This book provides a sense of the continuing debates about postcolonialism while seeking to anchor some of its key themes and vocabularies securely. It takes as its primary focus, the various reading practices which distinguish and characterise much of the field - practices which for the purpose of this book attend chiefly to literary texts, but which can be applied beyond a strictly literary context to other cultural phenomena. The book introduces some major areas of enquiry within postcolonialism, as well as offers concrete examples of various kinds of relevant reading and writing practices. It provides a brief historical sketch of colonialism and decolonisation, providing the intellectual contexts and development of postcolonialism. The book approaches various attitudes towards nationalist representations in literary and other writings during the busy period of decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s. It then deals with national traditions and national history, and the conflict between national liberation and imperialist domination. Divisions within the nation such as ethnicity, language, gender and eliteness which threaten the realisation of its progressive ideals are discussed, with attention on Partha Chatterjee's narrative of Indian nationalism and Chinua Achebe's novel Anthills of the Savannah. Other discussions include the re-reading of literary 'classics', the re-writing of received literary texts by postcolonial writers, postcolonial feminist criticism, and migration and diaspora in the context of decolonisation. The 'STOP and THINK' section in each chapter identify focal points of debate for readers to pursue critically.
This essay explores the vexed matters of race and Empire in Alan Hollinghurst's The Swimming-Pool Library, tracing the lines of connection between colonial and contemporary constructions of otherness upon which the novel dwells. In presenting the protagonist's libidinous pursuit of black sexual partners in 1980s' London as recycling some of the exploitative behaviours of colonial desire, the novel probes the possibility of opening up a critical space where an alternative rendering of race might be sourced amidst the cross-racial sexual encounters that seem driven by older, illiberal attitudes. Rather than support the view that the novel is fully complicit with familiar forms of racialisation, this essay suggests that a different, more liberal view of race relations can be glimpsed and is empowered by Hollinghurst's engagement with a counter-hegemonic tradition of gay writing that includes figures such as E. M. Forster and especially Ronald Firbank.
Beginnings are exciting things, inviting us to explore that which we may not have previously visited; but they also expose us to the unfamiliarity and inevitable disorientation of doing something new. This introduction is an overview of the key themes discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. Beginning Postcolonialism is an attempt to help readers make their own beginnings in one of the most exciting and challenging fields of study that has established itself in recent years. It introduces readers to the various ways they can approach the creative endeavours of those who either come from, or have an ancestral purchase upon, countries with a history of colonialism. The authors also reconsider their approaches to older, more familiar or canonical works that seem to have little to do with the fortunes of British Empire. Readers can build and develop their readings of the range of texts which preoccupy postcolonialism.
This chapter presents a flexible but solid definition of the word 'postcolonialism' by placing it in two primary contexts. The first regards the historical experiences of decolonisation that have occurred chiefly in the twentieth century. The second concerns relevant intellectual developments in the latter part of the twentieth century, especially the shift from the study of 'Commonwealth literature' to 'postcolonialism'. Commencing with a brief historical sketch of colonialism and decolonisation, the chapter focuses on important antecedents for postcolonialism such as the growth of the study of Commonwealth literature and the theories of 'colonial discourses'. Three forms of textual analysis engendered by the turn to theory in the 1980s which became popular in the wake of Orientalism are also discussed. A number of critical works that appeared in the twenty first century attempting to guide readers through the fast-developing, and often abstruse, concepts and new vocabularies of postcolonialism are finally covered.
This chapter first looks at Edward W. Said's Orientalism, providing a brief outline of Said's definition of Orientalism in two sections. The first highlights the general shape of the discourse of Orientalism and its manifold manifestations, while the second looks at the set-piece and stereotypical assumptions about cultural difference which it fashions and asserts as truth. Some of the important criticisms of Orientalism are surveyed to gain a sense of how the study of colonial discourses has developed. Then, Homi Bhabha's thought is considered to build a working knowledge of his concepts of 'ambivalence' and 'mimicry' in the operations of colonial discourses. The chapter contains STOP and THINK activities designed to assist readers in delineating his thoughts. It concludes with a critical exploration of a poem from the colonial period that directly addresses colonial life, as Rudyard Kipling's 'The Overland Mail' is considered in the light of the reading strategies.
This chapter approaches various attitudes towards nationalist representations in literary and other writings during the busy period of decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s. It deals with national traditions and national history, and the conflict between national liberation and imperialist domination. The chapter provides two (influential) responses concerning writers and intellectuals in the post-war period forging national consciousness: the first is Negritude, while the second emerges from Frantz Fanon's work on national consciousness and national culture. STOP and THINK sections in the chapter list some points to consider concerning representations related to anti-colonial nationalism and their impact upon political, social, cultural and literary contexts. The chapter also discusses Ngugi wa Thiong'o's novel A Grain of Wheat as one kind of postcolonial nationalist representation.
This chapter discusses the divisions within the nation such as ethnicity, language, gender and eliteness which threaten the realisation of its progressive ideals. It considers how nationalist representations might contribute to the continued oppression of some groups within the national population who have not experienced liberation after independence. The chapter looks at the relationship between the imagined community of the nation and its internal divisions. It examines Partha Chatterjee's narrative of Indian nationalism in Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse and explores how the contradictions of nationalism impact upon both reading and writing nationalist representations, with specific reference to Chinua Achebe's novel Anthills of the Savannah. STOP and THINK sections review the ideas concerning nationalist representations and pose a series of questions about them to assist the reader in making judgements about the ideas raised within postcolonialism.
The reinterpretation of 'classic' English literary works has become an important area of postcolonialism and has impacted upon all kinds of literary debates, in particular the ongoing disputes about which texts can be considered as possessing 'literary value' and the criteria we use to measure it. This chapter introduces these issues by taking as points of orientation two interrelated themes: the re-reading of literary 'classics', such as Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, in the light of postcolonial scholarship and experience, and the re-writing of received literary texts by postcolonial writers. In the latter context, the chapter looks at two novels: Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea which engages with Brontë's text. STOP and THINK sections in the chapter pose a series of questions about the concepts discussed in the chapter to assist the reader in making judgements about the ideas raised within postcolonialism.
Postcolonial feminist criticism is extensive and variable. This chapter locates the various kinds of patriarchal authority to which women from countries with a history of colonialism may be subjected, and addresses the concept of 'double colonisation'. It looks at postcolonial critiques of 'First World' feminism in thinking about the problems and possibilities when using 'First World' feminism in postcolonial contexts. This involves examining some important and challenging essays by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. The chapter also discusses Spivak's essay 'Can the Subaltern Speak?' which is a complex critique of the representation of human subjectivity in a variety of contexts, but with particular reference to the work of the Subaltern Studiesscholars. Finally, the authors apply some of the ideas and concepts introduced in the chapter when reading Sally Morgan's autobiographical text, My Place.
This chapter deals with migration and diaspora primarily in the context of decolonisation. It focuses on the theme of identity, and defines some conceptual tools, such as 'hybridity', 'borders', 'new ethnicities' and 'cultural diversity', that have been pursued in postcolonial studies. The chapter discusses Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness which deals in the main with the ancestors of the African slaves in the Caribbean, the US and Britain. It analyzes Hanif Kureishi's articulation of his identity crisis and the perilous intermediate position that both migrants and their children are deemed to occupy: living 'in-between' different nations. The chapter critically examines conceptual tools and uses them to help us read Beryl Gilroy's novel of diaspora identities, Boy-Sandwich. STOP and THINK sections in the chapter pose questions concerning diaspora identities to assist the reader in making judgements on his own about the ideas raised within postcolonialism.