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Postcolonial Theory and Literature - Second Wave: Postcolonial

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This entry will now consider second-wave postcolonial theory as applied to Latin America, Britain, the Caribbean, Africa, Australian, New Zealand, Hawai'i, and East and Southeast Asia, as well as from the perspective of feminism.

Latin America.

It has already been mentioned that colonial discourse studies was strong in the Latin American area. Specifically postcolonialist work was undertaken by Jean Franco; Walter Mignolo, with his Local Histories/Global Designs (2000); Mary-Louise Pratt, with specific reference to migrant movements; and others. Franco's Plotting Women (1989) is an exemplary text of postcolonialist feminism. Her Decline and Fall of the Lettered City (2002) relates postcolonial theory to the thematics of the Cold War. In addition, John Beverley, Ileana Rodriguez, Alberto Moreiras, and others have started a Latin American Subaltern Studies group. Moreiras's work is strongly marked by poststructuralism.

The Latin American trend continues the tradition of José Enrique Rodó (1871–1917), with his work Ariel (1900); Roberto Fernandez Retamár (b. 1930), with his "Caliban" (1974); and Angel Rama (1926–1983), with The Lettered City (1996), as these earlier writers considered the relationship of Latin America to the metropole. Behind them is the shadow of the Cuban writer José Martí (1853–1895) and his powerful work, especially his essay "Our America" (1891), which defines Latin America not only in terms of the European metropole, but also over against the United States.

British cultural studies.

Bhabha's early affinities were with the Birmingham Cultural Studies group, established in the mid-sixties by Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall. This group was specifically interested in Black Britain—the scene of the migrant—and was thus unconnected, in early stages, with colonial discourse as such. Hall was a member of the British New Left of the 1960s and later an editor of Marxism Today, the journal of British Labour. He followed and developed Louis Althusser's (1918–1990) theory of ideology. His loyalties were therefore more centrally connected to Marxism than many of the postcolonialists. In "When Was Postcolonialism?" published in 1996, Hall clarifies his own relationship to postcolonialism.

Paul Gilroy was the leader of the Race and Politics Group that produced the celebrated Birmingham Cultural Studies collection The Empire Strikes Back (1982). Gilroy moved to the United States and published a book called The Black Atlantic (1993), which is more in the postcolonial stream. His work then shifted into the space occupied by Martin Bernal's The Black Athena (1987), which claims "African" origin for Greek culture; or Ivan van Sertima's book, with the self-explanatory title They Came Before Columbus (1976); or yet the work of Jack D. Forbes, the most interesting example being Black Africans and Native Americans (1988), where Forbes argues the heterogeneity of the color-coding of the Greater Caribbean, by which he means North America.

Under the influence of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the eminent African-Americanist, Bhabha's work now focuses on the great African-American historian W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963). In Britain, Robert J. C. Young's Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (2001) has provided a compendious volume that should be read in conjunction with this essay. The other important figure is Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, who divides her time between India and Britain. Among her many books, Real and Imagined Women: Gender, Culture, and Postcolonialism (1993) and The Scandal of the State: Women, Law, Citizenship in Postcolonial India (2003) are most pertinent to postcolonial theory. Young and Sunder Rajan co-edit Interventions, an important journal of postcolonial studies.


This is also an extension of Bhabha's earlier and continuing work on Frantz Fanon (1925–1961), the revolutionary psychiatrist from Martinique. The work of Aimé Césaire, also from Martinique and the author of Discourse on Colonialism (1970), should be mentioned here. With Léopold Sedar Senghor, Césaire founded the movement called "Négritude," a critique of colonial discourse that looked forward to postcoloniality. Edouard Glissant's concept of "créolité" or "creoleness" may be termed its postcolonial hybridization. Pertinent essays are to be found in Caribbean Discourse (1989).

With Guha's Rule of Property for Bengal, C. L. R. James's The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1963) can be considered a source text of postcolonialism.


In 1974, the African novelist Chinua Achebe published an essay, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness," which may be called the first essay of postcolonial literary criticism. Like much postcolonial criticism, it is undertaken by a metropolitan migrant. The question—Can a work which represents Africans as near-animals be called "great"?—is a classic postcolonial question.

