Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Colonialism: Leviathan or Muddler?

“The evidence reveals that in Nyasaland, as in other colonies (emphasis mine), the state was a clumsy, feeble institution whose regulatory efforts produced contradictory effects.”

- Wiseman Chijere Chirwa from his doctoral dissertation “Theba is Power…”

Why don’t we hear this more often, particularly from the harshest critics of colonialism?  It would seem a rather obvious line of attack i.e. “not only were they (are they) racist pricks, they were (are) also bumbling, “feeble,” racist pricks.”

Yet if you read the literature, scholarly and popular, colonialism’s power, while usually reviled, is also usually unquestioned.  That’s a shame.  Narratives of African history that acknowledged colonial feebleness, not just racism, could open the stage for more interesting, complex, and true accounts of Africa’s past that actually featured Africans as who are neither merely “oppressed” nor “heroic.”