discourse-on-colonialism

What am I driving at? At this idea: that no one colonizes innocently, that no one colonizes with impunity either; that a nation which colonizes, that a civilization which justifies colonization - and therefore force - is already a sick civilization, a civilization which is morally diseased, which irresistibly, progressing from one consequence to another, one denial to another, calls for its…punishment.
— 

Aime Cesaire

Discourse on Colonialism

1950

A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems that it creates is a decadent civilization. A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its more crucial problems is a stricken civilization. A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization.
[…]
[W]e must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept that fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread.
— 

Aimé Césaire, “Discourse on Colonialism”

They would paint the protesters as animals, as brutes, as lacking humanity. But it is them–the Police, the Government, the people sitting in front of their laptops disparaging the protests without a flinch towards the Black lives lost–who have lost their humanity. Who are sick. They are the dying civilization. 

In other words, the essential thing here is to see clearly, to think clearly - that is, dangerously - and to answer clearly the innocent first question: what, fundamentally, is colonization? To agree on what it is not: neither evangelization, nor a philanthropic enterprise, nor a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, and tyranny, nor a project undertaken for the greater glory of God, nor an attempt to extend the rule of law. To admit once for all, without flinching at the consequences, that the decisive actors here are the adventurer and the pirate, the wholesale grocer and the ship owner, the gold digger and the merchant, appetite and force, and behind them, the baleful projected shadow of a form of civilization which, at a certain point in its history, finds itself obliged, for internal reasons, to extend to a world scale the competition of its antagonistic economies.
— 

Discourse on Colonialism, Aimé Césaire

People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: “How strange! But never mind-it’s Nazism, it will pass!” And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.

Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has a Hitler inside him, that Hitler inhabits him, that Hitler is his demon, that if he rails against him, he is being inconsistent and that, at bottom, what he cannot forgive Hitler for is not the crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the “coolies” of India, and the “niggers” of Africa.
—  Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism

They talk to me about civilization, I talk about proletarianization and mystification.

For my part, I make a systematic defense of the non-European civilizations.

Every day that passes, every denial of justice, every beating by the police, every demand of the workers that is drowned in blood, every scandal that is hushed up, every punitive expedition, every police van, every gendarme and every militiaman, brings home to us the value of our old societies.

They were communal societies, never societies of the many for the few.

They were societies that were not only ante-capitalist, as has been said, but anti-capitalist.

They were democratic societies, always.

They were cooperative societies, fraternal societies.

I make a systematic defense of the societies destroyed by imperialism.

—  DISCOURSE ON COLONIALISM AIME CESAIRE

[Currently Reading Discourse on Colonialism by Aime Cesaire] “This book is about colonialism, its impact on the colonized, on culture, on history, on the very concept of civilization itself, and most importantly, on the colonizer.” -[Introduction by Robin D.G Kelley]  I just finished reading the introduction and I think I’ll be in love with Cesaire by its entirety. I first learned about him this summer when I inserted myself in a highly intellectual and engaging topic [that I knew not much about] on Negritude, Damas, Senghor and other scholars with my older sister (whom I’m secretly borrowing this from) and educators/scholars/friends in Senegal. Hopefully I’ll read Frantz Fanon afterwards. Gosh I’m excited. I think everyone should read this and study the aforementioned scholars. I promise, it’ll change you in someway or somehow or for the sake of obtaining and seeking knowledge. 

I see clearly what colonization has destroyed: the wonderful Indian civilizations ‐ and neither Deterding nor Royal Dutch nor Standard Oil will ever console me for the Aztecs and the Incas.  
I see clearly the civilizations; condemned to perish at a future date, into which it has introduced a principle of ruin: the South Sea islands, Nigeria, Nyasaland.
—  Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism
Last Week's Readings

I love the full quote from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1961, 1968), so often reduced to the first sentence:

“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. But this dignity has nothing to do with the dignity of the human individual: for that human individual has never heard tell of it. All that the native has seen in his country is that they can freely arrest him, beat him, starve him: and no professor of ethics, no priest has ever come to be beaten in his place, nor to share their bread with him. As far as the native is concerned, morality is very concrete; it is to silence the settler’s defiance, to break his flaunting violence–in a word, to put him out of the picture” (44).

And food for thought about the museum (and beyond?) from Aime Cesaire’s Discourse on Colonialism (1955, 2000):

“And the museums of which M. Caillois is so proud, not for one minute does it cross his mind that, all things considered, it would have been better not to have needed them; that Europe would have done better to tolerate the non-European civilizations at its side, leaving them alive, dynamic, and prosperous, whole and not mutilated; that it would have been better to let them develop and fulfill themselves than to present them for our admiration, duly labelled, their dead and scattered parts; that anyway, the museum by itself is nothing; that it means nothing, that it can say nothing, when smug self-satisfaction rots the eyes, when a secret contempt for others withers the heart, when racism, admitted or not, dries up sympathy; that it means nothing if its only purpose is to feed the delights of vanity” (71).

The stereotype is the form of knowledge and identification that vacillates between what is always ‘in place,’ already known, and something that must be anxiously repeated…For it is the force of ambivalence that gives the colonial stereotype its currency.
—  Homi K. Bhabha, The Other Question: Stereotype, Discrimination, and the Discourse of Colonialism