University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Gender, Race, and Religion in the Colonization of the Americas
Colonization is associated with the occupation of a foreign land. The definition of colonization is broad. However, it is used in the materialist and the traditionalist sense, rather than the metaphorical, to refer to the expropriation and exploitation of land and/or resources by one group over another. Various countries and continents fell under the York of colonization, and one such case is the African continent. The motivation for European’s colonization of different regions such as Africa was a combination of curiosity, missionary effects, scientific inquiry, exploitation of natural resources, and philanthropic desire to bring progress to Africa and its inhabitants. This is as per the definition of the Europeans. While Christianity and some desire to promote commerce were primary drivers of European interest in Africa, the dominating view was one of laissez-faire politics, assuming that contact with Europe and the desire to trade and interchange would stimulate African development.
Beginning 1800 European powerhouses such as Britain, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, and the Netherlands expanded their rule and influence to different parts of Africa. This led to the rise of colonial rule that affected nearly all institutions, politics, and social settings including growth and control of certain industries, government structures, education systems and health practices (Udeze, 2009). In the early periods of the twentieth century, European governments were claiming sovereignty over all, but six of the roughly forty political units into which the African continent had been divided by European missionaries and exploration. By doing this, these countries had already begun to lay claim to African territory, and this may have been attributed more to their competition with each other in Europe as opposed to the desire of developing colonies. In large part, the main focus of the colonial powers was to extract resources from Africa such as ivory, rubber, ores et cetera.
In the case of colonization in Africa, there has been a significant debate about the impact of colonialism in Africa. In the grand scheme of the continent’s history, the colonial era lasted a short time –less than a century. The Eurocentric scholars often gave the early accounts of the colonial period in Africa and they emphasized the positive impacts of colonization by focusing on the introduction of new technology, civilizing mission, medical advances, and the onset of modernity. On the other hand, the era of African nationalism resulted in the emergence of Afrocentric and Marxist analysis of colonization in Africa that was hardly sympathetic to the European point of view. In general, these studies concluded that the colonial era interrupted Africa’s natural development and condemned the continent to stagnation and continued exploitation.
That being said, it is clear that colonization in Africa came with its fair share of positive and negative outcomes alike. The nature of economic activities promoted during the colonial period caused the spread of cash crop agriculture, which in some cases allowed Africans to acquire wealth and raise their standard of living. Economically speaking, colonialism fostered the construction of economic infrastructure –roads, railroads, telegraph, and ports. However, the purposeful emphasis on cash crop agriculture impeded industrial development in Africa. This is because European nations did not want industrial competition. Furthermore, Africa’s integration into a world economy resulted in a system that encouraged Africans to produce what they could not use and use what they did not produce, creating national economies extremely susceptible to an economic crisis.
America is another classical example of countries that were subjected to colonialism. American was a former colony of the British. Some of the most heated debates about colonization in America concerned whether this was primarily a form of gradual emancipation and a conservative alternative to abolitionism, or whether it is understood as a racist movement that ultimately reinforced slavery in America. Through colonization, America was able to realize its economic potential and today it is one the leading economies across the globe. Furthermore, colonization in America led to the introduction of an employee benefits program that helps to add to economic stability whereby the income and welfare of American families are guaranteed (Yarema, 2006).
However, it cannot go without saying that the colonization of America increased the widespread of slavery that is often considered as a negative impact of colonialism in America. A lot of people from Africa were shipped to America to work as slaves. In its most benevolent formulations, the colonization movement proposed that, due to prejudice within the United States, free blacks and those who worked as slaves could not experience the full benefits of freedom, equality, or citizenship in America. This acted as a catalyst for racism, and some African-Americans did agree that the best course would be to leave the country and start freshly in Africa. In other cases, slaveholders made colonization a condition of manumission, leaving African-American women and men with the choice between slavery and Liberia (Jaffary, 2007). Other than slavery, the other negative impact of colonization in America is that it was premised on the assumption that a multiracial republic could not function properly.
Effects of one culture trying to colonize the other are bound occur in one way or the other. The subject of colonization in the African historical experience; should explain why every cultural trend discovered in Africa by later observers should not be simply tagged as original African culture and the tradition of the group living it; or of Africa as a whole. The strongest arguments are based on the dramatic change and twists inflicted on the original African culture by the acts of colonization by the West in the history of Black Africa. As a result of Europeans invading Africa on the pretext of exploration, this did not only retard the steady growth of the original African cultures, it created confusion, a distortion and a form of syncretism. Based on the incompatible nature of these two cultures, the Europeans amalgamated cultures indiscriminately. This act of colonization inflicted an enormous long-term suppression on the totality of the African cultures colonized, and effected an extensive implant of the colonizing foreign cultures that are better referred to as Western cultures.
The act of one culture colonizing the other cannot escape the fact that culture is a man-made reality; thus, it is a product of man. Each culture has its specific imperfections. The situation becomes worse when one culture, with all its imperfections, imposes itself indiscriminately on another culture; thus permeates its victims with its own imperfections; hence, proliferating evil and imperfections (Rieder, 2008). Because of the indifference of these two cultures, the European colonizers treated Africa as only a vast extension of land mass and paid very little or no attention to the people occupying that land mass except when they could consider them as a commercial vehicle or as any other means and instrument of making their insatiable material cravings come to fruition within the grips of their fingers.
Jaffary, N.E. (2007). Gender, Race, and Religion in the Colonization of the Americas. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.
Rieder, J. (2008). Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.
Udeze, B. (2009). Why Africa?: A Continent in a Dilemma of Unanswered Questions. Xlibris Corporation.
Yarema, A. E. (2006). American Colonization Society: An Avenue to Freedom? Maryland: University Press of America.