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The Rise of Postcolonialism

The field of postcolonial studies has been gaining prominence since the 1970s. Its origins are manifold. An important publication was Orientalism, published in 1978 by the literary scholar Edward Said. Using Foucault’s then brand new theory of power/knowledge in combination with the concept of ‘hegemony’ by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, Said argued that the great interest of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French and British scholars in the Orient had long-lasting social and political consequences. He argued that such studies offered a specific Western style of thought, Orientalism that aimed at dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient. Orientalism, Said argued continued to structure American Middle East foreign policy in the 1970s.

Another important strand of postcolonial studies emerged at British and Indian universities in the 1970s and 1980s. Strongly influenced by the ‘new’ social history and the history ‘from below’, the founding members of Subaltern Studies (some of them became member of the Warwick History Department) rejected all mechanical and economistic forms of Marxism. Instead they relied heavily on the writings of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci which, although written in the 1930s, were only being re-discovered at the time.



Seminar Readings:

Said, Edward, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (London, 1978), Introduction: pp. 1-28; Knowing the Oriental: pp. 31-49. (see:

Guha, Ranajit, ‘On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India’, Subaltern Studies, No.1 (1982): pp. 1-8. (see:


Seminar Readings

Overview: CWHT, ch. 21.



Further Readings


Ashcroft, Bill; Gareth Griffiths; & Helen Tiffin, Postcolonial Studies: Key Concepts (London, 2013). See especially the entry on ‘discourse’ . 70-73) (Library Online Resources).


Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Fiffin (eds.), The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures. London and New York: Routledge, 1989. (In many ways this publication kicks off the postcolonial enthusiasm in history writing)


Baxi, Upendra "'The State's Emissary': The Place of Law in Subaltern Studies", in Subaltern Studies VII, pp. 247-264


Chakrabarty, Dipesh, ‘Conditions for Knowledge of Working-Class Conditions: Employers, Government and the Jute Workers of Calcutta, 1890-1940’, in Selected Subaltern Studies.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh, ‘Provincialising Europe: Postcolonial thought and historical difference (Princeton, 2007).

Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for 'Indian' Pasts?’ Representations, 37 (1992): 1-26.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh, ‘A Small History of Subaltern Studies, in ibid., Habitations of Modernity (Chicago, 2002), pp. 3-19.

Chatterjee, Partha , ‘The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question’, in Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid, eds., Recasting Women: Essays in Indian Colonial History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 233-253.

Guha, Ranajit, ‘Discipline and Mobilize’, in Subaltern Studies VII, pp. 69-120.


Guha, Ranajit, ‘The prose of counter-insurgency’ , Subaltern Studies II (1983), pp. 159-220. (online).

Hardiman, David, 'Adivasi Assertion in South Gujarat: The Devi Movement of 1922-23', in R.Guha (ed.), Subaltern Studies III (1984).

Herman, David. “Edward Said.”Prospect Magazine. <> 20 Nov. 2003. 11 October, 2013.

Huggan, Graham (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Howe, Stephen (ed.), The New Imperial Histories Reader (London: Routledge, 2010).

Iggers, Georg G., A Global History of Modern Historiography (London, 2008), pp. 284-90.

Hamdi, Tahrir Khalil, ‘Edward Said and Recent Orientalist Critiques, Khalil Arab Studies Quarterly 35, 2 (2013).

Majumdar, Rochona, Writing Postcolonial History (London, 2010).

Moore-Gilbert, Bart, ‘Postcolonial Theory Contexts, Practices, Politics’ (London, 1997), Chapter 2: Edward Said, Orientalism and Beyond, pp. 34-73.


Pandey, Gyanendra, ‘The Colonial Construction of 'Communalism': British Writings on Banaras in the Nineteenth Century’, in Subaltern Studies VI, pp. 132-68.

Schwarz, Henry, and Ray,Sangeeta (eds.), A Companion to Postcolonial Studies (2000).

Said, Edward, ‘Orientalism Reconsidered, Ed. Brydon. Vol III. (2001): pp.846-861


Spivak, Gayatri C., ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, in Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, eds., Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (Urbana & Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1988), pp. 271-313.

Stephens, Julie, ‘Feminist Fictions: A Critique of the Category 'Non-Western Woman' in Feminist Writings on India", in Subaltern Studies VI, pp. 92-125; Tharu, Susie, ‘Response to Julie Stephens", in Subaltern Studies VI, pp. 126-31.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 2015): particularly chapter 1 (pp 1-30) and chapter 3, pp. 70-107. (e-book)

Turner, Brian, ‘Edward W. Said: Overcoming Orientalism, Theory, Culture, and Society 21, 1 (2004): 173-177.

Young, Robert, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016) – BOTH chapter 1 (pp. 1-11) and chapter 5 (pp. 57-69). (e-book)