Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies

Updated: August 28, 2023
10.5K

Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies: Precise Analysis

The consequences of colonization could not go unnoticed. British and other European countries and their colonies, which are independent nations for today in America, Australia, Africa, Asia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, etc., continued developing their art and literature and creating history even being colonies.

Commonwealth and Postcolonial studies deal with profound investigations of all life aspects, historical events, migration, diaspora, and other issues resulting from colonization. This experience left a trail in countries’ political, economic, historical, and cultural life and drew the attention of researchers interested in postcolonial studies of given regions.

What Is Postcolonialism? Insight Into the History

The prefix ‘post’ hints that it is a period after something. In the case of postcolonialism, it is a time just after colonization. This period dates back to the 1960s when scholars from former colonies started issuing their publications about the effect of colonization and developed critical theory analysis of the history, literature, culture, etc. This period is focused on showcasing the impact of colonial and imperial histories and the imposition of the Western world into non-Western countries.

Postcolonialism aims to discover the results and understand the world, but it tries to find the answer to how it ought to be. It also tries to investigate the concept of global power accumulation and the reasons for the predominance of one state over others.

The question of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies is quite debatable and still investigated and criticized. One of the postcolonial critics, Robert J. C. Young, who was a Professor of English and Critical Theory at Oxford University, gave an accurate explanation of the essence of postcolonialism: ‘Postcolonialism’s concerns are centered on geographic zones of intensity that have remained largely invisible but which prompt or involve questions of history, ethnicity, complex cultural identities, and questions of representation, of refugees, emigration and immigration, of poverty and wealth ― but also, importantly, the energy, vibrancy and creative cultural dynamics that emerge in very positive ways from such demanding circumstances.’

Postcolonial studies deal with disciplines and fields like Archeology, History, Philosophy, Anthropology, Feminism, etc. Still, it draws the most attention to the literature and investigation of how authors presented their culture and everyday life in the colonial languages and from its perspective.

Is There a Difference Between Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literature?

Perhaps, you are wondering what is different and in common between Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literature. Let’s have a look at the basic concepts that distinguish these terms.

Commonwealth literature refers to the works produced by writers from countries formerly part of the British Empire, including countries like India, Nigeria, Australia, and Canada. It covers a variety of themes and styles, reflecting these nations’ diverse experiences and perspectives. Note that Commonwealth literature refuses to include English literature, considering it superior to others.

At the same time, Postcolonial literature is a much broader concept that explores the colonization effect and consequences. It examines colonialism’s social, cultural, and political impact, focusing on identity, power dynamics, and resistance themes. What is essential is that Postcolonial literature includes works of Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries.

As you may see, the main difference lies in their focus, where Commonwealth literature emphasizes the input in the literature of countries within the British Empire and former colonies. In contrast, Postcolonial literature covers a broader scope, encompassing works from various colonized nations.

Commonwealth Literature: Essence and Studies

The term’ commonwealth’ has a long history and dates back to 1649, the times of Oliver Cromwell and the establishment of republican government in the territory of England. However, the concept of Commonwealth literature suggests discussions in the mid-twentieth century after the American War for Independence. The British Government selected a path of reforms and concessions, creating self-governing institutions in existing colonies. It served as the pushing point for creating nations’ common well-being that formed the basis of the Commonwealth.

The history of Commonwealth literature can be traced back to British colonization and the establishment of the British Empire. As the British Empire expanded globally, it brought together diverse cultures, languages, and literary traditions. The literature produced in these and former colonies emerged as a distinct body of work, reflecting the unique experiences and perspectives of the people living under colonial rule.

It must be mentioned that in the early stages, Commonwealth literature was under the impact of British literature and served as a way of expressing loyalty to the British Empire.

However, the struggle for independence and decolonization encouraged the appearance of Commonwealth Literature, possessing itself as a critical and independent movement.

The broad concept of Commonwealth literature is divided into two groups based on the language speakers. Obviously, in such countries as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, where English is a language of everyday communication points of view, cultural aspects are similar to those in Britain.

Third World Commonwealth Literature

However, there was a gap in culture and language presentation in countries where English is a second language, like India, Bangladesh, and Africa. We could hear poem and prose examples from these countries in the second quarter of the twentieth century, better known as Third World Commonwealth literature.

Third World Commonwealth literature often focuses on the experiences, struggles, and perspectives of marginalized communities within these countries. It explores themes such as colonialism, postcolonialism, social inequality, poverty, political oppression, cultural identity, and the quest for independence and self-determination. These works provide a platform for historically underrepresented or silenced voices in mainstream literature.

Third World Commonwealth literature has played a crucial role in challenging dominant narratives, shedding light on social injustices, and advocating for social change. It offers unique insights into the aspects of postcolonial societies and contributes to a more inclusive and diverse literary landscape.

Prominent figures such as Chinua Achebe, V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, and Derek Walcott emerged as leading representatives in Commonwealth literature, challenging colonial literature and exploring themes of identity, cultural hybridity, and the impact of colonialism. These writers, along with many others, played a crucial role in shaping the field of Commonwealth literature and establishing it as a distinct and essential branch of global literary studies.

