Postcolonial Theory Bibliography Definition

"Postcolonial studies" denotes a loosely defined inter-disciplinary field of perspectives, theories and methods that deal with the non-material dimensions of colonial rule and, at the same time, postulates the deconstruction of colonial discourses and thought patterns that continue to exert an influence up into the present. One of the reasons for the importance of this current for European history is that its adherents define colonialism as a cluster of reciprocal relationships that has shaped not only the colonised regions, but also the European metropole. In addition, the nuanced methodological and theoretical apparatus developed by "postcolonial studies" to describe and analyse asymmetrical power constellations and hierarchical modes of representation in colonial contexts can also be transferred to primarily internal European questions (for example, gender relationships or class conflicts).


For decades, the scholarly study of Europeancolonialism remained largely confined to its political, military and economic dimensions. The strategies and practices of conquest, rule and economic exploitation were the preferred topics for historians investigating the European penetration of the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition, well into the second half of the 20th century, numerous studies appeared which – in a continuation of late-imperial rhetoric – investigated the "development" of colonised regions, that is the more or less successful transfer of Western ideologies (nationalism, liberalism, socialism, etc.), institutions and technologies to the non-western world. Around 1980, however, a new current in literary and cultural studies emerged whose radically different view of colonial rule and its consequences soon spilled over into the discipline of history. In the following decade, the new theories gathered under the umbrella "postcolonialism" quickly acquired an established place in academic debates and university curricula in the humanities and social sciences.1 The field of "postcolonial studies" can be divided into two partially complementary, partially conflicting directions. On the one hand, it is concerned with the historical analysis of colonialism thereby investigating its discursive, rather than material,dimensions. On the other, there is a much broader discursive project, not infrequently connected to contemporary political agendas (criticism of globalisation, multiculturalism, etc.), seeking to overcome the Eurocentric categorisation of knowledge and systems of representation. Within this current of political criticism, the concrete reference to the historical phenomena of European colonial rule is sometimes barely apparent.

The first part of this short overview will trace the historical roots of postcolonial thought back into the era of decolonisation. Because it would be impossible, in the short space available, to map the broad and variegated field of postcolonial studies in its entirety the second section will summarise as representative examples the theories of three central protagonists of contemporary postcolonial studies: Edward Said (1925–2003) and his critique of Orientalism, Homi Bhabha's (*1949) concept of hybridity and, finally, Dipesh Chakrabarty (*1948), who emerged from the Subaltern Studies school and whose oft-quoted appeal to "provincialise" Europe takes particular aim at the methodological Eurocentrism prevalent in the discipline of history. The last section examines the question of the specific significance of postcolonial approaches for European history and offers a range of examples of its application in recent research.

Postcolonialism avant la lettre

In many colonised countries, the rise of nationalism around 1900 (which later received considerable impetus following the First World War) promoted the awareness that a restriction to the purely material dimension of colonialism possessed considerable shortcomings. The West'seconomic dominance and military potency could neither explain the global success of European imperialisms nor the acceptance of colonial rule by at least a part of the colonised societies. It was therefore the representatives of the indigenous political intelligentsia from various colonies who first created a complementary explanatory approach. They understood colonialism not primarily as a form of domination and exploitation, but rather as a system of exerting power discursively which owed its success to the dissemination of a very specific construction of difference, namely the depiction of the colonised as inferior and immature in comparison with their benevolent colonisers. The question of the precise ideologies and discursive mechanisms which enabled the construction of a colonial hierarchy gained central importance. The creation, defence and hierarchisation of difference thus became the focus of interest for the first generation of anti-colonial thinkers. Their strategies of resistance were already varied in this early phase: sometimes, the construction of difference was challenged in its entirety and, at other times, only the hierarchisation of difference was criticised. It was nationalists and intellectuals from the French colonial possessions in Africa and the Caribbean that led this first wave of constructing critical theories of colonialism. Frantz Fanon (1925–1961), for instance, a psychiatrist and philosopher from Martinique, anticipated the fundamental findings of the postcolonial theorists of the 1980s and 1990s in that he discussed the problem of internalising European perspectives and values by colonised elites. In his classic Peau noire, masques blancs (in English, Black Skins, White Masks) from 1952, he described the paradoxes of his own social group, the colonised intellectuals, who under the existing power structures had to permanently wear "white masks" in order to achieve recognition from the outside and – worse still – in order to respect themselves.2 Fanon's radical anti-imperialist mind-set derived in part from the influence of his teacher, the well-known litterateur Aimé Césaire (1913–2008), who at about the same time published an essay on colonialism.3 In this influential piece, he debunked the great promise of "civilisation" and "progress" in the wake of Europe as nothing but cynical rhetoric to palliate the asymmetries of power and exploitative relationships that, in reality, were based on crude racism.

Since later theoreticians of postcolonialism drew more on these two Francophone predecessors of postcolonialism from the post-war period, it is often forgotten that an equally extensive critique of "colonial consensus"4 had taken place among the colonised elite in the British Empire several decades before. The most famous example is certainly the critique of civilisation articulated by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1874–1948), the "father of Indian independence".5 His 1909 pamphlet Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule) is, without doubt, the most notable and powerful contribution to the critique of power by the later "Mahatma" ("great soul"). The text, which does not even stretch to 100 pages, is a declaration of war on the Western myths of superiority, a form of "anti-modernist manifesto" whose radicalism is still unmatched.6 In contrast to the willingness among anti-colonial nationalists to appropriate at least select aspects of European modernity, Gandhi condemned it lock, stock and barrel. Accordingly, he assessed technological innovations and medical progress as the work of the devil and came to the conclusion "that Indian civilisation is the best and that European is a nine days' wonder".7

No less noteworthy than Gandhi's spectacular rejection of a universal and uniform "modern" ideal of civilisation is the contribution by his contemporary and fellow countryman Benoy Kumar Sarkar (1887–1948), which to a large extent has been forgotten. In contrast to Gandhi, Sarkar did not see himself primarily as a political activist, but was a renowned social scientist who taught, for almost a decade of his life, at universities in Europe and the USA. His knowledge of Western scholarly traditions enabled him to recognise and attack the "epistemological violence"8 inherent in the West's colonial project. He saw the global superiority of "Euro-America" since the late 18th century as an unimportant intermezzo in world history resulting from contingency and vehemently attacked the "albinocratic" accounts seeking to trace Western hegemony back to the inferiority of Africans and Asians.9 Sakar's struggle for the power of non-Western cultures to represent and explain themselves anticipated other major topics of contemporary postcolonial studies.

