Theory of postcolonialism: definition, examples, critique (2023) (2023)

Theory of postcolonialism: definition, examples, critique (2023) (1)

The theory of postcolonialism critically engages with the political, cultural, aesthetic, economic, linguistic, historical and social implications of (broadly European) colonial rule (Elam, 2019). It involves the study of colonialism and its effects. He criticizes the effects of colonialism and tries to deconstruct its premises.

The prefix “post” does not imply that it is simply a postcolonial system (Kohn & Reddy, 2022). More specifically, post-colonialism is a reaction to the practices of imperialism and European colonial rule.

Examples of postcolonialism in sociology are those of Edward SaidOrientalismusand by Chakrabartyprovincialization of Europewho criticize so muchwestern lensto see non-Western peoples.

This article aims to examine what postcolonial theory is. We will do it in four parts:

  • The definition:We will first discuss the many contested definitions of postcolonial theory.
  • Key Academics:We shall see what the founding works of postcolonial theory, such as Edward Said, Franz Fanon, Gayatri Spivak, and many others, have to say.
  • Strengthen:We will examine its strengths, such as: B. its tendency towards equality and non-discrimination.
  • Reviews:We will present some critiques of postcolonial theory proposed by different authors.

Contents show

Definition of postcolonialism

Postcolonial theory is primarily writing that seeks to challenge dominant ways of thinking about the relationships between Western and non-Western peoples (Young, 2003, p. 2).

The notion that Western values ​​and views are "right" is often taken for granted. Postcolonial theory tries to change this and look at the world through a different lens.

According to postcolonial theory, what Westerners see when they look at the non-Western world is their own subjective and misrepresentation of it.

(Video) What is Postcolonial Theory? - PHILO-notes

This makes it clear that postcolonial theory is based on thisequivalence. There is another belief shared by virtually all postcolonial theorists: the notion that the world can only be understood in terms of the history of colonial rule.

Much of its influence goes unnoticed and unchallenged, so we are not even aware of how ubiquitous it is (Elam, 2019). Outside of this, however, the term is used so freely that it becomes necessary for each author to define what he means when speaking of postcolonial theory.

Some use postcolonialism to do thisrefer to a period of time: the time after the end of colonialism. However, this approach is considered problematic (Afzal-Khan & Seshadri-Crooks, 2000). What researchers are more likely to refer to is engagement with and engagement with the discourses, power structures, social hierarchies, and assumptions of colonialism (Gilbert & Tompkins, 1996). With this understanding, we can now discuss the founding works of postcolonialism in the latter sense.

10 examples of postcolonialism (known studies)

  • Orientalismus (Edward Said):InOrientalismus, Edward Said argues that the study of power relations is essential to the study of cultures, histories and ideas (Said, 1979, p. 12). This work is often considered to be the creator of postcolonial theory and discourse because of Said's interpretation of Orientalism theory (San Juan, 1998). The main goal of the book is to question the cultural representations that emerge from a binary understanding of social relations.
  • The Wretched of the Earth (Frantz Fanon):In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon argues that the nature of colonialism is essentially destructive. According to Fanon, the imposition of colonial identities harms the mental health of subject peoples. Fanon highlighted the dehumanizing aspects of colonial rule and advocated strong resistance (Fanon, 1963, p. 250).
  • Can the junior speak? (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak):In this foundational work, the philosopher and theorist Gayatri Spivak introduced a number of concepts into postcolonial theory. Most important are "subalternity" and "essentialism". She warned against ignoring subaltern peoples and seeing them as “cultural others” (Spivak, 2021).
  • The Colonizer and the Colonized (Albert Memmi):In this work, the Franco-Tunisian writer and essayist Albert Memmi examines and describes the psychological effects of the colonial regime on both the colonized peoples and the colonizers (Memmi, 1991).
  • The Place of Culture (Homi Bhabha):In this work, the theorist Homi Bhabha argues that separating and hierarchizing cultures, rather than seeing the world as a whole, perpetuates linguistic and sociological reductionism. To counteract this, the author advocates intellectual hybridity (Bhabha, 1994, p. 113). A hybrid intellectual space is one in which ambiguity challenges the ideological validity of colonialism.
  • ):In this work the author analyzes the subaltern history of the Indian struggle for independence. He opposes Western scholarship on non-Western peoples and their cultures. Dipesh Chakrabarty argues that Western Europe should be viewed as culturally equivalent to other world cultures (Chakrabarty, 2009).
  • The Colonial Present (Derek Gregory):In this work, the author traces the connections between British and American colonialism in current geopolitics. Derek Gregory sees the economic policies, military apparatus and corporations of the western world as instruments of colonialism (Gregory, 2004).
  • Diskurs zum Kolonialismus (Aimé Césaire):In this work, Césaire argues that colonialism was never benevolent. Rather, the motives of the colonizers have always been self-centered and exploitative. According to the author, “no one colonizes innocently” and “a civilization that justifies colonization [...] is already a sick civilization” (Césaire, 2001, p. 39).
  • About the postal colony (Achille Mbembe):In this work, the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe examines power issues in post-colonial Africa. The book examines how the West “stages itself and breaks itself in the minds of those who are drawn into it; In short, what a life lived under its sign and because of its (de)generative power” (Mbembe, 2001).
  • Rethinking postcolonialism (Amar Acheraiou):In this work, Acheraiou examines the history of colonialist discourse and finds its traces in ancient Greece. The book argues that unfavorable modern colonial accounts of non-Western peoples were influenced by Greek and Latin authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Sallust (Acheraiou, 2008).

