Round two – Postcolonial Histories


. . . subaltern is not just a classy word for “oppressed”, for The Other, for somebody who’s not getting a piece of the pie. . . . In postcolonial terms, everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is subaltern—a space of difference. Now, who would say that’s just the oppressed? The working class is oppressed. It’s not subaltern. . . . Many people want to claim subalternity. They are the least interesting and the most dangerous. I mean, just by being a discriminated-against minority on the university campus; they don’t need the word ‘subaltern’ . . . They should see what the mechanics of the discrimination are. They’re within the hegemonic discourse, wanting a piece of the pie, and not being allowed, so let them speak, use the hegemonic discourse. They should not call themselves subaltern.

Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: New Nation Writers Conference in South Africa (1992) [21]


  • 1830 – G.F.W. Hegel, “The African Character”
  • 1871 – Joseph-Ernest Renan, La Réforme intellectuel et morale, justifying European control over the world based on European superiority.
  • 1885 – Anténor Firmin, De l’Égalité des Races Humaines, an anthropologist’s rebuttal of Gonibeau
  • 1916 – Vladimir Lenin, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism.
  • 1931 – Harlem’s Paulette Nardal (proprietor of the Clamart Salon) and Haiti’s Leo Sejou published the French/English journal La revue du Monde Noir
  • 1935 – L’Étudiant noir, Journal Mensuel de l’Association des Étudiants Martiniquais en France first published by Césaire with Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas in Paris. The journal only published two issues — March 1935 and May–June 1935 — including poems of Damas and articles from Senghor, but in the second issue Césaire’s essay Conscience raciale et révolution sociale first implemented his term négritude.
  • 1937 – Antonio Gramsci dies.
  • 1939 – Césaire returns to Martinique to teach at the Lycée Schoelcher in Fort-de-France, becoming the teacher of Frantz Fanon and an indirect influence on Édouard Glissant. In this year the French periodical Volontés will publish Césaire’s poem-book Cahier d’un retour au pays natal after its publication is rejected. Later published, 1947.
  • 1945 – Frantz Fanon returns to Martinique from time in the Free French Army active in Madagascar and Algeria. He had fled Martinique when Vichy collaborators took control. Now back he helps former teacher Césaire electoral run with the island’s French Communist Party. After receiving his degree he went to Lyon France, because a psychiatrist in ’51.
  • 1947 – Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, a book-length poem is published after initial rejection in 1939. This time Césaire’s friend, Surrealist André Breton writes an introduction.
  • 1948 – Jean-Paul Sartre, Orphée Noir (Black Orpheus), an essay on négritude philosophy, later becomes intro for Senghor’s compilation of Francophone poetry, Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache
  • 1950 – Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialism, published by small press Réclame, associated with French Communist Party.
  • 1952 – Fanon writes his first book, Black Skin White Masks, but as a rejected doctoral dissertation at Lyon entitled “Essay on the Disalienation of the Black”, later published by pro-Algerian philosopher Francis Jeanson’s press Éditions du Seuil, Paris. The title, Peau noire, masques blancs, was the suggestion of Jeanson. Apparently the meeting did not go well between Fanon and Jeanson, with Fanon’s defensive “Not bad for a nigger, is it?” getting him kicked out of Jeanson’s office but binding them finally in a mutual respect. In the fifth chapter, “L’expérience vécue du Noir”, heavily anthologised, Césaire’s influence is explored.
  • 1953 – Fanon arrives in Algeria, this time as a psychiatric (and also medical) doctor in the BlidaJoinville Psychiatric Hospital, where he remains practicing until he is deported in Jan, ’57. He develops radical socio-therapy but is radicalised even more politically following the Algerian Revolution and his contact with Dr. Pierre Chaulet at Blida.
  • 1954 – Algerian Revolution breaks out.
  • 1955 – Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialism, republished ’55 by the anticolonial quarterly Présence Africaine, trans. 1957
  • 1956 – 1st International Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris, organised by publisher Présence Africaine:
    Speakers include: “Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Jacques Rabemananjara, Cheikh Anta Diop, Richard Wright, Franz Fanon, and Jean Price-Mars” (Wikipedia).
  • 1957 – Albert Memmi, Portrait du colonisé, précédé par Portrait du colonisateur, trans ’65, preface by Sartre
