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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
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 16:25:44 -0400
From: Shawn McHale <email@example.com>
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.
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" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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);
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.
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 <email@example.com>
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.
Harvard College Library
Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 06:08:54 -0400
From: "Laxman D. Satya" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
Laxman D. Satya
Department of History
Lock Haven University
Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 06:09:44 -0400
From: Stephanie Bangarth <email@example.com>
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.
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
Good luck. This sounds interesting.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
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
Amin, S. 1988. Eurocentrism. New York: Monthly Review
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
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
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
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 <email@example.com>
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
April 24, 1999
From: Gerald Jackson <email@example.com>
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
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
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 * Editor in Chief * NIAS Publishing
Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Leifsgade 33, 2300 Copenhagen S, DENMARK
From: Wim van den Doel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
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
From: Laura Dudley Jenkins <email@example.com>
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
From: Llyn Smith <email@example.com>
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
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!
Humboldt State University
From: "Helen R. Chauncey" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
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
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
iii) W. Mommesen, THEORIES OF IMPERIALISM. (This is a kind
of up-dated Fieldhouse, ranging from pre-Marx through theories of
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
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
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
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
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: email@example.com email2: firstname.lastname@example.org