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Post post-colonialist studies

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 7:26 am
by Apollonius
A recent essay in City Journal had me thinking back to a piece written by Theodore Dalrymple a couple of years ago and had me once again pondering if we are yet ready for post post-colonial studies. India was granted independence in 1947. The first victorious post-World War II armed struggle against a colonial power for ethnic self-determination came about in 1962.

A Battle of Algiers - Theodore Dalrymple, New English Review, March 2015 ... f_Algiers/

... The first fruit of a war fought in the name of a struggle against racial injustice and discrimination was de facto ethnic cleansing, that is to say of the million French residents of Algeria, 11 per cent of the population, including Jews, practically all of whom left Algeria in the few months after the signing of the Evian Accords in 1962. And, as the subsequent history of the country has proved, the so-called freedom fighters turned out to have been fighting not so much for freedom as for power. They were power-fighters rather than freedom-fighters, for once they were installed in power they instituted nothing that any political philosopher would recognise as a regime of freedom. The only sense in which the new regime was freer than the old had been was freedom from the old oppressor. The new oppressor (who immediately killed 15-30 thousand of his fellow countrymen who had fought on the old oppressor’s side) was, however, of the same ethnic, cultural and religious origin as the population it oppressed. How much of an advance was this, and was it worth the lives of half a million people to make it?

If the answer is yes, then it is to admit that it is preferable to be oppressed by one’s own people rather than by people of alien origin, even if the weight of the oppression is ‘objectively’ similar. But if that is so, it is to admit that racial, religious and cultural identity are morally important in politics, precisely what so many people would like to deny because it is so uncomfortable to have to admit it, and can so easily unleash the vilest political passions. Something that is true, say our people of goodwill to themselves, could have nasty consequences; therefore it is not true.

Back to the question, is it better to be oppressed by people of the same racial, religious and cultural identity as oneself that to be oppressed by aliens? There is something to be said on both sides. To be oppressed by a foreigner gives an extra dimension of outrage to the oppression, but on the other hand permits the hope that if only the foreigner can be expelled all will be well; to be oppressed by one’s own countryman avoids the extra dimension of outrage, but does not permit of the comforting illusion of a simple solution. On the contrary, it suggests that there is something flawed in one’s own traditions, which leads either to despair or to the espousal of ludicrous utopian schemes of political salvation or redemption.

Another element in the equation of 'self-determination' which Dalrymple does not talk about is the tyranny of the majority. We've seen a good example of this in Egypt recently, a country which has mostly been held together by foreigners for the last 2500 years chiefly because no one, not even Egyptians, and especially Egyptian minorities, trusts native born (Muslim) Egyptians.

Fascinating insights from this short essay. I hadn't remembered (if I ever knew) that François Mitterand had been Minister of Justice during the Algerian war and sent hundreds of fighters to the executioner. Then, in the eighties, as president of the Republic, he became an abolitionist.

Re: Post post-colonialist studies

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 7:28 am
by Apollonius

Barbarians and the civilized
- Pascal Bruckner, City Journal, Winter 2017 ... 14957.html

... After Rousseau, the madman, the artist, the criminal, and the rebel would be placed with the child and the noble savage on the same plane. All were impervious to civilized order, all pointed to an origin buried under ossified conventions and the constraints of society. "I am two things that cannot be ridiculous, a savage and a child," said Gauguin during his voluntary exile in the islands of Oceania. Paul Claudel, the poet and dramaturg, celebrated Rimbaud as a "mystic in the wild state," who, by virtue of his youth, could capture in his verses a dash of the divine. In a Romantic reaction to the Enlightenment, the child becomes something akin to a colonial subject of the family, just as the native is suddenly seen as the child of humanity, the madman as the pariah of reason, and the poet as the savage of developed society. Since age is a descent into the lies of mere appearances and the industrial world is the destroyer of natural equilibrium, we must rely on these naive or fiery characters, we must drink from these fresh sources if we’re to discover or rediscover the truth.

What was colonialism if not the ultimate product of pedagogical optimism, based on the metaphor of the master and the pupil? Europeans gave themselves the mission of guiding toward Enlightenment the indolent, cruel, or spontaneous native, overtaken by his emotions and mired in ignorance. Anticolonialism and its sixties-era prolongation, Third Worldism, kept the metaphor while reversing the roles: the young nations of the Southern Hemisphere would be entrusted with saving the postimperial northern powers. By gaining their independence, the colonized nations offered to their former rulers the chance to redeem their souls. The materialist West could regenerate itself by becoming prisoner of its own barbarians.

Yet in both cases, it was the reference to the infantile that ultimately triumphed. It’s because they were underdeveloped that the African, the Indian, and the Chinese were better than us, according to the Third World activist. The "backwardness" of such societies was really an advance, for they remained in touch with something vital, even as we faced the twilight. The worn-out civilizations of Europe created an oasis of retrospective youth: we needed regeneration from dynamic barbarians.

As for the child, he was now our "good savage in residence," in Peter Sloterdijk’s formulation; he blurted out profound words, leading us toward the enchanting edge of frankness. The child knew many things better than we did. He was almost entitled to become his parent’s parent, or his teacher’s teacher, as in certain modern pedagogical theories that have promoted children’s free expression, their "genius," at the expense of literacy. ...

Re: Post post-colonialist studies

Posted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:02 am
by Jim the Moron
From Bruckner's article: "Europeans gave themselves the mission of guiding toward Enlightenment the indolent, cruel, or spontaneous native, overtaken by his emotions and mired in ignorance."

Bullshit. Nobody believes in European altruism anymore. Kipling was tongue-in-cheek re "The white man's burden." Colonialism was all about looting of resources and exploitation of people.

