Memmi was Tunisian, and since Tunisia was then a French colony, although one engaged in a struggle for liberation, he was one of the colonized. But The Colonizer and the Colonized goes beyond a description of colonized people:. The colonial relationship which I had tried to define chained the colonizer and the colonized into an implacable dependence, molded their respective characters and dictated their conduct. Just as there was an obvious logic in the reciprocal behavior of the two colonial partners, another mechanism, proceeding from the first, would lead, I believed, inexorably to the decomposition of this dependence. Indeed, writing this book helped him to understand his experience.
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Memmi wrote it in response to the decolonization of North Africa in , when Tunisia and Algeria gained independence from the French. Although Memmi bases his examples on events in North Africa, he states that the dynamics he describes are similar in any colonial system. In , Tunisia became a colony of the French and it gained independence from France in During its colonial period, Tunisia was home to French colonizers, Italians, Tunisian Muslims, and a minority of Jews.
The Italians, although not as well off as the French, were also privileged. The Muslim majority was the most oppressed. Although the Jews were also oppressed, Memmi describes the Jews as more willing to try to assimilate to the French. Memmi writes of the Jews:. Unlike the Muslims, they passionately endeavored to identify themselves with the French.
To them the West was the paragon of all civilization, all culture. The Jew turned his back happily on the East. They chose the French language , dressed in the Italian style, and joyfully adopted every idiosyncrasy of the Europeans.
The Jews joined the French in the streets of Algiers during independence uprisings. Although Memmi joined the colonized rather than the colonizer, he says he understood why the Jews chose the side of the French. Its key tools are racism and terror. Racism is ingrained in every colonial institution, and establishes the subhumanity of the colonized , fostering poor self-concepts in the colonized as well.
By using terror to quell any reactionary uprising, the colonizers reinforce fear and submission. The colonial system favors population growth. In order to keep the salaries of the colonizers high and their cost of living low, there must be high competition among the native laborers. In other words, the birth rate must rise in order for the system to perpetuate itself. Since all resources go to the colonizer despite the need for increased resources by the growing colonized population, the standard of living of the colonized inevitably goes down.
Through cultural domination, the colonizer creates a group of francophiles who can attain a slightly higher status See Anglophilia. These candidates for assimilation will then support the side of the colonizer. The candidates for assimilation ultimately remain outcasts, however, because for the colonial system to perpetuate itself, it must not allow assimilation. If the colonized had voting rights, for instance, as the majority they would have the ability to destroy the system.
Three factors typify the colonizer who, according to Memmi, means any European in a colony : profit, privilege, and usurpation.
Europeans living in colonies often consider themselves to be in exile. They are not inclined to leave the colony for their mother country, however, because they are able to live a more comfortable life in the colony. In the colony, he has superior status and his standard of living is far above what it would be in Europe. The colonizer is privileged and, he realizes his privilege is illegitimate.
Therefore he is a usurper. The colonizer who refuses recognizes the colonial system as unjust, and may withdraw from the conditions of privilege or remain to fight for change.
Yet although he is benevolent, he is detached from the struggle of the colonized. Like the colonizer who refuses, the colonizer who accepts his role as usurper is also aware of his illegitimate privilege.
He asserts his cultural superiority — virtues such as heroism — and makes a show of his culture in order to impress the colonized. In essence, by legitimizing his role the colonizer learns that his identity and his image of the superior culture is constructed.
The more the colonialist oppresses the colonized, the more he realizes the atrocity of the role he has chosen. His hatred of the usurped grows. He wants the colonized to disappear because their existence leads him to act the role of usurper. Because they are excluded from government, they become less interested in government. They have no rights of citizenship and therefore almost never experience feelings of nationality.
Resistance movements, when they occur, are severely quelled. Thus, the courage of the colonized is destroyed, leading to deficiencies in self-assurance and pride.
According to Memmi, the colonial system is fundamentally unstable and will lead to its own destruction. The colonized have ultimately two answers to the colonial system. The first, assimilation, is impossible because the colonizer will not allow it. Because the colonial system has not provided a democratic process, the other option is revolt.
Revolt is a step in the colonial process and its built-in end. By revolting the colonized reject all colonizers, whether they be refusers or colonialists, as well as their language. Revolt often embraces religion and tradition and the colonized must find identity first, and thrust themselves, however precariously, back into a history.
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Memmi writes of the Jews: Unlike the Muslims, they passionately endeavored to identify themselves with the French. The Colonizer Three factors typify the colonizer who, according to Memmi, means any European in a colony : profit, privilege, and usurpation. The Two Solutions of the Colonized Telos of the Colonial System According to Memmi, the colonial system is fundamentally unstable and will lead to its own destruction.
Works Cited Memmi, Albert. The Colonizer and the Colonized. Boston: Beacon Press, Partition: Oral Histories May 2, Chatterjee, Partha November 20, Write A Comment Cancel Reply.
The Colonizer and the Colonized
First published in English in , this timeless classic explores the psychological effects of colonialism on colonized and colonizers alike. Confiscated by colonial police throughout the world since its publication, The Colonizer and the Colonized is an important document of our times, an invaluable warning for all future generations. Category: Domestic Politics. Add to Cart. Also available from:. Paperback —.
The Colonizer and the Colonized. Albert Memmi. Albert Memmi's classic work stands as one of the most powerful and psychologically penetrating studies of colonial oppression ever written. Dissecting the minds of both the oppressor and the oppressed, Memmi reveals truths about the colonial situation and struggle that are as relevant today as they were five decades ago. Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer's new critical Introduction draws Memmi into the 21st century by reflecting on his achievements and highlighting his omissions.