Colonialism and Civilizations

In The Clash of Civilizations? Samuel Huntington postulates that the next round of world confrontations won’t be based around national interests like territory, or ideologies like the Cold War between capitalism and communism, but between civilizations. Huntington uses the Yugoslav Wars as an example of the direction conflicts are heading. Huntington describes the areas were different civilization as “fault lines”, which are characterized by increased violence and instability. Many of today’s fault lines have two different religions on either side. One of these fault lines separates Ukraine into a Catholic West and Orthodox East. Huntington states that “If civilization is what counts, however, the likelihood of violence between Ukrainians and Russians should be low.”, since Russia and Ukraine are part of the same civilization. Eleven years after Huntington’s article was published, we can see that the likelihood of violence has in the region has increased somewhat, and that similar civilizations are not entirely immune to conflict. Similarly, recent conflicts like the Arab Spring were intra-civilizational.

In Chapter 8: Imperialism and Postcolonialism, Painter and Jeffrey discuss the roots, causes, and lasting effects of colonialism. The authors also include a small section on the role colonization played in the creation of the field of geography. Important geography skills like map making were necessary to navigate newly colonized areas. Initially, geography was used to legitimize a form of scientific racism called environmental determinism.

Common to both the article and chapter was the concept of West versus the rest. As Western civilization exerts ex-colonies and other civilizations, these civilizations have reacted in different ways. Some civilizations embrace parts or all of Western civilization while others reject it. Western civilization is seen as the quickest and easiest way to modernization, while some civilizations like Japan have modernized while keeping their own civilization intact.

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