Reading William Appleman Williams article “Empire as a Way of Life” in Paula Rothenberg’s reader BEYOND BORDERS for tomorrow’s Women and Global Colonialism Class and I’m irked by his over simplified analysis of race and the religion in the logic of invasion. Williams suggests that scholars dealing with the problem have tended to spearate into two groups the logic: one emphasizing the importance of race (color) and the other stressing Christianity (heathen are agents of the Devil and so must be converted or destroyed). Willlisma says these explanations are less contradictory or exclusive than mutually supportive and reinforcing empire as a way of life. But I am not so sure that racism in all colonizing contexts was supported by conversion or vice versa, despite his pronouncement that heathens were darker, hence tainted by the Devil (always presented as black). Couldn’t colonial racism have existed separate from and in clear distinction from the converting mission? Was racism, as we know it today, so well articulated and formulated as a colonizing strategy (logic) in the 16th and 17th centuries — was it equally instrumental to French, Portuguese, and Spanish as it was later to British? I wonder. Lastly, Williams claims that the early Euro-imperialists were further inspired by religion because they themselves had survived the Muslim challenge (middle ages) and had been tested by mutual diseases and disasters — hence, a survivor pride boosted their egos and they justified their Christian entitlement (to land and conquest) because they had indeed received the Grade of God. Here’s a sentence that intrigues me: “Their disputations and wars with each other about the nature of the true faith were tactical not strategic: not about the faith, but only about how best to interpret and extend it.” (p85). SO it would seem the faithful had survived and were moving to assert their own superiority…. he calls this a non-articulated Social Darwinism. But I’m bothered by this anachronistic understanding of difference — because it seems like Williams is conflating racism and Christian egotism… and I’m not sure how, this early in history, the two are entertwined. Later, in the late 18th and 19th century… yes… but this thesis does not sit well with the early discovery and conquest periods. Comments?
Empire As a Way of Life — Christ and Racism… tools of empire from beginning?
Dr. Whitney Howarth2015-09-25T16:44:54+00:00September 6th, 2010|Archive blog, Literature|