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Genocide, Colonization and Imperialism Essay

In her book, Civilising Subjects, Catherine Hall discusses the case of British imperialism was partly the result of the colonizers trying to recreate newly-acquired territories into their image. They tried to transplant civilization, the way they understood it, to these new lands and along with that came the attitudes which did not change. This was what they tried to do when colonists or settlers came not only to put up roots in these new lands, but also to try and “civilize” the indigenous people in an effort to make them shed off their “savage” image.

Missionaries were mainly involved in these efforts (Hall, 2002). According to Mark Levene in his book, The Rise of the West and the Coming of Genocide, genocide is different from what other authors consider it to be (as a 20th century phenomenon). Levene says this falls short. Levene states that modernity gave impetus to genocide as nation-states began to emerge. As these (newer) nation-states grew in power and influence, they developed a different kind of nationalism that extolled pride in their achievements and the promotion and preservation of their heritage.

This kind of nationalism was considered detrimental to those who did not share the same national identity, namely the minorities which became the targets of genocide (Levene, 2005). A. Dirk Moses compiled a series of articles in a book titled Empire, Colony, Genocide. In his own article, Moses borrows the definition of genocide provided by Raphael Lemkin who actually coined the word which meant the destruction or emasculation of a local population by a foreign entity that occupies it.

In the application, genocide did not necessarily mean killing people but was also tied in with subjugation as the native population was compelled to adapt to the foreign occupiers culture and even submit to its authority. It was not merely physical but also cultural as well as the culture of the native population was gradually being eradicated, resulting in the loss of its local identity (Moses, 2008). In Uday Mehta’s article, Liberal Strategies of Exclusion, he emphasized the peculiar characteristic of states that regarded themselves as liberal in thinking.

When one thinks of liberalism, the connotations of freedom and equality come into play and everyone would think that the introduction of liberalism by the colonizers to their colonies would help even the playing field and speed up civilization efforts. But here, Mehta notices that this liberalism is not perfect as those who practice it tend to have a “double standard” characterized by exclusion of certain people, more often on account of race.

The basis of this is found in the theories of John Locke where Mehta noticed that while man (according to Locke) have natural obligations as defined by nature, this does not extend to political obligations. This explains why discrimination was very rife in the colonies and why the natives were not only subjugated but also marginalized. Despite the introduction of liberal ideas, the application was limited (Mehta, 1990).

In the age of imperialism, it is often characterized by discovery, followed by conquest which entailed occupying the land discovered and subjugating the original inhabitants there. But to a certain extent, this also led to the deaths of these original inhabitants and this could be brought about by the diseases “imported” by the colonizers or through force of arms because the indigenous people were regarded as a threat and had to be brought under control, even if it meant reducing their number to a more manageable level or annihilating them outright.

But given the explanations provided by other scholars, genocide also means the extinction of one’s culture and to lose this culture is to lose one’s social or cultural identity and the natives end up having a “damaged” culture by the time they are given independence which poses bigger problems as they try to manage their own affairs. Reference List Hall, C. (2002).

Civilising Subjects. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Levene, M. (2005). Genocide in the Age of the Nation State. The Rise of the West and the Coming of Genocide. New York: I. B. Tauris & Company Limited. Mehta, U. (1990). “Liberal Strategies of Exclusion. ” Politics and Society, 18 (4). 427-454. Moses A. D. (2008). Empire, Colony, Genocide. Bergahn Books.

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