Archive for the 'Decolonization' Category
Today is the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Roi Kwabena, someone whose presence in my own work and evolution was fundamental, a mentor and guide, a great example of a publicly engaged anthropologist — completely public, in the sense of not being tied to any academic position, and inspiring some to call themselves and see themselves as “cultural anthropologists” even without the formal “disciplining” meted out by a university program. I will not write another eulogy. I will instead quote his own words from one of his great spoken word pieces, Whether or Not: “We still thinkin’ ’bout yuh.” And by we, I mean we, since today we collaborated to set up a special ring of commemoration, between myself, Blackgirl on Mars, and Guanaguanare (and on Guacara Dreamtime), all of our lives having been touched directly by you Roi, each of us remembering you in our own way on our respective blogs. As some already know, this blog is dedicated to your memory.
The video below is an animation I made many months ago of one of Roi’s longer hybrid productions as featured on his Y42K album, part spoken word poem, part story, part melody. I was reserving featuring this video on this blog until I was ready for the next installment of (Video) Notes from the Indian Diaspora, which I began and then interrupted several months ago (see here, here, and here). Not to delay further, and to have something to commemorate Roi’s work, I present it now.
This is Sour Chutney, a story whose content is sadly like many that were told of the pains suffered personally and communally as part of the social ruptures of Indian indentureship in Trinidad. It is a story of the ardent defense of tradition and male domination in face of new realities, and the violence that is visited upon one “unlucky” young bride. Most chilling for me was the appearance of the “sin eater,” and the whole piece raised the many hairs on my back.
On this day last year, Dr. Roi Kwabena passed away from lung cancer, just one day after it was diagnosed. He had been hospitalized for suspected pneumonia. His loss weighed deeply on me, but today we celebrate his work, we don’t mourn his passing. Thank you so much Roi, for all you have done, and all you have inspired to be done in the future. You live on!
These are some surviving links to his work, still online:
- Music, Drumology, Dialogue
- Revived Temple of Ankhkara
- Response, Re-Evaluate, Retrospect
- Cultural Literacy
- Poetic Commissions
- Dialogue for Cultural Literacy
- Raka Books
- MySpace Page
- Publications for purchase
- On Wikipedia
- In The Independent (UK)
Also see, Dr. Roi Kwabena: Indigenous & African Heritages, when I first had the pleasure to introduce our friendship to readers online.
Continuing from the first post on July 23rd of what was intended to be a series, the reader can look forward to more regular roundups of news and media commentary that feature or engage concepts of contemporary colonization and historical colonialism, as well as past and present decolonization efforts. As much as we would all like to be past colonialism, it still weighs very heavily and has left a deep imprint on many social, economic, and political situations around the globe.
Select extracts from each article are provided below.
TIMES ONLINE, Dec. 8, 2008
…The Zimbabwean government has continued to brush away the voices of criticism from abroad, often accusing Western governments of colonialism and of plotting to bring down the Zimbabwean state.
Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, the Information Minister, dismissed Mr Sarkozy’s remarks.
“Zimbabwe is a sovereign state with a president elected in accordance with the constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Mr Ndlovu.
“No foreign leader, regardless of how powerful they are, has the right to call on him to step down on their whim.”
by Chenjerai Cjitsaru, Association of Zimbabwe Journalists, Dec. 8, 2008
The attitude is that the entire Western bloc ought to atone for its brutal colonization of Africa by helping Zimbabwe to get out of the political, social and economic rut in which a group of selfish politicians has plunged it for the past nine years….
Even the United States has its dark past in Africa. In sending former African slaves back to Liberia from the US, it created a situation which pitted the new Africans against the indigenous people….
One country which today remains in turmoil had the misfortune of being colonized by the stiff upper-lipped, cold-blooded British, and the excitable, pasta-gobbling, trigger-happy Italians. Somalia has known little peace since independence in 1960. The Italians are generally acknowledged as having been the cruelest colonialists.
by Bashir Goth, ONLINE OPINION (Australia’s e-journal of social and political opinion), Nov. 25, 2008
this [the electoral victory of Obama] was something the world had never seen the like of it in living memory.