The Formation of Postcolonial Views since 1980

The roots of the critique of colonial views of the world and thought patterns are thus evident in the late period of colonialism. However, it took decades before attempts to systematise the critical approaches to colonialism were undertaken. A central reason for this delay is probably the fact that the persistence of colonialism's Manichean world view only became apparent years after the formal end of the great European colonial empires. Practices of "othering" and the resulting perception of the non-Western world as "underdeveloped" and defective continued to shape the West's foreign policy, developmental aid10 and cultural production. In addition, the receptiveness for a reassessment of the colonial past grew in countries such as Great Britain, France and the Netherlands as the encounter with immigrants from their erstwhile colonies intensified. It was now obvious that colonialism could no longer be treated as a historical epoch that had come to its conclusion. Hence, the prefix "post" in "postcolonial" is explicitly not to be understood temporally in the sense of "after colonialism". Instead, it should be read as a postulate of the current engagement with and future overcoming of deep seated colonial assumptions and stereotypes.

As indicated above, the (re)discovery of the critique of colonialism was initially propelled by literary and cultural studies and was particularly evident in the USA. The debate then reached history, the social sciences and area studies with a slight delay. Here, too, it was at first almost exclusively received in the Anglophone research. Only from the 1990s did a global discussion develop that also took place in the Spanish-, French- and German-language publications. The role of Edward Said's seminal work Orientalism from 1978 in popularising postcolonial perspectives can hardly be exaggerated.11 In his book, Said – a Palestinian who was for a long time professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, New York – discussed the epistemological components of colonialism through the example of the history of Oriental Studies in Europe. Inspired by Michel Foucault (1926–1984) and Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) in the first place, he postulated several sweeping theses, only the three most important of which can be discussed here. First, Europe's scholarly engagement with the Orient12 has remained a European monologue which, influenced by Western categories and Eurocentric biases, at best has provided a caricature of the real histories and societies of the regions under study. Second, despite the dubious essentialising findings of the Orientalists, the claim to authority of Western science has led to a discursive disenfranchisement of the "Orientals": the successful creation of a hegemonic scholarly discourse robbed them of the opportunity to speak for themselves, condemning them to being represented and explained from the outside. Third, despite the constant protestations of academic neutrality, the outside depictions from the West always had self-serving purposes. In part, the emphasis was on the production of knowledge for the sake of colonial domination, which directly flowed into the exploitation and administration of colonial territories. However, in part, it was also a discursive self-reaffirmation by a modernising Europe. Through the projection or "outsourcing" of disagreeable phenomena within one's own society (for example, passivity, irrationality, despotism, and violence) to an external "other", the West was able to put itself in a more positive light. At the same time, the Orient, as a catchall term for the entire non-European world, was ascribed the role of a negative pole and "anti-Europe".

Said's influence on other postcolonial authors is evident above all in their attempts to identify and deconstruct the oppositional binary pairs such as Orient/Occident, civilised/savage, developed/underdeveloped, colonising/colonised, etc., that ran through colonial and neo-colonial rhetoric. The dichotomy of colonising rulers and colonised subjects occupies a particularly prominent place in the work of the second important pioneer of post-colonialism: Homi Bhabha, who was born in Mumbai and taught English literature in Chicago, also put the analysis and deconstruction of the "colonial discourse" at the centre of his work.13 However, in contrast to Edward Said, he denied that Europe was really able to adopt a hegemonial position or create the often postulated, clear demarcatory line between "the West and the rest".14 Whereas Said's ascription of real and potential power to the colonial rulers is nigh on essentialist, Bhabha stresses instead the instable and precarious character of colonial identities and claims to power. In various ways, the colonisers' hegemonial ambitions were thwarted and broken by their own obstinacy and the resistance and strategies of appropriation of those being colonised. Colonial stereotypes, which should have supported the unequal distribution of power, were often appropriated for purposes that ran counter to European interests. In his famous essay, Of Mimicry and Man, Bhabha shows, for example, how mimicry, i.e. the imitation of the colonial rulers' behaviour and speech by certain segments of the elite, could lead to the erosion of colonial certainties and demarcations, and as a result provoke disorientation and crises of identity among the white rulers.15 Therefore, Bhabha reveals colonialism to be both a hybrid and hybridising phenomenon which influenced both sides of the fragile boundary between the powerful and the powerless. Understood thus, colonial rule seems to be less the realisation of European fantasies of power at the expense of powerless non-European victims than a process of negotiation in which rulers and ruled were equally involved.16 The very fact that the interpretations of Said and his earlier epigones deny the colonised any agency to act had repeatedly provoked criticism.17 Using Bhabha, one could, at least to a degree, counter such criticism with a reference to the ambivalences of the colonial discourses, the risks and side-effects of colonial attributions, and the existence of a (fragmentary) agency among the colonised. Furthermore, the question of the knock-on impact on Europe acquired a greater pertinence as a result of Bhabha's argumentation.

In recent years, perhaps the most important impulse for postcolonial studies in the discipline of history came from Dipesh Chakrabarty. In the 1980s and 1990s, the historian, who was born in Kolkata and now teaches in Chicago, belonged to the eminent and influential Subaltern Studies Collective.18 This Anglo-Indian association of historians was, inspired by Antonio Gramsci (from whom they took the concept of subalterns) and the Marxist social history of the "Warwick School" around Edward Palmer Thompson (1924–1993). At first the Subalternists simply demanded an alternative approach to the history of the Indian struggle for independence, which until then had centred on the elite. The new perspective "from below" should, above all, give a voice to those groups which did not appear in the established narratives because they were socially marginalised and, as a rule, illiterate. Peasants, factory workers, members of the lower castes, tribal groups, and women are examples of such subaltern groups, to whom the confrontational collective of historians ascribed an oppositional "subaltern consciousness" that could be reconstructed. The aim of the early Subaltern Studies was to reveal this common consciousness, which at the same time would allow the subalterns "to speak".19 This was also a methodologically challenging task as the members of the non-elites to be studied had, on the whole, left no written testimonies of their own.20 The subaltern historians' agenda and theoretical reference points, however, quickly expanded. The first four volumes of the series Subaltern Studies,21 which appeared irregularly from 1982, were certainly shaped by these focused objectives. However, the emphasis quickly shifted from the (in the broadest sense) neo-Marxist orientation and empirically based case studies to heavily theoretical discourse analyses, which not only ignored the original geographical boundaries,22 but also employed the concept of subalterns extremely loosely, for example extensively examining the Indian bourgeoisie. The most important theoretical points of reference in the 1990s were no longer Gramsci and Thompson, but increasingly the heroes of cultural studies– Michel Foucault and Edward Said – which were experiencing a boom in the USA.

