Postcolonialism Literature

Postcolonialism Theory, Themes | Post Colonial Theory

Postcolonialism Literature
Postcolonialism Literature


        Postcolonialism means to the time after Colonialism, in which the British Empire dominated many countries. It emerges as a result of Colonialism. It refers to the discourse which deals with “the effect of colonization on culture and societies.” During and sometimes after the colonial period, the colonizer’s thoughts, particularly Western thoughts, have dominated the world’s culture.

            Colonization began during the 15th century and ended during the first half of the 20th century, some of the key concepts and themes that postcolonialism explores include-

  • The representation and construction of the colonizer and the colonized in literature, art, media, and history.
  • The critique and revision of the colonial legacy and its impact on contemporary issues such as globalization, immigration, racism, gender, and human rights.
  • The hybridity and syncretism of cultures and identities in postcolonial societies.
  • The resistance and subversion of colonial discourse and power structures by colonized people.

            So Postcolonialism is not only relevant for understanding the past but also for engaging with the present and imagining the future.

Postcolonial Literature

            Postcolonial Literature is a term that refers to a wide range of literary works produced by authors from formerly colonized countries or regions. It is a genre that explores the complex and often contradictory effect of colonialism and its aftermath on the cultures identities and histories of colonized peoples. Postcolonial Literature can be written in English or in other languages such as French, Spanish, Hindi, and many more. It can also follow various literary traditions and genres, such as – realism, modernism, magical realism, postmodernism, satire, allegory poetry, drama, and autobiography.

Postcolonial Literature themes

            Some of the common themes and issues that postcolonial Literature addresses are:

  • Racism
  • Freedom/ Independence
  • The Future
  • Transformation
  • Colonialism
  • Nationalism
  • Identity

Some of the well-known Authors works of Postcolonial Literature are :

  • Jean Rhys’s “Wide Sargasso Sea” which reimagines the story of Jane Eyre from the perspective of Bertha Mason, a Creole woman from Jamaica.
  • Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, depicts the clash between traditional Igbo society and British Colonialism In Nigeria.
  • Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” which traces the lives of Children born at the moment of India’s independence from Britain.
  • Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things” exposes the caste system and political violence.
  • Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” depicts a black woman’s life in rural Georgia.
  • Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” deals with the trauma of Slavery in America.

Three prominent leaders of Postcolonial theory are – Edward W. Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Homi K. Bhabha.


            Orientalism is a literary theory that acquired importance towards the end of the 20th century. This theory was propounded by Edward Said, a modern cultural critic. For many scholars, Said’s book marks the beginning of Postcolonial studies. Said spent his life investigating the imaginary line that divides the East and the West.

            Edward Said explains how the science of Orientalism developed and how the Western Europeans started considering the Orientals as non-human beings. They divided the world into two parts with concepts of ours and theirs. They drew an imaginary geographical line to restrict them. They regarded the Orientals as backward, uncivilized, and violent. They thought it was the duty of the colonizers to educate and civilize them- For them, colonization was a blessing for the Orientals.

            The most important aspect of Orientalism was that the Europeans defined themselves by defining Orientals. For example, they attributed the qualities like laziness, irrationality, uncivilized ness, and crudeness to orientals. By calling them so, they defined themselves as rational, civilized, hardworking, and refined. Said states: “Knowledge gives power, more power requires more knowledge.”

            Edward Said talks about “Structure and Restructures of Orientalism”. They said the people of the East were too naive. They were not clever, witty diplomatic, or sighted like Europeans.

            Finally, we can conclude that Orientalism was the tool that paved the road for Europeans to expand their empires in the Orient and exploit the Oriental pure cultural resources to construct their civilization, language, and culture.

Ideas Introduced by Gayatri Spivak

            Gayatri Spivak is one of the influential critics who related to Postcolonialism, Feminism, Deconstruction, and Marxism. She is a follower of Derrida. Fundamental to Spivak’s theory is the concept of subaltern. The ‘Subaltern’ is a military term that means ‘Of Lower Bank’. She borrowed this term from Italian Marxist, ‘Antonio Gramsci’.

            Spivak uses deconstruction to examine how true it is Constructed. She takes the example of Sati. Sati was a practice among the Hindus in which a woman was burnt alive in the pyre of her dead husband.

            When the British came to India they outlawed this practice. Though it saved a number of lives of women, it also helped the British to secure their rule in India.

            Spivak’s essay ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ addressed how the ‘Subaltern’ woman is constructed. The muteness of women in postcolonial societies is the main issue that her work confronts. Spivak uses the term Subaltern for women, blacks, the colonized, and the working class. She criticizes the harm done to women/ Third World women and non-Europeans. She wants to give voice to the subalterns who can not speak or are silent. She focused on speculation made on window sacrifice.


            Thus, Spivak’s ideas continue to be influential in fields such as – postcolonial studies, feminist theory, and cultural studies.

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