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Discourse on Colonialism

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  1,560 ratings  ·  73 reviews
"This classic work, first published in France in 1955, profoundly influenced the generation of scholars and activists at the forefront of liberation struggles in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Nearly twenty years later, when published for the first time in English, Discourse on Colonialism inspired a new generation engaged in the Civil Rights, Black Power and an ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published July 1st 1972 by Monthly Review Press (first published 1950)
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An angry snarl of resentment and righteous anger, an indictment of centuries of crimes. It hides under the rather innocuous title 'Discourse of Colonialism', but instead might be appropriate 'Damn you and damn your hypocrisy and hate that led to hundreds of years of atrocities', or something like that.

The book moves from condemnation of wars and injustice, to attacks on now-obscure colonial theorists and 'racialists'. Cesaire makes the bold statement that Nazism is so infamous in Europe because

Μὴ κρίνετε, ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε: ἐν ᾧ γὰρ κρίματι κρίνετε, κριθήσεσθε: καὶ ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε, μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν. Τί δὲ βλέπεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου, τὴν δὲ ἐν τῷ σῷ ὀφθαλμῷ δοκὸν οὐ κατανοεῖς; Ἢ πῶς ἐρεῖς τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, Ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος ἀπὸ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σου: καὶ ἰδού, ἡ δοκὸς ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σου; Ὑποκριτά, ἔκβαλε πρῶτον τὴν δοκὸν ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σου, καὶ τότε διαβλέψεις ἐκβαλεῖν τὸ κάρφος ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου.

Ne jugez point, afin que vous ne soyez point jugés.
Hussain Laghabi

One of my beautiful experiences of reading post-colonial literature along with Edward Said's Orientalism. And the difference between is that Said is an academic but Césaire not only a poet but a Marxist comes from a Third World country originally!

This style looks very unique to me and could be one of the most beautiful (styles) of writing I've ever read in both Arabic and English and can't imagine how more beautiful it must be if read in French ,the original language of the text."

"My co
Aimé Césaire’s "Discourse on Colonialism" is a poignant exploration of the brutality, indifference, and dehumanizing effect of colonization on both colonizer and colonized. Colonization rips the soul out of both, driving the colonizers to violence and race hatred, and the colonized towards psychic and soulful death. However, “the mechanization of man, the gigantic rape of everything intimate” does not give the white man a second thought, not until this monstrous dehumanizing colonial impulse dif ...more
Anders Hjortshøj
A searing, clear-sighted denunciation in shining prose of European, particularly French, colonial hypocrisy that has lost none of its relevance as apologists of empire and crypto-racists still are plentiful throughout the Western world.
The effectiveness of the message comes from Césaire detailing not just the torture, oppression and sociocultural retardation resulting from imperialism, but the lamentable process by which progressive, humanist Europeans, in seeing the Other as a barbarian, gradu
One of the most essential books for anyone committed to freedom.
Read with Fanon.
Césaire's Discourse on Colonialism is a thin book that's sat unopened on my bookshelf for far too long. As a student of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, I hear now and again about Césaire in tangential ways, and when I ran across this title for fifty cents in a used bookstore, I figured what the heck. Flash forward a year and a few months, I'm reading Fanon and Glissant for class and studying for a PhD exam, and it's finally time to take the plunge. It was overdue.

Writing in 1950, just after the
I thought this was brilliant. I love reading things like this that ensure me, that the dynamics of this world ARE indeed unjustified, and that it is NOT ME. What I love most, is the power it gives me, as an Arab, to tell those who try to convince me of their racial superiority, or those who are acting on self-imposed sense of authority to go fuck themselves. Or those who try to convince me that killing languages, cultures, and countries in the name of common good -AKA the good of the white man- ...more
Геллее Авбакар
It was a really nice and simple style used to describe and analyse a question that long has been on top. It's that "Europe is Undefinable", that's quite right. I think the writer is taking the scope to defend the African culture that long has been a source of fun and envy. Colonizers says that they are coming to improve the life of Barbary, but in fact they come just to accomplish their profit, and this is what they are doing for the moment. Thanks Aimé for this nice work.
Everyone, everyone, everyone should read this at some point, preferably it should be required in high school. Seriously should be apart of everyday discourse because it was written how long ago and too many things persist today. People need to think more, and Cesaire really nailed some good points in this. Love his honestly poignant style too, interested in reading more.
Donna-marie Cole-malott
This happens to be one of my favorite books. Inspiring, and compelling.
I bought this for my research paper, sometimes I do research papers as an excuse to read non-fiction I've been wanting to read. But that's sort of a lie because I did write a paper on Genghis Khan and I had to read Jack Weatherford's Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World which was boring, the way he wrote it was, I don't understand why his telling is so popular. And the font was so tiny I would need a magnifying glass, especially at that time because my glasses were way past my prescri ...more
Jeune Fille
"They talk to me about civilization, I talk about proletarianization and mystification.

For my part, I make a systematic defense of the non-European civilizations.

Every day that passes, every denial of justice, every beating by the police, every demand of the workers that is drowned in blood, every scandal that is hushed up, every punitive expedition, every police van, every gendarme and every militiaman, brings home to us the value of our old societies.

They were communal societies, never societi
mis fit
yow! scathing... and so important. i love how cesaire sees through the shit, is so critical and strong. this book is really inspiring to me personally. looking forward to reading more post-colonial works...
condemn evil men and don't be afraid to combine history, poetry and exposé. Césaire is a good teacher for a generation still coming to terms with African history--it seems as though racism should have ended but colonialism was deeply economic. Now, in neo-colonialism while eugenics may be a thing of the past, first world greed fuels African exploitation and new forms of subordination to appease the guilt of the imperialist-capitalist soul. The truth of Césaire and other non-liars will help to br ...more
James F
This was originally published in French in 1955 -- an earlier version in 1950 -- right at the beginning of the anti-colonial movement which followed World War II. It is essentially a manifesto against colonialism, which made many points for the first time that have since become obvious to anyone who thinks politically.

