Michael Chapman
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Postcolonialism - Preface
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This collection of essays is concerned, explicitly and implicitly, with two particular issues in postcolonial studies: first, the shaping by northern institutions of a field located experientially and materially in the South of the world; second, a tendency of postcolonial studies to elevate theory or, at least, symptomatic analysis over and above attention to the subjective expression—the literary expression—of people’s actual lives. The essays focus on South Africa in relation to both Africa and the West. It is suggested that a global epoch in the new millennium requires not the binary oppositions of empires writing back to the centre (Rushdie’s formulation), but more complicated interactions of South and North. We are reminded that Said’s Orientalism (1978)—the text marked by the North as the beginning of postcolonial studies—was anticipated by several critical contributions from the peripheries including Achebe’s attack on racial stereotyping in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

With a literary turn lending coherence to South/African perspectives the essays, which are summarised in the Introduction, range from the difficulties and challenges of settler identity, through the emergence of independent (or compromised?) African and diasporic voices, to the ‘postcolonialising’ of Nobel laureates Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. Apart from Popescu’s essay, which appeared in Current Writing (19.1.2007), the other essays—some with slightly different titles—originally appeared in English in Africa (19.1.2006). Acknowledgment is accorded both journals.

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