Discourse on Colonialism

by Aimé Césaire

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Last Updated on June 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 194

Discourse on Colonialism is an essay by Aime Césaire, originally published in the French language in the year 1950. The essay presents its readers with the question, "What, fundamentally, is colonization?" Césaire frankly states that colonialism is barbarism (meaning cruel and barbaric), and calls out powerful European countries for their exploitation and torture of the people living in colonies like Madagascar, Indochina, and the West Indies. Césaire himself was originally from Martinique, an island that was colonized by France in the 17th century, and so he truly understood the hypocrisy of white European colonizers claiming that their savage treatment of people in colonized countries was anything near "civilization." As Césaire says, colonialism is not:

evangelization, nor a philanthropic enterprise, nor a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, and tyranny, nor a project undertaken for the greater glory of God, nor an attempt to extend the rule of law.

Being a political essay, Discourse on Colonialism does not have any characters. The author does discuss many real-life colonizers, religious and political leaders, and philosophers, including Ernest Renan, Hitler, Albert Sarraut, Carl Siger, Colonel Lucien de Montagnac, and Paul Ramadier.

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