Internal Colonialism, Postcolonial Criticism and Social Theory

Paulo Henrique Martins is Professor of Sociology at Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE-BRAZIL), former president of Latin American Sociological Association (ALAS) and vice-president of the M.AU.S.S.

The Internal Colonialism Theory is important to explain, on the one hand, the horizons and the current interest of postcolonial, anticolonial and decolonial criticism, and, on the other hand, the place of politics in heterogeneous societies. It is particularly relevant in countries that have experienced the progress of Western imperialism (Howe, 2002). The first known use of the ’Internal Colonialism’ concept is by Leo Marquard (1957) with respect to South Africa. However, there are important studies on Internal Colonialism in Greece (Peckham, 2004), Tunisia (Sghaier, 2016) and other countries. In Latin America, the debate is directly related to the contributions of Pablo Gonzalez Casanova (1965a and 1965b) and Rodolfo Stavenhagen (1963 and 1969) in Mexico.

In his classic book Democracy in Mexico (1965a), where for the first time Pablo Gonzalez Casanova refers to Internal Colonialism, he draws attention to the dangers of using European concepts and categories without adapting them to the realities of countries of colonial origin. He suggests that it is a challenge ’to attempt an analysis of the relations between the political system and the social structure, with categories from underdeveloped countries’ to overcome intellectual colonialism (1965 : 19). For him, the progress of imperialism critique through the idea of Internal Colonialism as an ’integral phenomenon” exchanging from the international to the internal category seems important (Gonzalez Casanova, 2002 : 86-87). He also affirms that the notion of Internal Colonialism ’is only born out of liberation movements in the former colonies’ (p.83) and the experience of independence provokes the emergence of new notions about independence and development. The Mexican sociologist goes on to underlines that Internal Colonialism refers to a ’structure of social relations and exploitation between heterogeneous cultural groups’ (p.99-100).

This theory helps to clarify the social, political and intellectual imaginary from outside and from within colonial capitalism. The theoretical and practical experiences of coloniality necessarily extend the horizons of modern sociological theory. In the diverse historical contexts of colonial capitalism manifestation, the capital and labor tensions are reconfigured by other contradictions generated by raciality, nationality and subalternity influencing the collective political imaginary. The discussion about race and social class in postcolonial societies is offered to us, for example, by the Marxist approach of the Peruvian J.C. Mariátegui (1973), broadening the understanding of capitalist power from the capitalism and coloniality relationship.

In the postcolonial context, the domination and exploitation mechanisms such as liberation strategies always go through the mapping of conflicts and inter-ethnic agreements, involving the ethnic groups of the dominated and the ethnic group of the dominating. The notion of ’class struggle’, for example, is central to European sociological criticism because it highlights the contradictions between capital and labor. However, in postcolonial contexts such notions are crossed and reconfigured by other modes of political and cultural action related to ethnic and national differences. By the way, Peruvian sociologist Anibal Quijano (2003) underlines that race becomes a hierarchical classification mechanism that organizes the ’coloniality of power’ in such postcolonial contexts. Race is not a natural marker but a cultural process for classifying human being legitimating colonial capitalism as a historical inevitable evolution.

Internal Colonialism is an integral phenomenon (Gonzalez Casanova, 2002 : 86) that highlights the singularity of peripheral national power in colonization. Here, economic and speculative capitalism logic fits the patrimonial and oligarchic domination generating new narratives and modes of appropriation of local richesses. But, nowadays, the inter-ethnic tensions between colonizing and colonized are no longer limited to the former territories of colonization. They move to the central capitalist societies. The complexity of motivations and demands produced by coloniality threaten the values of equality and freedom that have referenced the liberal democratic revolutions in central countries. The traditional division of classes are over-determined by a moral division generated by inter-ethnic and inter-national colonial tensions.