The work of Dipesh Chakrabarty provides an excellent example of this paradigm shift. His early contributions to the Subaltern Studies series were empirically grounded micro studies of jute workers and trade unions in colonial Kolkata, entirely in line with the tradition of the early subalternists' "history from below".23 In the 1990s, however, he increasingly moved towards the more theoretical aspects of the historiography. There is little in Chakrabarty's extremely influential monograph, Provincializing Europe from 2000 that recalls his beginnings as a labour historian. In the book, which was read widely in the mainstream of the US academic community, Chakrabarty set himself the ambitious task of critiquing the "methodological Eurocentrism" that dominated global historiography. The unreflected use of concepts, theories and methods that emerged in the West and were shaped by its particular regional conditions is so problematic because it sees Europe's historical genesis as "natural", elevating it to a blueprint for the entire non-European world. The expectation that "the rest" would have to follow the West allows only a little room for alternative structures and developments; it leads to the establishment of a hierarchy which permanently relegates the regions of the periphery and the semi-periphery to the "waiting room of history": only when the stragglers – through the diffusion of Western knowledge and Western values – could reach the developmental level of the metropole would they be accepted as an equal partner.24

The Chicago-based historian found particularly lamentable the tacit acceptance of an "asymmetric ignorance" whereby a profound knowledge of European history was a professional prerequisite for Asian and African historians, while a comparable familiarity with non-Western history was not considered necessary for their Western counterparts.25 Chakrabarty sees the solution to the dilemma of the "simultaneous indispensability and inadequacy" of Western concepts and categories in non-Western contexts not in a relapse into nativism or radical cultural relativism, but rather a critical assessment of their "ethno-centric" origins and the willingness to translate them and, if necessary, to build upon and modify them. Europe should be "provincialised" – i.e. its status should be set back to that of one region among many. In this way, the idea of the universal applicability of the continent's intellectual achievements would give way to an image of knowledge and the world in which the concept of heterogeneity is unproblematic.

Chakrabarty's call for provincialisation met with particular interest among historians working on the history of transfers and specialists in world and global history, for whom the question of the suitable methodology and problems surrounding cultural translations possess an apparent relevance. The last section will examine some possible applications for the postcolonial approach in a few less obvious contexts.

Postcolonial Studies and the History of Europe

It is hardly surprising that the first and to date most convincing attempts to apply postcolonial approaches to European national histories have been undertaken on the British Isles – after all, for more than two centuries, the United Kingdom has felt "at home with the Empire",26 as the title of a 2006 collection of articles on the topic puts it. The close interdependence of national and imperial identities attested to by various historians of Great Britain27 suggests the recourse to the theoretical apparatus of post-colonialism, as do the challenges resulting from the presence of large groups of immigrants from the former colonies. A series of historical studies published by Manchester University Press responded in a number of ways to post-colonialism's postulate that colonialism and imperialism should be seen as a reciprocal relationship which affected the metropole no less than it created the colony in the first place. As early as the 1980s, the series Studies in Imperialism28 sought to explore the impact of the empire on a variety of aspects of British culture and society. While most of the early contributions to this series remained firmly rooted in the traditions of British social history in the 1970s and exhibited little openness to the new theoretical framework offered by post-colonialism, some of the more recent publications clearly understand themselves to be contributions to a "new imperial history".29 This new paradigm differs from the established version of imperial history in that it has a thorough foundation in postcolonial theory. 30 The postulate that one should analyse European centres and colonial peripheries in a unitary field of analysis has been put forward in the mid-1990s31 and has been consistently realised in a recent study. It investigates, in contrapuntally organised chapters, the development and reciprocal influence of, on the one hand, British elite discourse on the urban lower classes of London and, on the other, the colonised population of India. The common body of knowledge that came together to penetrate and explain such geographically and demographically diverse spaces as British India and London's East End was fundamentally structured around the principle of progress. The close analysis of the rhetoric of progress and civilisation reveals the channels of influence and discursive analogies which connected the two arenas.32

The analogies are even more obvious in the recent studies of the history of Ireland. There is certain justification in naming Ireland as Britain's "metropolitan colony", although the country no longer possessed the formal status of a colony after 1801.33 Various authors have – in some cases even before the popularisation of postcolonial theories – pointed to the similarities between the technologies of British imperial rule in India and Ireland.34 Others have undertaken comparative investigations on the basis of the postcolonial approach of the Victorian discourse and practices that sought to portray the Irish as an "inferior race".35 However, Irish resistance to imperial rule can also be described using postcolonial categories, as has been shown by a series of studies of the cultural and literary revival movements in the early 20th century.36 Interestingly, a new branch of research examines the cooperation between anti-colonial activists in Ireland and in the British overseas possessions and raises our awareness of the importance of discursive processes of exchange between the peripheries.37

Although the German colonial empire was relatively short lived and did not even come close to the geographical extent of the British Empire, the last decade has produced studies that ascribe Wilhelmine colonialism an important role in the further course of German history and attempt to identify its socio-cultural impact in the light of the postcolonial critique. After the first inspirations from Anglo-Saxon historians, a younger generation of German historians raised the call to overcome the Eurocentrism of German historiography.38 A central topic of the German discussion was the question of possible continuities between colonialism and National Socialism. Studies that have described the colonial wars with, for example, the brutal suppression of the so-called "Herero Revolt" (1904–1908) in what is today Namibia as a "link between the earlier genocides of low-level state organs and the bureaucraticised crimes of National Socialism"39 are fiercely debated. The consequences for the history of science of Germany's colonial episode and in particular the significance of Wilhelmine ethnology to the processes of "racifying" populations are also among the preferred topics of historians employing a postcolonial approach.40Nationalism, imperialism and colonial patterns of thought and perception in imperial Germany were multifariously entangled.41

In addition to such concrete interdependencies, the unrealised colonial fantasies42 and "softer" cultural dimensions of imperialism and its impact on German society have also become the subject of a number of detailed investigations – a development entirely in accordance with the intentions of the perspectives developed by Said and Bhabha. A number of studies show the various ways in which the colonies influenced German (everyday) culture.43 Other studies deal with the remnants and lasting impact of colonialism in Germany and, in doing so, explicitly refer to the political project of postcolonialism alluded to above.44

