Decolonization / Descolonización

How does the concept of “decolonization” help or does not help you to criticize Polanco’s “New Ethnic Struggle and Political-Theoretical Transformation” (1997) & Hamalainen’s “Reversed Colonialism” of the Comanche Empire (2008)?

The concept of “decolonization” is from Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin’s “Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts” (2nd edition).

Student 1:

The reading by Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin defines decolonization as dismantling colonist power in all its forms, which ultimately entails the dis empowerment of the aspects of colonial institutional and cultural forces that remain even after achieving independence. In Pekka’s text I found the need for decolonization in the author’s very notion of reverse colonialism, in that the author displayed that certain political and economic activities (land acquisition, trade, etc.), as undertaken by the Comanche’s, were linked to the notion of colonialism and were consequently described as reverse-colonial practices. This is an instance where the process of decolonization finds applicability in western discourse, especially in its recounting successful indigenous reactions to colonialism – The successes of indigenous movements should be recounted in their own rights, and not as a reversed introduced process. In his text, Polanco reports the attempts made by indigenous groups to be recognized on the national level using constitutional reform, such as in the case of Chile, Brazil and Paraguay. The latter efforts put forth by indigenous groups make use of colonial institutional aspects (constitutions) to promote their agenda. This is proof that decolonization has yet to occur in the Latin American aspect; the indigenous peoples have yet to find a non-colonial means of promoting their agenda. The effects of the inability to “decolonize” in the promoting the agenda of different indigenous groups was the inconsistencies experienced as a result; Polanco, in page 89, mentioned that self-government proposals as ethnic projects were not politically effective since they did not take into account the social conditions on the ground. This example sheds light on the fact, even in attempting to advance a self-government agenda, there are social conditions on the ground which might still bear the mark of colonialism, consequently rendering such efforts inapplicable in reality.

* * *

Student 2:

The concept of “decolonization” helps me in criticizing and better understanding Polanco’s chapter five; however, it does not help me in criticizing Hamalainen’s “Reversed Colonialism.”

Polanco states that ethnic-national questions on integrationism, ethnicism, and objectivism were inquired by the indigenous movements in Latin America. These kinds of indigenist perspective (p. 88) is what the nations need to decolonize. He provides some examples which may be the result of a decolonization effort in Latin America, like acceptance of the rights of indigenous peoples, legitimacy of their sociocultural demands and their capability to act as “mobilizing forces” in the nation (p. 90). However, there are still remnants of colonization, like the division created by class as ethnicity dissolved (p. 89) and prejudices that still exist (p. 90). These are exactly what Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin describes about decolonization: persistence of political, economic and cultural models, formation of elite class in the colonies and the neo-colonialism that adopts western global capitalism (p. 57). These remnants are what makes decolonization impossible.

The concept of decolonization does not help me in criticizing Hamalainen’s text because the Comanche empire as he describes was rejecting colonial powers. Therefore, the “dismantling of colonial power in all its forms” was not necessary in the Comanche’s territory. That is why one cannot critique the text. However, one could certainly criticize Hamalainen’s perspective. He perceives the Comanches from his colonial lens and describes them with colonial ideas, for example, “borderlands” (non-existent in the Comanche culture) and “conventional” (implying that the Comanche’s story is not a conventional history). This is a prime example of how authorship may need decolonizing instead. It is important to consider that while certain indigenous cultures were not influenced by the colonial powers, the scholars who study these groups certainly are influenced by their colonial background or education.



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