Post-colonial Identity in Midnight’s Children

Midnight’s Children is an allegory on the events that occurred since India gained independence. Several controversial issues are discussed in the novel, as it describes the life story of Salim Sinai and the experiences Salim had in a post-colonial independent India and shows the hidden fear of indigenous Indians as a result of the colonial period which was full of slavery and deceit. This essay is going to analyse the characteristics of post-colonial identity in Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Post-colonial identity is the way a person or group of people affected by colonization defines itself. Characteristics of post-colonial identity include being dehumanised, marginalised, voiceless, hybrid, and being classed as ‘other’ or ‘subaltern’.

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Firstly, dehumanisation is recognised in the text with the use of metaphors. The definition of dehumanization is ‘the process of depriving a person or group of positive human qualities.1’ One example of this is when Salim says that he was “mysteriously handcuffed to history”. This infers that Salim experienced a feeling that he was a slave to his life, that his decisions were not his to make, his interests were forced, and he had no control whatsoever over his life. This signifies dehumanization, as the colonizers brainwashed the indigenous inhabitants of the subject country, convincing them that their native culture and standards were inferior and animal-like. Relating to Midnight’s Children, this caused the citizens of India to conform to the standards that were introduced by the colonizers, removing their free will completely and planting ‘appropriate’ interests in their heads. Another way the author does this is with the usage of adjectives. This is presented when Salim talks about the insults that he had to endure throughout his life, “snotnose, stainface, baldy, sniffer, and even piece-of-the-moon”. ‘Piece-of-the-moon’ is a metaphor that originates from Arabic, where it directly translates to ‘baby gazelle’. This is an example of dehumanization, as the people using this to insult Salim could be belittling him because of his skin colour, comparing him to an exotic and wild animal, showing that they believe he does not qualify to be a human. This belief is reinforced with ‘stainface’, showing that he was being disparaged against just for having a different complexion to the English colonizers who had taken over his home country. Describing his skin colour as a ‘stain’ is an example of dehumanization, as the people giving him this name were suggesting that he looked improper and unsuitable for human life compared to them. The third way dehumanization is established in the text is through the use of self-deprecation. One example of this is when Salim says that he ‘must work fast if I am to end up meaning something’. This can show the outcome of dehumanization, as the people who were colonized had been affected mentally and socially because of the values that the English had convinced them were correct and had to live by in order to mean something as a human. Another example of this is when Salim complains about his ‘crumbling, over-used body’. This shows that the colonized were under so much pressure to be like the English but had to work much harder than them to be given the same privileges, so Salim cannot give in to his fatigue, otherwise, he would be classed as lazy and would just remain as useless and unrecognised in colonized society.

Secondly, Rushdie presents the colonized people as ‘voiceless’. The definition of ‘voiceless’ is ‘If a group of people is voiceless, it does not have the power or the legal right to express their opinions’2. One way Rushdie does this is through the use of metaphors. An example of this is when Salim reveals that he doesn’t have the power to open up about his experiences as he had been a ‘swallower of lives’. This signifies that he has bottled up all of his and other people’s experiences and their inevitable destiny and purpose inside because he had no power and his opinion would not matter even if he had voiced his thoughts. Another example of this is when he expresses that his destinies were ‘indissolubly chained to those of my country’. This can imply that he was psychologically as well as physically being forced to follow the crowd and to not be out of the ordinary. Salim had recognised the situation but he cannot voice his opinion in fear of being ignored or laughed at, showing that he is voiceless because of the standards he had grown up and learned to conform to. These relate to post-colonial identity, as voicelessness is one of the most important aspects of post-colonial literature, and these quotes are evident examples of voicelessness presented in post-colonial literature.

Thirdly, Rushdie presents Salim as a subaltern in the text. The definition of a subaltern is, ‘someone with a low ranking in a social, political, or other hierarchy. It can also mean someone who has been marginalized or oppressed.’  One way he does this is through the expression of fear. is when Salim is expressing his feelings and his need to work ‘faster than Scheherazade’, as he ‘fears absurdity’. This infers that Salim would have to work harder than the others in order for him to be taken seriously and be recognised in society. This illustrates the belief created by the British that the Indians were subalterns, and were of a lower species, so the Indians had to prove themselves in order to be taken seriously in society. Another example of this is when Zuhra condemns black skinned people as human beings as a whole.4 This shows that black people, even in the eyes of the oppressed and marginalized, were lower creatures in the food chain, showing that hypocrisy about race and hierarchy happens everywhere, even if the people insulting another race are the ones being oppressed.

Fourthly, another characteristic of post-colonial identity is that people were marginalised. Marginalisation is a word that is used to describe ‘the process of making a group or class of people less important or relegated to a secondary position’. An example of this is when a group of people are all segregated into being ‘second class citizens’ as if they are lower as humans than ‘upper class citizens’. Throughout the novel, Mumtaz is always referred to as ‘blackie’ because of her skin. In the novel, there are various characters that regard her skin tone as a deficiency. Even her mother disapproved of her daughter’s skin colour: “She entered the dreams of her daughter Mumtaz, the blackie whom she had never been able to love because of her skin of a South Indian fisherwoman and realized the trouble would not stop there”. 4 This shows that in India, white skin is considered beautiful and clean, but people with darker complexion are considered lower class. This point that white complexion was considered attractive, natural and holy is also reaffirmed when Padma criticises Mumtaz, pitying her for being black instead of matching everybody including her own family’s expectations and dreams; “’Poor girl, ‘ Padma concludes, “Kashmir are normally fair like mountain snow, but she turned out black.” 4 

Fifthly, hybridity is discussed in Midnight’s Children, as it is another characteristic of post-colonial identity. “Hybridity refers to any mixing of east and western culture. Within colonial and postcolonial literature, it most commonly refers to colonial subjects from Asia or Africa who have found a balance between eastern and western cultural attributes”2. Hybridity is illustrated throughout the novel through the vast variety of contrasting characters. The cultural division of hybridity is shown through Salim’s relationship with other characters such as Shiva. Their relationship seems complicated and a little bit conflicted because of the plethora of differences between them, such as birthplace, religion, family etc.3  This demonstrates the criticism hybrid people would have received in the post-colonial and independent era of India, as families which had become mixed with an English person’s family were considered higher than their original indigenous counterparts, and so may have been called traitors or weak for mixing their blood with people who had taken everything the country had that was unique.

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 In my opinion, the post colonial and post independence era of India was very tainted, as colonization had ruined India’s culture for the most part and had hurt its entire community. Firstly, the negative impact on people’s lives was that people had learned to become voiceless, they had lost all confidence in themselves due to discrimination and marginalization which induced them to believe that indigenous Indians like themselves had no purpose, had no value, and most importantly, were an inferior species that could not make judgment at the same level of intelligence as the English. The Indians had become completely dependant on the English to make all their governmental decisions, decide where they spend India’s money and gold, and overall how to manage the country. This mindset stayed with India for many generations, and India strived to change their outlook on life, as they couldn’t function as a country if they kept thinking they were simply an inferior subspecies. The colonial era completely changed India and many other countries and India is lucky that they managed to pull through and try to recover their indigenous culture. Their own culture was taken away from them by the English and was said to be inappropriate, and there are still countries around the world which have not managed to get out of that mindset,  living without independence, constantly relying on another country to make all their decisions for them because they are convinced they are not mentally fit to do so themselves.

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Bibliography: (2018). Marginalization dictionary definition | marginalization defined. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018].

Singh, A. (2018). Amardeep Singh: Mimicry and Hybridity in Plain English. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018]. (n.d.). SparkNotes: Midnight’s Children: Shiva. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018].

Taher, R. (2014). Discrimination in Rushdie’s novel “Midnight’s children”. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018]. (2018). VOICELESS | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018].

Green Postcolonial Reading in Kocharethi

The present paper proceeds from the conviction that postcolonialism and ecocriticism have a great deal to gain from one another. It tries to spell out some of the obvious differences between the two critical schools, search for grounds that allow a productive overlap between them and define “green postcolonialism”. The paper then attempts a comparative green postcolonial reading of the first novel in Malayalam by an Adivasi/tribal, namely Narayan’s Kocharethi (1998) and Mother Forest (2004) the autobiography of the Adivasi/tribal activist, C.K. Janu. This juxtaposition raises vital questions regarding the plight of Kerala’s (the southernmost state of India) indigenous people in a postcolonial nation. The legacy of colonial modernity, language, education, nationalism, gendered subalternity, cultural history and ecopolitics is examined within the framework of green postcolonialism, thereby indicating the moral urgency for a fruitful alliance between the two critical schools of postcolonialism and ecocriticism to envision an alternative future.

