Reply To: 1. Mon 3 Feb: Course intro & India and the Environmental History of Imperialism

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History 1. Mon 3 Feb: Course intro & India and the Environmental History of Imperialism Reply To: 1. Mon 3 Feb: Course intro & India and the Environmental History of Imperialism

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Markus # Posted on December 18, 2014 at 14:41

Reply to Murag Ramsey’s reflection, Gunnel Cederlöf’s seminar, Feb 3 2014

You point ot how Cederlöf is “deconstructing the existing coherent narrative in colonial history”, which I would agree she is. Cederlöf is definitely trying to tell a new, and more complex narrative of early British colonialism in India. And I, just like you, have also too often made simplistic assumption about colonial histories and nation state’s interests.
What strikes me as interesting here is to ask where our simplistic narratives come from. It seems to me almost like there is this general idea of how colonialism happened, an an idea premised on a simplistic dischotomy of colonizer-colonized. Has colonialism ever been simple anywhere, any time? I doubt it.
In my current work of analyzing colonial discourses in Sweden, I recently came across an member of the Swedish parliament who sarcastically told a story of a “Columbus” discovering Sápmi, banishing the nature-loving natives, and stealing the resources. The MP told this narrative in an effort to convince the listeners that colonialism had not happened in Sweden, that it is ridiculous to call Sweden a colonial state. In other words: because Sweden’s history do not fit the preconcieved mold of colonial narratives, Sweden cannot be a colonial state. This goes to show how important our preconcieved ideas of something as complex as colonialism really is.
In conclusion, I would like to add that Cederlöf’s narrative actually has many things in common with Swedish colonialism, which basically began in the form of traders-turned-tax sheriffs to the state. I wonder if you, as a Canadian, can relate this “alternative” colonial narrative to your own country’s history as well?