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World Association of International Studies

Post Types of Colonialism
Created by John Eipper on 04/13/17 2:01 PM

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Types of Colonialism (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 04/13/17 2:01 pm)

Gary Moore's post of April 11th raised some interesting questions. For the privileged citizens of a very powerful nation, quickly conquering the world may be a viable fantasy. There are many alternative courses of action, not necessarily mutually exclusive:

1. We can select a country with desirable resources and invade it militarily, kill whoever resists, and establish a puppet government to protect our interests.

2. We can peacefully enter foreign lands and settle. Superior military force is used only to protect the settler population as the need arises. As more territory is needed, we just move the indigenous population into smaller and less desirable territory until the native population is wiped out over time for many different reasons. This form of colonization is ideal to expand a nation.

3. Another form of colonization starts with the very simple objective of providing maximum economic benefit to the colonizing power at the lowest possible price. Thus whole continents such as Africa were partitioned by England, France, and Germany according to defined rules (Berlin Conference in this case), so native areas with significant productive resources were brought under political colonial control to satisfy the economic needs of the colonizing nations with a relatively minimum investment of resources. The needs of the native population in the colonized nations is irrelevant or secondary at best.

4. For powerful nations with significant local economic production, the use of imported slaves has been historically widely used.

As stated in my 9 April post, no matter how heinous or expensive the deeds to implement any and all of the alternative ways to rip off your fellow man, the reason can always be explained by a combination of perpetrator's convenience, insanity, religious fervor, and/or continuous thirst for power or money. The problem is that eventually reality catches on, usually with the yet-unborn generations who must live with the results. Then our first reaction is to say, "I was not there, so I am not responsible." Or the classic "I just followed orders."  Or, "So what? everybody has been doing that throughout history."

Trying to place blame for these ripoff schemes is useless; all we can do is learn. That is why Gary Moore's post is so important. Comparing the cost of the violence under these alternatives is multidimensional and extremely complex. Walking on intellectually very thin ice, I offer a few thoughts. War and slavery have been pervasive and going on from the beginning so the cost for each is immense, but with two world wars under our belt, I think war in total is by far the most costly to mankind. Colonialism as traditionally defined (alternative 3) probably is the second most costly, because it has generated so much misery to colonized nations, led to so many wars, and kept the colonized humans is chronic abject poverty and ignorance for generations. The other form of colonialism (alternative 2) seems less prevalent perhaps because, unlike the European-American experience with Native Americans, quite often the conflicting parties historically combined after a few generations.

JE comments:  Reality eventually catches on, or the Colonizer's chickens come home to roost.  Indeed, but this fails to explain why some post-colonial societies flourish and others remain mired in permanent despair.  In the field of Cultural Studies, "post-colonial" is often shorthand for a perpetual victim status, but consider this:  the United States is also a post-colonial society, although it in turn became a colonizer.

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  • Was the US a Harsh Colonizer? (David Duggan, USA 04/15/17 4:04 AM)
    The US a Colonizer? (See John E's response to Tor Guimaraes, 14 April.)

    Puerto Rico? We've left the indigenous people, language and culture intact. The Philippines? We defended them against a more virulent aggressor then gave them independence. The North American continent west of the Appalachians? We entered into under-populated regions, made treaties with those who had possession (though hardly ownership via any legally recognized claim of right: all indigenous had "taken" their lands from someone else after their ancestors had made it over the Bering land bridge, and there is some evidence of their conquest of Lascaux-cave-era indigenous who had come via crude watercraft over the ice-choked North Atlantic to settle in the Carolinas).

    True, we defeated some indigenous militarily and claimed their lands by conquest, but as a whole we did not treat the indigenous lands as colonies but as separate sovereigns (the saw about the worst thing you could do is rob a federally insured, state-chartered bank on an Indian reservation: one act, three crimes and possible punishments), admittedly with a thinly veiled trustee relationship (hence the BIA's "bank accounts" for the benefit of the indigenous).

    JE comments:  To go one better, the Hispanic population of Puerto Rico is no more "indigenous" than the US Anglo metropole, just a few centuries older.  The Spanish colonizers eliminated the native population already in the 16th century.

    David Duggan raises an important question:  was US expansionist behavior more benign than most?  I'm skeptical, but I did not address this question in my original comment.  Rather, I used the word "colonizer" merely as a historical fact:  Puerto Rico, Philippines, Guam, Canal Zone, the US Southwest, Hawaii, Samoa, and neo-colonies such as Panama, Cuba through 1959, and the various banana republics.

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  • Can Post-Colonial Nations Flourish? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 04/15/17 4:32 AM)
    John Eipper commented on my 13 April post: "The Colonizer's chickens come home to roost. Indeed, but this fails to explain why some post-colonial societies flourish and others remain mired in permanent despair."

    My post not only failed to explain it, but also had nothing to do with explaining why some colonized countries eventually are successful.