The apparent disparity between the short-lived nature of German colonialism and the great importance ascribed to it by postcolonial academics has already provoked some criticism.45 None less, postcolonial theories are enjoying increasing popularity in contexts that at first glance seem to be even much less applicable. Thus they have recently found application in countries which never possessed any colonies themselves. A recent study of the colonial interdependencies of the Scandinavian states, for instance, underlined how little one can understand the imperial "complicity" of the emergent social sciences (for example, ethnology) if one only investigates them within national borders. Some of the first chairs for ethnology and physical anthropology were held by Finns and the collection of data and materials that underpinned the early racial theories were in part collected by Swiss missionaries.46 The same is true of the spread of colonial stereotypes in popular literature and advertising, as revealed in a recent study of Switzerland.47

To sum up, postcolonial studies, whose roots reach back into the first half of the 20th century, are anything but an academic fad of the 1980s that has passed its used-by date. The subdiscipline's increasing diversification and growing proliferation beyond its original context demonstrates that a postcolonial view remains useful in the 21st century in identifying and analysing the central facts and problems of both the past and the present – unrestrained by received geographical and disciplinary boundaries.

Harald Fischer-Tiné, Zürich



Bayly, Christopher A.: Ireland, India and the Empire, in: Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 10 (2000), pp. 377–397.

Bechhaus-Gerst, Marianne / Gieseke, Sunna (eds.): Koloniale und postkoloniale Konstruktionen von Afrika und Menschen afrikanischer Herkunft in der deutschen Alltagskultur, Frankfurt am Main 2007.

Bhabha, Homi: Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse, in: Homi Bhabha: The Location of Culture, London et al. 1994, pp. 121–131.

Boehmer, Elleke: Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial 1890–1920: Resistance in Interaction, Oxford 2002.

Bouvier, Pierre / Césaire, Aimé / Fanon, Frantz: Portraits de décolonisés, Paris 2010.

Büschel, Hubertus / Speich, Daniel (eds.): Entwicklungswelten: Globalgeschichte der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2009.

Bush, Barbara: Imperialism and Postcolonialism, Harlow 2006.

Castro Varela, Maria Do Mar / Dhawan, Nikita: Postkoloniale Theorie: Eine kritische Einführung, Bielefeld 2005 (Cultural Studies 12).

Césaire, Aimé: Discours sur le colonialisme, Paris 1955.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh: Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton, NJ 2000.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh: Communal Riots and Labour: Bengal's Jute Mill-hands in the 1890s, in: Veena Das (ed.):Mirrors of Violence: Communities, Riots and Survivors in South Asia, Delhi 1990, pp. 146–184.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh: Trade Unions in a Hierarchical Culture: The Jute Workers in Calcutta, 1920–1950, in: Ranajit Guha (ed.): Subaltern Studies III: Writings on South Asian History and Culture, Delhi 1984, pp. 116–152.

Chatterjee, Partha: A Brief History of Subaltern Studies, in: Gunilla-Friederike Budde / Sebastian Conrad / Oliver Janz (eds.): Transnationale Geschichte: Themen, Tendenzen und Theorien, Göttingen 2006, pp. 94–104.

Chatterjee, Partha: Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse, London 1986.

Chaturvedi, Vinayak (ed.): Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial, London 2000.

Cleary, Joe: Postcolonial Ireland, in: Kevin Kenny (ed.): Ireland and the British Empire, Oxford et al. 2004, pp. 251–288.

Cohn, Bernard Samuel: Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India, Princeton, NJ et al. 1996 (Princeton Studies in Culture, Power, History 17).

Colley, Linda: Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837, New Haven, CN 1992.

Conrad, Sebastian: Schlägt das Empire zurück? Postkoloniale Ansätze in der deutschen Geschichtsschreibung, in: Werkstatt Geschichte 30 (2001), pp. 73–83.

Conrad, Sebastian / Randeria, Shalini (eds.): Jenseits des Eurozentrismus: Postkoloniale Perspektiven in den Geschichts- und Kulturwissenschaften, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2002.

Conrad, Sebastian: Globalisierung und Nation im deutschen Kaiserreich, Munich 2006.

Cook, Scott B.: Imperial Affinities: Nineteenth Century Analogies and Exchanges between India and Ireland, New Delhi 1993.

Cooper, Frederick: Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History, Berkeley, CA et al. 2005.

Cooper, Frederick / Stoler, Anne: Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World,Berkeley, CA et al. 1997.

Fanon, Frantz: Peau noire, masques blancs, Paris 1952.

Fischer-Tiné, Harald: Handeln und Verhandeln: Kolonialismus, transkulturelle Prozesse und Handlungskompetenz, Munster et al. 2002.

Gandhi, Leela: Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction, New York, NY 1998.

Gandhi, Mohandas K.: Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, edited by Anthony J. Parel, Cambridge 1997.

Geulen, Christian: Blonde bevorzugt: Virchow und Boas – eine Fallstudie zur Verschränkung von "Rasse" und "Kultur" im ideologischen Feld der Ethnizität um 1900, in: Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 40 (2000), pp. 147–170.

Gibbons, Luke: Transformations in Irish Culture, Notre Dame, IN 1996.

Guha, Ranajit: The Prose of Counter-Insurgency, in:Ranajit Guha (ed.): Subaltern Studies II: Writings on South Asian History and Culture, Delhi 1983, pp. 1–42.

Hall, Catherine / Rose, Sonya O. (eds.): At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World, Cambridge 2006.

Hall, Catherine: Civilising Subjects, Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830–1867, Cambridge et al. 2002.

Hall, Stuart: The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power, in: Stuart Hall et al. (eds.): Formations of Modernity, Cambridge 1992, pp. 275–320.

Harries, Patrick: Butterflies and Barbarians: Swiss Missionaries and Systems of Knowledge, Oxford 2007.

Heyden, Ulrich van der / Zeller, Joachim: Kolonialismus hierzulande: Eine Spurensuche in Deutschland, Erfurt 2007.

Honold, Alexander / Scherpe, Klaus (eds.): Mit Deutschland um die Welt: Eine Kulturgeschichte des Fremden in der Kolonialzeit, Stuttgart et al. 2004.

Howe,Stephen: Ireland and Empire: Colonial Legacies in Irish History and Culture, Oxford 2000.

Kundrus, Birthe (ed.): Phantasiereiche: Zur Kulturgeschichte des deutschen Kolonialismus, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2003.

