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A Look At Imperialism, Racism, And Decolonizing Struggle Through Literature – OpEd

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Frantz Fanon’s Marxist writings on imperialism, racism, and decolonizing struggles have influenced post-colonial discussions about the internalization of colonial prejudice. Fanon first tackled the problem of, what he called, the “colonial alienation of the person” as a mental health issue through psychiatric analysis.

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In The Wretched of the Earth (French: Les Damnés de la Terre), published in 1961, Fanon argued that the colonial psyche was fractured by the lack of mental and material homogeneity as a result of the colonial power’s Western culture being pressured onto the colonized population despite the existing material differences between them. He added that the native Algerian came to view their own traditional culture and identity through the lens of colonial prejudice.

According to Fanon this resulted in a destabilizing existential conflict within the colonized culture: Fanon added that in an African country, where mental development was uneven, where the violent collision of two worlds had considerably shaken old traditions and thrown the universe of the perceptions out of focus, the impressionability and sensibility of the Young African are at the mercy of the various assaults made upon them by the very Nature of Western Culture.”

The British faced a difficult problem in administering an area that was many times the size of the British Isles. Yet in true British fashion they stuck to their upper lips and continued with their traditional outlook of looking down on the people they conquered by deceit since they had come to India for trading and took advantage of a heterogenous people who had no concept of unity to face a common enemy till the first Indian War of Independence in 1857 that ended in the defeat of then Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar who was exiled by the British to then Burma.

The British victory would not have been easy but for the seed of Hindu-Muslim discord planted by then Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb by introducing a tax upon the non-Muslims. During the period of European colonial rule in India, Europeans in India typically regarded many aspects Indian culture with disdain and supported colonial rule as a beneficial “civilizing mission”. Colonial rule in India was framed as an act which was beneficial to the people of India, rather than a process of political and economic dominance by a small minority of foreigners.

Under colonial rule, many practices were outlawed, such as the practice of forcing widows to immolate themselves (known as sati) with acts being deemed idolatrous being discouraged by Evangelical missionaries, the latter of which has been claimed by some scholars to have played a large role in the developments of the modern definition of Hinduism. These claims base their assumptions on the lack of a unified Hindu identity prior to the period of colonial rule, and modern Hinduism’s unprecedented outward focus on a monotheistic Vedanta worldview.

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These developments have been read as the result of colonial views which discouraged aspects of Indian religions which differed significantly from Christianity. It has been noted that the prominence of the Bhagavad Gita as a primary religious text in Hindu discourse was a historical response to European criticisms of Indian culture.

Europeans found that the Gita had more in common with their own Christian Bible, leading to the denouncement of Hindu practices more distantly related to monotheistic world views; with some historians claiming that Indians began to characterize their faith as the equivalent of Christianity in belief (especially in terms of monotheism) and structure (in terms of providing an equivalent primary sacred text). Hindu nationalism developed in the 19th century as an internalization of European ideological prominence; with local Indian elites aiming to make themselves and Indian society modern by “emulating the West”.

This led to the emergence of what some have termed ‘neo-Hinduism’: consisting of reformist rhetoric transforming Hindu tradition from above, disguised as a revivalist call to return to the traditional practises of the faith. Reflecting the same arguments made by Christian missionaries, who argued that the more superstitious elements of Hindu practice were responsible for corrupting the potential rational philosophy of the faith (i.e. the more Christian-like sentiments). Moving the definitions of Hindu practice away from more overt idol worshiping, reemphasizing the concept of Brahman as a monotheistic divinity, and focusing more on the figure of Krishna in Vaishnavism due to his role as a messianic type figure (more inline with European beliefs) which makes him a suitable alternative to the Christian figure of Jesus Christ.

Some critics have claimed that writer Rudyard Kipling’s portrayals of Indian characters in his works supported the view that colonized people were incapable of living without the help of Europeans, describing these portrayals as racist. In his famous poem “The White Man’s Burden”, Kipling directly argues for this point by romanticizing the “civilising mission” in non-Western countries. Analysts have claimed that Kipling’s poems idolized Western culture as entirely rational and civilized, while treating non-white cultures as ‘childlike’ and ‘demonic’.

Similar sentiments have been interpreted in Kipling’s other works, such as his characterization of the Second Boer War as a “white man’s war”; along with his presentation of ‘whiteness’ as a morally and culturally superior trait of the West. His portrayal of Indians in his Jungle Book stories have also been criticized as examples of the chauvinistic infantilization of colonized peoples in popular culture. Some historians claim that Kipling’s works have contributed towards the development of a colonial mentality in the ways that the colonized people in these fictional narratives are made submissive to and dependent on their white rulers. Individuals of Indian descent who adopt European culture have sometimes been labeled as “Macaulay’s Children”.

