Postcolonial Political Theory and the Problem of Foundations

Kohn Margaret and McBride Keally

in Political Theories of Decolonization

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780195399578
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894437 | DOI:
Postcolonial Political Theory and the Problem of Foundations

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This chapter examines the historical origins of the international political movement that started the process of decolonization in the twentieth century to show why foundational stories are particularly important in the postcolonial context. It then examines the development of negritude in detail, looking at two different varieties of negritude as conceived by Leopold Senghor and Amilcar Cabral. This example allows us to see how negritude is a political response to the experience of French colonialism, and how it was used to break away from the claims of universalism that circulated in the French empire. The problem of postcolonial foundations may initially seem to be the exclusive concern of countries that directly experienced foreign military and political control. Yet European influence was also a concern throughout the Ottoman Empire, China, and Iran, where the state's autonomy was undermined by European economic and military initiatives. Intellectuals in these countries tried to understand the reasons for their relative weakness and debated whether the solution was Westernization, some sort of hybrid form of modernization, or more faithful adherence to traditional practices and norms.

Keywords: foundations; decolonization; negritude; universalism; Senghor

Chapter.  9607 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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