Colonialism as the colonization of consciousness’: using at least two case-studies from different periods, discuss how an interest in religion may contribute to understandings of colonial and imperial encounters. David Bliss 1 May, 2013 university of Leister Word count: 2,984 Introduction An Interest In religion may contribute to understanding of colonial and Imperial encounters by providing a window into the daily lives at colonies that can augment other sources or stand on its own.
Both historical and archaeological evidence is available from periods of colonialism and this evidence can help us understand how effective these efforts were at impacting the lives of both the colonizers and colonized, and the relations between colonial and Imperial forces. Colonial history Is by no means homogeneous and each case needs to be looked at In Its own light – taking Into account the motives of all players, the geography, and pre-existing systems.
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Indeed, even at a certain location, the results varied. This paper examines how religion interplay with colonialism and what was the impact on certain cases to colonizers and the colonized in terms of the ‘colonization f consciousness’. It will attempt to define this term, and then provide examples with varying degrees of relevance on understanding the colonial/lamellar Interplay. Defining the question What is studied? Religion is one area of study in understanding colonial and imperial encounters.
It has been identified as one of the three “M”s of imperial encounters: merchants, missionaries, and military (Choppy 2002:45). It provides a more-rounded understanding of colonial and Imperial encounters than as disparate observations. Through religious buildings and Iconography, burials, and the physical trappings of elisions orders and their representatives that are Important material expressions of religion, we have physical remains that, along with historical documents, give us insight into the lives of the colonized and colonizers.
Religious historical and material remains of past societies provide a source of information for the workings of the sacred In social life and, for the purposes of this paper, the workings of how colonial life altered natives and colonists. There has been ritual practices and symbolic systems. This continual interest in religious life has contributed to important theoretical innovations, such as the Comforts colonization f consciousness framework (ROB 2011). What is meant by ‘an interest in religion?
Archaeologists often assume that ritual is a form of human action that leaves material traces, whereas religion is a more abstract symbolic system consisting of beliefs, myths, and doctrines (Insole 2004). This perception began to change with the advent of more practice-oriented approaches to the anthropology of religion (Boggling 2007). In this paper, I view an ‘interest in religion’ as the historical documents and material evidence created by religious agents.
It can certainly be argued that many of those are secular in nature rather than religious, UT the purpose of this paper is not to define religion, but to look at a broader ‘interest in religion’. In the cases of colonial encounters, the evidence we have is heavily related to missionaries and their mission of conversion in the form of direct historical documents and direct material evidence. Colonialism has been one of the most significant phenomena in the history of humankind in the last three hundred years or so.
Religious evidence shows us that Christian missionaries were associated with imperialist expansion and can shed light on the understanding of these encounters. It seems probable, then, that missionaries were significant intermediaries in the construction of global Imperialism in its universalistic dimension. “Colonization of consciousness” is a process termed by Comfort & Comfort in their study of South Africa (Comfort and Comfort 1991). It is a merging of two words that are, in themselves, broad in interpretation and combined are more-so.
As George Miller wrote in 1962, “Consciousness is a word worn smooth by a million tongues. ” It is used in many contexts and many interpretations of those contexts. Colonization is broad concept that is not a simple process to define either. For the purposes of this paper, I will use the definition by Lane: Colonization of consciousness is “the adoption of and adherence to a particular set of beliefs that come to be manifested in the daily workings of a society and the everyday practice of its members” (Lane 2001).
This does not mean a complete replacement of pre-existing beliefs and way of life (Williams and Chairman). Colonization of consciousness involves a changing of the daily life. Colonialism and imperialism “colonize consciousness” by shaping everyday life at a global level, influencing language spoken, the clothes worn, food eaten, and over time, arts and culture (Blatant and Burton 2005:1). Answering the Question In some instances, military actions were lock-step with imperial interests, but in many this is not the case. Studying religion will not provide a full understanding of the colonial/imperial interplay.
Historian Andrew Porter identifies three separate literatures within which the role of religion has conventionally been considered: imperial historiography, imperial histories of religious/ecclesiastical developments, and, finally, regional or colonial histories (Porter 2004). He sees a need to bridge the historiography gulfs’ arising from their relative discreteness. By viewing these missions and empire was more variable and complex than is commonly acknowledged (Keenan 2004: xii-iii). The writings of missionaries often provide an alternative reading to narratives written by colonial employees and military.
By studying mission texts, physical evidence, and ritual evidence, we can see how the daily lives of the colonized and colonizers changed through their interactions. Religious texts shed light on the relationship between colonial and imperial encounters either as agents of those encounters, such as missionaries in China or as hire-parties such as in the colonizing of the Yucatan; at times, in a foreign environment, with foreign languages, laws, and customs to navigate – those both of the colonizer and the colonized – missionaries’ writings provide an insight into the frameworks of the colonial governments amongst which they worked.