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The changes associated with globalization have led to the rapid extension and intensification of capital alongwith an acceleration of the destruction of the environment and a growing gap between the rich and the poor. This has had a significant impact on the terrain in which postcolonialism and ecocriticism operate.While both ecocriticism and postcolonialism are committed to locating the text in the world, they conceive of both world and text in radically different ways. In keeping with a commitment to recognize the land as more than a scape, but a picture and a story in which humans participate along with other life forms, ecocritical conceptions of the world tend to privilege non-urban settings, in which those other life forms predominate. Postcolonial criticism tends to envision the world through urban eyes; an obvious historical explanation being the arrival of Third world intellectuals in the metropolitan centres of the First World.
Postcolonial theory has frequently asserted the value of positionality in order to foreground the politics of discursive authority. Positionality has generally been thought to include race, gender, sexuality, and class but has more recently come to include geographical and biotic space. In an era of increasing ecological degradation, the mutually constitutive relationship between social inequity and environmental problems has become more stark and vivid.
If pressing environmental crises have spurred the development of environmental criticism in literary studies, the increasing awareness of how such crises have been and will continue to disproportionally impact the vulnerable populations of the postcolonial world have made the nexus of postcolonialism and ecocriticism a particularly urgent area of study. Yet, this intersection is fraught with danger. Ecocriticism has been developed primarily from the perspective of Western critics using Anglo-American literature and has often worked from assumptions, common in Western environmental movements, which are extremely problematic in postcolonial contexts.
Different conceptualizations of individual places extend to different ways of conceiving the relationship between the local and the global. While stressing the importance of local place, ecocriticism gains its global focus by encompassing the very earth it studies. Postcolonialism also recognizes an interplay between the local and the global, but in a more cautious, indirect way. Wary of the ideological and material implications of globalizing impulses, postcolonialism admits the force of the global in a way that explicitly prohibits its recuperation into a formula that confirms the place of the individual in a universal order, either of nature or culture. The global and the local come together, not by the way of simple synecdoche, or the relationship between macrocosm and microcosm, but in a way such that each interrupts and distorts the other, thereby refusing the possibility of concrete platial or abstract global belonging (O’Brien 142).
Rob Nixon points out four main schisms between the dominant concerns of postcolonialists and ecocritics. First, postcolonialists have tended to foreground hybridity and cross-culturation. Ecocritics on the other hand, have historically been drawn more to discourses of purity: virgin wilderness and the preservation of “uncorrupted” last great places. Second, postcolonial writing and criticism largely concern themselves with displacement, while environmental literary studies has tended to give priority to the literature of place. Third , and relatedly, postcolonial studies has tended to favour the cosmopolitan and the transnational. Postcolonialists are typically critical of nationalism, whereas the canons of environmental literature and criticism have developed within a national (and often nationalistic) American framework. Fourth, postcolonialism has devoted considerable attention to excavating or reimagining the marginalized past: history from below and border histories, often along transnational axes of migrant memory. By contrast, within much environmental literature and criticism, something different happens to history. It is often repressed or subordinated to the pursuit of timeless, solitary moments of communion with nature (235).
Attempts to distinguish between postcolonialism and ecocriticim are always likely to be perilous; and it is against this uncertain historical background that green postcolonialism has made its recent entrance into the critical -theoretical fray. “What is green postcolonialism?” Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin provisionally define the field in terms of ” those forms of environmentally oriented postcolonial criticism which insist on the factoring of cultural difference into both historical and contemporary ecological and bioethical debates” (9). Differentiated experiences of colonialism provide the main historical link here. They also point out a continuing environmentalist insufficiency of postcolonial literary and cultural texts which also works the other way round with “postcolonial” ecocriticism serving to highlight the work of non-European authors or critiquing the Euro-American biases of certain versions of environmentalist thought (9).
Both fields articulate historically situated critiques of capitalist ideologies of development. They also combine a political concern for the abuses of authority with an ethical commitment to improving the conditions of the oppressed. Green postcolonialism brings out a truism that clearly applies to, but is not always clearly stated in, the different strands of both postcolonialism and ecocriticism: no social justice without environmental justice; and without social justice-for all ecological beings-no justice at all.
Postcolonial criticism, despite what might still be seen as an unduly anthropocentric bias, offers a valuable corrective to a variety of universalist ecological claims-the unexamined claim of equivalence among all “ecological beings”, irrespective of material circumstances and the peremptory conviction, itself historically conditioned, that global ethical considerations should override local cultural concerns (Huggan 720).
Subaltern Studies as history from the lower rungs of society is marked by a freedom from the restrictions imposed by the nation state. Gramsci speaks of the subaltern’s incapability to think of the nation. Once it becomes possible for the subaltern to imagine the state, he transcends the conditions of subalternity. A consciousness of subject positions and voices can re-empower languages, deconstruct histories, and create new texts of more dense dialogical accomplishment. Part of the project of postcolonial theory would be to push literary texts into this shifting arena of discursiveness, thus enabling new stands of counter narratives and counter contexts to shape themselves and complicate binarist histories. But polysemic, anticolonial subjectivities and their energies, which defy the definitions of the colonizer, are muted and translated into a monolithic national identity, articulated in the rhetoric of “Nationalism” in Kocharethi, a Malayalam novel on the Malayaraya tribe by Narayan (1998).
The tribals of Kerala are never identified as “Malayalis”. Unique in itself-their lifestyles and languages are significantly different from that of the dominant mainstream. Narayan’s Kocharethi, the first novel in Malayalam by an Adivasi, is an historical intervention where, far from being the objects of history, the Adivasis now become its new subjects.
Narayan,himself a Malayaraya, does not attempt to depict the historical or mythical spheres of the tribal experience. Instead, he unravels, fifty or sixty years entwined with his own life situations. He deftly challenges the incorrect representations of the Adivasis in contemporary cinema, television and publications. The life described in the novel, with all rituals, ceremonies, customs, faith, institutions of marriage, food, clothing and shelter, recall the period prior to the Renaissance in Kerala. Man’s raw encounter with the forces of nature is vividly portrayed. The forest is not only life-generating but also life-consuming.
Kocharethi is a brilliant account of the life and nature of the Malayaraya tribe. Marriages occurred between cousins. Women always carried sickles and wre unafraid to kill anyone who molested them. If unable to do that, the very same sickle ended their lives. They were in charge of their sexuality.
The arrival of colonial modernity converted forests into reserved forests and plantations. Destruction of the old order,and the onset of a new one created identity crises. Kochuraman, the “medicine-man”, had always used animal fat. But he later resorts to soda-water and moves to the medical college for treatment. The nuances of this transition in the life of the Malayaraya tribe is poignantly captured by Narayan.
The feudal landlord, the king and the British Raj are symbols of the various stages of this transition. The oppressive power of nascent laws and authority perplex and terrify the tribals. Apart from nature, “humans” also torture them. The Malayarayas were cheated in prices and weights of their forest products when the currencies and measures changed into the British system. This cancerous exploitation by “civil society” forced them to search for education. Kochupillai the teacher leads them into the light of letters. The dream of a government job, migration into the city, love-marriages all follow. Christian proselytisations also occur, creating a hybid of “New Christians”- always prefixed by the term “arayan”.
Kocharethi takes place at the fag end of this phase, in the early half of the twentieth century. It encloses a space of transition from the colonial to the post colonial within the imagined boundaries of the nation state. Thus, situated in a later milieu of Indian history, Kocharethi in a way addresses the questions of acculturation and education of the subaltern, in short of the subaltern’s translation as “appropriation”. Education as a necessary ploy for moulding homogenous identities came packaged with the label promising equality and liberty. But the subaltern aspires for education in order to be liberated from the land and its woes. Kocharethi is filled with the new subaltern dream of a government job. Narayan makes a feeble attempt to parody this process of “modernizing” the tribal. But the novel fails in demarcating a political position opposing colonial modernity (Pillai par13).
Kocharethi reveals the slow acculturation of the native into the economy, culture and politics of the nation state. The native in Kocharethi falls prey to the project of colonial modernity, which the new Indian state sets out to continue in order to prove its capability to self-rule. Kocharethi depicts the plight of the native subaltern caught in the regulative politics of the infallible nation state, and betrayed by the promise of the participatory citizenship, struggling to find voice amidst the homogenized Babel of nationalist discourses. State hegemony, nationalist ideology, dominant language and cultural interpellation – all collude to construct the native of Kocharethi as a passive subject (Pillai par16).
Kocharethi embraces and enhances the task of colonial modernity to instill middle class values and bourgeois virtues into the gendered “national”subaltern subject. The new woman, conscious of her identity, is at the same time out of her roots. As Parvathy, the educated subaltern migrates to the city, the narrative, in an allegorical twist leaves Kochuraman and Kunjipennu stranded in a government hospital, at the mercy of state welfare aids. Thus one sees the articulation of gender being translated into a different idiom by the interventions of the modern state. Narayan assumes a nationalist identity by which he sees education of subaltern women as necessary but not at the cost of losing the essence of their “femininity” and “culture”. The women of Kocharethi have no role in the struggle for independence. As Parvathy inhabits the secure space of her home, Madhavan and his comrades go out into the public domain to free the nation, thus lending their subaltern identities to structure the hegemony of a patriarchal nationalist culture.
Meena T. Pillai points out that a close reading of Kocharethi reveals the nuances through which gender and ethic relations become inextricably linked to the formation of the Indian state(par 22). The novel provides a framework to picture the formation of India as a sovereign, socialist, democratic, republic, where native and gender identities are subsumed and tokenized to strengthen the unifying logic of the nation.
Language is a fundamental site of struggle in subaltern discourses resisting translation, because colonization begins in language. The evident pull towards colonial modernity and nationalist themes in Kocharethi is found in its language too, which is very near to standard Malayalam, the disjunctions being minimal. There is no attempt to capture the linguistic and cultural ethos of the language of the Malayaraya tribe (Pillai par 23). The subaltern community in Kocharethi, having lost its language, having been translated and co-opted into the dominant discourse, has also lost the power to name. Parvathi, Madhavan, Narayanan – all names of upper caste Hindu gods, speak of the silencing a culture. A community devoid of its language is a community devoid of dignity.
Kocharethi is a giving in, a passive surrender to the larger history of the nation state(Pillai par 26). In postcolonial parlance to have a history is to have a legitimate existence but the text denies itself in this legitimacy of being, in Kocharethi the subaltern is deftly muted by the dominant discourse. The discourse of the colonial modernity and the nation state that one finds in Kocharethi co-opts the native and re-fashions him/her according to the norms of the dominant culture. Subaltern translations of the lingo of the nation and nationalism thus become acts of cultural displacement. Claiming the nation in the language also means being claimed by the nation.
“no one knows the forest like we do, the forest is mother to us, more than a mother because she never abandons us” (Bhaskaran 5).
The Life Story of C.K. Janu, is an oral life history, transmitted through a mediator, and illustrates the efforts of the non-literate or non-literary to tell her story. This text provides an opportunity to explore how a woman views herself and how her self-perceptions have in turn affected the choices she has made in her life.
Janu, is a tribal activist who wages bitter struggles against the government for the land rights of tribal groups. She received no formal education but became actively involved in the literacy campaign in Kerala and learned to read and write, proving herself to be a natural leader. Her work focuses on the promotion and defense of human rights, peace activism, and the demands of the landless tribal people of Kerala. She was part of the three-member delegation from India on a European tour organized by the Global Action Group, and the lone representative from India at conference in Geneva organized by the United Nations in (1999), as well as an active participant in the second Global Action Group conference held at Bangalore in 2000. By sharing her own vision of survival and ideas on the strategies to achieve positive development, she is serving as a voice for her community which has been silenced for centuries. In her autobiographical narration, Janu gives a passionate account of her struggle to get back the lands of which they were dispossessed. Without any means of earning a proper livelihood, her people fear that they risk losing their identity also.
The forest meant everything to the tribal groups. Janu speaks of her childhood and her life in the forest, then as a maid in a teacher’s home .Her involvement with the literacy programme and other social activities lead to her political awakening. She became a worker for the communist party, but was soon disillusioned by the party’s hidden agendas and attitude towards her community. She is well aware of the fact that forest flower beetles cannot argue with city microphones that make great noise, but she will fight unto death for the restoration of the rights of her people. Her narration is an eloquent testimonial to her convictions and courage in mobilizing a protest against the government to restore the alienated land to the tribal people, enabling them to regain their sense of identity.
The first part of the book deals more with her inner world and conjures before us a holistic world view where nature and human commingle. The sights of the forest like, the hills catching fire, rains falling ” like a woman with her hair -shorn, the wild water all blood-red gushing angrily”(2), the depth and beauty of darkness and moonlight, flowers blossoming are all enthralling. But the sights of civilzation like Vellamunda with “unfamiliar pathways strange hills and little streams. and fields with strange looking ridges that did not look like ours”(7) are disturbing, The forest is never quiet. Streams are always gushing, the woods mumble, winds howl, frogs croak and creatures cry.
The tribal instruments chini and thudi create their own distinctive notes.
But “civil society” has its radios, motor pumps, loudspeakers and school children to offset this harmony. The smell of virgin earth coupled with that of hunger dominates the forest. Janu remembers vividly that when her mother used to come and visit her in Vellamunda “she brought the smell of our huts with her”(12) “The earth has different smells in different seasons”(13) and gives out its scent only when worked upon. Again “culture” with its chemicals, church fumes, clothes and vehicles is nauseating.
More than thirty different kinds of plants, crops and fruits are mentioned. Rice, kappa, chena, kachil, karappayam, mothangappayam, honey, tubers, banana are some of them.Insects, fish, crabs, snakes, elephants, pigs, all give company. The lifestyle described is always full of activity. Rest seems to be unknown. The very first paragraph itself describes around twenty different activities. Here is a single sentence describing work, “only after sowing germinating tilling transplanting weeding watering standing guard reaping carrying threshing and making mounds of grain would the jenmi make his appearance”(15).
The sentences in the first chapter do not start with capitals. Upper cases appear only when an item from “civil society” is mentioned. For example:”Dhotis and Shirts” (5) Even the “i” is in the lower case–a true technique indicating holism and dwarfing anthropocentrism. Commas are absent between varied items signifying that dualities are insignificant as in “carrying dung to the fields digging up the soil with spades sowing pulling out the seedlings transplanting them weeding watering reaping carrying the sheaves of corn and such” (1). Here language does not merely reflect reality but also actively creates it. Lives are strongly interlinked with Nature, the earth and the trees.
There was no formal educational system, the forest was everything–guide, guardian and philosopher. Slowly, there came people to take the children to tribal hostels. Janu’s sister was one to face a similar fate. The conditions of these residential schools and hostels were terrible. They were unclean and lacked buildings, water and electricity. There were no proper toilets or bathrooms. Food and uniforms were rarities. Seeping sewage water invited diseases. The government never cared for the Adivasi children.
The narration may be in a “prelapsarian” tongue very different from what academic establishments expect for a life narration. Such life narrations may be hard to identify with, for those who have not suffered (Menon par 16). Janu’s autobiographical narration, presented as an extended conversation with an editor, conveys her lack of compromise in her assertions. The shifts in tone, pauses or changes in diction reflect her refusal to erase the inevitable gaps and fissures of the actual narrative events. She is not positioned as a cultural icon, but as an ordinary individual with strong communal feelings (Menon par17).
This narration, boldly resists “taken for granted” attitudes towards these neglected segments of the population and speak for them. Thus, through the narration an effort to locate themselves as a subject, leaving behind the object status to which cultural identities have confined them is made. This text illustrates the need for a revisionary method of reading the discourses of people regarded as marginal to the dominant literary tradition. It also prompts one to re assess the psychological simplicity attributed to marginalized groups.
The autobiographical narration of Janu is not merely a retrospective summation of past events and experiences. She genuinely wishes to change the state of affairs in the community to which she belongs. Janu is also aware of her limitations in face of the power plays of a manipulative society. Her narration ends with a desire to know herself more. She wishes to position herself in a more liberated future, not only for her own individual benefit but for the welfare of her community as a whole.
The story of Janu acknowledges that each aspect of reality is gendered. She often reminds the readers that within women’s experiences there are variety of subject positions and voices to be heard and represented. Hers is a humble attempt to evolve a subaltern essence. It brings an anonymous collectivity to the front of the stage, with great courage, no longer assuming the role assigned to them but asserting their own right to a voice and a part in the action,which deviates from a fixed object position which is culturally intelligible, purposefully locating themselves as subjects and revolutionizing earlier autobiographical writing norms, demanding attention and respect.
Development paradigms and development goals which lead to the management of natural resources without the participation and consent of the natural resource communities have to be vehemently criticised. Mainstream right / left political parties do not address the concerns of the communities facing social and market exclusions by neoliberal economic policies. Thus, a subaltern ecopolitics wakes up in its stead. The Adivasi is represented as one who is “unable to speak” and who is to be benevolently “rehabilitated”, “protected”, “developed” and slowly “integrated” into civil society. This representation as a people without voice silences them. Hence, if an Adivasi like Janu speaks, it cannot be her voice but someone else’s from outside! Orientalist stereotyping on one had portrays them as innocent, naive, nature loving, uncorrupted by modernity and on the other hand as immoral, drunkards and wretched living beings. The Adivasi is thus an eternal “other”, defenselessly marginalized and unrepresentable. The monolithic representation of Adivasis distort their plurality and prevent the expression of their anxieties. While migrant land encroachments are “natural” and “legitimised”, the Adivasi struggle becomes “unnatural” and “criminal”.
Janu is a symbol that defies conventional right/left binaries. For her, the personal indeed becomes the political. No political history of Kerala can now be written bypassing her. She disturbs us. Nature cannot be mystically revered when Dalits and Adivasis are shot dead, nor can one be slaves to revolutionary principles that hide casteist ecological implications. It is only Janu’s realm of Adivasi/Dalit/Green/Feminist politics that can problematize caste, tribe, gender, class and ecological parameters. She has helped redefine the concept of an Adivasi from “simple”, “helpless”, “illiterate”, and “uncivilised” into one ready to struggle for the basic rights to live.
Thus, reading Kocharethi and Mother Forest within a green postcolanial framework raises a lot of vital questions regarding the plight of Kerala’s indigenous people in a postcolonial nation. It also indicates the moral urgency for a fruitful alliance between the two critical schools of postcolonialism and ecocriticism to envision an alternative future.

