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Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Subject: H-ASIA: Course on colonialism and its legacy: suggested readings

Course on colonialism and its legacy: suggested readings

A dialog on H-Asia list
April 1999

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 16:25:44 -0400
From: Shawn McHale <mchale@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu>

Dear list:

I will be teaching a course that addresses the theme of colonialism and the post-colonial legacy. I will concentrate on Asia. As I see this course right now, I will start with some general works on the rise of colonial empires, then zero in on the colonial period, and then the attempts in the post-colonial period to come to grips with this legacy. In particular, I am interested in any works that explore the links between the colonial and post colonial periods. (It seems to me that not enough work has been done on these links.)

Given that I am teaching this course in a school of international affairs, I am not planning to provide much from a lit crit/ cultural studies perspective. Or to put it a different way, I find that a lot of the work that I have read from these perspectives lacks a serious engagement with the history of colonialism, and therefore the claims made for the nature of postcoloniality are sometimes problematic. So I am less interested in such books. I am open to books from a subaltern studies perspective like Shahid Amin's EVEN METAPHOR MEMORY, however.

In any event, I would love to hear suggestions for readings from the list. I am interested in both books on Japanese and European colonialisms. Not surprisingly, I am interested in books that are well rooted in the history of particular colonialisms but that address broad issues and/or are comparative in focus. I am not only interested in recent scholarship: if any of you have suggestions for good classic readings in the topic, please tell me.

I look forward to your suggestions.

Shawn McHale
Assistant Professor History
George Washington University
Washington, DC 20052 USA

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 20:48:05 -0700
From: "Marilyn Levine, Lewis-Clark State College" <mlevine@lcsc.edu>

Dear Shawn:

There is a great book on French decolonization entitled: _Fast Cars, Clean Bodies : Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture_ by Kristin Ross (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1996); ISBN: 0262680912

The book looks at the linkage between the colonialist mentality and decolonization such as he increase in hygiene and speed within French culture as a consequence of the process of decolonization. Another great book for a class is by James Freeman, _Hearts of Sorrow: Vietnamese-American Lives_ (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ Pr; 1989); ISBN: 0804718903. Freeman, an anthropologist, gathered oral histories of Vietnamese and captures their life experiences before and after colonialism.

Both of these books would be very useful for an any kind of class audience because they provoke much thought and new concepts.

Good Luck,

Marilyn Levine

Marilyn A. Levine, Professor of Asian History
Division of Social Sciences, Lewis-Clark State College
500 8th Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501 USA
Phone (208) 799-2270 Fax (208) 882-8255
Homepage & Web Sites:

Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 06:08:08 -0400
From: Raymond Lum <rlum@fas.harvard.edu>

Shawn, et al.: This isn't a book, but an article about a book: Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine has an article by Pramodedya Anata Toer, "The Book That Killed Colonialism: As the West Clamored for Spices, the Novelist 'Multatuli' Cried for Justice." It's about the book MAX HAVELAAR, which also hs been made into a movie.

Raymond Lum
Harvard College Library
Harvard University

Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 06:08:54 -0400
From: "Laxman D. Satya" <lsatya@eagle.lhup.edu>

Partha Chatterjee's Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse is suggestive. It does a comparison of Bankim, Gandhi and Nehru in a chronological sequence spanning the colonial and post-colonial period.

Laxman D. Satya
Associate Professor
Department of History
Lock Haven University
Lock Haven
Pennsylvania 17745

Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 06:09:44 -0400
From: Stephanie Bangarth <sdbangar@watarts.uwaterloo.ca>

For any study of colonialism, consult the work of D. K. Fieldhouse, The Colonial Empires: A Comparative Survey from the Eighteenth Century. (1952). I also recommend Racism and Empire by Robert Huttenback. Both these works are useful in providing a good overview of the concept of colonialism and how it was practised by various European powers.

The literature dealing with colonial practices in North America is excellent, and may provide some nice context for any discussion of Asian colonialism. The two best pieces (in my opinion) are: Bernard Bailyn, The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction. (1986). This book is not lengthy and is wonderfuly written - a joy to read. See also Gary Nash, Red, White and Black: the Peoples of Early North America. (1992).

