169 Postcolonialism Originating difference

Roderick McGillis

postcolonial ism is a term with something in common with 'multiculturalism', and with a lll,lmber of other terms that use the prefix 'post' (postmodernism, poststructuralisrn, post:€dninism, and so on). What it has in common with such terms is a meaning that implies difference, multiplicity, otherness, reformulation and change. The postcolonial refers to that which arrives after something is over, after an ending, after something has run its course, after colonial rule has somehow been terminated. What is postcolonial is different from what came before; it reformulates what came before; it designates a change in a situ~tion. In other words, postness connects the condition demarcated by the terms I set out above. Even multiculturalism is 'post' in the sense that it is a condition that comes after !culturalism'. Postness, as Stuart Hall notes, suggests 'not only "after" but "going beyond" (Hall 1996: 253). 'Mer' and 'going beyond' might suggest that most post.modern of conditions, the end of history. The postcolonial is that which comes after the colonial, and also that which goes beyond the coloniaL In other words, the postcolonial deals with things as they unfold in the present, after the end of the past, especially past injustices, inequities and interruptions. The paradox of 'after' is that what comes after is ongoing; something is always coming after. And if something is always coming after, then we might like to know - even need to know - what went before.

And, of course, the notion that colonialism is over, tucked away safely in the past having run its course, is quite simply untrue. Colonialism continues to exist, but perhaps riot in the ways it once did. The term we now often use is 'neo-colonialism' (see Ashcroft et al. 1998: 162-3). Postcolonialism deals with the ongoing workings of the colonial enterprise. This is why posrcolonialism is directly connected to politics, to the nation-state, and to matters of race and ethnicity as they are inflected in political life. The nation-state itself is a contentious concept, but the concept leads to questions of identity and subjectivity. How does a person identify herself in time and space? In what ways is an individual subject to cultural, political and economic forces? In postcolonial terms, time and space are in motion, conflicted, subject to change. Perhaps this very emphasis on change is what connects the postcolonial to the other post conditions. 'Post' is a word that suggests rigidity and demarcation, as well as movement and fluidity.

Because the postcolonial refers to that which has passed beyond the colonial, many countries may lay claim to the postcolonial condition, although some prefer the term 'post independence' (see Khorana 1997). A glance at one postcolonial country will serve to highlight the complexities of the postcolonial. Canada illustrates 'just how tangled and multi-faceted the term "postcolonial" has now become in terms of its temporal, spatial, political and socio-cultural meanings' (Moore-Gilbert 1997: 10). As Moore-Gilbert points out, the term 'postcolonial' may apply to 'at least five 'distinct but often overlapping

892 Roderick McGillis

contexts'; a former colony's relation to the centre of imperial power (Canada and England); its relation to the United States; its conflicted internal relations (Quebec and English Canada); the internal relations between various levels of government and indige_ nous peoples; and the relations within the country between older inhabitants and newer immigrants from various places, including decolonised places within the former British Dominion.

When we turn from issues of postcoloniality in national and international contexts, and to such issues in literature, a similar complexity confronts us. First, we have postcolonial theory and postcolonial criticism; the former looks at the concept, at what 'postcolonial' signifies, and the latter looks at specific works of cultural production. Second, we have canonical works of literature that we now read from the perspective of postcolonial ism; in children's literature, for example, the work of Kipling and Burnett. We also have writers from the distant past that we might call postcolonial in the sense that they self-consciously deal with the oppressions of colonialism; in the eighteenth century, Thomas Day provides an example in writing for children, and Quobna Ottobah Cugoano in writing for adults. Third, we have contemporary works of literature written by authors who write about postcolonial themes from the outside; in Canada, South Africa and Australia we have plenty of examples of books by white authors that chronicle native history and culture. And last we have a large and growing body of explicitly postcolonial literature that derives from writers who themselves are members of formerly colonised peoples; this category is complicated by the fact that a whole range of writers in countries such as Australia or South Africa, or even England, may lay claim to the position of postcoloniality. What connects all these manifestations of postcolonial ism is quite simply the desire on the part of those who claim postcolonial status to locate literature within what I will call an ethics of literature. By an ethics of literature, I mean that postcolonial literature (and I understand 'literature' to mean theoretical, critical and creative texts) is direct in dealing with political matters. The politics most noticeable here have to do with identity and belonging. We might make a connection here between our notion of the postcolonial and the 'rights revolution' of the last two decades or so; The 'rights' that groups of people ask for or demand are more often than not political rights (see Ignatieff 2000: 66). And clearly postcolonialism is sensitive to the rights of peoples to speak for themselves, to tell their own stories, and to

