Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Assumptions of Post Colonial Literature

In class on Tuesday, we briefly discussed how one- sided post colonialism is.  In Things Fall Apart, the Ibo people experienced much more shock than the white Englishmen who took no lessons from the Ibo culture.  Therefore, it was interesting to read the definition of post colonialism as being not only problematic socially, culturally, or historically, but also literarily.  The term colonialism gives an assumption that I did not even think about coming into the course before I read our first novel.  Slemon writes that the term by definition is “transhistorical and unspecific and it is used in relation to very different kinds of historical oppression and economic control” (189).  Meaning we are assuming two things about colonizing: that the colonizers are oppressors and the “oppressed peoples will always be resistant” to these colonizers.  Although this may be true in many cases, it is unfair to generalize colonial literature as being the oppressors/ colonizers and the natives/victims.  We unconsciously may assume this binary, but in doing so we put ourselves as readers into a mindset based on a stereotype without looking at specific cultures and responses to colonization.    
In Things Fall Apart, the British disrespected the Ibo culture at times.  The white man who removed the mask of the ancestral spirit and the men telling the Ibo people what to believe and that their gods are false definitely painted the British as oppressors who were ruining the Ibo culture.  However, Achebe also writes how the white man built stores to set up an economic system, a court to establish a government system, as well as a church to build a unified religion.  Achebe writes about these new establishments positively as the Ibo people benefited economically and academically as they learned about new things.  In this way, the exchange between two cultures is not inherently negative and oppressive, although many times that economic and political dominance over some of the African tribes was very deliberate for colonizers.  As Slemon argues we should look at the culture and location to analyze the relationship between the colonizer and those being colonized to avoid oversimplifying the story and losing the truth.  In a way I am aware of my own stereotypes and biases (that I was not even really aware of) with colonial literature now as we go into the next novel.        

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