Postcolonial Literary Theory

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In the 1970s, the field of postcolonial studies grew as more and more regions underwent a process of decolonization that left behind problems of identity, political and cultural conflict, and patterns of economic and political dependence (called neo-colonialism). The natural range of postcolonial studies involves the social sciences, but postcolonial fiction merges the various complex topics into narratives that express postcolonial experience. Postcolonial literary theory helps us interpret literature by identifying the topics and markers characteristic of writers shaped by colonial and postcolonial life. Many postcolonial theorists and critics emphasize the negative rather than the positive aspects of colonial processes and seek to promote the voices of colonized peoples. Such theorists and critics therefore focus on economic exploitation, power relations, and the push to marginalize the native culture in favor of the colonizing culture. In part, these topics tend to be chosen because they are fairly common in literature written by people in colonized cultures, especially those who write from their experience.

For majority-view articulations of postcolonial literary theory, see Edward Said's Orientalism and the collaborative work The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures.