This volume presents a powerful selection of reprinted and new essays by one of the most important critics in postcolonial studies. It constitutes a trenchant critique of the textualism that has dominated the field and proposes alternative critical and reading practices more attentive to historical circumstances and socio-material conditions.
In the opening chapter, Benita Parry outlines the historical and personal contexts from which her work has emerged and points to 'directions and dead ends' in the field she has helped to shape. This is followed by a series of essays that vigorously challenge colonial discourse theory and postcolonialism as we have known them. Parry then turns to literature with a series of detailed textual and contextual readings of well-known texts. These not only demonstrate her theoretical position at work, but also give new dimensions to widely studied texts by Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, H. G. Wells and E. M. Forster. While acknowledging the significance of much work done under the emblem of postcolonial studies, Parry argues throughout that the material impulses of colonialism, its appropriation of physical resources, exploitation of human labour and institutional repression have too long been allowed to recede from view.
What then is the future of postcolonial theory? Parry concludes with the compelling argument that theoretical work must strive to join remembrance of the material past with a critique of the contemporary condition, remaining unreconciled to the past and unconsoled by the present. "Postcolonial Studies: A Materialist Critique" offers an invaluable framework upon which to build such a future.
"'There are many signs that the style of postcolonial studies practised in the 1980s and 1990s is evolving towards more materialist, historically circumstanced sorts of inquiry - a kind of inquiry to which Benita Parry has consistently drawn our attention. This collection is certain to play a key role in the transformation of the field.'-Timothy Brennan, University of Minnesota, USA"