Loomba, Ania: Colonialism/Postcolonialism, London et al. 1998.

Ludden, David (ed.): Reading Subaltern Studies: Critical History, Contested Meaning and the Globalization of South Asia, London 2002.

Marriott, John: The Other Empire: Metropolis, India and Progress in the Colonial Imagination, Manchester 2003.

McLeod, John: Beginning Postcolonialism, Manchester 2000.

Memmi, Albert: Portrait du colonisé précédé du portrait du colonisateur, Paris 1957.

Mongia, Padmini: Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader, London 1996.

Morrissey, John: Contours of Colonialism: Gaelic Ireland and the Early Colonial Subject, in: Irish Geography 37, 1 (2004), pp. 88–102.

Nandy, Ashis: The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, Oxford 1983.

Philip, Kavita: Race, Class and the Imperial Politics of Ethnography in India, Ireland and London, 1850–1910, in: Irish Studies Review 10, 3 (2002), pp. 289–302.

Purtschert, Patricia: Postkoloniale Diskurse in der Schweiz: "De Schorsch Gaggo reist uf Afrika", in: Widerspruch 54 (2008), pp. 169-180.

Said, Edward: Orientalism, New York 1978.

Schwarz, Henry / Ray, Sangeeta (eds.): A Companion to Postcolonial Studies, Malden, MA et al. 2000.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty: Can the Subaltern Speak?, in: Cary Nelson / Lawrence Grossberg (eds.): Marxism and the Interpretations of Culture, Basingstoke 1988, pp. 271–313.

Stuchtey, Benedikt: Nation und Expansion: Das britische Empire in der neuesten Forschung, in: Historische Zeitschrift 274, 1 (2002), pp. 87–118.

Vuorela, Ulla: Colonial Complicity: The "Postcolonial" in a Nordic Context, in: Suvi Keskinen / Salla Tuori / Sari Irni (eds.): Complying with Colonialism: Gender Race and Ethnicity in the Nordic Region, Farnham et al. 2009, pp. 19–33.

Wehler, Hans Ulrich: Transnationale Geschichte – Der neue Königsweg historischer Forschung?, in: Gunilla-Friederike Budde / Sebastian Conrad / Oliver Janz (eds.): Transnationale Geschichte: Themen, Tendenzen und Theorien, Gottingen 2006, pp. 161–174.

Williams, Louise B.:Overcoming the "Contagion of Mimicry": The Cosmopolitan Nationalism and Modernist History of Rabindranath Tagore and W.B. Yeats, in: American Historical Review 112, 1 (2007), pp. 69–100.

Wilson, Kathleen: Introduction: Histories, Empires, Modernities, in: Kathleen Wilson (ed.): A New Imperial History: Culture, Identity and Modernity in Britain and the Empire, 1660–1840, Cambridge 2004, pp. 1–26.

Young, Robert C.: Postcolonialism: A Historical Introduction, Oxford 2001.

Young, Robert C.: Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford 2003.

Zantop, Susan M.: Kolonialphantasien im vorkolonialen Deutschland 1770–1870, Berlin 1999.

Zimmerer, Jürgen: Krieg, KZ und Völkermord in Südwestafrika, in: Jürgen Zimmerer / Joachim Zeller (eds.): Völkermord in Deutsch-Südwestafrika: Der Kolonialkrieg (1904–1908), Berlin 2004, pp. 45–63.

Zimmerman, Andrew: Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany, Chicago, IL 2001.


  1. ^ This is evident in the abundance of introductory overviews and works of reference that have appeared. See, for example, Castro Varela / Dhawan, Postkoloniale Theorie 2005; Conrad / Randeria, Jenseits des Eurozentrismus 2002; Young, Postcolonialism 2003; idem, Postcolonialism: A Historical Introduction 2001; McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism 2000; Schwarz / Ray, Postcolonial Studies 2000; Loomba, Colonialism/Postcolonialism 1998; Leela Gandhi, Postcolonial Theory 1998; Mongia, Contemporary Postcolonial Theory 1996.
  2. ^ The analysis of the psychology of colonialism by Albert Memmi, a Tunisian sociologist and novelist, which appeared in the 1950s, follows a similar direction. See Memmi, Portrait du colonisé 1957.
  3. ^ Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme 1955. On this, see also Bouvier / Césaire / Fanon, Portraits de décolonisés 2010.
  4. ^ Nandy, The Intimate Enemy 1983, pp. 4 and 10.
  5. ^ See ibidem pp. 48–63 and Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought 1986.
  6. ^ Gandhi Hind Swaraj 1997.
  7. ^ Ibidem, p. 116.
  8. ^ Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak? 1988, p. 295.
  9. ^ Sarkar, The Futurism of Young Asia 1922.
  10. ^ On this, see the recent Büschel / Speich, Entwicklungswelten 2009.
  11. ^ Said, Orientalism 1978.
  12. ^ Said addresses, in particular, the Islamic world, but implies a broader applicability for his theses for other colonised regions.
  13. ^ Bhabha, Location of Culture 1994.
  14. ^ This well-known phrase was coined by Stuart Hall. See Hall, The West and the Rest 1992.
  15. ^ Bhabha, Of Mimicry and Man 1994.
  16. ^ See also Castro Varela / Dhawan, Postkoloniale Theorie 2005, pp. 85–87.
  17. ^ On this, see also Fischer-Tiné, Handeln und Verhandeln 2002.
  18. ^ For a more comprehensive overview of the content and debates, see Chaturvedi, Mapping Subaltern Studies 2000 and Ludden, Reading Subaltern Studies 2002. A short, but by all means useful, introduction is Chatterjee, A Brief History of Subaltern Studies 2006.
  19. ^ On this, see the much-quoted article Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak? 1988.
  20. ^ Guha, The Prose of Counter-Insurgency 1983.
  21. ^ Oxford 1982 ff.
  22. ^ For example, later volumes contained individual contributions on Africa and the Middle East.
  23. ^ See, for example, Chakrabarty, Trade Unions in a Hierarchical Culture 1984; idem, Communal Riots and Labour 1990.
  24. ^ Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe 2000, pp. 7–8.
  25. ^ Ibidem, p. 29.
  26. ^ Hall / Rose, At Home with the Empire 2006.
  27. ^ Groundbreaking: Colley, Britons 1992 and Hall, Civilising Subjects 2002. On this, see also Stuchtey, Nation und Expansion 2002.
  28. ^ Manchester 1985 ff.
  29. ^ For a programmatic introduction, see Wilson, Histories 2004.
  30. ^ A good example is the remarkable work The Other Empire by John Marriott.Marriott, The Other Empire 2003.
  31. ^Cohn, Colonialism 1996; Cooper / Stoler, Tensions of Empire 1997.
  32. ^ Marriot, The Other Empire 2003.
  33. ^ The most pronounced representative of this tendency is Howe, Ireland and Empire 2000. See also Cleary, Postcolonial Ireland 2004.
  34. ^ Bayly, Ireland, India and the Empire 2000; Cook, Imperial Affinities 1993.
  35. ^ See, amongst others, Morrissey, Contours of Colonialism 2004; Philip, Race, Class and the Imperial Politics 2002.
  36. ^ Gibbons, Transformations in Irish Culture 1996. On this, see also the discussion in Cleary, Postcolonial Ireland 2004, pp. 257–267.
  37. ^ A good example is Elleke Boehmer's fascinating study of the establishment of an anti-imperial axis between India, Ireland and South Africa. Boehmer, Empire 2002. See also Williams, Overcoming the "Contagion of Mimicry" 2007.
  38. ^ Conrad / Randeria, Jenseits des Eurozentrismus 2002.
  39. ^ Zimmerer, Krieg, KZ und Völkermord in Südwestafrika 2004, p. 62.
  40. ^ Zimmerman, Anthropology and Antihumanism 2001; Geulen, Blonde bevorzugt 2000.
  41. ^ These entanglements were brought out by Sebastian Conrad's original study on "Globalisation and Nation" in an exemplary fashion. Conrad, Globalisierung und Nation im deutschen Kaiserreich 2006.
  42. ^ See, amongst others, Zantop, Kolonialphantasien im vorkolonialen Deutschland 1999.
  43. ^ See, amongst others, Kundrus, Phantasiereiche 2003; Honold / Scherpe, Mit Deutschland um die Welt 2004.
  44. ^ See the recent Heyden / Zeller, Kolonialismus hierzulande 2007 and Bechhaus-Gerst / Gieseke, Koloniale und postkoloniale Konstruktionen 2007.
  45. ^ For a particularly sharp critique of this trend, see Wehler, Transnationale Geschichte 2006.
  46. ^ Vuorela, Colonial Complicity 2009; Harries, Butterflies and Barbarians 2007.
  47. ^ Purtschert, Postkoloniale Diskurse 2008.

