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Imperialism and postcolonialism

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Définitions[edit | edit source]

Selon Edward Said, il faut différencier l’impérialisme et le colonialisme :imperialism:

  • the practice, theory and attitudes of a metropolitan centre governing a distant territory ;
  • Colonialism: For Williams and Chrisman in Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory published in 1993, it is the specific articulation of imperialism with invasions and occupation of territories that is a phase in a more constant process of capitalist imperialism that continues to this day.

For Jacobs, in Edge of Empire: Postcolonialism and the City published in 1996, "Colonial formations do not belong only to a past that the present strives to erase, but to a past that is being nostalgically reworked and adapted to the present.

The conception of imperialism today is close to Wallerstein's world system with the idea that there are centers and peripheries and a system of control from the center. This world system perspective was very important in the formation or reform of political geography in the 1980s. This approach has been criticised in particular by Jacobs because these theories are part of a global structure of Eurocentric diffusion to which otherness is only an addition. The structural dimension has never been explicit in world system theory.

Blunt et Wills dans Dissident Geographies: An Introduction to Radical Ideas and Practice publié en 2000 distinguent deux significations :

  • temporal significance: the period after colonialism. The problem is that colonial power persists;
  • critical significance: a set of approaches to the analysis of colonialism and its consequences. The problem is that (a) these approaches focus more on culture than on materiality and (b) these approaches focus more on history than on the contemporary.

The idea that postcolonialism is a critical approach is the fact that the way colonization and imperialism is described by scholars who are mostly European or American does not leave an alternative future for former colonies. This is related to Said's work. The postcolonial approach brings a deconstruction, an attempt to go further than the binary approaches, it is an approach that advances notions rather related to hybridity involving a deconstruction of the binary that demonstrates a possibility of the existence of space for an alterity of the colonized to develop. II. Postcolonial and imperial studies, geography and political geography The first works date from the 1960s and 1970s, without using the term through letters. Some emphasize the consequences of colonialism with the idea of unequal relations between former colonies and colonial powers, as well as the characteristics of these relations in the capitalist world system. For others, the inspiration comes from the theories of dependence, which is the idea that all resources come out of developing countries to enrich industrialized countries, a reaction against the theory of modernization.

In the 1990s, the notion was broadened with the unveiling of geographical complicity in the colonial domination of space, geographical representations in colonial discourse, the dissociation of the local geographical enterprise from metropolitan theory and its system of representation, the recovery of hidden spaces occupied and invested with their own meanings by the colonial subclass. The contemporary focus is on the critical history of colonialism through representations.

In Postcolonialism published in 2009, Gilmartin speaks of "precarious statutes" referring to political conflicts following colonialism and the rare engagement with postcolonialist theories. Nevertheless, the potential is recognized. For Chakrabarty in Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference published in 2000, there is a provincialization of knowledge produced in Europe and North America.

In The Colonial Present, published in 2004, Derek Gregory approaches the "war on terror" as a series of space stories taking place elsewhere. He takes the example of Afghanistan as the site of conflict between the United Kingdom and Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries, between the Soviet Union and the United States from 1979 to 1989 and as the site of the war on terror after September 11.

(Post-)colonial spaces[edit | edit source]

In Edge of Empire: Postcolonialism and the City published in 1996, Jacobs became interested in the deconstruction of binaries and began to criticize the representation of imperialism. His argument is linked to the internal variability of imperialism. The evolutionist logic that legitimized colonialism and hierarchized the peoples of the world by producing radicalized classifications. Colonization could induce massive destruction of existing societies (wanted in Australia) or keep indigenous society "intact" but reoriented (wanted in India). There are differences within an imperial categorization system itself, such as competing ideologies and moralities to Terra nullius in Australia.

« The final result,'imperial domination', resulted from a multiplicity of encounters, whose pure oppression is simple, but also'sympathy and adaptation', as well as'antagonism, resentment and resistance'. »

— Said 1993, 47, in Jacobs, p. 103

According to Jacobs, imperialism of space is the concretization of imaginary geographies of desire through political subordination, economic dependence, imposed architectural forms and landscape transformation. Cartography (and baptism of places) is that maps are part of the territorial imperatives of a particular political system, notably that of imperialism. The production of cities is done through a transfer of European architectural styles and planning practices within the framework of the imperial domination project. They are important places for the transfer of a modern capitalist culture to new worlds. However, Jacobs stresses that "the use of peripheral territories for primary production and resource extraction facilitated, even implied, the growth of industrialised and commercially equipped urban centres at the heart of the empire.

Where to find the postcolonial? Structures of neo-colonialism were a prerequisite for decolonization movements. Diaspora groups, citizens of newly independent nations and indigenous peoples are still confronted with the power of neo-colonial formations. Some countries are as "metropolitan" as they are "postcolonial", as is the case in Australia, Canada or Ireland.

The political geography of land grabbing[edit | edit source]

This geography is linked to postcolonial approaches even if they are not very apparent in the analysis of this trend. Nevertheless, it is a phenomenon often cited as an illustration of imperialism or neo-colonialism. It is an example that shows that the postcolonial in temporal meaning should not be understood as a strong temporal dimension. It is also an example that shows that, in principle, political geography could address contemporary and material phenomena, not only critical history and representations.

Impact of projected food price increases on trade balances.jpg

The context of land grabbing is the context of the global food crisis of 2007 and 2008 with poor harvests, speculation, a lack of reserves as well as a surge in prices creating political and economic instability with strong mobilizations creating political and economic instability. There is also the global financial crisis 200 with the liquidity crisis, the real estate crisis and the euro crisis.

Food security refers to the purchase of agricultural land by countries dependent on food imports such as Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, India, Korea, Libya, Egypt, Uganda, Somalia, Brazil, Cambodia, Sudan, Pakistan or Kazakhstan. With the food crisis, benefits can be derived from financial returns creating financial instability with investments in land by investment firms, private equity funds, but also grain traders. Grain shows that it is a private control with public complicity: "Did someone say colonialism was a thing of the past".

China meets the needs of 40% of the population with 9% of agricultural land and has 1800 billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves. It is a "Go Abroad" investment policy with the purchase or lease of land in Kazakhstan, Queensland and Mozambique, but also the Philippines to grow rice, soya, maize and produce biofuels.

The Gulf States lack agricultural land and water, but have abundant oil. They are States with a high vulnerability to food and financial crises and a low-wage migrant labour population that provides political stability. The collective strategy of the Gulf Cooperation Council is to outsource food production through purchase and food-for-energy swaps in other Islamic countries.

There is an internal variability that shows to rethink classical binaries. Governments have lost confidence in the market, only direct control of land can ensure access to food products and the elimination of middlemen lowers prices. Workers, families and local communities will lose access to land for their own food production - loss of "food sovereignty". Investment in agriculture ("beyond imperialism's reach") is an asset, but agricultural sectors need to be restructured in terms of consolidation and exports.

Summary[edit | edit source]

While colonialism can be defined as the specific articulation of imperialism, a chronological perspective poses problems with what is "post-" or "neo-". Postcolonial and imperial studies demonstrate the problematic nature of binary as "centre - periphery", "self - other", "first world - Third World" and "North - South", and advance to their places tropes such as "hybridity", "diaspora", "creolization", "transculturation", "frontier". Political geography has only just begun to integrate postcolonial and imperial perspectives and dominates critical history approaches to colonialism through representations.

According to Jacobs' critique, there are important internal variabilities in imperialism, for which "imperial domination resulted from a multiplicity of encounters".

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]