Postcolonial is that which questions, overturns, and / or critically refracts colonial authority-its epistemology and forms of violence, its claims to superiority. Postcolonial therefore refers to those theories, texts, political strategies, and modes of activism that engage in such questioning, that aim to challenge structural inequalities and bring about social Justice. It is helpful to view postcolonial in a comparative frame alongside feminism.
Both these approaches arrived at points of critical self-awareness in definitive periods of civil rights protests. This conjunction ay be partly explained by the fact that both approaches champion resistance to entrenched singular forms of authority (patriarchy, empire) from below or from positions of so called weakness. Both too seek the politicians of areas conventionally considered as non political: the domestic space, education, sport, the street, who may walk where, who may sit where, and how.
Some of the central critical concepts of postcolonial developed out of nationalist struggles for independence in the early half of the twentieth century. The political and cultural reforms proposed y anti-colonial movements in such countries as India, Egypt, Algeria, Ghana, Kenya and in the Caribbean, formed the fountainhead of what we now call postcolonial. At first, these movements advocated a politics of assimilation of ‘natives’ or the colonized into colonial society for them to obtain self representation.
They began with limited demands for piecemeal constitutional reforms but it became rapidly clear that the colonial authorities were not ready to dismantle the social, economic and political hierarchies on which their control rested. After the end of World War II, anti colonial nationalist movements took a more confrontational, no-compromise attitude. The demand was for complete independence. This demand extended not only to the liberation of political structures but also to the obliteration of the colonization of the psyche.
The sass marked a period of growing militancy in movements across the colonized world. Alongside came the retrieval and animation of indigenous culture as an important vehicle of national self expression and thus of resistance to the colonial exclusion of the native as uncouth, uncivilized inarticulate and irrational. The nationalist leaders and intellectuals like Gandhi and Nehru in India, fanons in Algeria and Came Markham in Ghana, helped define the major ideologies of postcolonial liberation.
They shaped some of the definitive concepts of postcolonial studies, as later interpreted in the works of Edward Said. They understood the anti-colonial struggle as a Mechanical, or binary, conflict of us against them, of self versus ‘other’. The binary between the so-called rational, superior colonial self and the barbarism and irrationality indicated by everything that was not-self or ‘other’ was to be repudiated wholesale. It was not Just to be turned upside down, but also destroyed. The chains of oppression were to be obliterated and not simply filed down.
If natives or others were always seen as secondary figures, imperfect replicas of the colonizer, wearers of borrowed cultural rags; if native society was invariably represented as disorderly or ethically degenerate; it was important that they remake themselves from scratch. It was essential that they reconstitute their identity on their own terms, that they Initialized, Africanize, or Caribbean themselves. They effectively needed to give birth to a new identity, to peak in a language that was chosen, not imposed. The liberation struggle involved a tripartite process.
It led from attempted cultural assimilation with the colonizers, the first stage, through attempts at political reform, sometimes of an intensively radical kind, as in demands for self -help and self-representation, the second stage. But if the colonial state proved intransigent, as it so often did, from this phase of forceful self-assertion developed a possible third stage; outright militant resistance. As Robbing wrote , conditions could arise where ‘national life’ had to become ‘perforce a national assault’.