    Out of the four alternatives for nations to rip off other nations, the only one which has potential for the colonized nation to prosper requires that it has the political power (not necessarily military power) to throw the colonizer out. In the case of the American colonies, the political power derived from military power. In India the political power came mostly from philosophical, logical persuasion, and incredible political discipline inspired by Gandhi. Also, as Gandhi stated, in the end there is little chance that 100,000 British soldiers can suppress the Indian population of close to a billion. Nevertheless, the English managed to leave a little departure political gift by inducing the India/Pakistan split, which cost close to a million native lives. Similar to what they have done in Palestine and Northern Ireland.

    Besides the US, I don't know specifically which nations John had in mind when stating "some post-colonial societies flourish." Certainly not Australia, where the native population have been oppressed and marginalized at best, some say murdered at worst. John, which flourishing post colonial nations did you have in mind?

    JE comments:  The usual suspects of flourishing ex-colonies--US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--all did so at the expense of their native populations.  They are still post-colonial countries, even if they act like replicas of the British metropole.

    Tor Guimaraes's post inspires the larger question:  does the term "post-colonial" have any usefulness?  What do the US and Canada have in common with India, Pakistan, Ghana, Vietnam, Zimbabwe?  How about long-independent but still non-flourishing countries like Nicaragua and Bolivia?  Or former colonies that once flourished but now don't, like Argentina and (especially) Venezuela?  Where do you place Syria and Iraq on the spectrum? 

    And what is meant by "flourishing"?  Anything beyond a robust GDP?  Can a poor country "flourish" if its institutions are solid and its people happy?  I hope we'll get a discussion going on this.

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    • Does the Term "Post-Colonial" Have Any Usefulness? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 04/16/17 7:14 AM)
      Commenting on my post of April 15th, John Eipper asked two interesting questions.

      First John asked, does "the term "post-colonial" have any usefulness?" Yes, it is useful to indicate that nominally, officially, legally, etc. the ex-colonized nation is now independent. Being post-colonial provides no assurance whatsoever that the nation will flourish. Further, a post-colonial status in most cases has little to do with de facto independence.

      Second, John asked, "what is meant by flourishing?" I think it should mean that the nation democratically elects its political representatives, there is well-established rule of law, a reasonably stable economy with low unemployment, and most citizens enjoy a decent health care and education systems. Most important, a flourishing nation should show that these critical factors are not being eroded away over time as we see today all over the world, including here in the great USA. Thus, "a poor country [can] 'flourish' if its institutions are solid and its people happy," and it satisfies the above conditions. Maybe Iceland does qualify.

      In my response to the first question, post-colonial does not mean truly independent, and without independence the likelihood for flourishing dissipates. In a world where governments and business interests operate globally, and major corporations have immense power over whole nations, independence is not easy to achieve. Even the most powerful nation in the world is now controlled by powerful global corporations and is not flourishing as it did a few decades ago. Perhaps that is what "US and Canada have in common with India, Pakistan, Ghana, Vietnam, Zimbabwe," etc.

      Concurrently, nations are constantly vying for power following their own agendas. Thus, in the Latin American context long dominated by the US government and corporations, "long-independent but still non-flourishing countries like Nicaragua and Bolivia, or former colonies that once flourished but now don't like Argentina and Venezuela" must operate in the powerful shadows of the US government and global corporations.

      Last, in the dimension of physical reality, nations become post-colonial in different states of health regarding their natural resources, available infrastructure, ability to earn future income, population level of education and skills, etc. Thus countries ravaged by war just before gaining post colonial status should be viewed as complete basket cases without something equivalent to a Marshall Plan. Even a nation like Vietnam with strong leadership still have a heavy burden to come out from under the rubble that we put them in. Libya, Iraq, Syria, etc., whose infra structures have been bombed out of existence and have no significant leaders, are doomed to perpetual manipulation by global special interests into the foreseeable future.

      JE comments:  Iceland is poor?  I must be missing something here.  It makes most Top-Ten lists for GDP per capita.  The IMF puts Iceland ahead of the US for both 2016 and projections for 2020.


      And what about "independence"?  As Tor Guimaraes suggests, there really are no such nations.  "Interdependence" is a more accurate term.  The most independent nation in the world is probably North Korea, and it is certainly not flourishing.  Or look at the other side:  French Guiana has no independence and is nominally the most prosperous state in South America.

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      • Post-Colonial Writers (John Heelan, -UK 04/17/17 3:39 AM)
        I became very interested in the impact of post-colonialism when studying the literature of the African continent (e.g. Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and more recently Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie), the various theories ranging from Victorian racist and "White Man's Burden" to Franz Fanon's "Negritude" and Wole Soylinka's mocking response "Tigritude."

        We have already discussed Derek Walcott's attempt to escape from the subaltern culture of Caribbean English that V.S. Naipaul accused of being "ashamed of its cultural background" and "seeking approval of a superior culture whose values were gravely in doubt." Edward Said commented about a "sense of place," saying "For the native, the history of his/her colonial servitude is inaugurated by the loss to an outsider of the local place, whose concise geographical identity must thereafter be searched for and somehow restored."

        There are many foremost Indian writers, such as Salman Rushdie, Amit Chaudhuri and Arundhati Roy continuing the battle to re-establish their indigenous culture. May their laptops be blessed with inspiration!

        JE comments:  This post is a Who's Who of Anglophone post-colonial writers.  Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) has delivered at least two TED lectures, such as this one below with over 12 million views:


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