Postcolonialism Criticism – Description

What is postcolonialism criticism and where is it used?

Post-colonialism definition: It refers to the human consequences resulting from exploitation and control of colonized people on their lands.

Key concepts in postcolonialism

  1. Othering

Others entail the “Demonic Other” and “Exotic Other.”

The “Demonic Other” represents the negative, savage, inferior and evil. The demonic other is based on in the literature such as Heart of Darkness and A Passage to India.

The “Exotic Other” represents the fascination of the undeveloped or the primitive. It is illustrated by the Yeats’ poem Byzantium.

  1. Hybridity/ Syncretism

Hybridity or syncretism is defined as the state of a person(migrant) who is trying to combine the culture of the country hosting him or her with the culture of his/her original country without leaving aside any of them. The negotiation of these two is the main theme in postcolonial, diasporic literature. For instance, in post-colonial studies, it has been based on by political theorists like Will Kymlicka who bases it on multicultural citizenship.

  1. Diaspora

It refers to persons who have been dispersed or displaced from their homelands, and these persons are not rooted in one location, and they also live in memories of their ‘imagined homelands’.

  1. Double consciousness

It is defined as divided self. Du Bois described it as two thoughts, two souls in one dark body. Later, Meena Alexander described double consciousness as many thoughts, many souls in one dark body explaining the experience of the migrants in many subject positions.

  1. Subaltern

Antonio Gramsci referred to subaltern as the working-class persons. It is popularized and used by Gayatri Spivak in the post-colonial context in his literature, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”

Gayatri in this essay writes about issues about the Subaltern’s voice in the rebellion against the colonizer. He writes whether the Subaltern is spoken for or speaks for herself

  1. Mimicry

It shows the relationship (ambivalent) between the colonized and the colonizer. It shows how the colonized subject mimics the coloniser. This is well seen in how the colonised persons adopt the language, habits, culture, values, and attire of the colonizer

This then demonstrates uncertainty in the colonial dominance that is in the behaviour of the colonized persons.

  1. History

The Third World nations’ writers are interested in writing about their native histories which include the problems they faced during colonization. Their writing includes their native identity and case studies of cultural colonization. They include the movements which were anti-colonial such as Africanite, Africa- Aesthetic and Negritude movements which aimed at freeing or liberating themselves at all levels which include individual level and colonial level in their thinking and attitude.

The goal of delocalization addressed issues such as:

  1. Questioning the negative effects of colonialization that is regarding cultural alienation
  2. The struggles of the people in the third world which involves the rise of nationalism among the third world countries
  3. In the colonial culture, they dealt with the creation of mimic people
  4. The issues appropriating history by the colonial master
  5. The efforts to rewrite and retrieve their histories by the cultures which were formerly colonized
  6. The ways they used in the representation

In the retrieval of the history, in a post-colonial culture, it is impossible if there is no colonial contamination in awareness of native history.

The local resistance to colonialism and colonial historiography layers are discovered by the Subaltern studies.

  1. Nation

Nation-building is a major concern by the post-colonial writers. This project (nation-building) in the post-colonial literature seeks to diminish the colonial past by resisting and rejecting the constructions done by the Western culture. It also seeks to retrieve a pre-colonial past to project a better future. This though has some challenges since the post-colonial epistemologies and methodologies are manipulated by the western ones

  1. Race

Michael Banton defines race as a concept which is the basis of disempowerment and discrimination. A race is one of the major issues in political, social and cultural theory. The study of culture and race I literature, also known as critical race studies, deals with the questions of race and racial discrimination and it also entails issues such as studies of minority literature, the study of specific traditions, ethnicity studies and philosophy

  1. Gender

It deals with the double colonization of women by the patriarchy and imperialism. Gender and sexuality are one of the major themes in post-colonial literature. Authors such as Anita Desai, Buchi Emecheta, Nawal El Saasdawi among others have written about gender and the role of women in countries which were colonized.

Writers such as Maria Campbell and Gloria Anzaldua have written on the relationship between ethnic/racial identities and gender in their autobiographical writings

Gender as a theme in post-colonialism deals with studies of economy, class, caste, literacy and political empowerment and also first world feminism on the third world writers to explore possibilities which may be of help to third world feminism

  1. Black feminism

It emerges through the black male domination in civil rights movement and feminine propaganda of the white woman. It led to the connection between racism and sexism. The issue of marginalization and plight which is intersectional of black women discussed in literature such as Angela Davis Women, Kimberle Crenshaw’s Identity Politics and Alice Walker’s Womanism. It also involves organizations such as black feminist lesbian organization (Combahee River Collection) which were started with persons such as Barbara Smith

  1. Neocolonialism

It refers to the economic exploitation and economic dominance of the third world countries which are politically free from the European imperial powers

It is achieved by the nexus between generals, politicians, bankers and chief executive officers as well as through Euro-American power’s state control.

It is a dangerous form of colonialism since the initiatives of development in a country are controlled by economic policy diktats that lead to disablement of the economies of the third world countries

Limits of post-colonial criticism

It is based on the discourse of Edward Said post-colonialism.

