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Discourse on Colonialism

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  1,863 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
"Cesaire's essay stands as an important document in the development of third world consciousness--a process in which [he] played a prominent role."
--Library Journal 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
Paperback, 102 pages
Published January 1st 2001 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.
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
Hussain Al-Abdali

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
Anders Hjortshøj
Jul 20, 2015 Anders Hjortshøj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historie
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
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
Read with Fanon.
Aug 05, 2007 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most essential books for anyone committed to freedom.
Xian Xian
Jul 03, 2015 Xian Xian rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 22, 2012 Dusty rated it really liked it
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
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
Геллее Авбакар
Aug 18, 2012 Геллее Авбакар rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-literature
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.
Emily Shaw
Aug 31, 2015 Emily Shaw rated it it was amazing
Shelves: postcolonial
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.
Dec 19, 2011 Victoria rated it it was amazing
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.
mis fit
Dec 30, 2014 mis fit rated it really liked it
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...
Great piece of rhetoric pointing out the fascist rot of European so-called civilisation.
Donna-marie Cole-malott
Dec 11, 2013 Donna-marie Cole-malott rated it it was amazing
This happens to be one of my favorite books. Inspiring, and compelling.
James F
Feb 04, 2015 James F rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
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
Apr 19, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
Wow. Astounding. This should be read in every 3rd-year-of-high-school history course. Or maybe government/civics class. The point is, how have I got this far without reading it? How is it that it hasn't been pressed into my hands by dozens of friends? How is it that in a mere 78 pages, Cesaire can eviscerate whole toxic regimes of thought with such bracing sarcasm and withering humor?

I seem to arrive very late at certain key powerful texts. Partly I blame my relatively conservative suburban scho
Jan 24, 2016 Chronics rated it really liked it
The Introduction by Robin Kelley is worth the price of the book alone, I read it after I had finished the discourse, not only is it full of valuable information on the Anti Colonialist movement of the time, it really captures the essence of the discourse itself.

The discourse can be read in a couple of hours, it is intriguing in that it is by no means a purely factual, scientific essay, rather its an appeal to the soul. Cesaire combines poetry and history with a fierce and often humorous approach
Feb 29, 2016 Victor rated it really liked it
Cesaire argues that Nazism is not unique. Hitler is not unique. He was only the latest in a long line of European conquerors that have subjugated and victimized millions of people since 1492. But why does Hitler get all the attention? Why did he become the poster boy for evil? Why not Columbus or Cortez or Pizarro—men who also left a bloody trail of corpses and despair? Because Hitler applied colonialism to white people—not to brown people—and this was an unforgivable mistake. Had Hitler venture ...more
Mar 14, 2016 Rana rated it it was amazing
Especially intrigued by Césaire's conception of the effects of colonialism on the colonist. Morrison echoes these effects in Beloved, the white, when he looks at the slave as an animal- an ape, himself becomes an ape.

We speak of Hitler-ism as a "strange"/ fearsom/unwanted phenomenon. We pretend, and some really are, shocked by Trump-ism today, but we only fool ourselves. Listen to what every other voice of the hegemonic powers are saying and they are the same. Simply clothed in decent clothes. "
Stephen Mortland
Apr 28, 2016 Stephen Mortland rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
"Discourse on Colonialism" is in equal parts confrontational, revolutionary, and poetic literature. Written by Aimé Césaire, a French poet, this short book does not present itself as an organized answer to the problems of colonization, racism, and oppression, but rather as an explosive ripping away of any façade that rests over these concerns. Particularly laying bear the consequences colonization creates for the colonizing forces. The text, intentionally, leaves you with questions and problems ...more
Mar 27, 2016 Sjonni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Car enfin, il faut prendre son parti et se dire une fois pour toutes, que la bourgeoisie est condamnée à être chaque jour plus hargneuse, plus ouvertement féroce, plus dénouée de pudeur, plus sommairement barbare ; que c'est une loi universelle que toute classe décadente se voit transformée en réceptacle où affluent toutes les eaux sales de l'histoire ; que toute classe, avant de disparaître, doit préalablement se déshonorer complètement, omnilatéralement, et que c'est la tête enfouie sous le f ...more
Jan 14, 2016 Naz rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book for individuals propelled by the global decolonization development of the 50s and 60s, and its association with the Black Power movement in the States. His 'Discourse on Colonialism', alongside Frantz Fanon's 'The Wretched of the Earth' are the first original conscious-raising works for colonized people. Regardless of the fact that Fanon and his book are more praised, it is not apparent this is ought to be defended. Cesaire brings his impressive linguistic and poetic s ...more
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
Jan 26, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
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
Avatara Smith carrington
Definitely a good read for anyone interested in having a basic understanding on the barbaric nature of colonialism... eerily useful in understanding more broadly and in a modern context the faults/flaws/destruction/violence that comes with globalization. It is unfortunate that the piece is so short and would have loved for a bit more depth but nonetheless, it is still a pivotal piece that helped to influence the work of Fanon and should be read at least once.
Jan 29, 2016 Blair rated it it was amazing
Césaire basically decimated the entire European continent without so much as breaking a nail. Although I feel guilty in doing so it is possible to read this just to ooh and ahh at the eloquent smack downs. It is of course much more than that. Cesaires unified theory of colonialism as a disease that dehumanize both the colonized and the colonized, highlights the pressing need for a dramatic restructuring of current national, racial, economic, and political relations.
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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.” 21 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.” 7 likes
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