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Presentation on Colonialism.

Fatima Javaid
MPHIL English Literature
Semester II

olonialism The term colonialism is important in defining the specific form of cultural
exploitation that developed with the expansion of Europe over the last 400 years. Although
many earlier civilizations had colonies, and although they perceived their relations with them
to be one of a central imperium in relation to colonialism
A periphery of provincial, marginal and barbarian cultures, a number of crucial factors
entered into the construction of the post-Renaissance practices of imperialism. Edward Said
offers the following distinction: imperialism means the practice, the theory, and the
attitudes of a dominating metropolitan centre ruling a distant territory; colonialism, which
is almost always a consequence of imperialism, is the implanting of settlements on distant
territory (Said 1993: 8). The scale and variety of colonial settlements generated by the
expansion of European society after the Renaissance shows why the term colonialism has
been seen to be a distinctive form of the more general ideology of imperialism. Although
Saids formula, which uses imperialism for the ideological force and colonialism for the
practice, is a generally useful distinction, European colonialism in the post-Renaissance world
became a sufficiently specialized and historically specific form of imperial expansion to justify
its current general usage as a distinctive kind of political ideology.
It also meant that the relation between the colonizer and colonized was locked into a
rigid hierarchy of difference deeply resistant to fair and equitable exchanges, whether
economic, cultural or social. In colonies where the subject people were of a different race, or
where minority indigenous peoples existed, the ideology of race was also a crucial part of the
construction and naturalization of an unequal form of intercultural relations. Race itself, with
its accompanying racism and racial prejudice, was largely a product of the same postRenaissance period, and a justification for the treatment of enslaved peoples after the
development of the slave trade of the Atlantic Middle Passage from the late sixteenth century
onwards. In such situations the idea of the colonial colonialism world became one of a people
intrinsically inferior, not just outside history and civilization, but genetically pre-determined
to inferiority. Their subjection was not just a matter of profit and convenience but also could
be constructed as a natural state.
In the case of the non-indigenous inhabitants of settler colonies, the idea of a
cultural inferiority exceeded that of mere provincial gaucherie as race permeated even the
construction of white settlers. These were frequently characterized as having wholly
degenerated (gone native) from contact with other races, as in the case of white creoles in
the West Indies (Brathwaite 1971), or, in the case of settler colonies such as Canada or
Australia, as having developed specific limited colonial colonialism characteristics (physical

prowess, sporting ability) but not others (cultural and social sophistication). The same practice
of characterizing colonial peoples by signifiers of naivety, of social and cultural provinciality
and of originary taint (e.g. Irishness was imported from the internal discriminations of
Britain in the Victorian period to its colonialist constructions of both America and Australia)
was a feature of English texts even as late as the early twentieth century.
This was so even for Americans, despite independence and the radical shift in their
own power position in the world at large after American industrialization in the late
nineteenth century (see, for example, the presentation of Americans in such late nineteenthcentury and early twentieth-century texts as Conan Doyles Sherlock Holmes stories, or
Shaws Man and Superman). Thus the negative construction of self was as important a
feature of self-representation for settler colonies as for colonies of occupation where race and
the idea of an alien or decayed civilization were a feature of colonial discrimination.
Empire became the principal ideological unifier across class and other social divisions
in Britain. It was to be the principal colonialism icon of national unity in the face of the
widely perceived social threat of class unrest and revolution that had arisen in postindustrial
British society. An other (the colonized) existed as a primary means of defining the colonizer
and of creating a sense of unity beneath such differences as class and wealth and between the
increasingly polarized life of the industrialized cities that developed the wealth and that of
the traditional countryside to which its beneficiaries retreated or retired. The colonialist
system permitted a notional idea of improvement for the colonized, via such metaphors as
parent/child, tree/branch, etc., which in theory allowed that at some future time the inferior
colonials might be raised to the status of the colonizer. But in practice this future was always
endlessly deferred. It is significant that no society ever attained full freedom from the colonial
system by the involuntary, active disengagement of the colonial power until it was provoked
by a considerable internal struggle for self-determination or, most usually, by extended and
active violent opposition by the colonized. It is one of the great myths of recent British
colonial history in particular that the granting of independence to its colonies was the result
of a proactive and deliberate policy of enlightenment on the part of the British people, a
policy that distinguished British colonialism from the inferior and more rapacious European
brands. Such readings are, of course, part of the construction of the ideology of late
nineteenth-century imperialism in which literary representation played a vigorous part,
whether actively as in the work of Kipling, or in a more ambivalent way in the works of
Conrad. Despite the anti-imperial strain in some of his writing, Conrad continues to
distinguish actively between the English model of colonialism, which has an ideal at the back
of it, and the mere rapacity of the imperialism of lesser breeds of imperialists. These

specious distinctions are projected back into the narratives of the rapacious Spanish
conquistadores, though the British treatment of the Indians in Virginia differed from that of
the Spanish only in quantity not in the degree of its brutality (Hulme 1986).