There are intersubjective factors that interfere at individual and collective identities and in national political systems influencing the plural character of global society. The broadest theoretical understanding of resistance and collective mobilizations from this diversity of historical factors is necessary to deepen other important research on inequality, poverty and social nature at the planetary level. Then, anti-utilitarian and postcolonial theoretical critique must consider the construction of coloniality of power and knowledge mechanisms (Quijano, 2003) in rethinking libertarian utopias and the theoretical and practical deconstruction of racism in relation to feminist and ecological criticism. Political multiculturalism and convivial utopias (Caillé, 2015, Caillé, Vandenberghe and Véran, 2016) reinforce this shift of global perspective, considering the complexity of an expanded anti-utilitarian critique focusing on territorial borders displacement and their impacts on national powers.

Consequently, the present analysis of neoliberal domination cannot be limited to explanations based on utilitarian economic modernization and market interests without considering the broader social and historical coloniality conditions. The conflicts produced from the periphery and through migrations and refugees displace postcolonial tensions towards the center. They threaten liberal democracies by reinforcing the speculative nature of global capitalism. This event leads us to consider non-economic markers - psychological, social, religious, ethnic, gender and national, as well as classes - in reconfiguring the ideas of political society, citizenship and power in the more industrialized societies. The value of Internal Colonialism thesis for the development of general sociology is justified by these facts.

However, it is necessary to clarify the theoretical definition of Internal Colonialism to help the progress of the debate in postcolonial theory framework and in social theory. There are three important points to consider in this approach. The first point concerns the place of Internal Colonialism criticism in the postcolonial theory framework and in relation to Decoloniality. The second one refers to the idea of ’internal’ in postcolonial criticism. There is a semantic trap limiting the understanding of theoretical scope of Internal Colonialism in the debate. The third point concerns the relationship between Internal Colonialism and political action to understand the conditions of emergence of Politics and of democracy in contexts of heterogeneous societies.

Three points to clarify the current interesting on Internal Colonialism

1. The place of Internal Colonialism criticism in the framework of postcolonial theory and social theory and in relation to Decoloniality.

Internal Colonialism is not only a passing fad of some nationalist intellectuals involved with ethnic struggles in postcolonial societies. Conceptually, Internal Colonialism was based at first on the legacies of Marxism, Racism Criticism, indigenous reactions and national and anti-colonial struggles since the decade of 1950. Nowadays, it is progressively integrating the legacies of Feminism, Indigenous Criticism, Contemporary Philosophy and Anti-Utilitarian Movement to liberate its contribution for a more general understanding on colonial economics and ethnic-racial conflicts. Internal colonialism helps organize the heterogeneous set of postcolonial criticism insofar as it introduces the relational dynamics of colonial conflicts in time and space. Because this approach underlines the symbolic conflict as the central element in coloniality, It contributes to point out the postcolonial theory as a multidisciplinary knowledge field encompassing different areas : Post-Independent Studies, Dependence and Imperialism, Liberation Theology, Subaltern Studies, Internal Colonialism and Decolonial Deconstructionism [1].

It arises from the framework of postcolonial theory and it is materialized by a broader anti-utilitarian critique against the commodification of the world, which is the basis of a current and important revision of social theory. Alain Caillé (2009) explains that an anti-utilitarian theory of action moves against the reduction of human action to economic, power and prestige interests only. This comment helps clarifying the complexity of Global North and Global South relationship that is based on a larger symbolical and material understanding. In the context of coloniality, the anti-utilitarian reaction considers the aspects of capitalist commodification as proposed by European sociology in addition to other elements. It also looks at the impacts of knowledge hierarchical classification that creates from racism an ontological division between colonized and colonizing countries and peoples. In other words, postcolonial thesis by Internal Colonialism understanding, must simultaneously consider the reactions to capitalism and coloniality in the theoretical and practical construction of political struggles.

Internal Colonialism theory is progressively formalized by the consciousness of the impact of the racial, ethnic and national discrimination on the social and political changes in postcolonial societies throughout the 20th and 21th. In this way, we must note a change of quality between postcolonial thought that emerges from post-independence struggles since the nineteenth on the one hand, and postcolonial thought arising from anti-imperialist struggles from the nineteenth and to part of the twentieth century, on the other hand. At first, postcolonial thinking does not present itself as a critical theory of domination and exploitation. The analysis, as we observe in Latin-American case were, in general, some replications of European and North American ideas about culture, power and nature. It was interesting for the authors to understand the process of organizing the national identity, the constitution of the modernizing bureaucracy and the technologies of governance.

