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Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction

(Very Short Introductions)

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  714 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Postcolonialism explores the political, social, and cultural effects of decolonization, continuing the anti-colonial challenge to western dominance. This lively and innovative account of both the history and key debates of postcolonialism discusses its importance as an historical condition, and as a means of changing the way we think about the world. Key concepts and issue ...more
Paperback, 178 pages
Published 2003 by Oxford University Press (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  714 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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I cannot in good faith give this work a higher rating than I have. Interpretation of reading will always be a subjective beast, and so I subjectively imbue my reception with moral constraints and continue on as usual. It's impossible to present a credible method if the methodology is hopelessly corrupt; I do not know what the most holistic presentation of this subject matter would be, but it is not the standard sole white/white-passing boy picking and choosing his sources, shredding and simplify ...more
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone. literally everyone needs to read this
I think the reading of this book should be mandatory in order to understand the world we live in.
Reading this book helped me reaffirm and understand ideas that were already present in my head, expanding them with new concepts and facts or defining them in better terms.
Jan 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
Atrocious. Young is a terrible writer, absolutely uninterested in providing real arguments, instead using the rhetoric of an angry teenager in a Che t-shirt.

I don't think I have a problem with postcolonialism, broadly. Edward Said is one of my intellectual heroes. But I do have a problem with the sort of unconsidered, moronic, stupid, and, get this, fundamentally imperialistic and colonial PC white guilt 'you poor third world- sorry- tricontinental people' crap this book is full of. As just one example, while liberally using Che
This was a great book. It was rich and authentic; simultaneously historical and actual, theoretical and factual... There is a wide range of leads that one can get from this book to pursue further studies in post-colonial studies whether in terms of literature or in history and social sciences... It's actually the first time I've read an Oxford very short introductions to such a delight and satisfaction. Recommended!
The only problem is that the edition that I was reading war a bit old so so
Justin Evans
Not really well-named, but then, this isn't a short introduction to anything in particular. It's more like a selection of only the most outrageous stories from thirty years worth of the Guardian Weekly. So if you're young and want to get all hep up about bombing and racism, and are more or less unaware that, e.g., the 'problems' of Iraq are more or less the result of imperial/colonial/Western stupidity, this book will blow your mind. If you thought that 'postcolonial theory' was anything in part ...more
Jan 12, 2011 added it
Not enough praise could be expressed for Oxford University Press’ ‘Very Short Introductions’. They provide excellent surveys of a field of study with just enough depth to sensitise the reader to the potential of a set of disciplinary tools. Unfortunately, praise for the series as a whole cannot be applied to every book. Robert J. C. Young’s addition to the series is one those texts that does what it promised but in a fashion which seems alien to its topic.

Young admits that Postcoloni
You see those "very short introductions" pretty much everywhere, but I think that's the first one I actually read: in France, we have the older and parallel institutions of the "Que sais-je?" which endeavours, I think similarly, to publish short surveys of particular (or less particular) fields by leading academics.
I suppose Young's approach, even compared to the rest of the collection, is rather unorthodox:
He does not provide a survey of the issues engaged by postcolonialism, which would like
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Robert Young draws from leading postcolonialism thinkers (primarily Chakravorty Spivak, Fanon, Bhabha, and Said) and presents postcolonialism in a collage of case-studies. Some highlights include the anti-establishment music genre Rai as an exemplar of postcolonial creation, Islamic veils and the western response to them, feminism in the postcolonial era, Gandhi's misogyny and Mirabehn's environmentalism, and towards the end, a stimulating chapter on translation and linguistics as a vessel for p ...more
missy jean
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was sometimes confused by Young’s organization, but I appreciated his fundamental premise of emphasizing that postcolonialism can only be understood with a “bottom-up” perspective; as he writes in the introduction, "Postcolonialism is about turning the world upside down and looking at it from a different perspective, that is, from the perspective of the disenfranchised people, a majority of whom come from the developing world." To this end, I appreciated the fact that his narrative emphasized ...more
Donald Quist
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Useful. A helpful gateway to more substantial texts.
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a difficult subject and the author does wonders in this brief work.
May 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Easy-read. Finished it in an afternoon and liked it.
Forrest Kentwell
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
While Young points to some interesting moments in colonial struggles in an attempt to move away from theory and more towards 'the ground,' this text fails to place postcolonial 'theories' within these experiential, revolutionary moments. Many of the chapters sections do not seem to have any clear connection to each other. Having read Fanon and Decolonial/Decoloniality authors exstensively this text was a disappointment. Young does not seem to hold a critique of capitalism and does not provide an ...more
A solid intro to postcolonialism that approaches its subject from a less theoretical perspective and from a more activist, humanitarian viewpoint. Robert Young is insistent that the best approach to tackling postcolonial issues is not from the top down, but from the ground up. Using examples and ideas from Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, Vandana Shiva, Ghandi, and others, Young rather nicely shows just how important and valid some of the actions and philosophies of these radical activists and revolutionaries are. These peopl ...more
Supriyo Chaudhuri
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love Very Short Introductions and resort to them when I am starting a new subject to explore. So I chose this, primarily as a guide through the labyrinth of Postcolonial ideas. This was, however, less of a guide to the theories - self-declaredly so - and more of the general idea of 'post-colonialism' as an idea. Written by a leading light of the field, this was lucid and covers a lot of ground, even if it fell short of my intended objective - to be a handy shortcut that may exempt me from read ...more
Jan 07, 2012 added it
Shelves: 2012
The books in Harvard's "A Very Short Introduction" series never feel as short as they look, and maybe that's partly why they're so effective. Postcolonialism has been a looming theme in my studies for the almost 8 years I've been studying in university (I want a refund). Young's "introduction" to the subject is easily the best summary for anyone that needs to have more than a passable awareness of the basic tenets of Postcolonialism but doesn't want to marry it.
Nov 25, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5-3.75 stars (I clearly need a more specific grading system). Really, it's exactly what it claims to be, a very short introduction, but that did at times make me wish for more depth. Absolutely loved the last chapter on translation though, that's where it became difficult to choose between 3 or 4 stars.
Rangoli Jain
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
The book gives a good intriguing peek into the post colonial world, the ever lasting impact of colonialism on nations. This short introduction definitely evokes interest in studying this subject in depth.
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
SHOUT OUT TO ARIANNA FOR RECOMMENDING THIS TO ME. really great. essential reading.
Lea Zekis
from what I actually read i enjoyed
Shah Husain
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
As someone who was eager to learn more about post-colonial theory, I started reading this book in a fairly unassuming fashion. I was even mildly charmed by the author's declaration of conveying post-colonialism to the reader through the device of written montages followed by excerpts from key figures in post-colonial theory in the introduction of the book. However, as with much of my previous experience with variants of critical theory, these goals seemed well-intentioned in design but were, in ...more
Vipul Vivek
Oct 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
But for a hint at the end--if this is your first meeting with postcolonialism--the book barely manages to scratch the surface. Because the of the author's heterodox rhetoric of avoiding theory, you might even fail to notice that postcolonial is used in at least two senses here: against colonial structures such as knowledge hierarchies and continuing colonial structures such as states in newly independent diverse nations. The author's eagerness to let peripheral histories speak for themselves fai ...more
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Hilariously, fascinatingly bad.

