Problems with the Term "Postcolonial"

© 1997 Anthony R. Guneratne, Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore

Finding the term Postcolonial not only inadequate (since it describes a range of disparate phenomena) but evocative of a past it claims, lexically, to have shed, Shohat is particularly perturbed by its "neutralization" of historically particular oppositional struggles against colonialisms of various kinds, just as McClintock is by its reinscription of individual histories into a grand récit which grants colonialism the "prestige of a history proper." In The Location of Culture Homi Bhabha finesses the difficulty posed by the term by substituting what it should be for what it is, so that "if the jargon of our times . . . has any meaning at all, it dos not lie in the popular use of 'post' to indicate sequentiality" (4). Describing postcolonial migration, diaspora, and exile as part of the "wider significance of the postmodern condition," Bhabha takes the term as an historical given, an acknowledgement of a persistent "contra-modernity" that is "a salutary reminder of the persistent 'neo-colonial' relations within the 'new' world order and the multi-national division of labour" (4-6).


Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.

McClintock, Anne. "The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term 'Post-Colonialism." Social Text 31/32.1 (Wint. 1994): 84-98.

Shohat, Ella. "Notes on the 'Post-Colonial'." Social Text 31/32.1 (Wint. 1994): 99-113.

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