Elite Communities Under Colonialism--The Solution

Dr Philip Holden, University Scholars Programme, National University of Singapore


The solution to this dilemma is for the colonial middle classes to make a fundamental distinction between West and Self, and sees the West as possessing cultural attributes (largely material) which need to be appropriated, while maintaining the superior spiritual qualities of the indigenous culture. The colonizer's culture is seen as "decadent," while the culture of the colonized is seen as morally superior.

This leads to the rise of anti-colonial nationalism, which attempts to invent a nationhood and a '"modern" national culture' which is not Western, excluding the colonial state from the heart of national culture (The Nation and Its Fragments 6). Nationalists are unwilling for the colonial state to reform '"traditional" society' (9). Rather, they assert that "only the nation itself could have the right to intervene in such an essential aspect of its cultural identity"(9).

This distinction between West and Self is mapped onto another division, that between public and private, the world and the home. The public sphere becomes the area of modernity, a material world. The spiritual, private sphere of the home becomes the area of tradition, where indigenous culture may be preserved in an uncontaminated way. What is presented as tradition here is often a middle-class, cleaned up version of community practices which is quite remote from the life world of the majority of the majority of colonised peoples.

This in turn affects the position of women...

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Last Modified: 19 April, 2002