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Riassunto esame Letteratura inglese, prof. Dolce, libro consigliato Beginning Postcolonialism, McLeod

Riassunto per l'esame di Letteratura inglese, basato su appunti personali e studio autonomo del testo consigliato dal docente Dolce Maria Renata: Beginning Postcolonialism, McLeod. Gli argomenti trattati sono i seguenti: Introduction, From 'Commonwealth' to 'postcolonial', Reading colonial discourses, Nationalist representations, The nation in question, Re-reading and re-writing English... Vedi di più

Esame di Letteratura inglese docente Prof. M. Dolce



1.From 'Commonwealth' to 'postcolonial'


We need to place the word 'postcolonialism' in 2 primary contexts:

1. The first regards the historical experiences of decolonisation that have occurred chiefly in 20 century.


2. The second concerns relevant intellectual developments in the latter part of the 20 century, especially


the shift from the study of 'Commonwealth literature' to 'postcolonialism'.

Colonialism and decolonisation

At the turn of the 20 century, the British Empire covered a vast area of the earth that included parts


of Africa, Asia, Australasia, Canada, the Caribbean and Ireland. At the beginning of the 21 century,


although there remains a small handful (manciata) of British Overseas Territories, the vast bulk of the Empire

has not survived. All over the world, the 20 century witnessed the decolonisation of millions of people who


were once subject to the authority of the British crown. The British Empire signified a historical period and set

of relationships which appear no longer current. The material and imaginative legacies of

both colonialism and decolonisation remain fundamentally important constitutive elements in the

contemporary geo-political realities and conflicts around the world and impact upon how different people live

today. And they also remain in the arts, cultures, languages and intellectual disciplines (anthropology, literature


Colonialism has taken many different forms and has engendered diverse effects around the

world. Judd argues that colonialism was first a fundamental part of the commercial venture of Western

nations such as Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal that developed from the late 17 and


early 18 centuries. Some date its origins to the European 'voyages of discovery' in the 15 and

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16 centuries (when Columbus discovered America 1492). The seizing of 'foreign' lands for government and


settlement was in part motivated by the desire to create and control opportunities to generate wealth and

control international markets, frequently by securing the natural resources and labour power of different lands

and peoples (popoli) at the lowest possible cost to Europeans.

• Colonialism was big business and the profits to be made were unimaginable (one example-> the

construction of the sugar industry in the Caribbean). British businesses could produce a range of

products at minimal cost which, when shipped to Europe, could be sold for extremely high

profits (thanks to African slaves and, later, Indian indentured- servi a contratto- labourers). Colonialism

was first a lucrative commercial operation, bringing wealth and riches to Western nations through the

economic exploitation of others. Colonialism and capitalism share a mutually supportive

relationship with each other. Colonialism is only one form of practice, one modality of control which results

from the ideology of imperialism and it specifically concerns the settlement of people in a new location. It is

one historically specific mechanism of imperialism which prioritises the act of settlement. It is a process

virtually over today as a practice.

• Imperialism is an ideological project which upholds the legitimacy of the economic and military

control of one nation by another. It continues apace (rapidamente) as Western nations are still engaged in

imperial acts, securing wealth and power through the continuing economic exploitation of other

nations. The British Empire is one form of an imperial economic and political structure among several

which emerged in Europe.

There are three distinct periods of decolonisation when the colonised nations won the right to govern their

own affairs.

1. First period --> the first one was the loss of the American colonies and declaration of American

independence in the late 18 century;


2. Second period --> the second one spans the end of the 19 century to the first decade of the


20 century, and concerns the creation of the 'dominions'. This was the term used to describe the nation


of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These nations ('settler nations') consisted of large

European populations that had settled overseas, often violently displacing or destroying the indigenous

peoples of these lands ('First Nations' peoples in Canada, Aboriginal communities in Australia, New

Zealand's Maori and the many different tribes in southern Africa). The 'settler' peoples of these nations

campaigned for forms of self-government which they achieved as dominions of the British Empire. Yet, as

a 'dominion' each still recognised and pledged allegiance (fedeltà giurata) to the ultimate authority of Britain

as the 'mother country'.

a. Canada was the first to achieve a form of political autonomy in 1867;

b. Australia followed suit in 1901;

c. New Zealand in 1907;

d. South Africa in 1910.

e. Ireland won self-rule in 1922, although the country was partitioned and 6 countries in the north

east remained under British control as Northern Ireland. In 1931 the Statute of Westminster

removed the obligation for the dominions to defer (rinviare) ultimate authority to the British crown

and gave them full governmental control.

3. Third period--> the third one occurred in the decades immediately following the end of the

2 World War. Most colonised lands in South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean tended to feature


larger dispossessed indigenous populations settled and governed by small British colonial elites. The

achievement of independence particularly in South Asia and Africa occurred often as a consequence of

indigenous anti-colonial nationalism and military struggle. The decades of the 1960s and 1970s saw busy

decolonisation throughout the declining Empire. With the passing of Hong Kong from Britain to China

on 1 July 1997, the numbers of those living under British rule fell below one million for the first time in



There are many reasons for decolonisation as there were once-colonised nations:

• One fundamental reason concerned the growth of many nationalist movements which mounted various

challenges across the Empire to British colonial authority, and which very often took inspiration from each

other in opposing colonial authority.

• One cause was the decline of Britain as a world power after 1945 and the ascendency of the USA and

the Soviet Union.

• Another reason concerns changes to technologies of production and international finance which

enabled imperialist and capitalist ambitions to be pursued (portate avanti) without the need for colonial


The emergence of 'Commonwealth literature'

'Commonwealth literature' was a term literary that critics began to use from the 1950s to

describe literatures in English emerging from a selection of countries with a history of colonialism.

It incorporated the study of writers from the predominantly European settler communities, as well as writers

belonging to those countries which were in the process of gaining independence from British rule (such as

those ones from the African Caribbean and South Asian nations). Literary critics began to distinguish a

fast-growing body of literature written in English which included work by figures as Narayan

(India), Naipaul (Trinidad), Frame (New Zealand) and Achebe (Nigeria). The creation of the category of

'Commonwealth literature' was an attempt to identify and evaluate this vigorous literary activity, and to

consider via a comparative approach the common concerns and attributes that these manifold (molteplici)

literary voices might have.

