Postcolonialist theory looks at the impact of colonial and imperial systems on people in countries that became independent after having been colonies. People writing from postcolonialist perspectives may look at the colonial era to examine the workings of the colonial system, often looking back decades or even centuries before independence; at the process of gaining independence, which often includes armed conflict; or at the period after independence. In literature, writers using such theory are often from the national, racial, and/or ethnic heritage of the formerly colonized peoples.
One important premise in postcolonialist visions is the psychological impact that inevitably forms part of colonial control. This includes the colonizer’s assertions of superiority and attempts to convince the colonized of their own inferiority. Emerging from colonialism, therefore, requires a shift in mental attitudes as well as rejection of external political control. This includes the question of continued use of the colonizer’s language in contrast to the independent nation’s indigenous language(s). It often requires a break with imposed religion or the creation of new religious movements that combine traditional and imposed beliefs.
The postcolonial state often is considered to exemplify the lasting negative influences of colonialism, especially in the early years after a country becomes independent. Two of those characteristics are political centralization—often under military control—and entrance into the political sphere of actors with little political expertise, some of whom may have returned from exile.
In Anthills of the Savannah, Chinua Achebe portrays a country and its people who are in the grip of these issues. In becoming president of Kangan, Sam is unprepared for his duties and instead values the power and prestige, which had been denied him under colonial rule. The increased centralization of power as Sam moves toward becoming a dictator and the opposition that Chris and Ikem support all bear out the early independence struggles of this fictional country.