Postcolonial Theory

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What is postcolonial theory, and what is its relationship to African Americans?

Postcolonial theory is a type of critical theory that examines the legacies of European colonialism. In particular, it focuses on the destructive impacts colonialism had and how it created flawed perceptions of reality in fields like literature. It is connected to African American studies because African American history is directly connected to the history of colonial oppression in Africa.

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Postcolonial theory is a genre of critical theory that examines the many impacts of European colonialism on the world. It brings attention to the negative legacies of colonialism and often highlights the need for reparations. People often assume that since the age of colonization is over, colonization is no longer...

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Postcolonial theory is a genre of critical theory that examines the many impacts of European colonialism on the world. It brings attention to the negative legacies of colonialism and often highlights the need for reparations. People often assume that since the age of colonization is over, colonization is no longer something that needs to be examined. Postcolonial theory shows that it is still important to understand, as it shaped destructive ideologies like white supremacy that still cause critical problems with prejudice in contemporary society. Postcolonialism aims to bring society to a place that is truly “post,” or “after,” colonialism, in which colonized people can at last be free from its oppression.

Postcolonial theory as an academic body of thought began to emerge in the last few decades of the twentieth century, as the voices of scholars from former colonies increasingly began to be published. The theory is applied in a lot of fields, including literature and the social sciences. Scholars who focus on this theory often work to unpack destructive impacts colonialism has had, like how some works of literature by white authors have wrongly depicted people of color as inherently inferior to white people to justify colonial actions. Postcolonial theory critically deconstructs such representation to show how conceptions of reality differ among colonizers and the colonized.

Postcolonial theory is linked to African American studies because European colonial powers exploited people from Africa and in doing so complicated the politics, economics, and culture of all African colonies. Many African Americans can trace their roots to colonial enslavement and oppression, and thus, their heritage and relationship to their own identity are often shaped by their ancestors’ colonial histories. Applying postcolonial theory to African American studies provides critical insights into African American culture and history.

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