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Anthropology and Colonialism

In The Anthropology of Colonialism: Culture, History, and the Emergence of Western Governmentality, Pels states that anthropologists mainly view colonialism in three dimensions: as the “universal, evolutionary development of modernization. as a specific strategy or exercise in domination and exploitation. and as the incomplete venture of struggle and negotiation” (Pels 1997: 164). According to Pels, all three dimensions were popular colonial policies in both positive and negative types (Pels 1997: 164). Interestingly, it turns out that most anthropological perspectives revolve around these three dimensions. Based on Pels’ perspective and existing literature, it could be argued that although all three views are valid to a certain degree, the second outlook (a specific strategy or exercise in domination and exploitation) represents anthropology’s stance on colonialism.
The interpretation that colonialism was a ubiquitous, evolutionary byproduct of modernization conveniently ignores the fact that colonialism was not universal and that it was not an inevitable result of modernization. This line of argument assumes that colonialism was a natural occurrence that could not be avoided when the truth is that it was planned and instigated by Western powers as a tool for domination and enrichment (Kuper 2014: 37). Such a position is flawed because of its subtle equation of colonialism to processes like evolution and, to an extent, human development.
The fact that colonized countries had to lose part of their identities renders the anthropological notion that colonialism was an inherent aspect of modernization irrelevant (Kuper 2014: 52). Considering that anthropology was, more or less, a result of colonialism, it is hard to envision it as a component of modernization. In retrospect, it is safe to say that colonialism sparked Western powers’ interest in other cultures (Lewis 2013: 43). This could be aided by the fact that the history of anthropology prior to the colonial era is essentially nonexistent.&nbsp.

Anthropology and Colonialism