Decolonization Buy from other retailers

Publication Date: Jan 3, 2023

192 pp


List Price US: $25.99

ISBN: 978-1-63542-103-3

Trim Size: 5.94 x 8.99 x 0.53 in.


List Price US: $13.99

ISBN: 978-1-63542-104-0


Unsung Heroes of the Resistance


DECOLONIZATION. Even the word is deceptive. As if the Western powers suddenly decided to give back control to the people they had conquered. As if, after engaging in such a radical form of domination, it was even possible to return to some hypothetical state of original purity. As if the historical process of decolonization wasn’t the upshot of constant rebellions lasting more than a century and extending from India to Senegal, from Algeria to Vietnam, from Kenya to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As if the engine of change had not been insubordination, rebellion, and insurrection. Countless words and actions that in the end forced white men and women to go home.
So it’s time to tell the story the right way around. From the point of view of its main actors: the people seeking their freedom. Give voice to the revolt, this breath of rebellion gusting far and wide. This fierce energy constantly dissipating and regrouping. This phoenix that died in one place only to be reborn in another. This iron will that took shape in the minds of women, the hearts of men, when injustice, wrongfulness, and domination became more unbearable than death itself. When human dignity was trampled underfoot morning, noon, and night. When the invaders from abroad finally got through to the colonized that there would never be equality between them.
When there was nothing left to lose.
It’s time to capture this spark, this breath of air, with words and sentences. Harness the poor means available to say the unsayable. This mix of love and hate. This cold rage, dull pain, infinite patience. Putting history back the right way around is like knocking over the table. An accident, a hole in the frame of language. It can’t be done with the usual words, with conventional turns of phrase. It calls for rhythm, nerve, transgression. It calls for speaking with the breath of the revolt itself. Breathing with the actors in this story. Accepting that they are the ancestors of us all. Wherever we’re from, whatever our skin color, our beliefs, our given name. Because in the end they fought for us all. So that the world might be more habitable for each of us. By taking back control of their own life, the insurgents also freed their oppressors.

“Brushing History Against the Grain”

Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Captain James Cook . . . Joseph Dupleix, Cecil Rhodes, Charles Gordon, Hubert Lyautey . . . or yet again Franklin D. Roosevelt, Clement Attlee, Pierre Mendès France, Charles de Gaulle — any well-versed high school student can reel off a list of the heroes of exploration, colonization, and even decolonization. But all of them are of European descent. As though the parties most deeply implicated — the Amerindian, Asian, and African populations — had no part to play. As though, in the role of passive victims or powerless barbarians, they were absent from their own history. This imperial fiction has been debunked by several generations of researchers who have made it their task to restore alternate points of view and to supply the missing parts of a common history. The present book initiates us into this reversal of perspective by focusing on resistance movements against Western colonial domination. It summons up a more complex past than is retailed either by the neocolonialist historians of the former imperial powers or the nationalist historians of the former colonies. Although they privilege opposing political options, both groups overestimate the Europeans’ ability to dominate. The supposed omnipotence of the West was a notion welcomed by both the self-satisfied Western elites and the new rulers of the former colonies, who found it a useful political argument both to excuse their derelictions and to maintain their power. The colonial enterprise provoked fierce resistance from the outset in Asia and Africa. The conquest and occasional acquisition of territories was usually a slow process — difficult and never entirely successful. Far from resembling the glossy image of imperial peace, European domination was constantly challenged by activist minorities while a small fraction of indigenous elites cooperated with the colonizers to secure their own social and economic power. This collaboration was a sine qua non of colonial expansion. “To brush history against the grain,” Walter Benjamin’s felicitous phrase, consists in discovering — from below — the capacity for action of the “colonized,” the anonymous women and men who decolonized the contemporary world. And putting back on the shelf once and for all the reassuring hagiographies and imposing nationalist icons, to heed instead the point of the proverb so dear to the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe: “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter!”

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