74 Imperial Pocahontas
In Anne McClintock’s essay “The Angel of Progress,” she examines the implications of the term “postcolonial.” She looks at how using such terminology as a framework for understanding the context of colonialism within history is misguided, and only further perpetuates colonial ideology. She discusses how describing history as “postcolonial” is reductionist, and can be used as a cover for the still very real implications of colonialism and current exploitational efforts being undertaken around the world by colonial powers. Near the beginning of this essay, McClintock discusses how, when something is described as “postcolonial,” the relation between “colonizer” and “colonized” becomes skewed towards the “colonizer.” By describing a culture as “postcolonial,” we define the entire history of that culture and its people through its relation to the colonizing power that stripped them of their resources and independence.
As McClintock states: “Other cultures share only a chronological, prepositional relation to a Euro-centered epoch that is over (post-), or not yet begun (pre-). In other words, the world’s multitudinous cultures are marked, not positively by what distinguishes them, but by a subordinate, retrospective relation to linear, European time.”
This relationship reinforced in Pocahontas. Specifically the scene when she first meets John Smith. In the scene, John Smith (colonizer) and Pocahontas (colonized) spot each other across a waterfall. Despite the fact that John Smith’s first reaction upon catching a glimpse is to waste her with his musket (if he didn’t see her as another resource to possess that probably would have been the outcome) they meet in the mist and fall in love. Upon realizing that Pocahontas does not speak English, the language of John Smith’s colonizing power, he says “[y]ou don’t understand a world I’m saying, do you?” While directly colonial and not postcolonial, this interaction demonstrates the point that McClintock is making in “The Angel of Progress.” Pocahontas’s language and distinct, non-white, culture is immediately reduced to the colonizers relationship to it.