The second variation of “postcolonial” moves us away from the historicised connotations that the hyphen in “post-colonial” denotes. Instead of describing a historical moment following independence from official colonial rule, “postcolonial” instead turns us towards a theoretical approach to understanding literature, society, politics, art and more.

Whilst scholars are still engaged in debates around the exact parameters and meaning of the term, John McLeod, Professor of Postcolonial and Diaspora Literatures at the University of Leeds, neatly encapsulates the theoretical project and ambition of the term in his introduction to the field, Beginning Postcolonialism. McLeod conceives of “postcolonialism” as a strategy, a lens through which to think about “representations, reading practices, attitudes and values”.[1] In this way, we can see the absence of the hyphen in “postcolonial” as not confining us to thinking about strict demarcations of history and time but instead advocating for a commitment to a political, artistic and social project to “claim the right of all people […] to material and cultural well-being”.[2]

Despite this qualification, the term still divides scholars, with critiques particularly strong from those in the field of Indigenous Studies, who have taken up Mignolo’s project of epistemic decolonization and who have identified limits with an established tradition of postcolonial theory which has not been fully attentive to the specificities of Indigenous experience(s) and epistemologies.

We’ll explore some of these critiques in the third and final post in this mini-series through one last variation of “postcolonial” that attempts to call attention to the problems with the “post” in “postcolonial”.

[1] John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000).

[2] Robert Young, Postcolonialism: A very short introduction, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

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