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  A critical politico-intellectual formation that is centrally concerned with the impact of colonialism and its contestation on the cultures of both colonizing and colonized peoples in the past, and the reproduction and transformation of colonial relations, representations and practices in the present. Historically, there have been many colonialisms, but the idea of writing \'post\' — \'after\', \'against the grain of\' and \'in the knowledge of\' — colonialism in such a way that our understanding of the present is transformed means that post-colonial studies have usually been concerned with the period between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries, which has been marked by the expansion and contraction of European empires, the consolidation of a capitalist world-economy and the formation of a colonial, colonizing modernity (cf. world-systems analysis). Historically, there have also been many studies that sought to make critical contributions to our knowledge of the colonial past and to draw attention to the shadows it still casts over the present, including colonial/imperial history and studies of \'the development of underdevelopment\' carried out within radical political economy (see development). But the emergence of post-colonialism in the 1980s and 1990s signalled two linked departures from these established traditions of inquiry: first, an explicit theoretical sensibility (which was largely foreign to mainstream history); and secondly, an attempt to recover the political significance of culture and the \'epistemic violence\' of colonialism (which was largely foreign to political economy).

Conceived thus, post-colonialism had its origins in literary and cultural studies, where it received a decisive impetus from Edward Said\'s (1978) critique of Orientalism. This influential text depended on a tense conjunction of humanism and anti-humanism to expose the forms through which European and North American representations of \'the Orient\' had been produced and circulated, but the subsequent development of post-colonialism has usually been much more critical of western humanism and has involved a much closer engagement with post-structuralism, especially the work of Derrida, Foucault and Lacan (Young, 1990). Most recent surveys of post-colonialism have drawn their interpretative contours around the theoretical claims registered by the contrasting figures of Said, Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, all of whom are located within literary and cultural studies (e.g. Childs and Williams, 1997; Moore-Gilbert, 1997). Such an intellectual cartography reflects the disciplinary origins of post-colonialism, and its analytical power has been registered in several important contributions to cultural-historical geography, the history of cartography (see cartography, history of) and the history of geography (see geography, history of) (Huggan, 1989; Barnett, 1998; Clayton, 1999). Even so, this sketch-map does little to register the intersections between scholars in literary and cultural studies and the contributions made to what has become an interdisciplinary field by scholars from other traditions of anthropology, history, sociology and human geography. To be sure, there have been sharp disagreements and constructive engagements across these disciplinary frontiers (Kennedy, 1996), but in this expanded sense post-colonialism takes the following propositions as axiomatic for the critical analysis of colonialism and its successor projects (e.g. neo-colonialism).

An understanding of colonialism and its successor projects has to involve a close and critical reading of colonial discourse. This is much more than an appeal to the texts and records of colonialism; indeed, the appeal to discourse is a way of registering the interpretative problems that inhere within the colonial archive (see Barnett, 1997). A crucial focus of inquiry is on the way in which colonialism constructs its objects by incorporation, projection and erasure. Approaching colonial power in this way has the double effect of allowing us \'to see how power works through language, literature, culture and the institutions which regulate our daily lives\' (Loomba, 1998, p. 47) and of making possible a fuller understanding of the multiplicity of ways in which the exactions and impositions of colonialism are resisted by colonized peoples in cultural as well as political registers (Thomas, 1994). In this connection, colonial spaces are seen as heterogeneous spaces, and colonial discourse theory draws attention to the significance of mimicry, hybridity and transculturation in the co-production of subjectivities and spatialities (cf. Bhabha, 1994) (see also identity politics; subject-formation, geographies of). Some critics continue to be alarmed at the possibility that this interest in the cultures and discursive formations of colonialism has been achieved at the expense of an older, still vital interest in the political economy of capitalism and that, at the limit, a concern with colonial texts and colonial subjectivities licenses a textualism and a subjectivism that are complicit with the new global regimes of capital accumulation (Dirlik, 1997).

An understanding of colonialism and its successor projects has to grasp the complicated and fractured histories through which colonialism passes from the past into the present. This has been a special concern of the subaltern studies project, which has sought to decolonize Indian history in order to illuminate the predicaments of contemporary Indian politics (Chakrabarty, 1992; Prakash, 1994). Some scholars have claimed that the general attempt to chart the cultural displacements of colonialism into the present threatens to destabilize the term \'postcolonialism\' itself. McClintock (1992) has argued that post-colonialism is haunted by the very figure it seeks to displace, as it continues to privilege Europe as the central subject of History by reorienting the world around the single axis of the colonial/post-colonial (see Eurocentrism). Neither the history of colonizing societies nor the history of colonized societies is fully and exhaustively defined by colonialism and its afermath. But Hall (1996) has suggested that the post-colonial is more productively seen as marking an uneven and serialized process of decolonization that calls into question the binary form in which the colonial encounter has conventionally been represented.

