Colonial Modernities: Timing, Motive, and Otherness

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:55
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Matthew LANGE, McGill University, Canada
Most works on multiple modernities have focused on civilizational cultures and suggest that different cultural heritages promote different modernities.  Much of the comparative-historical literature, however, suggests that powerful international actors have shaped social relations in dramatic ways over the past several centuries, yet little attention has been paid to how international influence could promote different varieties of modernity.  This paper starts to fill in this literary gap by considering how colonialism promoted particular forms of modernity.  It describes how colonial officials and their collaborators (including missionaries and merchants) had particular biases and interests that prevented them from trying to copy the form of modernity that emerged among the early modernizers.  Instead, their focus on control, conversion, and profits caused colonial actors to promote new forms of modernity.  Using the nation state, a pillar of modernity, as an example, it describes how colonialism and missionaries were predisposed to recognize ethnic difference and encourage communal self-rule as a means of control and conversion before introducing the nation-state model at independence.  This sequential combination created divisions and competition that made the nation-state model unworkable in many instances, promoting crisis, violence, and the rise of new models that had to deal with plurinational realities.