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Intro to Postcolonial Theory

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Rima Abunasser

on 18 January 2018

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Transcript of Intro to Postcolonial Theory

Postcolonial Theory
Complex and divergent theory
Provides a lens to examine continuity and change, through understanding the legacy of the colonial past and present
Deals with the effects of colonization on cultures and societies.

Originally used by historians after the Second World War in a temporal context.

Since the late 1970s the term has been used by literary critics to discuss cultural effects of colonisation.

The term has subsequently been widely used to signify the political, linguistic and cultural experience of societies that were former European colonies.

Loaded term that can mean different things to different people.

Be cautious how the term is being used in the context that it is delivered.
Confined to a specific time period.

Fails to account for contemporary phenomena.

Gina Wisker has also noted that post colonial texts are often written in a way that creates a sense of guilt and inherited complicity in readers which may not be constructive to the discourse.
On post-colonial theory
In the last decade postcolonialism has taken its place with theories such as poststructuralism, psychoanalysis and feminism as a major critical discourse in the humanities. As a consequence of its diverse and interdisciplinary usage, this body of thought has generated an enormous corpus of specialised academic writing. Nevertheless, although much has been written under its rubric, 'post colonialism' itself remains a diffuse and nebulous term. Unlike Marxism or deconstruction, for instance, it seems to lack an 'originary moment' or a coherent methodology (Ghandi, 1998).
Former colonies that have thrown off the colonial power.
Former colonial powers with the legacy of their colonies.
Settler Nations with cultural continuity with their colonial past.
Divergent theory
Used by many different disciplines

Broad applications
Schools of thought
Different ways of thinking about postcolonial theory

Heterogeneity in opinions regarding postcolonial theory
Histories of colonialism
The effects of colonialism have touched much of the globe for centuries. Over time these areas have vastly different colonial histories.
"Postcolonialism - Introduction." Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 114. Gale Cengage, 2006.

Identity in crossroad civilisations: ethnicity, nationalism and globalism in Asia / edited by Erich Kolig, Vivienne SM. Angeles and Sam Wong
Amsterdam : Amsterdam University Press, c2009
Ashcroft, Bill (2007). Post-Colonial Studies : The Key Concepts (2nd ed.). Hoboken: Taylor & Francis.
The process in which a society adopts "Western" culture.

This can be both voluntary and involuntary.

It is interesting here to look at the interplay between concepts of postcolonialism, westernisation and globalisation.
Postcolonial theory can be useful as a pedagogy to frame and give a lens to help students examine a range of social and cultural phenomena:
What are the historical links to colonialism, imperialism to a national identity?
How has this history impinged on social and structural elements of the culture?
What are the lasting effects of the legacy of colonialism on a culture?
"A Globalectical Imagination"
In this new context, consider the following quotes from Thiong'o's essay:

"Every imperial state has always put its own national literature at the center, conceived as the only center of the literary universe."

"A globalectical imagination also calls for changes in attitudes to languages: monolingualism suffocates, and it is often extended to mean monoliterature and monoculturalism. This also calls for a struggle against the view of literatures relating to each other in terms of a hierarchy of power."
What is the role of the artist or writer in society? What do you think of Thiong'o's claim that he tries "to examine all the issues in the organization of wealth, power, and values that impinge upon the quality of human life?

Lionel Trilling, Thiong'o tells us, claims that it is "no longer possible to think of politics except as the politics of culture, the organization of human life toward some end or other, toward the modification of sentiments, which is to say the quality of human life." Discuss this idea.
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