In Africa this was equal to the 1960s when the wind of change for freedom was blowing over the continent and Africans were breaking the chains of colonialism. Obama’s victory was embraced throughout the world as a victory of character over colour as was dreamt by Martin Luther King, a victory of human equality over bigotry and a success story that could only be written in America….
as an African who as a young student was imbibed with Africa’s post colonial nationalism, the literature of Negritude, the horrors of apartheid in South Africa and the last vestiges of colonialism in former Rhodesia, Mozambique and Angola, I can understand why Africa should rejoice in Obama’s victory.
But as the last echoes of the event faded away, I asked myself, why Africa should rejoice? Obama’s victory is an American victory; a victory that was conceived and delivered in America. Africans had celebrated as if an African dream leader had been elected for the continent; as if the African people would wake up to a new dawn where all their suffering and hardships would disappear.
by Sokari Ekine, Canadian Content, Dec. 5, 2008
The present conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) highlights the role of multinational and Western mining interests in helping to fuel conflict and inflict human rights violations in other African countries, including Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea. But the scramble for Africa’s rich resource base is leading not only to conflict but, as a recent article on Tanzanian mining shows, also to a push towards re-colonization:
‘Multinational mining activities are introducing another era of colonialism in Tanzania as they hold major decisive positions on the use of prime land areas, and profit greatly from the mining of valuable mineral resources. In the recent past, Tanzanians have raised concerns on how the multinational mining companies plunder the natural resources at the expense of the local people. Because of the prevalent high rates of this pillaging of the national stock of natural resources, the citizenry have woken with an uproar to question the government’s stance on ensuring land security for its people, and benefits from their resources.’
by Mwalimu George Ngwane, AllAfrica.com, Dec. 5, 2008
On December 5, 1958, Kwame Nkrumah convened the first-ever pan African Congress in Africa specifically in his home soil of Accra-Ghana. The main objectives of that Congress were to “accelerate the liberation of Africa from imperialism and colonialism and to develop the feeling of one community among the peoples of Africa with the object of enhancing the emergence of a United States of Africa.”
Fifty years later, the continent’s search for a united Africa has been bedevilled by two kinds of leaderships; one which appeals to global sympathy and the other which arouses continental empathy.
Bala Usman, the late renowned Nigerian Political Scientist, defined globalisation as ‘an empty political cliché with a neo-colonial outfit’. His compatriot, Tade Akin Aina, defined globalisation as a new phase of capitalist expansion, focussed on exploitation, accumulation, inequality and polarisation.
In its most basic form, Senegalese writer, Demba Moussa Dembele, regards globalisation and structural adjustment programmes as being among the main instruments of the West’s recolonisation strategy of the African continent.
by Mengfei Chen, New University, Volume 42, Issue 9, Nov. 17, 2008
A few weeks back, someone defaced the Cecil Rhodes statue on campus. “Fuck you and your dreams of empire,” read the message scrawled sloppily in black paint on the granite base. Day after day, the words remained. Students barely spared it a glance on the way to class. The administration ignored it. Even the cleaning staff seemed to have better things to do. It was two full weeks before someone found the time to remove, with little ceremony, the graffiti.
At one time, the lack of interest would have surprised me. After all, it’s Africa. People here have more cause to care about empire than just about anyone else. But it didn’t. Among students at the University of Cape Town, a distinct apathy, on the surface at least, exists toward the colonial past. As I discovered at the beginning of the semester, most classes in the history department are filled with exchange students. The locals at Africa’s premier university take classes in accounting, management or biology. In a tight job market, it is wiser to acquire practical money-making skills for the future than to spend time contemplating a past that cannot be changed.
CARIBBEAN and SOUTH AMERICA
Nov. 13, 2008 (author unidentified)
After expressing his satisfaction with his visit to Cuba, [Ethiopia's Minister of State for Foreign Relations, Tekeda] Alemu stressed the important role played by Cuban soldiers in the 1970′s in the preservation of Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and stability.
He pointed out that Ethiopians will never forget Cuban internationalists or their participation in the fight for the national liberation against colonialism and neo-colonialism in the so-called Black Continent.
