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Postcolonial Studies

Colonial Encounters, Nationalism, Resistance, Decolonization, Postindependence And Neocolonialism, Historical And Regional Contexts

Postcolonial studies designates a broad, multidisciplinary field of study that includes practitioners from literary, cultural, and media studies, history, geography, art history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and political economy. Postcolonial studies is the analysis of the phenomenon of imperialism and its aftermath: slavery, colonialism, nationalism, independence, and migration. Its eclectic disciplinary and methodological range differentiates postcolonial studies from its subdivision field of "postcolonial theory," which is dominated by practitioners of literary studies who conceptualize narrative structures, representations of cultural difference, and strategies of subject-formation in colonial and postcolonial texts.

Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) initiated the entry of post-colonial studies into the metropolitan academies of Europe and the United States. Said's study draws upon the ideas of Antonio Gramsci and Michel Foucault to explore constructions of "the Orient" by European and American politicians, scholars, and artists. The intellectual origins of postcolonial studies are more debatable. Deconstructionist or postmodernist practitioners (including Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak) regard Orientalism as the inaugural text of postcolonial studies, while for Marxist or materialist practitioners (including Timothy Brennan, Benita Parry, and E. San Juan, Jr.), the field's origins are much earlier, with the predominantly Marxist anti-colonial writings of activist-intellectuals that include George Antonius, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Simon Bolivar, Amilcar Cabral, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Marcus Garvey, C. L. R. James, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, George Padmore, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Walter Rodney, Jean-Paul Sartre, Léopold Senghor, and Eric Williams.

Many prominent contemporary practitioners originate from Asia (Aijaz Ahmad, Bhabha, Said, San Juan, Jr., Spivak); Africa (Chinua Achebe, Mahmoud Mamdani, Achille Mbembe, V. Y. Mudimbe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Wole Soyinka); and Latin America and the Caribbean (E. Kamau Brathwaite, Ariel Dorfman, Eduardo Galeano, Eduoard Glissant, Wilson Harris, Jamaica Kincaid). Of these, the majority have relocated to Europe or North America, where there is no intellectual monopoly on postcolonial intellectual practices but where practitioners enjoy the lion's share of material resources to publish and distribute postcolonial academic materials.

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