How does postcolonial criticism uses poststructural theories to understand a text?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One significant way in which postcolonialism uses poststructuralism in understanding texts is within the issue of race and racial identity.  For the postcolonialist, the concept of "race" is beyond binary opposition.  It goes beyond "white" and "other."  Poststructuralism is concerned with the exploration of narrative beyond established contours, to explore the root of identity that might lie past the artificially constructed realms of "cultural majority" and "other."  In this light, postcolonialism owes a great deal to the notion of poststructuralist theories that explore individual racial identity after colonization.  The postcolonial work sees racial identity as a constructed as a product of colonial reality and indigenous experience.  Racial identity is something that is complex enough to lie beyond the reductive strategies of "either/ or."  At the same, postcolonialism is seeking to make the point that these arbitrary distinctions helped to create the culture of repression that caused it to exist in the first place.  It is the basic idea of "us" versus "them," "European/ White" versus "the other," that caused colonialism to take hold and create centuries of repressed sadness.  Postcolonialism embraces poststructuralist realities to explore nuances between such distinctions in the hopes that repression in accordance to a simplistic norm is replaced by complex and nuanced dialogue that incorporates more voices.