Study Guide


Postcolonialism Essay - Critical Essays

Critical Overview

In his 1962 book The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon laid the theoretical groundwork for much postcolonial theorizing to come. Fanon condemns African revolutionary programs as insufficient and argues that a new world can come into being only with a violent revolution led by the rural African peasantry. The book develops themes introduced in Fanon’s first book, Black Skin, White Mask (1952). In this book, Fanon uses his personal experience to show how the relationship between colonized and colonizer is normalized as psychology, resulting in emotional damage to both. A French-speaking native of the French colony of Martinique, Fanon argues that language plays a central role in shaping the consciousness of the colonized people. Fanon’s work anticipated studies such as Said’s Orientalism but has been heavily criticized for its portrayal of black women.

Said’s 1978 study, Orientalism, one of the foundational texts of postcolonial studies, critiques Western representations of the East, arguing that since the nineteenth century, Western scholars have depicted “Arab” cultures as irrational, anti- Western, primitive, and dishonest. Orientalism, Said claims, is an ideology born of the colonizers’ desire to know their subjects to better control them. Said argues, “To write about the Arab Oriental world . . . is to write with the authority of a nation . . . with the unquestioning certainty of absolute truth backed by...

(The entire section is 457 words.)