Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Albert Memmi on French Colonial Memory

Albert Memmi, a Judeo-Tunisian writer, wrote this response to the controversy over an ammendment to a French law that demanded recognition of "the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in North Africa."
Has colonization benefitted the colonized?

The way in which this problem has been treated is sadly revealing of the current conflict of opinions. People have preferred at times to deny certain aspects, at other times different aspects. The answer is, however, obvious: when a civilization is in contact with another civilization that is technically more advanced, it gains inevitably some advantages from it. In this sense, yes, colonization offered some progress to colonized. Romanization was an asset.

But that is nothing to be glorified: if the colonizers built roads and schools, it was because they needed them, and not to serve the colonized.

Some believed it, it is true also: the teachers, some doctors, some priests. But, overall, colonization remains an aggression and an exploitation.

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