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Postcolonial theory

A theoretical approach to analyzing the literature produced in countries that were once colonies, especially of European powers such as Britain, France, and Spain. Postcolonial theory also looks at the broader interactions between European nations and the societies they colonized by dealing with issues such as identity (including gender, race, and class), language, representation, and history. Because native languages and culture were replaced or superseded by European traditions in colonial societies, part of the postcolonialist project is reclamation. Acknowledging the effect of colonialism’s aftermath—its language, discourse, and cultural institutions—has led to an emphasis on hybridity, or the mingling of cultural signs and practices between colonizer and colonized. The Palestinian American cultural critic Edward Said was a major figure of postcolonial thought, and his book Orientalism is often credited as its founding text. Other important postcolonial critics include Homi K. Bhabha, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Frantz Fanon.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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