Colonialism Césaire Reading Analysis

March 8, 2022
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Colonialism Césaire Reading Analysis

Colonialism Césaire Reading Analysis

Aimé Césaire writes at length on the relationship between European ideals and the experience in the colonies. List two or three of the ideals that you think are the most important to Césaire’s understanding of colonialism. (200-300words)

Also, do you think that Césaire believes that these ideals are inherently destructive or that they are good ideals that Europeans simply did not apply to in their colonial projects?(200-300words)

For the response to my classmate I will try to post it asap, you only need to say either you agree or disagree with her/his points and explain why (maybe 150 words if you can write more I really appreciate)

Colonialism Césaire Reading AnalysisThis text is the follow-up of the first meeting of the Third World in Theory Reading Group in the 2019-2020 academic year, that took place on the 10th of October 2019.

Since then, we’ve had six amazing meetings with very special guests presenting their thoughts and opening lively discussions with the group, and we still have four to go (check the dates of the upcoming meetings here). If you are interested in joining the reading group, please email us on lawdevelopmentconflict@gmail.com. We apologize for the delay in updating the TWT Blog, we are a reduced number of people working to make it all happen.

Better late than never, please enjoy some reflections on the decolonial must-read Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism, its connections with Maldonado Torres’ On the Coloniality of Being and a contemporary poetic perception of the colonial subject, through the analysis of a translated song [poem] by the Brazilian rapper Djonga, Get Out! (Corra!). These reflections were presented by Angelica Silva.

 

Aimé Césaire
[…]

A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization.

A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization.

A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization. The fact is that the so-called European civilization – “Western” civilization – as it has been shaped by two centuries of bourgeois rule, is incapable of solving the two major problems to which its existence has given rise: the problem of the proletariat and the colonial problem; that Europe is unable to justify itself either before the bar of “reason” or before the bar of “conscience”; and that, increasingly, it takes refuge in a hypocrisy which is all the more odious because it is less and less likely to deceive.

Colonialism Césaire Reading AnalysisEurope is indefensible.

With this excerpt from the essay Discourse on Colonialism, we open the discussion about this fundamental work for the decolonial critique. Discourse on Colonialism is Aimé Césaire’s first and perhaps most important non-fiction publication, since most of his work is in poetry and in the theatre. Before getting into the essay, I would like to briefly talk about Césaire’s life and work for a better understanding of the meanings grasped from Discourse on Colonialism.

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Aimé Césaire was born in the rural Basse-Point, at the French colony of Martinique, in 1913. In 1924 he was admitted to the Lycée Schoelcher, what was then the most prestigious high school in Martinique. Upon graduation, in 1932 Césaire moved to Paris for college with plans of becoming a teacher. Years later, Césaire will return to Martinique’s Lycée Schoelcher to teach (one of his future pupils will be a young Frantz Fanon).

In Paris, he began by necessity to question the Eurocentric nature of his education: Césaire was “experiencing the incipient cultural alienation that afflicted other Third World students thrown together on the metropolitan scene in the latter half of the prewar decade. Students of color, in particular, sooner or later found themselves drawn, if only in self-defense, into a radically critical stance towards European civilization and its arrogant claims to superiority”. Questioning French domination was all the easier thanks to the presence of a number of other like-minded intellectuals, including the Senegalese intellectual Léopold Sédar Senghor. All looking to create counter-cultural literature, Césaire and his colleagues were drawn toward Surrealism because of its formally radical elements. He and a few others launched a student journal called L’Étudiant Noir (The Black Student). Marxist in nature, L’Étudiant Noir served as a forum through which Césaire and other students of color could critique French civilization. It is in an article for the May 1935 issue that Césaire first coined the word “Négritude”.

Colonialism Césaire Reading AnalysisNégritude is a literary and ideological response to the “colonial situation”, a psychological and cultural search for a black, “pan-African” identity untainted by Colonial domination. The movement claims for the valorization of African identity all over the world (Pan-Africanism), considering the African diaspora and submission of African peoples to European colonizers. Césaire and Senghor are considered the founders of the negritude movement.

In 1935, during his vacations in Yugoslavia, Césaire starts writing Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to my Native Land), a surrealist poem in which the author reclaims his Martinican black identity and exposes anger against white superiority.

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