Before reading Ania Loomba’s chapter about colonialism versus post-colonialism, I had only considered the interactions between the colonists and the natives within a region at surface level. Loomba expanded my view on the ways in which interaction between peoples of different cultures, backgrounds, values, and political structures, irrevocably and fundamentally changes the mechanics that keep a society intact.
Most interesting to me is Loomba’s distinguishing between imperialism and colonialism (terms which I had once considered to be virtually synonymous) and identifying the ways in which these terms’ definitions have changed over time. This allowed me to understand the different types of interaction and oppression experienced by the natives, and how this led to different cultural views on colonialism.
The ways in which the economies of the motherland and her settlements were reliant on one another economically becomes the distinguishing factor between what Loomba calls imperialism and colonization.
Loomba assesses the interaction between a mother country and it’s colony as colonial when the resources and labor force of the new land are necessary to retain the colony, and uninterrupted trade between the mother country and the new settlement is essential to both counterparts’ success. Colonies were essential for European nations to grow in capitol through trade and industry, because the labor force and natural resources of the motherland were limited. On the other hand, an empire is more concerned with spreading the religion, cultural practices, and language of the mother country. She points out the capitalism is regarded as the tipping point between the two alternatives. The interaction is empirical if the native people are free to trade resources and labor with settlers and receive fair compensation according to their individual system of values. Any degree of subjugation to further the economic prosperity of the mother country would constitute a colony.
In colonized regions of world, such as South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, the native people and the settlers felt more estranged from one another, and were more reluctant to intermingle. Conflicts between colonists and natives both caused and furthered this estrangement, leading to even more mistrust among peoples. In many cases, natives were victims of slavery, disease, inferior technology, and inadequate ability to fight against the belligerent colonizers, who came prepared to encounter resistance against their colonization.
Even though the economic prosperity of the motherland was a drive for settling new lands, the Spanish peoples’ practice of intermingling cultures among the native people of their newly settled lands led to a more sanguine interrelationship among vastly different people. By intermarrying and trading with natives, the Spanish fostered more positive relationships. The Mestizo posterity of the people who had initial contact built strong relationships with natives by embracing cultural practices of the separate religions, political systems, and values. However, the Elitist progeny still retained a strong sense of white supremacy, and the culturally suppressed native progeny retained a sense of subjugation, despite the generally peaceful relations between the two cultures.
I can think of very few cases where the intermingling of cultures could be considered exclusively colonial or empirical. The two types of interaction are more of a spectrum than a drawn line, and the distinguishing factors between post-colonialism and neo-colonialism are even harder to discern. One thing I am sure of, however, is that, when two cultures intersect, with any degree of capitalism or subjugation, it changes the way the newly united cultures evolve from that point forward, and the fruits of the interaction can never be taken back or erased from the minds of the people whose ancestors experienced it. It ingrains a new sense of cultural identity into the people of a region according to the cultural exchanges that take place.