The European colonization of Africa was intended to bring the light of civilization and
European society to the darkness of an unknown and poorly understood continent.
In Heart of Darkness Conrad shows, through fiction, that the lack of moral and judicial
restraints in Africa allowed for the release of the darkness from the hearts of the colonists.
Darkness, whatever other resonances it comes to have, is literally determined by the reference
to cartography. But cartography is not the solution, but rather the problem, at least in its ideal
epistemological form as social cognitive mapping on the global scale.
The whole pretense behind the European colonists operations in Africa is to bring the light
of civilization. Marlow compares the Roman and British empires in his description of the
Thames river. Britain itself has been one of the dark places of the world, but since the
Romans first came here light came out of the river since. Herein Conrad provides an
allusion to the Roman occupation of Britain, and a historical indication of Britains intentions
and actions in Africa (Al-Dabbagh).
Joseph Conrad shows that one of the purposes of colonialism is the suppression of the
Natives beliefs and traditional way of life. Conrad begins with a focus on what the Company
overtly tells the public: They are going into the Congo to civilize the Natives. The Europeans,
on face level, seek to convert the inhabitants of the Congo region to the European way of life.
Marlows aunt believes as much when she states that he will participate in, weaning those
ignorant millions from their horrid ways (Conrad 77).
Marlows aunt sees the traditional ways of life of the Natives as horrid. She believes that the
European system is the only system that should be followed. The Europeans enlist the help of
the Natives in procuring ivory, and the Natives seeing a more lucrative opportunity, abandon

their villages to go to work for the Europeans and in the process, change their way of life.
Specifically, Marlow states that he passed through several abandoned villages (Conrad 87)
and that his foreman was a boiler-maker by trade (Conrad 99) showing that the Natives
have given up on their former way of life to pursue a life that they assume will be better with
the Europeans. As Marlow journeys up the river and hears the cries of the Natives coming
from behind a wall of thick foliage, he was a suspicion that they are inhuman (Conrad
108). Kurtz also believes that the Natives are in need of being humanized, improved, and
instructed in the European way of life.
The Europeans believe that the Natives are beneath them and in need of being cultured.
Despite the high and noble aspiration of civilizing the Natives, Conrad reveals that after the
Natives have abandoned everything to follow the Europeans, the true face of colonialism is
revealed. Joseph Conrad explains that colonialism is brutal and savage process. The Natives
are lulled into a false sense of security and then become slaves of the European colonizers. To
the Europeans, the Natives are valuable, if they are productive and supplying ivory and other
goods to the Europeans. Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against
the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the
attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair. . . . The work was going on. The work! And this
was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn to die. They were dying slowlyit
was very clear black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish
gloom. Brought from all the recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts, lost in
uncongenial surroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, and
were then allowed to crawl away and rest (Conrad 83).
The Europeans do not care about the health and working conditions of the Natives as long as
they are productive. This vivid observation by Marlow as he enters the grove of death
illustrates just how cruel the colonizers are with respect to what happens when the Natives
are no longer able to work.
When a fire burns down a storehouse full of goods a Native is beaten because They said he
caused the fire in some way (Conrad 92). Later, the Manager remarks that by punishing the
Native, regardless of if he had anything to do with the fire was the only way to prevent all
conflagrations for the future (Conrad 95). The Europeans who have traveled to Africa to
humanize the Natives treat the natives severely and inhumanly.
Through the actions of the Europeans, the Natives are made fearful and in order to protect
their lives and the lives of their families they submit to the will of the foreigners. What can
you expect? He came at them with thunder and lightning, you knowand they had never

seen anything like itand very terrible (Conrad 135). Here Kurtz had gone to the Natives
with weapons and frightened them so much so that they worshipped him as a deity and
brought him as much ivory as he desired.
The pilgrims and other Europeans Marlow encounters always have their rifles in hand and at
the ready and do not hesitate to pull the trigger if they believe that it will frighten the Natives.
Even as Marlow enters Africa he observes that a French warship was firing into the dense
jungle for no obvious reason except for frightening the natives and that the steamer upon
which he is a passenger stops at every port for the sole purpose of landing soldiers (Conrad
78). Conrad shows that colonialism operates primarily on a shock and awe mentality to get
what they need.
Finally, Conrad explores the true purpose of colonialism. Colonialism is really about
obtaining all of the natural resources of the land for profit and in the process, lay waste to the
country. The Europeans are far more interested in ivory that in civilizing the Natives. They
would rather obtain the most ivory through whatever means necessary for their advancement
within the company. The Europeans destroy the land so they can obtain every valuable object
out of the ground. Their talk, however, was the talk of sordid buccaneers: it was reckless
without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage; there was not an
atom of foresight or of serious intention in the whole batch of them, and they did not seem
aware these things are wanted for the work of the world. To tear treasure out of the bowels of
the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in
burglars breaking into a safe (Conrad 107).
Conrad reveals that colonialism is simply a brutal competition for dominance and control in a
foreign land where the only thing that matters is getting to the top regardless of how many
bodies have to be dumped by the wayside. Through Marlows journey up the Congo and into
the heart of darkness, the horrifying tools of colonialism are laid bare and the true purpose of
colonialism and the European capitalist approach is exposed.