In the case of sub-Saharan Africa, there is also a text located on the continent that has become a classic. It is the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Decolonising the Mind: Politics of Language in African Literature, published in 1986. In it, Ngugi makes the bold and controversial suggestion that, in postcoloniality, the indigenous languages of Africa should be developed as interactive literary languages. Ngugi writes in Kikuyu himself and translates the material into English. He also works to support Kikuyu-language publication among Kenyan-Americans.

Among other African postcolonialists, one should consider the Nigerian-American Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka's writings, among them Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis (1996), and "Arms and the Arts," given as a T. B. Davie memorial lecture at the University of Cape Town. In Cape Town, the work of Njabulo Ndebele (South African Literature and Culture: Rediscovery of the Ordinary, 1994) should be considered, and in the United States, the work of Anne McClintock and Rob Nixon in the context of South Africa. Shula Marks produced feminist postcolonial work in South Africa. Marks edited Not Either an Experimental Doll: The Separate Worlds of Three South African Women (1987), which outlines the race, class, and gender lines in postcolonial feminism with extraordinary poignancy.

The Congolese-American philosopher V.Y. Mudimbe has laid down the lines of postcolonial thinking in his book The Invention of Africa (1988). Abdul JanMohamed, a Kenyan Indian who burst upon the U.S. scene with his Manichean Aesthetics: The Politics of Literature in Colonial Africa in 1983, has combined Africa with African-America in his later work on the author Richard Wright. In this connection, it should be mentioned that Rodolfo Acuña (Occupied America, 1972) and Mario Barrera (Race and Class in the Southwest, 1979) had theorized "internal colonization" in the Chicano context.

Samir Amin, the eminent Egyptian sociologist, would not describe himself as a postcolonialist. His first monumental book, Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formation of Peripheral Capitalism (1975), is, however, a "postcolonial" re-thinking of the Marxian vision of the narrative history of the world in terms of the progression of the modes of production. In the field of anthropology, one should mention Ifi Amadiume, Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in African Society (1987).

Australia, New Zealand, Hawai'i.

The names to be mentioned in the Australian context are Simon During, editor of The Cultural Studies Reader (1993); Helen Tiffin and Bill Ashcroft, editors of the Post-colonial Studies Reader (1995); John Hutnyk, co-editor of Travel Worlds: Journeys in Contemporary Cultural Politics (1999); and Nikos Papastergiadis, long associated with the London-based postcolonialist art journal Third Text and author of Turbulence of Migration: Globalization, Deterritorialization, and Hybridity (2000). The specifically feminist postcolonialist here is Sneja Gunew, who indefatigably edited and co-edited multicultural and feminist Australian texts since 1982.

In New Zealand, postcolonial studies merge with Maori Studies. An important feminist whose work tends toward postcolonialist theory is Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, author of Mana Wahine Maori: Selected Writings on Maori Women's Art, Culture, and Politics (1991). This tendency toward postcolonialism is also marked in Hawai'ian cultural theory, in the work of Jon Kamakawiwóole Osorio and Haunani-Kay Trask.


In post-Soviet Europe, postcolonial theory is undergoing a transformation, because the colonialism in question belongs to the old multicultural empires—Ottoman (c. 1300–1922), Hapsburg (1282–1918) and Russian—followed by the Soviet experiment. The Belgrade Circle has produced many interesting texts, among them Balkan as Metaphor (2002), edited by Savić and Dusan I. Bjelić. The "Tocka" group in Skopje, Macedonia regularly considers questions of postcoloniality. Translations of postcolonial texts are also being undertaken in Ukraine. Mark von Hagen has suggested that the postcolonial approach should be used to rethink the former Soviet Union as "Eurasia." His essay "Empires, Borderlands, and Diasporas: Eurasia as Anti-Paradigm for the Post-Soviet Era" appeared in the American Historical Review in April 2004.

East and Southeast Asia.

The adjective postcolonial is disputed among writers in China, Korea, and Japan. Among Chinese writers, one might mention Eileen Chang (1920–1995), who survived the Japanese occupation of China and moved to the United States, where she died. She wrote in English and Chinese. Xiao Hong (1911–1942), Xiao Jun (1907–1988), and Duanmu Hongliang (1912–1996) might also qualify. They published during the anti-Japanese war, criticizing both the colonizing power and a reactive patriotism.

