African postcolonial literature essay

Postcolonial criticism could be compared to the tendency of Hollywood films set in such countries to focus on the problems of Americans and Europeans within those societies while marginalizing the views of their native peoples. Nigerian writers Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, for instance, after writing powerful indictments of the British in their country, turned to exposing the deeds of native-born dictators and corrupt officials within their independent homeland.


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Although postcolonial scholars would explain this corruption as a by-product of colonialism, such authors commonly have little interest in pursuing this train of thought. It is striking how little modern fiction from formerly colonized nations highlights the colonial past. Non-fiction writers often point out that Hindu-Muslim conflicts in South Asia are in part the heritage of attempts by the British administration in India to play the two groups of against each other not to mention the special role assigned to the Sikhs in the British army ; yet Indian fiction about these conflicts rarely points to such colonial causes.

Postcolonialism: WTF? An Intro to Postcolonial Theory

Australians and Canadians sometimes claim to live in postcolonial societies, but many would refuse them the label because their literature is dominated by European immigrants, and is therefore a literature of privilege rather than of protest. According to the usual postcolonial paradigm only literature written by native peoples in Canada and Australia would truly qualify. Similarly, the label is usually denied to U. The Irish are often put forward as an instance of a postcolonial European people, and indeed many African writers have been inspired by Irish ones for that reason.

Yet some of the more nationalist ones like Yeats tended toward distressingly conservative—even reactionary—politics, and James Joyce had the utmost contempt for Irish nationalism.

Postcolonial literature - Wikipedia

It is not clear how many Irish authors would have accepted the term if they had known of it. Although postcolonial theory generally confines itself to the past half-century, it can be argued that everyone has been colonized at some time or other. Five thousand years ago Sumer started the process by uniting formerly independent city-states, and Narmer similarly subjugated formerly independent Upper and Lower Egypt.

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Rushdie likes to point out that England itself is a postcolonial nation, having been conquered by Romans and Normans, among others. A good deal of postcolonial debate has to do with rival claims to victimhood, with each side claiming the sympathies of right-thinking people because of their past sufferings.

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The conflicts between Bosnians and Serbs, Palestinians and Jews, Turks and Greeks, Hindu and Muslim Indians, and Catholic and Protestant Irish illustrate the problems with using historical suffering as justification for a political program. It is quite true that Europeans and Americans often arrogantly dismiss their own roles in creating the political messes of postcolonial nations around the world; but it is unclear how accusations against them promote the welfare of those nations. In addition, when they are made to feel guilty, countries—like individuals—are as likely to behave badly as they are to behave generously.

It may make American and European scholars feel better to disassociate themselves from the crimes of their ancestors which are admittedly, enormously bloody and oppressive, and should be acknowledged and studied—see resources below , but people struggling for freedom in oppressed nations are more likely to draw inspiration from the quintessentially European Enlightenment concept of rights under natural law than they are to turn to postcolonial theory.

Similarly, European capitalist market theory is far more attractive to most people struggling against poverty in these nations than are the varieties of socialism propounded by postcolonial theoreticians. South African writers Athol Fugard and Nadine Gordimer are often excluded from postcolonial courses, although their works were powerful protests against apartheid and they have lived and worked far more in Africa than, say, Buchi Emicheta, who emigrated to England as a very young woman and has done all of her writing there—because they are white.

“Postcolonial Literature”: Problems with the Term

A host of fine Indian writers is neglected simply because they do not write in English on the sensible grounds that India has a millennia-long tradition of writing which should not be arbitrarily linked to the British imperial episode. Of those who write in English, Anita Desai is included, though she is half German. These and similar questions are the object of constant debate.

This celebration of cultural blending considerably blurs the boundaries laid down by postcolonial theory.

In practice, postcolonial literary studies are often sharply divided along linguistic lines in a way which simply reinforces Eurocentric attitudes. Latin American postcolonial studies are seldom explored by those laboring in English departments. Francophone African literature is generally neglected by Anglophone African scholars.

Because of these failures to cut across linguistic boundaries, the roles of England and France are exaggerated over those of the colonized regions. It can even be asked whether the entire premise of postcolonial studies is valid: that examining these literatures can give voice to formerly suppressed peoples. Usually the term is used negatively, to describe stereotypical ideas of—to take as an example my own ancestors—the Irish as drunken, irresponsible louts.

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Postcolonial Theory - Literary and Critical Theory - Oxford Bibliographies

Institutional Login. LOG IN. Research in African Literatures. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Reviewed by:.

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