A category devised to replace and expand upon what was once in Britain called Commonwealth Literature. As a label, it thus covers a very wide range of writings from countries that were once colonies or dependencies of the European powers. There has been much debate about the scope of the term: should predominantly white ex-colonies like Ireland, Canada, and Australia be included? why are the United States exempted both from the accepted list of former colonies and from the category of colonizing powers? In practice, the term is applied most often to writings from Africa, the Indian sub-continent, the Caribbean, and other regions whose histories during the 20th century are marked by colonialism, anti-colonial movements, and subsequent transitions to post-Independence society. Critical attention to this large body of work in academic contexts is often influenced by a distinct school of postcolonial theory which developed in the 1980s and 1990s, under the influence of Edward W. Said's landmark study Orientalism (1978). Postcolonial theory considers vexed cultural-political questions of national and ethnic identity, ‘otherness’, race, imperialism, and language, during and after the colonial periods. It draws upon post-structuralist theories such as those of deconstruction in order to unravel the complex relations between imperial ‘centre’ and colonial ‘periphery’, often in ways that have been criticized for being excessively abstruse. The principal luminaries of postcolonial theory after Said have been Gayatri C. Spivak and Homi K. Bhabha. For fuller accounts, consult A. Loomba, Colonialism/Postcolonialism (1998) and Bart Moore-Gilbert, Postcolonial Theory (1997).
http://www.postcolonialweb.org Postcolonial Web: general resource for postcolonial literature and theory at National University of Singapore.