"Postcolonial" (or post-colonial) as a concept enters critical discourse in its current meanings in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but both the practice and the theory of postcolonial resistance go back much further (indeed to the origins of colonialism itself). Thus below I list a number of writers who were "postcolonial" avant la lettre, including figures like Frantz Fanon and Albert Memmi, the Caribbean negritude writers, and some US critics whose work also presages some of the positions now labeled postcolonial. The term means to suggest both resistance to the "colonial" and that the "colonial" and its discourses continue to shape cultures whose revolutions have overthrown formal ties to their former colonial rulers. This ambiguity owes a good deal to post-structuralist linguistic theory as it has influenced and been transformed by the three most influential postcolonial critics Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi Bhabha.

Many genealogists of postcolonial thought, including Bhabha himself, credit Said's Orientalism as the founding work for the field. Said's argument that "the Orient" was a fantastical, real material-discursive construct of "the West" that shaped the real and imagined existences of those subjected to the fantasy, set many of the terms for subsequent theoretical development, including the notion that, in turn, this "othering" process used the Orient to create, define, and solidify the "West." This complex, mutually constitutive process, enacted with nuanced difference across the range of the colonized world(s), and through a variety of textual and other practices, is the object of postcolonial analysis.

Both the term and various theoretical formulations of the "postcolonial" have been controversial. I have included works below which take very different approaches to what broadly can be labeled postcolonial, and I have included works which offer strong critiques of some of the limits of the field as practiced by some of it most prominent figures. Some, like Emma Perez and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, use the term decolonial to emphasize that we are not past (post) colonial, and that only the active agency of the colonized will complete the process of eradicating the most perncicious legacies of the colonial and neo-colonial eras.

I have also included a separate section on North American post/decolonial studies. This is meant both to suggest affinities and differences. In the context of American Studies the work of figures like C.L.R. James, and W.E.B. DuBois, and more recently H.L. Gates, Jr., Gloria Anzaldúa, Lisa Lowe, and José David Saldívar, to name only a few, have anticipated, drawn from, critiqued and applied postcolonial theory to this continent. Part of that work emerges out of traditions in US ethnic studies that have traced diasporic links between home countries and new worlds for several decades. Another part of that work has included decentering the "United States" from its claim on the term "America," a move that connects the hemispheres, points toward the history of the US as an imperial power, and underscores the contemporary fact of intensified transnationalization and globalization of cultures. The term "transnationalism" is the most often used critical term to denote the complex new flow of culture (in all directions, though hardly equally) resulting from the current mobility of people, capital, and ideas across national boundaries. Strong efforts are underway within the American Studies community to locate the field-imaginary of American Studies within more complicated trans- and post-nationalisms, without underplaying the continuing power of nationalisms.

All citations in this bibliography are arranged chrono-topically, not alphabetically, to give a sense of theoretical developments emerging over time.

Overviews and Anthologies

Barker, Francis, et al., eds. Europe and its Others. (2 vols.) Colchester: University of Essex, 1985.
Essays from the influential postcolonial Essex sociology of literature conference.
Ashcroft, Bill, et al. The Empire Writes Back. London: Routledge, 1989.
Important collection of essays on postcolonial literary studies, particularly those stemming from the former British colonies. Helped establish postcolonial studies as an academic field.
Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, eds., The Post-colonial Studies Reader. New York, NY: Routledge, 1995.
Collection of essays that ranges widely in time and space, including good selection of precursors, but limited largely to literary postcolonial work, and with some essays that are too truncated.
Williams, Patrick, and Lauren Chrisman, eds. Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1994.
Less geo-culturally inclusive than the Ashcroft, Griffith, Tiffin collection, but selections are more carefully chosen and arranged. It also covers more postcolonial issues beyond the literary, and presents most pieces in their entirety.
Bhabha, Homi, ed. Nation and Narration. London: Routledge, 1990.
Rich collection of advanced essays on the languages of nationalism and nationalisms of language.
Young, Robert. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. NY/London: Blackwell, 2001.
The richest, most comprehensive introduction to postcolonial theory in that it extends that history deeply into the period preceding the rise of what came to be known as postcolonial theory.

