Discourse on Colonialism Summary & Study Guide

Aime Cesaire

Discourse on Colonialism

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Discourse on Colonialism Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 29-page guide for “Discourse on Colonialism” by Aime Cesaire includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 6 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Moral Hypocrisy of Colonialism and The Dehumanizing Effects of Colonial Racism.

Plot Summary

Discourse on Colonialism is an essay written originally in French by Aimé Césaire and published in 1950. This seminal work by Césaire opens with a thesis that Europe currently suffers from two problems. The first problem is the state of the proletariat and colonialism and the second is its moral hypocrisy. Throughout the essay, Césaire elaborates on this thesis by identifying the proletariat as the colonized laborer and the bourgeois as the European academic, scholar, and writer whose various endorsements of colonialism through knowledge production and dissemination express moral and spiritual contradictions. While these modern bourgeois thinkers may reason that colonialism offers mutual benefits for European colonialists and the colonized people, Césaire argues that they are complicit in ensuring the imbalance of power between European and non-European civilizations. He proceeds to conduct a literary analysis of writing by different modern bourgeois thinkers whose ideas have enabled the flourishing of Europe as a colonial power.Discourse on Colonialism is an essay written originally in French by Aimé Césaire and published in 1950. This seminal work by Césaire opens with a thesis that Europe currently suffers from two problems. The first problem is the state of the proletariat and colonialism and the second is its moral hypocrisy. Throughout the essay, Césaire elaborates on this thesis by identifying the proletariat as the colonized laborer and the bourgeois as the European academic, scholar, and writer whose various endorsements of colonialism through knowledge production and dissemination express moral and spiritual contradictions. While these modern bourgeois thinkers may reason that colonialism offers mutual benefits for European colonialists and the colonized people, Césaire argues that they are complicit in ensuring the imbalance of power between European and non-European civilizations. He proceeds to conduct a literary analysis of writing by different modern bourgeois thinkers whose ideas have enabled the flourishing of Europe as a colonial power.

Throughout his essay, Césaire questions the European colonialist agenda to civilize the colonized people when the colonizers seem to enact the most barbaric violence. He blames the modern bourgeois thinker for using language and scholarly prestige to mask European colonialist violence. This violence ranges from more explicit forms of racial categorization that resemble Nazism to well-intentioned attempts to center Western intellectualism. Regardless of its forms, Césaire emphasizes the long legacy of violence that European colonialism has inflicted on the colonized people. By examining the literary works of modern bourgeois thinkers, he traces the various forms of colonial violence represented through their language and rhetoric. He concludes that the pattern of violence foreshadows the eventual demise of European colonialism. He predicts the rise of the U.S. as a Western power whose global violence will be a greater extension of European colonialism’s gruesome history. The only recourse is for the proletariat, the oppressed colonized people, to revolt against their colonizers. Césaire believes this is the only means of rectifying the harms of colonialism and to erect a classless world.

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Section 1