In the post-independence context, throughout the 19th and 20th, descriptive information were necessary for the management of the national territory and to the political and legal organization of the community and oligarchic groups. In the second moment, throughout the 20th and 21th the postcolonial thought moves progressively for the critique to the domination and exploitation in the national and international contexts. The intellectuals came to raise some deeper understandings regarding the issues of national development, dependency, imperialism, social movements and democracy. This is the context of the emergence of the Internal Colonial criticism. In the Asian and African contexts, oftentimes, Post-Independence thought coincides with the emergence of Internal Colonialism.

It is important to underline the connections between the thesis of Internal Colonialism and Decoloniality in order to understand the current process of development of postcolonial criticism within the most general social critique. Decoloniality contributes to emphasize the importance of deconstructing discourses that appeared as apparently historically evident (this is the case of European universalism or the inevitable economic development or the racial superiority of the ’whites’ over other ethnic groups) [2]. Internal Colonialism stresses the motivations of historical, national and ethnical conflict itself. We can say that decolonial post-structural studies extend the epistemological scope of Internal Colonialism insofar as it raises theoretical criticism from the linguistic and discursive sphere.

Decolonial criticism helps to clarify the challenges of Internal Colonialism. The task of deconstructing colonialist discourses impacts on understanding the real experience of social and community movements and mobilizations redefining the challenges of ’common good’ struggles. It favors community groups to display more consciously their memories, ritualizing traditions, updating their practices from political actions developed in plurinational states constituted by diversities of customs, values and languages.

Internal Colonialism is a theoretical and practical guide for understanding sentimental particularities of political society and postcolonial culture. The general orientation of coloniality studies supported key concepts such as class, power, ethnicity, feminism, nationality, identity and imperialism, among others, to explain the complexity of utilitarian and anti-utilitarian human agency in global society. The relevance of Internal Colonialism to postcolonial and current decolonial criticism is explained by Torres Guillen : ’it is not justifiable to ignore that the terms’ coloniality of knowledge ’or’ decolonial thought ’are posterior to the term of Internal Colonialism and sink its root in it ’(Torres Guillén, 2014 : 86).

2. The semantic trap regarding the idea of ’internal’ limits the understanding of the theoretical scope of Internal Colonialism

The second point to clarify the debate refers to the term ’internal’ that is object of a semantic trap. ’Internal’ here is not only limited to the description of ethnic conflicts within national postcolonial societies. If we accept such a restrictive definition we must, in fact, recognize that Internal Colonialism is a ’minor theory’ limited to a geographical view [3]. Therefore, to understand Internal Colonialism as a ’major theory’, we must consider that the idea of ​​’internal’ is not limited to the national geographic territory. The ’Internal’ points to a broader symbolic system of boundaries that favor the expression of an imaginary anticolonial community both in the national and international contexts.

From this perspective, Internal Colonialism includes the discussion of a broader space and time matrix concerning intra-national and of inter- and extra-national power systems. ’Internal’ refers to the relational dynamics that cross coloniality from diverse economic and non-economic variables redefining the nature of human agency in the context of both peripheral modernity and global society. Internal Colonialism as thought and practiced refers simultaneously to the tensions between colonized and colonizing countries and the tensions between dominating and dominated groups within national societies and between international ones.

Such comments suggest two paths of reflection to clarify the role of Internal Colonialism for the theoretical critique of contemporary colonial capitalism. The first one considers that Internal Colonialism is a necessary interpretive framework to explain the movement of colonial capitalism from the international to the national level. To think the notion of ’internal’ from the outside implies understanding the impacts of global systemic and anti-systemic tensions on peripheral systems (Wallerstein, 2008 ; Martins, 2015a). That is, traditional power systems, patrimonial or other tribal and communitarian ones, increase the effects of global changes and peripheral modernization raises the impacts of global society. The world-system (Wallerstein, 2006) generates broad systemic movements that produces varied effects on national states without annulling the capacity of peripheral systems to carry out anti-globalization movements. Then, Internal Colonialism is a way of understanding the movement of capitalism between colonizing and colonized countries.

