Archive for the 'Imperialism' Category

Living in Bad Surroundings in Northern Uganda

Civilians and Ugandan soldiers in Northern Uganda (photo by Peter van Agtmael click on photo for his website)

In his 2008 book Sverker Finnström wrote about how international observers have viewed the conflict in Northern Uganda (which has now moved to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Southern Sudan) and the realities on the ground:

The causes and consequences of the war in northern Uganda, the reasons for it, and the facts about it–they all differ, depending on whom you are listening to.  There is no one version that is fully agreed upon by all parties involved.  Perhaps this is a truism to many readers, but it is still important to emphasize because contemporary conflict analyses often tend to emphasize single causes for war in ways that are reductionist.  Regarding war in Africa, ethnicity is the most often invoked as one such single cause.  Consequently, African realities are reduced to little more than the antithesis to the roder of Western civilization, which on the other hand is taken for granted as modern and civilized…

During some periods, the [LRA] keep a low profile and their attacks are few, and consequently Ugandan authorities relax, being cooperative and even friendly to outside research.  During other periods, the rebels are very active, and in the Ugandan counterinsurgency practices almost everyone can be regarded as an enemy collaborator, including the researcher…

The war is indeed a global war even if fought on local grounds.  For some two decades, it has rolled back and forth, like the changes from rainy season to dry season and back to rainy season.  The massive influx of international humanitarian aid has ended up being deeply entangled with the realities on the ground

During some periods the rebels are disciplined and seek local support, more like fish in the water, to recall Mao Zedong’s  famous dictum on the guerilla fighters’ absolute need of local support to survive.  In such periods the repressive measures of the Ugandan authorities increase…In January 2003, the magistrate’s court in Gulu town reported that two boys aged fourteen and sixteen who returned home from rebel captivity were charged with reason, and that twenty-five more minors were being held in military custody without charges, under pressure to join the Ugandan army or face treason charges…The justice system became one of the first institutions to suffer from the war, and most cases of rebel as well as Ugandan military abuse of the civil population have not been addressed (8-9).

Reference

Finnström, Sverker.  2008.  Living with Bad Surroundings: War, History and Everyday Moments in Northern Uganda.  Durham, USA: Duke University Press.

Transnational Theory and the State

In her new book on globalization, “labor brokerage”, and Filipina/o migrant workers Dr. Robyn Magalit Rodriguez (you can gain access to her current lectures at UC Davis here) offers a critique of current scholarship on globalization (and hence postcolonial and transnational theory).  Especially in the field of Filipina/o studies where a huge focus has been on ignoring the roles of nation states and class structures under the current flows of global capitalism and American imperialism.

Philippine international migration is emblematic of globalization.  In describing the increasing mobility of labor, it is often Filipina and Filipino migrants that scholars refer to as a primary example of this phenomenon.  To suggest that the Philippine state is crucial to an understanding of Philippine international migration, as I do here, therefore, it to make an important intervention in the scholarship on international migration.  Much of the scholarship on international migration of late has tended to reify capital flows from “above” to undersand global labor flows or, in opposition to this scholarship, has examined globalization, specifically immigrant transnationalism from “below.”  My research shows that the state plays a central role in both these processes, but just as importantly my research shows how the state links and mediates between these two processes through a case study of Philippine migration.  I argue that the state is fundamental to globalization, just as importantly global processes constitute the state (143-4).

Reference

Rodriguez, Robyn Magalit.  2010.  Migrants for Export: How the Philippine State Brokers Labor to the World.  Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press

The Falsehood of Multiple Modernities

"On White" by Wassily Kandinsky

Critiquing the concept of alternate modernities and its consequences toward understanding universalist theories, Žižek explains:

The significance of this critique reaches far beyond the case of modernity–it concerns the fundamental limitation of nominalist historicizing.  The recourse to multiplication (“there is not one modernity with a fixed essence, there are multiple modernities, each of them irreducible to others…”) is false not because it does not recognize a unique fixed “essence” of modernity, but because multiplication functions as the disavowal of the antagonism that inheres to the notion of modernity as such: the falsity of multiplication resides in the fact that it frees the universal notion of modernity of its antagonism, of the way it is embedded in the capitalist system, by relegating this aspect to just one of the historical subspecieis…

Jameson’s critique of the notion of alternate modernities thus provides a model of the properly dialectic relationship between the Universal and the Particular: the difference is not on the side of particular content (as the traditional differentia specifica), but on the side of the Universal.  The Universal is not the encompassing container of the particular content, the peaceful medium-background of the conflict of particularities…In other words, the Universal names the site of a Problem-Deadlock, of a burning Question, and the Particulars are the attempted but failed Answers to this Problem (34-35).