PRENSA LATINA, Dec. 5, 2008
Havana, Dec 5 (Prensa Latina) A summit meeting of the leaders of Cuba and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries will be held here next week aiming at building closer ties. The Dec 8 summit of the 15-nation grouping would also focus on “implementation of gradual reforms including encouragement to private-sector business initiatives”, a Caricom secretariat release said Wednesday….
The Caricom summit is expected to invite Cuban leader and former president Fidel Castro as a special guest in recognition of his contribution to the region’s fight against colonialism.
caribbean360.com, Dec. 1, 2008
HAVANA, Cuba, December 1, 2008 – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders will honour former Cuban President Fidel Castro, at the upcoming third CARICOM-Cuba Summit, for his contributions to the region and Africa.
CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington singled out Mr Castro’s aiding South African nations, like Namibia and Angola, in their fight against apartheid and colonialism, and for providing medical training to Caribbean countries.
EL UNIVERSAL (Caracas), Nov. 26, 2008
During his key speech at the opening session of the Third Extraordinary Summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez asked the global super powers to respect the sovereignty of Latin American nations.
“We make an appeal to respect our sovereignty; to be allowed to rebuild ourselves after the disaster left by centuries of colonialism,” he said.
He lamented that the media of most countries accuse his government of meddling. “The biggest interventionist in the world is called the United States. I am accused of meddling when, for instance, everybody knows that the United States has been trying to destabilize the government of (Bolivian president) Evo Morales,” said Chávez, as quoted by state-run news agency ABN.
Dwight Garner, THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 18, 2008
“For a successful immigrant writer to take such a position,” Mr. French continues, “was seen as a special kind of treason.”
But Mr. French quickly and adroitly steps back to give us a wide-angled and morally complicated view of how Mr. Naipaul, knighted in 1990 and named a Nobel laureate in 2001, made his way in the world, how his greatest books were conceived and composed, how he became what he became: genius, loner, sexual obsessive, ogre, snob, provocateur and profoundly influential and controversial thinker on subjects like colonialism and belief and unbelief.
Born into an Indian family in Trinidad in 1932, Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was raised in relative poverty. His hapless father, a sign painter and occasional journalist, was the inspiration for what may be Mr. Naipaul’s signal work of fiction, “A House for Mr. Biswas” (1961). Mr. Naipaul’s more animated mother, Mr. French suggests, inspired his literary voice: “bright, certain, robust, slightly mocking.”
A scholarship took Mr. Naipaul, at 18, to University College, Oxford, and he has lived in England ever since.
MIDDLE EAST and ASIA
by Farish A. Noor, THE NEW NATION (Bangladesh), Nov. 14, 2008
I recently had a conversation with an Indonesian political analyst in Singapore, where I am currently based.
In the course of our discussion about the state of Indonesian politics, he let slip a statement that I felt terribly uncomfortable with. While lamenting the state of Indonesia’s convoluted politics, he opined thus: “I wonder if Indonesia’s problems could be solved if we allowed a foreign government to run our country?”
Now, talk like this usually sends shivers up my spine. We will recall that up to the late 1990s, it even became fashionable to talk about the necessity for the re-colonisation of Africa. This sort of nonsense was all the rage in some American political magazines and journals, and of course this neo-colonial bile was dressed up in the discourse of altruism and universal humanism, as if the colonisation of any country was an altruistic act between fellow human concerned about the fate of others. Never mind the fact that the ones doing the colonising would be the same Western powers and the ones being colonised would be the same hapless denizens of the Third World.
MALAYSIA TODAY, Dec. 8, 2008
…the British proletariat became much better off than their compatriots in France or Germany.
This is where nationalism starts to come in. First, colonialism gave benefits to the English working class and improved their conditions. At about the time that Capital came out, British working class men received the vote (women did not get the vote until some decades later).
The vote gave the British working class an even greater share in the spoils of colonialism and imperialism…
MATHABA.net, Dec. 1, 2008
Colonialism sought to eliminate clerics from the country’s political scene with an aim of attaining its sinister goals but to no avail, he said.
The Victory of the Islamic Revolution is now regarded as the zenith of the enemies’ defeat in their campaign against religion and clerics, he said.
