What is postcolonial literature?

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msmeow-7867's profile pic

msmeow-7867 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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Colonialism is the act of taking partial or total political control over another country through the establishment of a colony or colonies and then exploiting said country for its resources, including labor and economics. The prevailing justifications for colonialism were the moral, intellectual, and religious superiority of the colonizers. Nearly every major first world country has at one time been a colonial power. The colonial era has continued even into the 21st century, although in an attenuated way.

As the Latin prefix intimates then, post-colonialism is the time after the colonial power has been removed or destabilized to the point of inefficacy, and post-colonial literature is that which has been written during or about this time. It is also writing that has been ‘affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day’ (Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin, 1989, p. 2). Post-colonial literature is almost always written from the perspective or includes the perspective of the colonized ‘subaltern’ and so attempts to respond to the experience of being colonized. It is often characterized by attempts to re-establish cultural, social, intellectual, political, and linguistic autonomy, a difficult task given that so much of the subalterns’ identity is molded and influenced by their colonizers.

Post-colonial literature has given rise to post-colonial studies, including theory and linguistics foci that study these literatures produced by writers from countries that were once colonized by European powers. By far, post-colonial literature from India is the most abundant, although narrative voices from colonized peoples in Africa are beginning to assert themselves. Trailing, but heard, are voices from America’s native peoples, as well.

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npoore84 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Post colonial literature is also known as New English literature. It is mainly a type of literature and criticism that responds to the effects of European colonization in the countries of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. It addresses the problems and counsequences that occurred because of the European colonization of these countries. It focuses on the politically and cultural independence of these areas as well as justifying the acceptance of racism and colonialism. Through critiques of post-colonial literature, critics analyze the social discourse particularly and focus on re-examining colonial literature and how it has shaped the colonizer. 

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