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The Profits of Postcolonialism

The Profits of Postcolonialism One of the causes of the intellectual irresponsibility that pervades literary theory today is that it is quite possible for one “ism” to be superseded by another before many readers have even discovered what the earlier “ism” stood for. So, as the popularity of postcolonial criticism is beginning to be eclipsed by the next “ism,” whether it be transnationalism, nomadism, or aestheticism, we might want to pause and ask a simple, yet not irrelevant, question: “What was postcolonialism, anyway?” A curious situation emerges when we seek to answer this seemingly easy question, for the critical literature suggests that there has never been a clear consensus among practitioners themselves as to what constitutes reading texts from a postcolonial theoretical perspective, or even what constitutes the canon of criticism. Postcolonial theory, while deeply concerned with the location of the theorist, has not adequately addressed the location of the very term postcoloniality —its ahistoricity and universalizing deployments (Shohat 99). There is little one can do with definitions that claim postcolonial criticism “covers all the cultures affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day” (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin Postcolonial 2), or that postcolonial criticism “foregrounds a http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Duke University Press

The Profits of Postcolonialism

Comparative Literature , Volume 52 (3) – Jan 1, 2000

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2000 by University of Oregon
ISSN
0010-4124
eISSN
1945-8517
DOI
10.1215/-52-3-246
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

One of the causes of the intellectual irresponsibility that pervades literary theory today is that it is quite possible for one “ism” to be superseded by another before many readers have even discovered what the earlier “ism” stood for. So, as the popularity of postcolonial criticism is beginning to be eclipsed by the next “ism,” whether it be transnationalism, nomadism, or aestheticism, we might want to pause and ask a simple, yet not irrelevant, question: “What was postcolonialism, anyway?” A curious situation emerges when we seek to answer this seemingly easy question, for the critical literature suggests that there has never been a clear consensus among practitioners themselves as to what constitutes reading texts from a postcolonial theoretical perspective, or even what constitutes the canon of criticism. Postcolonial theory, while deeply concerned with the location of the theorist, has not adequately addressed the location of the very term postcoloniality —its ahistoricity and universalizing deployments (Shohat 99). There is little one can do with definitions that claim postcolonial criticism “covers all the cultures affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day” (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin Postcolonial 2), or that postcolonial criticism “foregrounds a

Journal

Comparative LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2000

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