Read this excerpt from Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction by Robert J.C. Young:

“Since the early 1980s, postcolonialism has developed a body of writing that attempts to shift the dominant ways in which the relations between western and non-western people and their worlds are viewed.

What does that mean? It means turning the world upside-down. It means looking from the other side of the photograph, experiencing how differently things look when you live in Baghdad or Benin rather than Berlin or Boston, and understanding why. It means realizing that when western people look at the non-western world what they see is often more a mirror image of themselves and their own assumptions than the reality of what is really there, or of how people outside the west actually feel and perceive themselves…

Post-colonialism claims the right of all people on this earth to the same material and cultural well-being. The reality, though, is that the world today is a world of inequality, and much of the division falls across the broad division between people of the west and those of the non-west. This division between the rest and the west was made fairly absolute in the 19th century by the expansion of the European empires, as a result of which nine-tenths of the entire land surface of the globe was controlled by European, or European-derived, powers.

Colonial and imperial rule was legitimized by anthropological theories which increasingly portrayed the peoples of the colonized world as inferior, childlike, or feminine, incapable of looking after themselves (despite having done so perfectly well for millennia) and requiring the paternal rule of the west for their own best interests. The basis of such anthropological theories was the concept of race. In simple terms, the west/non-west relation was thought of in terms of whites versus the non-white races. White culture was (and remains) the basis for ideas of legitimate government, law, economics, science, language, music, art, literature – in a word, civilization.”


“What is Neocolonialism?”


Open your journal and capture your reflections in response to the reading and video. Respond to the following questions:

  • If you are traveling to Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, or India, reflect on the place-specific reading you have done thus far. What are the most obvious legacies of colonialism in the place you will visit?
  • Are there ways you can perceive the impact of neocolonialism in our own American context?
  • How does global colonialism impact you harmfully? How does it benefit you?
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