Today, Commonwealth literature continues to evolve and expand, encompassing various voices and perspectives from countries once part of the British Empire. It remains an important study area, offering insights into the complexities of postcolonial societies and the ongoing legacies of colonialism.

Postcolonial Literature: Brief Overview

Before starting the topic of Postcolonial Literature, it mentions a postcolonial theory that is a critical approach dealing with literature issued in countries that were or are still colonies. We may observe the concept of otherness and resistance based on this idea. Postcolonial theory explores how colonialism has shaped societies, identities, and knowledge production. It examines the experiences of colonized peoples, their resistance to colonial rule, and the processes of decolonization.

Key concepts within postcolonial theory include hybridity, cultural appropriation, Orientalism, and the politics of representation. Scholars in this field draw from various disciplines, including literature, history, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies, to analyze the complexities of postcolonial societies.

Postcolonial literature refers to literary works that emerged after the end of colonial rule in various parts of the world. It contains writings from countries formerly colonized by European powers, such as Britain, France, Spain, and Portugal. This literature and its representatives often disclose themes such as identity, power dynamics, cultural hybridity, resistance, and the legacy of colonialism. Postcolonial literature covers issues of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and the complexities of cultural and national identities.

Factors Contributing to the Rise of Postcolonial Literature

Anti-Colonial rebellions and movements that shook the world in the twentieth century inspired and encouraged the development and popularization of postcolonial literature. The main factors that gave the push were the following:

  • Implementation of the English language in schools that contributed to the literacy and proficiency of communities by teaching them to read, write, and speak English.
  • Independence movements encouraged colonized people to create fictional and on-real-events literature as a tool for struggling against colonists.
  • Globalization inspired postcolonial writers to world fame.
  • The popularization of the English language and the Western world made writers follow the manners and models of narration, trying to showcase the actual life of the postcolonial world.

Postcolonial literature generally seeks to shed light on colonization’s lasting impacts and promote a deeper understanding of formerly colonized peoples’ diverse experiences and struggles.

Topics of Postcolonial Literature

Postcolonial literature is characterized by the wish to shed light on the actual events of postcolonial life and the influence of colonialism. In their works, postcolonial writers turned to a variety of topics, the most common of which were:

  • Resistance and decolonization: Many postcolonial works focus on the resistance movements and struggles for independence that emerged in colonized nations, exploring how individuals and communities resist and challenge colonial distress.
  • Identity: Postcolonial literature often examines the challenges of identity formation in the context of colonialism, exploring how individuals and communities agree on their sense of self as an outcome of colonization.
  • Cultural hybridity: Postcolonial literature explores the blending and mixing of different cultures, languages, and traditions due to colonization, highlighting the difficulties and richness of hybrid identities afterward.
  • History and memory: Postcolonial literature engages with colonized nations’ collective memory and historical narratives, often uncovering hidden or marginalized histories and offering alternative perspectives.
  • Globalization and Neocolonialism: Postcolonial literature examines the current impacts of globalization and neocolonialism, exploring how economic, political, and cultural forces continue to form postcolonial societies.
  • Representation and voice: Postcolonial literature often addresses issues of representation and voice, questioning and challenging the dominant narratives and stereotypes imposed by colonials.
  • Power dynamics: Postcolonial literature critically examines the power imbalances and hierarchies between colonizers and the colonized, shedding light on how power is exercised and resisted.
  • This issue may be traced in postcolonial literature due to inspiration from folk stories, myths, and other artworks of one region that became a prototype for literature in colonized countries.

The variety of topics postcolonial literature explores is much longer, covering a wide range of perspectives and themes.

Bright Representatives of Postcolonial Literature

The covered topics and themes may be traced in the works of the most prominent representatives of Postcolonial literature. Thanks to their creations, we may look back on the historical events, people’s struggle for independence and feel their suffering.

The most prominent representatives of that period were:

  • Chinua Achebe (Nigeria). Known for his novel “Things Fall Apart,” Achebe is considered one of the pioneers of African literature.
  • Arundhati Roy (India). Roy gained international acclaim for her novel “The God of Small Things,” which delves into the complexities of caste, gender, and postcolonial India.
  • Derek Walcott (Saint Lucia). A Nobel laureate, Walcott’s poetry often explores Caribbean identity, colonialism, and cultural heritage themes.

It is only a shortlist of the brightest representatives whose input into the development of postcolonial literature is priceless. They were beginners who gave an example to others and were not afraid to expose the truth of their feelings.

Conclusion

Commonwealth and postcolonial studies, especially literature, left their mark on world history. Since the word is a powerful tool for expressing emotions and communicating with society and the world, we may follow the impact of colonization on the formation of movements and the revolutionary mood of colonies. This subject matter has evolved into a topic of extensive discourse and debate. Individuals seeking to explore the historical impacts of colonization in their writings can hire an essay writer who draws inspiration from the works of Commonwealth and Postcolonial literature.

George Lynch
George Lynch
Literature, Psychology, Religion
Experience: 3+ years
I’ve been enjoying academic writing since day one in college. Today, having a full-time job, I’m still looking forward to writing essays and research papers online for others.
Read more
You Might Also Like:
Back to blog
Show more