Re: Colonialism as the big bang

Abdul Kanm Mustapha (abkamu@WAM.UMD.EDU)
Tue, 7 Feb 1995 16:46:33 -0500

hello Matt,
your iniative is a very good one. however, the type of
colonialism that social theorists are dealing with is a specifically modern
colonialism that is bound by violence and the globalization of capital.
this is not to say that violence was not intrinsic to earlier versions of
colonialism, rather, imperialism and consequent effects are constitutive
elements of modern colonialism. as well, the critiques of colonialism
like edward said's magisterial Orientalism, or Amire Caseaire's Discourse
of Colonialism, deal with the transport of colonial discourse, writing.
thus to truely evalute contemporary social theories of colonialism, one
must look not only at literary production, but the persistent of what we
can call the economy of coloniaist language. a type of language that
operates of binary oppositions and residual categories of the other. if
you disagree, it may be because archaeologists are guilty of sustaining
the colonialist language.

best, abdul.

On Tue, 7 Feb 1995, Matthew S. Tomaso wrote:

> Recent social theory dealing with colonialism has suggested that the
> colonial moment generates everything from socially bounded ethnicities and
> racism to the nation state. That is, by implication, none of these things
> are seen to have been possible prior to colonialism - at least not in the
> forms seen today. While I recognize that the theorization of such
> categories of abstraction must be a task directed at their present utility,
> and that anthropologists are not privy to the ideological realms of
> prehistory, and I also recognize the obvious need to understand colonialism
> and its productions, the archaeologist in me is bothered by the folowing
> notions which appear to be implicit in the logic of several social
> anthropological treatments of colonialism:
> 1. Colonialism appears to refer to European colonialism within the last 600
> years only. It is no longer possible to imagine the Inca or Romans, for
> example, as colonialists.
> 2. The new theoretical definition of ethnicity appears to be something like
> - a bounded social unit with an internally recognized name and a shared and
> coherent set of expressions, symbols, etc, which differentiate it from
> others. Incidentally, this definition is enough to convince me that the
> thing in question never existed and never will. I always thought that the
> biggest and most ethnocentric problem in Barth's definitions were his uses
> of social boundaries, now I see that I was wrong and what we really needed
> (in order to theorize ethnicity out of existence) were even more rigid
> boundaries. Some would also like to make colonialism part and parcel of
> this definition - thus avoiding the problem of prehistoric ethnicity
> completely.
> 3. Racism did not exist prior to colonialism. What a wonderful world it
> must have been. Take note J.J. Rousseau! I guess my interpretation of the
> bible must be way off then.
> I'd really like to discuss these issues or the texts involved with anybody
> who has the time and inclination. despite my generally disrespectful
> attitude I try to have an open mind and would really appreciate some open
> dialogue.
> Sincerely,
> Matt
> __________________________________________________________
> Matt Tomaso
> Department of Anthropology
> University of Texas at Austin
> __________________________________________________________