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Hello, my name's Tom, and welcome to
another episode of What the Theory?, my
somewhat sporadic series in which I aim
to provide some sometimes enjoyable but
certainly accessible introductions to
some key concepts in the humanities. A
few people have asked in the comments to
some of my other What the Theory? videos
for a video about postcolonialism. And
that was certainly the video that I set
out to write today. However, just as when
we were looking at postmodernism it was
important for us to first have a decent
grasp on modernism to really understand
the ramifications for postmodernism,
it became increasingly clear that it
was key to have a proper understanding
of colonialism before even being able to
begin to discuss postcolonialism. And,
although I did try initially to
work them into one video, it looked like
it was gonna be absolutely massive.
So, what I decided to do instead is to
split it up into two videos, this first
one on colonialism and a second one on
postcolonialism which will come out
shortly after. If you would like to see
that video when it does come out then
please do consider subscribing and,
equally, if you have any suggestions or
desires for a video you'd like
to see then please do comment down below
and let me know, that's always really
useful. A second precursor to this video
is that I'm aware that, as someone from
England, my understanding of both
colonialism and postcolonialism can
only ever really be academic. As such,
what I've aimed to do throughout both videos
is to draw on a wide range of
scholars many of whom have a far more
visceral experience of
colonialism and the
repercussions of that. For now, though,
here we go with Colonialism: What the
Colonization has a long history. Archaic
Greece (that's the period just before
Classical Greece) established colonies
both around the Mediterranean Sea but
also around the Black Sea. They did so
partly in order to gain access to
different kinds of raw materials but
also to deal with their overpopulation
problem. The notion of Empire similarly
goes back to Ancient Egypt when the
Upper Valley, led by King Narmer, conquered
the Lower Valley thus uniting the
country. And it's worth saying early on
in this video that, within what today
we're going to be referring to as
colonialism, there is in fact a number of
different political systems. So,
colonialism and the idea of
going to "settle" a foreign land is very
different to the idea of Empire and one
nation ruling over another territory. For
the purposes of today's video, however,
we're going to largely conflate both
those two (and also the many kind of sub
forms of colonialism or Empire) in order
to talk more broadly about the notion of
one nation ruling over a distant
territory, usually overseas. And this is
partly simply for the reason that I
often cite, in order to keep this video
digestible in one sitting, but also
because, as always with this series, what
I'm interested in today is primarily the
cultural both implications and
justifications of colonialism rather
than the minutiae of each of the
particular political systems which
enabled it to happen. And, despite those
historical antecedents which I've
already discussed, we're today
exclusively going to be talking about
modern colonialism; that is when European
nations set out to either send their own
citizens to settle in foreign
territories or established political
control overseas. So, let's begin with a
brief (and certainly incomplete) review of
how the process of colonisation happened.
From the early 16th century,
technological advances in both
shipbuilding and also navigation allowed
a number of European
nations to travel overseas much
further than they had before. And, with
this, they identified possible trade
benefits. Though this period often gets
termed (extremely problematically) as the
"Age of Discovery", it's important to
remember that, as Jean Brown Mitchell
reminds us in the Encyclopedia
Britannica article, that 'it was new roots
rather than new lands that filled the
minds of kings and commoners, scholars
and seamen'.
Particularly, many European nations were
keen to access more quickly and more
directly luxury goods from Asia.
Commodities such as pepper and many
spices until this point had to be
transported over land thus going through
many different territories each of which
would add their own layer of profit.
Their motive, then, was that, by more
directly importing some of these goods
over the sea rather than over land, they
might be able to cut out some middlemen
and therefore bring the price down on
these items. As nations set off in search
of these trade routes, however, time and
again they instead found themselves
encountering new land masses which they
were previously unaware of. (This
ignorance to other continents is in spite
of the fact that the Vikings had
previously visited North America, but
that's perhaps a story for another time).
