Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Colonizer and the Colonized” as Want to Read:
The Colonizer and the Colonized
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Colonizer and the Colonized

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  793 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
First published in English in 1965, this timeless classic explores the psychological effects of colonialism on colonized and colonizers alike.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published July 8th 1991 by Beacon Press (first published 1957)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mohamed Ghilan
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those rare books that I found myself putting down the highlighter because it was pointless to highlight multiple pages at a time. Almost every second page has a fold to bookmark it, and some pages were folded at the top and bottom corners to bookmark the bookmarks!

Although he wrote it in 1957, Albert Memmi didn't realize that at the time he was writing about an age-old relationship between the powerful and the powerless. Although I had many thoughts pass in my mind as I went thro
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The title of this book suggests something dated, describing both a situation and a mindset that has either ceased to exist or become discredited with time. As such, I hesitated to pick it up initially. But now having read it, I have to say its one of the profound books I've read in recent memory. In timeless detail Memmi describes not just the psychologies of the oppressed and the oppressor, but also the predicament of the "leftist" in the oppressing group who at once is attracted to and recoils ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a classic book up there with The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon about colonialism told by a doctor in French-Colonised Algeria during the civil war. It is brutal and honest and should be more widely known than it is. It is not for the weak-stomached as there is description of torture and genocidal tactics used by the French in their failed attempt to crush the uprising against their occupation. The two portraits - first of the French colonist and second of the colonised Algerian - ...more
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Memmi is a contemporary of Frantz Fanon and similarly explores the psychological and social consequences of the colonial relationship on both the colonizer and the colonized.
I think the second part of the first chapter, "The colonizer who refuses," would make good reading for financially comfortable folks in the U.S. today (especially whites who consider themselves moderate or liberal types, but don't yet perceive the need for their own involvement in dealing with issues of class or race).
Two chapters: one from the point of view of the colonizer, the other from the colonized. Totally compelling and beautifully written.

It demonstrates the human capacity to regard the life of the slave AND the life of the master. (Consider my favorite line from the film Bladerunner: "If only you had seen what I have seen with your eyes.") Memmi sees with all eyes and spares us no acid in our wounds. And yet precisely because he is so even tempered, so evenhanded, the small judgments he does make ar
Meriam Mabrouk
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is my favourite bit

"The liquidation of colonization is nothing but a prelude to complete liberation, to self-recovery. In
order to free himself from colonization, the colonized must start with his oppression, the deficiencies of his group. In order that his liberation may be complete, he must free himself from those inevitable conditions of his struggle. A nationalist, because he had to fight for the emergence and dignity of his nation, he must conquer himself and be free in relation to tha
Roz Foster
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Portrait du colonisé était le premier livre français que j'ai lu. J'apprends français depuis seulement deux ans, alors, c'était difficile, mais le contenu était vraiment pénétrant. Quelquefois, les idées de l'auteur m'a fait penser de celles de Erich Fromm sur le sujet de la liberté et aussi de celles de Freud sur le sujet de l'esprit de groupe (ou, plutôt, où Freud cite Lebon). En revanche, ce livre m'a appris la leçon d'avoir confiance en mes propres expériences pour obtenir la connaissance vr ...more
Albert Memmi was a well-educated Tunisian Jew whose seminal work on the relationship between colonizer and colonized is a projection of his inner turmoil, his own life story. The strength of this short book lies in Memmi's insights into the dependence of the colonizer on his subjects. He may oppress and exploit, but he ultimately needs the colonized in order to sustain colonialism, yet such a relationship is not sustainable. The oppression and exploitation leads to revolt. History has vindicated ...more
Andrew Murano
May 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Oppression is the greatest calamity of humanity. It diverts and pollutes the best energies of man-of oppressed and oppressor alike."
As a Tunisian Jew in the French colonial era, Memmi held a unique position in order to reflexively critique the relationship between the colonizer and colonized. His take on the psychology of the colonizer is that itself is a poisonous position, both for those who accept and those who refuse the role of oppressor. For those who refuse, Memmi says, any activity to
Joy Galston
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Joy by: Professor of Aboriginal Perspectives
One of the things that endeared this book to me was Memmi's placement of himself, in this book, as a colonized person who identifies with the colonizer. It takes the judgement out of it. The fact that he intended this book to be psychological examination of the parties involved in the colonial relationship, not a revolutionary work, only serves to increase the sense of integrity the author carries. I will say that, as someone who would self identify as a "colonizer who refuses," it certainly giv ...more
Sep 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: theory
Memmi gives general observations on what characterizes the colonized and the colonizer. I thought the first part on the colonizer was a bit repetitive and harder to get thru--but the second section on the colonized is excellent.

