. . . continuing M.H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms, 6th ed., 236-7


An important text in establishing the theory and practice in this recently developed field of study was Orientalism (1978) by the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said, which applied a revised form of Michel Foucault's historicist critique of discourse . . . to analyze what he called "cultural imperialism." This mode of imperialism imposed its power not by force, but by the effective means of disseminating in subjugated colonies a Eurocentric discourse that assumed the normality and preeminence of everything "Occidental," correlatively with its representations of the "oriental" as an exotic and inferior other. Since the 1980s, such analysis has been supplemented by other theoretical principles and procedures, including Althusser’s redefinition of the Marxist theory of ideology and the deconstructive theory of Derrida. The rapidly expanding field of postcolonial studies, as a result, is not a unified movement with a distinctive  methodology. One can, however, identify several central and recurrent issues:


(1) The rejection of the master-narrative of Western imperialism—in which the colonial other is not only subordinated and marginalized, but in effect deleted as a cultural agency--and its replacement by a counter-narrative in which the colonial cultures fight their way back into a world history written by Europeans. The influential collection of essays, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (1989), ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffins, stresses what it terms the hybridization of colonial languages and cultures, in which imperialist importations are superimposed on indigenous traditions; it also includes a number of postcolonial countertexts to the hegemonic texts that present a Eurocentric version of colonial history.


(2) An abiding concern with the formation, within Western discursive practices, of the colonial and postcolonial "subject," as well as of the categories by means of which this subject conceives itself and perceives the world within which it lives and acts. . . .The subaltern has become a standard way to designate the colonial subject that has been constructed by European discourse and internalized by colonial peoples who employ this discourse; "subaltern" is a British word for someone of inferior rank, and combines the Latin terms for "under" (sub) and "other" (alter), A recurrent topic of debate is how, and to what extent, a subaltern subject, writing in a European language, can manage to serve as an agent of resistance against, rather than of compliance with, the very discourse that has created its subordinate identity. See, e.g., Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (1988), reprinted in The Postcolonial Studies Reader.


(3) A major element in the postcolonial agenda is to disestablish Eurocentric norms of literary and artistic values, and to expand the literary canon to include colonial and postcolonial writers. In the United States and Britain, there is an increasingly successful movement to include in the standard academic curricula, the brilliant and innovative novels, poems, and plays by such postcolonial writers in the English language as the Africans Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, the Caribbean islanders V. S. Naipaul and Derek Walcott, and the authors from the Indian subcontinent G. V. Desani and Salman Rushdie. See Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (1994); and for a survey of the large and growing body of literature in English by postcolonial writers throughout the world, see Martin Coyle and others, Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism (1990), pages 1113-1236.