Friday, 15 April 2011


Orientalism, the book by Edward Said that marked the popular début of postcolonial discourse theory, was published in 1978, at the end of a decade in which Pol Pot had unleashed another violent postcolonial conflict, while meanwhile in Africa Idi Ahmeen was coming to the end of his rule of terror.  In the case of India, the 1970’s had been the decade of the Emergency which Rushdie saw as the dreams and possibilities of independent India had being mutilated by Mrs Gandhi. Postcolonial studies emerged predominantly in liberal western academies, linking with studies of other marginalised groups, such as women and gay studies, with the goal of understanding the causes of the continued global imbalances of power, capital and knowledge. At this time, the ideals of independent nations were failing with the rise of Rajiv Gandhi bringing about the economic liberalisation of India, facilitating multinational corporations and spurning the goals of equitable socialist economic development so desperately sought by his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru. With this in mind, it is easy to question the success of the challenge to the postcolonial imbalances that were maintained by the new imperialism, with the United States of America as the chief imperialist.
One of the main criticisms of postcolonial theory is the accusation that it is Eurocentric but given the very nature of the colonial experience and the creation of colonial knowledge, a Eurocentric view is necessary to make Europe the object of study. From the medieval period, and even before, the west created itself in relation to the others it portrayed as opposites. The rational basis of western thought made the east irrational; the moral character of the European made the Asian immoral and when the Occident was placed at the centre of the world the Orient was marginalised. Viewing Europe as the centre of the world was not merely a self-aggrandising delusion as Europe came to dominate the world economy, subjugate other political systems to its own and to determine the criteria by which the value of knowledge was judged through the dominant discourse that rose to hold global sway under colonialism and after. The study of this discourse is the focus of postcolonial theory, and the resistance and removal of the dominance of enduring colonial discourse that is the goal of postcolonial studies and politics.

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