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A very, very short introduction to postcolonialism

This is the first in an ongoing series in which I’ll tease out some connections between postcolonial theology and Tanzanian university ministry.

Part of the occasion for this is a new book, Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations (check Booko if you’d like to get the paperback in Australia). We’ll delve into that book soon, as well as a handful of previous evangelical interactions.

To kick off, here are a few impressions I’ve drawn from Robert J C Young, writing ten years ago in Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction.

Postcolonialism revolves around marginalised people, minorities, and majority world communities. It exists for the sake of those who get talked about and spoken for, those dispossessed of a voice.

Postcolonialism arose from reflections on the aftermath of colonial experience. It became an ‘ism’ in the 1980s.

Postcolonialism understands that colonial history has not ended, only changed. National independence has not been complete; old dividing lines have been muddied but not removed; majority world nations do not enjoy equality with western nations. Postcolonialism hopes to shift the landscape of relationships between the West and the Rest.

Postcolonialism involves a moral commitment to the transformation of poverty and exploitation. It is a form of activism to contest the ongoing colonisation of people, places, resources, and cultures.

Postcolonialism resembles feminism as a collective and collaborative push to bring alternative angles to light, a multi-voiced criticism engaging multiple areas (e.g. ecology, development, justice).

Postcolonialism should be a bottom-up, grassroots conversation rather than a theory from above.

In Young’s words,

Above all, postcolonialism seeks to intervene, to force its alternative knowledges into the power structures of the west as well as the non-west. It seeks to change the way people think, the way people behave, to produce a more just and equitable relation between the different peoples of the world. …

A lot of people don’t like the term ‘postcolonial’: now you may begin to see why. It disturbs the order of the world. It threatens privilege and power. It refuses to acknowledge the superiority of western cultures. Its radical agenda is to demand equality and well-being for all human beings on this earth.

Categories: Written by Arthur

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Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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