The 23rd International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING 2010)

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Colonialism

   Colonialism is the policy of a nation seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance. The colonising country seeks to benefit from the colonised country or land mass. In the process, colonisers imposed their religion, economics, and medicinal practices on the natives. Colonialism is the relationship of domination of indigenous by foreign invaders where the latter rule in pursuit of its interests.

As colonialism often played out in pre-populated areas, sociocultural evolution included the formation of various ethnically hybrid populations. Colonialism gave rise to culturally and ethnically mixed populations such as the mestizos of the Americas, as well as racially divided populations such as those found in French Algeria or in Southern Rhodesia. In fact, everywhere where colonial powers established a consistent and continued presence, hybrid communities existed.

A first wave of independence was started by the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), initiating a new phase for the British Empire. The Spanish Empire largely collapsed in the Americas with the Latin American wars of independence. However, many new colonies were established after this time, including the German colonial empire and Belgian colonial empire. In the late 19th century, many European powers were involved in the Scramble for Africa.

The impacts of colonisation are immense and pervasive. Various effects, both immediate and protracted, include the spread of virulent diseases, unequal social relations, detribalization, exploitation, enslavement, medical advances, the creation of new institutions, abolitionism, improved infrastructure, and technological progress. Colonial practices also spur the spread of colonist languages, literature and cultural institutions, while endangering or obliterating those of native peoples. The native cultures of the colonised peoples can also have a powerful influence on the imperial country.

European colonisation and development also changed gendered systems of power already in place around the world. In many pre-colonialist areas, women maintained power, prestige, or authority through reproductive or agricultural control. For example, in certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa women maintained farmland in which they had usage rights. While men would make political and communal decisions for a community, the women would control the village's food supply or their individual family's land. This allowed women to achieve power and autonomy, even in patrilineal and patriarchal societies.

Abolitionists in Europe and Americas protested the inhumane treatment of African slaves, which led to the elimination of the slave trade by the late 18th century. The labour shortage that resulted inspired European colonisers to develop a new source of labour, using a system of indentured servitude. Indentured servants consented to a contract with the European colonisers. Under their contract, the servant would work for an employer for a term of at least a year, while the employer agreed to pay for the servant's voyage to the colony, possibly pay for the return to the country of origin, and pay the employee a wage as well. The employee was "indentured" to the employer because they owed a debt back to the employer for their travel expense to the colony, which they were expected to pay through their wages. In practice, indentured servants were exploited through terrible working conditions and burdensome debts created by the employers, with whom the servants had no means of negotiating the debt once they arrived in the colony.

The Spanish Empire held a major advantage over Mesoamerican warriors through the use of weapons made of stronger metal, predominantly iron, which was able to shatter the blades of axes used by the Aztec civilisation and others. The European development of firearms using gunpowder cemented their military advantage over the peoples they sought to subjugate in the Americas and elsewhere.

Global travel and migration in general developed at an increasingly brisk pace throughout the era of European colonial expansion. Citizens of the former colonies of European countries may have a privileged status in some respects with regard to immigration rights when settling in the former European imperial nation. For example, rights to dual citizenship may be generous, or larger immigrant quotas may be extended to former colonies.

Roman universalism was characterised by cultural and religious tolerance and a focus on civil efficiency and the rule of law. Roman law was imposed on both Roman citizens and colonial subjects. Although Imperial Rome had no public education, Latin spread through its use in government and trade. Roman law prohibited local leaders to wage war between themselves, which was responsible for the 200 year long Pax Romana, at the time the longest period of peace in history. The Roman Empire was tolerant of diverse cultures and religious practises, even allowing them on a few occasions to threaten Roman authority.

Popular political practices of the time reinforced colonial rule by legitimising European (and/ or Japanese) male authority, and also legitimising female and non-mother-country race inferiority through studies of Craniology, Comparative Anatomy, and Phrenology. Biologists, naturalists, anthropologists, and ethnologists of the 19th century were focused on the study of colonised indigenous women, as in the case of Georges Cuvier's study of Sarah Baartman. Such cases embraced a natural superiority and inferiority relationship between the races based on the observations of naturalists' from the mother-countries. European studies along these lines gave rise to the perception that African women's anatomy, and especially genitalia, resembled those of mandrills, baboons, and monkeys, thus differentiating colonised Africans from what were viewed as the features of the evolutionarily superior, and thus rightfully authoritarian, European woman.


 

 
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