While the extent of colonial empires has indeed been vast, Post-Colonial literature is not simply an account of history's great conquests. Instead, it is a discussion and dissection of the effects of colonialism: migration, slavery, oppression, resistance, representation, difference, and responses... [more]
While the extent of colonial empires has indeed been vast, Post-Colonial literature is not simply an account of history's great conquests. Instead, it is a discussion and dissection of the effects of colonialism: migration, slavery, oppression, resistance, representation, difference, and responses to dominating discourses. A worldwide phenomenon, Post-Colonial literature will continue as long as imperialism exists -- be it cultural, economic, or militaristic.
In the context of a heterogeneous society, where the colonized often coexist with their former colonizers, Post-Colonial writers attempt to reassign new ethnic and cultural meanings to marginalized groups. Of course, the irony is that the majority of Post-Colonial literature is written in the language of the dominating culture, within borders determined by a government that has long since abandoned the colony.
Still, Post-Colonial literature attempts to construct new identities against these outwardly imposed borders. It is not a literature of victimhood, but rather an assertion of power, a reclaiming of experience. In works by Jamaica Kincaid, Salman Rushdie, Chinua Achebe, and others, readers hear both cries of loss and proclamations of birth. The new culture that emerges is a hybrid that is neither pale mimicry of its conquerors nor a complete return to the past.
Post-Colonialists do, nonetheless, engage the past in careful examination. The past becomes a site of purity, a source of strength for a people in need of a contemporary model. It is also a site of investigation, a point of reference that makes the cultural stakes clear. Achebe's "Things Fall Apart," for example, considers these conflicts, examining how existing tensions within indigenous tribes allowed European imperialists to take control.
As the conflicts between ruler and subject, mainstream and marginalized, oppressors and oppressed are played out, the true calling of Post-Colonial literature becomes clear. Not only a celebration of the suppressed 'other,' it is also a challenge to the dominant culture. In the end, Post-Colonial literature questions our concepts of established authority -- perhaps leaving the mainstream more changed than the marginalized. [show less]