The second path emphasizes internal colonial power in peripheries contributing to the advance of postcolonial studies regarding power structures of states in the global context of Occidentalism. This implies thinking the ’internal’ from “within” national states to understand the historical particularities of anti-systemic reactions in the world-system. Here, class conflicts in industrialized societies are changed by inter-ethnic and anti-colonial conflicts generating significant political and territorial tensions. From within colonial systems, the bourgeois capitalist logic is adapted into patrimonial, oligarchic, tribal and community power logics. Foreign companies seek to control the flow of capital but they need to build agreements in internal political systems.

Gonzalez Casanova (2007) argues also that the current debate of coloniality in his recent redefinition of the Internal Colonialism. He explains that nowadays coloniality continues to reproduce itself in the international and intra-national contexts. The author clarifies that Internal Colonialism enriches understanding that the problem of differences and similarities on the battle ground interest not only the workers or the oppressed peoples, ’but to all the forces engaged in building an alternative world from the local to the global, from the particular to the universal ’(Gonzalez Casanova, 2007 : 419). Torres Guillén, in his review of Casanova’s work, offers an invaluable and clarifying contribution to the analytical and political nature of the concept. He highlights the theoretical interest of Internal Colonialism in apprehending topics such as social exclusion, invisibility and popular resistance (Torres Guillén, 2014).

3. The relationship between Internal Colonialism and political action contributes to understanding the emerging conditions of Politics and Democracy in contexts of heterogeneous nations.

The emergence of Politics as a specific field of democratic struggles constitutes an important turning point in the development of postcolonial theory in postcolonial societies. Studies of Internal Colonialism arise in such contexts. They are even implicit in classic authors such as Frantz Fanon (1952) and Albert Memmi (1973), when in their respective reflections on racism and the colonized-colonizer relationship.

Politics is a widely used expression in philosopher Claude Lefort (1986, 11-12). Inspired on H. Arendt’s contribution, he defines this term as a historical sensitivity that values ​​democracy in a context of state and civil society separation and human rights struggle. He maintains ’there is only politics when there is a difference between a space where men recognize each other as citizens and that they stand together in the horizons of a common world’ (op cit. : 64). The differentiation between political as a general power system and Politics as a field of democratic practices is decisive. The former is a term that refers to general government regimes, even totalitarian and despotic ones. Politics, on its turn, relates to the deliberative practices of daily life.

Lefort’s reflections are raised within the context of liberal democracies in central countries. Nevertheless, Indian historian Partha Chaterjee stresses the need to find an epistemology that interprets history from new categories. He argues that concepts such as state, civil society and citizenship do not adequately explain the complexity of social and community systems where governance technologies anticipate the processes of organization of ’national society’. Thus, Chaterjee, when analyzing the historical process of non-European societies from the perspective of Subaltern Studies, notes that the idea of population is not given from ’civil society’. For him, the notion of ’political society’ is more adequate to explain the mobilizations of heterogeneous community groups (Chaterjee, 2008, 196). Along the same line, Homi Bhabha suggests Western philosophy fails to understand that major contradiction ’is not the opposition between state and civil society but the opposition between capital and community” (Bhabha, 1994 : 230). Internal Colonialism is thus a concept that helps demonstrate the claim of Indian sociologist G. Bhambra that traditional Eurocentric sociology is inadequate to explain issues such as power, race, and coloniality (Bhambra, 2014 : 451).

We must consider that anticolonial reactions do necessarily occur through struggles for democracy in particular contexts where the experience of nation is heterogeneous and the presence of community is strategic. We are talking about societies where power systems and the building of the political sphere do not refer to the traditional public and private model. Thus, the theory of Internal Colonialism helps to illuminate the importance of a postcolonial critique in making the capitalism and coloniality relationship explicit. This analysis implies the adoption of an anti-utilitarian and trans-disciplinary perspective, considering the historical, sociological, anthropological, linguistic and political aspects of the westernization of the world.