The term is usually used in a derogatory fashion, connoting disloyalty to India. It derives from 19th century historian, politician, and colonial administrator Thomas Macaulay, who instituted the system of Macaulayism, replacing Indian languages and dialects with English as the official medium of instruction in Indian educational institutions. The consequences of this educational policy can still be felt in contemporary India, where the use of English, as opposed to Hindi, still carries with it a level of superiority.

Nationalist politicians have campaigned and pushed forward policy changes to promote the official usage of Hindi in education and media over English, which was protested against in the south of India as the imposition of Hindi upon non-Hindi speakersIn the overseas territories administered by the Spanish Empire, racial mixing between Spanish settlers and the indigenous peoples resulted in a prosperous union later called Mestizo. This system was applied to Spanish territories in the Americas and the Philippines, where large populations of mixed raced individuals made up the increasing majority of the viceroyalty population (until the present day).

The Spaniards however did not impose their language to the degree they did their religion. The Americans were the last country to colonize the Philippines (1898–1946) and nationalists claim that it continues to act as a neo-colony of the US despite its formal independence in 1946.

Joseph Conrad unveiled the true content on European extraction and heartlessness through Marlow’s story in Heart of Darkness took place in the Belgian Congo, the most notorious European colony in Africa because of the Belgian colonizers’ immense greed and brutal treatment of the native people. In its depiction of the monstrous wastefulness and casual cruelty of the colonial agents toward the African natives, Heart of Darkness reveals the utter hypocrisy of the entire colonial effort. In Europe, colonization of Africa was justified on the grounds that not only would it bring wealth to Europe, it would also civilize and educate the “savage” African natives.

Heart of Darkness shows that in practice the European colonizers used the high ideals of colonization as a cover to allow them to viciously rip whatever wealth they could from Africa. Unlike most novels that focus on the evils of colonialism, Heart of Darkness pays more attention to the damage that colonization does to the souls of white colonizers than it does to the physical death and devastation unleashed on the black natives.

Though this focus on the white colonizers makes the novella somewhat unbalanced, it does allow Heart of Darkness to extend its criticism of colonialism all the way back to its corrupt source, the “civilization” of Europe. American Imperialism “American imperialism” is a term that refers to the economic, military, and cultural influence of the United States internationally. The late nineteenth century was known as the “Age of Imperialism,” a time when the United States and other major world powers rapidly expanded their territorial possessions.

American imperialism is partly based on American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is different from other countries because of its specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy. One of the most notable instances of American imperialism was the annexation of Hawaii in 1898, which allowed the United States to gain possession and control of all ports, buildings, harbors, military equipment, and public property that had belonged to the Government of the Hawaiian Islands.

Some groups, such as the American Anti-Imperialist League, opposed imperialism on the grounds that it conflicted with the American ideal of Republicans and the “consent of the governed.” But greed won over the protestation (albeit there were exceptions) promoting the concept of Social Darwinism: An ideology that seeks to apply biological concepts of Darwinism or evolutionary theory to sociology and politics, often under the assumption that conflict between societal groups leads to social progress, as superior groups surpass inferior ones.

In this context it would be amiss in not mentioning American Exceptionalism: a belief, central to American political culture since the Revolution, that Americans have a unique mission among nations to spread freedom and democracy. In the words of Wikipedia Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset traces the origins of American exceptionalism to the American Revolution., from which the U.S. emerged as “the first new nation” with a distinct ideology. This ideology, which Lipset called Americanism, but is often also referred to as American exceptionalism, is based on liberty, equality before the law., individual responsibility, republicanism, and laissez-faire economics; these principles are sometimes collectively referred to as “American exceptionalism”, and entail the U.S. being perceived both domestically and internationally as superior to other nations or having a unique mission to transform the world.

The theory of exceptionalism in the U.S. developed over time and can be traced to many sources. French political scientist and historian Alexis de Tocqueville was the first writer to describe the country as “exceptional” following his travels there in 1831. The earliest documented use of the specific term “American exceptionalism” is by American communists in intra-communist disputes in the late 1920s. end quote. Equally one should not forget The American Anti-Imperialist League: an organization established in the United States in 1898, to battle the American annexation of the Philippines as an insular area. No less relevant would be the mention of American Imperialism: a term that refers to the economic, military, and cultural influence of the United States on other countries.

‘American imperialism” is a term that refers to the economic, military, and cultural influence of the United States on other countries. First popularized during the presidency of James K. Polk, the concept of an “American Empire” was made a reality throughout the latter half of the 1800s. During this time, industrialization caused American businessmen to seek new international markets in which to sell their goods. In addition, the increasing influence of social Darwinism led to the belief that the United States was inherently responsible for bringing concepts such as industry, democracy, and Christianity to less developed “savage” societies.

