Book Review of "Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction"
Today's book review is Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction (2020) by Robert J. C. Young. The book first introduces itself by exploring what exactly the term "postcolonialism" is, it delivers this in a succinct and direct way. In relation to neo-colonialism, it links this to the post-colonial states like Iran, Iraq, etc. In that, we still see neocolonialism today and the power dynamics displayed by the major powers. However, already a disappointing part of the book is that Said's work seems to be rather glossed over rather than explored more thoroughly. This is disappointing as his life's work is extremely seminal in the field of postcolonial theory and rather consequently marks the book down slightly.
The first chapter mostly explores language, literature, politics and somewhat the intersectionality with feminist theory. The most interesting area I found with this chapter was the exploration of Global South writers writing about their people's experiences rather than the western tourist's account. Looking through Instagram and generally social media I do see how problematic sometimes some tour accounts are with how they use non-western people for profit and therefore are exploitative towards them. In other words, it creates an idealized "other" and engages with the fictional 'orient' that doesn't exist apart from the originator or exploitative mind.
The second chapter picks up from the first, delving into decolonisation, the emergence of postcolonial theory and colonialism. It references numerous authors on the topic and therefore creates great points for a divergence to look for more literature when exploring post-colonial theory. It makes a list of literature to explore after finishing the introduction to go further into the theory. Smoothing towards the third chapter, we see that it explores the effects of slavery and race. It teaches that post-colonialism is also a form of decolonisation of self and its views on the caste system.
In chapter four we see the history of Iraq and British colonialism (and neo-colonialism) told in a very eye-opening first-person account. Along with makes the reader question their own raisings as well, especially me as I was primarily raised in the UK with what happens to be our country profiting from the Iraq war. This chapter ended up making me challenge my own ideas of contemporary Britain. Chapter five explores nation-states mostly and independence while also critiquing that some non-Western nations (with borders created by the European powers) have ethnic issues in that there are prejudices towards the minorities of those countries.
Thus it has presented factual information through historical references clearly and concisely to the audience in an easier-to-read way for non-academics to understand the idea behind the post-colonial theory. Going thereon Chapter six presents popular culture as a form of postcolonial decolonisation by informing the world about a peoples struggles and how popular culture is a form of hybridity itself. These discourses provide substantial information on understanding the ideas behind decolonising ourselves through engaging with pop culture as a whole.
The veiling of women in the Global South is explored throughout Chapter seven, it brings well-rounded points on the hypocrisy of western neo-colonialist behaviour to those peoples in the name of 'women's rights'. Though this issue is very debated today between mostly western circles and peoples it is not theirs to decide for the Global Southern women. The argument is concisely and thoroughly explored and it is very relevant to today's time and context in post-colonialism. Continuing onto the next chapter we see the connections between post-colonialism and women's rights in a very well-written chapter with connections back to the previous idea of veils and that men have worn them yet have not been as widely critiqued by the Global North as how women have.
The ninth chapter explores globalism and its effects on the Global South and the example of Nestle which is a rather big eye-opener. This chapter also indirectly helps the reader to start questioning how companies generate their wealth especially if they are operating factories or other ventures in the Global South. It smoothly transitions in the tenth chapter to ecological theory and explores the intersectionality between feminism, eco-theory and postcolonialism and ends with a question on how neoliberal democracies will deal with this issue that now affects them. The end chapter briefs on psychoanalytical theory and its intersectional relations to postcolonialism.
Overall, this book gives a clear overview of postcolonial theory and how it works within the discourses provided in the text. Though there are some critiques towards this book that I have in such not much expanded on the seminal literature on this topic and the authors - the book does counteract my point by having a glossary of authors at the front page linked with words corresponding to their main topic. It creates a point of divergence into other topics to explore the idea much more thoroughly. I would say that this is honestly a great introduction to the idea of postcolonialism and is definitely required if you wish to understand this without knowing much about postcolonial theory.