Internal Colonialism contributes to understand the moral aspects of colonial capitalism. Gonzalez Casanova following A. Memmi (1973) considers that one of Internal Colonialism’s central problems is the ’dehumanization of the colonized’ producing humiliation that reveals the colonialist structure (Gonzales Casanova, 2002 : 97). In fact, colonial domination is not only based on the economic exploitation of work but also on the moral reduction of the latter to a psychological inferior nature (for various reasons : he is not white, he is not rich, he is not European). Colonial values hierarchies based on pre-reflexive distances have legitimized the presumed superiority of Europeans over others. This judgment directly influences the organization of colonial power : of the state, of societies and of national economies. Colonial moral hierarchies generate racist practices expanding nationalist and religious movements in colonial capitalism territories to a global level, displacing former colonization territories.

These facts influence libertarian practices from diverse territories of thought and creative political praxis, involving colonial capitalism perspectives into abyssal dimensions. Recognizing the multitude of the world system is an epistemological progress inviting us to consider discourse and power relationship as parallel and logically connected processes. Pluralism is important to deconstruct the ideology of European universalism. However, such processes can generate new forms of servitude and exploitation based on race hierarchical mechanism (Quijano, 2014a : 757) reproducing the nondemocratic colonial capitalism.

It is a matter of accepting the challenge of ’multiple modernities’ experiences (Eisenstadt, 2002, Arjomand, and Reis, 2013) from ’inside’ to ’outside’ of Western modernization. Reviewing social theory from the perspective of Internal Colonialism is a precious task for the advancement of postcolonial theory and for the search of a new humanistic thinking that values the utopias of ’good living’ (Gudinas and Acosta, 2011) and ’convivialism ’(Caillé, 2015 ; Caillé, Vandenberghe and Véran, 2016).

The theory of Internal Colonialism in Latin America

There is an Internal Colonialism approach that limits the debate to the ethnic dimensions. P. Quintero (2015) emphasizes that Internal Colonialism was a very used notion especially in the 1970s to characterize the societal constitution of the Nation-States with strong indigenous presence in Latin America. He underlines that ’it was specifically used to describe the social formations of Mexico, Bolivia, Ecuador and, to a lesser extent, of Peru and Guatemala.’ He adds ’in the rest of the Latin American countries the notion did not have greater transcendence’ (Quintero, 2015). W. Mignolo also reminds that the thesis of Internal Colonialism is directly located in the discussion between the State and the Amerindian population, helping to establish a balance between class and ethnicity in the processes of independence and formation of the national State (Mignolo, 2003 : 172- 173).

From this perspective of research, Rivera Cusicanqui (1993, 2012), guided by the indigenous issue and particularly in the Andes, proposes the existence of two variables of Internal Colonialism. The first refers to the strengthening of colonial power against indigenous populations and the second, to the alliances of the colonial state with the colonizing powers. For her, Internal Colonialism seems to be an even more interesting term than coloniality because it facilitates the understanding of internalization of colonial power : ’Colonialism could not be so effective if it didn’t have the enemy inside, that is why we seek to overcome this miserable memory as a lament without trivializing pain ’(Rivera Cusicanqui, 2012).

In fact, in Latin America, Internal Colonialism offers a great contribution to understanding the disputes involving ethnic indigenous peoples and colonizing elites, which are evident in the cases of Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Bolivia. The occurrence of anticolonial reactions such as those represented by Andean indigenous movements results from a necessary articulation of several dimensions. One is the ethnic dimension (the value of the community, the historical affective ties, the rituals) ; another, the class dimension (the value of worker solidarity in mining companies, in agricultural haciendas etc.) ; and a third one is the plurinational dimension (the value of organizing different national common belongings in the same territory).