Some Major Figures:

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York, NY: Pantheon, 1978.
By most accounts the founding text of postcolonial theory. Said coins the term "orientalism" to describe the way in which a fantasy Orient (his focus is primarily what the West calls the Middle East) is projected onto, and then inscribed upon the lands and peoples of the region. Using a somewhat unstable blend of Foucaultian and Marxist theory, Said established the notion of an archive of knowledges and languages with power to shape external realities as well as the subjectivities of those subjected to colonial discourses and colonial rule.
---. The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.
Extremely important and provocative collection of essays on the relation of literary theory to the wider social world. See especially "Introduction: Secular Criticism," "Reflections on American 'Left' Literary Criticism," and "Traveling Theory."
---. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus, 1993.
Important follow-up to Orientialism, focused this time on the inscription of colonial/imperial concerns into the literature of the dominant Anglo-European world.
---. Edward Said: A Critical Reader. Edited by Michael Sprinker. Oxford: Basil Blackball, 1992.
A good point of entry into Said's work.
Extensive Online bibliography of works by and about Said.
Fanon, Frantz.The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Constancy Farrington Harmondsworth. London: Penguin, 1967 [1963].
---. Black Skins, White Masks. (trans. Charles Lam Markmann). London: Pluto Press, 1986 [1953].
If Said was the founder, then Fanon must be listed as an ur-founder, for his works on the psychology of colonialism and resistance, with their emphasis on the role of colonial languages (like the French he learned in his native Martinique) in the construction of a colonized mind presaged much postcolonial theory, and his work continues to be influential in its many re-readings. Fanon had immense influence on the previous generation of Third World revolutionaries during the independence struggles of the 50s and 60s.
Memmi, Albert. The Colonizer and the Colonized. New York: Orion, 1965.
Rivals Fanon as an influential text for Third World and postcolonial resisters and critics.
Spivak, Gayatri. In Other Worlds. New York, NY: Methuen, 1987.
Collects many of the key essays by one of the foremost "postcolonial" cultural critics who combines elements from deconstruction, feminist theory, and marxism.
---. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Nelson and Grossberg, eds. Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988.
---. The Post-colonial Critic. Edited by Sarah Harasym. New York, NY and London: Routledge, 1990.
Collection of interviews that provides a lucid entry point into Spivak's intellectual realm.
Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.
A representative set of essays by one of the two or three most oft-cited postcolonial theorists. Such Bhabha notions of "hybridity" (an inmixing of dominant and subaltern cultures) and "mimicry" (subaltern echoes with difference of dominant discourses) are played out in these pieces.
Aijaz, Ahmad. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. London: Verso, 1992.
The most important and widely debated marxist critique of some of the limits of certain versions of postcolonial theory.

Some Representative Texts:

Ngugi wa Thiong'o. Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics and Language of African Literature. London: James Curry, 1986.
One of many important works of criticism by one of Kenya's foremost novelists. In it Ngugi declares farewell to the English language and announces his return to his native Gikuyu tongue.
Mudimbe, V.Y. The Invention of Africa. London: James Curry, 1988.
A brilliant text that in many ways does for Africa what Said's Orientalism did for the Middle East.
Amur, G. S., and S. K. Desai, eds. Colonial Consciousness in Commonwealth Literature. Bombay: Somania Publications, 1984.
Especially strong collection on India sub-continent literatures.
Guha, Ranajit. ed. Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society. (2 vols.) New Dheli: Oxford University Press, 1985; 1986.
The "subaltern studies" school draws from a number of currents in and outside postcolonial theory.
Suleri, Sara. Rhetoric of English India. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Highly influential, nuanced reading of the languages of colonialism under British rule in India.
Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2000.
Important work by one of the major figures of the Caribbean "negritude" movement that influenced US black nationalism, Afro-European, and Third World anti-colonial struggles. Blends Cesaire poetic, surrealist sensibility with rich critique of colonialism. Excellent new edition with an illuminating introductory essay by Robin D.G. Kelley.

C.L.R. James
James, C.L.R. The C.L.R. James Reader. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992.
Fine introduction to this brilliant Afro-Caribbean/American thinker whose career spans the mid 20th century and whose intellectual range and style make him an important anti-colonial writer relevant to postcolonial theory.
Brathwaite, Edward Kamau. The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-1820. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.
Brathwaite is one of the major theorists of Caribbean "interculturalism" and "creolization," and this historical study adds great depth to his theoretical speculations.
Chow, Rey.Woman and Chinese Modernity: The Politics of Reading between the West and the East. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.
Important feminist postcolonial analysis of Asian discourses.
Sommer, Doris. Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991.
Rich readings of key Latin and North American fiction in dialectical, colonial/postcolonial tension.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. Revised and extended edition. London: Verso, 1991.
The most influential recent study of the origins and nature of "nationalism." Useful as a background to nationalism as a force in both colonialism and resistance to colonialism.
Appadurai, Arjun. "Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy." Public Culture 2 (Spring, 1990).
Brilliant attempt to invent a set of concepts to understand the complex, multilateral "flows" of culture in the current, transnational context.
McClintock, Anne. "The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term 'Post-Colonialism.'" Social Text 31/32 (Spring 1992).
One of the more succinct and insightful reflections on the problematic nature of the term "postcolonial."
---. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context. London: Routledge, 1995.
Brilliantly detailed study tracing the complex interrelations of sexuality, race, gender, and nation in colonial discourses and practices.
Lloyd, David. Anomalous States: Irish Writing and the Post-Colonial Moment. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.
Brilliant reading of Yeats, Beckett, Heaney, and Joyce in context of Ireland's postcolonial predicaments.
San Juan, Jr., E. Beyond Postcolonial Theory. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1998.
Searching critique of the political inadequacy of postcolonial theory in relation to political economy.
Lowe, Lisa, and David Lloyd, eds. The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997.
Rich collection of essays offering a variety of political critiques of colonialism sensitive to the dynamic between the specificity of local struggles and the determinations of global systems.
Ong, Aiwa. Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality.
Using ethnographic case studies focused especially on China, Ong theorizes a new kind of citizenship and new kinds of ethnic identity emerging from the current political economic and cultural contexts labeled "gobalization."
Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2001.
Major, controversial post-Marxist rethinking of the concept of empire and imperialism in the wake of neo-liberal globalization and transnational cultural flows.
Tsing, Anna. Friction:An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U P, 2004.
Brilliant theorization of transcultural, transnational "frictions" as a creative force for resistance to neo-liberal globalization. Uses rich field work on Indonesia to demonstrate the complexities of global activist networks, in this case around enviromentalism issues.

