AfricaColonialism In African History, The Nature Of The Colonial Encounter, The Bifurcated Colonial State, Dependent Colonial Capitalism
Conceptions and characterizations of colonialism vary considerably among scholars of Africa. Differences and debates center on four sets of interrelated issues: first, the place and importance of the colonial period in African history; second, the nature of the colonial encounter and its driving force; third, the typologies of African colonialism; and fourth, the legacies of colonialism for postcolonial Africa. These questions have been addressed from a wide variety of disciplinary and analytical traditions. In general, the historiography of colonialism in Africa has been dominated at different moments by four paradigms: the imperialist, nationalist, radical, and postcolonial.
Imperialist approaches, which prevailed in the early twentieth century, emphasized the civilizing mission and impact of colonialism. Critiques against this tradition, combined with nationalist struggles that led to decolonization, culminated in the rise of nationalist historiography, which emphasized African activities and agency. From the 1970s, influenced by a growing sense of pessimism about the developmental and democratic capacities of the postcolonial state and the rise of militant ideologies and social movements, "radical" approaches emerged, centered on dependency and Marxist ideas that highlighted the economic depredations and effects of colonialism. In the 1990s, following the demise of socialist regimes and ideologies and the spread of poststructuralism and postmodernism, postcolonial perspectives were increasingly used to reinterpret the cultural and discursive dynamics and complexities of colonialism. Additional paradigms on colonialism arose, most critically those informed by feminist and environmental studies, which stress the role of gender and ecology in the construction of colonial identities, societies, and political economies.
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