This is Ataklan again, with more video of Trinidad of a quality and nature that I could only hope to make myself. We have heard from Ataklan before on this blog, with “The Sun Starts to Rise,” which came around the time of the summer solstice, by lucky chance. Now as we enter into a darker fall, today we have “A Shadow in the Dark.” As is often the case with Trinidadian songs and videos that I like to feature here, my comrade Guanaguanare has posted this on her blog a while back, and transcribed it: see her post here.
More in a moment, but first here is the video:
I like the video for its messages of humility, tactical restraint, its suspicion and critique of dominant power, and the daily grind of those placed and held in the gutters of society:
Man, I’d rather be a shadow in the dark,
Than a big fool in spotlight.
I’d rather be a dog without a bark,
Than a loud dog without a bite.
It’s 3 Canal time again, with a video of Blue Devils dancing, classic figures from the pre-dawn J’ouvert of the Trinidadian carnival. There are many reasons why 3 Canal is the featured musical inspiration of this blog, not least of which is their rescuing of the potent political symbolism of carnival-as-resistance, their consistent critiques of capitalism and hegemony, their philosophical dwelling in the working class street, and of course their hybrid musical inventions.
Today Washington crooks cook up a transfer of public wealth into the mismanaging hands of the super wealthy, because otherwise the failure of “capitalism that works” (we have been fed a diet of propaganda of how capitalism is the best possible system, the only system that works, no viable alternatives) might have caused some “shock” to people in growing tent cities, in jobless lines, people losing their homes? Those realities of dispossession and loss will continue regardless of Wall Street’s improved health, and indeed, because of it.
This is a “world turned upside down” in another sense than the one intended by 3 canal — this is Americans’ much hated “socialism” (public funds wielded by an interventionist state) coming to the rescue of capitalism. And they will pay for it very dearly. In the meantime, John McCain entertains fantasies of no new spending on social programs, but lots of new spending on national security — an aspiring “war president” of perverse proportions, who thinks you can run an army without an economy, presumably because he is confident that China and the Gulf States will continue lending the U.S. money for its imperial adventurism? McCain looks more like an old guard figure of the declining USSR, a war-a-holic headed for the same exit, coincidentally also stuck up his melanoma in Afghan sand.
- Public financed private wealth
- State bailouts for the “free market”
- A national war economy funded by foreign lenders
- Securing economic health (for the dwellers of the tent cities?)
- An aspiring VP Palin, who thinks the bailout is about health care…
Enjoy it, it’s your state sanctioned madness.
Arising from the post on Italy’s decision to pay compensation to Libya for Italian colonial domination, a number of questions and issues come to mind:
- Injustices were suffered by non-state nations, by ethnic groups, by “tribes” and by individuals. How is payment by the colonizing state to the “independent” state supposed to remedy those injustices?
- The process also seems to fortify the central role of the state in human affairs, and more than that, it assumes that states in receipt of compensation will be fair in using the proceeds for the benefit of those who suffered.
- A one-time pay off can imply non-recognition of the continuing inequalities between nations, between those in the centre and the periphery, and unequal capital accumulation.
- Receipt of payment, by a state, implies continuing incorporation and adherence to a global capitalist state system.
- As mentioned before, there is the problematic assumption that one can tally human suffering and translate it into a monetary figure.
- Compensation also implies that the wrongs of colonialism have now been settled, and it ignores forms of continuing colonialism.
- There is the paradox that by remembering history, and treating it as an account to be settled, an outstanding balance to be collected, that in the post-payment phase forgetting history is now sanctioned — why revisit old wrongs when amends have been made?
- Compensation paid to another state externalizes the apology — what will a state such as Italy do to decolonize itself within, so that it learns the lessons of colonialism, and commits itself to never again dehumanizing, oppressing, and exploiting other people? Will a right winger like Silvio Berlusconi now lead anti-NATO marches shouting, “Hands Off Afghanistan?”
These are the questions that worry me about this compensation issue, aside from the calculated business moves that are veiled by what appears to be a cynical, false sense of remorse. When looking at compensation processes one has to think of actors, intentions, institutions and the context in which compensation occurs. What I think we are witnessing in the Italian case is a blunt, cold pragmatism that cares nothing at all for Libyan victims, and instead serves as one way that the dominant system produces its own apologia, excuses and legitimates itself in the process. The real outcome here is that Italy has compensated Italy.