define their own subjectivities. ,., , ,

Such sensitivity is apparent in a story by the Anglo-Indian writer Ruskin Bond. In his autobiographical story 'The Room of Many Colours', Bond tells of a conversation between himself and his father. His father asks the young Ruskin if he would ever like to go to sea. What ensues is an exchange in which the father instructs his son in matters of family history. The boy asks:

'Have you been around the world?' I asked.

'No, only as far as England. That's where your grandfather was born.' 'And my grandmother?'

'She came to India from Norway when she was quite small ... ' 'I'd like to go there.'

'You will, one day. When you are older, I'll take you to Norway.' 'Is it better than England?'

'It's quite different.'

'Is it better than India?' 'It's quite different.'

Postcolonialism: originating djfference 893

'Is India like England?' 'No, it's different.'

'Well, what does "different" mean?'

'It means things are not the same. It means people are different. It means the weather is different. It means trees and birds and insects are different.'

'Will we always be in India?' I asked.

'No, we'll have to go away one day. You see, it's hard to explain, but it isn't really our country.'

(Bond 1989: 16-17)


This exchange points out just how complex the postcolonial condition is. Individuals find themselves inextricably caught up in political and cultural forces. The boy in the story, and Bond himself, know no other country as home but India; in reality, Ruskin Bond did not go away; he continues to live in India and to write about that country. He is well known in India as an Indian writer, but he is a member of a diasporic group, connected through family history and education to a non-Indian past, to a past and a country that played the coloniser to the colonised India. In this period of post-independence in India,

where does a writer like Ruskin Bond fit in? .

The same might be asked of a writer like Elana Bregin who finds herself shifted to the periphery of the writing community in post-apartheid South Africa, despite the fact that her writing during the late apartheid era was intensely engaged in the fight for political rights and racial equality.

Since rights and change and identity are themes of postcolonialism, the literature that children read is a good place in which to express these themes. Children's literature has always functioned to socialise its readers. When we reflect that imperial Great Britain spread its vision of the world to India, Australia, various places in Africa and so on through its education system, including its literature, we can see the connection between children and the subaltern that was common in colonialist discourse, and that surfaces in recent commentary that sees children as colonial subjects (see Rose 1984; Nodelman 1992; McGillis 1997; for a counter-voice see Bradford 2001). Gauri Viswanathan (1995) has shown how influential English language and literature were in nineteenth-century India as part of Britain's colonialist enterprise, and a similar.srudy might be made of other countries that found themselves in the British Dominion (see, for example, Chrisjohn and Young, The Circle Game (1997) for an examination of residential schools in Canada). From a postcolonial perspective, literature interpellated and continues to interpellate its readers into social and political thinking; in other words, literature deals in ideological matters. Whereas colonial discourse consists, as Elleke Boehmer points out, of 'that collection of symbolic practices, including textual codes and conventions and implied meanings, which Europe employed in the process of its' colonial expansion' (1995: 50), postcolonial discourse consists of direct encounters with otherness and questions of race, identity and power. Colonialist discourse can work through implication; postcolonial discourse tends to work through confrontation.

