Post colonialism

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Postcolonialism is an intellectual movement that has developed since the middle of the 20th century in dealing with the history of colonialism and imperialism . It is attributed to post-structuralism and describes a “dialectical concept” that is based on the one hand on the decolonization and political sovereignty of the former colonies vis-à-vis their colonial powers, but on the other hand an awareness of the continued existence of imperialist structures in various areas of life such as B. who wants to create politics and economics. Postcolonial theory formation exists in geography , history , cultural studies, literary studies , political science , sociology , religious studies and theology , among others . Post-colonialist approaches examine the culture and identity of the nations or population groups that have been shaped by colonization contexts. They pursue an emancipatory interest through their discursive influence on the reconstruction of cultural knowledge. Most of their theorists such as B. Homi K. Bhabha or María do Mar Castro Varela understand it not only as a science, but also as a form of resistance; others emphasize the aspect of the transformation of post-colonial and colonizing societies or the need for reconciliation . The Subaltern Studies Group was influential in developing the approach .

Definitions and Development

The first ideas of postcolonialism existed as early as 1947, when India separated from the British Empire and joined the Commonwealth of Nations as an independent state . Since the 1950s the interest of left-wing intellectuals in the “Third World” has increased steadily. From the mid-1970s, the critical questioning of the long positive history of colonization established itself as a post-colonialist theory in an interdisciplinary scientific framework at central universities.

Edward Said's powerful work "Orientalism" (1978) was groundbreaking for this development. The publication was followed by the passionate and controversial "Orientalism Debate" and which today counts as the "founding document" of postcolonialism. Said himself does not use the term “postcolonialism” in his book. In his text he formulates two fundamental theses that shaped the public discourse: Firstly, Western scientists, “Orient experts”, in their presentation of the foreign culture, initially constructed this object of their research as an inferior other and in this way ultimately created it. Second, the knowledge produced in this way was instrumentalized to solidify and legitimize colonial power structures by implementing it in the educational canon of the colonized subjects without any alternative.

The term post-colonialism, which is linked to this debate, has remained fuzzy ever since. While it was still related to the independence of former colonies in the political debate in the 1970s, its use has expanded since the 1980s to the study of all forms of colonized cultures in the broadest sense, past and present. In this way, the term acquired an epistemic dimension of meaning beyond the historical .

The basis of the post-colonial approaches is the assumption that the colonies are only politically liberated, but are still ruled by the hegemony of Eurocentric perspectives. This means that Said's thesis of Orientalism is first adopted. In the process of colonization there was violent cultural contact: one culture conquered the other, reshaped it in its own image, changed and destroyed it in order to dominate it. This change came not only through military force, but also through the power of language and knowledge. In the course of the penetration of the world, European science defined what z. B. Oriental or Asian , but also in the self-description what is Western and European . Despite its neutral claim, it applies Eurocentric standards: the names of all continents come from ancient Rome (with the exception of America).

Due to the dominance of the colonial power in various areas of life such as jurisdiction and religion (introduction of European law, missionary work ), the culture of the colonized area was destroyed. Examples are the murder of black shamans and voodoo houngans in the course of the slave trade or the burning of pagan images and writings by Christian missionaries in South America . After the Second World War, Portugal , Spain , France , Belgium and Great Britain only remained colonial powers for a short time , and gradually all the major colonies gained political independence . Mentally, however, they remained colonized: even during the Cold War they leaned against one of the two superpowers. The post-colonial legacy is also evident in sport , as both the Olympic Games and World Championships are shaped by Europe and North America. The media coverage here particularly highlights the successes of the former colonial rulers. Even the new national sports such as cricket in the West Indies are decisively shaped by the former colonial power.

Post-colonialism therefore calls the recourse of colonized subjects to apparently own traditions as questionable, since these traditions were shaped, reshaped or even created by the Western power of definition. This does not reduce the authenticity of the tradition; In their articulation, however, their reproduction fixes the historically founded power of interpretation of Western cultures. Postcolonial approaches, developed by immigrants in the USA and intellectuals from India, examine this paradoxical process of self-discovery by groups and individuals from the former colonies. The prefix post- is thus no longer understood in the context of the theory as linear-historical, since the understanding of history has developed towards a view of complex-entangled interactions.

Postcolonial approaches postulate an option to modify these entrenched structures. In the process of appropriating the constructed knowledge on the part of the colonized, they see transformation potential that enables resistance to the power structure. With the reformulation of historical experience in public discourse, the content of knowledge changes.