Evidence needs to be viewed critically when looking to religion to understand colonialism. Large churches housing many native members does not mean their beliefs or daily lives were any different than before. Detailed textual accounts of conversions and missionary successes may not reflect the true consciousness of the datives as that may not have been the goal of the texts or that they written with bias. In many cases, such as Africa and the Yucatan, the number of missionaries was extremely small and the entire operation relied on the perception of success back home.
It stands to reason that narratives and official documents idealized the missionary mission and success. We simply cannot be sure how successful the impact of conversion as an act had on changing the consciousness of the population in any significant way or how large a role missionaries actually played in colonization, or that the role was as an agent of empire. To add to the ambiguity, direct texts from native population are often not available to balance these accounts.
Historical archaeologists have made major contributions to the understanding of the religion and ritual of peoples who have remained underrepresented (or misrepresented) in the historical record, such as colonized peoples (Hanks 2010). What we also do have evidence of in some cases, such as the Yucatan or China, is the impact Western religion had on contemporary residents. Case Study: Tsarina South Africa: 19th Century In Southern Tsarina – chiefly the Dilating and Erelong, Christian missions have laded a role in shaping African consciousness.
Although the Christian missionary activity exercised over the South Africans presented itself in purely religious terms, the impact it had and the way it substantially changed the everyday life of the subjects of colonization shows how it was in fact tightly bound with the discourse of modern imperialism itself and how it stepped across the religious sphere and affected other spheres of life. The European colonization of Africa was often less a directly coercive conquest than a persuasive attempt to colonize consciousness, to make people by redefining the taken-for-granted surfaces of their everyday worlds.
This is evident in the colonial evangelism among the Southern Tsarina (Comfort and Comfort 1991 : 29). On the one hand, the missionaries openly used all the resources and techniques at their disposal to make an impact on the Africans; that is, to convert people through reasoned argument and bend chiefs to their wills, to affect the power embedded in the practices of their culture, practices that were gradually inculcated into the natives even as they refused to hear the gospel and struggled to MIT the impact of colonization on their communities.
The material record from missions can be examined as a reflection of the idea of changing cultural imagination and reordering of a conceptual universe. Religion again places a central role here, suggesting “of the many aspects of the material record that might reflect native conceptual gains, the most revealing are in the record of Christianization process”… But again stressing “archaeologists must be careful not to adopt the simplistic approach of colonial Catholic priests and interpret the material culture of mission ties as manifestations of wither acceptance or rejection of Christianity’ (Comfort and Comfort 1991 : 29).
Although resistance to this mission existed, expressions of resistance do not preclude the colonization of consciousness. A complete replacement of the daily life and beliefs of a host society is not required to bring about a colonization of consciousness. In fact, new forms of defiance to imperial rule could be argued as well to be a change in daily life brought on by the missionaries and imperial agents. The missionaries played a political role in colonizing the natives ND serving as agents for the crown through which the Tsarina were reworked to the measure of capitalist civilization.
However, what has to be kept in mind is that primarily the missionaries’ side is heard and they have every reason to exclaim their success in converting the consciousness of the Tsarina. In the historical evidence, the Tsarina have little voice to share their side of the story (Comfort 1986). Studying religion in this case alone would not offer a complete picture. Imperial history tells another story of bringing representative government to chiefdoms that, over time, exulted in coercion by British force.
The colonial wars stemming from imperial ambitions on trade-routes to India and mineral deposits would not be seen through solely a religious lens. Imperial ideas of the time that pitted European countries against each other who all felt a right to own ‘new territories’ is an aspect of the colonial/imperial relationship that an interest in religion alone would not evidence. Still, an interest in religion contributes to the study of colonization in South Africa and helps our understanding of the dynamics between colonial and imperial forces.
Case Study: 19th and 20th Century Missions to China There are fundamental differences between Tsarina society and a large-scale bureaucratic state like China in the nineteenth century. Many of the elements identified by the Comforts as part of the package of capitalist modernity introduced by the missionaries–the plow, money, a sense of property, and taxation had already existed in China. Moreover, while it certainly felt the impact of Imperialism, China was never colonized.
Also, unlike the British missionaries who played a decisive role (according to the Comforts) in mediating modernity to the Tsarina, the influence of he missionary body in China can seldom be separated from other avenues – commerce, publishing, officialdom, and contacts with Japan-by which foreign imperial ideas and institutions were being filtered into the empire (Dunce 2002). Nevertheless, the changes undergone by Chinese society between the mid-nineteenth century and mid-twentieth century can be seen as a transition from “tradition “to “modernity” and attributed a decisive role in the process, for good or ill, to the Western impact.