Take, for example, Thomas King's picture book for young readers, A Coyote Columbus Story (1992), with pictures by William Kent Monkman. The title cues the colonial/postcolonial theme. Columbus supposedly 'discovered' North America in 1492, beginning half a millennium of exploration, conquest and colonisation; Coyote is a trickster figure, a 'creator, teacher, and keeper of magic' (Andrews 2000: 260), of the people who live on the North American plains. The book's title brings these two names into conjunction: this

1--_-_ --- ~

894 Roderick McGillis

is a story about Columbus and about Coyote. But perhaps this is a story about a dual character, a Coyote who is also a Columbus. In other words, the title raises the possibility of hybridity, grafting Coyote on to Columbus (or vice versa), even as it signals two cultures, one European and the other Native or Aboriginal. This story tells of myth (Coyote) and history (Columbus). We also have the binaries, animal/human, human/ nature, old world/new world and, once we begin to read the story, we will realise other binaries such as play/work and male (Columbus)/female (Coyote). And finally, it is worth noting the word 'story'. For King to use this word in his title is for him to state the obvious. We expect a story in a picture book like this, but the fore grounding of the word indicates the importance of story itself. We read here a 'story', that is a fiction, a narrative construction of combined word and image that has its roots in both written and oral creation. The title confronts us with the collision of the White European world with the Native North American world. That this confrontation takes the form of a fiction should be apparent in the location of Columbus considerably north of the region of the western hemisphere on which he actually landed. And so, right from the beginning, the reader faces a trick, a joke. Coyote and Columbus form an unlikely pair to share a story. What signals that this book is postcolonial is its self-consciousness about religion, gender and, of course, we can add an ecological note. Colonisation began as Europe took an interest in the animals North America had to offer, and a few hundred years later many of those animals are in danger of disappearing.

Postcolonialisrn deals directly with matters of marginalisation and its history, but it does so in the context of emerging clarity and confidence of identity on the part of formerly colonised peoples. A book such as A Coyote Columbus Story could not have been written until identity politics emerged from a cultural context in which colonised people felt a sense of independence and strength. Thomas King, as a Native writer working in a nonNative environment, nevertheless feels safe creating a narrative critical of the dominant group in that environment.

A similar expression of revisionary history and of alterity assuming a position of confidence, even normalcy, is available in the Australian picture book Jimmy and Pat Meet the Queen (1997) by Pat Lowe, with illustrations by Jimmy Pike. Lowe's story deals with the question of Native land claims. Following th~ Mabo Decision in June 1992, in which Eddie Mabo's claim to land against the government of Queensland was upheld, the Australian government passed the Native Titles Act (1993), which opened the way for Aboriginal peoples to claim certain lands back from government ownership. The land available for reclamation is referred to as 'vacant', but the Aboriginal protagonist of this story knows that the land has never been vacant. 'Vacancy' is euphemistic smoke to conceal the white person's assumption of ownership of that which 'belongs' to another. Resistance to the notion of vacancy is resistance to a colonialist version of history. In Lowe's story, the husband and wife, Jimmy and Pat (she is white and he is black), go to a meeting at which a white lawyer explains Native Title to Vacant Crown Land. Jimmy has difficulty understanding why his people require title to land they already own. Pat explains that the Queen owns Crown Land. Her explanation does not satisfy Jimmy who thinks that if the Queen really does own this land, then she will be able to prove her ownership by finding the waterhoIes in the desert. Jimmy and Pat invite the Queen to visit them, and she does, bringing with her only lots of baggage and her two corgis. As Clare Bradford has pointed out (2001: 208-11), in this book the Queen is totally out of place; she does not see the land in the way Aboriginal people see it; and she cannot survive here without help and instruction. But she refuses heIp and instruction with the words: 'You win. This

Postcolonialism: originating difference 895

is your country and, as far as I'm concerned, you can keep it!' (Lowe 1997: 29). The book ends with the announcement; 'And so the Walmajarri Republic was born' (29). We have here something of a utopian vision, although the peritextual matter reminds us that, although the 'story is true ... most of it hasn't happened yet' (Lowe 1997: acknowledgements page).

