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Colonialist Criticism By Chinua Achebe PDF

Colonialist Criticism by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) was a Nigerian writer and critic who is widely regarded as the father of modern African literature. He is best known for his novels, such as Things Fall Apart, which depict the impact of colonialism and Western culture on African societies and values. Achebe was also a vocal critic of colonialism and its legacy in African literature and culture. In his essay "Colonialist Criticism", which was first published in 1974 and later included in his collection Hopes and Impediments (1988), Achebe challenges the assumptions and attitudes of Western critics who evaluate African literature from a colonialist perspective.

Achebe defines colonialist criticism as "a criticism that derives from the same basic attitude and assumption as colonialism itself and so merits the name 'colonialist'". He argues that colonialist critics see African writers as "somewhat unfinished Europeans" who need to be guided and taught by their Western mentors. They also tend to dismiss or distort the African cultural context and aesthetic values that inform African literature, and impose their own standards and expectations on it. Achebe illustrates his point by citing examples of Western critics who have misread or misunderstood his own works and those of other African writers, such as Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Gabriel Okara.

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Achebe's main objective in "Colonialist Criticism" is to assert the autonomy and validity of African literature as a distinct and diverse expression of African realities and experiences. He calls for a more respectful and appreciative approach to African literature that recognizes its cultural specificity and richness, and does not judge it by alien criteria. He also urges African writers to resist the pressure of colonialist criticism and to affirm their own voices and visions. He writes, "The writer cannot expect to be excused from the task of re-education and regeneration that must be done. In fact he should march right in front. For he is after all-as Ezekiel Mphahlele says in his African Image-the sensitive point of his community".

"Colonialist Criticism" is a powerful and influential essay that exposes the biases and limitations of Western criticism of African literature, and advocates for a more genuine and respectful dialogue between cultures. It is also a testament to Achebe's own contribution to the development and recognition of African literature as a vital and vibrant part of world literature.


  • Achebe, Chinua. "Colonialist Criticism." In: Morrissey, L. (ed.) Debating the Canon: A Reader from Addison to Nafisi. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2005.


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