Postcolonial Theory

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Oxford University Press


Rather than agreeing to any one meaning or referent, most critics these days speak of ‘post-colonialisms’ to refer principally to ‘historical, social and economic material conditions’ and at other times to ‘historically-situated imaginative products’ and ‘aesthetic practices: representations, discourses and values’ (McLeod 2000: 254). Arising from subaltern studies, its theorists embrace hybridity, indict alterity, analyze colonial discourse, and employ strategic essentialism to promote identity politics. Under its influence, a strain of self-interrogation has for decades run as an undercurrent through much of anthropology and archaeology. Topics including looting, repatriation, stewardship, and the transformation of disciplinary identity are now persistent tropes in the field. Indigenous archaeology, emergent cosmopolitanisms, building up knowledge from below—these now occupy ongoing archaeological work. Limiting its applicability, though, are charges against its homogenization of colonial experience, its perpetuation of academic imperialism, and its relative neglect, until recently, of regions such as Latin America.

Chapter of

Oxford Handbook of Archeological Theory


Ulrike Sommer
Andrew Gardner

This document is currently not available here.