Postcolonialism

The postcolonial school of thought is based on the understanding that the colonialism did not end when the areas that were colonised by the Europeans in the 1700s-1900s became autonomous. The effects of the colonialism keep influencing how the world and unequal power relations are constructed today(see also power). The questions asked by postcolonial theory are which role the colonial past plays in today’s world and how it is recreated both locally and globally in contemporary societies. The notions of a modern, civilised and rational ‘West’ are closely interlinked with the construction of an irrational, pre-modern and mystical ‘East’ (see also dichotomy). This view legitimises super- and subordination, where the Western culture and model of society are placed at the very front of the colonial hierarchical development model. The notion of the global North and South relates to this East/West distinction, where the North is portrayed as modern, rich, civilised and developed compared with the undeveloped, outdated and uncivilised South. Sweden participated not only in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonisation, since the colonisation of Lapland, home to the Sami, follows the same pattern. In the latter case, it is the Swedish state that is portrayed as civilised and modern while the Sami people are conveyed as the opposite (see also othering). This colonisation can be understood as continuing today, and postcolonial theories can offer an understanding of how and why this is possible.

Feminist theories and postcolonial theory have influenced each other in many ways. Although feminist theory and postcolonial theory are two different fields, they join forces in what can be described as a search for alternative knowledge where critical perspectives on knowledge production, universalism, power and dominant worldviews meet. A postcolonial feminism has emerged, describing how sexism, racism and homophobia can be connected to a questioning of global forms of domination, where the colonial past plays a central role.

Knowledge production and the possibility to create space for new subjects of knowledge is central theme´s in postcolonial feminism. Which stories and people have or are given space in the development and production of knowledge? (see also situated knowledge) What can be called white feminism have in many ways subscribed, and contributed, to a colonial ideology (see also whiteness). ‘Other women’, ‘third-world women’, ‘brown women’ and these people’s knowledge, experiences and needs have been both silenced and ignored. Postcolonial feminism asks questions about power and knowledge that challenge the Western notion of superiority, related to ideas about for example gender, sexuality, racialisation and exploitation.

Related material

Long history of uncovering Muslim women

The French burkini ban is part of a long tradition of stopping Muslim women from wearing religious attire. For example, during the colonial period in Algeria, Arab women were stripped of their veils at public ceremonies, says Edda Manga, racism researcher and historian of ideas.

Read the article here ›