A polarization has emerged in the field of colonial studies. On the one hand, many writers describe colonialism as a direct, inexorable product of Orientalist or precolonial racial discourse and pay little attention to “social” phenomena such as capitalism, the state, and social class. Other analysts assume that cultural discourse is the product of supposedly more foundational economic or material factors. Historians in the second group explain colonial policies in terms of imperialist economic and political interests, strategies of resistance and collaboration among the colonized, precolonial social structures in the periphery, or other “quasi-objective” phenomena. Both schools tend to ignore the role of properly psychic processes in the constitution of colonial regimes, although this has been the focus of Homi Bhabha's psychoanalytic interventions in (post)colonial theory (1994). The lack of integration of materialist, culturalist, and psychoanalytic approaches in the colonial literature echoes broader oppositions that structure the human sciences today.
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