This concept finally gave rise to the awareness that colonization left its mark not only on the colonized, but also on the colonizers. Under the heading of intertwining story ( "entangled history") postcolonial approaches attempt to reveal these traces of colonialism and to show how colonialism has acted through the discourse between all parties on the self-image of the colonial powers. The cultural scientist Michael Bergunder understands this interwoven history primarily as the fact that the so-called West did not experience an autonomous history due to its “entanglement” with the colonies, but that its identity formation was “intertwined” with those of the colonized. The sedimentation of Western knowledge was also dependent on it being repeated by the colonized. Even if this Western knowledge had a hegemonic position here, it is at the same time the product of an "entanglement". In the investigation of this interwoven history, z. For example, as a critical perspective on whiteness since the 1990s in the academic discourse on post-colonialism in the USA, an examination of the term “critical whiteness studies” has been developed.

Issues and limits of application

Postcolonial theorists address the following questions: What happened to colonialist thought at the end of the colonial era? What is the legacy of the colonial era and what social, cultural and economic consequences have grown out of it and are still visible today? One explores experiences of oppression, resistance, gender, migration in (post-) colonial contexts, and this also with regard to the colonizers. To what extent did the reorientation in the course of the experience of gained autonomy under the changed conditions lead to the development of individual nationalisms with cultural and political tendencies to demarcate former colonial states? The post-colonialist school of thought takes a critical look at the power structures that still exist and sees itself committed to the ideal of “transnational social justice”. Postcolonialism does not refer to geographical limitations, but is used by minorities in all parts of the world to reflect structures of oppression in a transformative way. Linked to this is the claim to understand the history of the colonial powers in the same way as that of the colonies as a product of global interdependence that can neither be described nor understood autonomously. To this end, postcolonialism also deconstructs pairs of terms such as: democracy-despotism, civilized-primitive, progressive-retrograde, rational-irrational.

Problems arise when applying postcolonial studies to disintegrated multiethnic rule structures such as the Ottoman Empire or the Habsburg Empire . The state structures that emerged from the collapse of these empires are often very heterogeneous and in some cases have a-national, premodern features. They are characterized by multiple identities and overlapping power structures.

In 2014, the first political science chair in Germany was established at the University of Kassel , dedicated to post-colonial studies. It is occupied by Aram Ziai .

Marxist Critique of Postcolonialism

The Marxist criticism of postcolonialism aims to disregard the economic causes of colonialism in its fixation on cultural problems. It does not provide an explanation why the European powers do not simply leave the "others" alone in the context of cultural contact. If one wants to explain this fact and know how colonial dependencies are still being re-established in the context of so-called globalization , one must necessarily deal with theories of imperialism or other economic explanations - in addition to culture, state and capital play an important role in colonization.

Despite frequent criticism from the Marxist side, a clear distinction between Marxist and postcolonial theoretical approaches is not always possible. Stuart Hall , for example, represents quite a Marxist point of view, while the non-Marxist literary critic Homi K. Bhabha refers more to anti-essentialist theoretical models such as B. by Laclau and Mouffe .

The sociologist Vivek Chibber published a Marxist-argued criticism that was widely discussed and criticized in 2013 with Postcolonial theory and the specter of capital (German edition: Postkoloniale theory und das Gespenst des Kapitals , Berlin 2018). Here he mainly works on the post-colonialist Subaltern Studies, especially the Subaltern Studies Group . He seeks to deal with their founders and their most important publications. Above all, Chibber argues that the proponents of subaltern studies did not correctly grasp and present the universalization of capital, reproduced clichés about the Orient and painted a picture of the development of western liberalism in connection with the emergence of capitalism, and so did not portray them that would correspond to real history. Chibber confronts this with central Marxist insights into the development of capitalism and capital, which he defends as historically correct considerations. At the same time, he recognizes the work of Subaltern Studies on the colonial history of India. He tries to show that capitalism can come to terms very well with different cultures and the ways in which they act, and that it does not matter to completely turn societies and their internal relationships upside down and unify them.

Postcolonial Critique of Marxism

From the point of view of post-colonialists like Dipesh Chakrabarty , Marxism , which sees itself as universalistic , is a Eurocentric ideology, since it postulates a globally uniform development of capitalism. In contrast, they blame cultural factors for the various special paths of post-colonial capitalism, which does not simply do away with the local traditions and rituals of the village community economy. Ranajit Guha argues that, unlike the European bourgeoisie, the Indian bourgeoisie did not adopt any liberal values: they never saw themselves as champions of democracy. His rule was not accepted by the lower classes.

The American sociologist Vivek Chibber counters this by saying that capitalism can come to terms with various, even archaic, social forms. It is marginal whether a worker in the chip factory prays or not. He objects to Guha that even in Europe it was not the bourgeoisie who brought democracy. The capitalist economy has no solid allies, as the example of China shows. The post-colonial theory paradoxically adopted the bourgeois-liberal interpretation of the bourgeois revolution and capitalist development. From the point of view of Subaltern Studies, the entire European history is leveled to an era of the Enlightenment .