One consequence of the decline of the British Empire in the 20 century was the establishment of the British


Commonwealth of Nations. In the early decades, Britain hosted frequent 'colonial conferences' which

gathered (radunava) together the Governors of the colonies and heads of the dominions. In 1907 these

meetings were re-named 'imperial conferences'. After the 2 World War, these meetings


became 'Commonwealth conferences'. The British monarch was recognised as the head of the

Commonwealth in symbolic terms only (the British crown held no political authority over other Commonwealth

nations). 'Commonwealth' became redefined after the war in more equitable terms, as meaning an

association of sovereign nation without deference (rispetto) to a single authority. Today, the Commonwealth

of Nations as a body exists in name only. It aims to promote democracy, world peace, non-racialism and

consensus building within and across its 54-member states (enshrined /racchiuse/ in its

1971 'Singapore Declaration Commonwealth principles'). But it remains troubled by colonialism's legacies

(eredità) and violent contemporary conflicts. The term 'Commonwealth' proffers (offre) a sanitised vision of

international fraternity which masks the exploitative and painful realities of British colonisation and its

legacies. That common inheritance arguably served to reinforce the primacy of Britain among the

Commonwealth nations.

'Commonwealth literature' may well have been created in an attempt to bring together writings from around

the world on an equal footing, yet the assumption remained that these texts were ultimately to be judged by a

Western, English-speaking readership. One of the fundamental assumptions held by the first Western critics

of Commonwealth literature and the nation. The editor McLeod proposed that the genesis of a local

literature in the Commonwealth countries has almost always been contemporaneous with the development of

a truly nationalist sentiment. Many agreed that the 'novel' ideas and new 'interpretations of life' in

Commonwealth literature owed much to the ways that writers were forging their own sense of national and

cultural identity.

The editorial to the first edition of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature recognise the important

national and cultural differences between writers from divergent locations. Commonwealth literature was

really evaluated in terms derived from the conventional study of English that stressed the values of

timelessness and universality. For liberal humanists the most 'literary' texts always transcend the

provincial contexts of their initial production and deal with moral preoccupations deemed (ritenuto) relevant to

people of all times and places.

Many postcolonial critics insist that historical, geographical and cultural specifics are vital to both

the writing and reading of a text, and cannot be so easily bracketed as secondary colouring or background.

For many critics of Commonwealth literature, these texts conformed to a critical status quo. Their potential

differences were contained by the identification within them of universal themes that bound texts safely inside

the aesthetic criteria of the West.

Theories of colonial discourses: Frantz Fanon and Edward Said

Theories of colonial discourses explore how Europeans keep colonised peoples of other lands subservient

to colonial rule. Colonialism operates by persuading people to internalise its logic and speak its language;

to perpetuate the values and assumptions (presa di potere) of the colonisers as regards the ways they

perceive and represent the world. Language constitutes our world-view by cutting up and ordering reality into

meaningful units.

A Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong'o stresses, language also goes a long way towards creating a person's

understanding of their world, and it houses the values through which we live our lives. Under colonialism,

a colonised people are made subservient to ways of regarding the world which reflect and support colonialist

values. The cultural values of the colonised peoples are deemed as lacking in value, or even as

being 'uncivilised', from which they must be rescued. Empire endured (resistito) by getting both colonising

and colonised people to see their world and themselves in a particular way, internalising the language of

Empire as representing the natural, true order of life.

In the 1950s there emerged much important work that attempted to record the psychological damage suffered

by colonised peoples who internalised these colonial discourses. Prominent was the psychiatrist Frantz

Fanon, who wrote about the damage French (he was born in Martinique) colonialism had wreaked upon

millions of people who suffered its power. He joined with the Algerian rebels fighting against the French

occupation of the country. Influenced by contemporary philosophers and poets such as Jean-Paul Sartre

and Aimé Césaire, Fanon's publications include two polemical books: 'Black Skin, White Masks' and 'The

Wretched of the Earth'. 'Black Skin, White Masks' examined in the main the psychological effects of

colonialism. Fanon looked at the cost to the individual who lives in a word where due to the colour of his or

her skin, he or she is rendered peculiar, an object of derision, an aberration.

Fanon's identity is defined in negative terms by those in a position of power. He is forced to see

himself as an object, a peculiarity at the mercy of a group that identifies him as inferior and less than fully

human, subservient to their definitions and representations. The violence of this 'revision' of his identity is

conveyed powerfully in the image of amputation. Fanon feels abbreviated, violated, imprisoned by a way of

seeing him that denies him the right to define his own identity as a subject. Identity is something that

the French make for him.

'Black Skin, White Masks' explains the consequences of identity formation for the colonised subject who

is forced into the internalisation of the self as an 'other'. The 'Negro' is deemed to epitomise everything that

the colonising French are not. The colonised are never accepted on equal terms . For Fanon, the end of

colonialism meant a psychological change too. Colonialism is destroyed only once its ways of thinking about

matters such as identity are successfully challenged.

In 1978 Edward W. Said's Orientalism was published. 'Orientalism' is a book, in which Said looked at the

divisive (combattuta) relationship between the coloniser and the colonised and explored how colonialism

institutionally created a wide-ranging body of knowledge which supported the divisive practices of colonial

government and settlement. Said examined how the knowledge that Western imperial powers formed

about their colonies helped continually to justify their subjugation. Western travellers recorded their

observations based upon commonly held assumptions about 'The Orient' as a mythic place of exoticism,

moral laxity (negligenza/permissività), sexual degeneration and so forth. These observations functioned to

justify the very propriety of colonial domination. Colonial power was buttressed (rinforzato) by the

production of knowledge about colonised cultures which endlessly produced a degenerate image of the

Orient for those in the West, or Occident. In this way, its colonisation could be justified in benign or moral

terms, as a way of spreading the benefits of Western civilisation and saving native peoples from their own

perceived barbarism.

Fanon shows how this works at a psychological level for the oppressed, while Said demonstrates

the legitimation of Empire for the oppressor.

The turn to 'theory' in the 1980s

A new generation of critics turned to more 'theoretical' materials in their

thinking. Postcolonialism as a discipline emerging in the 1980s. Three forms of textual analysis in particular

became popular in the wake (scia) of 'Orientalism':

1. One involved re-reading canonical English literature in order to examine if past representations

perpetuated or questioned the latent assumptions of colonial discourses. This form of textual analysis

proceeded along two avenues:

a. In one direction, critics looked at writers who dealt (in accordo) manifestly with colonial

themes and argued about whether their work was supportive or critical of colonial

discourses (an example is Joseph Conrad's novel, 'Heart of Darkness').

b. In another direction, texts that seemingly had little to do with colonialism, such as Jane

Austen's 'Mansfield Park' (1814) or Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' (1847).

