[ilds] hyphens and posts...

Richard Pine richardpin at eircom.net
Tue Jul 10 03:57:29 PDT 2007

May I recommend Leila Gandhi's basic textbook on Postcolonial Theory (not 
sure whether there's a hyphen or not, I suspect not)? It's short, 
intelligent and intelligible, altho I suppose that, written by someone of 
Indian origin it suggests a subaltern reading as opposed to a post-imperial 
reading by someone from the imperium. RP
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Haag" <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 10:19 AM
Subject: Re: [ilds] hyphens and posts...

> Pamela wrote:
>>> Bill had recently asked about the hyphen which is sometimes and
>>> sometimes
>>> not employed in the term postcolonial.  There are pages and pages
>>> written
>>> about this, but in short, the word WITH the hyphen, that is,
>>> post-colonial,
>>> generally refers to the actual literature coming from formerly
>>> colonized
>>> nations.  For instance, Arundhati Roy, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi, etc., are
>>> considered post-colonial writers.  However, without the hyphen it
>>> refers to
>>> the MUCH larger area of discussion surrounding issues of Empire,
>>> decolonization, race, neocolonization, gender, etc. and so forth, all
>>> of
>>> which, according to most contributors on this list serve, seem not to
>>> have
>>> any relation to literature worth discussing...
> I bet that pages and pages have indeed been written about the hyphens
> in this matter.  I cannot see that it matters a whit.  Not that there
> is even agreement with the distinction that Pamela offers above.
> Wikipedia for example is indifferent:
> 'Postcolonialism (also known as postcolonial theory, or spelled with a
> hyphen) refers to a set of theories in philosophy, film and literature
> that grapple with the legacy of colonial rule. As a literary theory or
> critical approach, it deals with literature produced in countries that
> were once colonies of other countries, especially the major European
> colonial powers Britain, France and Spain; in some contexts, it may
> include also countries still under colonial arrangements. It may also
> deal with literature written in or by citizens of colonizing countries
> that takes colonies or their peoples as its subject matter. People from
> colonized countries, especially the British Empire, came to
> universities in Britain; their access to education that was then still
> unavailable in the colonies opened a new criticism, mostly in
> literature, especially in novels. Postcolonial theory became part of
> the critical toolbox in the 1970s, and many practitioners take Edward
> Said's book Orientalism to be the theory's founding work.'
> Not that I am holding up Wikipedia as anything but the example it is,
> and its definition may not represent the views of formerly and
> currently colonised people in Texas.  The reference to Edward Said's
> bogus work Orientalism is more to my point.  Here we have
> 'practitioners' directing Said's farrago of malignant nonsense to the
> books they read as a 'crucial toolbox' -- plumbers one and all blocking
> their own drains.
> The Wikipedia definition is so broad, and at the same time so
> exclusionary and ideologically driven, that it is almost meaningless.
> The definition offered by Pamela is flabbier yet and includes race and
> gender, not to mention 'etc', the latter to allow for whatever the
> latest fashion may be among the 'practitioners' and high priests of
> this particular cult.
> The reason I have brought this up in the context of Bitter Lemons is to
> question what imperium we are talking about.  The major imperiums in
> this case are Ottoman and Byzantine.  And then there is the Venetian
> imperium, and the Arabo-Muslim assaults on and occupation of much of
> the Middle East and the Mediterranean.  Which is not to deny that there
> was a French or a British imperium, but my suspicion is that
> 'postcolonial' is very narrowly and parochially defined by certain
> self-aggrandising elitist groups, 'practitioners' of moribund
> ideologies.  Unfortunately academics are the chief purveyors of these
> mind-numbing tools.  Too often they fail to think, fail to be curious
> or original, and fail to stimulate thought, curiosity or originality
> among those they teach.  But they do write a lot of papers on hyphens,
> it appears.
> I have mentioned before that Durrell's experience of the Mediterranean,
> particularly the Eastern Mediterranean, has been an experience of
> post-Ottomanism.  Indeed it was a progression; as he moved from place
> to place he got deeper into the difficulties created by that Ottoman
> heritage.  It is not that I think such a thing is not relevant. It is
> very relevant indeed.  Rather that I suspect that it goes unrecognised
> by so-called postcolonialists whose historical and cultural awareness
> begins somewhere around 1948 and is no wider than a campus.
> :Michael
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