Theorists of postcolonialism (selection)

See also


  • Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin: Post-Colonial Studies. The Key Concepts. Second edition . Routledge, London 2007.
  • Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin: The Empire Writes Back. Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures. 2nd edition. Routledge, London et al. 2002, ISBN 0-415-28020-6 .
  • Iman Attia (Ed.): Orient and Islam images. Interdisciplinary contributions to orientalism and anti-Muslim racism. Unrast, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-89771-466-3 .
  • Doris Bachmann-Medick : Cultural Turns. New orientations in cultural studies (= Rororo 55675 Rowohlt's Encyclopedia ). 3rd, revised edition. Rowohlt-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Reinbek near Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-499-55675-3 (therein Postcolonial Turn. Pp. 184-237).
  • Anke Bartels, Lars Eckstein , Nicole Waller , Dirk Wiemann : Postcolonial Literatures in English. An Introduction . JB Metzler, Berlin 2019.
  • María do Mar Castro Varela, Nikita Dhawan : Postcolonial Theory. A critical introduction (= Cultural Studies. 36). 2nd, completely revised edition. transcript, Bielefeld 2015, ISBN 978-3-8376-1148-9 .
  • Nikita Dhawan: Can the Subaltern Speak German? And Other Risky Questions. Migrant Hybridism versus Subalternity . 2007.
  • Tobias Döring, Uwe Schäfer, Mark Stein (eds.): Can “The Subaltern” be read? The Role of the Critic in Postcolonial Studies (= Acolit. Special No. 2, ISSN  0943-738X ). Johann Wolfgang Goethe University - Institute for English and American Studies, Frankfurt am Main 1996.
  • Jochen Dubiel: Dialectics of Postcolonial Hybridity. The intracultural overcoming of the colonial gaze in literature. Aisthesis-Verlag, Bielefeld 2007, ISBN 978-3-89528-609-4 (also: Mainz, University, dissertation, 2006).
  • Axel Dunker: Counterpoint readings. Colonial structures in German-language literature of the 19th century. Wilhelm Fink, Paderborn et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-7705-4497-4 .
  • Maureen Maisha Eggers, Grada Kilomba , Peggy Piesche, Susan Arndt (eds.): Myths, masks and subjects. Critical whiteness research in Germany . Unrast, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-89771-440-X .
  • Harald Fischer-Tiné: Postcolonial Studies. In: European History Online . 2011, accessed October 26, 2015.
  • Kien Nghi Ha : Ethnicity and Migration Reloaded. Cultural Identity, Difference and Hybridity in the Post-Colonial Discourse. Revised and expanded new edition. wvb - Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Berlin, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-86573-009-4 (At the same time revised and expanded version by: Berlin, Free University, diploma thesis, 1998).
  • Kien Nghi Ha, Nicola Lauré al-Samarai, Sheila Mysorekar (eds.): Re / visionen. Postcolonial Perspectives of People of Color on Racism, Cultural Politics and Resistance in Germany. Unrast, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-89771-458-8 .
  • Ina Kerner: Postcolonial Theories for Introduction (= For Introduction. 365). Junius, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-88506-665-1 .
  • Kuan-wu Lin: Western Spirit in Eastern Body? “Medea” in the intercultural theater of China and Taiwan. For the universalization of ancient Greece (= theater. 17). Transcript, Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-8376-1350-6 (At the same time: Berlin, Freie Universität, dissertation, 2009: Revival of the ancient spirit in the Asian body? ).
  • Ulrike Lindner, Maren Moehring, Mark Stein, Silke Stroh (eds.): Hybrid Cultures - Nervous States. Britain and Germany in a (Post) Colonial World (= Cross Cultures. 129). Rodopi, Amsterdam 2010, ISBN 978-90-420-3228-6 .
  • Ania Loomba , Suvir Kaul, Matti Bunzl , Antoinette Burton, Jed Esty (Eds.): Postcolonial Studies and Beyond. Duke University Press, Durham et al. 2005, ISBN 0-8223-3523-9 .
  • Anshuman A. Mondal : Nationalism and Post-Colonial Identity. Culture and Ideology in India and Egypt. Routledge Shorton, London et al. 2003, ISBN 0-415-31415-1 .
  • Prem Poddar, David Johnson (Ed.): A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures in English. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2005, ISBN 0-7486-1855-4 .
  • Patricia Purtschert: Postcolonial Discourses in Switzerland. “De Schorsch Gaggo travels to Africa”. In: contradiction . Vol. 28, No. 54, 2008, pp. 169–180, digital version (PDF; 779,52) .
  • Patricia Purtschert, Barbara Lüthi , Francesca Falk (eds.): Postkoloniale Schweiz. Forms and consequences of colonialism without colonies (= Postcolonial Studies. Vol. 10). transcript, Bielefeld 2012, ISBN 978-3-8376-1799-3 .
  • Patricia Purtschert, Harald Fischer-Tiné (Ed.): Colonial Switzerland. Rethinking Colonialism from the Margins. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke et al. 2015, ISBN 978-1-137-44273-4 .
  • Markus Schmitz: Cultural criticism without a center. Edward W. Said and the counterpoints of critical decolonization (= Postcolonial Studies. Vol. 1). transcript, Bielefeld 2008, ISBN 978-3-89942-975-6 (also: Münster, University, dissertation, 2007).
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak : Can the Subaltern Speak? Post-colonialism and subordinate articulation (= It depends. Vol. 6). Turia + Kant, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-85132-506-5 .
  • Hito Steyerl , Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodriguez (Ed.): Does the subaltern speak German? Migration and Post-Colonial Criticism. Unrast, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-89771-425-6 .
  • Udo Wolter: The obscure subject of desire. Frantz Fanon and the pitfalls of the subject of liberation. Unrast, Münster 2001, ISBN 3-89771-005-6 .
  • Robert JC Young: Postcolonialism. An Historical Introduction. Blackwell, Oxford et al. 2001, ISBN 0-631-20071-1 .
  • Pramod K. Najar: The Postcolonial Studies Dictionary. Wiley, Malden MA et al. 2015, ISBN 978-1-118-78104-3 .
  • Olaf Zimmermann, Theo Geißler [ed.] Colonialism Debate: Inventory and Consequences . German Cultural Council, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-947308-18-7 , ( online )

