Write a brief note on postcolonial theory.

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Postcolonial theory is a genre of literary, social, and critical theory that explores the aftereffects of European colonialism on various non-European countries, although some scholars expand this to cover other postcolonial situations such as the Japanese conquest of Korea, the Ottoman Empire's conquest of Greece, and other examples of colonialism...

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Postcolonial theory is a genre of literary, social, and critical theory that explores the aftereffects of European colonialism on various non-European countries, although some scholars expand this to cover other postcolonial situations such as the Japanese conquest of Korea, the Ottoman Empire's conquest of Greece, and other examples of colonialism by non-European powers. Postcolonial theory examines how colonialism created pervasive cultural changes, affecting language, religion, economics, and social and political structures. The theoretical movement originated in the second half of the twentieth century and has strong links to ethnic studies, gender studies, and other forms of critical theory, and even educational theory in the case of Freire. Some of the major theorists are:

  • Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925–December 6, 1961) a French West Indian psychiatrist and political philosopher whose Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961) explore the social, cultural and psychological effects of French colonialism.
  • Edward Wadie Said (November 1, 1935–September 24, 2003) was an important public intellectual who applied the critical theories of Foucault, Gramsci, and other postmodernists to post-colonialism and was a strong advocate for the Palestinians in their conflicts with Israel. His most influential work, Orientalism (1978), is primarily concerned with how colonizing cultures frame their portrayals of the colonized.
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (born February 24, 1942) is an Indian scholar whose best known work is "Can the Subaltern Speak?". Influenced by Derrida, Spivak argues that the voice of the subaltern is repressed by the phallologocentric structure of the colonizers language and conceptual categories.
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Postcolonialism is a critical theory prominently utilized in literature. Throughout history, the most accepted literary canon existed through the perspective of European imperialism. In writing about imperialism, Europeans demonstrated their belief that the introduction of European culture—and specifically the introduction of the Christian religion—led to the advancement of societies. The cultures and civilizations colonized by the Europeans were viewed as inherently unadvanced, so the Europeans believed that they were morally correct in their imperialism. This sentiment was prominent in literature which often included unfair stereotypes of the native peoples.

As such, this critical theory is heavily tied to postmodernism and has advanced offshoots of the theory, like feminism.

As a response to the canon of literature, there was a rise in writings from the native cultures. The themes in these pieces of literature often center around the social and political power dynamics present in imperialism. Narratives often examine the idea of the colonizer and the colonized as native peoples try to hold on to their cultural and historical traditions and identities in the face of a massive force attempting to revise and change those traditions. There is an inherent distrust of the colonizer as the colonized grapple with the colonizer's attempt to change their culture.

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Postcolonialsim began to emerge fully in the late 1960s as a response to white European and American versions of the story of colonialism. White Europeans saw the world through their own cultural lenses and often accepted unquestioningly ideologies that described colonialism as highly beneficial to native peoples because it brought them Christianity and a more "advanced" civilization. White writers often accepted racist teachings and stereotypes about these other cultures that defined them as inferior. When whites went abroad, they then "saw" what they had been taught to see, and further perpetrated these stereotypes to a broad audience. One prominent example of the dominance of the white point of view was Rudyard Kipling. In his poem "The White Man's Burden," he articulated the common overlord opinion that imperialism was a sacrifice noble whites made for the the sake of childlike, ungrateful, and sullen natives, who did not appreciate the benefits they were being offered.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, the muted pushback against writers like Kipling gained steam and grew louder. More and more natives people from former colonies began to publish their own versions of the story of colonization and forced assimilation into European cultural norms. This body of literature was called "postcolonial" and was identified strongly with "the view from below" of oppressed peoples. The formerly colonized usually had a much different story to tell than the whites and were much more critical of the "benefits" they had received from their overlords.

A famous scholar who helped put postcolonial theory on the map was Edward Said, a Middle Eastern man who demonstrated convincingly in his groundbreaking 1978 book Orientalism how whites had lumped disparate cultures together under one "moniker"—the "Orient"—which was largely a fictional construct that enabled the West to justify the enormous power it wielded by stereotyping people from China to Egypt as childlike, irrational, weak, and in need of control. Since the rise of postcolonialism, it has become commonplace to allow native people to tell their own stories in their own voices.

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Given the wide nature of the question, I think that there might be some openness to the answer being sought.  In my mind, one of the strongest elements of note in Postcolonialism would have to involve the relationship between the individual, their social order, and the previous imposition of another social structure.  This tripartite relationship lies at the heart of Postcolonial literary theory and the literature that emerges from the genre.  The Postcolonial writer is concerned with how the different prisms through which reality is viewed can help to constitute reality and what is understood by it.  I think that this is probably where Postcolonialism is vitally important for it casts individuals into a setting where different valences of being is examined.  Issues like identity of self in a current context, identity of self in a previous context, and how the modern individual might end up being straddled in one or both worlds simultaneously is vitally important.  For individuals of the Postcolonial time period and for nations that have emerged from the centuries old notion of Colonial identity, these issues are essential for they constitute some of the very basic notions of reality.  I think that any discussion of Postcolonialism has to focus on these points and makes the literary theory and the style of work worthy of note.

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