To end your course and thus nicely situate an empirical discussion of colonialism, follow-up with R. F. Holland's, European Decolonization, 1918-1981. Too often we historians forget to include the end result in our lectures.

Good luck. This sounds interesting.

Stephanie Bangarth
Department of History, University of Waterloo
Office (519) 888-4567, ext. 2486
Home (519) 888-9779

Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 12:01:53 -0400
From: James Blaut <70671.2032@compuserve.com>

I teach a grad seminar in geography, "Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism"; the following are the books I ask the students to read or skim:

Abu-Lughod, Janet. 1989. Before European hegemony: The world system A.D. 1250-1350. New York: Oxford University Press.

Alavi, H., Burns, P., Knight, G., Mayer, P., and McEachern, D. 1982. Capitalism and colonial production. London: Croom Helm.

Amin, S. 1976. Unequal development. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Amin, S. 1988. Eurocentrism. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Asad, T., ed. 1975. Anthropology and the colonial encounter. London: Ithaca Press.

Bernal, M. 1987. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic roots of classical civilization, Vol. 1., The fabrication of ancient Greece. London: Free Association Books.

Blaut, J., Frank, A. G., Amin, S., Dodgshon, R., Palan, R., and Taylor, P. 1992. Fourteen ninety two: The debate on colonialism, Eurocentrism, and history. Trenton, N. J.: Africa World Press.

Blaut, J. 1993. The colonizer's model of the world: Geographical diffusionism and Eurocentric history. New York and London: Guilford.

Cabral, A. 1979. Unity and struggle: Speeches and writings of Amilcar Cabral. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Cesaire, A. 1972. Discourse on colonialism. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Frank, A. G. 1978. World accumulation, 1492-1789. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Frank, A. G. 1998. ReORIENT. Berkeley: U. of Californoia Press.

Freire, Paulo. 1972. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.

Galeano, E. 1972. The open veins of Latin America. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Goody, J. 1997. The East in the West. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press.

James, C.L.R. 1938a. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo revolution. London: Secker and Warburg.

Mintz, S. W. 1985. Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin Books.

Needham, J., and collaborators. 1954-84. Science and civilization in China. 6 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Panikkar, K. M. 1959 Asia and Western influence. London: Allen and Unwin.

Rodney, W. 1972. How Europe underdeveloped Africa. London and Dar es Salaam: Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications and Tanzania Publishing House.

Said, E. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Random House.

Wallerstein, I. 1974-11988. The modern world system. 3 vols. New York: Academic Press.

Wiiliams, E. 1944. Capitalism and Slavery. Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina Press.

Wolf, E. 1982. Europe and the peoples without history. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 06:52:37 -0400
From: Edward Friedman <friedman@pop.polisci.wisc.edu>

What is colnialism? Does it include how people who control the capital city treat other kinds of people in their territory, a matter not limitted to Maori, Ainu and Cherokee, but including places from Chiapis to Tibet? Does it include imperial rule before the rise of Europe? Or is colonialism just another misleading Eurocentric idea which privileges the agency of Europeans, denying such agency to Incas and Aztec, Ottomans and Moghul, Mongols and Manchus?

Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 12:01:05 -0400
From: Ravi Arvind Palat <r.palat@auckland.ac.nz>

I have been teaching an undergraduate course on the Sociology of Colonialism for several years. While not specifically on Asia, I use a lot of Asian material. As a broad survey course, I found it worked best by using historical works--such as selections of Mark Ferro's _Colonization_ (Routledge, 1996), and Bipan Chandra's article on the stages of colonialism in _Journal of Contemporary Asia_ (1980)--with novels and films where possible. The second volume of Pramodeya Ananta Toer's _Buru Quartet_ proved very accessible to students. Another way to illustrate differences on attitudes to colonialism was to compare E. M. Forster's novel, _A Passage to India_, published in the early part of this century with the movie of the same name made in the 1980s. For Japanese colonialism, I used a couple of short stories but plan to use Richard Kim's _Lost Names_ the next time around. Some of the articles by Ann Stoler on the gendered nature of the colonial project were also particularly useful as was Lata Mani's much-anthologized article on Sati as an example of the generation of colonial forms of knowledge. An earlier version of the syllabus for the course can be found in Martha Gimenez (ed.), _Teaching resources for Marxist Sociology_ (Washington, DC: American Sociological Association, 1998). The most recent course outline with graphics and all is too big to post on this list but I will be happy to forward it to list members who request it.


