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Sofia Shank

on 1 June 2015

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"Since the French Revolution, violence has come to be seen as the midwife of history"

Mamdani draws attention to how the French Revolution, "gave us terror, and it gave us a citizen's army"(p.3)
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 
"reflecting on the French Revolution...wrote that man was willing to die for a cause of greater value to him than life itself.”

To this Mamdani Adds “Maybe Hegel should have added: man is also willing to kill for such a cause” (3)
"Liberty, Fraternity, Equality",
"The real secret behind Napoleon's spectacular battlefield successes was that his army was not made up of mercenaries but patriots, who killed for a cause, inspired by national sentiment--what we have come to recognize as the civic religion of nationalism" (.3)
Patton Theatrical Movie Trailer (1970)
...Thus, 1492 stands as the gateway to two related endeavors:
It was also [in 1492 that] Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World and the year the armies of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquered the city-state of Granada, then seen as the last Muslim stronghold in western Christendom.
1.) In "cultural terms": for those societies (or communities) deemed to be “premodern”
Violence which “appears as senseless” or “not furthering the aims of progress” gets discussed in two ways, according to Mamdani:
“The cultural explanation always attributes political violence to the absence of modernity.”
"The History of the modern state can also be read as the history of race, bringing together the stories of two kinds of victims of European political modernity: the internal victims of state building and the external victims of imperial expansion."

"The history she sketched as that of settlers killings off native populations. Arendt understood the history of imperialism through the workings of racism and bureaucracy, institutions forged in the course of European expansion into the non-European world: "Of the two main political devices of imperialist rule, race was discovered in South Africa, and bureaucracy in Algeria, Egypt and India." (Mamdani, p. 6)
2.) In theological terms for a modern society. Mamdani writes, "Political violence in modern society that does not fit the story of progress tends to get discussed in theological terms. The violence of the Holocaust, for example, is explaind as simple the result of evil". (4)
QUESTION: What is left out of explainations that use "cultural stories" to explain the cause of so-called "ethnic" or "tribal" violence?
Hannah Arendt was born in Germany, to a secular Jewish family, and was exiled multiple times as a result of German persecution of the Jews between the late 1920s and early 1940s. Finally, in 1941, she escaped with her husband and mother to New York.Upon arrival in New York, Arendt became active in the German-Jewish community. From 1941 to 1945, she wrote a column for the German-language Jewish newspaper, Aufbau. From 1944, she directed research for the Commission of European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction and traveled frequently to Germany in this capacity.After World War II she returned to Germany and worked for Youth Aliyah, a Zionist organization that had saved thousands of children from the Holocaust and settled them in Palestine
“Hannah Arendt’s blind spot was the New World. Both racism and genocide had occurred in the American colonies earlier than in South Africa. The near decimation of Native Americans through a combinations of slaughter, disease, and dislocation was, after all, the first recorded genocide in modern history”
“The idea that “imperialism had served civilization by clearing inferior races off the earth” found widespread expression in nineteenth-century European thought, from natural sciences and philosophy to anthropology and politics.”
Think back to Gould, what are some of the arguments put forward by Agassiz and Morton?
Mamdoni speaks about the uniquness of Arendt's theorizing about the Holocaust, which speaks to these two types of victims. He says Arendt's work "stands apart for one reason: rather than talk about the uniqueness of the Holocaust, Arendt sited it in the imperial history of genocide."
“By the beginning of the twentieth century, it was a European habit to distinguish between civilized wars and colonial wars. The laws of war applied to wars among civilized nation-states, but laws of nature were said to apply to colonial wars, and extermination of the lower races was seen as a biological necessity.” (7)
Laws of War & Laws of Nature
What is the difference between “the laws of war” and “the laws of nature”?
What is Mamandi suggesting the consequence of this distinction is?
Part II
"Fanon has come to be regarded as a prophet of violence...Fanon's critics know him by a single sentence from The Wretched of the Earth" The colonized man liberates himself in and through violence".

Mamdani explains Fanon's notion of violence in a different light, arguing:
"Decolonization is the meeting of two forces, opposed to each other by their very nature, which in fact owe their originality to that sort of substantification which results from and is nourished by the situation in the colonies. Their first encounter was marked by violence and their existence together--that is to say the exploitation of the native by the settler--was carried on by dint of a great array of bayonets and cannons. The settler and the native are old acquaintances. In fact, the settler is right when he speaks of knowing "them" well. For it is the settler who has brought the native into existence and who perpetuates his existence. The settler owes the fact of his very existence, that is to say, his property, to the colonial system.

Decolonization never takes place unnoticed, for it influences individuals and modifies them fundamentally. It transforms spectators crushed with their inessentiality into privileged actors, with the grandiose glare of history's floodlights upon them. It brings a natural rhythm into existence, introduced by new men, and with it a new language and a new humanity. Decolonization is the veritable creation of new men. But this creation owes nothing of its legitimacy to any supernatural power; the "thing" which has been colonized becomes man during the same process by which it frees itself."

