Imperialism

Finally, a word that means what I have always thought it meant.  This week we are looking at Imperialism and the effects that that has had on cultures through out time.  This chapter opens with the example of Australia and the indigenous peoples who lived there before the arrival of the British, but I want to use the United States instead.  Same idea, but I think that it hits much closer to home with the people who live here.  Just like in Australia during the age of Colonialism in Europe many countries sought to expand their empires and the British empire looked west to the Americas.  Through out the rest of American colonial history we have been pushing west until we eventually hit the ocean.  In those days we used the idea of Manifest Destiny to justify our killing, moving, and destroying of native peoples and their land believing that we were sent by God to do this.  The same can be said of the Crusades which was a series of wars to “regain ” the holy lands, the Vietnam and Korean War, and several countries during World War II.  All these examples deal with imperialism and the attempt to gain land through various methods.

So with all these examples in human history of expansion and imperialism there must have been a reason for all of it.  The book talks about the major reason being economic and the rise of luxury goods, things that could not be produced at home.  The trade route over land was too unpredictable thus the voyage of Vasco de Gama proved significant, establishing an over water route to India.  The second reason the book gives is that there was religious implications of early expansion.  With the threat of the growth of Islam many countries sought to gain followers in Catholicism.  The result of colonialism can be seen well in Mexico where the dominant religion is catholicism. Mexico had been colonized by the Spanish is its early history thus the diffusion of religion to that land.

So why imperialism? Why does it matter?  As the book describes later on in the chapter geography was a product of imperialism.  It was the European knowledge of land, oceans, plants, and other peoples which formed the early content of geography.  Second things like cartography and city planning were a product of imperialism. Finally, it was this knowledge that enabled imperialism to be justified and spread across the earth.  With all this imperialism came the mapping of foreign lands and thus we see how this impacted geography.  Lets take Africa for example.  Prior to European involvement Africa was not consistent of countries, but of areas of similar peoples very similar in my mind to our version of a state.  The lines on the map today to not properly display the diversity and cultural differences in Africa.  Those lines were the result of European imperialism and thus the conflict in Africa still to this day exists.  When a country has an election for an office there is always violence and protest because not every group in that country is being represented in the way they feel best.  The issue in Darfur is an issue over identity, the recent addition of South Sudan as a country was the result of cultural and religious differences between the Muslim northern part of the country and the more African southern part of the country, and the break up of Yugoslavia was the result of people being forced to assimilate with one another and the end result was the formation of seven new countries.

In the end with post colonialism we see the end result of imperialism.  The book argues that leaving a country to rule itself is simply not enough to justify an end to colonialism.  In many cases countries that were being colonized had different way of learning for example in India during British rule the people there were taught about British things and culture and practices.  For colonialism to truly be over there must be a complete shift in the way the lines are drawn on a map and thus the culture of every country in the world.

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