From development to globalization: Postcolonial studies and globalization theory

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Neither “globalization theory” nor “postcolonial studies” are terms that easily reveal their meanings. The areas of knowledge to which they refer are not what they seem, and a great deal of confusion surrounds their uses. Readers would be forgiven for thinking that “globalization theory” denoted an emergent body of writing called forth by inexorable recent developments in technology and communications, as well as radical shifts in the world economy and in geopolitics, all of them presaging the rise of a truly global culture - the obliteration of state sovereignty in a world marked by fluidity and border-crossing. In turn, these readers might suppose that “postcolonial studies” referred to an inaugural critique of Eurocentrism prompted by a new diasporic wave of intellectuals from the former colonies resident in metropolitan centers who - informed by postwar theories of language and representation - began in the late 1970s to cast older versions of “Western Man” in doubt in an act of writing back to Empire. Actually, neither is the case. One has to begin by distinguishing between the study of global issues or colonial pasts per se and the fairly recent creation of schools of thought that retrospectively appropriate the more general cases fleetingly echoed in their names. When invoked in European or North American universities since the beginning of the 1990s, globalization theory and postcolonial studies turn out to be very specialized discursive formations passing for older and more varied types of enquiry. This slippage between connotation and code is one of the first things to understand about the conjunction of the two terms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to
Subtitle of host publicationPostcolonial Literary Studies
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780511606755
ISBN (Print)0521826942, 9780521826945
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


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