2. Second, a group of critics who worked with the poststructuralist thought of Jacques Derrida, Michel

Foucault and Jacques Lacan began to dwell (risiede in) in particular upon the representation of

colonised subjects across a variety of colonial texts. This issue was pursued in different ways by two of

the leading postcolonial theorists :

a. Homi K. Bhabha explored the possibility of reading colonial discourses as endlessly the

colonial values they seemed to support.

b. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak explored the problem of whether or not it was possible to recover

the voices of those who had been made subjects of colonial representations, particularly women,

and read them as potentially disruptive and subversive.

Since the 1980s, Said, Bhabha and Spivak have opened a wide variety of theoretical issues central to


3. The third form of literary analysis engendered (prodotta) by the turn to theory brought together some of

the insights gained by theories of colonial discourses with readings of the new literatures from

countries with a history of colonialism. These literatures were primarily concerned with writing back to the

centre, actively engaged in a process of questioning and travestying colonial discourses in their work.

The nomenclature of 'Commonwealth' was dropped in preference for 'postcolonial' in describing these

writers and their work, as if to signal a new generation of critics. The 'postcolonial literatures' were

deemed actively engaged in the act of decolonising the mind, worldly, local and political.

This approach was crystallised in an important book that appeared at the end of the 1980s titled 'The

Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literature', co-authored by three

critics who were based in Australia: Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin. It epitomised the

increasingly popular view that literature from the once-colonised countries was fundamentally

concerned with challenging the language of colonial power, unlearning its world-view, and producing new

modes of representation. Its authors looked at the fortunes of the English language in countries with a

history of colonialism. They expressed the belief that the 'crucial function of language as a medium of

power demands that post-colonial writing define itself by seizing the language of the centre and replacing

it in a discourse fully adapted to the colonised place'.

This refashioning worked in several ways. Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin claimed that writers were

creating new 'englishes' through various strategies:

• inserting untranslatable words into their texts;

• by glossing seemingly obscure terms;

• by refusing to follow standard English syntax and using structures derived from other languages.

Each of these strategies was demonstrated as operating in a variety of postcolonial texts, and in each

the emphasis was on the writer's attempt to subvert and refashion standard English into various new

forms of 'english', as a way of jettisoning (disfacimento) the colonialist values which standard English


'The Empire Writes Back' asserted that postcolonial writing was always written out of 'the abrogation of

the received English which speaks from the centre, and the act of appropriation. The new 'english' was

ultimately irredeemably (irrimediabilmente) different from the language at the colonial centre. As a

consequence of this irredeemable difference, new values, identities and value-systems were expressed,

and old colonial values wholeheartedly (completamente) rejected.

Three criticisms of 'The Empire Writes Back' are listed here:

1. Gender differences. The Empire Writes Back neglects gender differences between writers. Important

social facts of a writer's identity are passed over by the authors in an attempt to isolate an identifiable,

common mode of postcolonial writing.

2. Regional/national differences. Similarly, there is little sustained attempt to differentiate within or

between writings from divergent places.

3. Is 'writing back' really so prevalent? All writing from once-colonised locations is writing against

colonial discourses.

Into the twenty-first century

By the late 1990s, postcolonialism had become increasingly academically visible. During this decade, key

thinkers in the field published several seminal works which have come to shape much contemporary

postcolonial scholarship (Said, Bhabha and Spivak). By the end of the 1990s, this 'Holy Trinity' of

postcolonial thinkers had become established at the vanguard of what had come to be known

as 'postcolonial theory'. A number of critical works subsequently appeared (Childs, Williams, Leela

Gandhi, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin).

Young foregrounds the growth of colonised resistance movements and considers the various freedom

struggles which where waged in the 19 and 20 centuries across what is termed the 'tricontinent': the lands

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of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Young attempts to retrieve this forgotten history of postcolonial resistance

and challenge the view that postcolonialism is primarily a matter of high-powered critical theory.

The pursuit (ricerca) of postcolonialism primarily through the study of culture continues to flourish today.

'Postcolonialism': definitions and dangers

Colonialism conveniently stops when a colony formally achieves its independence. The symbolic hoisting of

a newly independent colony's flag might promise a crucial moment when governmental power shifts to those

in the newly independent nation. Life after independence in many ways 'is characterised by the persistence of

many of the effects of colonisation'. Internal colonialism persists in many once-colonised countries; for such

peoples, colonial oppression is far from over.

The term 'postcolonialism' recognises both historical continuity and change. We can identify at least three

salient areas that fall within its remit (competenze). Very basically, postcolonialism involves one or more of

the following:

• Reading the cultural endeavours produced by people from countries with a history of colonialism,

primarily those concerned with the workings and legacy of colonialism, and resistance to it, in either the

past or the present.

• Reading cultural texts produced by those that have migrated from countries with a history of

colonialism, or those descended from migrant families, which deal in the main with diaspora

experience and its many consequences.

• In the light of theories of colonial discourses, re-reading texts produced during the colonial period

often by members of the colonising nations; both those that directly address the experiences of Empire,

and those that seem not to.

The term 'reading' means also the wider sense of signifying the critical scrutiny of many creative endeavours.

We must be aware that each area is itself diverse and heterogenous.

2. Reading colonial discourses

Ideology, interpellation, discourse

Colonialism could not function without the existence of a set of beliefs that are held to justify the

(dis)possession and continuing occupation of other people's lands. These beliefs are encoded in

the language which the colonisers speak and to which the colonised peoples are subjected. 'Interpellation'

describes a process by which individual subjects come to internalise the dominant values of society and think

of their place in society in a particular way. Ideology assigns a role and an identity which one meant to

internalise as proper and true, and he is made subject to its iniquitous and disempowering effects, both

psychologically and socially.

Foucault argues that power also worked through gratification. He thought that it is easier to make a person

act according to your wishes by helping them feel valuable, special and amply rewarded.

The realm of knowledge is inseparable from the influence and operation of power. The notion of discourse,

derived from Foucault, turns upon this conjoining of knowledge and power, and points up the complicity of

knowledge, representation and culture in the operation of power at any given moment and in any specific

location. Discourses constitute and produce our sense of reality and objects of knowledge in the first place.

Discourses make and shape the world. They are agents of creation; and their operations are absolutely bound

up with the interests and at the service of power.

Reading cultural texts of colonial discourses serves several purposes:

1. First, this reading approach, sometimes called 'colonial discourses analysis', situates texts in history

by exposing how their ideological and historical contexts influence the production of meaning within

literary texts, and how literary representations themselves have the power to influence their historical


2. Second, the analysis of colonial discourses dares to point out the extent to which the 'very best' of

Western high culture is caught up in the sordid history of colonial exploitation and dispossession.

3. Third, the attention to the machinery of colonial discourses in the past can act as a means of

resourcing resistance to the continuation of colonial representations and realities which remain after formal

colonisation has come to an end: neo-colonialism.

