66 Postcolonialism and its Problems

Nicholas A. Prescott; Shayla Locke; MR; Ethan Dorval; and Mason Masotta

There are many problems with the term “postcolonialism”, as addressed by Anne McClintock in her essay “The Angel of Progress, Pitfalls of the Term Post Colonialism”. “Post” implies a coming after; therefore the term “postcolonialism” would imply that colonialism and its effects are over. While colonies as we knew them seem to be a thing of the past, the effects of colonialism still linger and greatly affect our world. These effects, while not quite “colonial”, have derived from colonialism. First, colonialism is defined as settlers coming into a land, setting up a colony, and taking advantage of the land while typically violently removing the natives or forcing them to conform to their culture. This effectively destroys the colonized country’s culture. While countries are not actively invading lands anymore, America and other large countries are still using facets of colonialism in order to keep third world countries under their power.

One form of a postcolonial system put into practice by colonizers is the idea of a deep settler colony. With the “decolonization” of a territory from the colonizing country, deep settler colonies maintain a continuing form of control from this original colonizing body. This can manifest itself with the establishment of a remaining form of governmental control, or more commonly with the influence of white settlers still being taken as a priority over the landscape. One example of this is Zimbabwe, as one-third of the land of this country is still controlled by British settlers. This goes on to our group’s understanding that the idea of being a postcolonial nation is an inaccurate statement. With “post” implying the end of something, we can understand that deep settler colonies keep the presence of colonialism still intact.

The second form of postcolonialism is a “break-away” colony. Unlike deep settler colonies, breakaway colonies completely separate from their “mother” country. This country forms its own form of independence from the other country though it can still maintain a trade or market relationship with the mother country. Examples of break-away colonies are the US, Australia, and Canada. All of them separated from their founding countries to create their own “independent” countries. Although these countries may still have trading or market relations with their mother countries, none of the trades are mandatory or required by the mother country like you might see in deep settler colonies.

There are many other reasons why the term postcolonialism is problematic. The term postcolonialism redirects global history in terms of the colonized and the colonizer. Even more specifically, the word “post” creates an Eurocentric view of the world in which all the world’s cultures are compared to the colonial powers. This centralizing of focus allows for the plight of the individual, both globally and within those cultures participating in colonialism, to go unnoticed. The proponents of postcolonialism argue that the phrase allows for a more liberated and positive future for the nations that are considered to be postcolonial. However, this grouping creates a fetishized exoticism of those “postcolonial” nations that only increase racism and other impediments to equality on the global scale.

Works Cited

McClintock, Anne. The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term “Post-Colonialism”. Literary Theory: An Anthology by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, Blackwell Publishing, 2013, pp. 1185-1196.


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The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory by Nicholas A. Prescott; Shayla Locke; MR; Ethan Dorval; and Mason Masotta is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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