Re: Post post-colonialist studies

Posted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 11:02 pm
by Milo
Colonialism, amongst academics where I live, is any white person who is better off than a non-white.

Whereas humanities academia was always there to incubate silly ideas. I find much of it these days to be downright incoherent.

Thus Canadian aboriginals are depicted as having a culture superior to European and at the same time so much worse off! So, having a superior culture makes you worse off?

I find it to rather resemble scholasticism, because the consensus seems to be that there is no need to invoke any empirical input. Also like scholasticism the 'religious' must take precedence over any other consideration.

When this mileau can get over itself is beyond me and until it does it isn't ready for 'post' studies.

Re: Post post-colonialist studies

Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:50 am
by Jim the Moron
Colonialism happened. Some would say it is still happening. It is only natural that colonial masters would convince themselves that they represented a culture superior to that of their subjects. And some masters believed that they were doing the indigenous folks they were exploiting a favor by condescending to expose them to their "superior" culture.

No doubt "humanities academia" are out there countering this with "noble savage" depictions of "superior" aboriginal cultures. Cultures shouldn't be ranked in any order of superiority, but of course they are.

Sometimes colonialism could accomplish something else - a salubrious blending of cultures.
Derek Walcott 1930 - 2017 ... ature.html

Singapore's unusual early colonial experience

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 1:35 am
by cassowary
The story of colonialism in Singapore is so different from what happened in the rest of the British empire.

I read complaints from ex-colonies, especially African ones, of European mistreatment. But I don't know of anybody here today who complains about British colonialism.

My theory is that Singapore unlike other places did not become part of the British Empire through military conquest. It was acquired by treaty and purchase.

The year 1819 marked the start of British colonialism in Singapore. He signed a treaty with a Malay sultan allowing the East India Company to start a trading post by the banks of the Singapore river. A few years later the British purchased sovereignty by giving the sultan cash and a pension for him and his heirs.

Even decades after this transfer of sovereignty, there were Malays who did not even know that they were British subjects and continued to give their allegiance to Malay royalty. That's because the British presence was so few in number and the administration was so short of money. As Chinese immigrants flooded in, it became more of a Chinese colony than a British one.

The city was divided according to different ethnic enclaves - Chinese, British, Malay, Arabs and Indians, though the wealthy preferred to live close together so as to trade with one another. The British established Singapore as a lazziez faire economy. So that meant that taxes were very low. In the 19th century, the British administration was poor even though the merchants were rich. Every time the British administration asked for higher taxes for public works, they were roundly rejected by the merchant class.

As a result, government offices were dilapidated while the homes and offices of merchants were opulently decorated. The police force was tiny and so the writ of British law did not extend far. The British relied on the leading citizens of each ethnic group to keep law and order. Crime was rampant. But the British did not mind. Don't forget that the country belonged to the East India company whose purpose was to make a profit for its shareholders.

It also meant that Singapore was only nominally owned by the British. In this early stage of colonization, Singapore was in effect ruled by merchant princes - both Asian and British. Leading members of the Chamber of Commerce included both Asians and British. Here is an early example of globalization. The color of your money was more important than the color of your skin.

That could explain an incident that occurred when the British fleet stopped in Singapore when on its way to China to fight in the Opium War. The British commander feared an insurrection. Instead, he was astonished to find the Chinese merchants giving him a warm welcome. The merchant princes probably did not realize they were living in a British colony and so should be fighting for independence!

But all good things had to come to an end. In 1858, the East India Company was nationalized and in 1867 Singapore was made a crown colony ruled from London. The writ of British law grew longer and informal arrangements through the merchant princes and Malay royalty withered. The East India Company limped on till it was dissolved in 1874.

This peaceful start explains why there is no rancor against Singapore's former colonial master. Another reason is that the Chinese were immigrants who did not, until 1965, regard Singapore as their home that became occupied by a foreign power.

Re: Post post-colonialist studies

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 2:12 am
by Jim the Moron
Really interesting, cassowary. Any comments on the effects of the WWII occupation by Japan on Singapore? The English were treated poorly, but ethnic Chinese were treated even more brutally. Singapore today does a great job of depicting that sad period for the public

Re: Post post-colonialist studies

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 9:09 am
by cassowary
Jim the Moron wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2017 2:12 am
Really interesting, cassowary. Any comments on the effects of the WWII occupation by Japan on Singapore? The English were treated poorly, but ethnic Chinese were treated even more brutally. Singapore today does a great job of depicting that sad period for the public
The Chinese were and still are a pragmatic people. Prior to WWII, China was already invaded by the Japanese who treated them badly. The Chinese here believed that the British Empire could protect them from the Japanese. So they were happy to live under colonial rule.

But Singapore fell. The British could not protect them. So what good were they for? An independence movement started soon after the war and after the British returned.

Re: Post post-colonialist studies

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:21 pm
by Milo
The real history of North American colonialism is finally coming to light IMO.

The real factor that made the difference was disease: It's been common knowledge that NA natives had no immunity to European diseases but only recently was the full impact of European disease taken into account. ... _epidemics

In general, it is now thought that European disease ranged far ahead of physical colonization, killing millions of natives before they ever saw a European. Then killed millions more on more proximate contact.

Had the natives had more immunity, undoubtedly their societies would have been more robust and the transactions between them and Europeans would have been on a much more equal basis.

Similar situations held for Australia and NZ. They did not for Eurasia and most of Africa.

Re: Post post-colonialist studies

Posted: Fri Mar 24, 2017 12:08 am
by cassowary

In Africa, it was the other way around. Europeans had no defence against African diseases. That is why more primitive Africa kept European colonizers at bay for far longer than more advanced Indian civilizations like the Incas and the Aztecs.