On Prefixes, Colonial Haunting, and Internalized Colonization

David Kazanjian’s piece on the term colonial got me thinking…

To go back a little, Loomba questions the “post” in postcolonial and claims it implies both a “temporal” aftermath and “ideological” supplanting of colonialism (7). Does the “post” in postcolonial signify the erasure of colonialism? I don’t think so; it’s adding a prefix without abolishing the root. Neo-colonial—a new form of colonialism—better describes the contemporary state of affairs; however, neo still only modifies colonialism—something Frantz Fanon referred to as “violence in its natural state.” How do I feel, if I were to follow this line of thinking, about the inevitable centering of colonialism and thus violence as a result… It doesn’t feel great; it feels like a colonial haunting. It feels like subjugation reincarnated as internalized colonization—a way for cultural/political hegemony to eschew responsibility for the violent legacies of colonialism. I’ll use the U.S. as an example… It’s as if to suggest, well settler colonialism is over now (it isn’t—look at Native Americans) yet somehow “post”-colonial Americans still pledge allegiance to a flag that valorizes the thirteen original colonies and subconsciously colonize themselves. (When I say postcolonial in a U.S. sense, I’m mostly referring to historically marginalized groups—Native Americans and Black Americans, but you could broaden it out to include all Americans; however, I recognize the danger of claiming everyone and everything is postcolonial.) I’m being flip with the flag metaphor but the idea of internalized colonization—a self-ascribed subjugation doesn’t seem like the right answer. Maybe it is the answer now but I don’t want it to be the definitive diagnosis. I realize that’s somewhat incoherent but it’s somewhat incoherent to me right now.

Ishmael (too bad I can’t tag you to make sure you see this), this seems related to your post below re: decolonizing your mindfulness. There’s a quote from Carmichael and Hamilton referenced in Kazanjian’s piece: “Black people are legal citizens of the United States with, for the most part, the same legal rights as other citizens. Yet they stand as colonial subjects in relation to white society. Thus institutional racism has another name: colonialism. Obviously the analogy is not perfect” (51). Does that get at what you’re getting at when you say you’re working to decolonize your mind? I’d love to hear more about this…

– Christina S.

2 thoughts on “On Prefixes, Colonial Haunting, and Internalized Colonization

  1. Hey Christina,

    Glad I saw this! Yeah, speaking on my experience: just some thoughts about Loomba’s analysis of mindful decolisation: I like to think of it as a constant process people who have positioned by this structure must undergo in order to un-learn inferiority, bias, and hate especially for other people of color. I think from today’s reading on exploitative capitalism and competition, POC have come to think of each other as competitors aspiring for unattainable whiteness. And yes, while Black people may have “citizenship” to this country, it does not mean Black people’s place has been validated or appreciated. I could spend a lot of time elaborating about predominately white spaces and the assessment of whiteness and the mental labor that requires. To folks who take on this labor, I ask them to decolonize, meaning to think of a reality in which you are not a center, as whiteness is this hegemonic center, but that you can exist amongst and there can be multiple centers. Our diets, perceptions of food have also been colonized; our housing; our clothing; so this means that we are FORCED to live and exist in a space that is really not meant for those who exist along the periphery to survive. Yes, there are days I can feel the burden of being a colonial subject, especially when I approach a space in opposition to the gamut of privilege. Then there are moments (not days, not extended periods of time) where I am surrounded by QPOC (queer people of color) and I am decolonizing to see friendship, and compassion, etc. and here in these spaces, I feel as if I can breathe, but more so survive to again assimilate back into “white society”.

  2. Ishmael,

    Thanks for replying (and chatting this morning). Yes yes yes to the multiple centers. Highlight and underscore heterogeneity that hinges on respect for the interrelated nature of all life on this planet.


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