Preface to the Anniversary Edition
I THE NOMOS OF POSTCOLONIALITY
This book is concerned with the revolutionary history of the non-Western world and its centuries-long struggle to overthrow Western imperialism: from slow beginnings in the eighteenth century, the last half of the twentieth century witnessed more than a quarter of the world's population win their freedom. 1 It was written before the momentous political events of the twenty-first century: published two months before the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and ten years before the Arab revolutions that erupted across the Arab world in 2011. 2 It had been originally commissioned as an introduction to postcolonialism at a time when "postcolonial theory" formed an innovative body of thinking that was making waves beyond its own disciplinary location. That interest was the mark of a new phase within many Western societies in which immigrants from the global South had begun to emerge as influential cultural voices challenging the basis of the manner in which European and North American societies represented themselves and their own histories. The late Edward Said and Stuart Hall both symbolized the ways in which intellectuals who had been born in former colonies became spokespersons for a popular radical re-evaluation of contemporary culture: a profound transformation of society and its values was underway. That revolution involved the consensus of an equality amongst different people and cultures rather than the hierarchy that had been developed since the beginning of the nineteenth century as a central feature of Western imperialism. Postcolonial critique has been so successful that by the beginning of the twenty-first century the concepts and values of postcolonial thought have become established as one of the dominant ways in which Western and to some extent non-Western societies see and represent themselves.
Although the basis for such arguments was generally the colonial experience, it has also been argued that such postcolonial critiques were also preparing the way for the transformation of society that was being produced by the demands of globalization. 3 The celebration of difference became the activity of corporations as well as university professors. What this critique misses, however, is the possibility of different forms of difference: whereas state ideologies of multiculturalism employed traditional ideas of identity as a positive category in order to accommodate diversity, postcolonial intellectuals were rather spearheading a critique of the propagation of multiculturalism as an official ideology, employing a concept of difference as a non-positive term whose value was inherently translational to challenge the very concept of fixed identities. Multiculturalism was a product of continued nationalist thinking, whereas postcolonial difference emerged as a critique of both.
Postcolonialism, however, goes well beyond the elaboration of issues of identity and difference. In this book, rather than introduce the topic by giving a summary of the ideas and concepts identified with postcolonial "theory", I chose a different approach: to look at the genealogy of postcolonial theory in terms of its relations to earlier political and intellectual movements resisting imperialism and the cultural dominance of the West, tracing its origins in the struggles against colonialism in the past. Contemporary postcolonial theory was grounded in the inspiration of the work of earlier activists such as Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, CLR James, Albert Memmi, or even in those who were viewed more critically, such as Léopold Sédar Senghor or Marcus Garvey. As soon as I went back to consider that earlier generation and its very active relation to anticolonialism and decolonization, the vastness of the task opened up before me. For how could one analyse the context of imperialism in the twentieth century without also considering its for