The characterizations are still highly relevant today.
Nicholas Vela
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Another book on Colonialism for my European thought and Culture class. Memmi splits this book into two distinct section, one focusing on the Colonizer, and one focusing on the Colonized. There is more of the Hegelian Dialectic evident in this book. To me, the quote that stuck out the most, the quote that could sum up the book would be found on page 83: "The point is that the colonized means little to the Colonizer."

However, I rated it three stars due to the fact that, while the premise of the te
Shafiq Razak Rajan
Albert Memmi is a Tunisian Jew who witnessed the turbulent period of the decolonization of French colonies in Africa. Due to his background, he is both the colonizer and the colonized, for the Arabs regard (and the Jews themselves conform to this) the Jews as part of the colonizers. But for the French, the Jews are part of the colonized, no matter how much effort the Jews put in to assimilate with the colonizers. Therefore, Memmi is able to provide an insight into the psychology of both the colo ...more
Eddy Boswell-Correa
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Albert Memmi's book is a nauseating condemnation of the colonial system by way of two opposing portraits: Colonizer and Colonized, both convincingly fleshed out and sympathised for due to Memmi's having been a Tunisian Jew when the country was still a French colony, giving him a unique perspective on both sides of the glass.

The first instinct is to condemn the colonizer, that conquering racist genteel type who goes on safari with his old boys club, and feel the utmost sadness for the colonized,
Oct 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Memmi is a contemporary of Franz Fanon & similarly explores the mentality of the oppressed & the oppressor & it's psychological effects. This book is written as an extension of the author's self-examination & inner turmoil & is illuminating to say the least. The first part of the book explores the mentality of the colonizer, it's contradictions & conflicts. The differences between those who actively oppress & those that benefit from the oppression & are a member o ...more
Randall Wallace
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that became a blueprint for anti-colonial action when it was published in the 1957. Memmi came from Tunisia, where first-hand he learned exclusion by the elites. In 1956, he moved to France in permanent exile and began writing. The colonizer denies liberty. “The more freely he breathes, the more the colonized are choked.” “The colonial situation manufactures colonialists, just as it manufactures the colonized.” Charitable racism is where the colonizer can live benevolently. But ...more
Mark Nangle
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Albert Memmi has written a detailed portrait of two groups of people and the relationship they share. It is a moving account as well as being educational and theoretical. His descriptions are vivid and informative. His personal, almost conversational style is very welcome and makes for a speedy read - and even though I stalled around page 100, with a little effort I was able to get back into it and motor through enjoyably to the end. There are lots of quotable quotes in this book and my own copy ...more
Sep 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
A friend of mine recommended this book. It was written by Memmi (a Tunisian Jew) in 1957 in the middle of colonial independence. It was probably a revelation at the time but it has all been said before and now seems totally obvious and rather irrelevant. The only interesting point for me was his reference to the return to religion by some the "colonised" freedom fighters and how, in his opinion, this rejection of all things western is a natural result of being treated as inferior. At the time of ...more
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
If it wasn't for school, I never would have picked this up. I really enjoyed it, I loved my class discussions on the book more so.
I don't think I would have enjoyed the book as much without the class discussions.
The main idea the book is that the colonizer and the colonized can't live without one another. The book breaks down the ideas and it can be applied to most forms of oppression. The book makes you look inside yourself and see how you too are a colonizer; even if, you may fall under the ma
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Un livre bouleversant qui dresse un portrait brutal et honnête de la colonisation. Les Québécois s'y retrouveront de façon fappantes dans trop de passages : ''De même, le colonisé ne connaissait plus sa langue que sous la forme d'un parler indigent. Pour sortir du quotidien et de l'affectif les plus élémentaires, il était obligé de s'adresser à la langue du colonisateur. Revenant à un destin autonome et séparé, il retourne aussitôt à sa propre langue. On lui fait remarquer ironiquement que son v ...more
Dec 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written when North Africa was shaking free of France in the late 1950s, this little tome accurately plots the emotional and psychological matrix of imperial power from both sides of the gun. It's mainly valuable for the way it applies the concepts of individual psychology to political groups, but at this point most of its insights are too carefully even-handed or too well understood to make much of an impression. In other words, it's interesting as a historical document but disappointing at this ...more
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Memmi distills the age-old relationship between the colonizer and the colonized by examining each of their motivations, and the futility of the cycle of colonialism. Although he presents a somewhat dated view, his interpretation of the colonizer - especially of the colonizer who tries to fight colonialism - is profound. While I would have liked to see him give more agency to those colonized, this is a valuable account of colonialism to read with a critical mind.
Oct 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Memmi has some beautiful insights into his own experience and the generalized experience of those in the relationship of Colonizer and Colonized. The way he describes this relationship is at times technical; otherwise emotional.

