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Transcript of Post-Colonialism
Colonialism occurred during the 16th-20th centuries as European nations invaded newly discovered territories around the world. The European nations saw the native inhabitants of these territories as savages and barbarians, considered to be sub-human as only, "civilised," races were truly human. While this attitude may be considered racist in our context, at the time it was largely unquestioned and even supported by, "scientific evidence."
Resistance & Independence
As nations had ongoing experiences with European colonists, intolerance to the corruptive influences grew. This led to resistance movements and independence for some nations by 1900, especially with the spread of ideas such as equality and questioning Eurocentric views.
However, not all colonies were able to gain independence, and it took more time and resistance, such as the, "Quit India," movement led by Gandhi. These independence movements were furthered with WW2, as the colonists who fought for liberty, freedom, peace and human rights came to be seen as hypocritical when they were oppressive, destructive and exploitative in their own colonies. Over the next 50 years or so, more colonies gained independence.
Development of the Genre
As indigenous populations underwent the traumatic and oppressive experiences of colonialism, individuals began, "writing back," against colonists. They highlighted the negative effects of colonialism and how their culture had been devastated. This became a form of resistance as well as communicating to the world the natives' point of view.
Experiences of Colonisation
For the Europeans, the colonies were only places for them to gain resources and therefore wealth, often using the natives as free/cheap labour or slaves. Although the Europeans tried to, "civilise," the natives by introducing their Christian religion, giving them a Western education and building cities and other settlements, these major changes severely impacted the ability of the natives to live as they always had. These introductions were often devastating for the natives as they had to completely change their lifestyle.
These changes were sometimes adopted by the indigenous populations, although were mostly resisted. Additionally, the indigenous peoples experienced oppression, exploitation, disease, starvation and reduced access to resources.
Difficulties with Definition
As you proceed through your study of post-colonialism, you should be aware of an ongoing debate regarding the term, "post-colonialism." At times it may refer to the period from when colonisation occurred, and other times the period after it ended; that is, it could mean after colonisation or after colonialism. It is also often written as postcolonialism. Usually a distinction is made with postcolonialism referring to after colonisation, and post-colonialism referring to after colonialism.
Role of Critical Essays
Because post-colonialism focuses on critiquing the practices of colonialism, critical essays have played a central role in the development of the genre. They have become a way of writing personal views and experiences, identifying trends and suggesting how to overcome the issues of colonialism. Sometimes they even explore how colonialism has altered a pre-existing culture to become a new identity to be embraced.
The most significant of these essayists are Edward Said, Homi K. Bhabha, Salman Rushdie, Bill Ashcroft, Stuart Hall, Chinua Achebe, V.S. Naipaul, Frantz Fanon and Jacques Derrida. Some of these authors also write creative works, particularly Rushdie, who is one of the most prominent post-colonial theorists.
Conventions of the Genre
Post-colonialism is a form of resistance writing, exploring the negatives of colonialism. A common feature of the genre is to cover the period of colonisation and look at the direct impacts i.e. the pre-colonial period, the moment of colonisation and the first few years afterwards. Post-colonialism also often features:
Difficulties of living under colonial rule
Difficulties of trying to assimilate to a new culture
Criticism of paternal figures (symbolising the paternal colonists)
Use of native language
Struggles against the land and land use
Trying to reclaim or continue traditional cultural practices