Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.



DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N093-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

The term ‘postcolonialism’ is sometimes spelled with a hyphen – post-colonial – and sometimes without. There is no strict general practice, but the hyphenated version is often used to refer to the condition of life after the end of colonialism while the non-hyphenated version denotes the theory that attempts to make sense of this condition. The term is regularly used to denote both colonialism and imperialism even though these refer to different historical realities.

Like postmodernism and poststructuralism, postcolonialism designates a critical practice that is highly eclectic and difficult to define. It involves a studied engagement with the experience of colonialism and its past and present effects at the levels of material culture and of representation. Postcolonialism often involves the discussion of experiences such as those of slavery, migration, suppression and resistance, difference, race, gender, place and analysis of the responses to the discourses of imperial Europe, such as history, philosophy, anthropology and linguistics. Since conditions under imperialism and colonialism proper are as much the subject of postcolonialism as those coming after the historical end of colonialism, postcolonialism allows for a wide range of applications and a constant interplay between the sense of a historical transition, a cultural location and an epochal condition. Postcolonialism is seen to pertain as much to conditions of existence in former colonies as to conditions in diaspora. Both are frequently linked to the continuing power and authority of the West in the global political, economic and symbolic spheres and the ways in which resistance to, appropriation of and negotiation with the West’s order are prosecuted. However the term is construed, there is as much focus on the discourse and ideology of colonialism as on the material effects of colonial subjugation. Because it has its source in past and continuing oppression, postcolonialism furthermore has affinities with multicultural, feminist, and gay and lesbian studies.

Citing this article:
Quayson, Ato. Postcolonialism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N093-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.