Postcolonialism in Children’s Literature

Postcolonialism in children’s literature refers to literary works created for children by individuals living in former colonies. This term can also be applied to the analysis and reinterpretation of literary works written from a Western perspective, to present diverse viewpoints.

What is Postcolonialism?

Postcolonialism embodies various meanings and can be approached from diverse perspectives. Broadly, it addresses the shift from colonialism to self-governance among previously colonized nations. It appears to underscore the historical trajectory encompassing pre-colonialism, colonialism, and postcolonialism, yet caution is warranted in its use to avoid oversimplifying the varied colonial experiences that have affected different countries in unique ways (Snell, 2017). However, within literary discourse, postcolonialism is viewed as a term that is 'haunted by the very figure of linear development that it sets out to dismantle' (McClintock, 1994); postcolonialism is not just the end of the colonization processes but it has ongoing impacts on the material conditions of colonized people (Bradford, 2007).

Postcolonial Readings in Children’s Literature

Children’s literature, often considered a reflection of the historical context and prevalent policies of its creation (Abdelsalam Elshaikh, 2016), engages with postcolonial themes in works produced after the colonial periods in former colonies. These literary pieces, while not explicitly aimed at untangling the intricacies of postcolonialism, offer rich opportunities for exploration through postcolonial lenses. By examining these narratives, readers can uncover glimpses into the antecedents and consequences of colonization on diverse cultures, particularly in shaping the portrayal of childhood within these contexts.

Quayson (2020) underscores the utility of this approach, highlighting its significance in reinterpreting conventional readings of literary works. Through the postcolonial perspective, readers gain a nuanced understanding of the multifaceted impacts and legacies left by the often-tumultuous colonial processes. This lens allows for a deeper exploration of the social, cultural, and psychological dimensions imprinted on children’s literature, facilitating a more comprehensive comprehension of historical narratives and their intersections with childhood experiences.


Abdelsalam Elshaikh, E. (2016). “Postcolonial Children's Literature: Songs of Innocence and Experience with Reference to Marina Budhos’ Ask Me no Questions (2007), and Cathryn Clinton’s A Stone in my Hand (2002)”. In International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences. (66), 10-22.

Bradford, C. (2007). Unsettling narratives. Postcolonial readings of children's literature. Canada: Wilfried Laurier University.

McClintock, A. (1994) “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘Postcolonialism’”. In Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iverson Colonial Discourse/Postcolonial Theory. Manchester: UP, 253–66.

Quayson, A. (2020). “What is postcolonial literature?” The British Academy.

Snell, H. (2017). “Childhood, Children's Literature, and Postcolonialism”.  Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. 9 (1), 176-187.