Probably it was a mistake to read an introduction to Post-colonialism by a white, male English academic, whose career has taken him from Oxford to New York.

Large chunks of it are (literal) fiction,where Young imagines the situations of a refugee in Afghanistan or an intellectual in Iraq. These end up having viewpoints entirely like what you'd expect to hear in an academic Oxford dinner party -- which is no surprise given their origin.
Sara Sheikhi
This book does its best to present the wide range of post-colonial-movements. But it seems to me that it doesn't let the activists and philosophers present themselves, rather introducing them in a (stereo)typical setting. For someone who is not familiar with post-colonialism, I would also not recommend this book since it is not very well structured and therefore not easily give away a proper overview. I would recommend someone interested in postcolonialism to read some postcolonial key works and ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book wasn't what I expected, as I was looking to read something about postcolonial as a critical theory. However, the extent and versatility of subjects presented in the book were thought-provoking and inspiring! I was amazed by the notion of Räi music, Hejab as a code of communication, Fanon's empowering writings, globalization and postcolonial concept and how feminism comes to play a role in the postcolonial state. For that and much more, I thank Robert Young and looking forward to reading ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
It doesn't really get into theory, and I think the text isn't as well structured as it should be, but it's still an interesting read. It gives a nice historical perspective and makes a truly compelling case for why postcolonialism is important for our understanding of the world. Some of the stories had me on the verge of tears, and some examples made me furious... but most of all this text actually made me hopeful.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
This book gave a profound, consice and survey understanding of postcolonialism and it's discourse. Where I take issue with it is it's characterization of Jews in Palestine. The book misses a chance to showcase the Fanon phenomenon of a colonized people after liberation after the Zionists kicked the British out.
Sahana Venugopal
Decent intro [for sheltered white people]. I felt parts of it were oversimplified and read more like the author's oped than an academic text. Furthermore, I don't think that postcolonialism intends for its thinkers to deify everyone who stood against colonial authority and be totally uncritical of the atrocities that many revolutionaries have committed.
Ailith Twinning
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
I didn't really learn anything here, but a couple emotional moments stuck. I have no idea what "Postcolonialism" is supposed to be, but it ain't hard to realize you have a duty to resist the Empire. (US, NATO, IMF, etc).

May 22, 2018 rated it liked it
It's really strange how... scattered/disorganized/rambling this "very short introduction" is, when his full-length book on Postcolonialism is a nearly perfect book imo. So yeah, skip the short introduction and just read the full book!
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“Have you ever been the only person of your own colour or ethnicity in a large group or gathering? It has been said that there are two kinds of white people: those who have never found themselves in a situation where the majority of people around them are not white, and those who have been the only white person in the room. At that moment, for the first time perhaps, they discover what it is really like for the other people in their society, and, metaphorically, for the rest of the world outside the west: to be from a minority, to live as the person who is always in the margins, to be the person who never qualifies as the norm, the person who is not authorized to speak.” 3 likes
“They made war and called it peace.” 1 likes
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