  • Marxist historiography discovered that capitalism had developed unevenly as a world system. This is through the operations of the free market which is unplanned and has surplus value accumulation. This has greatly caused super structural effects
  • Migration of former colonial subjects after the Second World War led into the metropolis including foreign investments and refinement of technologies in the areas of communication and rises in heterogeneous languages and also led to a mixture of practices
  • Edward Said considered post-colonialism as a cultural logic which is separated from its grounding in the interaction which is unsynchronized between the colonizer and the colonized
  • Said’s theory of post-colonialism deals on what Said considers as Orient’s false image which he describes as the East has been fabricated by Western philosophers, novelists, poets, political theorists, economists and explorers in Egypt since Napoleon occupied the country
  • Said believes in his theory that such discourse has been used as a justification for horrors and occupations which they have or it is used in preparation to colonialism and military campaigns against the Orient
  • His ambition was to liberate the silent others from Europe’s imperial powers and to allow them to speak for themselves that is giving them a voice and the right to representation. He discounts organized mass struggles of politics as a dialectical totality.

Postcolonialism theory and postcolonialism criticism

Postcolonial criticism deals with politics and literature. The literature is based on colonial works and colonial powers produced by the people who are or were colonized.

What is a post-colonial theory?

The post-colonial theory deals with political issues, economic, religious and cultural issues together with issues of power. The post-colonial theory also deals with how the issues mentioned above are related with the western colonizers who colonized the affected people.

The theory may also deal with the literature done by authors that critique the western colonizers which are also known as Euro-centric hegemony

The authors who wrote about the colonialism and how the colonized people suffered include Ngugi was Thiong’o from Kenya and Chinua Achebe from Nigeria among others.

The Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, wrote about the devastation and strife of the people of Nigeria after the colonialists from British moved from the Nigerian coast to the island. He wrote this in his book ‘Things Fall Apart.’

The author Chinua Achebe from Nigeria wrote about the deaths of people caused by the destructive events caused by the colonialists and the enslavement of Nigerian people when the imperial government of the British was in work.

He wrote about the effects caused by those colonialists such as change of culture and shifting of ideas of identity. All these negative effects were as a result of the western economics and religion brought and imposed on the citizens of Nigeria.

The post-colonial criticism questions the Western culture and history as the dominant forms of provision of knowledge and the role of the literary canon of Western

The post-colonial critics also critique the terms “First world (countries with industrialization, affluence, democracy and cultural beliefs which are same as those of the European nations), Second World, Third World (developing nations) and Fourth World” nations as these reinforce the dominant Western cultures as they take the First status of the world. This critique may include literary histories and canons based on the cultures of the first world.

Note that the canon does not have the works by the authors who are not from the western culture and the authors who are included usually reinforce the ideology of the colonial hegemony.

Hegemony is defined as the domination of society which is culturally diverse by the class ruling another society’s culture, values and perceptions and also their mores and explanations. In this, the cultural norm accepted finally is that of the ruling class.

Some of these authors taking part in the canon include authors like Joseph Conrad.

For example, a critique of behavior considered by the western critics may consist of Heart of Darkness, but the authors of post-colonial theories do not agree to this.

There are typical questions about the colonial theories which include:

“How the literary text, allegorically or explicitly represent aspects of colonial oppression.”

“What the literary text reveal about the post-colonial identity problematic, which include the relationship between a cultural and personal identity that is, issues like hybridity and consciousness.”

“What it (literary text) reveals about the psychology and politics of anti-colonialist resistance.”

“How the Western canon’s literary text undermines or reinforces the ideology of colonialists that is if it is through silence about those who are colonized or if it is through its colonization representation.”

“What the literary text reveal about the difference in cultures and their operations that is, the different ways in which aspects of religion, class, gender, race, cultural beliefs, sexual orientation, customs among others can form an individual identity and how this can help shape the perceptions on others and ourselves”

“How the literary text comment upon or responds to themes, assumptions or characters included in a colonialist work.”

“If there are similarities (meaningful) among the different post-colonial populations’ literature.”

Examples of literature

Examples of the different literature of post-colonial criticism theory include:

  • “Edward Said-Orientalism, 1978; Culture and Imperialism, 1994”
  • “Gayatri Spivak – In other worlds: Essays in cultural politics, 1978.”
  • “Kamau Brathwaite- The History of the Voice, 1979”
  • “Dominick LaCapara- The Bounds of Race: Perspectives on Hegemony and Resistance, 1991”
  • “Homi Bhabha- The Location of Culture, 1994”

Examples of different authors of literature and non-fiction

  1. “Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart, 1958”
  2. “Helena Norberg-Hodge – Ancient Futures- Learning from Ladakh, 1991”
  3. “Michael Ondaatje – The English Patient, 1992”
  4. “Gita Mehta – A River Sutra, 1993”
  5. “Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things, 1997”
  6. “Patric Chamoiseau – Texaco, 1997”
  7. “Ngugi was Thiong’o – The River Between, 1965.”
  8. “Sembene Ousmane – God’s Bits of Wood, 1962”
  9. “Ruth Prawer Jhabvala- Heat and Dust, 1975”
  10. “Jill Ker Conway – The Road from Coorain, 1989”
  11. “Bharati Mukherjee – Jasmine, 1989”
  12. “Buchi Emecheta – The Joys of Motherhood, 1979”
  13. “Keri Hulme – The Bone People, 1983”
  14. “Kazuo Ishiguro – The Romains of the Day, 1988”
  15. “Robertson Davies – What’s Bread in the Bone, 1985”
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