An overview and some starting points:

This post is for students (and teachers) who would like some resources – videos, quotes, theorists, key texts, key words etc to help them think about the topic of POSTCOLONIALISM, which may appear in a range of creative, media, culture, communications, English, History and other courses. Overall, this is a topic that concerns IDENTITY and REPRESENTATION. In other words, where does our identity come from? How is our identity formed? How do we understand our own identity and how is our identity represented in the local, national and global media? You can look at another post that looks at identity, representation and the self. But here it is specifically looking at identity and representation in the light of ideas and concepts relating to Empire and Colonialism.


In 2010 the Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal surgically implanted a camera into the back of his head. The camera implant allowed him to record 1 minute of his daily life from December 14, 2010 – December 18, 2011, 316 days in total. This cutting edge practice of contemporary media art, is shocking, arresting, unusual and confusing. So how can we understand the motivation for this creative action? What ideas could help us to understand this radical and provocative gesture? I believe that primarily, Bilal was exploring notions of privacy and surveillance in the era of pervasive forms of new technology.

However, as this post looks essentially at POSTCOLONIALISM, I want to suggest that we can understand his performance under the theme of POSTCOLONIAL REPRESENTATION and IDENTITY, becuase 3rdi is about looking and being looked at about using visceral senses as mechanisms in a strategy to make better sense of ourselves and OTHERS. Indeed, it will be explored that the key to unlock an understanding of ourselves is held by ‘The OTHER’.

As such, the act of looking and ‘being looked at’, is an assimilation of SOCIETY, HISTORY, ECONOMICS and POLITICS, generally mediated through technologies of REPRESENTATION, reproduction and storage. So in many ways this is a post also about LITERACY. A way in which we can use media, culture, communications and technology to understand the complex relationship between society, self and community. As ever, I hope it helps.

our cultural identities reflect common historical experiences and shared cultural codes

Stuart Hall, 1997: 22

1. Alt. History

So, the first item I have posted is a short video which gives you an overview of Black British History. It argues for the need (for all of us) to recognise the representation of black and ethnic voices in British (and therefore Western) History. In other words, representation is about voices, stories and characters the we DON’T SEE as much as voices, stories and characters that we do see. It’s also about giving a context and understanding to the stories we see and hear.

Postcolonial critical thought emerged as a distinct category in the 1990’s, with an aim to undermine the universalist claims that ‘great literature has a timeless and universal significance [which] thereby demotes or disregards cultural, social, regional, and nations differences in experience and outlook’ (Barry, 2017: 194). In other words, postcolonial criticism challenges the assumption of a universal claim towards what constitutes ‘good reading’ and ‘good literature’; questioning the notion of a recognised and overarching canon of important cultural texts – book, poems, plays, films etc – much of which is institutionalised into academic syllabi. As Edward Said makes clear, the ‘power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming or emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism’ (Culture and Imperialism, 1993: xiii). Therefore the arguments developed around POSTCOLONIAL critical thought ‘constituted a fundamentally important political act’ (MacLoed, 200: 16)

For an interesting and consise overview of the development of ‘literary canons’ in literature, read Chapter 1 ‘Theory before Theory’ (particulary Literary Theorising from Aristotle to Leavis) in Beginning Theory by Peter Barry link here for extracts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.