The combination of these attitudes and other factors led the United States toward imperialism. American imperialism is partly rooted in American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is different from other countries due to its specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy. This theory often is traced back to the words of 1800s French observer Alexis de Tocqueville, who concluded that the United States was a unique nation, “proceeding along a path to which no limit can be perceived.” Pinpointing the actual beginning of American imperialism is difficult.

Some historians suggest that it began with the writing of the Constitution; historian Donald W. Meinig argues that the imperial behavior of the United States dates back to at least the Louisiana Purchase. He describes this event as an, “aggressive encroachment of one people upon the territory of another, resulting in the subjugation of that people to alien rule.” Here, he is referring to the U.S. policies toward Native Americans, which he said were, “designed to remold them into a people more appropriately conformed to imperial desires.” The depiction of a black boy cleaning a window showing a blackboard that read, “The consent of the governed is a good thing in theory, but very rare in fact… the U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.”

Whatever its origins, American imperialism experienced its pinnacle from the late 1800s through the years following World War II. During this “Age of Imperialism,” the United States exerted political, social, and economic control over countries such as the Philippines, Cuba, Germany, Austria, Korea, and Japan.

One of the most notable examples of American imperialism in this age was the annexation of Hawaii in 1898, which allowed the United States to gain possession and control of all ports, buildings, harbors, military equipment, and public property that had formally belonged to the Government of the Hawaiian Islands. On January 17, 1893, the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Queen Liliuokalani, was deposed in a coup d’état led largely by American citizens who were opposed to Liliuokalani’s attempt to establish a new Constitution. This action eventually resulted in Hawaii’s becoming America’s 50th state in 1959.

Opposition to Imperialism The American Anti-Imperialist League was an organization established in the United States on June 15, 1898, to battle the American annexation of the Philippines as an insular area. The League also argued that the Spanish-American War was a war of imperialism camouflaged as a war of liberation. The anti-imperialists opposed the expansion because they believed imperialism violated the credo of republicanism, especially the need for “consent of the governed.” They did not oppose expansion on commercial, constitutional, religious, or humanitarian grounds; rather, they believed that the annexation and administration of third-world tropical areas would mean the abandonment of American ideals of self-government and isolation—ideals expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, George Washington ‘s Farewell Address, and Abraham Lincoln ‘s Gettysburg Address.

The Anti-Imperialist League represented an older generation and was rooted in an earlier era; they were defeated in terms of public opinion, the 1900 election, and the actions of Congress and the president because most younger Progressives who were just coming to power supported imperialism.

The Spanish-American War was a three-month-long conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States. The Spanish-American War was the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence with Spain. The war served to further repair relations between the American North and South. The war gave both sides a common enemy for the first time since the end of the Civil War in 1865, and many friendships were formed between soldiers of Northern and Southern states during their tours of duty.

The war marked American entry into world affairs. Since then, the United States has had a significant hand in various conflicts around the world, and has entered into many treaties and agreements. The defeat of Spain marked the end of the Spanish Empire. The policy of expanding a nation’s territory or its economic influence. The Spanish-American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States. It was the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence. American attacks on Spain’s Pacific possessions led to U.S. involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately to the Philippine-American War.

Revolts against Spanish rule had been endemic for decades in Cuba and were closely watched by Americans. With the abolition of slavery in 1886, former slaves joined the ranks of farmers and the urban working class, many wealthy Cubans lost their property, and the number of sugar mills declined. Only companies and the most powerful plantation owners remained in business, and during this period, U.S. financial capital began flowing into the country. Although it remained Spanish territory politically, Cuba started to depend on the United States economically. Coincidentally, around the same time, Cuba saw the rise of labor movements.

By 1897–1898, American public opinion grew angrier at reports of Spanish atrocities in Cuba. After the mysterious sinking of the American battleship Maine in Havana harbor, political pressures from the Democratic Party pushed the administration of Republican President William McKinley into a war he had wished to avoid. Compromise proved impossible, resulting in the United States sending an ultimatum to Spain that demanded it immediately surrender control of Cuba, which the Spanish rejected. First Madrid, then Washington, formally declared war.

Although the main issue was Cuban independence, the 10-week war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. American naval power proved decisive, allowing U.S. expeditionary forces to disembark in Cuba against a Spanish garrison already reeling from nationwide insurgent attacks and wasted by yellow fever. The Spanish-American War was swift and decisive. During the war’s three-month duration, not a single American reverse of any importance occurred. A week after the declaration of war, Commodore George Dewey of the six-warship Asiatic Squadron (then based at Hong Kong) steamed his fleet to the Philippines. Dewey caught the entire Spanish armada at anchor in Manila Bay and destroyed it without losing an American life.

