Response #3: Aime Cesaire on Colonialism

Note: Professor, I apologize for any inconvenience I have caused. I really appreciate your understanding!

Sarah Jang


Professor Alvarez

31 March 2011

Call and Response: The Effects of Colonialism, Injustice, and Pseudo-Humanism and the Rise of Awareness in Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism

In Discourse on Colonialism, Aimé Césaire brings forth strong arguments about the effects of colonialism. He presents the readers with compelling perspectives on the identities and the roles that the colonizer and the colonized assumed. Césaire’s voice is defiant, strong, and definitive. Through awareness and the use of literature and the English language, or the colonizer’s language, Césaire claims back the identity of the colonized. He voices the injustice of the action of the colonizers and unveils the truth for his readers. Césaire states, “no one colonizes innocently, that no one colonizes with impunity either; that a nation which colonizes, that a civilization which justifies colonization – and therefore force – is already a sick civilization” (39). In presenting this argument, Césaire opens up the eyes of the reader to see postcolonial literature in this light – the influence of the colonizers and the response to it.

Césaire also states that “the great thing I hold against pseudo-humanism: that for too long it has diminished the rights of man, that its concept of those rights has been – and still is – narrow and fragmentary, incomplete and biased and, all things considered, sordidly racist” (37). In regards to this statement, the literature and the response that rise to pseudo-humanism shapes the literature of the future and what is highbrow and what is radical. It is evident even now in the things society reads and values ranging from authors and their works from Franz Fanon and Chinua Achebe to the moving and powerful words of Roberto Fernandez Retamar in Caliban and Other Essays to America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan. Each was a response and story that rose up against colonialism.

Aimé Césaire offers another powerful statement, “The proof is that at present it is the indigenous peoples of Africa and Asia who are demanding schools, and the colonialist Europe which refuses them; that it is the African who is asking for ports and roads, and the colonialist Europe which is niggardly on this score; that it is the colonized man who wants to move forward, and the colonizer who holds things back” (46). There is a tension that is often present and seen in literary texts where there is a desire to move forward yet due to the environmental and societal factors, it is not possible and the characters are held back. Struggles of one’s identity is evident as well among literature in response to colonialism. Césaire argues for the sake of the colonized – he portrays and reveals the colonized as a forward group of peoples held back by the colonizer.

Within literature, movement begins by claiming back one’s self, one’s identity, and one’s history through using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. Language and literature have become tools in the case of Aimé Césaire as he has written this book as an act against colonialism.

Works Cited

Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000. Print.

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