Postcolonial Feminism in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis 1 and 2

At the end of the 20th century postcolonial literature began to mold and take a slightly different route and took a more feministic stance. Throughout this essay I will be discussing Marjane Satrapi’s highly acclaimed novel Persepolis 1: Story of a Childhood and its sequel, Persepolis 2: Story of a Return which tackles many postcolonial feminist issues.  It is a hybrid text, a novel that is part autobiographical and part fiction. Persepolis takes us through both the traumatic and grim experience of a young girl growing up in the after math of the Islamic Revolution in Iran with the use of comic strip like pictures. Persepolis takes place in a country that is considered inferior and ‘Third World’ through a westerner’s eyes. Persepolis gives the reader an insight into the Iranian world and allows a female Iranian to voice her story, where in the west she is considered to the ‘other’.

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Drawing on the works of Leigh Gilmore in Witnessing Persepolis and Liz Stanley in ‘Self Made Women’ to ‘Women’s Made Selves’, I will be using their theoretical frameworks to explore many major issues within feminist postcolonial studies that both Persepolis novels deal with. The concepts of the ‘experience of witnessing a traumatic experience’ and ‘the audit self’ are significant to both Persepolis novels as they are both texts that can be read in the view of postcolonial feminist literature.

In Persepolis, Marjane is constantly going through some form of trauma as we follow her through both novels and her experience in the Iran-Iraq war, something that no child should ever go through. Drawing upon Leigh Gilmore’s notion of traumatic narrativity and witnessing, we can relate this back to Satrapi and her own personal experiences. Gilmore says the aim within Persepolis is “to not only teach these readers how to think about the Middle East…but also how to feel.” (Gilmore 157) She continues saying that Persepolis play a huge part in how the West constructs political effect, and how through her autobiographical writing Marjane revisits her past to relay her story not only to the reader but also for herself. She uses these comic-like strips to understand her trauma and to draw what can be seen and what cannot be seen in order to do this. According to Gilmore, “For those whose lives and stories are ruptured by violence, narrating traumatic experience is both an unavoidable burden and a necessary risk.” (Gilmore 158)

“Satrapi uses a narrative of her own girlhood to urge Western readers to recognize her and her family’s political difference from what they think they know, and what they feel, about the Arab world after 9/11.” (Gilmore 157)

Satrapi uses a childlike narrative and illustrated images to understand and come to terms with her trauma. Capturing her story visually engages the trauma in a way that gives it visibility without constricting it to evidentiary authority. These pictures almost appear as another language to capture something and to understand it. The fluidity of a child’s perspective brings the reader to a different place of the Iranian woman and it allows us access to an effective realm of understanding that perhaps an adult perspective could not give. She is trying to make sense of this war-torn country she lives in, trying to figure out what is wrong and what is right. A prime example of Satrapi trying to make sense of the war is her depiction of God that she creates within Persepolis.

When something traumatic happens in her life that she doesn’t understand, she turns to God and asks for his advice and comfort. The depiction of God seems to soothe and calm a young Satrapi and she even refers to him as her friend. “The only place I felt safe was in the arms of my friend.” (Satrapi 53) It is quite clear to the reader that a young Satrapi never actually spoke to God, but it is her way of trying to understand the traumatic events that are happening around her. As mentioned above, the child like narrative also gives the reader a better understanding to what Satrapi was feeling at the time.

A direct experience of witnessing for Satrapi occurs when she sees the dismembered body of her neighbor Neda under rubble in Persepolis 1: Story of a Childhood. Satrapi’s drawings show the reader the intense impact this has on our child witness. Satrapi draws upon the child witness, who is herself, to register the event that can see and does see but is too traumatic to bear. Gilmore states that, “Persepolis never attempts to persuade readers that Satrapi or anyone has full access to trauma through the image. But Persepolis insists that trauma contains within it the possibility of bearing witness, even if that means bearing witness to what was not shared or shareable.” (Gilmore 161) We see the illustration of a young Satrapi wide eyed with her hands to her face in shock. “No scream in the world could have relieved my suffering and my anger.” (Satrapi 142) The final frame is completely black with no words to emphasize this. Trauma here is represented as a black and ominous void.

An indirect experience of witnessing for Satrapi is when she over hears an account of torture from political prisoners who were friends of her family and visiting her house. They relay what has happened to them while imprisoned, describing in detail the torture they experienced. “They whipped me with thick electric cables so much that this looks like anything but a foot.” (Satrapi 51) They also explain how a friend of theirs was tortured and eventually executed. “He suffered the worst torture… They burned him with an iron.” (Satrapi 51) Though Satrapi herself was not present to view the torture for herself, the act of listening to others relaying their stories and presenting them herself is an act of witnessing. She eyes the iron in her own house with a set of new-found eyes. She cannot believe that this every day appliance could be used for torture, saying, “I did not know you could use that appliance for torture.” (Satrapi 51) As Leigh Gilmore says in her essay, “She draws both the unrepresentable violence and the challenge of witnessing.” (Gilmore 160)

“In the end he was cut into pieces.” (Satrapi 52) To demonstrate this, Satrapi illustrates the picture of a man who has been decapitated with his waist, knees and torso also severed. This body has no organs or blood and may not have been exactly what happened to him. but this is how she imagines and witnesses the situation in order to understand it. The man who was tortured can never give witness so instead she gives witness through her child like narrative. This is also a way to navigate through her trauma, by drawing what can be seen and what cannot be seen.

At a very young age Satrapi has been forced to learn about violence and about death when her beloved Uncle Anoosh is executed in Persepolis 1: Story of a Childhood. This traumatic event completely shifts her belief in religion and God, who she has considered her companion up until this moment. Gone is the girl who relies on her religion and depiction of God for comfort. Satrapi appears more mature and adult like after sending God away, because she now must deal with the traumatic events that are happening to her on her own. However, this way of dealing with her trauma is what leads to her feeling of being isolated and alienated which eventually catches up to her in the sequel.

Satrapi’s experiences and traumas are not solely related to war, but also with exile and isolation. We watch her grow into a woman in Persepolis 2: Story of a Return. A surge in her personal traumas and bad experiences and feelings start to occur a lot when she is living in Vienna. Satrapi deals with trauma a lot differently as an adult. There is no depiction of God, and instead turns to drugs and alcohol as a way of coping. On one page we see her getting high to escape her troubles with her friend Ingrid. “I didn’t always like it, but I by far preferred boring myself with her to having to confront my solitude and my disappointments.” (Satrapi 64) Satrapi feels isolated so intensely that she feels the need to turn to drugs. Self-defeating behavior is symptom of trauma.

We watch as Satrapi hits rock bottom as she becomes homeless and only reaches out for help when she begins to cough up blood and ends up in hospital. She eventually decides to call her parents and her only request is that they “promise to never ask [her] anything about the last three months.” (Satrapi 89) This section of the novel holds few illustrations of her struggles in Vienna, and when asking her parents to never ask her what happened there is only words with no pictures. According to Gilmore, “Trauma complicates the burden of memory and narration inherited by anyone who could write and draw their lives.” (Gilmore 158) She cannot incorporate the trauma into her being or identity due to being so traumatic, it feels separate from her body. All of these traumatic events seem to stem from her being sent into exile when she was younger.

We can also draw on the work of Liz Stanley in From ‘self-made women’ to ‘women’s made self’ to identify with Satrapi’s story. According to Stanley, the interior self is regulated and produced through exteriorities formulated and enacted at different levels within different social structures. Calling the combined self as an “audit self”, Stanley suggests that “audit selves are composite figures, typically heavily gendered ones, which are artefacts of information collection, retrieval and analysis systems.” (Stanley 50) We constantly ask people to define themselves.

Satrapi wants to escape the confines of Island and womanhood and its association with 9/11 post world. All countries have different traditions and cultures that help it to develop their own sense of national identity. Satrapi struggles with accepting certain traditions that are associated with Iran’s national identity. Satrapi wants to define herself and doesn’t want to be defined by the veil.