Reading practices are never politically neutral.

Said's works:

-Orientalism (1978);

-The World, the text and the Critic (1983);

-The Question of Palestine (1992);

-Culture and Imperialism (1993);

-Out of Place (1999);

-Humanism and Democratic Criticism (2004).

In Edward W. Said's book Orientalism, he gave us an important definition of Orientalism, theorising them and

shaping postcolonial studies.

Reading Orientalism

Orientalism is one particular theorisation and manifestation of how colonial discourses might

operate, specific to particular historical and colonial contexts. The Orient is the collective noun which has

been used to homogenise and refer to these places. 'Orientalism' refers to the sum of the West's

representations of the Orient. In the book, Said looks at how Orientalism persisted into the late 20 century in


Western media reports of Eastern, especially Arab, lands, despite formal decolonisation for many countries.

The persistence of Orientalist representations reinforces the imaginative machinery of colonialism does

not quickly disappear as soon as once-colonised lands achieve independence and can indeed endure in

refreshed forms.

The shape of Orientalism

1. Orientalism constructs binary oppositions

Fundamental to the view of the world fashioned by Orientalism is the binary division it makes between the

Orient and the Occident.

The Orient is conceived as being everything that the West is not, its 'alter ego'. Each assumed


to exist in opposition to the other. The Orient is frequently described in negative terms that serve to

buttress (rafforzare) a sense of the West's superiority and strength. The orient is a place of

ignorance and stupidity.

The West is assumed as the global seat of knowledge and learning. It occupies a superior rank


while the Orient is its 'other'.

(2) Orientalism is a Western fantasy

According to Said, Western views of the Orient are result from the West's

dreams, fantasies and assumptions about what this apparently radically different, contrasting place contains.

Orientalism is first and foremost (principale) a fabricated thing, a series of images, ways of seeing and

thinking that come to stand (in) as the Orient's 'reality' for those in the West. Orientalism constitutes a vision of

the Orient. It is a creation fashioned by those who presume to rule. Orientalism imposes upon the

Orient Specifically Western visions of its 'reality'.

(3) Orientalism is institutional

The imaginative assumptions of Orientalism find their way into, constitute and make possible a whole

academic and institutional infrastructure where opinions, views and theses about the Orient circulate as

legitimate knowledges, wholly acceptable truths, with tangible material effects. The Orient played a key role in

helping those in the West formulate their own knowledge of the world.

(4) Orientalism is literary and creative

Orientalism also made possible new forms of representation and genres of writing

that enshrined (custodisce) and often celebrated Western experience abroad.

(5) Orientalism is legitimating and self-perpetuating

Orientalist representations function to justify the propriety of Western colonial rule in foreign lands. They

are vitally important part of the arsenal of Empire.

(6) There is a distinction between 'latent' and 'manifest' Orientalism

In order to emphasise the connection between the imaginative assumptions of Orientalism and its specific

examples and effects, Said borrows some terms from Sigmund Freud to distinguish between

a latent Orientalism and a manifest Orientalism.

Latent Orientalism describes the dreams and fantasies about the Orient that remain

relatively constant over time.

Manifest Orientalism refers to the myriad examples of Orientalist knowledge produced

at different historical junctures.

Stereotypes of the Orient and Orientals

1. The Orient is timeless

The Orient is deemed (ritenuto) remote from the enlightening process of historical change. The Orient was

often regarded as 'primitive' or 'backwards'. A westerner travelling to Oriental lands was not just moving

in space from one location to the other, potentially they were also moving back in time, out of history. In

Orientalism, the Orient is presented as a timeless place, changeless and static.

2. The Orient is strange

The Orient is oddly different, unusual, fantastic, bizarre. Westerners can meet all kinds of spectacle

there. Such perceived strangeness often fascinated and horrified those in the West in equal measure.

3. Orientalism makes assumptions about people

Oriental peoples often appeared in Western representations as examples of various invidious racial, ethnic,

religious and national stereotypes. Such assumptions about the inherent characteristics of such

peoples might homogenise and rob them of their individuality as Orientalism mobilised a set of generalised

types. So, all Arabs are violent, all Chinese are inscrutable. Orientalism makes assumptions about gender

Popular gendered stereotypes circulated which underwrote the Orient's radical oddness, its lack of propriety,

such as the effeminate Oriental male or the sexually lascivious exotic Oriental female. The Oriental male was

frequently deemed insufficiently 'manly' and displayed a luxuriousness and foppishness (vanità) that made

him a grotesque parody of the 'gentler' female sex. The exoticised Oriental female, often depicted nude or

partially clothed in plenty of Western representations during the colonial period, could be presented who

held the key to mysterious erotic sexual delights. Western colonialist standards, were meant to be

active, courageous, strong; women were meant to be passive, moral, chaste. But Oriental men and women do

not comply with these gender roles; their gender identity is regarded as transgressive. Once again, an

homogenising logic takes over.

4. The Orient is feminine

Orientalism also subscribes to a more general gendering of the opposition between the Occident and the

Orient as one between rigidly stereotypical versions of masculinity and femininity.

In Orientalism, the East as a whole is 'feminised', deemed passive, submissive, exotic,


luxurious, sexually mysterious and tempting;

The West is thought of in terms of the masculine (that is active, dominant, heroic, rational, self-


controlled and ascetic).

This gendering is evidenced by a specifically sexual vocabulary used by many Westerners when describing

the Orient. This vocabulary of sexual possession reveals the Orient as a site of perverse desire on the part of

many male colonisers. Projected onto the Orient are the fantasies of the West concerning supposed moral

degeneracy, confused and rampant sexualities. If the Occident was associated with the mind then

the Orient was linked to the body: another dichotomous distinction which underwrote the unequal split

between the two realms. The sexual fantasy of the Orient as a desirable repository of all that is constrained by

Western civilisation often acted as a continual stimulus for those who studied it or travelled through Oriental


5. The Oriental is degenerate

Orientalist stereotypes fixed the Orientals' typical and definitive weakness as cowardliness, laziness

(pigrizia), untrustworthiness (inaffidabilità), fickleness (volubilità), laxity, violence and lust (lussuria). Oriental

peoples were often considered as possessing a tenuous moral sense and the readiness (prontezza) to indulge

themselves in the more dubious and criminal aspects of human behaviour. Orientalism posited (postulava)

the notion that Oriental peoples needed to be made civilised and made to conform to the perceived higher

moral standards upheld (confermata) in the West.

Criticisms of Orientalism

1. Orientalism is ahistorical

One major criticism of Orientalism concerns its capacity to make totalising assumptions about a

vast, varied expanse of representations over a very long period of history. Not everyone looked down upon

the Orient so crudely. Mackenzie is trusting of the examples of 'benign' representations the Orient .