An understanding of colonialism and its successor projects has to map the ways in which metropolitan and colonial societies are drawn together in webs of affinity, influence and dependence. It has become a commonplace to remark colonialism\'s dependence on dispossession through a series of intrinsically spatial strategies (Gregory, 1994, pp. 168-81), but these strategies were by no means confined to nominally colonized societies and there were vital interpenetrations and articulations of metropolitan and colonial societies: neither can be treated as self-contained entities. Thus (post-)colonial spaces are complex, fractured and foliated, and can rarely be reduced to any simple binary geometry (Low, 1996; Mills, 1996). In a major study of culture and imperialism, Said (1993) proposed a method of what he called \'contrapuntal reading\' as a way of revealing the overlapping and intertwining geographies that appear in the margins and between the lines of the cultural archive. Strangely, there is not the same tradition of comparative inquiry within human geography, but a similar impetus animates Jacobs\'s (1996) doubled readings of London (UK) and Brisbane and Perth (Australia) as \'edges of empire\', and Driver and Gilbert\'s (1998) account of the landscapes of imperial London as being symptomatic of \'less the heart of empire than just another of its limbs\' (p. 26). These concerns converge around globalization and transnationalism, a terrain on which \'the local\' and \'the global\' interpenetrate in new and often unsettling geographies, where compound identities and marginalities are under construction, and where \'difference is encountered in the adjoining neighbourhood [and] the familiar turns up at the ends of the earth\' (Clifford, 1988; see also Appadurai, 1996).

An understanding of colonialism and its successor projects has to be a history of the present that is sensitive to the political implications of its constructions. Post-colonialism ought not to license a \'retreat\' into texts but instead force a recognition of the materiality and performativity of texts; post-colonialism ought not to collapse into a culturalism but instead expose the articulations between \'the cultural\' and \'the economic\'; and post-colonialism ought not to become a premature celebration of the \'end\' of colonialism but instead act as a forceful and unsettling reminder of the constitution of our own colonial present (cf. Jackson and Jacobs, 1996) (see also Eurocentrism; racism; whiteness). (DG)

References Appadurai, A. 1996: Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Barnett, C. 1997: \'Sing along with the common people\': politics, postcolonialism and other figures. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 15: 137-54. Barnett, C. 1998: Impure and worldly geography: the Africanist discourse of the Royal Geographical Society, 1831-73. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 23: 239-51. Bhabha, H. 1994: The location of culture. London and New York: Routledge. Chakrabarty, D. 1992: Postcoloniality and the artifice of history: Who speaks for \'Indian\' pasts? Representations 37: 1-26. Childs, P. and Williams, W. 1997: An introduction to post-colonial theory. London and New York: Prentice-Hall. Clayton, D. 1999: Islands of truth. Vancouver, BC: University of British, Columbia Press. Clifford, J. 1988: The predicament of culture: twentieth-century ethnography, literature and art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Dirlik, A. 1997: The postcolonial aura: Third World criticism in the age of global capitalism. Boulder, CO and Oxford: Westview Press. Driver, F. and Gilbert, D. 1998: Heart of empire? Landscape, space and performance in imperial London. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 16: 11-28. Gregory, D. 1994: Geographical imaginations. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Hall, S. 1996: When was \'the post-colonial\'? Thinking at the limit. In I. Chambers and L. Curti, eds, The Post-colonial question: common skies, divided horizons. London and New York: Routledge, 242-60. Huggan, G. 1989: Decolonizing the map: post-colonialism, post-structuralism and the cartographic connection. Ariel 20: 115-31. Jacobs, J. 1996: Edge of empire: postcolonialism and the city. London and New York: Routledge. Jackson, P. and Jacobs, J. 1996: Postcolonialism and the politics of race. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14: 1-3. Kennedy, D. 1996: Imperial history and post-colonial theory. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 24: 345-63. Loomba, A. 1998: Colonialism/Postcolonialism. London and New York: Routledge. Low, G.C.-L. 1996: The city of dreadful night. In her White skins, black masks: representation and colonialism. London and New York: Routledge. McClintock, A. 1992: The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the term \'Post-colonialism\'. Social Text 31: 84-92. Mills, S. 1996: Gender and colonial space. Gender, Place and Culture 3: 125-47. Moore-Gilbert, B. 1997: Postcolonial theory: contexts, practices, politics. London and New York: Verso. Prakash, G. 1994: Subaltern Studies as postcolonial criticism. American Historical Review 99: 1475-90. Prakash, G., ed., 1995: After colonialism: imperial history and postcolonial displacements. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Said, E. 1978: Orientalism. London: Penguin (reprinted 1995). Said, E. 1993: Culture and imperialism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Scott, D. 1995: Colonial governmentality. Social Text 45: 191-215. Thomas, N. 1994: Colonialism\'s culture: anthropology, travel and government. Cambridge: Polity. Young, R. 1990: White mythologies: writing History and the West. London and New York: Routledge.

Suggested Reading Barnett (1998). Childs and Williams (1997), 1-25. Jacobs (1996), 13-37. Rattansi, A. 1997: Postcolonialism and its discontents. Economy and Society 26:480-500.



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