Much like when we see a woman in a hijab or a veil we project on to her a stereotype of who she already is and what her audit self has a possibility of being, Satrapi also struggles with the label of a ‘married woman’ being placed upon her in Persepolis 2: Story of a Return. “I had suddenly become a married woman.” (Satrapi 163) We see Satrapi illustrate herself behind iron bars in this image, as if she is trapped within the stereotype of a married woman, fear of having an identity placed onto her without her permission. She felt that the stereotype has been placed upon her and now there is nothing that she can do about it, as if she is conforming to society and losing her own personal identity. Satrapi feels pressure to become what Reza, her husband believes is the ideal woman. “I love girls in suits.” She replies with, “That’s just my style!” (Satrapi 164) Much like the veil, people are projecting onto her a stereotype of who she already is.

Throughout this essay we have discussed and analyzed theories and issues of postcolonial feminist literature within both novels of Persepolis.

Works Cited

Coslett, Tess, Celia Lury, and Penny Summerfield. Feminism & Autobiography. London: Routledge, 2000. Print.

Chaney, Michael A. Graphic Subjects: Critical Essays on Autobiography and Graphic Novels. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011. Print.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. Paris: Pantheon Books, 2003. Print.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. Paris: Pantheon Books, 2004. Print.


Hong Kong Postcolonial Memory and Ambivalence to China

Transcultural memory



“I am Hongkongese, not Chinese” : Hong Kong postcolonial memory and ambivalence to China

“I am Chinese, not Hongkongese”

It was summer in 1978, Dongguan (one of cities in south China) had just been through the Cultural Revolution, the city has not climbed out of shadow of torment of famine and poverty. The faces on people were skinniness, paleness and fatigue from social unrest. It seemed that nobody cared about what future ambitions would be realized or whether or not their clothes were fashionable. People just cared about if they could fill their stomach and if they could harvest enough grains to support the whole families.

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The entire city was haunted by desolation and bewilderment. So some family started to discuss about the plans of stowaway to Hong Kong, hoping to get rid of the hopelessness the place left to them. One of these people was a twenty-two years old boy. It was the pushing hand of destiny as well as personal will. He was also the oldest kid of the family. Except his parents, he had six siblings whose futures counted on him. Like this, one day early morning, he departed to the harbor with many people like him, standing alongside the coast waiting rubber dinghies like refugees. Yes, they were indeed refugees, they were seeking hope and chances of survival. However, It was not that lucky for the first time, he was caught by police on the way and put into Dongguan’s local jail for two nights. The police shaved all his hair that night and released the following morning. He didn’t go back to his home. Instead, he headed to a nearby river and had a shower to wash all his misfortunes away. His sister got a message from the jail and rode a bike to pick him up. When she saw him, she tried to see him through the mist of tears but barely recognized this man standing in front of her with skinhead and pale face. With dim eyes, he said, “let’s go home.”

The second time of stowaway was a success, the boy finally arrived in Hong Kong. However, as an illegal migrant, he couldn’t do anything but stay in relative’s for the first couple weeks. After many twists and turns, he finally got a jobs and legal identity card and settled down. It’s been 40 years, just like the movie “Comrades: Almost a Love Story”, he had to start from scratch and went through difficulties all by himself then married a Hong Kong girl.

Now, he is 62 years old and still living in Hong Kong. He sometimes goes back to his hometown to visit his parents and relatives. Hong Kong is still a well-developed and wealthy city, however Dongguan is no longer boundless fields and hopeless small town but a populous industrial city with well-developed infrastructure. Also, in order to keep in touch with his siblings in mainland, he learned to use Chinese social media app. However, despite spending more than half of his life living in Hong Kong, he gained no sense of belonging as if he is standing in the grey area between mainland China and Hong Kong. Sometimes he still feel confused if he is Chinese in Hong Kong or Hongkonger in China, but none of these identities can precisely describe who he is. He has every welfare and civil rights as any other Hong Kong people does, he almost recognizes every roads in Hong Kong but he never regards himself as “Hong Kong people”. Nevertheless, when he sees news about China on TV, the prosperous and bustling cityscapes and revolutionary songs, he feels nothing but unfamiliarity. He thinks he is still Chinese as always, but he is getting unsure of so-called “national identity” as if he has missed the upbringing of a child. This man is my uncle, and the sister is my mother.

The ambiguity of “national memory”

Since the handover in 1997, Hong Kong, as Special Administration Region(SAR), has become a part of China’s territory again. However, Hong Kong ,a British colony for 150 years and it became an international metropolis and politically disputing area simultaneously. The word “identity” became ambiguous since Hong Kong people have mixed sentiment to their home country. On the one hand, Hong Kong people have adopted the British the legal, judicatory system for a long time, which kept reminding them of the distance they have from China. On the other hand, the shared ancestral roots and ethnic culture also have embedded in Hong Kong people’s mind, which still are the main connection of Hong Kong with China. In other words, for most people in the world, they take their national identity for granted and thus cannot easily examine it critically; they may disagree with their country’s policies, but they still have subliminal felling of attachment to their homeland.[1] But national identity, for Hong Kong people, is something they need to “learn” and “practice” after the resumption. Besides, the ambiguity of “identity” refers not only to the transition from colony to part of China, but also is the embodiment of ambivalence to postcolonial “Chineseness” and governance of People’s Republic of China (PRC). In this way, it seems like the more postcolonial Hong Kong government and Communism advocated the sense of belonging to their nation, the more Hong Kong people feel resistant to their country.

According to the poll conducted annually by The University of Hong Kong, 40% of people consider themselves as “Hongkonger” (Hongkongese) which has increased nearly 20% from 2007(the first post-handover decade) while only 15.1% respondents call themselves “Chinese” which has declined from 27.2% in 2007. Besides, some people have mixed identities like “Hongkonger in China”(26.3%) and “Chinese in Hong Kong”(16.9%)[2]. That is to say, people in Hong Kong have difficulty in articulating their identities even after the reversion. In addition, more and more people consider themselves as “Hongkongese” rather than Chinese which means China are continuously losing the new generation of the city.

Obviously, issues between Hong Kong and China have several dimensions. Vertically, “national identity” and “local and national memory” vary between generations. For generation of those who, like my uncle, were originally from mainland China and moved to Hong Kong before the retrocession, they still have strong bond with China and national identity. And some Hong Kong residents also grew their pride because of the remarkable economic growth in China. On the contrary, some of the offspring from mainlanders or new generation of Hong Kong people have different view of China. They regard Chinese as “others” and feel no connection with China because of the regimes of Communist and the dark side of Chinese politics such as crackdown on the pro-democratic movement in 1989.[3] Horizontally, Hong Kong people have different opinions towards China. Some think China’s vast development provides lots of opportunities for business and working while some have antipathy to China because more and more mainlanders come to Hong Kong and lead to shortage of necessities such as milk powder.What’s more, Hong Kong people also accuse mainlanders’ negative influences like “uncivilized” behaviors, which became one of the factors that Hong Kong people have resentful feelings and reject to claim themselves as one of these Chinese. The third dimension is Hong Kong people have different views and emotion towards different aspects of China. People in Hong Kong have more affinity and pride with “cultural-economic” China due to the shared ethnic roots and history but they also distanced themselves from “political China” because of the Chinese regime.[4]

Nowadays, “national identity” is getting ambiguous and disputing in Hong Kong. This complex phenomenon can be attributed to local culture as well as side effects from renationalization under the rule of the PRC. And all these factors invisibly formed Hong Kong people’s memories in various ways. In this way, people in Hong Kong and their mainland counterparts have different memories of experiencing post-1997 times and it caused series of and different levels of conflicts.



“Learning” to “renationalize” memory

To quote Lebel’s words in Exile from national identity: memory exclusion as political, “National memory are not social institutions that formed spontaneously, democratically or pluralistically, but rational projects featuring power relationships, shaped by actors promoting political interests through it and legitimizing their preferential political dominance.”[5] In the first postcolonial decade in Hong Kong, both PRC and Hong Kong government were trying to emphasize national identity and patriotism of citizen since Hong Kong people had lived under colony for decades. Education, as one of the most ubiquitous soft power, became political apparatus to teach young generations about patriotism.

Schooling is one of the most obvious and important societal institutions shaping senses of national identity.[6] Therefore, after the handover, the urgent task for the government was to inculcate patriotism to the new generation of Hong Kong and increase the sense of belonging in order to promote the integration. To execute this task, one of the policies was reconstructing the education curriculum. From 1945 to 1965, the civic education in Hong Kong had been largely kept curriculum away from politics. And between 1966 to 1984( the year when the resumption to China was settled), civic education still remained depoliticized but tended to promote sense of belonging and national values.[7] After the handover, according to Morris(2002) and Tse(2004), Tung Chee-hwa, as Hong Kong’s executive, advocated “Chineseness” and tried to raise the national pride as Chinese of young generation.[8] He believed that “teaching Hong Kong’s younger generation to recognize and identify with the culture of the Chinese nation is the most important task of education in Hong Kong”(quoted in Edward Vickers, Flora Kan and Paul Morris,2003). Since then, the school curriculum has changed gradually by some policies, for instance, pedagogic approaches have involved emphasis of national identity as well as patriotism both in primary schools and secondary schools, Mandarin has been taught in schools more widely.[9] What’s more, flag hoisting and the singing of the national anthem in schools became more prevalent. [10]Apparently, Hongkong post-colonial government had emphasized the national history and introduced patriotic education in planned ways in order to foster students’ ethnic sentiments with the nation. In this way, it could reconstruct citizens’ national memory profoundly.

Of course, patriotic education has not bred full loyalty to China. Rather, it has triggered increasing skepticism over the years. Instead, the pedagogic approaches triggered Hong Kong people’s skepticism as well as antipathy to Chinese government. For example, according to Angelina Y. Chin, many ‘post-80s’( those who born in 1980s in Hong Kong) become activists who are concerned with autonomy in Hong Kong and are critical of the PRC’s incremental interference in Hong Kong politics.[11] Besides, Hong Kong education still remains its scope of freedom compared to national education in mainland China. “ Whilst the textbooks used in mainland China rationalize why a market economy works in a Communist country and try to reconcile the earlier ideology of Communism and capitalist reform, the textbooks in Hong Kong do not have to bear this burden because they have no history of praising Communism and Mao.”[12] This educative difference allows Hong Kong people shape their more critical and skeptical memory than their mainland counterparts, namely, it to some extent raises social conflicts and confrontation of Hong Kong young generation,For example, an anti-national education movement occurred in September 2012. Hong kong activists gathered together and tried to stop the introduction of compulsory classes that critics say is brainwashing education by the Chinese government.[13] The curriculum,which consists of general civic education and controversial lessons on praising mainland China, is due to be introduced in primary schools in September and secondary schools in 2013.[14] Finally, Hong Kong people successfully pushed the government to suspend introduction of a new curriculum in this regard.[15]

However, from government perspectives, national education is rather natural thing than controversial because people around the world need to learn history in their country. Americans learn American history, British learn a great deal about their loyal family, thus it is not “brainwashing” if Chinese learn their own national history. But for Hong Kong people, they had hard time believing in national history that they are excluded from because of being colonized by Britain. Also, some people criticized that, “In fact, those who oppose it are likely to be more ‘brainwashed’ by Western ideology, as Hong Kong used to be a British colony.”[16] What Hong Kong activists called for was freedom and the new curriculum that can expend their horizon and enable them to adapt more smoothly to the national environment. In the case of Hong Kong, national education doesn’t work as easily as other countries, and as pivotal apparatus, it can be effective shaping people’s national attachment and intensifies unrest simultaneously.

To recapitulate, renationalizing the local’s memory of “national identity” or “nationalism” didn’t turn out a good way in Hong Kong. According to Zaretsky(1994), “The process of renationalization can be regarded as rationalization of domination vis à vis social actor. How the local reacts to this is the identity politics that in turn defines their cultural identity”.[17] It is worth noting that after undergoing the intensified patriotic education and series of Chinese cultural propagation, Hong Kong people’s cultural identity has already been hybridized. On the one hand, they were taught about Chinese ethos and established their national memories consciously. On the other hand, they still remained the local cultural identity because of Hong Kong local media and culture cultivation ,which differentiates them and the mainlanders. This hybridized memory has put Hong Kong people into a dilemma that they lost sense of belonging of their motherland but also, they have already been baptized by renationalization.



