Poststructuralism and postcolonial discourse

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27 Scopus citations


Perhaps the most useful way to begin a discussion of the relationship between poststructuralist theory and postcolonial discourse is to call attention to the controversies and debates that have accompanied their rise as significant intellectual movements from the late 1960s and 1980s respectively. For one of the things these two movements have in common is that they have always generated heated questions about their political efficacy, their location within intellectual traditions informed by unequal relations of power, and their validity as theoretical categories that can provide us with useful knowledge about the cultures and literatures of previously colonized countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. These issues often divide scholars and critiques of formerly colonized societies into two broad groups: On one hand there are those critics who would like postcolonial theory to account for the specific conditions in which colonialism emerged and functioned and the role of decolonization as a specific narrative of liberation. For these critics, the pitfall of postcolonial theory inheres in its inability to periodize and historicize the colonial experience and to account for the role of colonized subjects as active agents in the making of culture and history. Aijaz Ahmad, for example, argues that the primary failure of postcolonial theory is to be found in its eagerness to foreground a set of questions – on historical agency, the production of colonial subjects, and even the history of modernity - or to consider “the question of cultural domination exercised by countries of advanced capital over imperialized countries” (Ahmad 1992: 2; see also Dirlik 1994; Bartolovich and Lazarus 2002). For such critics of postcolonial theory, its primary failure - its inability to account for the history and process of decolonization - arises from its close affinity to poststructural theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to
Subtitle of host publicationPostcolonial Literary Studies
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780511606755
ISBN (Print)0521826942, 9780521826945
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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