    Jan – Fanon expelled from Algeria and travels to Tunisia. During this time he serves as a pan-African revolutionary and travels the continent. His short writings from this part of his life were collected posthumously in Toward the African Revolution.
  • 1958 – Césaire founds the Parti Progressiste Martiniquais after growing disillusioned with communism. The Soviets had put down the Hungarian revolution of ’56. He had previously been politically engaged as Mayor of Fort-de-France through the French Communist Party, and was criticised for “departmentalising” the former French colonies as drafter of 1946 laws for the French National Assembly for Martinique. He wrote Lettre à Maurice Thorez in denouncing the PCF and Soviet communism.
  • 1958 – Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, a novel on native Algerian life under colonialism.
  • 1959 – Frantz Fanon, L’An Cinq, de la Révolution Algérienne, later titled “Sociology of a Revolution” by Maspero, and later “A Dying Colonialism”.
  • 1960 – Aimé Césaire, Toussaint Louverture, on the Haitian revolutionary.
  • 1961 – Frantz Fanon, Les Damnés de la Terre, preface by Sartre, published by Éditions Maspero; trans ’63. It is censored by the French government.
    Dec – Fanon dies in Bethesda, Maryland where he’d flown (via the CIA) for leukemia treatment. He had progressively gotten sicker after his exile and a good deal of travel: travel that involved, for example, the opening of a third military front for the Algerian revolution from the Saharan and Tuniso-Algerian borders. The writing of “Wretched” happened around this time, as well as a trip to Rome to visit Sartre, after his extensive African engagements brought him back to Tunis.
  • 1962 – Algerian Civil Wars ends.
  • 1964 – Jean-Paul Sartre, Colonialism and Neocolonialism, contains preface from Wretched of the Earth.
  • 1964 – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’oWeep Not Child, novel of colonial experience in East Africa
  • 1965 – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (James Ngugi),  The River Between, novel on Mau-Mau Kenyan experience.
  • 1969 – Aimé Césaire, Une Tempête, a decolonial response to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
  • 1969 – Fausto Reinaga, La Revolución India, in which he breaks from Marxism and his previous goals:
    “In my works from 1940 to 1960 I sought the assimilation of the Indian through White-Mestizo cholaje. And in those that I published from 1964 to 1970 I sought the liberation of the Indian, prior destruction of White-Mestizo cholaje… and I propose the Indian revolution.” (Wikipedia). He was a founder of Bolivian indigenism, founding PIAK in 1962: the Party of Aymara and Keswa Indians. He published many books on Indigenous philosophy, saying: “Christ and Marx must be removed from the Indian’s head.”
  • 1970 – Kwame NkrumahConsciencism,
  • 1975 – Chinua Achebe – “An Image of Africa: Racism in Joseph Condrad’s Heart of Darkness“, a lecture given at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, turned essay, published in the ’88 collection Hopes and Impediments.
  • 1978 – Edward Said, Orientalism, on the literary creation of the East by the West, and the West by the West’s creation of the East. Looked at classic European conceptions of the Oriental.
  • 1986 – Gyatri Chakravorty Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak? and “Selected Subaltern Studies”
  • 1986 – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (James Ngugi), Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, essay.
  • 1988 – Samir Amin, L’eurocentrisme.
  • 1990 – Gyatri Chakravorty Spivak, The Postcolonial Critic
  • 1991 – Aníbal Quijano, “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality”
  • 1993 – Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism.
  • 1994 – Homi K. Bhabha, Location of Culture, critiques the imaginary division of the world into essentialist parts, such as Christendom and the Islamic World, First, Second and Third World, etc., providing “hybridity” to counter this reduction and deal with the ambiguities.
  • 1997 – R. Siva Kumar, curated exhibition Santiniketan: The Making of a Contextual Modernism, the manual introducing the concept of contextual, local modernisms, located outside/apart from European modernism, a phrase that will be applied to the likes of Rabindranath Tagore Nandanal Bose, etc.
  • 1999 – Walter Mignolo, Local Histories/Global Designs, developing “border-thinking”.
  • 1999 – Aníbal Quijano, Globalizations and Modernities
  • 2000 – Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, which made Europe one region among many.
  • 2004 – In this year’s edition of The Wretched of the Earth, Homi K. Bhabha criticised Sartre’s original introduction for limiting the scope of Fanon’s vision to promotion of violent resistance to colonial oppression (according to Wikipedia).

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