What Do We Mean When We Say Colonized?

Janani Balasubramanian is a South Asian literary and performance artist based in Brooklyn. Their work deals broadly with empire, desire, microflora, ancestry, apocalypse, and the Future. They’re a regular contributor at BGD, and one-half of the spoken word duo DarkMatter. They’re currently working on their first sci-fi novel, "H". You can read more of Janani’s work at queerdarkenergy.comBy Janani Balasubramanian, Black Girl Dangerous

I’ve noticed in several radical, POC spaces I’ve been in over the years, that the words ‘colonized’ and ‘decolonized’ are used frequently, and without necessarily a reference to a specific colonial event or structure.  I’ve started to do it too.   I’m not sure way this is the case. Perhaps there’s something almost sexy about it–not that colonization is sexy, but that being able to use ‘colonize’ and ‘decolonize’ often becomes part of a particular hip, radical ‘aesthetic’.  Perhaps also it’s just more work to dive deeper into the multiple racial/imperialist dynamics at play.

Often, in these spaces, ‘colonized’ is used as a synonym for POC.   Using ‘colonized’ as a stand-in for racial domination or, equivalently, ‘decolonized’ as a stand-in for racial liberation is fraught, for many of the same reasons that using person of color without a more specific racial analysis is fraught–that is, it has the possibility of glossing over multiple privileges and dynamics.

Click here to read the full article on Black Girl Dangerous

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