JANUARY 30, 2012
Decolonization in Asia and Africa: Unlike in the Americas, where Europeanized
populations led the struggle for independence, nationalist movements rooted in
changed in local society were hastened by colonialism.
Anti-colonialism was in rural areas of Africa and Asia and supported by elites and
peasants. Elites might lend support to anti-colonial reasons b/c their power was
undermined by colonialism, they were excluded from power, they wanted to regain
power, they wanted political power to equal their economic power, etc. (scholarly
gentry of Vietnam, for example, were against French colonialism). They also could
be co-opted elites (who benefited from colonialism), whether they were traditional
or new elites. Peasant populations may support anti-colonial movements because
they were harmed by colonial taxation policy, they may be upset at being
marginalized, etc. Peasants don’t revolt easily (“they are busy surviving”) and may
have a weaker sense of national identity because their economy, family, life are so
tied to locality.
To have a successful revolt, mass resistance is required and the support of the
peasants in important.
Anti-colonialism was also driven by alienated rural migrants, a small but growing
working class, students, civil servants, professionals, petit bourgeoisie, and the
bourgeoisie. These groups are often a result of the colonial rule (this is not the pre-
colonial society→ it has been re-shaped by the colonial experience, especially in the
cities where there is not education etc.)
Urbanization is also associated with an increased sense of national identity (people
from many different backgrounds come together in one space, creates a new
identity). That being said, not all anti-colonial movements were nationalist.
The upward mobility of the middle classes may cause anti-colonial tendencies
(because they can rise so far in the working world→ no matter their skill level,
Europeans are favoured and the indigenous people can never become part of the
This led to exposure to education and ideas, other social groups, technology,
communication, organization, and the strengths and weaknesses of colonialism (ex.
weaknesses→ they were arming the local population and recruiting to be part of the
militia/army, they recruited minorities so they would be more willing to use force
against the majority), and caused “linkage politics.”
Linkage politics→ taking different groups with different grievances (marginalized
rural elite who want power, urban migrants who see the weakness of colonial rule,
etc.) and trying to link them. This gave the anti-colonial movements a benefit
because it was far easier to mobilize under the greater ideology of getting rid of
foreigners (colonial rule) and self-determination. But when the colonial power
leaves, they lose their common link).
Transitions to Independence:
Protests Strikes Riots War of national
Transitions to independence can be peaceful (left side of spectrum), which works
best when the population has far greater numbers than the colonists (ex. India). On
the other end of the spectrum, it can be very violent (ex. South Yemen against the
British, Mozambique and Angola against the Portuguese→ which resulted in civil war in both countries, Vietnam and Algeria against the French). If it went as far as
an uprising against the colonial power, the colonized group rarely wins, but the
colonial usually realizes that the cost-benefit is changed and it isn’t worth it to be in
the colony anymore. They weren’t won on the