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Friday, 29 January 2010

'Past' Postcolonialism

Literary theory is a landscape of monoliths. Not shiny and brand new like those alien ones in '2001: A Space Odyssey'; some are cracked and weather-beaten, others have been supplanted by later theories and do you see that looming monolith that casts a shadow over the more recent modern cultural theories? That one is postcolonialism. The sun has long set over the British Empire but the lengthening shadow is pervasive.

I knew I could never outrun this shadow, although I don't let it define my writing. I inhabit another shadowy area, being born in London UK and speaking English as my first language (although I learnt very early in life most of the key Hokkien cuss words....), so I am not an Anglophone writer (English is not my second language). I do not use the language of the colonizers/ oppressors as a tool for finding my own voice.  I am not a post-colonial subaltern existing outside a Western hegemony : I do not need to tell my  story only for a bunch of academics to retell it to me on their own terms. I also speak and write French but since I started learning it at the same time as I was learning English, French is another first language of mine: if I were to write a novel in French would I be a Francophone writer? Does writing in Telugu, make me a Telephone writer?

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