North American Postcolonial Studies

Du Bois, W. E. B. The World and Africa. New York, NY: International Publishers, 1965.
DuBois has been interestingly recoded as a Black Atlantic intellectual by Gilroy, and this book offers a glimpse into his postcolonial thinking.
Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Press, 1987.
Brilliant collection of essays and poems asserting and analyzing the postcolonial presence of Chicanos/as, while meditating on the status of real and metaphorical "fronteras/borderlands." Her concept of the "borderlands" has become a key term in contemporary theory.
Mohanty, Chandra. "Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses." Feminist Review 30 (Autumn 1988): 61-88.
Important postcolonial critique of universalizing tendencies in Western feminist discourses.
Sandoval, Chela. "US Third World Feminism: The Theory and Practice of Oppositional Consciousness in a Postmodern World." Genders 10 (1991):1-23.
Brilliant use of postcolonial and other theory to elucidate the theorizing practice of US women of color feminisms.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis, ed. Black Literature and Literary Theory. New York, NY: Methuen, 1984.
Collection of essays employing and critiquing structuralism and post-structuralism as tools for interpreting African and African-American texts. See especially Gates's introduction, and the essays by Benston, Stepto, and Johnson.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis, ed. "Race," Writing, and Difference. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1985; 1986.
This collection of essays from Critical Inquiry includes a number of important pieces on race in America as well as key contributions to postcolonial theory. See particularly the essays by Gates, Said, Johnson, Carby and Gilman.
JanMohamed, Abdul, and David Lloyd, eds. The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1990.
A theoretically informed collection of articles from a two-volume special issue of Cultural Critique examining representational strategies in and strategic contexts for literatures of US domestic and international "Third World" writers. See especially pieces by Kaplan, Mani, Radhakrishnan, Rabasa and Rosaldo.
Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.
Rich analysis of the quadrilateral trade of transnational culture among Africa, Britain, the Caribbean, and the United States that rethinks the positioning of a host of modern intellectuals.
Trinh, Minh Ha. Woman, Native, Other. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University. Press, 1989.
A formally innovative text that is at once feminist postcolonial theory and an autobiography of this Vietnamese-American film-maker/scholar.
Calderón, Héctor, and José David Saldívar, eds. Criticism in the Borderlands. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.
Collects many of the most influential essays in theory and criticism of Chicano/a literature and culture from postcolonial, neo-Marxist, feminist, and new historicist vantage points. Includes a useful select, annotated bibliography.
Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. New York, NY: Vintage, 1992.
Brilliantly illuminates the "Africanist" presence as structuring subtext in classic American literary and cultural texts.
Saldívar, José David. Dialectics of Our America: Genealogy, Cultural Critique and Literary History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.
Makes strong argument via Latin American and Chicano/a literatures for a decentering of the United States as "America" and recentering of "American" literary and cultural studies in a North/South hemispheric dynamic.
---. Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.
Excellent set of essays placing American Studies, Cultural Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Postcolonial Studies into dialogue around a series of readings of Chicano and multiethnic cultural texts.
Amy Kaplan, and Donald Pease, eds. Cultures of United States Imperialism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.
Ground-breaking collection of essays attempting to re-place American Studies in the context of studies of imperialism and postcoloniality. See especially Kaplan's lucid introduction.
Buell, Lawrence. "American Literary Emergence as a Postcolonial Phenomenon." American Literary History 4 (1992): 411-42.
Suggestive but at points problematic argument for viewing early United States literature as marked by the postcolonial relation to England. Can be read as obscuring the more central role of US as imperial and neocolonial power, even amidst its postcolonial moments.
Desmond, Jane, and Virginia Domínquez. "Resituating American Studies in a Critical Internationalism." American Quarterly 48 (September 1996):475-90.
Strong, lucid argument for a rethinking of AS in relation to other "area studies" in order to better locate the field in the larger terrain of a critical trans- and inter-nationalism that undercuts American exceptionalism.

Lisa Lowe
Lowe, Lisa. Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.
Brilliant use of postcolonial, marxist, critical race and feminist theory to analyze the complicated interrelations of Asian immigrant, Asian American and dominant communities in the US. Using the example of Asian immigration in its various waves, Lowe exposes the historical construction of dominant notions of US nationhood and citizenship in dialectical relation to those it would exclude or only partially include within those categories.
duCille, Ann. "Postcolonialism and Afrocentricity: Discourse and Dat Course." duCille, Skin Trade. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.
Brilliant essay examining the dangers of essentialism in both postcolonial studies and black studies, and the equal danger of reducing one to the other.
Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth. Why I Can't Read Wallace Stegner, and Other Essays. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.
Powerful, wide-ranging collection of essays developing an anti-colonialist, pro-sovereignty approach to Native studies.
Vizenor, Gerald. Manifest Manners: Postindian Warriors of Survivance. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.
Brilliantly re(de)constructivist collection of essays by a postcolonial, postindian poet, fictionist and critic. Invents an alternative critical language for Native studies.
Warrior, Robert. Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.
Uses the work of John Joseph Matthews and Vine Deloria, Jr. to initiate brilliant rethinking of American Indian intellectual traditions that skillfully unites indigenous resources, sovereignty issues and contemporary cultural theory.
Singh, Amritjit, and Peter Schmidt, eds. Postcolonial Theory and the United States: Race, Ethnicity, and Literature. Oxford, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2001.
Excellent collection of essays on various diasporic and transnational formations, as well internal neo-colonialisms. Include a fine introductory essay on the relation ot postcolonial theory to US culture(s).
King, C. Richard, ed. Postcolonial America. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2001.
Like the Singh collection, this anthology brings together an excellent group of scholars to deploy postcolonial theories in a variety of US cultural contexts.
Rowe, John Carlos. Cultural Politics of the New American Studies. Open Humanities Press, 2012.
Online version of Rowe's argument for a more critically transnational and comparative role for American Studies and US intellectuals in the face of neo-liberal globalization and the rise of a new American Exceptionalism in US public discourse.
Coulthard, Glen. Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014..
Combining Marxist, decolonial and feminist theory in an indigenous political theoretical argument, Coulthard argues that successful resistance to settler colonial regimes will require refusal to play by the rules of the state and the dominant definition of a politics of liberal recognition. Instead he calls for a subtle deployment of direct action, economic alternatives to capitalism, feminist critique, a new urban indigene politics, and critical reconceptualization of the "nation-state."

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