Identifying “The Wrong” of Colonialism – and Why it Matters in the Post-Colonial World

The Freedom Center and Spring 2022 FC Talks series presents Allen Buchanan (University of Arizona) and Ritwik Agrawal (University of Arizona).

There is now a vigorous philosophical literature on “the wrong” of colonialism. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether the project is to identify (1) some wrong that is unique to colonialism, the distinctive wrong, or (2) a wrong common to all cases of colonialism, or (3) the most serious wrong of colonialism. In this essay, we argue that, contrary to the views of philosophers like Anna Stilz, Massimo Renzo, and Lea Ypi, the deprivation of self-determination is neither the distinctive wrong nor the most serious wrong of colonialism. Instead, we argue that the most serious wrongs of colonialism are severe economic injustices and practices of humiliation. Our view has significant advantages over accounts that focus on self-determination: it can make sense of the concepts of neocolonialism and internal colonialism and help explain the fact that anticolonialists did not regard their struggle as completed even after self-determination (in the form of independent statehood or that plus democracy) was achieved. Our analysis is guided by attention to the actual history of anticolonial struggles and the voices of the most prominent anticolonial leaders. 

Event Contacts
Kaveh Pourvand