Aren’t we all anti-colonial? Apparently we aren’t all. Without a doubt colonialism has had a huge impact on history around the world. Affecting customs, norms, values, and beliefs of different cultures and communities; some argue that all impact was negative. However, it seems that a new notion of anti anti-colonialism is coming to life. Reverend Nigel Biggar and Adam Kuper have expressed their position regarding British brutal colonialism in their new books. In recent years we have witnessed backlash for removal of racist monuments, restoring stolen artifacts looted under colonialism. This pushback has now entered public discussion, upsetting many communities around the world.
Why would these books interrupt and upset communities around the world? Colonialism is “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.” Britain took this and used their power to violently enforce policies and control over other countries and their people. This didn’t only affect one group of people, but multiple. Reverend Biggar doesn’t argue that some aspects of colonialism may have been beneficial for society, like we are used to hearing; instead he suggests an approach of pride and admiration. Biggar explains that British people have no reason to feel guilty for what their ancestors have done, for history cannot be changed. Biggar argues that aspects of colonialism were normal and its relationship to racism were common at the time, not really true. He simplifies the effects and brutality that colonialism truly had on minorities around the world. Just to state a few examples, Biggar claims that the British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade existed at different times and places so it wasn’t anything uncommon. In addition, colonial genocides were just “an emotive and misguided framing, since such incidents were ‘far more tragedy than atrocity.” How do you think these comments make people with ancestry, that experienced the violence of colonialism, feel?
Adam Kuper wrote his book focusing on American and European museums and our understanding of them, via an anti anti-colonialists interpretation. Kuper highly critiques the “cosmopolitan museum” and is truly bothered by the relationship between art history and museums. He constantly blames art historians for censoring the living traditions of anthropology curation. In reality Kuper’s position stems from the removal of a controversial display at Oxford University’s Pitt Rivers Museum, which was titled “The Treatment of Dead Enemies”. Not only was Kuper against the removal of pieces like these, due to the “importance” they held to the people, but also didn’t agree with returning stolen monuments to who and where they belonged. Kuper fails to acknowledge the racist head-hunting societies and the messages that these monuments continue to display if kept instead of removed. I think it is important to deconstruct colonialism and the systematic power dynamic that continues to exist in society. Removing those monuments that constantly remind a group of people of the pain that was caused by colonialism doesn’t seem like an impossible task. In addition, returning stolen artifacts to their correct owners isn’t unfeasible either.
Should we worry that Kuper and Biggar have significantly disrupted our anti-colonialism approach and attitude? Is this insignificant and should be ignored? Or has this called others to jump into the anti anti-colonialism movement? It is their right to think about colonialism however they wish, but when does it become an issue that we must interfere with? As a society, I think it is important to stop this because of the damage it causes to people that experienced colonialism in such a brutal, violent, and negative way! What do you think?