The critic Ping-Hui Liao has claimed the Taiwan writer Wu Zhuoliu (1900–1976) as a postcolonial, again with reference to the Japanese occupation. And critics such as Kuei-fen Chiu have claimed that "when situated in the postcolonial historical context of Taiwan, the canon debate gets a further complicated twist that extends the issue beyond the scope of discussion found in Western feminist writing" (from a private communication with Tani Barlow, professor of Chinese literature at University of Washington). This relates to the view that Taiwanese literature cannot be considered part of the literature of China. It is not possible to entertain such broad issues here. The literature of the Southeast Asian Chinese diaspora is also an important consideration here, and it too is beyond the scope of this article. In Japan, the classic postcolonial writers are Yokomitsu Riichi (1898–1947) and Kenzaburo Oe. In his novel Shanghai (1929–32) and in his essay "China Sea" (1939), Riichi presents the hybrid modernity of Asia in Western colonialism. Kenzaburo Oe tackles the problem of America. His Hiroshima Notes (1963) perhaps confronts the problem most directly. "Literature must be written from the periphery towards the center, and we can criticize the center. Our credo, our theme, or our imagination is that of the peripheral human being. The man who is in the center does not have anything to write" (Kenzaburo Oe Internet site, available from http://www.ou.edu/worldlit/authors/oe/oe.html). His Silent Cry (1974) and Dojidai Gemu (The Game of Contemporaneity, 1979) are plangent novels of Japanese identity. The "Overcoming Modernity" debate of the 1940s presages in Japan a sort of postcolonial discussion that is distinctive: a regional colonial power coming to grips with the modernity of international colonialism. Harry Harootunian has written on this in his Overcome by Modernity (2000). This must be accommodated in a broad vision of postcoloniality. On the contemporary scene, one might consider the "resident Koreans" who write in Japanese and have created a flourishing and much-prized tradition in fiction, drama, and other genres. Most famous perhaps is Yu Miri and Murakami Haruki. Postcolonial is also a problematic term in Korean literature, but three writers might be considered under that rubric: Sin Tongyop (1930–1969), Pak Wan-so, and Cho Chong-Rae. The first of these three, a poet, was associated with the Minjung Movement, giving a divided Korea a sense of being in the grip of U.S. colonialism, going back to the 1960s and early 1970s. Here again, we are facing a different picture of postcoloniality.


Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (b. 1942) is usually thought of as one of the three co-founders of postcolonial theory. Her Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (1999) is her definitive statement on postcolonial theory. Her work combines Marxism, feminism, and deconstruction. She introduced many to this type of postcolonial theory when she published three pieces in the 1980s: "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism," "Can the Subaltern Speak?," and "'Draupadi' by Mahasweta Devi." Her translations of Mahasweta Devi, a fiction-writer in Bengali, have been influential in establishing the parameters of the literature of postcoloniality; these include Imaginary Maps (1995), Breast Stories (1997), Old Women (1999), and Chotti Munda and His Arrow (2002). Other feminist postcolonial theorists and their texts of note are Diane Bell, author of Daughters of the Dreaming (1983), a text on aboriginal women from Australia; Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior: Memoirs of A Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976); Trinh Ti Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism (1989); and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, "Under Western Eyes," (1984) and Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (2003). Mohanty worked with U.S. feminists who thought of the older minorities as internally colonized, and women as doubly colonized within that pattern. A representative work would be This Bridge Called My Back (1981), edited by Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Morága. In 1999, Anzaldúa published Borderlands, a book on the new hybrid that has had an enormous impact on U.S. postcolonial thinking. A representative example of similar impulses within the African-American community would be the work of bell hooks. In the diasporic Asian context, Rey Chow's Writing Diaspora (1993) occupies an important place.

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over 6 years ago

i am studying Homi. k Bhabha's essay post-colonial criticism and i found difficulties in understandig. so if possible i want you to provide me with the most important ideas in the essay. thank you in advance.