Opened my eyes a bit to the duality and dependence inherent in a dysfunctional relationship. Can be expanded to fit many different relationships. Wrote a paper on how it relates to the situation of a customer service representative.
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Only one the best damned books ever written! I find myself thinking about this book when I am at work, downtown, or anywhere. It just seems to pop into my head. It is one of those books that gets memorized with the first read. The Powerbroker is still the book I think about the most, but this one is up there.
Piet Opperman
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The subject of colonialism has rarely been treated more lucidly and devastatingly than in this book. Albert Memmi's characterology of master and servant has a personal as well as a social dimension. The pecking order he describes has its accurate analogues in the lives of all South Africans and many middle-class Americans. I can't speak for others.
Oct 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Okay. It's a little naive. And it's hardly the most book. But it's got a solid philosophical premise--colonization makes the colonizer and the colonized alike into twisted monsters of themselves. Interesting idea.
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Classic, written in an easy to read narrative style, about the relationship between colonized peoples and the people who colonize them. Memmi is an Algerian Jew, so he has a unique perspective on Africans being colonized by Europeans
James Tracy
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-re-read
I recommend reading this book alongside Camus. Camus could never come to grips with the fact that the French who settled in Algeria were in fact settlers. Memmi stared that legacy in the face even when it meant dealing with uncomfortable truths.

Jul 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
All I can say is that everyone should read this important book. It was published in 1957 but Memmi's knowledge -- and exceptionally clear explanation -- of systematic oppression is very relevant today, especially in trying to understand political, social and economic inequalities.
Mar 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Must read for anyone concerned about power differences and politics, colonization,issues of race, etc. While the context is dated, the examination of the roles people fill in society and how that effects their lives and outlook is very relevant.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Discourse on Colonialism
  • The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism
  • A Dying Colonialism
  • The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge
  • A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present
  • Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism
  • Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference
  • The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (New Accents)
  • The Location of Culture
  • Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto
  • Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature
  • The Nation & Its Fragments: Colonial & Postcolonial Histories
  • The Question
  • The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness
  • On the Postcolony
  • Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things
  • Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction
  • The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War
Tunisian Jewish writer and essayist who migrated to France.

Born in Tunisia under French protectorate, from a Tunisian Jewish mother, Marguerite Sarfati, and a Tunisian-Italian Jewish father, François Memmi, he speaks French and Tunisian-Judeo-Arabic. He claims to be of Berber ancestry. He was educated in French primary schools, and continued on to the Carnot high school in Tunis, the University of
More about Albert Memmi...

Share This Book

“Conquest occurred through violence, and over-expolitation and oppression necessitate continued violence, so the army is present. There would be no contradiction in that, if terror reigned everywhere in the world, but the colonizer enjoys, in the mother country, democratic rights that the colonialist system refuses to the colonized native. In fact, the colonialist system favors population growth to reduce the cost of labor, and it forbids assimilation of the natives, whose numerical superiority, if they had voting rights, would shatter the system. Colonialism denies human rights to human beings whom it has subdued by violence, and keeps them by force in a state of misery and ignorance that Marx would rightly call a subhuman condition. Racism is ingrained in actions, institutions, and in the nature of the colonialist methods of production and exchange. Political and social regulations reinforce one another. Since the native is subhuman, the Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to him; inversely, since he has no rights, he is abandoned without protection to inhuman forces - brought in with the colonialist praxis, engendered every moment by the colonialist apparatus, and sustained by relations of production that define two sorts of individuals - one for whom privilege and humanity are one, who becomes a human being through exercising his rights; and the other, for whom a denial of rights sanctions misery, chronic hunger, ignorance, or, in general, 'subhumanity.” 7 likes
“The colonialist's existence is so closely aligned with that of the colonized that he will never be able to overcome the argument which states that misfortune is good for something. With all his power he must disown the colonized while their existence is indispensable to his own. Having chosen to maintain the colonial system, he must contribute more vigor to its defense than would have been needed to dissolve it completely. Having become aware of the unjust relationship which ties him to the colonized, he must continually attempt to absolve himself. He never forgets to make a public show of his own virtues, and will argue with vehemence to appear heroic and great. At the same time his privileges arise just as much from his glory as from degrading the colonized.” 4 likes
More quotes…