Span: Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 33, 1992
Postcolonialism
Edited by Jenny de Reuck & Hugh Webb

Introduction: Postcolonial Texts?

Jenny de Reuck & Hugh Webb

Postcoloniality is arguably the central, controversial site for literary studies in this the last decade of what could claim to have been, more than anything else, the imperial (and the colonial) century.

The 'postcolonial' appears to signify challenge yet, of course, literary challenges to the hegemonic power of the centre are no new phenomenon. But, as the authors of The Empire Writes Back have demonstrated, there is something particularly potent (something powerfully challenging) about the current set of so-called 'postcolonial texts'. While acknowledging the potency of much recent writing in this field, it is true to say that the central question - what constitutes a postcolonial text? - remains a contentious issue. If we follow Edward Said's thought that "to be one of the colonized is potentially to be a great many different, but inferior, things, in many different places, at many different times" there is no reason to think that to be one of the post colonised is a homogenous position.

The theoretical works that explicitly or otherwise address the issue of postcoloniality (such as Hodge and Mishra's Dark Side of the Dream or Mudrooroo's Writing from the Fringe ) interpolate themselves alongside the body of 'fictional' works, as primary texts themselves. The result is a complex bricolage of creative writing and literary criticism that forms an energetic discursive arena within which all sureties - and, particularly, any surety about singular 'postcolonial' definition - can be scrutinised and tested. This issue of SPAN , the first to be produced here at Murdoch University, continues the process of scrutiny. Apart from Writing from the Fringe , the work of Peter Carey, Sally Morgan, Bill Neidjie, Sam Watson's The Kadaitcha Sung , The Wounded Sea from Satendra Nandan and Koch's The Year of Living Dangerously are some of the texts brought into play. The intention is to take nothing for granted; and something of this intent is evident in the lines from a poem ("Too Many Cooks in the Past") by Mudrooroo who writes:

New vantage points, new perspectives, the first fleet flying Aboriginal flags;
The historians hesitate over the wounded and wrench out nails from the deck stairs ... ( The Garden of Gethsemane: Poems from the Lost Decade , 1991).

We have attempted here to present a series of critical articles that do not 'hesitate', that do more than 'wrench out nails', being constantly aware of the political importance of the current postcolonial debate. If there are doubts as to the definition of postcoloniality, there is no doubt about the urgency of this debate for our region.

We would like to thank Bill McGaw, Paul Sharrard and Graham Barwell at the University of Wollongong for their assistance in effecting the transfer of SPAN to Murdoch University and the many people who have contributed to make this issue a reality. We wish particularly to acknowledge the support of Jan Bide, Ann Valberg and Diana Clegg for their vital production work, Richard Longley for his innovative cover design and illustration, the Centre for Research in Culture and Communication here at Murdoch for logistical support, Eyekon for their helpful comments at an initial stage, and (for her invaluable contribution as Editorial Assistant to SPAN ) to Kathy Trees a special thanks.

Jenny de Reuck
Hugh Webb
(for the Editorial Board)

Murdoch University


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