Since the 1980s postcolonial theory has become one of the most fashionable fields of inquiry within the academic study of English literature. Broadly speaking, postcolonialism is canonically associated with the work of writers and critics like Frantz Fanon (1925–61), Edward Said (1935–2003) and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. It has its origins in the post-World War II struggles for independence within various countries living under colonial rule. The use of the prefix post in postcolonial is important. It implies that the activities of decolonisation continue to endure long after the occupying power leaves and national independence is secured. Underpinning postcolonial theory is the view that colonialism was not only a military, economic and political form of subordination; it was also a cultural one. In the past native populations were actively encouraged to adopt the language and culture of the incumbent colonial power in place of their indigenous customs and speech. Part of the process of colonisation lay in denying native peoples a sense of meaningful cultural identity and persuading them, often with force, to imitate and aspire toward the culture of the coloniser. John McLeod defines the basic terrain of the cultural discourse that has arisen in response to this realisation: ‘[Theories of postcolonialism] explore the ways that representations and modes of perception are used as fundamental weapons of colonial power to keep colonised peoples subservient to colonial rule.’1 Postcolonial critics explore how culture functioned as both a weapon of colonial oppression, and a means by which native peoples sought to resist imperial hegemony.
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- Chapter Five