Csaire's basic thesis is that colonialism is not a civilizing influence but one which de-civilizes both the colonizer and the colonized. He argues convincingly that Naziism -- whi
It's a very short read but very powerful. There's an introduction in the beginning, then the original text & lastly, an interview with the author.

There's an introduction that is about the author of the text. It explores his literary influences & his cultural influences & experiences. All of these had a very powerful effect on his writing & it is evident in the main body of the text.

The main body of the text is about colonialism, it's spread across the world & how it has affec
Great piece of rhetoric pointing out the fascist rot of European so-called civilisation.
Karlo Mikhail
A tour de force. Poetically rendered manifesto against western colonialism. A powerful assertion of national liberation and human dignity of all the nations and peoples of the world oppressed by imperialism.
Aimee Cesaire, Martinique poet, writer & revolutionary, popularized the concept of Negritude in his writings and lectures; leading to the expansion of those ideas by Frantz Fanon, in his studies on dependency relationships between the "oppressor" and the "oppressed" primarily in Africa, and later how it applied to the rest of the Third World. Cesaire here takes on the hypocrisy of French intellectuals, writers and politicians in thier comments on Africans. Anyone interested in race relations ...more
Jake Keyel
Find this review and others like it on my blog:

Last weekend I was in Westsider Books (2246 Broadway, Upper West Side) and came upon a copy of Discourse on Colonialism. The title sounded interesting and I decided to pick it up. Originally published in 1950, the edition I bought was printed by Monthly Review Press in 2000 and includes an introduction by Robin D.G. Kelley and an interview with the author, Aimé Césaire, after the main text. As the book is 60 years old and the
Like a shot fired across the bow of Western civilizations, Cesaire’s Discourse is a warning that the oppressed people will not suffer under the yoke of colonialism much longer. Not so much a discourse as a list of grievances, it explodes off the page, displaying the controlled rage of a highly intelligent man perceiving injustice and oppression in his home and willful ignorance in his oppressors. Armed with the West’s own cruel and terrible justifications for imperialism, Cesaire swiftly and mer ...more
This was a required text for a class I took this past semester, Introduction to African Studies. The author, Aime Cesaire, is known in Africa and France for his moving poetry, but he was also a politician.

Born and raised in Martinique, a Caribbean island that was then a colony of France and is now a "departement", Cesaire studied in Paris on a scholarship. While he was there, he met Sedar Senghor and Leon Damas, and together they founded the Negritude movement, which rejected French colonialism
Reginald Simms
A short book in which Aimé Césaire in the most succinct but poetic terms puts forth the need not only to appreciate one's own culture, which has been suppressed under capitalism and colonialism, but bring it up from under the boot of oppression by bringing it into modern and contemporary times.

“it is a new society that we must create, with the help of all our brother slaves, a society rich with all the productive power of modern times, warm with all the fraternity of olden days"
Kw Estes
A beautiful and inspiring treatise on the roots and effects of colonialism. Cesaire has the fortitude to connect the whole of the colonialist movement to the later rise of fascism, and asserts that, if there is any difference to be found, it is only one of degree. While assertions like this are sure to make many uncomfortable (people prefer not to be associated even in the slightest way with the likes of Hitler) there is a sad and profound truth in them. The idea of inherent inferiority among ce ...more
Emily Shaw
If you would like a quick primer on the application of Lenin's Right of Nations to Self-Determination, read Cesaire. He practically quotes Marx, but not Lenin, while throwing around "comrade" and "proletariat" and "revolution."
Plus, he's actually hilarious. I'm sure that some of the humor was lost in translation, but when I got to the part about colonialist Europe "chewing on Hitler's vomit"...I lost it.
This book is useful to understand the roots of Third World rage, to understand the perspective of the 'other.' Cesaire's idea that non-European civilizations provided a ramparts behind which European civilizations could freely develop in the pre-capitalist, pre-colonial era is one I had never considered.

This is not history; it is not scholarly. It is a polemic dripping with sarcasm. The words explode like hand grenades. European colonial powers destroyed the colonized while destroying themselves
Bookworm Amir
The book was disappointing.

Although named 'Discourse', it is not a thesis essay, with lots of referencing and what not. Instead it read more like an angry person who wants to write something passionately, but doesn't finish it well, doesn't tailor it into a proper academic read - so it is very unprofessional.

The ideas and authors echo only those in the recent French era- nothing much that we would remember.

AS a Discourse, I really was expecting more deeper analysis, methods and reasons. Instead
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  • Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature
  • The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
  • The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World
  • Culture and Imperialism
  • Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference
  • Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest
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  • Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism
  • How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy, and Society (Updated Edition)
  • Methodology of the Oppressed
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Aimé Fernand David Césaire was an Afro-Martinican francophone poet, author and politician.
More about Aimé Césaire...

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“Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has a Hitler inside him, that Hitler inhabits him, that Hitler is his demon, that if he rails against him, he is being inconsistent and that, at bottom, what he cannot forgive Hitler for is not crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India, and the blacks of Africa.” 13 likes
“What am I driving at? At this idea: that no one colonizes innocently, that no one colonizes with impunity either; that a nation which colonizes, that a civilization which justifies colonization—and therefore force—is already a sick civilization, a civilization which is morally diseased, which irresistibly, progressing from one consequence to another, one denial to another, calls for its Hitler, I mean its punishment.” 5 likes
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