But this limited approach based on ethnic dynamic do not allow a larger understanding of inter-ethnic struggles concerning others as the “rich” oligarquics “castes” on one hand, and the “poor” communities, on the other hand. Thus, a larger understanding of Internal Colonialism contributes to expanding capital and labor classes dynamics considering the current interesting on racism and slavery. In the contexts of societies inheriting from colonization, class origin is mixed with diverse motives - ethnic, nationality and religious - interfering in the structure of political society and the national state.

In Latin America countries where the indigenous presence in national culture is less effective as in Brazil or in Argentina, the concept of Internal Colonialism is open to an inter-ethnic sociological understanding. Here, we need to accept the idea that inter-ethnic conflicts necessarily arise from a broader field of discourses and practices, because ethnicity is not limited to native people. It includes the diversity of groups defined by their family and community affiliations, including the ethnic groups of the ’white’ oligarchies. Thus, in a broader sense, this theory does not seek only to privilege the resistances of indigenous ethnic groups of a certain set of countries, but it helps to define the structure of colonial power as an integral interethnic system also involving ethnic dominant groups. Because they manipulate the State to reproduce their clan logic and racist view in contexts of domination of colonial capitalism.

Then, we believe that the colonial ethnicity idea can be applied to all those social groups who have known coloniality, both the internal colonized and the internal colonizing (Martins, 1989 and 1998), in the whole Latin America continent. Such an idea is valid since ethnicity is included in a broader set of markers that influence collective representations of power. What is important here is to draw attention to the fact that inter-ethnic conflicts contaminate class and national conflicts since the imposition of the moral colonial hierarchical code. Such contamination is expanded within society to include other markers that define the phenomenological presence of the subject in the world. This even allows us to think of the poor as a large ethnic group.

In this way, it is possible to propose that in postcolonial realities politics include groups mobilized by economic and non-economic interests and crossed by ethnic and national variables [4]. Conflicts are at the same time inter-class, inter-ethnic and intra- and transnational. This understanding broadens the classic notion of geographical space. Borders are revealed as linguistic and symbolic horizons fluctuating, on the one hand, through migrations and population displacements (Bhabha, 1994), on the other hand, by expanded colonial conflicts.

The interest of Internal Colonialism theory for the understanding of domination is broader than that one offered by the indigenous dynamics, helping to redefine the postcolonial power system as a historical totality. It facilitates the comprehension of the various economic and non-economic complex factors interfering in the production of inter-ethnical conflicts and in the indigenous and non-indigenous political agreements in postcolonial societies (Martins, 2013). Such experiences act as utopian devices motivating other non-indigenous movements. That is, the way to understand the possibilities of democratic struggles and anti-colonial reactions must consider the multiplicity of objective and subjective motivations crossing the various national community agreements. Considering that colonizing impulses are responsible for affective and psychological relationship dependence, we can suggest that the modern anticolonial impulses must be libertarian. They should promote the search for collective autonomy as a condition for the rescue of memories and experiences massacred or forgotten by the practices of coloniality.

This thesis is of great importance to deepen the postcolonial realities studies moving from the traditional center and periphery territorial division to include all societies that are currently stressed by migrations and refugees, on the one hand, and growing social exclusion, on the other. Consequently, the understanding of the new communal liberation logics requires defining postcolonial power as a historical and cultural construction. Anti-colonial struggles cross national borders to establish transnational power spaces. However, such struggles are manifested with differentiated cultural particularities in the center and in the periphery of global capitalism. The understanding of social and community resistances invites us to consider coloniality from within, from memories, discourses, values and, above all, from the various markers (class, ethnic, religious, gender, national, etc.) that organize practices and institutions.

It is essential to understand that Internal Colonialism theory contributes to explain the complexity of the identity practices and diverse social and cultural resistances. Politics in postcolonial context implies the consideration of classes, ethnic groups and nationalities relationship extrapolating the original conflicts between colonizers and native peoples. In this sense, such a discussion concerns not only the colonial struggles areas involving the indigenous peoples, but all colonial areas where conflicts have economic but also historical, cultural and linguistic bases. They are above all the expression of traditional and psychological traits characteristic of both the elites and the exploited. However, we believe that the thesis of Internal Colonialism requires a broader debate in the sphere of social theory. This could support a general criticism considering oligarchic domination culture as a “caste” power and general mechanisms of exploitation, on the one hand, and social movements and Community strategies of liberation, on the other hand. Such debate is decisive for the search for more solidary models.