2. Said ignores resistance by the colonised by the colonised

Orientalism moves in one direction from the active West to the passive East. His work is in danger of being

just as 'Orientalist' as the field he is describing by not considering alternative representations made by

those subject to colonialism.

3. Said ignores resistance within the West

According to Said, 'every European was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost

totally ethnocentric'. This is certainly a sweeping statement. Porter argues, Orientalism leaves no room to

accommodate what he calls, following Antonio Gramsci, 'counter-hegemonic thought'; that is, opinions

contrary to the dominant views within the West which contest the normative claims of Orientalist discourses.

4. Said neglects the significance of gender

Said acknowledged (riconosciuto) the gendering at the heart of Orientalist discourses and the 'mainly'

pursuit of colonialism and Empire. Said maintains that in Orientalist writing 'women are usually the creatures

of a male power-fantasy. They express unlimited sensuality and they are willing (disponibile)'. Said rarely

looks at women's writing in Orientalism.

Looking at late Victorian and early 20 century travel writing by women, these women were empowered by


colonialism owing to the superior position they perceived themselves to hold in relation to colonised peoples.

In an analogous way to colonised peoples, women were disempowered owing to the inferior position they

were placed in relation to Western men. The intersection of colonial and patriarchal discourses often

places Western women in a contradictory position. They occupy a dominant position due to colonialism, but a

subordinate position in patriarchy . The colonial discourses are multiple, precarious, contested and more

ambivalent than Said conveys in Orientalism. Colonial discourses were in constant confrontation

with resistance and contrary views as part of a wider struggle with, and for, power, in the colonies and in the


'Ambivalence' and 'mimicry' in colonial discourses

Texts rarely embody one point of view. They are often places of thought and debate. Texts can bring into

play several different ways of seeing without always firmly deciding which is the true or most appropriate

one. Homi K. Bhabha is considered to be one of the leading voices in postcolonialism today. Bhabha's

writing is often very challenging to comprehend at a first reading because of his compact and complex written

style. In many ways Bhabha's writing dares to demand a new kind of intellectual writing and reading as part of

his wider postcolonial challenge to received, orthodox ways of thinking. The purpose of looking at Bhabha's

thought is to build a working knowledge of his concepts of 'ambivalence' and 'mimicry' in the operations of

colonial discourses. Bhabha argues that colonial discourses are characterised by a series of

assumptions which aim to legitimate the colonial settlement of other lands and peoples. 'The objective of

colonial discourses is to construe the colonised as a population of degenerate types on the basis of racial

origin, in order to justify conquest and establish systems of administration and instruction'.

• On the one hand , the discourse of colonialism would have it that the Oriental is a radically strange

creature whose bizarre and eccentric nature is the cause of curiosity and concern. Conceived as such, the

colonised are figured as the 'other' of the Westerner, essentially beyond Western comprehension, outside

Western culture and civilisation.

• On the other hand , the discourse of colonialism attempts to domesticate the perceived

radical 'otherness', bringing them within Western understanding through the Orientalist project of

constructing knowledge about them and constituting them as an object of study. Crucially for Bhabha, the

colonialist construction of 'otherness' is hence split by the contradictory positioning of the colonised as

simultaneously inside and outside of Western knowledge and comprehension . This contradiction can be

grasped through the function of the colonialist stereotype.

On the one hand, stereotypes translate the unfamiliar into coherent terms by seeming to


understand, fix and explain the alleged strangeness of other peoples. Securing the identity of the

colonised in this way lessens (diminuire) the perceived distance between the colonisers and

the colonised by bringing the colonised inside colonialist modes of representation.

But at the same time , the stereotype functions in a contrary direction to maintain a sense of


difference and distinction between the colonisers and the colonised. The stereotype installs

a degree of otherness which keeps the colonised at arm's length. The stereotype

both installs and disavows difference: it ensures that the colonised are at the same time radically

other yet capable of being understood.

The discourse of colonialism is frequently populated with 'terrifying stereotypes of savagery, cannibalism,

lust and anarchy'. This is why the colonised are both fascinating and frightening to the colonisers. Their

representation vacillates between Western reason and fantasy. Bhabha argues that within colonialist

representations the colonised subject is always in motion, sliding ambivalently between the polarities of

similarity and difference, rationality and fantasy. The repetition of the colonial stereotype is an attempt to

secure the colonised in a fixed position, but also an acknowledgement, that this can never be

achieved. Bhabha's discourse of colonialism differs quite radically from Said's notion of Orientalism.

• for Bhabha, colonial discourses are characterised by both ambivalence and anxious repetition. In

trying to do two things at once it ends up doing neither properly. Bhabha describes mimicry (mimica) as

'one of the most elusive and effective strategies of colonial power and knowledge'. He focuses on the fact

that in colonised locations such as India, the British authorities required native peoples to work on their

behalf and thus had to teach them the English language. These are described by Bhabha as 'mimic

men' who learn to act English but who do not look English and are not accepted as such. They

are Anglicised, rather than English. He argues that the presence of such Anglicised

peoples menaces the discourse of colonialism because they threaten to expose the ambivalence at its

heart. Hearing their language coming through the mouths of the colonised, the colonisers are faced with

the worrying threat of resemblance (somiglianza) between coloniser and colonised. This threatens to

collapse the Orientalist structure of knowledge in which such oppositional distinctions are made. In

seizing upon mimicry as a potentially menacing modality, Bhabha departs from a way of thinking about

mimicry as describing the condition of the colonised's subservience. He invites us to think about the ways

in which colonial discourses can always break down when attempting to secure their

primary aims.

Colonial discourses and Rudyard Kipling: reading 'The Overland Mail'

Kipling was born in India in 1865 and, although educated in England, spent much of his time as a young man

in the country of his birth, which was also at the same time Britain's largest colony in the Empire. He is

an exemplary artist of imperialism. Kipling's writing can be approached on the one hand as demonstrating the

attitudes and self-certainties of colonial discourses, but also on the other hand as betraying an array of other

sensitivities which, in the play of literary text, offer alternative and less certain vistas. This makes a reading of

his work especially inviting in the context of our explanation of colonial discourses. 'The Overland Mail'

concerns the transportation of letters to British exiles in India who are residing in the Indian hill stations. These

were popular retreats (rifugi) for those who found the Indian climate intolerable through the summer months.

Kipling's poem looks in particular at the 'foot-service to the hills', the journeys undertaken by Indian runners

employed to carry mail from the railway station to the exiles.

3. Nationalist representations


Attitudes to nationalism in postcolonialism are wide-ranging and conflicting.

