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Elise Butterfield

Borderlands of Western Civilization


Spring 2013

Brunyeel: Postcolonial resistance is a decidedly anticolonial politics focused on
expressing collective autonomy in the face of state domination rather than a
liberal politics concerned with gaining rights and equality within the dominant
settler-state.

Postcolonial:
The term post-colonialism or postcolonial has a few different meanings.
First is the seemingly obvious: after the end of colonialism or colonial rule. In this
case colonial rule is widely accepted as the rule by European and North
American powers over other parts and peoples of the world from around the 15th
century through the middle of the 20th century, by which point the majority of
nations and/or peoples ruled by another gained independence. Post-colonial
would then refer to events, ideologies, and politics originating after, and
presumably effects of, colonial rule.
Alternatively, some scholars use the term postcolonial to refer to more
anti-colonial sentiment or intent in theory and political action. Brunyeel adheres
more to this second definition in his academic work related to the Indigenous-
U.S. political relationship. Brunyeel explains postcolonial in the context of
indigenous political resistance in his work The U.S.-Indigenous Relationship: A
Struggle Over Colonial Rule by saying: postcolonial resistance is a decidedly
anticolonial politics focused on expressing collective autonomy in the face of
state domination rather than a liberal politics concerned with gaining rights and
equality within the dominant settle-state (Brunyeel 19). In this situation,
postcolonial describes something that exists and works in opposition to
concurrent colonial structures and ideologies, in this case expressed through a
liberal politics and U.S.-recognized political rights. Postcolonial here describes
an action that is beyond (and indeed against) the limits of colonial political action
and thought, as opposed to something that exists after colonial structures and
ideologies.
The term postcolonial, though problematic, does have some useful
characteristics. Postcolonial as a term is useful because it helps us recognize the
importance of the effects of colonialism. It contextualizes (mainly contemporary)
events and ideologies around colonial rule and colonial legacy. By doing this it
allows us to critique colonialism and recognize the many negative or problematic
aspects of colonial rule and its legacy. And, as scholars like Brunyeel
demonstrate, it helps us identify those actions or thoughts which counter and
critique the colonial hegemony of many Western nations.
However, despite the usefulness of the term postcolonial, there are
problematic elements with this term as well. First of all, the preposition post
assumes that colonialism is over and can falsely create a dichotomy in time
between colonial and postcolonial, when in reality these two things may be
closely linked in any given moment. Although the term postcolonial may be used
to critique colonialism, it also distances itself from colonialism and its legacies in
this way. Brunyeel, however, identifies and counteracts this problematic element
of the term by clearly explaining that, as he sees it, colonialism is not something
that ended when the last colonial settlement achieved recognized independence;
it is yet present in government structures, national identities, and international
politics.
Additionally, the term postcolonial can overly emphasize the role of
colonial powers or legacies in politics and events. It assumes some relation
between colonial rule and current events that claims responsibility for not only
negative, but also positive events by claiming them as effects of colonization or
colonialism. This can work to reproduce the effects of colonialism by preventing
actors outside of colonizing states to have power or agency in their actions.
It is important to note that some scholars believe the term postcolonial to
be out of date or no longer useful. In the attached article, Professor of Iranian
Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia, Hamid Dabashi, explains his
opinion on the irrelevance of the term postcolonial, particularly in light of the Arab
Spring.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/05/201257103157208253.
html