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World Association of International Studies

Post Does the Term "Post-Colonial" Have Any Usefulness?
Created by John Eipper on 04/16/17 7:45 AM

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Does the Term "Post-Colonial" Have Any Usefulness? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 04/16/17 7:45 am)

Commenting on my post of April 15th, John Eipper asked two interesting questions.

First John asked, does "the term "post-colonial" have any usefulness?" Yes, it is useful to indicate that nominally, officially, legally, etc. the ex-colonized nation is now independent. Being post-colonial provides no assurance whatsoever that the nation will flourish. Further, a post-colonial status in most cases has little to do with de facto independence.

Second, John asked, "what is meant by flourishing?" I think it should mean that the nation democratically elects its political representatives, there is well-established rule of law, a reasonably stable economy with low unemployment, and most citizens enjoy a decent health care and education systems. Most important, a flourishing nation should show that these critical factors are not being eroded away over time as we see today all over the world, including here in the great USA. Thus, "a poor country [can] 'flourish' if its institutions are solid and its people happy," and it satisfies the above conditions. Maybe Iceland does qualify.

In my response to the first question, post-colonial does not mean truly independent, and without independence the likelihood for flourishing dissipates. In a world where governments and business interests operate globally, and major corporations have immense power over whole nations, independence is not easy to achieve. Even the most powerful nation in the world is now controlled by powerful global corporations and is not flourishing as it did a few decades ago. Perhaps that is what "US and Canada have in common with India, Pakistan, Ghana, Vietnam, Zimbabwe," etc.

Concurrently, nations are constantly vying for power following their own agendas. Thus, in the Latin American context long dominated by the US government and corporations, "long-independent but still non-flourishing countries like Nicaragua and Bolivia, or former colonies that once flourished but now don't like Argentina and Venezuela" must operate in the powerful shadows of the US government and global corporations.

Last, in the dimension of physical reality, nations become post-colonial in different states of health regarding their natural resources, available infrastructure, ability to earn future income, population level of education and skills, etc. Thus countries ravaged by war just before gaining post colonial status should be viewed as complete basket cases without something equivalent to a Marshall Plan. Even a nation like Vietnam with strong leadership still have a heavy burden to come out from under the rubble that we put them in. Libya, Iraq, Syria, etc., whose infra structures have been bombed out of existence and have no significant leaders, are doomed to perpetual manipulation by global special interests into the foreseeable future.

JE comments:  Iceland is poor?  I must be missing something here.  It makes most Top-Ten lists for GDP per capita.  The IMF puts Iceland ahead of the US for both 2016 and projections for 2020.


And what about "independence"?  As Tor Guimaraes suggests, there really are no such nations.  "Interdependence" is a more accurate term.  The most independent nation in the world is probably North Korea, and it is certainly not flourishing.  Or look at the other side:  French Guiana has no independence and is nominally the most prosperous state in South America.

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  • Post-Colonial Writers (John Heelan, -UK 04/17/17 3:39 AM)
    I became very interested in the impact of post-colonialism when studying the literature of the African continent (e.g. Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and more recently Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie), the various theories ranging from Victorian racist and "White Man's Burden" to Franz Fanon's "Negritude" and Wole Soylinka's mocking response "Tigritude."

    We have already discussed Derek Walcott's attempt to escape from the subaltern culture of Caribbean English that V.S. Naipaul accused of being "ashamed of its cultural background" and "seeking approval of a superior culture whose values were gravely in doubt." Edward Said commented about a "sense of place," saying "For the native, the history of his/her colonial servitude is inaugurated by the loss to an outsider of the local place, whose concise geographical identity must thereafter be searched for and somehow restored."

    There are many foremost Indian writers, such as Salman Rushdie, Amit Chaudhuri and Arundhati Roy continuing the battle to re-establish their indigenous culture. May their laptops be blessed with inspiration!

    JE comments:  This post is a Who's Who of Anglophone post-colonial writers.  Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) has delivered at least two TED lectures, such as this one below with over 12 million views:


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