A Coyote Columbtu Story and Jimmy and Pat Meet the Quem present their narratives from the point of view of native peoples. Such a point of view is not essential for a book to qualify as postcolonial. Some postcolonial books consider the diasporic experience, either first generation or later. The enforced movement of peoples (slavery), and the voluntary but under duress movement of people (indentured labour, refugee status and so on), are forms of colonialism. The consideration of what it means to be part of a diaspore signifies postcolonial concern with matters of race and identity. For example, Errol Lloyd's Many Rivers to Cross (1995) tells the story of Sandra, who leaves Jamaica for England, and her experiences as a stranger in the strange new land she comes to. Marlene Nourbese Philip's Harriers Daughter (1988) deals with the Caribbean diaspora in Canada. Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy (1990) offers a similar account of diasporic experience in the USA. What all such accounts have in common is struggle, the struggle of dislocated or relocated people to come to terms with displacement, resistance, racism and cultural hybridity. The struggle such books engage in is not a struggle to maintain a cultural identity. As Rey Chow puts it, writing diaspora means writers set out 'not to "preserve", but to negotiate their "cultural identity'" (1993: 25). Often this negotiation means that writers must recover the history of dispersion, and so we have postcolonial narratives that foreground the history of Chinese or Japanese or African or Caribbean or Asian peoples in North America. In Canada, the work of Chinese-Canadian writer Paul Yee returns again and again to the subject of identity formation in the context of cultural intersection.

Diasporic experience differs from another kind of postcolonial experience: the experience of struggle in newly or relatively newly independent countries. A novel such as Phaswane Mpe's Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001) indicates in its title the idea of ownership. The South African people" in this book struggle with post-apartheid problems of xenophobia, AIDS and violenc«, Their space, the place they own, is infected. Symptoms of post-apartheid malaise are a direct result of years of injustice and disenfranchisement. Mpe maps the modern South Africa, especially the Hillbrow area of Johannesburg, a densely populated inner-city area rife with crime. Welcome to Our Hillbrow is a 'song of prolonged pain and suffering; but it [is] also a song of hope and love' (84). Like the fiction mentioned in the novel, Welcome to Our Hillbrow comments 'on the hard realities of life, drawn from and finding support in personal and social experiences' (95).

Victor Ramraj has criticised postcolonialism for not attending to the local and the personal. It does not, he argues, 'encompass satisfactorily, for instance, the hundreds of millions in former British colonies in Asia and Africa, whose cultures, languages, and religions remain largely immune to imperial sway' (1999: 264). For Ramraj, postcolonialism is limited because it focuses exclusively on a 'fading imperial- colonial confrontation' (257). True, much postcolonial criticism is interested in revisiting the literary tradition of the west in order to redress the balance in its Eurocentric vision of things. In its focus on the imperial -colonial tensions, postcolonialism is similar to feminism, which takes an interest in both reviving lost women writers and teasing out the tensions in gender relations in literature from even centuries ago. Both feminist and postcolonial criticism are, then, interested in material realities; they wish to foreground themes of oppression, injustice and inequity. As Moore-Gilbert says: posrcolonialism is

896 Roderick McGillis

preoccupied principally with cultural forms which mediate, challenge or reflect upon the relations of domination and subordination - economic, cultural and political _ between (and often within) nations, races or cultures, which characteristically have their roots in the history of modern European colonialism and imperialism and which


equally characteristically, continue to be apparent in the present era of neo-colonialism.

(1997: 12)

The vision of postcolonialism in Welcome to Our Hillbrow or in the Malawi writer, Ken Kalonde's Smiles round Africa (1997) is dark but not without hope, a composite of 'ambiguities, paradoxes, ironies' (Mpe 2001: 23). In the wake of the colonialist past, modern Africa teeters into violence. Kalonde's book of poems for quite young readers has an irOnic title; one of the poems asks, 'Shall We Survive?' The poems confront the existence of Poor sanitation, lack of food, land mines, crime, disease, war, violence and political insensitiVity. In the world Kalonde describes, children are orphans, at the mercy of cruel and selfish adults. Children begin life as corpses:

Father Africa

Let us wake you up, Father Good morning, Father

Father Africa, why do you accept arms? Why do you accept bloody hem

Is it because of ignorance?

