Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Postcolonialism and Things Fall Apart

Certain points made in this reading were somewhat surprising to me and challenged my preconceived notions, especially about the term postcolonialism. For example, I had previously thought of postcolonial as referring to a society that had formerly been colonized and was now independent. However, as the text states, this sense of postcolonialism “has been contested by a more elaborate understanding of the working of post-colonial cultures which stresses the articulations between and across politically defined historical periods, of pre-colonial, colonial, and post-independence cultures” (187). I also thought it was interesting that colonialism and post-colonialism, as Slemon states, are integral to “a critique of past and present power relations in world affairs” (189). Things Fall Apart certainly addresses the struggle for power that occurs when an imperialist society enters into contact with a society it seeks to colonize. Okonkwo seeks to maintain power and control in the Igbo community and to uphold the traditions of the culture. However, the British colonizing forces seek to set up their own government and enforce their own principles and traditions. This, of course, is resented by some and welcomed by others, as change always is in a society. Those who are currently in power are often the ones, naturally, to resist a change that will wrest power from them, while the outcasts and marginalized are often more receptive to a change that could possibly benefit them and give them more power.

This also leads into another point in Ashcroft’s text that I found interesting: that the responses of the oppressed peoples of a postcolonialist society are not always resistant to the imperialist force. Perhaps because of my American heritage, the resistance of colonized peoples seemed inevitable and an important part of what the term postcolonial means. However, this is not always the case. As we discussed in class, some of the Igbo people like Nwoye respond quite positively to the new systems of religion and government.

Finally, I felt that Ashcroft’s points about orality were certainly relevant to Achebe’s novel, seeing as we’ve already discussed the way in which Achebe writes his novel so that it flows in the same way that an orally told story would be spoken in the Igbo community. However, Ashcroft’s text brought up interesting ideas about the assumptions we often make concerning orality as a traditional and therefore somewhat irrelevant and past form of transmission. This may “convey the impression that the oral was not as socially or aesthetically valuable as the literary” (166). What Achebe attempts to do, then, is try to take the oral tradition of the Igbo people and translate it into written word, thereby valuing the oral tradition.

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