Web links


  1. ^ Robert JC Young: Postcolonialism. An Historical Introduction . Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK 2001, ISBN 0-631-20070-3 , pp. 57 .
  2. ^ Robert JC Young: Postcolonialism. An Historical Introduction . Oxford, UK 2001, ISBN 0-631-20070-3 , pp. 57 .
  3. David Jefferess: Postcolonial Resistance: Culture, Liberation and Transformation. Oxford University Press 2008, pp. 23 ff., 136 ff.
  4. ^ Maria Do Mar Castro Varela, Nikita Dhawan: Postcolonial Theory. A critical introduction . Transcript, Bielefeld 2005, ISBN 3-89942-337-2 , p. 29 .
  5. ^ Maria Do Mar Castro Varela, Nikita Dhawan: Postcolonial Theory. A critical introduction . Transcript, Bielefeld 2005, ISBN 3-89942-337-2 , p. 31 f .
  6. Stuart Hall: When Was 'Post Colonialism' Thinking on the Frontier . In: Elisabeth Bronfen (ed.): Hybrid cultures: Contributions to the Anglo-American debate on multiculturalism . Stauffenberg 1997, p. 220 .
  7. Arnd Krüger : Cui bono? On the effect of sports journalism, in: Arnd Krüger & Swantje Scharenberg (ed.): How the media prepare sports - selected aspects of sports journalism. Berlin: Tischler 1993, 24 - 65. ISBN 3-922654-35-5
  8. ^ Hilary M. Beckles: Liberation cricket West Indies cricket culture. Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press 1995. ISBN 0-7190-4314-X
  9. Sebastian Conrad, Shalini Randeria: Introduction. Stories Divided - Europe in a Post-Colonial World . In: Sebastian Conrad, Shalini Randeria (Ed.): Beyond Eurocentrism. Postcolonial Perspectives in History and Cultural Studies . Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2002, p. 17 .
  10. Michael Bergunder: What is religion? Cultural studies considerations on the subject of religious studies. In: Journal for Religious Studies . tape 19 , no. 1/2 . de Gruyter, Berlin 2011, p. 53-54 .
  11. ^ Robert JC Young: Postcolonialism. An Historical Introduction . Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK 2001, ISBN 0-631-20070-3 , pp. 58 .
  12. ^ Robert JC Young: Postcolonialism. An Historical Introduction . Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK 2001, ISBN 0-631-20070-3 , pp. 62 .
  13. ^ Johannes Feichtinger: Habsburg (post-) colonial. Notes on internal colonization in Central Europe. in: J. Feichtinger u. a. (Ed.): Habsburg postcolonial. Power structures and collective memory. Innsbruck 2003, pp. 13–31.
  14. ^ Uni Kassel: Homepage of the department. Retrieved July 4, 2016 .
  15. ^ Excerpts from earlier works in German: D. Chrakrabarty: Europa als Provinz. 2011.
  16. ^ V. Chibber: Postcolonial theory and the specter of capital. A provocative intellectual assault on the Subalternists' foundational work. Verso eBook ISBN 978-1-78168-255-5 ; Übers. Christian Frings: Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital . Dietz, Berlin 2018; Jungle Review , 50, December 13, 2018, p. 6f.