The term “Postcolonialism” refers broadly to the ways in which race, ethnicity, culture, and human identity itself are represented in the modern era, after many colonized countries gained their independence. However, some critics use the term to refer to all culture and cultural products influenced by imperialism from the moment of colonization until today. Postcolonial literature seeks to describe the interactions between European nations and the peoples they colonized. By the middle of the twentieth century, the vast majority of the world was under the control of European countries. At one time, Great Britain, for example, ruled almost 50 percent of the world. During the twentieth century, countries such as India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Canada, and Australia won independence from their European colonizers. The literature and art produced in these countries after independence has become the object of “Postcolonial Studies,” a term coined in and for academia, initially in British universities. This field gained prominence in the 1970s and has been developing ever since. Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said’s critique of Western representations of the Eastern culture in his 1978 book, Orientalism, is a seminal text for postcolonial studies and has spawned a host of theories on the subject. However, as the currency of the term “postcolonial” has gained wider use, its meaning has also expanded. Some consider the United States itself a postcolonial country because of its former status as a territory of Great Britain, but it is generally studied for its colonizing rather than its colonized attributes. In another vein, Canada and Australia, though former colonies of Britain, are often placed in a separate category because of their status as “settler” countries and because of their continuing loyalty to their colonizer. Some of the major voices and works of postcolonial literature include Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children (1981), Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart (1958), Michael Ondaatje’s novel The English Patient (1992), Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1961), Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place (1988), Isabelle Allende’s The House of the Spirits (1982), J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace (1990), Derek Walcott’s Omeros (1990), and Eavan Boland’s Outside History: Selected Poems, 1980–1990.
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