I have a presentation titled "Colonial Representation of Colonised People: A Case Study of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh" which is scheduled to be held in the University of Hull, September 11, 2009, organised by the Department of Politics and International Studies at Hull. I am going to discuss that colonialism is conventionally defined as occupation of weakers’ territory by stronger nation or state for political domination, economic exploitation, and ‘civilising’ mission. Some radical scholars view colonialism as a cultural practice and relations between unequal powers. My study critically examines this established epistemology of colonialism arguing that colonisers did not only exploit the economic resources of, and exert political dominance upon, occupied territory but also represent the colonised people in texts and textures as ‘uncivilised’ category to substantiate colonialists’ claims of being civilised. I will prove it with the evidences referring to the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh which was colonised from 1860 to 1947 by the British as part of British Bengal. My theoretical framework is related to the anthropology of colonialism. I do welcome remarks on it and any substantial comment from group members (Theory in Anthropology) will be appreciated.
Perhaps the demeaning of a subordinate population is a cultural practice more general than colonialism.
For example, women in subordinate roles to men in historical Western societies were deemed too "delicate," too "emotional," and not sufficiently "rational" to control their own affairs. In many Arab countries, females are regarded as losing their reason, akl, once they fall prey to puberty. The cause of this is the "uncontrolled sexuality" of post-pubescent females, which "requires" control by their male relatives.
An example from my field research is the attitude of Baluchi tribesmen toward ghulamzai, or the descendents of slaves. I don't know what my informants' ancestors said about their slaves, but the now-freed descendents of slaves are regarded as base in character. It was pointed out to me that the ghulamzai were not restrained, as one could see by their clothes. What I saw was that instead of the usual white, black, or tan of tribal clothes, the ghulamzai wore very muted, hardly noticable colours such as dusty greens or dusty rose coloured clothes. But I suppose it served as a distinction and denigration to separate subordinate from superordinate.
Another clear example, but one that is not only colonial but also anticipatory colonialist, is Islam's distinction between Muslims and infidels, which corresponds to the distinction between the Realm of Peace and the Realm of War. Islam declares that it is God's true way, and that infidels are enemies of God. Muslims are enjoined to spread Islam until it dominates universally.
The vast Arab Islamic Empire successfully spread from Arabia through the entire Middle East, across North Africa, to southern Europe, and also to India. Islamic guidelines were that infidels may voluntarily convert or chose death (although in such a case "voluntary" perhaps loses meaning). Even converts have often been enslaved, and have lost their wives and children to enslavement.
Christians and Jews may avoid being killed by taking the status of dhimma, paying heavy tax penalties, serving as unpaid labour, and observing a variety of severe restrictions, but must suffer regular ritual humiliation.
Current events today include the repeated murder of Christians in Palestine, Iraq, and Pakistan, and the escape from forced conversion by the remnants of Yemani Jews. Current attempts at Islamist expansion and domination can be seen and heard from the tapes and publications of Osama bin Laden to the Friday sermons in Wahhabi-sponsored and other mosques around the world.
Framing targets of imperial expansion and colonial occupation as "enemies of God" is a highly effective way of demeaning them and justifying measures, even the most extreme, against them.
Christianity too justified imperial expansion as taking the true faith to the "godless, heathen natives."