Is it to please those who feed us? No-o! ,Father my dear, my Christian When you will stop accepting war

We shall jump and dance as Ajirikanzi . Not as corpses as we are


(Kalonde 1997: 25)

The child speakers in this poem and the other poems question the adults who have control over their destinies. But they also have a clear sense of what is necessary. The children will jump and dance once peace comes. In another poem the children assert that they 'have the right to life/And education and freedom and you know' (28). The poems end without punctuation; they also sometimes end in mid-speech. The lack of closure signifies possibility, an ongoing process, and perhaps even hope.

With Kalonde and Mpe, we have moved into the area sometimes designated 'world literature written in English'. And much postcolonial writing does derive from countries once connected to Britain and the Commonwealth. Studies such as P. O. Fayose's Nigerian Children's Literature in English (1995) and Elwyn Jenkins's Children of the Sun: Selected Writers and Themes in South African Children)s Literature (1993) are interesting contrasts. Both chronicle the folk tales of their respective countries, but their accounts of writing for children differ markedly. A reader of Jenkins's survey will have the impression that writers in South Africa are mostly white, although he does tackle the difficult issue of racism. The difference in Fayose's book is its focus exclusively on black writers, although she gives a dear indication of the influence of canonical British fiction in what the children of Nigeria read and have read over the years. The history of colonialism is markedly different in Nigeria and South Africa, but we still need full accounts of this history and its relationship


Postcolonialism: originating difference 897

to books for the young. We need such histories precisely because colonial discourse is not a thing of the past; postcolonial discourse has not fully dislodged the myopia at the centre.

This is seen in modern reference books where entries are written by non-natives.

Similarly, a book such as Burnett's The Secret Garden is often defended as 'anti-imperialist' (see, for example, Thacker and Webb 2002: 99) in that Mary Lennox's problems are a direct result of Britain's imperial activities. Burnett, however, had no direct experience of that country. She describes India as a place of sickness and barrenness, and she contrasts it with England as a place of health and fertility. India is a land in need of some good British medicine; it is not a place where children should be raised. Burnett makes the same point in her earlier book for children, A Little Princess (1905). Both Mary Lennox and Sara Crewe are better off growing up in England than they ever could be in India. In The Secret Garden, Mary returns to England and, as a result of this return, she accomplishes two ends: she learns just how a good little imperialist must labour to lay claim to unworked ('vacant') land, in this case the garden at Misselthwaite Manor which has been neglected since the death of the lady of the manor, and she revives the energy and health of the young man, Colin Craven, who will inherit the legacy of imperial activity.

Postcolonialism allows us to see in a new light many of the earlier (and canonical) writers of children's literature, such as Edward Lear, Maria Edgeworth, Rudyard Kipling and H. Rider Haggard. We might trace the beginning of colonialist and postcolonialist thinking back to the mid-eighteenth century. In John Newbery's A Little Pretty PocketBook (1744), we read that 'Britons for Lucre/Fly over the Main;/But, with Pleasure transported,/Return back again.' And the reference to 'the Slave' in the verse 'All the Birds in the Air' reminds us that England's slave-trading activity was under way at this time. Awareness of the injustices of colonial practices turns up in such children's writers as Thomas Day and Anna Barbauld, and most famously William Blake. His 'The Little Black Boy' from Songs of Innocence is well known:

My mother bore me in the southern wild, And I am black, but O! my soul is white; White as an angel is the English child, But I am black, as if bereaved of light.