Ravi Arvind Palat

Department of Sociology
University of Auckland
e-mail: r.palat@auckland.ac.nz

April 24, 1999
From: Gerald Jackson <gerald@nias.ku.dk>

At the risk of being seen to blow our own trumpet, I would suggest that Shawn McHale consult the following four volumes published via our Institute. Copies can be obtained from NIAS.

Vietnam or Indochina?
Contesting Concepts of Space in Vietnamese Nationalism, 1887-1954
Christopher E. Goscha
NIAS, 1995, 154 pp.
ISBN 87-87062-43-7 (pbk) (US distrib via Paul & Company)
Shows how the nationalists' and communists' conception of an Indochinese space was grounded in the mechanics of the French colonial project - its transport, communication and bureaucratic systems but above all in an elaborate French attempt to forge a French-led Indochinese federation in which the ethnic Viet were the dominant partners.

Asian Forms of the Nation
Edited by Stein Tonnesson and Hans Antlov
NIAS-Curzon Press, 1996, 368 pp.
ISBN 0-7007-0442-6 (pbk) (US distrib via Univ. of Hawaii Press)
The general tendency among theorists of nationalism and national identity has been to assume that the modernization process in Asia and Africa is a kind of distorted reflection of a Western precedent; Asian forms of the nation have rarely been seen as independent, alternative models. Among today's leading theoreticians, there is a growing tendency to take Asia seriously, and include Asian examples in the general discussion. The relationship between geographical space and national construction are explored in depth by several contributors.

Nationalism as Political Paranoia in Burma
An Essay on the Historical Practice of Power
Mikael Gravers
NIAS-Curzon Press, June 1999, 192 pp.
ISBN 0-7007-0981-9 (pbk) (US distrib *probably* via Univ. of Hawaii Press)
This study aims at an identification and analysis of those historical processes in Burma that have made ethnic divisions escalate into an unending nationalistic struggle. To this end, the author probes the complex relationship between nationalism, violence and Buddhism in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Burma.

Unfortunately, another volume that might well have been of interest to Shawn McHale is in hardback only with only limited copies available:

Imperial Policy and Southeast Asian Nationalism
Edited by Hans Antlov and Stein Tonnesson
NIAS-Curzon Press, 1995, 324 pp.
ISBN 0-7007-0319-5 (hbk) (US distrib via Univ. of Hawaii Press)
Traditionally, the decolonisation process has been viewed as a dichotomy, of European versus Asian or imperialist versus nationalist. What the papers in this volume present, however, is other perspectives: one such is the triangular power relationship between colonial authorities, traditional rulers and nationalist leaders and their quite different views of the general population: natives, subjects and 'the people' respectively.

Hope this helps

Gerald Jackson
Gerald Jackson * Editor in Chief * NIAS Publishing
Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Leifsgade 33, 2300 Copenhagen S, DENMARK

From: Wim van den Doel <vddoel@rullet.leidenuniv.nl>

I have not seen the mentioned article in the NYTimes, but to call Multatuli's MAX HAVELAAR a "book that killed colonialism" is rather odd - to say the least. Multatuli (= Eduard Douwes Dekker) was a Dutch civil servant of Java highly critical to Dutch colonial rule AS IT WAS, ruling Java through the local aristocratic elite. What he wanted was much more direct rule by "enlightened" Dutch colonial civil servants, which simply resulted in more colonialism! But one thing is certain: the book is essential reading when one wants to understand Dutch colonial rule in 19th century Indonesia. Another essential novel is Couperus' The Hidden Force (as the English title is).

Dr. H.W. van den Doel

Leiden University, Department of History
Doelensteeg 16, P.O. Box 9515
2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
Tel.: +31.71.527-2768 / Fax.: +31.71.527-2652
e-mail: vddoel@rullet.leidenuniv.nl
URL: http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/history
Tel.: +31.71.527-2768 / Fax.: +31.71.527-2652

From: John Mensing <JMensing@compuserve.com>

Sterling Seagrave's _Lords of the Rim_ is a very readable account of the history of Chinese colonialism in South East Asia, and contains many references to other works. One of the points of his thesis -- that ex-patriate Chinese regarded the European incursion as passing administrators -- examines how economic activity has been, and continues to be, aggregated.