A prime example of this is the Spanish
explorer Christopher Columbus who was
searching for a passage to Asia when he
instead came across the island of San
Salvador in the Bahamas (known to its
then inhabitants as Guanahani). As more
lands began to be "discovered", European
nations largely decided, rather than just
to trade with the indigenous peoples, to
instead establish political control over
these territories and rule them from
afar. And it's worth remembering that, in
all cases, the primary motive for doing
so was to better exploit these newly
found lands for economic advantage. In
South America, for example, Spain found a
number of veins of silver ore; whereas, in
North America, it was largely tobacco
that was deemed to have real economic
potential back in Europe. Due to similar
technological advances in shipbuilding
and navigation
that had led to the first contact
between Europe and the Americas, this
period also saw the beginning of the
Atlantic slave trade in which
expeditions from European nations set
out to West Africa to either abduct
African people themselves or purchase
them from local slave catchers. Enslaved
Africans were, for the most part, shipped
to the Americas in order to carry out
the work that the exploitation of the
natural resources of that continent
required. Spain's silver mines and the
tobacco farms of the British colonies,
then, were populated largely by enslaved
people from Africa. And it's worth
pointing out that, in establishing their
political power over the rest of the
world, slavery and colonialism very much
intersected to make the European nations
that were involved in both even more
powerful. And it wasn't just about
exploiting the natural resources of
these newly found territories, it was as
much about being able to control trade
both going into these places and out of
them. The Industrial Revolution in
Britain, for example, was largely made
possible because of the "new markets" that
were opened up through the expansion of
the empire. The fact that European
colonialism was initially driven by
trade rather than by the political motive
of wanting to have that kind of
political control over the rest of the
globe can perhaps be seen most keenly in
the example of the various East India
Companies. The East India Companies of
Britain, the Netherlands, Spain and
Portugal were initially private
companies. The British East India Company,
for example, was a private enterprise
which set out for India in order,
primarily, to make money off the spice
trade. They gradually, however, also became
involved in the trading of cotton, opium
and slaves. It was this private
company which initially took control, by
force, of the Indian subcontinent; it was
only after the Indian Mutiny of 1857 in
which control was passed directly to the
UK government. This would be a very long
video if I attempted to lay out the
exact things which happened in every
case whereby a European nation
took political and economic control over
another. By 1900, however, European nations
had control of over 75% of the rest of
the world. It's also worth pointing out
how recent much of this activity was for
while here we've mainly focused on the
beginnings of the colonization process,
much of this activity continued well
into the 20th century. For example, only
10% of the continent of Africa
was under European control as recently
as 1870 when the so called "Scramble for
Africa" saw this grow over a few decades
to 90 percent. For the rest of this video,
however, I want to focus not on the
political system of colonialism but
instead on the ideology of colonialism
that sat beneath that. And the ideology
of colonialism had two main effects in
its contemporary period: the first was
to legitimise these actions in the minds
of those who were undertaking them and
the citizens of the countries in whose
names they were supposedly acting. But
far more important is the impact of
colonial ideology on the so-called
"subjects" of the countries which were
being ruled over. Margaret Cohen and
Kavita Reddy document the
development of colonialism as an
ideology fairly extensively in the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
entry for the term. Most interesting is
their reminder that early colonialism
took place within a political and
religious context in which notions of
Natural Law, a philosophy developed
most influentially by Thomas Aquinas
which argued that all human beings, as God's
creations, had certain inherent rights,
was gaining traction. The popularity of
this philosophy had even reached the
Vatican and, very early on, Pope Innocent IV,
in stark contrast to the
papal authority given to the
Crusades, stated that it was not
legitimate for European nations to wage
war on indigenous
peoples simply for the reason that they
were not Christians.
Instead, violence against these people
could only be just if they were seen to
be breaking Natural Law themselves. As
Cohen and Reddy write, 'non-believers had
legitimate dominion over themselves and
their property, but this dominion was
abrogated if they proved incapable of
governing themselves according to
principles that every reasonable person
would recognise'. Here, then, we find the
genus of an idea which is a mainstay of
colonial ideology throughout the ages in
which people already living in lands
which European nations wished to colonize
were presented as being uncivilized and
thus having no understanding themselves
of any kind of moral code. As early as
Columbus's second voyage to South America,
the Spanish drew upon very flimsy
evidence that the indigenous people were
engaging in cannibalism in order to
present them as being "uncivilized" and
thus in contravention of natural law.
Colonialist Nations came to brand their
conquering enterprises not as attempts
to take control of foreign lands and
indenture indigenous people for material
gain but, instead, as some kind of mission
to "civilize" the "uncivilized" peoples of
the world. Such notions of "civilizing the
natives" continued long after the
Enlightenment where Reason largely
replaced God as the moral arbiter. John
Stuart Mill, for example, though
recognizing the exploitative nature of
colonialism, largely came to accept that a
period of political control was needed
in order to civilize indigenous peoples
to a point where they might be capable
of self-government. Of Spanish attempts
to 'civilize the Indians of Paraguay' he
writes that 'the real difficulty was the
improvidence of the people; their
inability to think for the future; and
the necessity accordingly of the most
unremitting and minute superintendence on the part of
their instructors'. We see here that
notion of the Spanish being required to
"instruct" Paraguayans in how to live in a society.
