African Studies and the Postcolonial Challenge

Rita Abrahamsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Citations (SciVal)


Postcolonial theory is frequently dismissed as too theoretical and esoteric, and hence irrelevant to the study of contemporary African politics and society. This article challenges this dismissal of postcolonialism, and argues for a more constructive dialogue between African studies and postcolonial approaches. Recognizing that postcolonialism cannot be regarded as a uniform body of theory, or a school of thought in the conventional academic sense, the article focuses on certain key themes and problematizations of relevance to contemporary Africa. In particular, it elaborates on postcolonialism's conceptualization of power, and argues that the recognition of the relationship between power, discourse and political institutions and practices has much to contribute to the study of African politics. These insights are further investigated through a discussion of development, hybridity and resistance. The article concludes that both African studies and postcolonial approaches stand to benefit from a more constructive engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-210
Number of pages22
JournalAfrican Affairs
Issue number407
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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