Postcolonial Literature Miss. Mekhaznia Wafa Master 1
(Postcolinial Lit )

What is Postcolonial Literature?

Over the past half-century, Postcolonial Literature has gained the attention of more and more readers and scholars throughout the world.

Hence, Postcolonial literature is the literature by people from formerly colonized countries.  It exists on all continents except Antarctica. Postcolonial literature often addresses the problems and consequences of the decolonization of a country, especially questions relating to the political and cultural independence of formerly subjugated people, and themes such as racialism and colonialism. A range of literary theory has evolved around the subject. It addresses the role of literature in perpetuating and challenging what postcolonial critic Edward Said refers to as cultural imperialism.

Migrant literature and postcolonial literature show some considerable overlap. However, not all migration takes place in a colonial setting, and not all postcolonial literature deals with migration. A question of current debate is the extent to which postcolonial theory also speaks to migration literature in non-colonial settings.

Writers as diverse as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka from Nigeria, Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy from India, Derek Walcott from the Caribbean, Seamus Heaney from Ireland, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje from Canada, Peter Carey and Patrick White from Australia, and J. M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer from South Africa have been prominent when major literary awards such as the Booker Prize or the Nobel Prize have been announced, and their works now appear on numerous school and university syllabuses.

Literature concerned with the political and cultural independence of people. New independent countries had to deal, not only with many economic and social issues, such as poverty and lack of education, but also with the aftermath of colonialism. Centuries of maltreatment, complete disrespect and negation of the natives’ values and culture alienated.


The post-colonial authors’ challenge was to find and re-establish their lost national identity, history and literature, and to define their relationship with the land and language.

Main characteristics of Postcolonial Literature:

Interacting with the traditional colonial discourse

Critical look at imperialism and its legacy

Reclaiming the past,

Searching for cultural and personal identity


Style often ironic

Approach eclectic (free), political and egalitarian (equal)

The literature written in the colonial period is called Colonial Literature, and when the countries got the independence it is called Post-Colonial Literature. Post-Colonial Literature reflects a way of life and talks about customs, attitudes, religion, and legends. So it inscribes a culture in a frame. That is, an affirmation of their identity. It is called Local Color; it is mostly a realistic literature that gives an account of the real country.

Imperialism is the very root of Colonialism. The assumption of Imperialism, in the case of England, is mainly based in their Industrial Revolution; ”We are progress”, they said. They convinced themselves that they had the right and duty to teach others, expanding their industrial revolution. They meant to civilize the world, they gave civilization to other countries. Imperialism is “the notion of the authority assumed by a state over another territory”.

During the  18th and 19th centuries, great Britain went to different countries and they settled and invaded there.

Settled in: Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa

Invaded in: India, Caribbean and African territories

Concerns of Postcolonial Literature

In a broad sense, postcolonial literature is any writing which has been “affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day.



1)      Reclaiming spaces and places

Colonialism was, above all, a means of claiming and exploiting foreign lands, resources, and people. Enslavement, indentured labor, and migration forced many indigenous populations to move from the places that they considered “home”. Postcolonial literature Attempts to counteract their resulting alienation from their surroundings by restoring a connection between indigenous people and places through description, narration, and dramatization.

2)      Asserting cultural integrity

During colonization, the indigenous cultures of those countries subjected to foreign rule were often sidelined, suppressed, and openly denigrated in favor of elevating the social and cultural preferences and conventions of the colonizers. In response, much postcolonial literature seeks to assert the richness and validity of indigenous cultures in an effort to restore pride in practices and traditions that were systematically degraded under colonialism.

3)      Revising history

Colonizers often depicted their colonial subjects as existing “outside of history” in unchanging, timeless societies, unable to progress or develop without their intervention and assistance. In this way, they justified their actions, including violence against those who resisted colonial rule. Revising history to tell things from the perspective of those colonized is thus a major preoccupation of postcolonial writing.




1)      Resistant descriptions Postcolonial

Writers use detailed descriptions of indigenous people, places, and practices to counteract or “resist” the stereotypes, inaccuracies, and generalizations which the colonizers circulated in educational, legal, political, and social texts and settings.

2)      Appropriation of the colonizers’ language

Although many colonized countries are home to multiple indigenous languages—in India, for example, more than 12 languages exist alongside English—many postcolonial writers choose to write in the colonizers’ “tongue”. However, authors such as Arundhati Roy deliberately play with English, remolding it to reflect the rhythms and syntax of indigenous languages, and inventing new words and styles to demonstrate mastery of a language that was, in a sense, forced upon them.

3)      Reworking colonial art--forms

Similarly, authors such as Arundhati Roy rework European art--‐forms like the novel to reflect indigenous modes of invention and creation. They reshape imported colonial art--‐forms to incorporate the style, structure, and themes of indigenous modes of creative expression, such as oral poetry and dramatic performances.

Postcolonial fiction writers deal with the traditional colonial discourse, either by modifying or by subverting it, or both. Postcolonial literary theory re-examines colonial and postcolonial literature, especially concentrating upon the social discourse between the colonizer and the colonized that shaped and produced the literature. In Orientalism (1978), Edward Saïd analyzed the fiction of Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, and Lautréamont (Isidore-Lucien Ducasse), exploring how they shaped and were influenced by the societal fantasy of



European racial superiority. He pioneered the branch of postcolonial criticism called colonial discourse analysis.

Another important theorist of colonial discourse is Harvard University professor Homi K Bhabha, (1949 – ). He has developed a number of the field's neologisms and key concepts, such as hybridity, third-space, mimicry, difference, and ambivalence. Western canonical works like Shakespeare's The Tempest, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Rudyard Kipling's Kim, and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness have been targets of colonial discourse analysis. The succeeding generation of postcolonial critics focus on texts that "write back" to the colonial center. In general, postcolonial theory analyzes how anti-colonial ideas, such as anti-conquest, national unity, négritude, pan-Africanism and postcolonial feminism were forged in and promulgated through literature.[14] Prominent theorists include Gayatri Spivak, Frantz Fanon, Bill Ashcroft, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Chinua Achebe, Leela Gandhi, Gareth Griffiths, Abiola Irele, John McLeod, Hamid Dabashi, Helen Tiffin, Khal Torabully, and Robert Young.

Miss. mekhaznia wafa

Master 1