Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader - A Critical Review
Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader is a collection of essays edited by Padmini Mongia that aims to address the crisis and contestations in postcolonial theory. Published in 1996, this book offers a comprehensive overview of the key concepts, debates, and critiques of postcolonial theory from various perspectives and disciplines. The book is divided into three parts: Shifting Terrains, Disciplining Knowledge, and Location of Practice. Each part contains several essays that explore the definitional problems, disciplinary boundaries, and historical conditions of postcolonial theory.
In this article, I will provide a brief summary and analysis of each part of the book, as well as some of the strengths and weaknesses of this reader. I will also discuss how this book can be useful for students and scholars who are interested in learning more about postcolonial theory and its implications for contemporary cultural studies.
Part One: Shifting Terrains
The first part of the book consists of seven essays that examine the origins, definitions, and challenges of postcolonial theory. The essays include some of the \"classics\" of the field, such as Edward Said's \"From Orientalism\", Homi Bhabha's \"The Other Question\", and Kwame Anthony Appiah's \"Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in Postcolonial?\". These essays trace the genealogy of postcolonial theory from its roots in anti-colonial resistance, literary criticism, and cultural studies, to its emergence as a distinct field of inquiry in the 1980s and 1990s. They also interrogate the assumptions, limitations, and contradictions of postcolonial theory, such as its relation to modernity, nationalism, identity, and representation.
The essays in this part also introduce some of the key concepts and terms that are central to postcolonial theory, such as Orientalism, hybridity, diaspora, nativism, and subalternity. These concepts are used to analyze how colonialism and its aftermath have shaped the cultural, political, and epistemological formations of both the colonized and the colonizer. The essays also demonstrate how postcolonial theory can be applied to various texts and contexts, such as literature, film, history, and anthropology.
Some of the strengths of this part are that it provides a comprehensive overview of the main themes and debates of postcolonial theory, as well as some of the seminal works that have influenced its development. It also shows how postcolonial theory is interdisciplinary and dialogic, drawing on various sources and perspectives to challenge dominant narratives and discourses. Some of the weaknesses of this part are that it can be dense and difficult to follow for beginners who are not familiar with the terminology and references used by the authors. It can also be repetitive and overlapping in some places, as some of the essays cover similar topics or arguments.
Part Two: Disciplining Knowledge
The second part of the book consists of five essays that explore how postcolonial theory relates to other fields and disciplines of knowledge production. The essays include some of the critiques that have been raised against postcolonial theory from various angles, such as feminism, Marxism, historiography, and poststructuralism. These essays question the validity and usefulness of postcolonial theory as a mode of analysis and critique that can account for the complexity and diversity of postcolonial experiences and realities.
The essays in this part also examine how postcolonial theory itself is shaped by the institutional practices and power relations that govern academic disciplines and discourses. They expose how postcolonial theory can be complicit with or resistant to the hegemonic structures and ideologies that it seeks to challenge. They also suggest ways to rethink or reformulate postcolonial theory in light of its limitations and contradictions.
Some of the strengths of this part are that it provides a critical perspective on postcolonial theory that exposes its blind spots and gaps. It also shows how postcolonial theory can be enriched or challenged by engaging with other theories and disciplines that have different assumptions or objectives. Some of the weaknesses of this part are that it can be polemical or dismissive in some places, without offering constructive alternatives or solutions. 0efd9a6b88