Perhaps less well known is Anna Laetitia Barbauld's Hymns in Prose for Children (1781). Hymn VIII describes the family as a strictly hierarchical unit: 'the father is the master thereof' (Barbauld 1781/1977: 54), and then the power structure moves to mother and children and servants. Barbauld moves from one family to several that make up a village, then to many villages and towns that make up a kingdom. The people of a kingdom are 'countrymen' who 'speak the same language' (57), and who 'make war and peace together' (58). Many kingdoms make up the world and the governor of this world is God. The people in the many kingdoms are all different from each other, but they are all 'God's family' (59). God cares for all, and none are so great that he cannot punish them, none so mean that he will not protect them (60). At this point in the Hymn, Barbauld inserts the following direct address:

Negro woman, who sittest pining in captivity, and weepest over thy sick child; though no one seeth thee, God seeth thee; though no one pitieth thee, God pitieth thee: raise thy voice, forlorn and abandoned one; call upon him from amidst thy bonds, for assuredly he will hear thee.


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898 Roderick McGillis

The next paragraph addresses the Monarch who rules over a hundred states and whose armies cover the land. Barbauld moves from the lowest to the highest in the human hierarchy, and we might chide her for implying that both the Negro woman and the Monarch should accept their station in life. On the other hand, Barbauld's address to the black woman calls on her to 'raise her voice,' to speak her condition. Implicit in this paragraph, I think, is Barbauld's desire to have her readers feel the plight of a woman who suffers because of her race, not because she in any way deserves to suffer.

However we interpret Barbauld's attitude, we would do well to review much of the early literature for the young with an eye to its connection to imperial themes. We might benefit from postcolonial reading of Victorian children's books too. How might we read George MacDonald's references to overseas trading in At the Back of the North Wind (I872)? The history of children's reading will no doubt reveal recurring emphasis on colonial activity, and such revelations of colonial and neo-colonial implications in the literature children read (or watch) will appear salutary to those who concern themselves with the ideological and political effects of literature. We are all implicated in and complicit with ideological and political positions and hailings, and we do not require postcolonial readings to remind us that ideology is at work even in that literature that seeks to 'echo or awaken ... thoughts or feelings of human commonality' (Ramraj 1999: 259).

The problem with the postcolonial does not, then, stem from its inattention to the stuff of life, to experiences that human beings share from culture to culture, but rather in the assumption that a postcolonial critic has equal access to literature from several countries and regions. Theory dominates criticism in postcolonial studies, and no single postcolonial theory exists. Postcolonialism benefits from a range of theoretical discourses, from Lacanian psychoanalysis to feminism, to Marxism, to the new historicism.

Those who see a connection between the colonialist paradigm and childhood probably find - as does Jacqueline Rose in The Case of Peter Pan or the Impossibility of Children's Fiction (1984) - that Lacan offers a useful model. His triad of the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic offers a way of explaining the stubborn continuation of colonialist behaviour in human affairs .. The Real is that 'imperial home' from which, ifwe are to believe Wordsworth's 'Ode on Intimations of Immortality', we come. The Real is just a dim and dimming vestige of memory, but it i~ powerful enough to leave hints and glimpses of its attractiveness and its existence. And so, we harbour a wish to return to this Real, this big 'Other' condition in time and space that we devoutly miss. Our wish receives a response when we enter the Imaginary, a specular state in which we see reflected to us that which we desire. The 'other' becomes an assurance that the big 'Other' beckons. We desire that which we see as outside over there, but that which we see as outside over there is an aspect of ourselves, our Imaginary: elusive, imagined and without substance. Our desire is to take control of that 'other' and so that which is without substance finds materiality in actual 'others'. Taking control is now the problem, and in order to give us the wherewithal to take control, we enter the third of the triad, the Symbolic. Here language enters. We attempt to control things through the use of language. Is it any wonder that children make up their own words and delight in secret languages; is it any wonder that language is of great concern to postcolonial writers? Take the case of Ngugi wa Thiong'o who engages in a 'program of linguistic decolonization' in his work (Lovesey 1999: 193). Or Phaswane Mpe whose article 'Language Policy and African Language Publishing in South Africa' is alert to the political and oppressive manipulations of language in the publishing industry in his country.

