COLONIALISM

#210 in the Moʻolelo series

“For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.” 
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Colonialism is the set of ideas behind the process of taking over other peoples’ lands militarily, culturally and economically. It was the mindset behind the process of Colonization, which was a widespread process in the nineteenth century as European powers made much of Africa, Asia, the Pacific and South America into colonies. Often, missionaries unknowingly acted as a first wave of colonial activity, followed by merchants and finally the military. Only five countries outside Europe avoided this fate, while some places – French Polynesia for example –  remain colonies of European countries. Some scholars today point out that Hawaiʻi was not literally colonized. As the Hawaiian Kingdom was a recognized sovereign,  independent country from 1843 until at least 1898, what occured in 1898 was occupation, not colonization. But “colonization” has a cultural component, in which the colonized is made to feel inferior to the colonizer in their own land. This cultural process certainly did occur in Hawaiʻi, and is touched upon in the fascinating Sahlins-Obeyesekere debate of 1985-1995. The Martinique-born psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon, who worked in Algeria and supported them during their war for independence from France, made a devastating critique of the psychological effects of colonization on the mind of the colonized: “The oppressed will always believe the worst about themselves.” 

Frantz Fanon

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines colonialism:

Colonialism is a practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another. One of the difficulties in defining colonialism is that it is hard to distinguish it from imperialism. Frequently the two concepts are treated as synonyms. Like colonialism, imperialism also involves political and economic control over a dependent territory. The etymology of the two terms, however, provides some clues about how they differ. The term colony comes from the Latin word colonus, meaning farmer. This root reminds us that the practice of colonialism usually involved the transfer of population to a new territory, where the arrivals lived as permanent settlers while maintaining political allegiance to their country of origin. Imperialism, on the other hand, comes from the Latin term imperium, meaning to command. Thus, the term imperialism draws attention to the way that one country exercises power over another, whether through settlement, sovereignty, or indirect mechanisms of control.

The legitimacy of colonialism has been a longstanding concern for political and moral philosophers in the Western tradition.

plato.stanford.edu

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