“Postcolonialism,” one of the most important terms in literary studies today, is not an easy one to define. There are, infact, two different forms of the word in circulation: “post-colonial” (with a hyphen) and “postcolonial” (without a hyphen). And this minor discrepancy reveals two variations of the basic definition. One is easy to explain: “post- colonial with a hyphen’ is “simply a descriptive word, marking literature by people of formerly colonized countries.” But, ‘postcolonialism without a hyphen’ is a much broader term, suggesting not only a period and a body of literature, “but also describing a ‘knowledge-politics’ a lens for viewing the world and a theoretical tool for understanding it.” In this sense colonialism, even if it is produced during postcolonial, primarily due to its oppositional nature. Moreover, Postcolonial period is “not a clear-cut terrain, because it is still developing now.” The study of colonialism and its after-effects is not new, but the new historical situations that require it are not safely in the past either. Postcolonialism thus offers us ways of understanding the “history of the present.” Infact, in the contexts of anti-colonial struggles in Asia, Africa, and South America, much of the ideas of resistance, cultural nationalism, nativism had emerged, and on the basis of these, critics like Edward Said have generated the modes of ‘postcolonial reading’.
Writing in the 1960s in the context of Algeria and its French colonial occupation, Frantz Fanon has been an influential figure in postcolonial theory. In his ‘The Wretched of the Earth‘ (1963) and ‘Black Skins, White Masks‘ (1967) Fanon was the first critic to discourse on the psychological effects of colonialism. He argues that the colonial master’s constant representation of the native as a non-human, animalized thing annihilates the identity of the native. Infact, when the colonial repeatedly paints the native as evil, pagan and primitive, the native gradually begins to accept such prejudiced and construed views as true and loses his sense of self and identity because he can only see himself through the eyes of the white man. Fanon argues that for the native the term man itself begins to mean white man because he does not see himself as a man at all. In terms of culture, the native extends this accepted notion to believe that the only values that matter are those of the white men.
One of the most influential books of modern era, Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism‘ (1978) may be said, quite accurately, to have inaugurated the postcolonial field. Almost contemporary to the works of Derrida, Foucault, Althusser, and the French feminists,this book really set in motion an intellectual turbulence that altered the shape and canon of Western and Eastern academia. In this book Said views colonialism as a undeniably military-political. In other words, the western discourses that constructed the Orient in certain ways contributed to the political and military power of the European over the natives. The European construction of the East as savage, pagan, undeveloped and criminal enabled the European to justify his presence: the poor, weak native needed to be governed and ‘developed’, and it was the task of the European to do so. Europe was, infact, all that the Orient was not: developed, Christian, civilized. As Said puts it, the Orient is Europe’s ‘contrasting image, idea, personality, experience’.
Said located ‘culture’ as central to the empire, and thus demonstrated the materiality of discourse and rhetoric. He asked us to see literary and other texts ‘contrapuntally’, in order to detect the racialized, imperialist discourse within it and to resist it. Reading literature from the perspective of ‘Orientalism’ in mind would make us, for instance, critically aware of how Yeats in his ‘Byzantium’ poems provides Istambul. Here Yeats really adopted Eurocentric or ethnocentric perspective, seeing the an exotic image of East as an exotic ‘other’.
Hence, Postcolonialism is only possible through a resistant reading, when we different historical narrative other than the one handed down to us discourse. Works of literature that are defined as genocide, including slavery, apartheid, and the mass extinction of people such as the Aborigines in Australia. Some women writers even see the patriarchal domination in the society a as a form of colonialism and consider feminism postcolonial resistance to it.
And hence, it can be concluded that the Postcolonial studies, therefore, aims to unmask different facets of colonialism hidden in different forms of cultures.