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+2 votes
I know 'best' is a vague term, but I know that people are drawn to books for different reasons, such as impassioned prose or 'just the facts,' and I want to allow room for that. If you answer, please post *why* you recommend the said book.
by (7.5k points)
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1 Answer

+2 votes
I have a soft spot for the book "Decolonizing Methodologies", by the Maori academic and activist Linda Tuhiwai-Smith. It is really academic, and is written in the context of how researchers might engage with indigenous/colonized communities. I've found much of what she writes about helpful as stuff to think about for anarchist projects/interventions (using some aspects and concepts, rejecting others). One particular hang up I have is that it is super focused on issues of recognition and other legal methods of "decolonizing." I understand why these are significant, and I don't find them compelling places to show solidarity.

"A Small Place" is a very short book by Jamaica Kincaid, and it is a really good read. It discusses the impact of colonialism & neocolonialism on the Island of Antigua. Also, if you like to watch documentaries, it is the basis of the documentary "Life and Debt" about Jamaica (the island, not the author) which is narrated by Jamaica (the author not the island).

I also have enjoyed "Biopiracy" and "Stolen Harvest" by Vandana Shiva, though they are narrower in focus, dealing with the impacts of the Green Revolution, genetic engineering and neo-colonialism/neoliberalism in India.

(edited for a typo)
by (22.1k points)
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yay jamaica kincaid!

but i can't leave it at that. i know kincaid as a fiction writer, for which i like her very much. and that speaks to how the question is posed...
fwiw, i think that colonialism (like racism) is a big deal, but i also think it's been constrained by the people who talk about it in these terms, so much that i can't think of a single expository book that i could recommend.
this means that, for me, fiction is the best reflection on these issues, from zorah neale hurston to toni cade bambara to kincaid to edwidge danticat (noticing a pattern here? lol). octavia butler (all hail) also speaks to these questions. i'm not the best read in this at this point, but that is definitely the direction i would recommend.

i wonder if there's another way to ask the question amorfati, that might open the issue up more? or, if this is really the question you want, then why is that? (not being at all confrontational here, just curious.)

and a second edit...
for example -- i think there are things in both albert memmi's works and fanon's works that are probably really interesting and useful (i read the colonizer and the colonized decades ago and really liked it - so, grains of salt?), but both of those authors have been so owned by ... maoists? nationalists? some yucky label... that i don't really want to recommend them.
not that they're necessarily responsible for the twists that subsequent people have put them through. just sayin'.
Thank you, ingrate, for the answer. I will be picking up kincaid's book. It's funny that many of the criticisms I read of her book centered around how she portrayed tourists. Since the town where I've lived for 30 years has become a tourist mecca, this is more of a draw to the book than not. Tourism really sucks!
No sense of confrontation taken, dot.

Like I said, I really want different approaches to the 'colonial' question. I want to see and hear different different responses coming from different levels: emotional, political, intellectual, ecological, etc. It's one I've not explored enough, even though I live on noticeably occupied land, land not covered up so much by the grass and tulips of 'private' ownership.

There are still many indigenous people here, though they are ghetto-ized and even those ghettos are threatened by development in the name of tourism and yuppie fuck-off 'extreme sports.' I guess you can say I see ongoing colonization and the blithe indifference to it on a daily basis. It's come to really affect me in an ever-deepening way. 'Colonization' is not an abstraction, though I wouldn't pretend that I 'get it' like the indigenous here or those colonized/enslaved elsewhere.

I think that as I read more questions, perhaps more pointed questions, may arise, but for now I want to keep it a bit more open and general.
yea, i guess my point was that actually by using those words (colonize/decolonize), you're tightening the question more than opening it. but maybe that's my sense based on conversations that are happening in the bay area/the u.s.? (which are either overly political or overly academic, or both.)
The bay area, political? Hell, even cutting your toe-nails is political! ;-) I lived there for a time.

Given your experience, what suggestions come to mind?
my suggestions would depend on what exactly you're meaning by colonization/de-... terms that cover an array of experiences. race/culture, economics, environment, politics qua politics, etc. you sound like you want to think about all of this, but sometimes i get more interesting information by breaking something into pieces, and following those tributaries (ack, mixed metaphor!)...
I'd been trying to think about fiction, but I don't read a whole lot of it. I agree that thinking in terms of colonialism/post colonialism led me to offer some particular books and not others. It seems like I have read some good scifi that relates, but I am not thinking of what right now...
AmorFati - Her take on tourists probably didn't earn the book a lot of fans among the tourist set, but as someone who has traveled and despite my best efforts to not fall into the role has certainly been a tourist, it is pretty right on.
Memmi has not been claimed by Maoists. He was not "revolutionary" enough for them because -- quite unlike Fanon -- he does not promote the notion of redemptive violence as a mechanism for transcending the internalized colonialist mindset of the colonized. Without that, the formerly colonized cannot become the Revolutionary Subject; because it does not contain any specific strategic trajectory for transcending the psychology of oppression, Memmi's analysis of internalized colonialism has no place in a Maoist program. It is also far less authoritarian and prescriptive than Fanon's -- and most Leninists' -- (class-) revenge fantasies.
thank you lawrence, i can now pat my past self on the head for her good sense!
and i can stop conflating the two authors too.