Cuban, Philippine, and American forces obtained the surrender of Santiago de Cuba and Manila as a result of their numerical superiority in most of the battles and despite the good performance of some Spanish infantry units and spirited defenses in places such as San Juan Hill. Madrid sued for peace after two obsolete Spanish squadrons were sunk in Santiago de Cuba and Manila Bay. A third more modern fleet was recalled home to protect the Spanish coasts.

The result of the war was the 1898 Treaty of Paris, negotiated on terms favorable to the United States. It allowed temporary American control of Cuba and indefinite colonial authority over Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines following their purchase from Spain. The defeat and collapse of the Spanish Empire was a profound shock to Spain’s national psyche, and provoked a movement of thoroughgoing philosophical and artistic reevaluation of Spanish society known as the “Generation of ’98.” The victor gained several island possessions spanning the globe, which caused a rancorous new debate over the wisdom of expansionism.

The war marked American entry into world affairs. Before the Spanish-American War, the United States was characterized by isolationism, an approach to foreign policy that asserts that a nation’s interests are best served by keeping the affairs of other countries at a distance. Since the Spanish-American War, the United States has had a significant hand in various conflicts around the world, and has entered many treaties and agreements.

The Panic of 1893 was over by this point, and the United States entered a long and prosperous period of economic and population growth and technological innovation that lasted through the 1920s. The war redefined national identity, served as a solution of sorts to the social divisions plaguing the American mind, and provided a model for all future news reporting. The war also effectively ended the Spanish Empire. Spain had been declining as an imperial power since the early nineteenth century as a result of Napoleon’s invasion.

The loss of Cuba caused a national trauma because of the affinity of peninsular Spaniards with Cuba, which was seen as another province of Spain rather than as a colony. Spain retained only a handful of overseas holdings: Spanish West Africa, Spanish Guinea, Spanish Sahara, Spanish Morocco, and the Canary Islands.

Confrontations between the inhabitants of the Malay Archipelago and European traders reflected in the narrative structure of “Karain” was fully developed in Heart of Darkness, the plot of which is set in Africa offering an exceptionally ironic view of the European imperialism and trading practices . Joseph Conrad experienced the partition of his home-country between Russia, Prussia and Austria besides travelling to Africa , Conrad had a good reason to question the right of great powers to submit smaller countries to their will. His travels to Africa revealed to himself the “rapacity and brutality of Europeans” exploiting the Continent. Criticism of the European civilization appears in “An Outpost of Progress” when the characters, isolated from the conventions and institutions of their ‘civilized’ world, reveal the hollowness that lies at its core.

This theme reappears in Heart of Darkness where again the impact of individuals isolated from their social system shows the inability of European civilization to protect its individuals from corruption. In much of his work Conrad expresses his scepticism about imperialism.

For example, “An Outpost of Progress” is set in Central Africa and presents “a ruthlessly ironic view of European colonialism and the pretension of civilization” . Confrontations between the inhabitants of the Malay Archipelago and European traders appear again in “Karain” (Blackwood’s November 1897). The narrative structure of “Karain” was fully developed in Heart of Darkness, the plot of which was set in Africa offering an exceptionally ironic view of the European imperialism and trading practices .

According to analysts , a partial explanation of Conrad’s scepticism about imperialism is to be found in his Polish upbringing. After experiencing the partition of his home-country between Russia, Prussia and Austria, Conrad had a good reason to question the right of great powers to submit smaller countries to their will.

Another answer lies in the fact that Conrad had himself travelled in Africa where he experienced the “rapacity and brutality of Europeans” exploiting the Continent. Criticism of the European civilization that appeared in “An Outpost of Progress” when the characters, isolated from the conventions and institutions of their ‘civilized’ world, reveal the hollowness that lies at its core.

This theme reappears in Heart of Darkness where again the impact of individuals isolated from their social system shows the inability of European civilization to protect its individuals from corruption. The relevance of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is apparent in the allusions to the story in media and in culture in general.

Hillis Miller’s essay in the Norton Critical Edition poses the question: Should we read Heart of Darkness? In answering this question Miller proposes a reading that takes account of the fact that the novella is “a powerful exemplary revelation of the ideology of capitalist imperialism, including its racism and sexism”.

Reading Heart of Darkness in this way we can agree with Miller’s answer to his own question: yes: “Heart of Darkness should be read and ought to be read” (Miller 2006 ). The relevance of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is apparent in the allusions to the story in media and in culture in general.

Hillis Miller’s essay in the Norton Critical Edition poses the question: Should we read Heart of Darkness? In answering this question Miller proposes a reading that takes account of the fact that the novella is “a powerful exemplary revelation of the ideology of capitalist imperialism, including its racism and sexism”. Reading Heart of Darkness in this way we can agree with Miller’s answer to his own question: yes: “Heart of Darkness should be read and ought to be read” (Miller 2006).

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