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Professor Robert JC Young has a long reputation as a postcolonial theorist and historian. Young’s works have been categorized by different critics as being highly instrumental in the deconstruction of different concepts of postcolonialism. His work, White ‘Mythologies: Writing History and the West’ (1990) was the first book to characterize postcolonial theory as a field in itself, and to identify the works of Edward W. Said, Homi K. Bhabha and other postcolonial historians as its intellectual core. In ‘Colonial Desire’ (1995), he explored the ill-effects of Colonialism on the subdued races across the globe. In ‘Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction’ (2001), Young traces the relation of the history of the national liberation movements to the development of postcolonial theory. His progressive and analytical ideas about Postcolonialism continue to figure less prominently, but more profusely, in his work, “Postcolonialism, A Very Short Introduction”.
The book primarily concerns itself with acquainting the unfamiliar reader with the ideas of domination, exploitation of the marginalized and the perpetuation of inferiority complexes which continue, albeit in different forms, to pervade through the former colonies of the Colonizers on both sides of the equator. In that, the author tries to bring out that mere independence doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the Colonizer’s domination of the colonized, but it entails a long struggle that continues to-date and will still linger on for some time. On a parallel plane, he also lists down the new found realization of their rights among the women of the former colonies, which has propelled their struggle against their own male counterparts to make their presence felt, besides making a concerted effort not to allow anyone to encroach upon their rights and emotions.
Author’s Thesis Points
The author has divided his thesis points in different chapters which are as follows:
In the first chapter, he uses the references from different refugee camps around the world including Jalozai refugee camp, Peshawar to build his thesis that people of post-colonial world are witnessing a severe disruption, dislocation and disremembering which fuels, “the cruel but creative crucible of the post-colonialism”. He also refers to the huge knowledge gap between the children of western societies, studying in high standard institutions and the meager and informal knowledge which is being imparted to the children at places with meager or destroyed resources, like the Alkader School, near Bethlehem. This unbridgeable gap, he mentions, results in suppressed or subaltern knowledge that becomes a hall-mark of the mindset of such children through-out their ages. He synthesizes that through different initiatives like the Bandong Conference, the third world countries tried to consciously throw out the yoke of ill influences of their past masters but such efforts are still to go a long way in achieving their intended purpose successfully.
In the second chapter, the author describes different African and Caribbean revolutionary movements since the 1920s to synthesize that the colonized have been making conscious, and sometimes violent, efforts to flush out the colonizers since the early part of the 20th century but, he argues, such efforts have always been reciprocated by use of brute force by the colonizers, without having any semblance of civility which the West so persistently propounds.
In the third chapter, the author refers to the issue of landlessness–the snatching of peoples’ right to live in their own countries– which is also an influence of former colonialists. It is for this reason, he argues, that all post-colonial struggles are typically dealing with the aftermath of one of the most banal but fundamentally important features of colonial power: the appropriation of land. This has resulted in people being pushed to caves and squatter camps in their own countries, be it Algeria or Afghanistan.
In the next chapter, the author draws his proposition that post colonial struggle sometimes manifests itself in music and attire of peoples. Using the example of Rai music that originated in Algeria in 1970s, he emphasizes that it was necessarily a means to depict an indigenous point of view, a will power independent of any foreign influence and a wish to be heard. He also describes the ambivalence of the veil–the West sees it as a means to choke the rights of women and made every effort to discourage it, while the Muslims view it as a part of their culture. He concludes that in post colonial era, the veil culture has become even more pervasive in the Muslim countries which indicate their desire to follow their culture in their own independent manner.
In the last three chapters, the author describes the feminist movements that have become a hallmark of the post colonial era, using examples including women like Wangari Mathai, Mira Behn and Pholan Devi. He emphasizes that post colonial era has a lateral aspect in which now the women are trying to make their presence felt in such newly independent countries through different movements. By doing so, they are not only protecting their own rights, whether economical or social, but also preserving the environments in which they are living. He also narrates the intense difficulties these brave women are facing but eulogizes their perseverance in the face of these all those oddities. He then goes on to narrate the struggle of some of the famous anti-colonial revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Frantz Fanon. The much triumphed globalised, he surmises, has resulted in economic smothering of the depressed by the so called aid-givers. At the end, he propounds that translations by post colonial writers embodies their being empowered, liberated and zealously articulated.
At places, it is felt that the author has not followed a logical sequence of arguments to familiarize the common reader about different concepts of colonialism. Understanding of the book entails a pre-collected and comprehensive knowledge about the post colonial literature, as is amply clear from the scholastic manner in which the author has presented his ideas without considering the difficulties that such a style produces for a common and unlearned reader. Although he quite justified his main crux on objecting to the ill-effects of Western powers on their former colonies, yet he failed to take into account some of the reasons that are associated with these former colonies own inaction and lethargy that helps in perpetuating these banal influences. Use of complex words, anecdotes and unfamiliarized events make it difficult to get along the book with ease and interest. At times the author allows his personal likes and dislikes and subjective views to find their place among the argumentative portions of the book. He also uses the technique of the contrasts, as when he mentions in the second chapter that when French-men were enjoying dramatic performances in Paris in 1840, their Algerian colony-men were being asphyxiated by their troops, which helps the reader in a better understanding of what the author is trying to prove. He not only makes use of examples from past history for the most part of the book, but also connects them with the present day scenarios that the depressed and suppressed are facing. While presenting different cultures of Africa and Asia, he fails to introduce the reader to these cultures, but merely makes passing comments about the different rights and rituals of these cultures which makes it difficult for a common reader to develop a holistic view of these arguments and theses which the author is trying to bring out by mentioning such examples. The author didn’t use any footnotes to explain difficult terms which leave the readers, at times, totally at their own. The language, at times, gives a feeling of being too complex. The author also uses intra-textual and inter-textual references at different instances, like the emphasis on atrocities of former neo-colonists was referred to in more than one chapter and this is also presented in another book by the author named, “Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction” (2001).
The readers need to familiarize themselves with different concepts and developments of post colonialism before reading this book in order to comprehend it fully.
The book must have been footnoted so that the reader would have been able to find the meanings of difficult terms with ease. There is no bibliography written which makes it difficult for the reader to ascertain the precise source of different references used by the author; therefore, a bibliography needs to be added to the book.
The pictures used in the book were black and white while the author, at places, tried to explain these pictures in terms of different colors used in them. This was an anomaly which needs to be rectified.
The book is not recommendable for common readers due to its complexity but a learned reader would find it useful and interest-oriented. Such learned readers would however invariably feel that their desire about more knowledge of postcolonialism could not be satiated by this book alone and therefore, they need to peruse other comprehensive works on this topic.
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