Leong Yew


Like many of the other terms in postcolonial theory and discourse that popularly suggest detachment from metropolitan or local spaces, "exile" has been deployed as a concept beyond simply a forced removal from a given physical location. Exile in everyday use invokes images of individual political dissidents sent overseas or large groups of people banished to distant lands, forming various diasporas. In these cases there is sometimes a presumption that the exiled are different from casual migrants who forget their original homelands and form new allegiances with the places in which they settle. Exiles retain a sense of (be)longing to/for a real or imagined homeland.

While such a presumption appears to be insufficient for postcolonial politics and theory, an important premise of exile surrounds the act of individual/group displacement and the effect such displacements have on the exiled's perception of his or her current location, the homeland, and intellectual products. The last item being manifested in the form of literary, artistic, political expressions, and so on. In order for "exile" to be politically enabling in postcolonialism, a number of things can occur:

What is important to grasp in postcolonial exile is therefore the profundity of the impact of colonialism and ongoing imperialism. The term itself has to be overdetermined so as to suggest the magnitude of cultural transformations inflicted by colonialism, the type of consciousness exile produces, and responsibility the exile should uphold.


Said, Edward W. Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures. London: Vintage, 1994.

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Last Modified: 8 March 2002