The Hong Kong spirit

As mentioned earlier, ambivalence and resistance of Hong Kong people are the result of hybridization of postcolonial memory-making, Chinese political authority and their local identity of being “Hongkongese”. “When Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule, Hong Kong was modernized and formed a distinct cultural identity despite its longstanding historical, cultural, and ethnic ties with China. Consequently, Hong Kong citizens regard Chinese identity as culturally acceptable but politically controversial.”(E. K. W. Ma & Fung, 2007; Mathews et al., 2008; Sinn, 1995 cited in Fung and Chan)[18]. Therefore, Hong Kong identity embodies and manifests both cultural attachment with and resistance to “Chineseness”. This ambivalence was further complicated in the transition period from the 1990s to the early years after the handover because of the increasing socio-economic integration of China and Hong Kong, and the cross-border experience of Hong Kong citizens living in Mainland China.[19] In this process, Hong Kong people have already formed their postcolonial memory with their “Hong Kong ethos” and in turn, China are losing the new generation of the city as a result of, ironically, its post-handover renationalization and interference in Hong Kong’s autonomy.

I was born in Shenzhen, China, which is the major city that connects Hong Kong and mainland China. Somehow I always feel mentally close to Hong Kong because we both speak Cantonese, I spent my holidays in my uncle’s in Hong Kong. For me, Hong Kong is more than a city, it contained my childhood memory and kinship. In 2017, I was obsessed with one Hong Kong indie band called “My little airport” whose music depicts the perplexity and sense of hopelessness of young generation in Hong Kong so subtly. Their music appealed to me so much until I saw a video that they were playing British national anthem in a musical event . I felt complexed because I, as Chinese, couldn’t agree what they were doing because playing British anthem doesn’t help change the situation of Hong Kong but on the other hand, it was the reflection of how Hong Kong people feel under the rule of PRC. I was not surprised that Chinese government banned the band after that. Apart from large-scale counter-movements such as “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” which aimed to fight for Hong Kong’s autonomy and true democracy, conflicts between “Hongkongese” and “Chinese” escalated. Hong Kong young generation keeps fighting for democracy and even resist mainlander’s tourism while China state media show how Hong Kong people embrace China and how intimate “Hongkongese” and “Chinese” are. While prevailing media narratives about relationship between these two areas are quite positive and hopeful, China indeed is losing the trust and affinity of the city both politically and culturally.



Chan Chi Kit, “China as “other”: Resistance to and ambivalence toward national identity in Hong Kong”,China perspectives No.(2014/1):25-34.

Chin Angelina Y. “Diasporic Memories and Conceptual Geography in Post-colonial Hong Kong”,Modern Asian Studies 48,6,(2014),1566-1593. doi:10.1017/S0026749X13000577

Chui Ping and Iris Kam, “Personal identity versus national identity among Hong Kong youths – personal and social education reform after reunification”, Social Identities, 18:6, (2012),649-661,

Fung Anthony, “Postcolonial Hong Kong identity: hybridising the local and the national”, Social identities,10:3, (2004), 399-414.

Fung Anthony Y. H. and Chan, Chi Kit, “Post handover identity contested cultural bonding between China and Hong Kong”,Chinese Journal of Communication, 10:4, (2017),395-412,, “You would identify yourself as a Hongkonger/Chinese/Chinese in Hong Kong/Hongkonger in China : (per poll)”, HKU POP SITE, last modified 7 December 2018.

Juliana Liu, “Hong Kong debates ‘national education’ classes”, 1 September 2012,

Lebel Udi, “Exile from national identity: memory exclusion as political” ,National Identities,Vol.11 No.3, (2009), 241-262.

Mathews, Gordon, Jiewei Ma, and Dale Lü. Hong Kong, China Learning to belong to a nation. Milton Park: Routledge, 2008.

Rivers Zhang, Nannerl Yau and Avery Tsui, “‘I am a Hongkonger’:How China loses the hearts of the city’s young generation, HONG KONG FREE PRESS, 25 March 2017,, (

Vickers Edward ,Flora Kan and Paul Morris , “Colonialism and the Politics of ‘Chinese History’ in Hong Kong’s Schools”, Oxford Review of Education, 29:1, (2003), 95-111,

Indigenous Oral Storytelling Narrative and Hybridity in Postcolonial African Literature

A Stylistic Analysis of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

‘Because Achebe is able to capture the flavour of an oral society in his style and narrative organisation, Things Fall Apart, is able to represent successfully the specificity of a culture alien to most Western readers. (JanMohamed, 1984) This analysis will examine the validity of the statement and attempt to corroborate if the narrative does indeed transcend ‘…the Manichean relations’ between the colonizer and the colonized.’ (JanMohamed, 1984)

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The novel Things Fall Apart (1958) by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe (1930 -2013) is a post-colonial text in which Achebe attempts to reassert his culture’s[1] oral storytelling narrative over a Eurocentric literary model via the application of language and syntaxial hybridity. In the process of doing so he appropriated the colonising language. He has always insisted that he had no option but to utilise it in the writing of his book. This was due to the colonizing culture altering the indigenous oral traditions to better suit Western notational practices. Achebe has spoken about the effect colonization had on his native language:

He (Archdeacon Dennis) had this notion that the Igbo language—which had very many different dialects—should somehow manufacture a uniform dialect that would be used in writing to avoid all these different dialects. Because the missionaries were powerful, what they wanted to do they did. This became the law. But the standard version cannot sing. There’s nothing you can do with it to make it sing. It’s heavy. It’s wooden. It doesn’t go anywhere.’ (Brooks, J, 1994)

In the text extract presented (Appendix, 1.) for analysis Okonkwo is meeting with his friend Obieika. This is not long after Okonkwo has carried out the honour killing of his adopted son. Though the priestess to the Gods said that it must be done, Okonkwo took it upon himself to personally carry out the act. This has left him feeling troubled, and so he seeks to speak with his friend who questions as to why Okonkwo felt it was a personal obligation to deliver the killing blow. The two men are both respected, Okonkwo for his strength and bravery. He is the model of an alpha male within a society where martial prowess is revered. Obieika is not a warrior in any measure equal to that of his friend though he is respected for his eloquence and wisdom.

While analysing the text particular focus will be placed on examining how Achebe has implemented an oral story telling narrative using a hybrid of Western discourse and his own culture’s oral tradition. It is imperative to note however that although he is attempting to create this mind style it can only ever be a symbolic representation due to the indigenous language of the region’s tribes having been westernised by the Archdeacon Dennis during the colonisation of Africa. (Ekechi, 1978,)

One must also keep the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in mind when examining the syncretism of the language used by Achebe and how the linguistic modes that a person utilizes, when speaking, directly governs their cognition. (Carroll 1956, p.137) states ‘The fact of the matter is that the “real world” is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group’. This does not mean that a culture with only an oral tradition is any less able in its cognitive ability as is alluded to in Victorian imperialistic literature[2], it states only that the methodology of thought will differ.

The schema laid out in the narrative is one of two friends meeting. While Okonkwo is the stronger of the two physically, he is aware of his friend’s oratory skills and holds him in high regard. This is exemplified by the number of turns each man has within the text, Okonkwo has five while Obieika has four. This indicates a shared level of influence.  As there are only two people present in the conversation it is not unusual to have such a balance. (Short, 1996, p.361)

Conducting a precursory reading before performing a more detailed examination of the lexis establishes that his charterers are flat rather than rounded, and that the speech presentation is entirely direct rather than a narrator’s representation of voice or speech acts; The speaker’s emotion is expressed through the use of concrete metaphors.

Grice states that the balance of power within a conversation can also be observed using the co-operative principles. (cited in Cole et al. 1975) Neither man overtly breaks the maxims of quantity, quality, or relation to any degree that could be considered deviant in relation to context of the conversation, though it can be discussed that the use of metaphor is breaking the maxim of manner. However, it must be held in consideration that as Achebe is applying linguistical techniques that are customary to a native oral narrative then it is supposed that both men are familiar with this degree of periphrasis.[3]

When Okonkwo speaks about his son, Nwoye, he questions the boy’s prowess and potential to be a man stating: “A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches.” This example emphasizes how the representation of feeling is constructed in keeping with the aspect of the text being written as if it is an oral narration; instead of being characterised by the Western theory of roundness Achebe has again employed metaphorical storytelling techniques native to oral narratives.

With the application of scientific methodology, in this instance computational linguistics, it is possible to quantify the lexical density of the text being analysed.[4] Lexical density measures the content in a text by grammatical units and lexemes. Its parameters vary according to register and genre, with speech achieving lesser lexical density scores than a text that has been written by an author; a transcript of a conversation will score lower than a narrative from a novel. (Bresman et al., 2016)   On average most literature falls within the bracket of a 50-60% lexical density. The lexical density of the text extract under analysis in this case falls into the 47% bracket (Appendix, 2) indicating that its syntax resembles a transcript of natural speech rather than a writer’s approximation of it. Again, as the extract taken from the novel is of two people speaking to one another it is pertinent to raise the counter argument that the data is only validating what was to be expected, albeit with a slightly lower percentage then usually encountered. 

In response to this line of reasoning an analysis of the lexical density of each sentence individually was performed to discover the balance within them. Examination of the results (Appendix 3.) directs attention to the fact that the majority of sentences in the extract are close to equal in their respective lexical density and that twenty-one out of a possible thirty sentences are under the lexical density bracket of 50% -60% expected in a Western novel. This, when it is combined with the use of short sentences (Appendix 2.), helps create a schema reminiscent of a story being told in an oral manner as opposed to the Eurocentric model of speech and thought presentation within the text of his colonizers.

That there is equal stress being placed upon each sentence within the discourse between the two men is yet another example of how Achebe is flattening not only the characters within the text but also the language. He alleviates the issues this poses by incorporating leitmotifs. The schema of visiting a friend and how his own actions were only the will of the gods is reinforced with the most common proper nouns being the name of his friend and the word oracle. (Appendix 2.) This is strengthened still further when the frequency of lexical and functional words is scrutinised (Appendix 4.) where it can be seen that the majority of words are functional rather than descriptive. This disruption again corresponds to the pattern of a transcript of a conversation rather than those of traditional clines and imparts a feeling of a story being old rather than of a story being read.

Drawing all the evidence together confirmations that Things Fall Apart is most certainly a post-colonial novel due to its hybridity of language and the encapsulation of a lexical structure reminiscent to oral storytelling. This is proven by means of the lexical density analysis demonstrating the text’s structure corelates closely to that of a transcript of natural conversation as opposed to a written narration of a speech act.  

Linking back to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis this spoken narrative style is also evident in how the relatively flat characters presented by Achebe are rounded through their use of metaphor and parables in direct speech rather than having ascribed personal or social role categories.

In conclusion, Achebe symbolically recreates an indigenous oral narrative tradition lost to his country. He achieves this by way of subversion and the appropriation of the English language foisted upon him and many generations of his forefathers. It is precisely this hybridity that allows him to write in such a manner and once again give his native voice a chance to sing.


Achebe, C, (1958) Things Fall Apart, London, Penguin Group.

Bresman, J., Asudeh, A., Toivonen, I., Wechsler, S. (2016) Lexical – Functional Syntax, Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Brooks, J. (1994) Chinua Achebe, The Art of Fiction No. 139, The Paris Review. Issue 133.

Carrol, J, B. (ed.) (1958) Language Thought and Reality – Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf, Massachusetts, The MIT Press.

