- Childhood, Children's Literature, and Postcolonialism
Despite more than five decades of dedicated scholarship, the field of postcolonial studies has still to make significant inroads into children's literary and cultural studies. In a similar vein, children's literary and cultural studies have been somewhat reluctant to enter the field of postcolonial studies; when children's literary and cultural studies scholars have made a foray into it, they have tended to rely on a handful of key thinkers. There is a paltry amount of material that brings postcolonialism and children's cultures together, a surprising research lacuna when one considers that the modern concept of childhood has supported—and even made possible—the European colonial enterprise.1 Part of the problem may lie with the term "postcolonial," which, in addition to being "haunted by the very figure of linear 'development' that it sets out to dismantle" (McClintock 254), is still too often mobilized in an ahistorical and general fashion. Fernando Coronil succinctly summed up the consequences of this preoccupation with the abstract in 1992 when he argued that the "unconstrained flight from fragmentary examples to vast generalizations about the postcolony hinders the understanding of commonalities among postcolonial societies as well as of differences distinguishing them" (96). Many of the negative critiques of postcolonialism have rightly hit their mark, as the very term "postcolonial" does—even now, several decades after it came under [End Page 176] intense fire in the academic community—tend to encompass too many disparate contexts and conditions. For this and other reasons it has tended to curry no favour among Indigenous critics. In his famous "Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial," Thomas King went so far as to argue that the term postcolonial relies on an infantilization of Indigenous peoples. In "the case of pre- and post-pubescence and pre- and post-colonial," he wrote, "the pivot around which we move is puberty and colonialism" (242).
I realize that I am rehashing old and tired debates, but these may in fact be important ones to recall in our current era, when "post-" words continue to proliferate at an alarming rate. "Post" now prefixes words such as "truth," indicating either that we are still in a crisis in the idea of linear, historical progress (McClintock 254) or that something else is going on. While Blanka Grzegorczyk, Sandra Stadler, and Joanne Faulkner—the authors of the three books under review in this essay—reflect neither on the politics of postcolonialism nor on the continued ubiquity of the prefix "post" in contemporary discourse, they respond to a critical urgency to attend to the plethora of children's and young adult texts that engage the kinds of questions pursued in postcolonial studies and/or hail from places in which colonialism and its legacies continue to have deleterious effects on people's ways of life. They accordingly highlight the continued need for a postcolonial studies that remains attentive to the effects and legacies of colonialism and, in many cases, continued colonialism.
Discourses of Postcolonialism in Contemporary British Children's Literature
Grzegorczyk is among two of the authors reviewed here to make substantive use of the term "postcolonial." She devotes a substantial amount of her book to it, noting that her study straddles postcolonial and postmodern theory, two areas that she sees as possessing considerable overlap. Rather than see the postmodern and the postcolonial as discrete categories, Grzegorczyk recognizes that they have much in common and, as with her analyses of selected contemporary British children's and youth texts, she chooses to operate within the gap between them. Grzegorczyk is also the only one among the authors reviewed here to address the history of the brief forays into postcolonial theory that children's literary studies attempted. She finds these to have been occasionally...