1. Imagining the nation: forging tradition and history

The idea of the nation is Western in origin. It emerged with the growth of Western capitalism and

industrialisation and was a fundamental component of imperialist expansion. It is almost second nature

these days to map the world as a collective of different nations, each separated from the other by a border.

But borders between nations are constructed, crossed, defended and bloodily contested by warring groups of

people. It is important that we come to think about nations fundamentally as fabrications.

It has become customary in postcolonial studies to talk about the 'myth of the nation' in recognition

of this. Individuals come to think they are part of a greater collective. Central to the idea of the nation and part

of its imaginative foundations are notions of collectivity and belonging, a mutual sense of community that a

group of individuals imagines it shares. These feelings of community are the emotive foundation for the

organisation, administration and membership of the 'state', the political apparatus which enforces the social

order of the nation. It is often pointed out that a sense of mutual belonging is manufactured by the performance

of various traditions, narratives, rituals and symbols which stimulate an individual's sense of being a member of

a particular national collective.

The nation depends upon the invention of national traditions which are made manifest through the repetition

of specific symbols or icons. The performance of national traditions helps secure in place an important sense

of continuity between the nation's present and its past, and assists in concocting (inventare) the unique yet

ultimately fabricated sense of a shared history and common origins of its people.

The emergence of national symbols serves as focal points around a large number of people gather

emotionally and imaginatively as a single, national body. If the invention of tradition is central to the nation,

then so is the confection and narration of its history. A national history legitimates one particular version of

the past as the only one that matters. In many national histories, each occasion is considered a defining

moment in the history of the nation and cements the people's relationship with their past. Individual figures

are often identified heroically as the chief agents of the story of the nation. The common currency of these

perceived extraordinary public figures helps the nation's history assume a degree of intimacy and become

like a 'story of the tribe', providing the people with a shared sense of a common past, a myth of origins and a

collective identity in the present.

2) Language, space, time

A defining feature of the nation is the standardisation of one unitary language that all members can

understand and with which they communicate. In theory all of the nation's people have the means to use

a standard language which enables them to deal with each other despite their individual differences. The

combining of a common language with the idea of a national language remains a very powerful assumption.

The notion of a national language is a key mode of collectivity which services the unifying propensity of

the nation.

The nation is narrated and represented with assumptions about the space and time.

• SPACE--> Nations tend to gather a variety of people into one collective body. He notes that in realist

novels the multitude of characters are connected by the same encircled, fixed landscape within

which they all simultaneously exist.

• TIME--> These simultaneities of space and time are also at work in the form of the daily newspaper.

Newspaper create communities form coincidence. They provide news of manifold events that have often

inadvertently occurred at roughly the same time, within the cycle of 24h. These events are further bounded

by their occurrence in a location presumed to be of common and primary interest to readers.

The simultaneities of space and time exemplified in the formal properties of the novel and the newspaper are

at the heart of the ways by which national subjects consider themselves part of a national community, and

build an identity informed by the national imaginary.

There is one further important element that is often fundamental to nationalist representations: constructions

of otherness. Every definition of identity is always made in relation to something else, a perceived other. The

drawing of imaginative borders between nations is fundamental to the legitimacy of the nation, and borders

formulate the distinction between the nation's people and those others outside and beyond. These ways of

thinking about the nation as a 'myth':

• Nations are imagined communities;

• Nations gather together many individuals who come to imagine their simultaneity with others. This

unified collective is the nation's people;

• Nations depend for their survival upon the invention and performance of histories, traditions and

symbols which sustain the people's specific identity continuously across past and present;

• Nations can evoke powerful feelings of identity, belonging, home and community for the people;

• Nations stimulate the people's sense that they are the rightful occupants and owners of a

specific landscape;

• Nations mobilise a unitary language theoretically accessible to all the people;

• Nations rely on a style of narration that promotes the unities of space and time;

• Nations draw up borders that separate the people 'within' form other peoples outside.

3) National liberation vs. Imperialist domination

Historically, the myth of the nation has proved highly potent and productive in forging effective resistance to

colonialism. It was popular with a variety of independence movements because it served many of their

intellectuals and leaders as a valuable ideal behind which anti-colonial endeavours could collect and

unite. The anti-colonial nationalisms promised a new dawn of independence, suffrage and political self-

determination for colonised peoples. Many colonies were represented in this period as nations-in

chains, shackled by the forces of colonialism, whose peoples had been alienated from the land which was

their rightful possession and which would be returned to them once independence dawned. Two important


1. First of all, it is imperative to realise that the various anti-colonial nationalisms across the colonised

world were not necessarily identical.

2. Second, anti-colonial nationalist movements often accepted and worked with the national territorial

borders that were often invented by the colonising nations (at the Berlin Conference of 1884-5 the

Western powers divided up many African lands between them by drawing imaginary borders around

various parts of the continent). Many anti-colonial nationalisms were working with a map of the world drawn

by the colonisers.

In the SETTLER COLONIES, colonial settlement had proceeded by denying the legitimacy of 'Aboriginal

peoples' claims to the land. The colonisation of Australia was underwritten by the assumption that this

South Pacific land mass was terra nullius, meaning that it belonged to no-one. As the Australian

settlers began to agitate for self-determination in the 19 century and create their own myths of the


Australian nation, the assumption of terra nullius was not necessarily revoked. Settler nationalisms were not

taken into account in constructions of the Nation. Indeed, the assumption that Australia was terra nullius was

revoked only as recently as 1992 when the High Court of Australia recognised that Aboriginal peoples had

the legal right of 'native title' to the land.

In those colonies where indigenous peoples organised themselves into anti-colonial nationalist movements,

in Africa, South Asia and elsewhere, differences of tribe, region and caste were suspended but

not surpassed, while gender hierarchies complicated the establishment of 'deep,

horizontal comradeship' (cameratismo- legame tra compagni) which gathered different individuals together on

an equal footing.

4) Negritude

Negritude is useful to explore at this juncture as it was a particularly powerful mode of dissidence used to

forge 'deep, horizontal comradeship' between colonised peoples. It importantly influenced the development of

thinking about nationalism and nationalist consciousness which could occasionally contend with some of

Negritude's assumptions.

Negritude has been influential in Africa, the Caribbean and America as a mode which enables oppressed

peoples to imagine themselves as a particular and united collective. Today it is associated with the work of 2

Francophone writers and statesmen, Aimé Césaire and Léopold Senghor. Negritude worked with many of

the central tenets of the 'myth of the nation'. One of its aims was to unite peoples living in different places

through a sense of shared ancestry and common origin, and it retained a distinctly pan-national and

indeed pan-continental set of aims. Its significance as an important means of mounting anti-colonial

resistance in the 20 century should not be underestimated, even if it is today less sympathetically regarded


than it once was.