Reference

Žižek, Slavoj.  2009.  The Parallax View.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Negri & Hardt on Lenin and “Empire”

Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt‘s concept of “Empire” is “in contrast to imperialism, Empire establishes no territorial center of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries or barriers…Empire manages hybrid identities, flesible hierarchies, and plurarl exchanges through modulating networks of communication” (xii-xiii).  While I’m not convinced, one of its most important turns in their argument happens here:

Lenin recognized finally that, although imperialism and the monopoly phase were indeed expressions of the global expansion of capital, the imperialist practices and the colonial administrations through which they were often pursed had come to be obstacles to the further development of capital.  He emphasized the fact, noted by many critics of imperialism, that competition, essential for the functioning and expansion of capital, declines necessarily in the imperialist phase in proportion to the growth of monopolies.  Imperialism, with its trade exclusive and protective tariffs, its national and colonial territories, is continually posing and reinforcing fixed boundaries, blocking or channeling economic, social, and cultural flows…Luxemburg argues in economic terms, imperialism rests heavily on these fixed boundaries and the distinction between inside and outside.  Imperialism actually creates a straightjacket for capital–or, more precisely, at a certain point the boundaries created by imperialist practices obstruct capitalist development and the full realization of its world market.  Capital must eventually overcome imperialism and destroy the barriers between inside and outside.

It would be an exaggeration to say that, on the basis of these intuitions, Lenin’s analysis of imperialism and its crisis leads directly to the theory of Empire.  It is true, nonetheless, that his revolutionary standpoint revealed the fundamental node of capitalist development…either world communist revolution or Empire and there is a profound analogy between the two choices (Negri and Hardt, 233-234).

I would still argue that we live in a time of imperialism and that, while it could be true that we are in Empire (or that we are headed toward Empire), the increasing militarization of the world by the U.S. and its continued use of “hard” and “soft” power to further extract more variable capital is a counterpoint to this.  However, it could be noted that this over stretch of U.S. power is due to it trying to stem the “tide of Empire.”  I’m assuming Multitude has an answer to these questions.

Source

Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri.  2000.  Empire.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Mulitple Colonialism in Moroland

Mindanao

Julkipli Wadi, in the book The Moro Reader, writes:

It can be said thus that there are, at least, four major strings of control that operate in the Moroland; namely: (1) U.S. colonialism (historical, unclosed); (2) Philippine colonialism (direct; relative to Moros); (3) multilateral colonialism (geopolitical, strategic and economic interests; corporate globalization); and (4) current U.S. colonialism (war on international terrorism; “second coming”)…What can be generally stated this time is that when the Philippine Republic took over in 1946, the status of Moros became “neocolonial” with respect to the Philippines but “doubly colonial” in relation to the Philippines and the United States.  It is because when the United States absolved Moros’ sovereignty and transferred it arbitrarily to Filipinos in 1946 and even earlier, the Philippine Independence did not necessarily close American colonialism in Mindanao and Sulu.  What happened is that the mode of U.S. control was simply transfered to Filipinos and thence became indirect and continued to operate by proxy. (Wadi, 22)

Source

Wadi, Julkipli, “Multiple Colonialism in Moroland” in The Moro Reader: History and Contemporary Struggles of the Bangsamoro People.  Edited by Tuazon Bobby M and Oscar Evangelista.  Philippines: CenPEG Books, 2008.

Ho Chi Minh on Readdressing Strategy

Ho Chi Minh

On July 15th 1954 Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) addressed the Sixth Plenum of the Viet Nam Workers’ Party Central Committee on negotiating peace with the French colonial forces.  He took up a pragmatic and strategic stand of setting up a cease fire in order to bring about an eventual socialist revolution.  Obviously negotiations didn’t work but Ho still left all avenues open in the short term (while still protecting long term goals):

Our previous motto was ‘Resistance to the end’.  At present we must put forward a new one: ‘Peace, unity, independence, democracy’.  We must take firm hold of the banner of peace to oppose the US imperialists’ policy of direct interference in, and prolongation and expansion of, the war in Indochina.  Our policy must change in consequence: formerly we confiscated the French imperialists’ properties; now, as negotiations are going on, we may, in accordance with the principle of equality and mutual benefit, allow French economic and cultural interests to be preserved in Indochina.  Negotiations entail reasonable mutual concessions.  Formerly we said we would drive out and wipe out all French aggressive forces; now, in the talks held, we have demanded, and the French have accepted, that a date be set for the withdrawal of their troops.  In the past, our aim was to wipe out the puppet administration and army with a view to national reunification; now we practice a policy of leniency and seek reunification of the country through nationwide elections. (Ho, 135)

The elections for reunification were opposed by the puppet forces in the south and the United States.

Source

Ho Chi Minh.  Ho Chi Minh: Down With Colonialism! New York: Verso, 2007.

W. E. B. Du Bois on Imperialist Hypocrisy

W.E.B. Du Bois

In an essay titled “The Souls of White Folk,” written in 1920, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote:

Conceive this nation, of all human peoples, engaged in a crusade to make the “World Safe for Democracy”! Can you imagine the United States protesting against Turkish atrocities in Armenia, while the Turks are silent about mobs in Chicago and St. Louis; what is Louvain compared with Memphis, Waco, Washington, Dyersburg, and Estill Springs?  In short, what is the black man but America’s Belgium, and how could America condemn in Germany that which she commits, just as brutally, within her own borders? (Du Bois, 926)

Source

Du Bois, W. E. B.  Writings.  New York: The Library of America, 1986.


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