John Mensing
Independent Scholar
Hiroshima, Japan

From: Laura Dudley Jenkins <jenkinla@email.uc.edu>

Crawford Young's _The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective_ (Yale 1994) is broadly comparative, including references to India and other Asian cases. Its geographic and historical scope may prove a bit daunting for undergraduates, but certain chapters could be assigned as reading and the rest will be a valuable resource for you.

Laura Dudley Jenkins
Assistant Professor of Political Science
University of Cincinnati

From: S M Ghazanfar <ghazi@uidaho.edu>

There is a recent book on such legacy: Zaheer Babar, THE SCIENCE OF EMPIRE: SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE, CIVILIZATION, AND COLONIAL RULE IN INDIA, State Univ. of New York, N.Y., 1996. Worth looking into.

Dr S M Ghazanfar, Professor & Chair
Department of Economics
University of Idaho, Moscow ID 83844-3240
Tel: (208) 885 7144 Fax: (208) 885-6296
Homepage: www.uidaho.edu/~ghazi

From: Llyn Smith <lfs1@axe.humboldt.edu>

Shawn, You might have a look at Tanya Luhrman's _The Good Parsi; the fate of a colonial elite in a post-colonial society_. (Harvard 1996) It is excellent - an ethnographic text which raises the issues of a community which heavily identified with India's British colonial rulers and then faced the reality of a post-colonial politics in which they were seen as compradors. It examines contemporary Parsi self-criticism and fears of extinction.

I have used it in several Cultural Anthropology classes and although it's a stretch for some of them - they certainly 'get it'. I am completely bored with the rhetoric and hyperbole in much of the cultural studies material that I have sampled - I find that very few of them have much analytic clarity - maybe they need better editors!

Llyn Smith
Humboldt State University

From: "Helen R. Chauncey" <hrc@uvic.ca>


As per your query regarding course material on colonialism and post-colonialism, the following thoughts come to mind:

1. How you order the course conceptually may determine who can provide you the most useful suggestions. When "early" courses on colonialism began to appear in North American universities, they did so in particular as part of the European Civ versus World History debate. The ethos of such courses has undergone generational change. I looked over several old syllabi I collected from the period; the organization of the first generation courses runs something like this: A) The World Before the Coming of Colonialism; B) Colonialism as a system - B1) state, B2) economics, B3) social dynamics, B4) culture; C) Colonialism and Capitalism (or what the "West" got out of the exercise); D) anti-colonialism and nationalism; E) the colonial legacy. It is in second and third generation courses that the emphasis shifts from structure and agency to representation, beginning - of course - with Said - and moving increasingly into writings of post-colonialism as a general mentality rather than a diachronic evolution.

2. From your post to H-Asia, it would appear that the first generation courses are somewhat more what you had in mind. Several texts, some decidedly out of fashion with the discourse community include:

i) Fieldhouse (as suggested by Stephanie Bangarth)

ii) Selections from Hobson and Lenin. A note here: Last year, in an Intro to Asia course, I assigned IMPERIALISM: THE HIGHEST STAGE OF CAPITALISM. I assigned it to remind the students of what Lenin actually argued; their reaction was stunning. Despite the mind-numbing statistics, they were hooked - not for what Lenin meant mid-century but for what they think he says about the 1990s (!). This makes the book a good cross-over between discussions on imperialism and globalization, especially with reference to finance capital, mergers and monopolies and the like.

iii) W. Mommesen, THEORIES OF IMPERIALISM. (This is a kind of up-dated Fieldhouse, ranging from pre-Marx through theories of neo-colonialism.)

iv) For a useable, if heavily dependency theory oriented classroom text: Stavrianos, GLOBAL RIFT. (Note, this is global rather than Asia-specific.)

v) For pre-colonial and colonial Asian views of Europe, D. Lach's ASIA IN THE MAKING OF EUROPE is still useful. I teach a course that draws on comparisons with other parts of the world; many of the better references I have for the pre-colonial view of the world are drawn from Latin America and Africa. Let me know if any of this would be useful to you; some of it is very powerful reading.