Aimé Césaire was born in the French Caribbean colony of Martinique. He came to Paris, where he met

fellow-student Léopold Senghor. Césaire and Senghor found themselves commonly identified in France

as négres, a derogatory insult that approximates to the racist term 'nigger' (negro) in English. Césaire and

Senghor fought back at derogatory views of black peoples in their writing by presenting the condition of

being black as profoundly valuable. The Negritude writers wrote in praise of the laudable qualities of black

peoples and cultures.

Colonial discourses are almost always racist discourses. They frequently evoke blackness as the visible

sign of the colonised's degeneracy

. In the 19 century, throughout Europe it was commonly believed that the


world's population existed as a hierarchy of 'races' based upon skin colour, with white Europeans deemed

the most civilised and black Africans as the most savage.

The legacy of this negative sense of blackness is still apparent in the English language

today. Negritude was an attempt to rescue and reverse blackness from its definition always in negative

terms. Blackness was reconstructed as something positive and valuable. At the heart of Negritude was

the celebration of blackness, much more than the colour of skin.

For Senghor, Negritude was a project that attempted to return a sense of dignity and value to black

peoples and their cultures. In his prose and poetry Senghor celebrated their sophistication and special

qualities. In pursuing these arguments, Senghor made claims about the specific qualities to be found in all

people of black African descent, whether they lived in Africa or had (been) moved elsewhere. These intuitive

qualities manifested themselves in things like 'emotional warmth' and a 'natural' sense

of rhythm. 'Civilisation' stands for Senghor's Western education which has impoverished his existence and

made himself suppress his instinctual responses. Senghor argued to realign themselves with these special,

unique qualities, to embrace their 'characteristics of the African soul' with pride and dignity.

Negritude is the defence and development of African cultural values. Negritude is a myth. Negritude as a

true myth is the opposite of these. It is the awareness by a particular social group of people of its own situation

in the world, and the expression of it by means of the concrete image.

The concrete image which clinched a sense of unity was ultimately the racializing notion of blackness itself.

Césaire's notion of Negritude was different, because he grew up at a distance from Africa,

both physically and imaginatively.

• On the one hand he was descended from the African slaves that had been brought to the Caribbean;

• On the other hand, he had never lived in Africa and could not know it like Senghor.

His Africa was learned second-hand from books and friends. The recovery of an African past as a source of

values ad renewal was more problematic for black people in the Caribbean. He understood Negritude primarily

as something to be measured 'with the compass of suffering'. This meant that black people were united

more by their shared experience of oppression than by their essential qualities as 'Negroes'.

Césaire's work is ambivalent towards the issue of the essential differences between white and black people

and is marked by a tension between perceiving Negritude as grounded in instincts or in historical


He urges the black population of Martinique to unite as one and realise themselves specifically as a people

within the Caribbean, with their own histories and predicaments. They can join the fight with other

oppressed peoples around the world. Oppressed peoples discover their unity in the simultaneity of their

suffering. Césaire’s engagement with Negritude demonstrates the different pathways (strade) down which it

developed. Senghor and Césaire were passionate humanists and the term Negritude offered a way of uniting

oppressed black peoples and defying their representation in colonial discourses through the re-appropriation of

colonialist models of ‘race’. But both writers saw as the ultimate goal of Negritude the emancipation of all

peoples from the sorry condition of colonialism.


1. Negritude inverts the terms of colonial discourses. It was a familiar trope (metafora) of colonial

discourses that black peoples were mysteriously 'closer to nature' than white Europeans. The Negritude

writers countered this view by accepting but celebrating their 'elemental' nature.

2. Negritude upholds (sostiene) separatist binary oppositions. Negritude used the binary distinctions

between white and black, African and European, common to many colonial discourses.

3. Negritude is nostalgic for a mythic African past. Negritude often posited a 'golden age' of pre-colonial

Africa from which black peoples had been separated by colonialism, and to which they must return.

4. Negritude has very little to say about gender differences and inequalities. Negritude makes a myth

of Africa's past, it is a male myth. It united black peoples around a masculinist representation of

blackness and cared little for the internal unequal relations of gender.

5) Frantz Fanon, national culture and national consciousness

Frantz Fanon in 1953 was appointed as head of the Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria at a time when the

Algerian's struggle against France for national independence was mounting. Deeply affected by his

experiences of racism in North Africa during the war, and politicised by his work with Algerian patients

who suffered mental torment as a consequence of their subjugation to a colonial power, Fanon eventually

resigned his post to fight alongside the Algerians for independence and became a leading figure in their

struggle. Hated in France, he survived numerous attempts on his life during the 1950s before falling ill with

leukaemia. Fanon's writings cover a range of areas and have been influential in a number of fields.

In postcolonial studies, his work has been significant as providing a way of conceptualising the construction

of identity under colonialism and as a way of configuring the relationship between nation, nationalism, national

consciousness and national culture an anti-colonial context.

At the Second Congress of Black Artists and Writers in Rome in 1959, Fanon stressed the urgent

responsibility of writers and intellectuals to forge new forms of national culture as part of the contribution to

the development of the people's national consciousness. Fanon's work advocated a more dynamic and

vacillating relationship between the past and the present. Fanon understood the objectives of Negritude and

recognised its urge uncritically to champion indigenous cultures in defiance of colonialist discourses. Fanon's

ideas were influenced more by Marxist notions of revolution, his theorising of the resistance to

colonialism ultimately refused an uncritical notion of an African past. Instead, national culture and national

consciousness were historical, dynamic things, fashioned by the people under particular conditions and


The term 'native intellectual' refers to the writers and thinkers of the colonised nation who have often been

educated under the auspices of the colonising power. The Western- educated native intellectual is in danger of

identifying more with the middle-class bourgeoise of the colonising nation than with the indigenous masses.

This complicates the role which the native intellectual plays in contributing to the people's anti-colonial

nationalist struggle. Fanon notes how native intellectuals have, in the past, attempted to cherish a

generalised pan- African culture in their resistance to colonial ways of seeing. This is because the historical

circumstances of African peoples in different parts of the globe cannot be so readily unified. An abstract

notion of a pan- African culture is to ignore the different conditions of African peoples in a variety of

locations, such as in America or the Caribbean. 'Every culture is first and foremost national'. National

consciousness is dependent in part on important cultural activities. National consciousness and

national culture are inseparable from each other. Intellectuals have a vital role to play in contributing to the

struggle, as Fanon indicates in three distinct phases:

1. In the first phase, the native intellectual attempts what Fanon calls 'unqualified assimilation'. This

means that he or she is inspired by and attempts to copy the dominant trends in the literature of the

colonising power. In so doing the cultural traditions of the colonised nation are ignored as the native

intellectual aspires to mimic and reproduce the cultural fashions of the colonising power.

