What Should This
Course Be Called Anyway?
What's in a name? Not much and yet everything. Consider how the following titles
shape or even radically change the meaning of our subject.
Coined by economist Alfred Sauvy, "Third World" was used
to designate those countries not aligned with either the "First World," nations
aligned with Europe and the United States, or the "Second World," nations
aligned with the Soviet Union. Quickly, "the Third World" began to be
associated with conditions of poverty and social strife, and the term became synomous with
|Along with this, the term "Fourth
World" became associated with the poorest of the poor nations, those left out of even
of the orbit of developing "Third World" nations. "Third World"
as a result tends to offer a limited view of what these cultures and peoples represent,
though some have suggested the term is still useful to stress the economic and political
disparity between the richer and poorer nations.
Often associated with the former countries of the
British Commonwealth and Empire, "Commonwealth Literature" has often been
restricted to works written in English. Sometimes, the term has been expanded to include
Welsh, Irish, and Scottish language texts, and on occasion to any text written in those
|"Commonwealth Literature" as a
field of study has gone through various stages:
- Formal, new critical study of literature from Commonwealth countries.
- After an important 1964 Leeds conference, a growing colonial
discourse critique of British identity, looking at growing national independent sentiment
and disruption with the British center.
- Increasing study of imperial and postimperial forms of resistance.
- A contemporary distrust of "nationhood" as a type of false
consciousness with a counterbalancing stress on cultural identity.
Broadly a study of the effects of colonialism on cultures and
societies. It is often concerned with both how European nations conquered and controlled
"Third World" cultures and how these groups have since responded to and resisted
those encroachments. Colonialism as a political and ideological force can be seen in
any number of historical periods and cultures, including the Chinese and Japanese
conquests of Korea, the invasion of North India by Muslim nations, the conquest of the
Americas by European nations, the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, etc. For our
purposes, in English, post-colonialism often refers to the British occupation of Africa,
India, the Caribbean, and to a lesser extent Singapore, parts of the Middle East, and the
indigenous peoples of Australia and Canada and to what happens after this occupation is
The term itself engenders all sorts of debate, including a concern
that the term attempts to homogenize the experience and encounter of very different
nations and peoples. After all, aren't we making a mistake to treat the experience
of the Igbo in Nigeria as similar to the Mogul rulers of North India or the former slaves
of the Antilles? Likewise, didn't British colonialism express itself in different ways in
those various places?
Europe Supported By
Africa & America
In J. G. Stedman, Narrative, of a five years' expedition, against the Revolted
Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana, on the Wild coast of South America; from the year 1772, to
What do each of the above terms suggest about the
Is there only one postcolonialism?
Is the global situation truly post-colonial?
What would we be implying if we called the course "PostImperial Literature"
What do we imply when we call something "African," "Indian,"
"Caribbean," or "Australian"?
Could you think of a better term for the course? What would be gained or lost by
using your term?
August Visitor (Arrival of White Men in
an Ibibio Village) 1991.
Emmanuel Ekong Ekefrey
Acrylic on Canvas, 36 1/4 x 72 1/2" (92x184 cm).
Source: Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin.
Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies. London: Routledge, 1998.