Ekechi,F, K. (1978) The Missionary Career of the Venerable T. J. Dennis in West Africa, 1893-1917, Journal of Religion in Africa 9, no. 1.

Grice, H, P. (1975) Logic and conversation, in Cole, P and Morgan, J (eds.) Syntax and Semantics III: Speech Acts, New York: Academic Press (pp 41-58)

JanMohamed, A. (1984) Sophisticated Primitivism: The Syncretism of Oral and Literate Modes in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, Ariel, Vol. 15, No 4, pp. 19-39.

Leech, G., Rayson, P., Wilson, A. (2014) Word Frequencies in Written and Spoken English, Oxon, Routledge.

Short, M. (1996) Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose, Harlow, Pearson Education Ltd.  

Tannen, D. (1999) Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Wardhaugh, R. (2000) An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd.



 “Nwoye is old enough to impregnate a woman. At his age I was already fending for myself. No, my friend, he is not too young. A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches. I have done my best to make Nwoye grow into a man, but there is too much of his mother in him.”

“Too much of his grandfather,” Obierika thought, but he did not say it. The same thought also came to Okonkwo’s mind. But he had long learned how to lay that ghost. Whenever the thought of his father’s weakness and failure troubled him he expelled it by thinking about his own strength and success. And so he did now. His mind went to his latest show of manliness.

“I cannot understand why you refused to come with us to kill that boy,” he asked Obierika.

“Because I did not want to,” Obierika replied sharply. “I had something better to do.”

“You sound as if you question the authority and the decision of the Oracle, who said he should die.”

“I do not. Why should I? But the Oracle did not ask me to carry out its decision.”

“But someone had to do it. If we were all afraid of blood, it would not be done. And what do you think the Oracle would do then?”

“You know very well, Okonkwo, that I am not afraid of blood; and if anyone tells you that I am, he is telling a lie. And let me tell you one thing, my friend. If I were you I would have stayed at home. What you have done will not please the Earth. It is the kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families.”

“The Earth cannot punish me for obeying her messenger,” Okonkwo said. “A child’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm.”

“That is true,” Obierika agreed. “But if the Oracle said that my son should be killed I would neither dispute it nor be the one to do it.”


Total word count: 352

Number of sentences: 30

Average sentence length: 11

Complex word count (3 or more syllables): 24

Lexical density of the text: 47%

Most common proper nouns: Obierika (4) Oracle (4)

Most common word pairing: the oracle (4)


 Lexical density by sentence – Lexical words are in green.


Nwoye is old enough to impregnate a woman.



At his age I was already fending for myself.



No my friend he is not too young.



A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches.



I have done my best to make Nwoye grow into a man but there is too much of his mother in him.



Too much of his grandfather Obierika thought but he did not say it.



The same thought also came to Okonkwo’s mind.



But he had long learned how to lay that ghost.



Whenever the thought of his father’s weakness and failure troubled him he expelled it by thinking about his own strength and success.



And so he did now.



His mind went to his latest show of manliness.



I cannot understand why you refused to come with us to kill that boy he asked Obierika .



Because I did not want to Obierika replied sharply.



I had something better to do.



You sound as if you question the authority and the decision of the oracle who said he should die.



I do not.



Why should I?



But the oracle did not ask me to carry out its decision.



But someone had to do it.



If we were all afraid of blood it would not be done.



And what do you think the oracle would do then?



You know very well Okonkwo that I am not afraid of blood and if anyone tells you that I am he is telling a lie.



And let me tell you one thing my friend.



If I were you I would have stayed at home.



What you have done will not please the earth.



It is the kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families.



The earth cannot punish me for obeying her messenger Okonkwo said.



A child’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm.



That is true Obierika agreed .



But if the oracle said that my son should be killed I would neither dispute it nor be the one to do it .



Lexical words are in green, function words are in red.

Nouns:   18.47%

Adjectives:   4.55%

Verbs:   13.35% 

Adverbs:  6.25%

Prepositions:  10.8%

Pronouns:  13.64%

Auxiliary Verbs: 9.09%

Determiners:  17.04%

Conjunctions:  6.81%

[1] By the term culture I refer to a low culture not high. (Wardhaugh, 2000, p215)

[2] Haggard, Kipling, and Conrad being three examples of writers who wrote such literature.

[3] “Proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” (Achebe, 1958, p.7)

[4] This field of research was originally attributed to the discipline of computer science. It’s application in relation to discourse analysis also allows for the computation of literary lexical density.

A Post-Colonial Perspective on “On the Rainy River” By Tim O’Brien

A Post-Colonial Perspective on “On the Rainy River” By Tim O’Brien

 While examining the short story “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien from a post-colonial perspective, it becomes clear that during the time of 1968, patriarchal influence forced many men into war, and encouraged the chauvinist mindset that men should be afraid to show fear and emotion, or be ashamed of portraying themselves in a “softer” way.

    Tim O’Brien, a 21-year-old man, is having his life defined by the war and by his social expectations as a man in a male-dominated civilization. This is evident when he says, “This is one story I’ve never told before. Not to anyone. Not to my parents, not to my brother or sister, not even to my wife.”(O’Brien). This reveals his level of pride as a man, in that he feels the need to keep his story from his loved ones because it is “embarrassing” as a man to open up and show strong emotion towards something.

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    When he was drafted to fight in the American war in Vietnam, he becomes increasingly unsettled and afraid. The war to him seemed wrong and irrelevant. For him, not having an explanation of why he was drafted to war, made him go insane. He strongly believed that he was better than to fight in the war. However, it was a man’s duty during this time, so he begins to contemplate on whether or not he should leave the country in order to escape the war.

     “I felt paralyzed. All around me the options seemed to be narrowing as if I were hurtling down a huge black funnel, the whole world squeezing in tight. There was no happy way out.” (O’Brien) This quote portrays the importance behind the huge funnel symbolizing war and the whole world trapping him in that one option, as society made men feel obligated to go to war and do the “right thing”. All young men were trapped in the concept that they must put their life on the line for war, and if they didn’t, it would make them look less masculine.

    When he is brought across the river to the border, he begins having a moment of anxiety regarding how everybody in his hometown will view him if he avoids the war. He imagines his friends laughing at him and insulting him with words meant to degrade his masculinity. This shows how humiliated and embarrassed he felt of his natural human fear and doubts that were unacceptable back then. Eventually, his expectations as a man overpower his personal hopes, and his pride defeats him to submit to the war. In the end, O’Brien states the sense of loss he felt in going to war. “I survived, but it’s not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to war.”(O’Brien) This reveals how his mentality changed near the end, from believing he was a “coward” for not going to war to believing he is a “coward” for not fleeing from war. Overall, it is obvious that O’Brien had a part of his life restricted by his social status as a “man” in the sexiest civilization he is surrounded by.

    In conclusion, although the 1960s was a tragic time for the society, they took it out on men, making them think they must go to war, in order to show their courage and fearlessness. It was a very sexist society, and the governments made men feel ashamed of their decisions for their own advantage.

Works Cited

:. Toronto CDSB .:. Online Courses


Differences in the Character of Post-Colonial States is a Reflection of their Path to Independence

Differences in the Character of Post-Colonial States is a Reflection of their Path to Independence

Differences between India and Pakistan have been designated as a direct consequence of the British partition with ethnic tensions, religious differences, border disputes, and many other socio-economic issues stemming from the same event. The partition of the Indian subcontinent also resulted in the largest and most rapid migration in human history. While the agreement did not include any provision that required the human population exchanges, the migration was necessitated by the violence that ensued the region. The establishment of the independent states of Pakistan and India through the partition in 1947 stamped the end of the British occupation of the region. Pakistan would reconstitute with a Muslim-majority population while India had a Hindu-majority populace. Ever since the declaration of independence, these two states have co-existed with an incremental level of hostility between them. The relationship between the two states is a reflection of the manner in which the independence deal was struck. The partition has also contributed to questions over the British morality in imposing the partition and whether it was the most pragmatic means of dealing with the ethnic differences and communalism. The debate seems to lean in on the idea that the partition was inevitable and was a logical approach in solving the conflict between the Hindus and Muslims who were unable to co-exist harmoniously. There is evidence, however, that Pakistan is starting to divert away from British influence and this will ultimately shape the character of the state in the coming decades.

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To begin with, it is important to evaluate the characters of the individual states. Both Pakistan and India adopted asymmetric forms of federalism as a business structure and this has been seen to be a direct consequence of the partition. Federalism was pursued as a national and ethnic conflict regulation policy under colonial dispensation. Characteristically, the two states are anthropologically heterogenous and originate from the same colonial regime. They also had similar institutional frameworks by the time the Indian subcontinent was approaching independence. However, following the imposition of the partition at independence, the two young states had the imperative to pursue economic and social development under different political systems hence effecting variably motivated reorganizations of their regional borders, all happening within a decade of the declaration of independence (Adeney, 2003). The reorganizations of the political states were intended to be a management of the ethnic differences between the two states. The federal system adopted by the Indian government was founded on the linguistic identities of the constituents while rejecting any ideas of recognizing people on the basis of their religious affiliations. Article 370 of the Indian Constitution provides for special status for Jammu and Kashmir (Rudolph and Hoeber Rudolph, 2010). Additionally, Article 371 also provides special provisions for other states such as Goa, Gujarat and Sikkim (Rudolph and Hoeber Rudolph, 2010). The Indian asymmetry is not solely a consequence of partition as many of the states are geographical distant from India’s borders. On the other hand, the Pakistani government rejected the proposals to use language to define identities of its citizens. Instead, a One Unit plan was implemented facilitating the fusion of the Western wing into a single province. While it was meant to be beneficial in the sense of promoting unity, the plan ignited an antagonistic co-relation between that Western wing and the Eastern wing which was linguistically homogenous (Adeney, 2003). It is paradoxical that the One Unit plan designed to promote unity caused the 1971 secession of the Bangladesh state that was formerly the Eastern wing of the Pakistan state. Pakistan, whilst also an asymmetric federal state, provides for an additional level of government which incorporates tribal leaders into local decision-making whereas India does not, officially, do the same. The tribal areas are enumerated in the Pakistani Constitution, all of which being administered through local provinces. This federally administered tribal area, Pashtun, was integrated into a larger province in 2018 (Marten, Johnson and Mason, 2009). This could be illustrative of an attempt to increase the territorial unity of the country or indeed cultivate a more unified Pakistani identity by sublimating local solidarities to a national polity; a measure that is deemed to be a derivative of the One Unit plan.  

From the foregoing, it is evident that the poor design of the federal framework implemented by both states has failed to regulate the ethnically instigated conflicts. In this case that is characterized by the territorial concentration of the states in terms of the large populations they host, it would be effective to have homogenous populations rather than heterogenous populations as a way of ameliorating the tension. The British used federalism in the Indian colony, as part of their divide and rule strategy, to manage the societies. Their rationale is that the political institution of federalism as a structure would serve to autonomously regulate the ethnic conflicts; especially in consideration of the situational nature of ethnicity. The British set the precedence for the federalism in the divided states during the anti-colonial movements. Arguably, India and Pakistan are both federal because of collective historical memory of power being centralised in a distant location (London) and the Indian independence movement came not from one centre but was diffuse in its nature.