vi) There is a large body of literature on the "Why Europe?" debate. Because of the cross-over with current technology fascinations, some of this might be useful. Older accounts include, for example, C. Cipolla's EUROPEAN CULTURE AND OVERSEAS EXPANSION: GUNS, SAILS, AND EMPIRES. A more recent effort (and a Pulitzer prize winner) is J. Diamond's GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL: THE FATE OF HUMAN SOCIETIES. As you know, this debate has been joined by the "Europe was not further ahead" people, including Samir Amin, if memory serves. Readings juxtaposing the two sides of the debate might work as a class-room exercise.

vii) There is also a large body of literature on the "what capitalism owes colonialism" debate. Most of this literature is country specific, such as M. Murray's THE DEVELOPMENT OF CAPITALISM IN COLONIAL INDOCHINA. (There is a parallel body of literature on the economics of semi-colonialism, such as J. Ingram's ECONOMIC CHANGE IN THAILAND, 1850-1950.) For comparative purposes, some of the most powerful reading here comes from writings on slavery in the West Indies and North America. The American historians have debated this intensely (cf. writings by Genovese, Williams, et al.); a relentless case for Africa as a whole is W. Rodney's HOW EUROPE UNDERDEVELOPED AFRICA.

viii) On social transitions, the material that comes to mind is also largely country specific. Wertheim's INDONESIAN SOCIETY IN TRANSITION is a classic in this sense.

ix) While you may not find literary post-colonialism as useful, Raymond Lum's comments about MAX HAVELAAR are well taken, both for the book itself and for its influence on Pramoedya. Another class-room exercise might be to juxtapose HAVELAAR with Pramoedya's just published memoir, to see if the students can figure out the train of thought that leads Pramodedya to call HAVELAAR the most important book published on colonialism (especially given Dekker's own quasi-colonial aspirations.) Another classic chestnut, in the field of literature, is Orwell's BURMESE DAYS. Along with the video version of HAVELAAR, another video of some value is BLOODY, BLUNDERING BUSINESS, on the US war in the Philippines. (Also powerful and on film is the BATTLE OF ALGIERS, which you might fit in in the context of the French and Indochina.) Literary works on post-colonialism often work well in undergraduate classes also. For India, for example, K. Markandaya's NECTAR IN A SIEVE is moving and quite readable. Naipal's AN AREA OF DARKNESS works very well for a critical view of India, in this case in the 1960s. (There are superb literary works in this regard for Africa and the Middle East, if you are throwing in comparisons, including Achebe's THINGS FALL APART and Y. Idris THE SINNERS, which covers a more contemporary period.) One possible class-room exercise would be to have students read two short novels, one located in Asia, one elsewhere.)

x) On anti-colonialism, what one might suggest depends on what you're looking for. First generation colonialism courses tended to focus on the actual process of resistance, rather than literary representations. In this regard, there are, of course, good accounts of the Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions. An oddly workable parallel for Latin America is John Reed's INSURGENT MEXICO, for the clarity with which it illustrates the confusion of anti-colonialism, especially in the peasant world view. If you can fit in any parallels farther afield, an achingly poignant read is Ivo Andric's BRIDGE OVER THE DRINA, given the steady river of blood in the former Ottoman world since the early 1990s. As you suggest in your post, the more on-going connections between colonialism and post-colonialism are less well covered, especially from the structure/agency perspective.

xi) Several closing comments: You might try to locate Kevin Reilly, ed., WORLD HISTORY: SELECTED READING LISTS AND COURSE OUTLINES FROM AMERICAN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES (Markus Wiener Publ.) This came out in the mid-1980s, when the culture wars/world history debates were beginning to heat up. For your students, if Penguin's DICTIONARY OF 20TH CENTURY HISTORY is still in print, it is a very useful guide to a sometimes bewildering flood of names and events in the unmaking of the colonial order. Pocket atlases are also very helpful to uninitiated undergraduates.

Based on what your post indicates you might be looking for, these are the kinds of suggestions that come to mind.


Dr. Helen R. Chauncey
Associate Professor
Department of Pacific and Asian Studies
University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3045
Victoria, B.C. V8W 3P4 CANADA
Phone: 1-250-385-1182; fax: 1-250-385-1183
email1: hrc@uvic.ca email2: chauncey@mcimail.com

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