Postcolonial Theater Analysis

Reclaiming Identity and Culture

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Postcolonial theater is drama that focuses on issues surrounding oppressed peoples. A major current of mid- to late twentieth century history was the decolonization of English, French, Dutch, and British empires, and the emergence of talented and exciting playwrights from these cultures has been significant. Postcolonial literature and theater deal with the question of the “subaltern” finding his voice. A subaltern is a person in a subordinate position, and the term has come to refer to anyone who fights the process and results of colonialism. In examining many different postcolonial voices, one can see many of the difficult issues raised—including the intersections of nationalism, identity, and race—and discern the ways in which many of the leading postcolonial playwrights have chosen to deal with these issues.

One of the main actions of the colonial powers was the disruption and replacement of indigenous culture. Frantz Fanon, the great postcolonial theorist and “freedom fighter” in the Algerian independence movement in the 1950’s, felt that the goal of French colonization was the creation of “black Frenchmen” who were one step lower on the social scale than whites. For example, Fanon describes how, growing up in the French colony of Martinique (he later moved to Algeria), he never heard of writers such as Martinique’s poet and playwright Aimé Césaire but studied and learned all the French classics and spoke only French, thus...

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