These justifications for colonialism and
imperialism were developed further
following the publication of Charles
Darwin's On the Origin of Species and
The Descent of Man.
Philosophers including Herbert Spencer
and Karl Pearson attempted to apply
Darwin's theories of evolution to human
society in a developmental view of
history which argued that all human
societies were on the same trajectory.
Thus, they posited pre-industrial nations,
rather than having entirely different
contexts to European nations, were just
"less developed". This sat alongside a number
of pseudo-scientific treatises which
attempted to suggest that non-Europeans
(or non-white people) were in some way
"less evolved" than Europeans. A
combination of both of these can be
found in Rudyard Kipling's 1899 poem The
White Man's Burden in which he depicts
"the white man" as been burdened by the
responsibility of bringing colonized
(non-white) people 'to the light' of
civilization. I won't give you an awful
poetry recital here but I will leave a
link down to the poem below if you want
to go and have a read of it along with
some other further reading from around
this topic. We can get a taste for what
this "civilizing mission" looked like by
taking a brief look at the education
system in India under the British Raj.
Prior to the arrival of the British in
India, an informal system of education
already existed in the continent. It was
largely focused on the education of boys
over girls and funded by patronage
rather than by government, but this was
true of education systems all across the
world including in most of Europe.
Initially, educating the people of India
was not even a thought in the mind of
colonizing forces, however, eventually,
partly due to pressure from Indian
officers within the East
India Company and party due to the need
to recruit administrative workers from
the continent itself, the company passed
a charter which started the process
of beginning an education system in
India. Rather than building upon the
informal network of schools which
already existed, however, the East India
Company, and eventually the Raj, instead
decided to build their own completely
new system. And, as Syama Prasad Mookerjee
argues, the system they built 'was largely
dissociated from the cultural and
educational traditions of the people and
made an alien language the vehicle of
new ideas that were expected to
regenerate the people of India'. Education
was to be carried out only in the
English language and to focus on a so-
called "Western curriculum". It was only
accessible by those who were already
relatively affluent with the idea that
this would cause a filtration of British
culture down into lower castes. The
motive of this education system was
indeed laid out pretty bluntly by the
British MP Thomas Macaulay who wrote that
'we must do our best to form a class who
may be interpreters between us and the
millions whom we govern, a class of
persons Indian in blood and colour but
English in taste, opinions, words and
intellect'. Further, to those opposed to
such a process of acculturation, he
suggested that 'I've never found one
among them who could deny that a single
shelf of a good European library was
worth the whole native literature of
India and Arabia'. This entire education
system, then, was predicated on the notion
that European (or, mostly, British) culture
was vastly superior to that which
already existed in India. Across the
subcontinent, the likes of Shakespeare
and Milton were deployed as examples of
how great this culture is and also to
build an affinity amongst Indians to the
land that was colonising them
rather than their own nation. More
broadly, the publication of works of literature in
Sanskrit and other indigenous languages
was suppressed in order to stop great
works of Indian culture being spread
throughout the continent. And we'll see
in the following video about postcolonialism
the effect that this has had
on a number of different nations: the
suppression of indigenous and already-
existing culture in those countries at
the expense of extending the reach of
the "great European Canon". So, to
tie this all up a little bit: we have, in
this video, taken a very incomplete look
at colonialism. It is an absolutely
massive subject and one which has had
ramifications for the whole world and
how we talk about human geography. As
we'll see in my next video on post
colonialism, previously colonized nations
are still dealing with the material and
cultural consequences of colonialism and,
equally, echoes of colonial rhetoric can
be found in the way that contemporary
politicians talk about military
intervention (primarily from Europe or
from America) into the Middle East. But
also in that whole notion of how we talk
about "the West" or "Western culture". For
today, however, that just about wraps it
up. This has been a step into a slightly
new field for me, something which I've
studied a little bit before but not
to this depth. So, it's been really
really enlightening. If you have any
questions, however, please feel free to
put those below and I, or perhaps some
other visitors to this video, will have
an attempt to find you some
answers for those. As always, if you think
this video might be a vague net positive
for the world then please do consider
giving it a thumbs up, that's always
really helpful. But thank you very much
for watching and have a great week!


Colonialism: WTF? Introduction to colonialism and imperialism

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April Lu 2019 年 4 月 9 日 に公開
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