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Colonizer and Colonized

Colonizer and Colonized



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Published by Medway08
Review of Albert Memmi's book
Review of Albert Memmi's book

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Published by: Medway08 on May 22, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Ana-Maria BlanaruPoli 390 Book Review # 2September 27
Albert Memmi: The Colonizer and The Colonized
, Orion Press (New York: 1965)
The Colonizer and The Colonize
, Memmi’s primary argument is that the collapse of colonialism is inevitable and that the only means for this eventual collapse will come throughrevolt. To substantiate the inevitability of this claim, Memmi invokes extensive use of  psychoanalysis to paint generalized portraits of individuals falling into the categories of colonizer or colonized and to explain their relationship within the context of colonialism. He pursues a largely deterministic approach in his argumentation, most succinctly depicted in hisstatement that ‘man is a product of his objective situation’. (Memmi, xvi) His portraits of colonizer and colonized emerge from this paradigm, as he maps out the influences of the colonialcontext on the ultimate psychological make-up of colonizers and colonized, and hence their reactions to colonialism.The colonizer assumes the behaviours inherent in his role (brutality, oppression, exploitation, bigotry, etc.) after he arrives in the colony and has his actions determined by the institutions andsocial rules that already exist there. Memmi asserts that economic gain is the fundamentaldriving force of colonialism, which in turn explains the situation of sustained exploitation carriedout by the colonizers. To highlight this determinism, Memmi tests his hypothesis against the behaviour of Italians – a non-colonial group of Europeans. He points out that ‘having no special
reason to do so, Italians [did] not maintain a great distance between themselves and thecolonized’ (Memmi, 15), placing into context the behaviour of the actual colonizers.After describing the colonizer, Memmi moves to a mythical portrait of the colonized, as seenthrough the eyes of the colonizer, which incorporates the attribution of negative traits such aslaziness, corruption and lack of civility to the colonized. Central to this discussion is the issue of racism, which Memmi defines as ‘the substantive expression, to the accusers benefit, of a real or imaginary trait of the accused’. (Memmi, 81) He further states that (and here a parallel can bedrawn to Cesaire’s concept of ‘thingification’ - Cesaire, 42) it is the colonizer’s supremeambition to turn the colonized into an object existing only as a function of the needs of thecolonizer. (Memmi, 86)The mythical portrait is not only central to understanding the colonizer’s behaviour but also tocomprehending the context shaping the behaviour and thought processes of the colonized (sinceall social institutions and relations between the two groups are founded upon the colonizers’constructed myths). Memmi also argues that there is a negative correlation between the brutalityemployed by colonizers and the humanism and other positive attributes found in the colonized.However, colonialism not only serves to brutalize the colonized but also to instill in theminferiority and submission complexes that prevent them from acting to reverse colonialismsooner.Having established that the relationship between the colonizer and colonized is unstable byvirtue of its consequences, Memmi then seeks to show why colonialism can only end throughrevolt. To dismiss any hope of colonialism ending through the initiative of the colonizers,Memmi points to left-wing Europeans refusing to accept the status quo and hence acting in
discordance with it, going as far as to support the quest for freedom of the colonized. Whileserving to alienate them from the other colonizers, their actions are largely meaningless from the perspective of the colonized, who continue to group them with other colonizers and show nointention of advancing leftist doctrines once liberated, to the disillusionment of the left-wingerswho then abandon their cause.According to Memmi, the options thus remaining to bring about the end of colonialism are either assimilation of the colonized or revolt. Assimilation can never occur because inherent in it is theoverthrow of the colonial status quo, and as such it will never be tolerated by colonizers.Subsequently, the only tool left to the colonized is to reclaim their liberty by force.Finally, Memmi addresses the process of post-colonial reconstruction, most fundamental towhich is the re-establishment of a cohesive societal structure through such means as thereinstatement of the local language, the disbandment of social institutions created by thecolonizers, and a focus on nationalism and devout religious following.
Internal Evaluation and Critique
Memmi’s approach is based almost entirely on induction, using psychoanalysis to explore theactions of the two groups, and relying heavily on personal experience and observation, asopposed to concrete contemporary or historical examples. As such, the point of greatestcontention regards the external validity of his observations, which he generalizes universally toall people falling within the category of ‘colonizer’ or ‘colonized’. In his preface, which he usesas a tool to counter the main criticisms that can be brought against his methodology, the author 

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