In as much as the pretext for the partition was the religious difference within the Indian subcontinent, religion was not a major factor and could have been used as an anti-colonialism tool at key moments of the struggle. It is hard to ignore the timeless hostility between the Hindus and Muslims. The differences between the two transcended just religion and had extended into other social elements, the most profound being the social stratification system. The Muslims mostly formed the upper class of the society while Hindus comprised of the lower and middle classes. The stratification of the society in itself had bred some conflicts in the past with some of them turning out to be violent. However, it was not a factor that hindered national unity as much as the calls for nationalism. Rarely did the religious factor, within the limits of morality and reason, impede the national unity of the region. Religion was as variegated as the aspect of culture, and had thus far attracted enthusiastic nationalists of all sorts, hues, and colours (Bose, 2013). In fact, religion and culture variability would not have embittered and soured the relations between the different ethnic groups of the country were it not for the influence of the British colonialists. In pitting the groups against each other, they flaunted the Hindu nationalists into boasting the power of majoritarian triumph. It was made to seem as though the Indian nationalist movement was a sole effort by the Hindus, and that the Islamic groups were riding on a bandwagon wave effect. The Hindus had united under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership to make a compelling argument for their self-rule and eventual independence. At the same time, there were calls for unity against the British rule by all Indians. The threat posed by the Indian Congress forced the British to adopt a divisive political strategy. These conceits of unitary nationalism drove a wedge and instilled a deep sense of alienation among the groups described as the minority who in this case were the Muslims (Bose, 2013). In fact, the calls for nationalism amidst the power struggle and seeming condescending perspective of the minority segment of the population was a far more divisive issue than the attachment to various religions. The Muslims later staged a withdrawal from the Indian Congress in protest of the strong political hold held by the Hindus (Jaffrelot, 2004). In so doing, the focus, amidst the fight for independence, shifted from establishing a united front to religious conflicts. The Muslims went on to start their own campaign, which was independent of the Hindu movement, called the Muslim League. The fight for independence evolved into two factions that not only struggled against the British rule, but also against each other. Further confusion was heaped onto the menacing situation as the minority group advanced territorial claims over sections of the land (Bose, 2013). The two factions campaigned on separate agenda and developed independent nationalism movements, all this while enunciating hostility towards each other, setting up the stage for a federal republic. In 1940, the Muslim League actualized on its claims for certain territories by passing the ‘Lahore Resolution’(Wilcox, 1964). It demanded for the British to allow the Muslim majority areas a substantially significant degree of freedom and independence. Vague as it was during its conception, the idea would later evolve into the nation-state of Pakistan. With the tensions threatening to boil over, it became apparent that there would be no use dispensing the authority over the Indian subcontinent as a shared sovereignty as had been the case in the pre-colonial era. The British, therefore, imposed a moral authority to divide the land in terms of the religious affiliation.

However, there have been attempts by the Hindu nationalists to rewrite history regarding the struggle for independence in a way that underplays the role of the Muslims during the time. The texts are inclined towards the dissemination of the active role of the Hindus through the Indian Congress and the passive anti-colonial resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi. This is true for the Indian texts which greatly undermine the contribution of the Muslims considering that the mainland India is vastly populated by Hindus following the partition by the British. On the other hand, the Pakistani narratives of the struggle for independence has a propensity for oversharing the role played by the Muslim League at the expense of the Hindu-dominated Indian Congress. The nationalist movement is attributed to the Islamic faith (Jaffrelot, 2004). The Islamic dominion has gone on to form a basis for the national ideologies pursued by the state, as is characteristic of the Islamic states. Islam is an intricate part of the Pakistani state with its manifestation evident in key political structures such as the sharia courts and other national symbols (Mitra, 1995). The diversity of both states was created in part due to the disregard for such pluralism by British authorities however nationalist attempts at homogenisation are also something that is increasingly common in both states, perhaps as a way of consolidating the post-British geopolitical landscape. The One Unit plan in Pakistan, for instance, was aimed to promoting the agenda of homogenization of the state as a way of strengthening it. Every religion would be brought into conformity with the Islamic religion according to the provisions of the 1956 Constitution (Wilcox, 1964). The end result was the increasing discrimination of the minority religious groups which later ceded forming Bangladesh. In as much as it was ineffective in achieving the goal of unity since the homogenization was on grounds of religion, the intention was not lost. The post-colonial states were looking to strengthen their unity around common ideas as a way for pushing for nationalism. A strong sense of nationalism would serve to wade off any potential aggressors such as the Indians.

Both India and Pakistan maintain close relationships with their former colonial power. India has extensive diplomatic relations with the UK with a high commission in London and deputy high commissions in Birmingham and Edinburgh. The UK has a high commission in New Delhi as well as deputy high commissions in Bengalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkate and Mumbai (Pant, 2016). The political ties between the two nations run deep owing to their historical ties as colony and colonial master. Following the end of the colonization era, the British Empire sought to ease the decolonization process by maintaining strong ties with the respective governments. One such way was through the Commonwealth association. Britain left behind a strong sense of its institutional and ideological ideals in India. The legacy of the political framework it used during the colonization era is still apparent. The ideals of democracy have also been integrated into the independent republic of India. Additionally, the countries have representative diplomats who facilitate the foreign relations between the two states on issue of international concern such as counter-terrorism, maritime security, cyber security, and climate. The British Council and other UK soft power entities have worked collaboratively in order to maintain links with India, one such event being the 2017 UK-India Year of Culture. Other traces of culture such as the architecture and cricket are legacies of the British culture. The UK still admits many students from India to further their studies. India is second largest investor in the UK, behind the US, and British government policy regarding international trade has often been focussed on promoting trade between the UK and India, and indeed other former Commonwealth states. The relationship swings both ways as the UK still relies heavily on India as a designated market for its goods. The vast nature of the economy in terms of purchasing power is an enabling factor for the economic ties between the UK and India. Pakistan has one diplomatic mission to the UK and the UK has one in Pakistan. Some work has been done to promote trade between the two states however arguably Pakistan’s involvement in China’s Belt and Road Initiative is reflective of a desire among Pakistani political elites to shift its focus away from Britain and its sphere of influence. This has historical precedent as Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognise the People’s Republic of China over the Republic of China in 1950. This could be read into Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s view of Pakistani foreign policy, which is also prominently displayed on the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website: “The foundation of our foreign policy is friendship with all nations around the globe” (Curtis, 2012). However, the relationship between Pakistan and UK has increasingly shifted from political ties and normative considerations to economic ties. Pakistan’s hand in the relations is continuously consolidated by the sheer power of economic weight in terms of purchasing power. In any case, Pakistan has developed a proclivity towards Asian states. For instance, it has strengthened its ties with China and Saudi Arabia. By shifting the discussions from political ties to economic subjects, the Pakistani state is attempting to strike a neutral stance rather than as a firm ally of the UK.

In conclusion, Domestic political structures and nationalisms were and still are largely shaped by the creation of India and Pakistan after the British Partition of India. One such evidence of the legacy of their history as Britain’s colony is democracy. The cultures are also intertwined with the two states producing some of the best cricket players. The diplomatic and foreign policy approaches of the two states is beginning to diverge as Pakistan appears to be shifting away from the UK and towards Asia whereas India is continuing to cultivate strong cultural and economic links with its former colonial overlord.


Adeney, K. (2003). Chapter 9: Between federalism and separatism: India and Pakistan. In: U. Schneckener and S. Wolff, ed., Managing and Settling Ethnic Conflicts: Perspectives on Successes and Failures in Europe, Africa and Asia. [online] Hurst and Co, pp.161-175. Available at: [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019].

Bose, S. (2013). Nation, Reason and Religion: India’s Independence in International Perspective. Economic and Political Weekly, 33(31), pp.2090-2097.

Curtis, L. (2012). The reorientation of Pakistan’s foreign policy toward its region. Contemporary South Asia, 20(2), pp.255-269.

Jaffrelot, C. (2004). Pakistan. New Delhi: Manohar.

Marten, K., Johnson, T. and Mason, M. (2009). Misunderstanding Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area?. International Security, 33(3), pp.180-189.

Mitra, S. (1995). The Rational Politics of Cultural Nationalism: Subnational Movements of South Asia in Comparative Perspective. British Journal of Political Science, 25(1), pp.57-77.

Pant, H. (2016). Indian foreign policy. Manchester University Press.

Rudolph, L. and Hoeber Rudolph, S. (2010). Federalism as State Formation in India: A Theory of Shared and Negotiated Sovereignty. International Political Science Review, 31(5), pp.553-572.

Wilcox, W. (1964). The Economic Consequences of Partition: India and Pakistan. Journal of International Affairs, 18(2).


Postcolonial International Relations Theory

This paper aims to explore how postcolonial IR theory offers an alternative to mainstream IR, which is known to have neglected Third World issues. I shall investigate ideas of ‘Orientalism’ (Said,1978) and ‘Hybridity’ (Bhabha,2012), as these works attempt to deconstruct the misrepresentation of colonised societies and more importantly strive to develop the existence of selfconsciousness for the next generation of Third World people in mainstream ideology. First, this essay shows the fundamental idea and origin of postcolonialism (Tickner, 2003). Second, I shall outline the arguments of neocolonialism (Biswas,2016). Eventually, the essay contrasts postcolonialism to the mainstream IR: realism and predominantly neoliberalism (Blaney and Inayatulla,2008).

