Start your review of Discourse on Colonialism Write a review Shelves: literature , politics-non-fiction , theories , essays It is claimed that it is one of the pioneering works in the study of post colonialism. Here Aime Cesaire does not write like a theorist or an academician. So, naturally his writing is poetic than academic. But that does not mean it is purely fictional. It may be a first ever realist take on colonialism.
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Yet, Discourse speaks in revolutionary cadences, capturing the spirit of its age just as Marx and Engels did years earlier in their little manifesto. First published in as Discours sur le colonialisme 1 , it appeared just as the old empires were on the verge of collapse, thanks in part to a world war against fascism that left Europe in material, spiritual, and philosophical shambles.
It was the age of decolonization and revolt in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Five years earlier, in , black people from around the globe gathered in Manchester, England, for the Fifth Pan-African Congress to discuss the freedom and future of Africa. Five years later, in , representatives from the Non-Aligned Nations gathered in Bandung, Indonesia, to discuss the freedom and future of the third world.
Revolt was in the air. As with much of the radical literature produced during this epoch, Discourse places the colonial question front and center. This is a book about colonialism, its impact on the colonized, on culture, on history, on the very concept of civilization itself, and most importantly, on the colonizer.
The instruments of colonial power rely on barbaric, brutal violence and intimidation, and the end result is the degradation of Europe itself. The Africans, the Indians, the Asians cannot possess civilization or a culture equal to that of the imperialists, or the latter have no purpose, no justification for the exploitation and domination of the rest of the world.
First, its recasting of the history of Western Civilization helps us locate the origins of fascism within colonialism itself; hence, within the very traditions of humanism, critics believed fascism threatened. On the contrary, he was attempting to revise Marx, along the lines of his predecessors such as W. DuBois and M. Roy, by suggesting that the anticolonial struggle supersedes the proletarian revolution as the fundamental historical movement of the period. The implications are enormous: the coming revolution was not posed in terms of capitalism versus socialism the very last paragraph notwithstanding, but we shall return to this later , but in terms of the complete and total overthrow of a racist, colonialist system that would open the way to imagine a whole new world.
It is full of flares, full of anger, full of humor. It is not a solution or a strategy or a manual or a little red book with pithy quotes. It is a dancing flame in a bonfire. Born on June 26, , in the small town of Bass-Pointe, Martinique, he and his five siblings were raised by a mother who was a dressmaker and a father who held a post as the local tax inspector. Unlike many of his colleagues, he could not wait to leave home for the mother country—France.
That would change during his eight-year stay in Paris. There he met a number of like-minded intellectuals, most notably Senghor. Monnerot, and Pierre and Simone Yoyotte, joined together to declare their commitment to surrealism and communist revolution. In other words, their poems were colorless. After completing his exams during the summer of , he took a short vacation to Yugoslavia with a fellow student. Moved, he stayed up half the night working on a long poem about the Martinique of his youth—the land, the people, the majesty of the place.
The next morning when he inquired about the little island, he was told it was called Martinska. The next summer he did return to Martinique, but was greeted by an even greater sense of alienation.
The appearance of Tropiques coincided with the fall of France to the fascist Vichy regime, which consequently put the colonies of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Guiana under Vichy rule.
Their racism was blatant and direct. As literary critic A. Two days later, the editors penned a brilliant polemical response: To Lieutenant de Vaisseau Bayle: Sir, We have received your indictment of Tropiques. Racists, yes. We do not speak the same language.
Yet, despite the repressions and the ruses, Tropiquessurvived the war as one of the most important and radical surrealist publications in the world.
Theirs was a vision of freedom that drew on Modernism and a deep appreciation for pre-colonial African modes of thought and practice; it drew on Surrealism as the strategy of revolution of the mind and Marxism as revolution of the productive forces. Tropiques also published Breton, as well as texts by Pierre Mabille, Benjamin Peret, and other surrealists.
Aimé Césaire; Discourse on Colonialism
His interpretation flips the common narrative, in order to point out the autonomy that existed in colonizing foreign lands. He bases his argument on the claim 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 Hitler , I mean its punishment". He defines the relationship as one limited to " forced labor , intimidation, pressure, the police, taxation, theft, rape, compulsory crops, contempt, mistrust, arrogance, self-complacency, swinishness, brainless elites, degraded masses". By identifying the colonial relationship as one based on race, he draws comparisons between his home of Martinique with the colonies in Africa. Additionally, he referred to Marxist theory and criticized the " bourgeois , capitalistic European culture and said that capitalism would always disintegrate into Nazism".
Discourse on Colonialism
As a result of the atrocities of the French rule in Martinique, he detested colonialism. He is known for his strong indictment on colonialism in Discourse on Colonialism Discourse was originally published in French as Discours sur le colonialismein in What is colonialism then? At that time not only the Harlem Renaissance was taking place in the United States of America but also the Surrealist artists were calling for the overthrow of French colonial rule and his birth place Martinique was under the oppressive regime of French sovereignty. Added to these, Europeans killed ninety thousand inhabitants of Madagascar and Indochina. It is mainly his life in Martinique that made him realize the effects of colonialism on the psyche of the coloured people.