This theoretical axis has value in deconstructing the colonial hegemonic discourse that subordinates. But the theoretical reductionism limits the understanding of the influences of national and ethnic elements in social life. Criticism must consider the historical struggles and the perspectives of confronting inequalities and injustices to economic growth strategies. In Latin America, such inter-ethnic conflicts involve the entire social system through various collective mobilization forms of dominated ethnic groups (including mestizos and European and Asian immigrants) and dominant ethnic groups (oligarchic groups). This context invites researchers to consider in their analysis of power the other markers that define the practices of individuals and social groups such as nationality, class, religiosity, gender and environment.

Conclusion : theory and practice of the postcolonial

In this text, we seek to value the place of Internal Colonialism in Postcolonial Criticism and in Social Theory. It is not only a question of doing justice to this debate in the academic field, reinforcing what Torres Guillén says about the role of Internal Colonialism as the inspiration for more recent discussions on ’coloniality of knowledge’ and ’decolonial thinking’ (Torres Guillén, 2014 : 86). The discussion has two objectives. One is to clarify the epistemological complexity of postcolonial theories. They are presented as a set of several disciplines that range from the most naturalistic descriptions of the post-independence context to the so-called decolonial critique. Considering also the postcolonial experiences in Asia and in Africa, we are surely going to identify this sum of theoretical approaches that follow, nevertheless, own combinations related to the historical particularities of colonization and decolonization.

The other point emphasizes the importance of ’interior’ as a system of necessary relationship to understanding the pattern of reproduction of colonial capitalism in the world-system. On the one hand, we have the tensions between global power and national power, that is, the colonizing and colonized countries relationships. On the other hand, we observe dominant and dominated ethnic groups relationships within national societies. Internal Colonialism facilitates the comprehension of historical dynamics between colonial power and the complexity of inter-ethnic, national and class conflicts.

Coloniality is a relational dimension stressing the role of race (Quijano, 2003 ; 2014a) involving colonizing and colonized. The feeling of intra-group belonging is shared by the colonizing elites and colonized populations. It expresses diverse material and symbolic, psychological, affective and moral factors constituting the antiutilitarian postcolonial imaginary. The challenge is to understand that relational dynamic conceals an exclusive moral system, which needs to be denounced in order to liberate collective forces oppressed by coloniality [5].

One of the central characteristics of the colonial power pattern is the ambiguous way in which individuals live coloniality. According to Memmi, each colonizer is privileged because colonial power generates the mistaken image of ethnic superiority with respect to the colonized (Memmi, 2007 : 43-46). The existence of colonialists (colonizers who assume themselves as colonizers) is linked to the colonized : ’... Memmi adds that colonizers need to deny the colonized, and, at the same time, the existence of their victims is necessary to continue to exist’. (Memmi, op.cit . : 91). One of the consequences of this situation is the colonial racism that emerges ’so spontaneously incorporated into the gestures and the words, even the most banal, which seems to constitute one of the most solid structures of the colonialist personality’ (op cit. 107). On its part, the possible alternative for the colonized is ’assimilation or petrifaction’ (op.cit . : 143). Attempting to change this situation they are attracted by the colonizing model and by the love that is based on ’a complex of feelings that range from hatred to shame’ (op cit . : 163).

This context helps concealing structural distances in colonial inter-ethnic systems, which have been reproduced by colonizing and colonized co-dependency. The populations are disciplined from vertical control mechanisms such as race, patronage, ideological and media manipulation, reducing the social issue to a problem of national state security. The ethnic oligarchy seeks to appropriate collective discourses such as democracy to establish domination systems only benefiting the racist dominant colonial interests, which are generally part of a consortium coordinated by international capitalism.