Language constitutes the Symbolic, the site of contestation and control. Through language human beings attempt to achieve that which they desire, a return through the

Postcolonialism: originating difference 899

Imaginary to the Real. As Lacan points out, the satisfying of desire is an impossibility, but we forge ahead trying again and again to make that which is outside over there conform to our imagined sense of satisfaction. And so children are both objects of desire, figures of that which we wish we could be, and objects of transformation into what we think we are. In other words, we both idealise and abject children. We want to be them and we want them to be us. Is this not the colonial state? The coloniser controls and distances the colonised, while at the same time he feels drawn to those he controls.

Bradford has countered the analogy between children and colonised peoples in two ways: first, she points out that 'children's authors were once themselves children, and so the children for whom they write are not wholly Other'; second, the analogy between children and colonised peoples 'breaks down completely when texts are produced by colonial writers for the children of colonisers, who are inscribed within these texts as young colonisers, as "us" rather than "them" (Bradford 2001; 12).

A Lacanian perspective allows us to see that whomever we imagine as 'Other' is not wholly 'other'. That is, whenever we posit an 'Other" we posit that 'other' outside ourselves as a reflection of that which we imagine and that which we imagine is never wholly outside ourselves or wholly 'other'. Second, texts are produced by a whole range of writers for a whole range of readers. When colonial writers (say Burnett or Kipling) write for their dilldren, they are interpellating these children. In other words, they are engaging in an act of colonisation by indoctrinating their readers to accept colonial activity as good. Colonisers do no less when they encourage those whom they colonise to accept their place within the colo> nial system, to accept this system as good. The difference is that the readers who are children of colonisers are to grow up to be colonisers in their turn, whereas the colonised people of the Caribbean or Africa or wherever were meant not to grow up, as it were. The history of postcolonial countries might, however, suggest that these countries might not grow up to colonise in their turn (although this is debatable), but they do develop 'independence'.

But the Lacanian paradigm tells us more than that otherness is intimately connected with selfhood, For the Lacanian subject, desire keeps the struggle for satisfaction ongoing. Most often, the necessary incompleteness of desire results in a rather pessimistic narrative of human life as a constant struggle of individuals or nation-states to grasp their Imaginary, that is to grasp what they deem desirable, and what they deem desirable are reflections of themselves that they take as 'other'. If, however, we can envisage the 'Other' as composite, if our Imaginary is collective rather than single, then perhaps we might see a way out of the pessimistic trap of seeing only ourselves when we see the 'Other'.

Postcolonialism is a coming after and also a going forward. The postcolonial enterprise is important precisely because, in the realisation of going forward, we always know that the past has a stubborn tendency to repeat itself, even if it does so in disguised forms. Children's literature teaches us that growing up does not end at a certain age, and that children will never cease to find themselves under the law of the father. Our metaphors of child, subaltern, subject deserve continued reflection, for the postcolonial position does not cease its mental fight to find a state of being less oppressive than that which the law of the father allows.


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Mpe, P. (1999) 'Language Policy and African Language Publishing in South Africa', Bellagio Publishing Network, BPN Newsletter 25. (Accessed online 2 February 2003, at http://aprn.brookes.ac.uk/sulaiman/bellagio/newsletter25/rnpe.htrn)

_. - (2001) Welcome to Our Hillbrow, Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.

Nodelman, P. (1992) 'The Other: Orientalism, Colonialism, and Children's Literature', Children's Literature Association Quarterly 17: 29-35.

Ramraj, V. (1999) 'The Merits and Demerits of the Postcolonial Approach to Writings in English', in McGillis, R. (ed.) Voices of the Other: Children's Literature and the Postcolonial Context, New York: Garland, 253-67.

Rose, J. (1984) The Case of Peter Pan or The Impossibility of Children)s Literature, Basingstoke:


Thacker, D. C. and Webb, J. (2002) Introducing Children)s Literature, London: Routledge. Viswanathan, G. (1995) 'The Beginnings of English Literary Study in British India', in Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G. and Tiffin, H. (eds) The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, New York and London: Routledge, 431-7.

Further reading

Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G. and Tiffin, H. (1989) The Empire Writes Beck: Theory and Practice in PostColonial Literatures, London: Routledge.