Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two Books on Postcolonialism

I recently discussed what could be called two primary sources on postcolonialism, both in French, one by the poet and politician Aimé Césaire and the other by the psychoanalyst and revolutionary Frantz Fanon. Let me now recommend two secondary sources, both in English: Postcoloniality: The French Dimension, by Margaret Majumdar, and The End of Empire in French West Africa: France's Successful Decolonization?, by Tony Chafer.

If Césaire and Fanon are essential reading because they began a frank campaign for French decolonization,* Majumdar and Chafer are essential reading because they provide a frank discussion of the ongoing effects of French decolonization. It is a reality largely due to politics that postcolonialism is a mainly Anglophone discipline, and thus French postcolonialism is largely written about in English by non-French writers. More on that in a later post.

Majumdar discusses the reasons for this situation by giving a panoramic view of French imperialism, colonialism, and decolonization. Chafer gives an engaging account of the specific example of decolonization in French West Africa (the AOF, or l'Afrique occidentale française): Dahomey (Benin), French Guinea (Guinea), French Sudan (Mali), the Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Upper Volta (Burkina Faso).

I am particularly excited about these books because they are both by professors at the University of Portsmouth where I received my master's in Translation Studies. Majumdar is a visiting professor, and Chafer is professor of Contemporary French Area Studies.

*And, especially in the case of Fanon, they pioneered the philosophy of postcolonialism, as they wrote well before Edward Saïd, about whom [ALERT: unproven assertion] we really must remain ambivalent even if he did establish postcolonialism as an academic discipline.

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