To conclude, we suggest that Latin America is now a particular experience of a broader and more global tension between the colonial and anticolonial forces. Coloniality has been updated by globalization through the control of state systems by transnational oligarchies. Despite the difficulties, anticolonial forces seek to reorganize the democratic project on other basis that are not limited to liberal representative democracy. In this sense, J. R. Burga proposes that the recognition of ex-colonies as multicultural, multi-ethnic and plurilingual countries break with the traditional ethnic and racist, nationalist and Jacobin vision that marked the national self-perception and public policies ... ’(Rios Burga, 2011 : 405). For him, the colonized must shift the focus of political and cultural struggles in order to think modernity and coloniality relationship from a complex anti-colonial perspective of liberation. That is, a view based on another code of values, respecting collective equality and social justice, which are the foundations of universal democracy.

Overcoming the myth of coloniality requires a new representation of human agency. In other words, individuals and collectivities sharing material and symbolic interests and considering various historical, psychological and cultural motivations. The colonized needs above all to imagine and build an original community that must be just, associative and solidary, pointing to utopian movements related to ’good living’ and ’conviviality’. Such a community of possible destiny is a libertarian heterotopia necessary to break with the limits of postcolonial power in the center and in the periphery of the world-system. From this idea, social sciences have advancing a critical thought articulating antiutilitarian postcolonial intellectual praxis and anti-colonial social movements practices. Here the thesis of Internal Colonialism appears as a key to defining the paths to be followed.


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// Article publié le 11 août 2018 Pour citer cet article : Paulo Henrique Martins , « Internal Colonialism, Postcolonial Criticism and Social Theory  », Revue du MAUSS permanente, 11 août 2018 [en ligne].

[1However, it is important to avoid reducing the postcolonial theory to simply an expression of the deconstruction of power discourses, without considering the value of the historical experience of human agency for critical thinking in peripheral contexts. Such a simplified reading contributes to hinder the articulation between the deconstructionist critique that has wide prestige in academia on the one side, and the practices of social and community movements based on particular historical and cultural experiences, on the other side. It seems that this challenge of articulating academic practices and social and community practices is central to promoting the strengthening of strategies and struggles for a new model of a more solidary and convivial society.

[2The Decolonial or deconstructionist criticism (Mignolo, 2011 ; Bhambra, 2012 ; Quijano, 2014b) arises with particular importance in the 1990s under the particular influence of the French Theory and, particularly, from M. Foucault and J. Derrida approaches. But it is a mistake to reduces post-colonial criticism to Decoloniality because it produces some theoretical problems (see Gauthier, 2018 and Vandenberghe,2018). Internal Colonialism, for exemple, point out some singular questions of Human Agency generated by colonial exploitation and inequality that can not be solved by intellectual discoursif critique. It needs understanding social actors motivations.

[3We cannot forget that the geographical and territorial circumscription of national states constitutes a limited spatial matrix to explain the migrations and new identities and conflicts that emerge from the Diasporas and the new transnational cultural mediations (Hall, 2003).

[4Poutignat and Streiff-Fenart have deepened the understanding of interethnic relations by emphasizing the role of identity symbols in the determination of the feeling of a common origin. Cardoso de Oliveira has also contributed to update the concept of ethnicity by affirming the importance of the moral dimension in the constitution of group identity, which he has achieved by developing the concept of recognition (self-recognition and recognition by the other) (Cardoso de Oliveira, 2006 : 20-57). Ethnicity becomes a central concept for decolonial sociological studies, especially when it is pronounced as inter-ethnicity, helping to understand the value of cultural and symbolic elements in the construction of community and social systems today (Cohen, 1985).

[5The progress of the debate about the nature of Internal Colonialism as an indispensable epistemic reference to postcolonial studies, invites researchers to consider the relevance of introducing the aspects of moral recognition (Taylor, 1989 ; Honneth, 2009) . This contributes to understanding how exploitation and colonial domination work through a system of axiological classification which values those who approach the imaginary of the colonizer - white, European and male - and devalues those who do not demonstrate such characteristics.

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