Frantz Fanon and South Asia
Frantz Fanon a Marxist who had joined the Algerian independence war wrote about the prejudice of, what he called, the “colonial alienation of the person” as a mental health issue. In ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ (French: Les Damnés de la Terre), published in 1961, Fanon analyzed how French colonization and the carnage of the Algerian War had mentally affected Algerians’ self-identity and mental health. 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.During the period of European colonial rule in India, Europeans in India typically regarded many aspects of Indian culture with disdain and supported the colonial rule as a beneficial “civilizing mission beneficial to the people of India”, rather than a process of political and economic dominance by a small minority of foreigners. Albeit under colonial rule, many practices were outlawed, such as the practice of forcing widows to immolate themselves (known as sati). Colonel Sir William Sleeman when Lord William Bentinck was Governor General of India was instrumental in suppressing the Thugs who idolized Maa Kali and used to rob people of their belongings.
The practice was discouraged by Evangelical missionaries claimed by some scholars to have played a significant role in the development of the modern definition of Hinduism. These claims based their assumptions on the lack of a unified Hindu identity prior to the period of colonial rule. Hindu nationalism developed in the 19th century as a portrayal 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 practices 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.
Some critics have claimed that Rudyard Kipling’s portrayals of Indian characters supported the view that colonized people were incapable of living without the help of Europeans as racist. In his famous poem “The White Man’s Burden”, Kipling argued for this point by romanticizing the “civilizing mission” in non-Western countries. Similar sentiments appeared 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 has also been criticized as example of the chauvinistic portrayal 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 usually used in a derogatory fashion derived 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 present-day 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 speakers. Contrarily, Joseph Conrad in ‘Heart of Darkness’ narrates through Marlow’s story that Darkness takes 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 rule.
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” 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 “savages” who remained to be “civilized”. 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 book somewhat open to criticism it does allow ‘Heart of Darkness’ to extend its criticism of colonialism all the way back to its corrupt source, the “civilization” of Europe. Allied is the term “American imperialism” that refers to the economic, military, and cultural influence of the United States internationally American imperialism is partly based on American exceptionalism, a term coined by political scientist Simon Martin Lipset, based on 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.” Then came the use of the term: 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 social groups leads to social progress, as superior groups surpass inferior ones. Also popular was the term “American Exceptionalism” (mentioned earlier)-a belief, central to American political culture since the Revolution, that Americans have a unique mission among nations to spread freedom and democracy. Close by was the term “American Imperialism”, also mentioned earlier, referred to the economic, military, and cultural influence of the United States on other countries.
The advent of 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 Pinpointing the actual beginning of American imperialism is difficult. Some historians suggest that it began with the writing of the Constitution; some would like to trace the imperial behavior of the United States to the Louisiana Purchase. Critics describe this event as an, “aggressive encroachment of one people upon the territory of another, resulting in the subjugation of that people to alien rule.” They refer to the U.S. policies toward Native Americans, as “designed to remold them into a people more appropriately conformed to imperial desires.” 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.
The American Anti-Imperialist League opposed the annexation of Hawaii on the ground that 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 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. 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. 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. Joseph Conrad in his book Heart of Darkness expresses Joseph Conrad’s skepticism about imperialism. Set in Central Africa Conrad and presents “a ruthlessly ironic view of European colonialism and the pretension of civilization” The narrative 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.
According to some a partial explanation of Conrad’s skepticism 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. It is no surprise that criticism of the European civilization appears 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 skepticism about imperialism. For example, “An Outpost of Progress” set in Central Africa and presents “a ruthlessly ironic view of European colonialism and the pretension of civilization” 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 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.
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. The 21st century witnessed Woodrow Wilson’s conflict with his belief of isolationism of reducing overseas intervention and the sounds of the coming World War. President Woodrow Wilson who differed with Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft’s policies of intervention had to revise his thinking on isolationism with the developments in Europe sparked by the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Astro-Hungarian Empire in June 1914.
The Great War witnessed the use of new artillery, tanks, airplanes, machine guns, barbed wire, and poison gas causing death and destruction of a multitude of people. The introduction of U-boats by Germany to attack both merchant and military ships, in violation of international law, to break the British naval blockade and the sinking of the Lusitania forced President Wilson to ask Congress to declare war on Germany in 1917. Thus the world saw a sea change with the Second World War in a few decades with the US hegemony that lasted till the age of multi-polarity came into being. Joe Biden has just completed his first year in office. It remains to be seen how he responds to the provocations of Sino-Russian marriage of interest and how he responds to Russian demands of no further enlargement of NATO.