2. In the second phase, the native intellectual grows dissatisfied with copying the coloniser and

begins the literature of 'just-before-the-battle' when the native intellectual begins to reflect on the past of

the people. The native intellectual becomes too concerned with cherishing (apprezzare) and speaking for

the past and ignores the people's struggles in the present. Glorifying the cultural achievements of the

past is not enough. A new way of mobilising inherited culture is required. This involves the native

intellectual connecting better with the people and being drawn into closer proximity to their condition

and endeavours.

3. The third phase, or 'fighting phase', in which the native intellectual becomes directly involved in the

people's struggle against colonialism. In this phase, he or she becomes conscious of his or her previous

estrangement from the people and realises that it is not enough to try to get back to the people in

that past out of which they have already emerged. A more dynamic relationship is forged between

the cultural resources of the past and the struggle against colonialism in the present. Traditional

culture is mobilised as part of the people's fight against oppression and it is transformed in the process.

The native intellectual must participate in the active reinterpretation of traditional cultural resources in the

present. The native intellectual has to learn from the people to modify, reinterpret and reform traditional

culture at the service of forging a new national consciousness in which the people's struggle is the

bedrock (fondamento).

Fanon emphasises national culture as a vital, unstable matter that is always being made and re-made. He

concludes by underlining the central role culture has to play in creating the conditions for a national

consciousness that can overcome colonialism and lay the foundations for a newly, and truly, independent

nation. Crucial to Fanon's articulation of national culture is his sense of culture as dynamic and responsive to

historical circumstances. Native intellectuals are schooled by the people and must take the struggle as their

guide in forging national consciousness and culture.

Fanon warns of the dangers ahead for colonised nations if those who come to occupy positions of power in

the nation betray the people in the interests of the privileged few. The achievement of self-

determination through the people's struggle is a first step. A nationalist victory against colonialism means

little if it does not secure the future of national consciousness and transform the nation once independence has

been realised. Little is achieved if the old seats of colonial government are simply occupied by a new

indigenous élite. Fanon is engaging with the issue of neo-colonialism: the perpetuation of a nation's

subservience to the interests of Europe, supported by an indigenous élite, after colonialism has formally

ended. He outlines how the newly independent nation may be administered by an indigenous middle

class that uses its privileged education and position cheerfully to replicate the colonial administration of the

nation for its own financial profit. This class is 'neo-colonial' in that it continues to exploit the people in a way

no dissimilar to the colonialists. It keeps the new nation economically linked to the interests of the old

colonial Western powers by allowing foreign companies to secure lucrative contracts in the new nation, by

continuing to send profits, goods and materials abroad rather than focus on improving the material existence of

the people. The national middle-class profit from these manoeuvres but this wealth never reaches the

people, who remain powerless and in poverty. A nation that remains economically dependent on the West,

and that treats its people in this way cannot call itself truly free.

Fanon warns that the achievement of independence is a beginning. As with the construction of national

consciousness, intellectuals and writers have an important role to play in maintaining this vigilance after

power has been seized.

6) Nationalist discourses, national culture

• They assert the rights of colonised peoples to make their own self-definitions;

• They offer the means by which divergent peoples within a colonised nation can co-ordinate

solidarity across cultural, educational and class differences;

• They value the cultural inheritance and current endeavours of colonised people in defiance of colonial

discourses, and can use them for revolutionary purposes;

• They offer the means to identify and build alternative histories, cultural traditions and knowledges

which conflict with colonialist representations;

• With particular reference to Fanon, the advocacy of national consciousness via the forging of national

culture looks forward to a future for the newly independent nation which is meaningfully free of neo-colonial

Western influence, materially and culturally.

In his work on role of the native intellectual, Fanon provides us with a way of thinking about how cultural

activities, such as literary creativity, are bound up with the wider political struggles of decolonisation.

Writers clearly conceived of their role in wider national terms and thought about the ways in which their work

might contribute to decolonising the mind. Innes notes several characteristics in much nationalist

writing which used European languages and literary forms:

I. First, argues Innes, nationalist writers asserted 'the existence of a culture which was the antithesis of

the colonial one';

II. Second, they emphasised the relationship between the people and the land in order to underline

the illegitimate intrusion of the colonisers, asserting a 'unity between place and people';

III. Third, there was a tendency in some nationalist writing to gender representations of colonial

domination and nationalist resistance.

7)Constructing national consciousness: Ngugi's A Grain of Wheat

Ngugi wa Thiong'o's novel 'A Grain of Wheat' concerns the achievement of Kenyan independence on 12

December 1963. It explores several issues:

• Now a writer contributes to the forging of national consciousness by engaging with the people's


• The process of forging national symbols as well as its pitfalls (trappole);

• The challenge of independence;

• The danger of neo-colonialism.

Ngugi wa Thiong'o was born in Kamarithu, Kenya, in 1938. He studied at Makarere University College in

Uganda and at the University of Leeds, UK. He returned to Kenya to work in the Literature Department at the

University of Nairobi. On 31 December 1977 he was arrested and detained without charge by the Kenyan

police until 12 December 1978. On his release he was not allowed to continue in his academic post, and in

1982 he left Kenya to enter a self-imposed exile.

'A Grain of Wheat' is set during the 4 days leading up to Uhuru. Its central characters are members of

the peasant community of Thabai Ridge, and through their memories Ngugi examines how the struggle for

independence impacted on the ordinary lives of the people. Much of the novel occurs in flashback.

On 20 October 1952 a State of Emergency was declared in colonised Kenya and several

leading members in the push for independence were arrested. As a consequence, many peasants left their

homes and took to the hills where they waged a guerrilla was against the British. In Ngugi's novel we hear

about the leading figures in the independence movement.


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Riassunto per l'esame di Letteratura inglese, basato su appunti personali e studio autonomo del testo consigliato dal docente Dolce Maria Renata: Beginning Postcolonialism, McLeod. Gli argomenti trattati sono i seguenti: Introduction, From 'Commonwealth' to 'postcolonial', Reading colonial discourses, Nationalist representations, The nation in question, Re-reading and re-writing English literature, Some definitions , Diaspora identities+ approfondimento Chinua Achebe su Things fall apart.

Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in lingue culture e letterature straniere
A.A.: 2018-2019

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher francescacaropreso di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Letteratura inglese e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Salento - Unisalento o del prof Dolce Maria Renata.

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