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The Oxford History of Historical WritingVolume 5: Historical Writing Since 1945$
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Axel Schneider and Daniel Woolf

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199225996

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199225996.001.0001

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Postcolonial Criticism and History: Subaltern Studies

Postcolonial Criticism and History: Subaltern Studies

(p.74) Chapter 4 Postcolonial Criticism and History: Subaltern Studies
The Oxford History of Historical Writing

Gyan Prakash

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on one of the new theoretical approaches to history which had developed in reaction to nationalist and Marxist views of history that had taken hold in the wake of Western colonial expansion. In order to counter the state-led modernization paradigm, which some elites in the colonies had adopted from the colonizing powers, post-colonialists attacked assumptions of progress, causality, and state-led nation-building, allegedly typical of the modern West. Promoting a bottom-up understanding of history, they emphasized ‘subaltern’ non-elite perspectives and criticized Eurocentric normativity without, however, denying the influence of the modern West—an influence seen by many recent postcolonial writers as both socially and epistemologically oppressive and marginalizing.

Keywords:   history, nationalism, Marxism, Western colonial expansion, modernization, post-colonialism, subaltern studies, Eurocentric normativity

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