Franz Fannon, Wretched of the Earth

Culture Talk assumes that every culture as a tangible essence that defines it, and it then explains politics as a consequence of that essence" (17)
“We have just ended a century of violence, one possibly more violence than any other in recorded history: World wars and colonial conquests: civil wars, revolutions, and counter revolutions. Although the magnitude of this violence is staggering, it does not astound us.”
“The modern political sensibility sees most political violence as necessary to historical progress”
historial comparison?
“The modern sensibility is not horrified by pervasive violence. The world wars are proof enough of this. What horrifies our modern sensibility is violence that appears senseless, that cannot be justified by progress.” (p.4)
Murder By Proxy:
How America Went Postal.
"Locally--that is, when it does not cross the boundary between "the West" and the rest--it is called "communcal conflict," as in South Asia, or "ethnic conflict," as in Africa." (p.4)
Crisis In the Congo
The year 1492 was the onset of the European Renaissance and the birth of political modernity.
The “Paradigmatic example was in Tasmania, an island the size of Ireland where European colonists arrived in 1803, the first massacre of natives occurred in 1804, the last original inhabitant died in 1869. Similar fates awaited, among others, the Maoris of New Zealand and the Herero of German South West Africa (p. 6)
On May 7, 1876, Truganini, was considered by many to be the last full-blooded Tasmanian, and died at 73 years of age.
“Queen Truganini,The Last Tasmanian”
The Edict of Expulsion
“The unification of Spain began with an act of ethnic cleansing: 1492 was also the year Ferdinand and Isabella signed the Edict of Exclusion, designed to rid Spain of its Jews. The unified Spanish state gave its Jews a stark choice: baptism or deportation”
Image of a page of the original Edict signed by Ferdinand and Isabella (Source: The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Israel.)
"Introduction: Modernity and Violence" (p.3-16)
Requiered Reading:
Mahmood Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1974 and specializes in the study of African history and politics. His works explore the intersection between politics and culture, a comparative study of colonialism since 1452, the history of civil war and genocide in Africa, the Cold War and the War on Terror, and the history and theory of human rights. Prior to joining the Columbia faculty, Mamdani was a professor at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania (1973-79), Makerere University in Uganda (1980-1993), and the University of Cape Town (1996-1999). He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being listed as one of the “Top 20 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy (US) and Prospect (UK) magazine in 2008. From 1998 to 2002 he served as President of CODESRIA (Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa). His essays have appeared in the New Left Review and the London Review of books, among other journals.

He teaches courses on: major debates in the study of Africa; the modern state and the colonial subject; the Cold War and the Third World; the theory, history, and practice of human rights; and civil wars and the state in Africa.
Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Professor of Anthropology
Columbia University
2.) the other the conquest of the world.” (4-5)
1.) One the unification of the nation

-Robert McNamara
Secretary of Defense 1961-1968
"What makes it immoral if you loose and not ammoral if you win?"
"This was a
of the violence of the colonial system, of the fact that violence was central to producing and sustaining the realtionship between settler and the native.

It was a
that anticolonial ciolence is not an irrational manifestation but belongs to the script of modernity and progess, that it is indeed a midwife of history.

And last and most important, it was a
that, more than celebrate this turning of the tables, we need to think through the full implications of victims becoming killers." (9)
Thus, Mamdani shows us,

DECEMBER 2nd, 2013
Review Session: 12-4 on 12/2/13

"This moment in history after the Cold War is referred to as the era of globalizaion and is marked by the ascendancy and rapid politizing of a single term: culture."

Unlike the culture studied by anthropologists-face-to-face, intimate, local, and lived--the talk of culture is highly politicized and comes in larger geo-packages."
The explusion from Spain came at the close of a century that had witnessed the explusion of Jews from one part of Europe after another.
"It is estimated that about seventy thousand Spanish jews converted to Christianty and remained in Spain, only to be plagued by the Inquisition, which accused them of insincerity. Of the remaining 130,000, and estimated 50,000 fled to the North African and Balkan provinces of the Ottoman empire--where they were warmly welcomed--and about 80,000 crossed the border into Portugal
"In 1499, seven years afer the Edict of Explusion, the Spanish state gave its Muslims the same choice: convert or leave."
"Europe on the threshold of political modernity thought of the nation in terms of culture and race." (5)
"The difference in the fate of the Jewsh peole was that they were to be exterminated as a whole. In that, they were unique--
but only in Europe."(7)
“The real secret behind Napoleon” and his military successes (p. 3)
The Year 1492 (p.4-5)
The Edict of 1492
Hannah Arendt (and the history of imperalism) (p.6 and my PDF)
Lord Salisbury (and his 1898 speech) (6)
Tasmania (6)
Franz Fanon (8-10)
“Civilized wars and colonial wars” (7)
The first genocide of the 20th century (8)
Race branding (8)
Distinction between “my people” and “any people”
“Political encounters” versus “cultural legacies” (11)

The Problem with "Culture Talk"
When Lord Salisbury, the British prime minister, claimed in his famous Albert Hall speech on May 4, 1898, that "one can roughly divide the nations of the world into the living and the dying," Hitler was but nine years old, and the European air was "soaked in the conviction that imperialism is a biologically necessary process which, according to the laws of nature, leads to the inevitable destruction of lower races." (6)

The first genocide of the twentieth century the German annihilation of the herero people in South West Africa in 1904...

The link between the genocide of the Herero and the Holocaust was race branding, which was used not only to set a group apart as an enemy but also to annihilate it with an easy conscience.
Racism: A History
Time: 42:11
“In the Second World War, Germany observed the laws of war against the western powers but not against Russia. As opposed to 3.5 percent of English and American prisoners of war who died in German captivity, 57 percent of Soviet prisoners--3.3 million in all--lost thier lives.

...The Nazi plan, writes Sven Lindqvist, was to weed out some 10 million Russians, with the remainder kept alive as a slave-labor force under German occupation. ..

The Holocaust was born at the meeting points of two traditions that marked modern Western civilization: "the anti-Semetic tradition and the tradition of genocide of colonized peoples." (7)
This historical fact was not lost on intellectuals from the colonies. In his Discourse on Colonialism (1951) Aime Cesaire wrote that Hitler slumbers within "the very distinguished, very humanistic and very Christian bourgeois of the Twentieth century," and yet the European bourgeois cannot forgive Hitler for "the fact that he applied to Europe the colonial practices that had previously been applied only to the Arabs of Algeria, the cooolies of India and the Negroes of Africa". (8)
Full transcript