[REVIEW] Decolonization: A Very Short Introduction, by Dane Kennedy

A Kindle ebook displaying the text-only cover of Decolonization:A Very Short Introduction is on a white faux-marble table, propped up on the edge of a small gray platter of Thanksgiving food.

(Click to buy it on Bookshop.)

How’s this for seasonal reading?

I’ve done a little bit of work around the subject of decolonization. I’ve contributed to papers, taught class units, and read a lot of writing from Africa, Asia and Indigenous Oceania on the subject.

Yet it never really dawned on me that the academic convention is to frame colonization from the point of view of the colonizers, not the formerly colonized.

Consider my mind blown.

This book, meant to be a primer on the topic of decolonization, is firmly in the colonizer camp. It starts by positing the American Revolutionary war as a decolonial war–which it was, but it was simultaneously an act of colonization and that isn’t explored at all. From there, the book mostly skims the surface of decolonial and anti-colonial movements after WWI and WWII. It covers a lot of ground, both geographically and ideologically, but overall, it’s way too sympathetic to colonial powers. For example–the old chestnut of colonized people somehow not being capable of self-government is trotted out in a few different jackets, but the only explicit mention of the human rights atrocities that often accompanied colony-building is a brief mention of Japanese activity in Southeast Asia, as though Belgium and Britain and Russia never existed. There’s also virtually no discussion of the economic consequences of colonization for liberated polities, but confusingly there’s a lot of discussion of the post-colonial nation state without really getting into the artificial borders and balkanization imposed by colonial powers, at least not satisfactorily.

As a primer this is thorough, but very misleading. 2 stars and a bottom-up curriculum to this Very Short Introduction.

Oh and happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate. Happy Gratitude Day, Family Hangout Day , or just….Thursday to the rest. 😁 Peace!

(This blog has affiliate relationships with Bookshop and if you purchase anything there from a link you find here, a commission will be earned. Peace!)


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