Imagining Me

Postcolonial Criticism

Postcolonial criticism is a form of criticism that emerged as a distinct category in the 1990s. One noteworthy effect of postcolonial criticism is to further undermine the universalist claims once made on behalf of literature by liberal humanist critics. Postcolonial critics said that by claiming a great literature has a timeless and universal significance, it means that critics thereby demote or disregard cultural, social, regional, and national differences in experience and outlook, preferring instead to judge all literature by a single, supposedly universal, standard. Universalism is rejected by postcolonial criticism, and postcolonial critics says that whenever a universal signification is claimed for a work, then white, Eurocentric norms and practices are being promoted by the sleight of hand to this elevated status, and all others correspondingly relegated to subsidiary, marginalized roles.

There are six main things that postcolonial critics do. The first one is that they reject the claims to universalisms made on behalf of canonical Western literature, and seek to show its limitation of outlook, especially its inability understand across the boundaries of cultural an ethnic difference. The second one, they examine the representation of other cultures in literature as a way of achieving their rejection to universalism. Then, they show how such literature is often evasively and crucially silent on matters concerned with colonization and imperialism. After that, they foreground question of cultural difference and diversity and examine their treatment in relevant literary works. The fifth one is that they celebrate the mixture and cultural polyvalency, which means the situation where individuals and groups belong to simultaneously to more than one culture. The last one, they develop a perspective, not just applicable to postcolonial literature, where states of marginality, plurality, and perceived “otherness” are seen as source of energy and potential change.

One literary works that can be analyzed using postcolonial criticism is the poem by Derek Walcott entitled A Far Cry from Africa. The main point of this poem is that this poem largely depicts the damage that caused by trying to understand the destructive force of colonialism. In this colonial period, the pain and suffering endured is not something that exists on one side, but it is felt on both sides the colonizer and the colonized.  Walcott brings out that the landscape of Africa that has become ruined with violence is a result of the colonial policies where European aggressors did much to ruin the balance and harmony that might have existed prior to what is presented in the poem, the pre-colonial era. The result, as can be seen in the ending, is that there is a genuine feeling that what is present in Africa and what has been in Africa causes a feeling of displacement because both realities and those who have destroyed it have moved far from the original identity of Africa. Walcott points to a hybridity of violence, a condition where there is enough blame to pass on from the colonizers to the colonized.  The theme of a hybrid identity is inverted when Walcott questions both the British and the African leadership that has brought violence, pain, and suffering to continent and people.

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