Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor Susie O'Brien


The concept of resistance provides a primary framework for the critical project of postcolonialism. Despite its significance, however, resistance has been under-theorized within the field. In postcolonial criticism and theory, resistance signifies any opposition to, or subversion of, colonial authority. This study analyzes the dominant constructions of resistance within the field of postcolonial studies and argues for a theory of resistance that identifies the way in which acts and practices transform the discursive and material structures of colonial power rather than simply subvert or oppose certain aspects of these structures. Chapter One analyzes the concept of resistance as it is constructed within Homi Bhabha's colonial discourse theory. Critics argue that the theoretical deconstruction of colonial power ignores the material structures of colonialism and the agency of the colonized; South Asian resistance to repression in early Twentieth Century South Africa, however, reveals the way in which colonial authority was challenged at the level of its cultural assumptions. Chapter Two identifies an oppositional paradigm of resistance with origins in the work of anti-colonial intellectuals such as Frantz Fanon. Oppositional models of resistance often reinforce colonial representations of power and reduce the identity of the colonized to a function of the anti-colonial struggle. Chapter Three demonstrates how Gandhism constructs the end and means of struggle as interdependent. Gandhi constructs colonial authority in terms of the cooperation of the colonized; resistance requires the transformation of the colonized subject. Finally, Chapter Four investigates the way in which the concept of reconciliation - as it has been theorized within the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa - aims at transforming the antagonistic relationship of colonial authority. As models of resistance, both Gandhism and reconciliation construct the experience of colonial power much differently than do the dominant conceptions of resistance within postcolonialism.

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