Today's topic is postcolonialism, which is perhaps the most important modality of the past fifty years in the humanities – the study of history, the arts, literature and culture. The most significant event of modern history was the rolling back of the great modern empires – the Portuguese and Spanish, Dutch and French, Russian, German, Ottoman, and British – which had coloured the map of the world in the nineteenth century. "No modern man, in his heart of hearts, believes that it is right to invade a foreign country and hold the population down by force," said George Orwell, who had served in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma as a young man.
A combination of the exhaustion of the great powers, and resistance by their subject peoples, left in the wake of these empires a world that was postcolonial. But the postcolonial is not just a chronological term. It refers to the way the world was understood and experienced in the light of foreign conquest, settlement and control, and the way that history continues to shape the contemporary world.
To discuss the postcolonial, Douglas Kerr is joined by Pheng Cheah, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and an authority on the postcolonial and cosmopolitan, and by Professor Stephen Chu, Head of the Hong Kong Studies programme at Hong Kong University.