Postcolonial Studies and the Discourse of Foucault: Survey of a Field of Problematization

Robert Nichols


This paper presents a critical survey of the use and interpretation of the work of Michel Foucault in the field of postcolonial studies. The paper uses debates about Foucault’s legacy and his contributions (or lack thereof) to postcolonialism as a means of parsing out the main lines of contestation within the field—that is, as a means of tracing the contours of the space of questioning or field of problematization, in part to foreground what has been at stake and, more to the point, what has not been at stake. Part I provides a general survey of what “Postcolonial Studies” is: what its major questions and debates have been. Part II examines the ways in which Foucault has been taken up, interpreted and used within the field, and Part III comments on what aspects of Foucault’s work have not been taken up, suggesting that this is most revealing about the state of postcolonial studies today.

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