This history. In the first half of the twentieth century, works written by missionaries and heir supporters claimed for the missions a great deal of the “credit” for bringing China into the modern world. Chinese nationalist critiques from the asses, charged missionaries with imperialism or “cultural invasion,” usually meaning that Christian conversion and missionary education were intended to facilitate imperialist economic and political control by making the Chinese people docile.
In contract to this, Wang Liking argues that American missionaries, rather than being tools of cultural or other imperialism, were actually engaged in “cultural exchange,” making a significant nutrition to China’s modernization in the late King period (Dunce 2002). Changes in China parallel to those identified by the Comforts as part of the colonization of consciousness, such as the introduction of aspects of a Western imperial way of life.
A study in these mission efforts reveals the attempted imposition of western imperial beliefs in the form of campaigns against foot binding, opium consumption, and views toward gender relations –all of which involved missionaries to some degree and show Western imperialistic attitudes at the time that the West has a right to impose TTS way of life on another culture. We can see that these transformations so closely associated with the emergence of the Western nation-state can be viewed in terms of a “colonization of consciousness”.
Missionaries were the field-agents of the change in Chinese life. In the end, missionaries’ role as agents of imperialism or as agents of cultural exchange depends on the observer. What can be stated is that in this instance of more passive introduction of foreign culture and ideals, missionaries maybe greater agents of change than in more aggressive imperial efforts. Case Study: Yucatan: 16th Century Missionaries at times found themselves openly at odds with imperial interests.
In the Yucatan, the church and imperial interests frequently clashed. Studying religion gives us a window into this relationship and the nature of colonization in this case. Missionaries had to walk a fine line between looking out for the souls of the ‘converted’ and the imperial desire for conquest of resources and the native labor needed to exploit those resources. Church documents and diaries point to a separation in motives between church and state where the state clearly sought to regulate life’ and the church sought to protect the natives.
In this case, the limited number of friars and the promise of wealth that the colonies brought meant that the friars had little say in the regulation of life enacted by the crown’s agents (Cascaras 1961). In the case of the Yucatan, it was not the missionaries who altered daily life for the ‘converts’ as much as it was the crown. An interest in religion can point to heavy handedness of the crown and the ultimate subjugation that followed. While this process is evidenced in non-religious sources, details of the encounters are filled-in by religious evidence.
Amman-Spanish interaction was a mixing of traditions and practices. We see in the architecture of missions that they were influenced by the local materials and techniques. We also see in evidence for food and drink at missions that local everyday lives of the Mayans influenced the Spanish as they used native ceramics and reported to have native women cooking (Cascaras 1961). Undoubtedly Spanish and imperial society is evidenced today through religion and the quotidian. Interactions between the Spanish and natives have ultimately created a shared culture.
In the Yucatan, that is evident through the religion of the region today. Religion came packaged with foreign imperial domination and its acceptance in modern day Yucatan points to the impact of cultural change as a result of colonialism. Conclusion Colonialism has been one of the most significant phenomena in the history of humankind in the last three hundred years or so. Religious evidence shows us that Christian missionaries were associated with imperialist expansion and can shed light on the understanding of these encounters.
It seems probable, then, that missionaries were significant intermediaries in the construction of global Imperialism in its anniversaries dimension. Colonization of consciousness is “the adoption of and adherence to a particular set of beliefs that come to be manifested in the daily workings of a society and the everyday practice of its members” (Lane 2001). The study of religious amounts to more than Just an analysis of religious change. It gives us a view into the broader consciousness. To varying degrees, in all case studies here Christian missions have played a role in shaping consciousness.
Evidence needs to be viewed critically when looking to religion to understand colonialism. Large hurries housing many native members does not mean their beliefs or daily lives were any different than before. Detailed textual accounts of conversions and missionary successes may not reflect the true consciousness of the natives as that may not have been the goal of the texts or that they written with bias. The historiography examined here demonstrates how inseparable the assessment of the missionary impact is from broader questions of how to historicist nationalism and modernity.
The case studies presented show how a study of religion can shed light onto the interplay between colonial and imperial encounters. While in some cases, such as Southern Tsarina, the religious agents in the field were representing imperial interests. In other cases, such as Colonial Yucatan, they were at odds with the imperial powers. These different cases result in a different light they shed on an understanding of colonial encounters. In both, the religious information needs to be treated as part of a portfolio of sources for analysis.