A body of writing recognized by authority (literary critics and scholars) deemed suitable for academic study. 



The exploitation of a weaker country by a stronger one.  It includes the use of the weaker country's resources to strengthen and enrich the stronger country.  It is a feature of European expansion since sixteenth century, as Western powers took control of people and territory across much of globe. Last wave in Africa, late-nineteenth century. South American colonies gained independence in nineteenth century, African and Asian colonies after WW II.

Frequently, the study of colonialism is divided into settler and forcibly colonized countries.

ex.  Nigeria would be a colonized country, and Canada would be a settler country.



The act of colonizing, or the establishment of colonies such as "the British colonization of Africa"


The national policy of conquest of other regions or peoples for the purpose of extending political and economic control and of exploiting the resources of other regions or people.



The language and culture of the homeland—Britain and the English language—are imposed on the colony. In turn, these discourses become the measurement of “reality.”

ex.  The speaker in Derek Walcott's “A Far Cry from Africa” is unsure which language best represents his colonial situation.   



Scholars used to use the term Commonwealth criticism, which referred to the study of texts produced by members of former British colonies.

However, the term has its difficulties.  For example, , there is nothing “common” or “shared” about the “wealth” in the colonies.  Colonization meant to increase the wealth of the ruling country. 

Since the 1980s, the terms "Commonwealth" and "Third World" that were used to describe the literature of Europe's former colonies have become rare.

In a very general sense, postcolonial criticism is the study of the interactions between European nations and colonies following the establishment of independence in a colony. The European empire is said to have held sway over more than 85% of the rest of the globe by the time of the First World War, having consolidated its control over several centuries. The sheer extent and duration of the European empire and its disintegration after the Second World War have led to widespread interest in postcolonial literature and criticism in our own times.



The act of colony or former colony member making the reverse voyage to the home of the colonizer.

ex. The Jamaicans in London in White Teeth. 



The Other refers to the colonized others who are marginalized by the imperial discourse, identified by their difference from the centre and become the focus of anticipated mastery by the imperial power.  For example, in Heart of Darkness, the physical difference of the “savages” is an excuse for their abuse by various Europeans. 

This Other can be compared to the imperial centre, imperial discourse, or the empire itself, in two ways:

For example, although Achebe realizes the negative influences of English, cannot help but to be drawn to it, and to language in which he articulates his life. 

There are, however, problems with or complexities to the concept of otherness:

  1. Otherness includes doubleness, both identity and difference, so that every Other includes the values and meaning of the colonizing culture even as it rejects its power to define.

  2. The western concept of the oriental is based, as Abdul JanMohamed argues, on the Manichean allegory (seeing the world as divided into mutually excluding opposites): if the west is ordered, rational, masculine, good, then the orient is chaotic, irrational, feminine, evil. Simply to reverse this polarizing is to be complicit in its totalizing and identity-destroying power.

  3. Colonized peoples are highly diverse in their nature and in their traditions, and as beings in cultures they are both constructed and changing, so that while they may be 'other' from the colonizers, they are also different one from another and from their own pasts, and should not be totalized or essentialized through such concepts as a black consciousness, Indian soul, aboriginal culture and so forth. This totalization and essentialization is often a form of nostalgia which has its inspiration more in the thought of the colonizers than of the colonized, and it serves give the colonizer a sense of the unity of his culture while mystifying that of others.

  4. The colonized peoples will also be other than their pasts, which can be reclaimed but never reconstituted, and so must be revisited and realized in partial, fragmented ways.


Ngugi and Language

“A specific culture is not transmitted through language in its universality, but in its particularity as the language of a specific community with a specific history. Written literature and orature are the main means by which a particular language transmits the images of the world contained in the culture it carries."

"Language as communication and as culture are then products of each other...Language carries culture, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values by which we perceive ourselves and our place in the world...Language is thus inseparable from ourselves as a community of human beings with a specific form and character, a specific history, a specific relationship to the world” (from Decolonizing the Mind 15-16).



Mimicry is the distinction between the authentic experience of the real world (the world of the West) and the inauthentic experience od the unvalidated periphery (the colonial) (from The Empire Writes Back). This distinction leads to polarities such as order/disorder, power/impotence, and so forth, and to control language is, in many ways, to control power.  However, some critcs, such as Homi Bhabha, argue that mimicry is actually a form of resistance because it destabilizes the colonial discourse by introducing new figures and language.