Colonizer and the Colonized
From Urban Press
Selected quotes from, The Colonizer and the Colonized (Portrait du colonisé, précédé par Portrait du colonisateur) by Albert Memmi. These annotations are provided for educational purposes only and copyright is retained by the original author. If you find this information interesting seeking out a copy of this book in its entirety is, as always, recommended.
This work explores and describes the psychological effects of colonialism on colonized and colonizers alike. Despite it's usapologetically general and subjective tone, Memmi's dissection of the colonial project is insightful, and even occasionally compelling. Like Derrida he is a North African Jewish. A distinction which, he argues, actually places him between colonizer and colonized, and therefore allows him some insight into both.
I have often noted that the deprivations of the colonizer are the almost direct result of the advantages secured to the colonizer.(Memmi 2003 , p 8)
Portrait of the Colonizer
Does the colonial exist
One need only ask a European living in the colonies what general reasons induced him to expatriate ... He may mention adventure, the picturesque surroundings or the change of environment. Why then, does he usually seek them out where his own language is spoken [rather than somewhere he will not] find a large group of his fellow countrymen, an administration to serve him, an army to protect him? The adventure would be less predictable but...of doubtful profit.
Our Traveler will come up with the best possible definition of a colony: a place where one earns more and spends less.(p 47)
If his living standards are high, it is because those of the colonized are low; if he can benefit from plentiful and undemanding labor and servants, it is because the colonized can be exploited at will and are not protected by the laws of the colony...he is the beneficiary of the entire enterprise.(p 52)
The colonist who refuses
What he is actually renouncing is part of himself and what he slowly becomes when he accepts life in a colony. He participates and benefits from those privileges which he halfheartedly denounces... How can he go about freeing himself of this halo of prestige which crowns him and at which he would like to take offense.(p 64)
He hopes to continue being a European by divine right in a country which would no longer be Europe's chattel... He invokes the end of colonization, but refuses to conceive that this revolution can result in the over-through of his situation and himself.(p 84)
The colonizer who accepts
It is a bad sign to decide to spend life in the colonies, just as it is a negative sign indication to marry [for] a dowry. The immigrant who is prepared to accept anything, having come for the purpose of enjoying colonial benefits, will become a colonialist by vocation.(p 90)
I have seen many immigrants who, having recently arrived...[when] suddenly provided with a wonderful title, see their obscurity illuminated by a prestige which surprises even them... Why should they not congratulate themselves for having come to the colony? Should they not be convinced of the excellence of the system which makes them what they are?(p 91)
How can usurpation pass for legitimacy? One attempt can be made by demonstrating the usurper's eminent merits, so eminent that they deserve such compensation. Another is to harp on the usurped's demerits, so deep they cannot help but lead to misfortune.(p 96)
The colonial situation manufactures colonialists just as it manufactures the colonized.(p 100)
He will ...call attention to the qualities of his native land - extolling them, exagerating them - stressing it's special traditions, it's cultural originality. Thus...he establishes his own share in that prosperous world, his natural tie to his homeland. Likewise he is assured of the impossibility of the colonized sharing in it's magnificence.(p 102)
[It is] as though their homeland were an essential component of the collective superego of colonizers, its material features become quasi-ethical qualities... The mother country thus combines only positive values... If he should go home, it would loose it's sublime nature, and he would cease to be a superior man.(p 104)
A witticism which is more serious than it sounds states "Everything would be perfect if it wasn't for the natives."(p 110)
The principal reason for most deficiencies is that the colonialist never planned to transform the colony into the image of his homeland, nor to remake the colonized in his own image! He cannot allow such an equation - it would destroy the principal of his privileges.(p 113)
The colonialists are perpetually explaining, justifying and maintaining (by word as well as by deed) the play and fate of their silent partners in the colonial drama.(p 114)
Portrait of the Colonized
Mythical Portrait of the Colonized
The colonized is never characterized in an individual manner; he is entitled only to drown in an anonymous collectivity ("They are this." "They are all the same.").(p 129)
- ↑ It has been argued that Derrida's focus on the marginal, the suppressed; on notions like stricture and différence; discontinuity over continuity, deconstruction over construction and transcendence over totality also reflect his experiences, as someone neither French nor Arab, growing up in Vichy Algeria (cf. Young 2001, pp 416-425).