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The postcolonial theory can be seen as an appealing tool from the socalled Third World perspective (Watson, 2009:p.297). The theory suggests a more comprehensive examination of IR on a regional and national level that is not a part of the mainstream vision about IR. This counterview is an outsider in comparison to the core scholarships which have been rooted in the US and Europe. There were first-time depictions of IR by scholars with American descent, and consequently, they influenced and shaped the significant development of IR theories. In the current time, the American centrality and ‘exceptionalism’ are still the starting point in global politics, wherefore predominantly American and European authors published academic writings of IR. The First World dominance caused an intellectual crisis and imbalance for the independent judgment of IR. For example, South America has been determined as an entirely irrelevant player by the Western theorist, Kenneth Waltz in world politics (Tickner, 2003:295-8). According to Seth’s clarification (2013:20), the neo-colonialism intends to narrate the effect of colonialism on native lands and nations as opposed to being a historical time era after decolonisation. The theory (Yang, Zhang and Wang,2006:280) has been intensified after World War II when many colonial countries declared independence in Asia, Africa and South America. The newly emancipated societies have looked for reference relations to the West’s colonial history in order to reconstruct their identical descent and identity for further independent and national growth.
On the whole, Barker outlines that themes such a race, ethnicity, nation, subjectivity, hybridity and power (2001:24;287) play fundamental roles in postcolonial researches. Postcolonial criticism centres the issues of some cultural ‘Otherness’ (Barry,2017:191). There are two main concerns for postcolonial theorists. The first problem is how the culture of natives, it-so called ‘subaltern’ (Morris,2010) has undergone an ambiguous transformation by an imperial and colonial power (Barry,2017:191). In this, the emphasis is on the relationship through communication between the coloniser ‘self’ and colonised ‘the other’ (Bhabha,1984:126-133). The settler language shaped the function of colonial law and education processes for native people. Consistently, colonised humans have perceived these unnatural changes in a specific way on an individual and communal level too.
The second poser is the legacy of ‘hybridity’ (Bhabha,2012) that the colonist and colonised mix the character of language and culture traits and this ‘worlding’ blurs cultural boundaries of the low-class natives, for example, British Asians or Latino-Americans in future. That is called cultural hybridity that raised several dissonances regarding the identity of the ‘other’ people and their agency representation (Barker, 2001:25). Barry adds two other characteristics of discourse to neo-colonialism theory (2017:193-5). The first is that the indigenous ethnics primarily East Asian and Indian people are viewed as the ‘Other’ and exotic in the Western mind after the colonisation period. Another issue focuses on the process of representing the peripheral Third World, as the criteria of legitimacy after the decolonisation. For example, there is dissonance of hidden stimulation with Avatar movie, where the Western material production revisits the period of colonisation in a sci-fi blockbuster (Fujiki, 2016:199-200). This cultural context of production informs the audience that the idea of colonisation has yet to pass and warns the Third World civilisation to create global policies for independent representation.
The essay presents three examples of postcolonial view to show how they offer distinctive thinking against mainstream IR theories, although they argue with each other as well. The first is Edward Said’s work, often seen as the founder of postcolonial studies in our modern time. Said established critical thoughts of Orientalism in 1978 (Kapoor, 2002:650). He (Biswas, 2016:228) enunciates the importance of domination in culture and how actors and agencies interpret politics. He surveys his subject of colonised people’ them’: the Orient and constructed it by Western colonial perspective ‘us’: the Occident. In this sense, Said illuminates how the West ‘Orientalist’ undermined the Middle East in cultural hegemony, subsequently making the imperialized regions and their nations underdeveloped, and unable to achieve self-representation in a long-standing tradition. He elucidates (Yang, Zhang and Wang,2016:284) a colonisation leaves a more profound impact on the native culture than political or economic consequences.
On top of this, he argues (Biswas, 2016:228), the ‘orientalist’ had taken advantage of the unresponsive Middle East and defined the Third World for its purpose. Said’s Western ‘Oriental’ studies include sources and rhetoric devices of literature, media and opera. He argued that Western society prominently distinguishes itself from the Eastern one. This Western categorical thinking (Pooch,2016:45) has been based on myth, stereotypical fear of the stranger and lack of knowledge of a different culture. This methodology led the European universal influence and its possibility for territorial expansion, for instance, the British and French colonisation. As a result, the Third World suffered from adverse European imperialism. Said contrasts that Western civilisation considers itself, as a liberal, logical, rational and educated. Whereas, Eastern humankind is exotic, degenerate, unsophisticated and primitive in Western perception. Herein, He (Pooch,2016:41) manifests that there is a strong polarity between the centre and the margin, and no other determination is available like in-between. This separation has solid and soft factors. Said’s (Ganguly,2015:73-5) explanation associates with Foucault’s notion of power and knowledge about the method how the Western modernity arrived at Third World lands but more importantly it has a common currency with Gramsci’s theory of hegemony in Orientalism. The latter says that Western practice has been a hegemonic authority for defining worldview, and there has seldom been for alternative opinion or belief to question its justification. This theory (Yang, Zhang and Wang,2016:279294) suggests that leader classes and groups with power reasonably control and standardise the way of living and thinking for others in society. This phenomenon can be understood as cultural leadership by consent. As Western authority covered the rest of the globe during the colonisation period, its culture and interest have become widely dominant and the Eastern one neglected. For instance, Pooch points out (2016:41) that these elements of soft power have appeared in clothes wearing and drinking teas in afternoons in British India.
The second example of a postcolonial sense intends to reject the binary opposition by Homi K. Bhabha in ‘The Location of Culture’ (1994:38). The postcolonialist had reinvented a few theories and notions within culture diversity studies. If Said presents a compelling picture of the radical realism of the West (Nayak,2009:256), Bhabha’s approach has a different mindset and considers another idea for identity studies in postcolonialism. He disagrees with Said’s project of binarism that a settler and native are two distinct classifications averse to each other. Thus, He refuses any assimilation of colonialism to the Hegelian argumentation about Master-Slave dialectic (Polat,2011:1259). Bhabha asserts (Pooch,2016:43) the colonising process had left an impact on both parties, the colonialist and colonised as well: the theory of ‘hybridity’. In this theory, he sees a room optimistically in cultural space for ‘in-between’: the concept of Third Space, where a hybrid identity can exist, and imperial power cannot influence native culture (Easthope,2008:145). The theorist muses this mixing process ‘hybridisation’ in neo-colonialism, as an ambivalent relation nexus rather than the issue of differences between two divisions. These two subjects are the settler’s modern science and the colonised traditional beliefs (Prakash,1992:153). In Bhabha’s understanding (Pooch,2016:44), natives do not convincingly resist colonialist force; because, natives shows neutral, sometimes ironical and simultaneously cynical attitude to the coloniser’s authority for the author, double-consciousness (Dayal,1996:57). Wherefore, this relationship is interdependent, but at the same time, it is unbalanced because of despotism between settlers and natives. That reflection is presented about subalterns’ circumstances in acting and living under the coloniser rules and structure of power in Sly Civility (Bhabha, 1985:71-80).
The third instance is the area of ‘Subaltern studies’ by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in the ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?'(Morris,2010). Spivak composed own idea about colonised people’s situation, who are named, as subalterns by the author. Jacques Derrida’s liberating thoughts: concept of deconstruction influenced Spivak’s initial researches (Yang, Zhang and Wang:2016:284-8). Where Derrida says that the language can interpret endless meanings depending on a reader perception, he notices (Pooch,2016:41) that Western language communicates binary opposition wherein one term sets to be more standard and appropriate over another. This model structures a hierarchy in order to empower the preferred term or side in a debate. The developed opposition and entity introduce the issue of difference for another side but also determine a sort of rightness and relevance for the primacy term. Concisely, Western has identified Eastern societies as a negative dichotomy to approve their positive civilisation values and norms.
In an argument with Said and Bhabha, Spivak says (Yang, Zhang and Wang:2016:288) if there is any cultural space for subalterns, it is blank and silent under colonial despotism. That means colonised people cannot convey any thought, and they are classified for no expression by colonisers. Gospal outlines (2004:146-7) Spivak’s three claims for the ‘Subalternist’ project. The first is that Subaltern studies emerged from the elementary principles of Marxism, means of production. In particular, capitalism substituted from feudalism in India and this was in parallel with colonialism. The native society perceived the transition of an economic and political system, as a confrontation against itself. The second is that the ‘Subaltern’ academician assumes that the theory is based primarily on culture and self-awareness as opposed to the time era of decolonisation even though, the theorist is interested in history and structure questions as well. The last claim is the selfidentity concern, which arises after the end of the slavery period. In this case, Spivak is more concerned about the term of slavery than Bhabha.
In postcolonialism, the key arguments are distinguishing from limiting thought pattern of realism and liberalism. These interrelated claims prioritise on cultural and economic assumptions (Blaney and Inayatulla,2008:671). Seth (2013:21) generalises that classical and structural realists do not consider cultural analyses and moral diversity in the development of IR whatsoever. Whereas, postcolonialists have an intellectual inquiry to understanding the colonial impact on Third World nations in an aspect of race, psychology and culture. Moreover, the writer says that the postcolonial idea is a relativist, and it links theoretical outcome to geographical, historical and cultural knowledge to a particular and marginalised place. Tickner (2003:298-301) continues that the concept of realism has been the main engine of IR discipline for American academicians. Therefore realist’s core claims influenced contemporary frameworks, such as state of war, a state is a dominant actor in world politics and the philosophical question of how much power is enough. The realism is out of fashion among its thinkers though.
Furthermore, realists’ ideologies made the advent of empirical knowledge and backward theorisation in IR that excludes even realities if it is not suitable to realists’ assumption. In response to the Third World cultural inequality (Biswas, 2016:220), Bull outlines (2002:37) that there is a historically controversial categorisation of nations into three divisions. There are modern such as American and European, traditional such as Turkish,
Persian, Siamese, Chinese and Japanese and primitive societies are the rest of the world. Nevertheless, currently, the Western states are the minority, and the non-Western countries represent the majority on the international level, as global outsiders. Besides, Biswas maintains (2016:224-5) the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was an ideal of sovereignty and longstanding concept of peace for postcolonial states in Asia and Africa even though it was dramatically eroded by European colonisation in the 19th century later. The European enlargement and a sort of superpower policies sequentially indicate the concern of realism paradigm concerning colonial power and hegemony. In the same time, it struggles for political autonomy for the colonised in postcolonialism. Therefore, postcolonial authors criticise realists who rarely pay attention to the systemic instability for ‘Third Worldism’ (Berger,2004:9). The critic concludes (Biswas,2016:222) that realism and liberalism premises are based on Orientalism about Third World people that treat marginalised countries and indigenous nations as backward and passive players.
According to neoliberal’s assumption after the end of the Cold War, the author says that colonised society should have taken the values of Eurocentric universalism through institutions by the Western system. As a consequence, postcolonial states earned little influence to control the development of its destiny. The entire political model has a drastic fundament led by the Western-centrism, and it underrepresents the interest of postcolonial states by the First World policymakers. Fanon maintains (Barry, 2017:186) that colonised humans desperately strive to reclaim their once own past and seeking the capability to be emancipated from the foreign and Western ideology in the sense of national identity. For this reason, postcolonial discourse problematizes Western essentialism and uniqueness like modernisation and progress. It seeks agency and resistance to preserve the sovereignty of Third World countries (Blaney and Inayatulla,2008:668). By the same token, Barry (2017:185-6) highlights that the postcolonialism rejects universalism, liberal and humanitarian claims concerning race and class norms as well. The postcolonial criticism ascertains the European intellectual movement: Enlightenment, as a harmful nature of the issue for Western expansion over Third World regions (Jusdanis, 2005:139). Yang says (2006:281) the appearance of modernity can be interpreted through the reflection of globalisation. He continues that globalisation leads back to imperial behaviour and logic. In this globalisation, capitalism is the inseparable part of the colonialism.
Concerning the economic rights of colonised (Biswas, 2016:233), postcolonialism view unveils the third world’s problems about economic inequality, and herein the postcolonial experience has a specific relation to Marxism wherefore the two theories contribute to each other for a critic of neoliberalism. These theories give a precise observation of the negative effect of neoliberal capitalism that primarily reveals financial exploitation, disproportional wealth increase against particular geographical regions, racial and ethnic groups. Said describes (Yang, Zhang and Wang,2006:282) that wealthy states expand their production over deprived countries and increase the value of means. Then, they resell their products from the location of manufacturing, poor regions to high-income places.
Also, dependency theorists (Blaney and Inayatulla,2008:664-671) submit that capitalistic interest is a primary cause for colonial arrival at Third World territories. In particular, there is a dramatic economic disparity between North and South, which delivers political purpose for the First World financial arrangements. Even if the dependency theory articulates similar concerns with postcolonialism, there is evidence for their dissimilarity ultimately. Kapoor determines (2002:647-8) that these theories foreground the Third World politics against the Western liberal modernity and its capitalist system: globalisation. The author continues that postcolonial the idea is crucially based on cultural perspective, self-identity, how to represent colonised people. Whereas, dependency thinkers prioritise socioeconomic angle to criticise imperialism for capitalistic development, as a cause of long-term economic repercussions in the Third World countries. Johnson (1981:55) puts the lack of consideration regarding the relation between capitalist and labour to central in dependency theory.
On the contrary, there is scepticism about how the future of neo-colonialism is diverse from Marxism’s way. Bart Moore-Gilbert (2001:23-4) explains the productive relationship between the two theories indicates the postcolonial theory’s dependence on Marxism’s sources. Therefore, the postcolonial theory does not offer another conclusion for itself ultimately than the shared objective with the Marxist theory of a postcolonial state.
The above showed that postcolonial discourse is a corresponding field of study to decentre the dominant Western narration about colonised people, regions and history of cultural colonialism. In postcolonialism, various theories partially intersect such as postmodernism, marxism and dependency that creates an eclectic approach by theorists of the field. Postcolonial criticism determines issues such as cultural and economic inequalities. For instance, the underdevelopment crisis in Latin America can be seen as ‘unfavourable exchange relations of surplus products and values’ (Johnson,1981:72). Critiques associate the colonial force with trends such as modernity like political and globalisation like economic. Post-colonialists present variable, sometimes, contradicting ideas to perceive the interrelationship and its adverse consequences between First and Third World civilisation. As shown through Said’s Orientalism (1978) on could say the colonised nations are still in decline. However, there is apparent disagreement between Said and Bhabha’s view (1988) about the identity of colonised natives and what kind of future with they face. As a minority, The First World ignores the vast majority of ‘other’ humans in the world; nonetheless, the essential message of postcolonialism urges a democratisation of Western core IR to include the Third World knowledge and experience in global affairs.
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