10.1 Postcolonialism

Diversity Literacy Week 10 / Lecture 1
Prepared by Claire Kelly
Ethics of remembering (Hesse)
“how do we make the past visible, as it were
the present, while acknowledging our
debt to the past as it actually happened?”
(Ricouer, cited in Hesse)
1450 – 1850’s > Atlantic slave trade
1885 – 1960’s > Colonial rule
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Remembering colonialism…
The role of capitalism
 “Dawn of the era of capitalist production” (Marx)*
 The foundations of the modern economic system were
laid during colonialism
 “[Slavery] was the hidden basis of European wealth”
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 “Our possession of the West Indies … gave
us the strength, the support, but especially
the capital, wealth, at a time when no
other European nation possessed such a
reserve, which enabled us to come
through the great struggle of the
Napoleonic Wars, the keen competition of
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
and enabled us… to lay the foundations of that
commercial and financial leadership which which
enabled us to make our great position in the world”
(Winston Churchill, 1939)
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Rembering Colonialism…
The role of Christianity
“This is the irony of the European Renaissance; it
would be built not only on the most rational
enslavement of the African people, but it would
rationalise it by tags from the Bible….” (Magubane, p.
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And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was
uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father,
and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both
their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of
their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their
father’s nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son
had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall
he be unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan
shall be his servant.
27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of
Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. Genesis 9:20-27
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Remembering Colonialism…
The role of“knowledge”
Slavery perpetrated during European Enlightenment, the Age
of Reason (Du Bois)
“…Africans in particular would exist in European thought as
the barbaric Other. The constitution of the African as the
Other would sustain Europe’s colonial enterprise and
African enslavement” (Magubane, p. 32)
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“…What we properly understand by Africa is the
unhistorical, underdeveloped spirit, still involved
in the conditions of mere nature, and which had
to be presented here as on the childhood of the
world’s history….” (Hegel, Introduction to the Philosophy of
“What signify these races to us? Who cares
particularly for the negro, or Hottentot of Kaffir?
These latter have proved a very troublesome race
and the sooner they are put out of the way the
better… Destined by the nature of their race to
run, like other animals, a certain limited course
of existence, it matters little how their extinction
is brought about” (Knox, The Races of Mankind: A Philosophical
Enquiry into the Influence of Race over the Destinies of Nations, 1847)
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Remembering colonialism...
The role of psychic violence
 “Even worse , they stole our history and our
humanity by propagating their racist ideas. The
destruction of the humanity of the African, the
European belief in white supremacy, was more
degrading than anything else” (Magubane, p.
 Psychic violence of colonialism and racism
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White wo/man’s burden
 Insert: Colonial Images depicting the “white
man’s burden”
 The White Woman’s Burden
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White wo/man’s burden
 Insert: Colonial Images depicting the “white
man’s burden”
 Colonialism, Soap, and the Cleansing Metaphor
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White wo/man’s burden
 Insert: Video depicting how the “white man’s
burden” narrative persists in contemporary
 The White Woman’s Burden
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“…we cannot
encounter the
Third World
today without
carrying a lot
of baggage.”
(Kapoor, p.628)
 Insert: Example of how we remember colonialism
in romanticised ways – “safari”, “Out of Africa”
etc. We used pictures of "Colonial"-Themed
 http://jezebel.com/5820577/colonial+themedwedding-included-authentic-all+black-servant-staff
Prepared by Claire Kelly
Post(?)- colonialism
 De/colonial fantasy (Hesse)
 Treat slavery and colonialism as a discrete event
 Ignore racialised trajectories of continuity and
 Obscure how democracy in the West emerged in
conjunction with slavery, ethnocide and racism
 Fails to recognise that out global economic system is
predicated on colonialism and slavery
 Globalised Eurocentrism (vs. Imperialised
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African Renaissance (Magubane)
 “It would be very strange indeed if the remedy
to our problems came from the very same
people who not only created the world order
that created our impoverishment, but who
continue to be beneficiaries of that world
order.” (Magubane, p. 34)
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Extra references
 B. Hesse (2002) Forgotten like a bad dream: Atlantic slavery and the
ethics of postcolonial memory. In D. Goldberg & A. Quayson (Eds)
Relocating Postcolonialism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers
Prepared by Claire Kelly

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