  18. Said 1978, Chapter Three: Latent and Manifest Orientalism, pp. 201–25.
  19. McLeod, John (2010). Beginning Postcolonialism. Manchester, United Kingdom: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-7858-3.
  20. de Kock, Leon. "Interview With Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: New Nation Writers Conference in South Africa." ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature. 23(3) 1992: 29–47. ARIEL: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2011-11-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  21. McKnight, Kathryn Joy (2009). Afro-Latino Voices: Narratives from the Early Modern Ibero–Atlantic World, 1550–1812. Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing Company. p. 59.
  22. Spivak 1990, pp. 62–63.
  23. Bhabha, 1994: 113
  24. "Santiniketan: The Making of a Contextual Modernism – Asia Art Archive".
  25. "Finding an expression of its own". The Hindu.
  26. "humanities underground » All The Shared Experiences Of The Lived World II".
  28. Fischer-Tiné 2011, # 9.
  29. Fischer-Tiné 2011, # 10, 11.
  30. Gregory, Derek. The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq. Blackwell Pub., 2004.
  31. Acheraiou, Amar (2008). Rethinking Postcolonialism. London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-55205-0.
  32. Aristotle (1988). The Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 40, 165.
  33. Turner, Frank M. (1981). The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  34. Tocqueville, Alexis de (2003). Sur l'Algérie. Paris: Flammarion. pp. 97–177.
  35. Seeley, John Robert (1971). The Expansion of England (1883). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 170–1.
  36. Hart & Goldie 1993, p. 155.
  37. The Penguin Dictionary of International Relations (1998) Graham Evans and Jeffrey Newnham, pp. 83–84, 182–83
  38. Rob, Nieuwenhuys (1978). "Oost-Indische spiegel. Wat Nederlandse schrijvers en dichters over Indonesië hebben geschreven vanaf de eerste jaren der Compagnie tot op heden" [Indian mirror. Some Dutch writers and poets have written about Indonesia from the first year of the Company to date.] (in Dutch). Amsterdam: Querido. Retrieved 2016-02-23. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  39. Gaurav Gajanan Desai, Supriya Nair (2005). Postcolonialisms: An Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-3552-4. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  40. "Is Jordan Palestine", by Raphael Israel, in Israel, Hashemites, and the Palestinians: The Fateful Triangle, Efraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswamy (eds.) (London: Frank Cass, 2003), pp. 49–66; and Overstating the Arab State, by Nazih Ayubi (Bodmin: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2001) pp. 86–123
  41. Sadiki 2004.
  42. Kumaraswamy 2006, p. 1.
  43. Sadiki 2004, p. 122.
  44. Heart of Darkness: Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Context, Criticism (Fourth Edition), Paul B. Armstrong, Editor. (2006), pp. 208–12.
  45. Extravagant Postcolonialism: Ethics and Individualism in Anglophonic, Anglocentric Postcolonial Fiction; Or, "What was (this) Postcolonialism?", ELH 75.4 (2008):899–937. ProQuest Research Library. Web.
  46. McGregor,S (2005-05-03). "Structural adjustment programmes and human well-being". Retrieved 2016-02-10.
  47. McGregor, S (2005-05-03). "Structural adjustment programmes and human well-being". Retrieved 2016-02-10.
  48. Osterhammel (1997). "The Dictionary of Human Geography" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  49. Ahmad, Aijaz (1993). In Theory. London: Verso.
  50. Sarkar, Sumit (1997). Writing Social History. Oxford India. pp. 82–108.
  51. "Who speaks for the Subaltern?". jacobinmag.
  52. Overstating the Arab State (2001), by Nazih Ayubi, Bodmin: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd. p. 148
  53. Nazih Ayubi, Overstating the Arab State (Bodmin: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2001) p. 148
  54. "Half of a Yellow Sun".
  55. Quayson 2000, p. 4.
  56. Quayson 2000, p. 3.


Further reading

  • Gregory, Derek (2009). Dictionary of Human Geography. Hoboken,NJ.: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Fanon, Frantz (1963). The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-5083-7.
  • Fischer-Tiné, Harald (2011). "Postcolonial Studies". European History Online.
  • Hart, Jonathan; Goldie, Terrie (1993). "Post-colonial Theory". In Makaryk, Irene Rima; Hutcheon, Linda; Perron, Paul (eds.). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-5914-7. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  • Kumaraswamy, P. R. (March 2006). "Who am I?: The Identity Crisis in the Middle East". The Middle East Review of International Affairs. 10 (1, Article 5)
  • Quayson, Ato (2000). Postcolonialism: Theory, Practice, or Process?. Polity Press, Blackwell Publishers Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7456-1712-1. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  • Sadiki, Larbi (2004). The Search for Arab Democracy: Discourses and Counter-Discourses. India: C. Hurst & Co. Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85065-494-0.
  • Said, Edward (1978). Orientalism. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 978-0394428147.
  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (1990). "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 5, 2012.
  1. Raja, Masood. "What is Postcolonial Studies?". Postcolonial Space. Masood Raja. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
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