chapter  5
26 Pages


In the previous chapter on feminist theory, I demonstrated the ways in which discourse theory can be used with a strongly political focus. A further area where this is possible is colonial and postcolonial discourse theory – the critical study of, respectively, those literary and non-literary writings which were produced within the period and context of British imperialism, and the effect of colonialism and colonial texts on current societies.1 An extensive body of theoretical work has been developed, mainly building upon the work of Edward Said (1978, 1993), who attempted to fuse Foucauldian discourse theory with insights from Antonio Gramsci’s political writings. Some of the work by theorists such as Peter Hulme (1986) and Mary Louise Pratt (1985, 1992) is detailed in this chapter to exemplify the use of the term discourse and to show the ways in which discourse has been modified. In general, this work is described as colonial discourse theory. That work which tries to

question some of the assumptions of Said’s work on discourse and representation, which is largely informed by psychoanalytical theory rather than discourse theory, and which is more concerned with the effects the colonial enterprise has had on current social structures and discursive formations, is known as post-colonial discourse theory, and is best exemplified by the work of Homi Bhabha (1994a) and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1988, 1990, 1993b). In this chapter, I describe colonial discourse theory, since it is here that Foucault’s formulation of discourse is most clearly drawn on; post-colonial theory will be drawn on principally in order to critique some of the preconceptions of colonial discourse theory, to arrive at a more complex notion of discourse. As in Chapter 4, an attempt is made to show ways in which discourse can be used productively to analyse texts, particularly in this area where the notion of discourse has arguably been most refined in recent years.