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#1 Nov 30, 2018 4:32 pm

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Culture, the Colonizer and the Colonized

Aimé Césaire, the Pan-Africanist poet, author and politician from Martinique, looks at “culture” from the perspective of the struggle between the colonized and the colonizer. In his writings he explored the roles of cultures and civilizations, and explained why these are so critical to the drive for true independence from the colonial powers.

“Culture” tends to be national in focus, whereas groups of different cultures with certain similarities get referred to as a “civilization”: European civilization, African civilization. It could be said that the Caribbean falls within this category; although national cultures and languages differ significantly, there are certain similarities that would lead us to define a “Caribbean Civilization”.

Language is an important tool of colonial control and the debasement of native cultures; history is full of examples of the French, British and Belgian colonizers banning natives from speaking in their own tongues, at least in the presence of the colonizer. The colonizer devolves only as much education, culture and power to the colonized as is absolutely necessary to allow the colony to fulfill its true function: to supply the colonizer with raw materials, manpower and markets. The capitalism of the colonizer is never replicated in the colonized: plantation/mineral economies export raw materials to the "mother country" for processing and value added; that's where the wealth accumulates.

The illusion of the colonizer is that they are creating new cross-cultures, between themselves and their natives, such as Afro-European or Euro-Asian, with elements of the culture of both colonizer and colonized. The power dynamics make this a fallacy: there is no borrowing or adoption of the colonizer’s culture; it is not voluntary, unlike Japan, which voluntarily adopted elements of European culture and created a new, Euro-Japanese culture.

Ultimately, all colonization leads to the death of the civilization of the conquered.

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