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What is meant by "the discourse of postcolonial studies"?

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The discourse of postcolonial studies involves applying a postcolonial perspective to texts, ideas, and events in history. This postcolonial perspective is a reaction against (and, postcolonial scholars would argue, a corrective to) the colonialist and imperialist discourse of the nineteenth century and earlier periods. While imperialist writers such as Rudyard Kipling argued that the colonial enterprise was a noble one, spreading the civilization of Western countries to less fortunate nations, postcolonial scholars have stressed the violence and destructiveness of colonialism. Frantz Fanon, in The Wretched of the Earth, wrote that the colonial enterprise was to dehumanize the colonized peoples and destroy their self-respect by treating them like animals. Edward Said, in Orientalism, adopted a more academic, textual focus, arguing that Western writers had systematically portrayed Eastern cultures as savage, decadent, and irrational.

Postcolonial discourse involves analyzing both words and deeds, sometimes going back millennia to look at, for instance, Roman treatment and portrayals of the Parthians or the Carthaginians. Certain classic texts written long before the discipline of postcolonial studies arose have become staples of its discourse. Shakespeare's final play, The Tempest, is one of the best-known examples. Until the twentieth century, most critics regarded Prospero as wise and benign, subduing the bestial Caliban and taming the wild island. Postcolonial scholars, however, have written about Prospero as an oppressive imperialist, colonizing the island by force and enslaving its inhabitants. Many other texts and historical events have received similar analysis in postcolonial discourse.

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