Strengths of the postcolonial perspective

The main strength of the postcolonial perspective is that it challenges existing assumptions and power structures.

In this way, the theory and practice of postcolonialism is a force for equality and equality. Above all, it counteracts the white perspectives that have prevailed over others in historiography.

The broader political project of postcolonialism is fundamentally oriented towards the value of ordinary people and their cultures (Young, 2003, p. 6).

Postcolonialism is not an “armchair philosophy”. It seeks to intervene and reinforce marginalized views. Try to change the way people think and act in order to create better relationships between different races and cultures.

To this day, postcolonial theory is one of the central forms of critical debate. It has influenced the way we act, how we read texts, how we understand history and how we think about politics (Elam, 2019).

criticism of postcolonialism

There are many common criticisms of postcolonialism, both from within and without.

  • Some accuse him of seeing cultures as fixed and static entities.
  • Others argue that postcolonial theory undermines and deniesUniversal Values.
  • Some have criticized its focus on national identity.
  • Others feel that their selective approach overlooks certain problem areas.

Marxist scholar Vivek Chibbler, in his book Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital, criticized some of the foundations of postcolonial theory.

Many claims made by Subaltern Studies scholars are false because of their cultural essentialism, according to Chibbler.

Furthermore, postcolonial theories tend to portray the differences between East and West as insurmountable (Chibber, 2013).

Watson and Wilder argue that postcolonial theory misses several important events, such as the Green Revolution in Iran and the Arab Spring in the Middle East. These events, according to these scholars, challenge the fundamental assumption of postcolonialism of an East-West divide (Watson & Wilder, 2018).

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Postcolonial theory seeks to challenge dominant ways of thinking about relations between Western and non-Western peoples (Young, 2003, p. 2). It critically examines the political, cultural, aesthetic, economic, linguistic, historical, and social impact of colonialism on the world. As a theoretical and practical perspective, postcolonialism has many supporters and critics. Some consider it obsolete, but a significant body of literature develops postcolonial theory further.


Acheraiou, A. (2008).Rethinking postcolonialism: colonialist discourse in modern literatures and the legacy of classical writers. Palgraf Macmillan.

Afzal-Khan, F. und Seshadri-Crooks, K. (2000).The Concern of Postcolonial Studies. Duke University Press.

Bhabha, HK (1994).The place of culture. Routledge.

Cesaire, A. (2001).discourse on colonialism.New York University Press.

Chakrabarty, D. (2009).Provincialization of Europe: Postcolonial Thinking and Historical Difference – Reissued. Princeton University Press.

Chibber, V. (2013).Postcolonial theory and the specter of capital. verse books.

Elam, JD (2019). Postcolonial Theory. In J. D. Elam,Literary and Critical Theory. Oxford University Press.

Fanon, F. (1963).the wretched of the earth. Grove-Presse.

Gilbert, H. and Tompkins, J. (1996).Postcolonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics. Routledge.

Gregorio, D. (2004).The Colonial Present: Afghanistan. Palestine. Iraq. Wiley.

Kohn, M. & Reddy, K. (2022). Colonialism. In E.N. Zalta (ed.),The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(Summer 2022). Metaphysical Research Laboratory, Stanford University.

Mbembe, A. (2001).in the postal colony. University of California Press.

(Video) Postcolonialism: WTF? An Intro to Postcolonial Theory

Memmi, A. (1991).The colonizer and the colonized. lighthouse press.

Quayson , A. ( 2016 ). Postcolonialism. enRoutledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy(1st edition). Routledge.

Said, E. W. (1979).Orientalismus. Old books.

Saint John, E. (1998). The Limits of Postcolonial Criticism; Speech by Edward Said.against the current,13(5), 28.

Spivak, GC (2021).Can the junior speak?At least books.

Watson, JK and Wilder, G. (2018).The Postcolonial Present: Political Imaginations for the Global Present. Fordham University Press.

Young, RJC (2003).Postcolonialism: A Very Brief Introduction. Oxford University Press.

Theory of postcolonialism: definition, examples, critique (2023) (2)

(Video) On Some Critiques of Postcolonialism | Ill-Informed Criticism of Postcolonial Theory

Tio Gabunia (B.Arch, M.Arch)

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Tio Gabunia is a Tbilisi-based academic writer and architect. He studied architecture, design and urbanism at the Technical University of Georgia and the University of Lisbon. He has worked in these fields in Georgia, Portugal and France. Most of Tio's writings are related to philosophy. Other writings include architecture, sociology, urban planning, and economics.

Theory of postcolonialism: definition, examples, critique (2023) (3)

Chris Drew (PhD)

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This article was peer reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The assessment process inhelpful teacherIt involves a PhD expert proofreading, editing and contributing to articles. Reviewers ensure that all content reflects scientific expert consensus and is supported by references to scientific studies. dr Drew has published over 20 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals. He is a former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.


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