chapter  4
12 Pages

Postcolonial Melancholia in the UK

WithPaul Williams

Britain is afflicted by postcolonial melancholia because in 1945 it emerged victorious from the Second World War and ruled one of the largest empires in world history. Postcolonial melancholia has led to a highly selective memory of imperialism and the end of the British Empire, with the result that Britain clings to the Second World War as a defining moment of national identity in an act of compensation for the absent Empire. Britain's historical concentration on the Second World War means that the history of postwar immigrants and their descendants is rendered invisible. Paul Gilroy is drawn to The Office because he sees Ricky Gervais as a comic writer willing to expose Britain's postcolonial melancholia and to pick at his characters' self-consciousness about racial difference. Gilroy explains the selective memory using the notion of melancholia the failure to deal with the loss of a love object.