Imagine existing under occupation. Imagine life after the invasion of your home; the boots on the street, the suppression of differential ways of being, the erasure of potentials. Imagine you, the next generation, the one after, as compelled to abide by new strictures and disciplines, learning to call new and old phenomena by unfamiliar terms, both living in and understanding your bodies and surroundings in set and prescribed ways, contributing daily to a project not your own.
Is this what the term ‘colonisation’ evokes to you? For many of us, the initial connotations are the same: expropriation, persecution, enslavement, loss of culture and meaning, apartheid. For some, depending on one’s starting point, this picture will feel painfully present and fresh; an open sore not given respite to heal, a torment without end in sight, as the circumference of your life shrinks to fit your ghetto, house-hold, reservation, labour-camp or mental ward. For others, the impression would be like traces of a lingering nightmare – collective grief buried under daily survival; echoes of the kitchen-table laments of neglected elders or whispers of half-forgotten rebels. For others still, this will feel like the stuff of wide-screen dystopias or foreign dictatorships; figures from the past, maybe, without bearing on or relation to our ‘individually determined’ existence in The Free World.
The common usage is deceptively simple; one kind of culture invades and overwhelms another. The basis for this hostility towards the ‘other’, and the complex mindsets of differentiation and superiority within which it exists, is rooted in the settling of certain concepts and assumptions in the consciousness of its hosts. Often, however, discussion of the phenomena of colonisation stays hemmed into limited readings on the theme of race, or the moves of one specific culture on the stage of History, or even just to shrewd geopolitical calculations set apart from ideology. The truth is that contributions from such discussions continue to inform our perspectives on the matter, yet our use of the term conjures a logic far deeper and wider. We who are writing feel that opening out our understanding of this dynamic can equip us to better comprehend the indignities in all our lives, and the axes along which they intersect. This is why we wanted to dedicate this space to the topic.
Some of the descriptions to follow are straight from our own experiences, or those shared with us by others on a separate footing within the colonisation process, but some will be what has in one way or another been served to us as History (even in its antagonist version). Because this History is a slippery tool to wield, and more than a little implicated in the very process of worldview-shaping we’ll critique, we will at least be making more abundantly clear than usual which key sources we’ve worked from or what conversations we’re following in this line of inquiry.