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Colonialism as a continuing project: The Portuguese experience

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Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power V8 nº4____________________
Colonialism as a Continuing Project: The Portuguese
Experience
Bela Feldman-Bianco
This thematic issue of Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power centers on
questions regarding Portuguese colonialism and the interrelated processes of imperial
reconfigurations in Portugal's postcolonial era. It unites five anthropological case
studies that focus on both colonial and postcolonial situations within the former Portu -
guese Empire. By erasing the artificial demarcation between the fields of colonial and
postcolonial studies, we aim at contributing to a better understanding of the paradoxes
underlying the production of imperial continuities in this era of contemporary
globalization.
While anthropology has renewed its interest in colonial projects since the 1980s,
most of the work in English refers primarily to the British, French, Dutch, and, to a
lesser extent, Belgian and German Empires. The proliferation of postcolonial studies,
the "decentered, diasporic or global rewriting of earlier, nation-centered imperial grand
narratives" focuses almost solely on the interconnections between the former British
Empire and its peripheries (S. Hall 1996: 247). Against the background of the present
state of the art, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power by making accessible a
set of essays on the Portuguese Empire and its contemporary aftermath, provides a
much-needed comparative perspective on empires and postcolonial reconfigurations.
Using the Portuguese Empire as our entry point, the essays in this volume make
three interrelated contributions to the study of empire and its aftermath. First of all, we
are able to examine the positionalities of empires and colonies in different periods of
time. Portugal with its long history, different periods of empire, and different dynamics
between colonies and colonial state allows us to locate empires in the wider political
economy of different historical times. Secondly, advancing beyond the limitations to the
readings of history based within the territorial boundaries of nation-states, whether they
are in the European core or in the postcolonial periphery, we are able to explore the
colonial space as a unit of analysis. The broader perspective of five centuries of history
and of political economy and an expanded unit of analysis provide the context for our
third point, that colonialism is an ongoing process.
Portugal, as a case study, points to the transformation of the first global mercantile
trade empire into an increasingly subaltern power. Portuguese entry in the Indian Ocean
in 1492 signaled the beginning of a process of expansion, exploration, conquest, and
colonization in the New World. Five centuries later, the outbreak of the short lived 1974
Portuguese Socialist Revolution in the midst of the colonial wars of Africa, which
overthrew a nearly 50 years dictatorship and led to decolonization, symbolically marked
the closure of the era of Empires. At that time, Portugal was the longest reigning
colonial power of the world and the poorest nation of Europe.
The shifting locations of the Portuguese Empire in the wider political economy
reflect different historical junctures of processes of global capitalist expansion. During
the era of maritime explorations in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries - a period of
Portuguese imperial expansion, also known as its First Empire - Portugal's colonial
domination and exploitation centered predominantly on the control of trade routes in its
Asian domains. In the mid sixteenth century, facing increasing competition within a
globe-spanning commercial capitalism, the Portuguese Empire began "distancing" itself
from Europe and turned towards the Atlantic. Throughout the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, a period referred to as the Luso-Brazilian Empire or the Second
Empire, the Portuguese, while investing in the colonization of its South American
domain, Brazil (then known as the Terra de Santa Cruz) became a major slave trader. In
the early nineteenth century, faced with the Napoleonic Wars, the Portuguese royal
family transferred the Empire's seat to Brazil. At a time marked by the Industrial
Revolution and the opening of free markets, Portugal became progressively more and
more dependent on England. After the Brazilian independence in 1822, while holding
on to its remaining colonies of Africa and Asia, the decaying imperial metropolis
became a major exporter of Portuguese labor across the world. From the period
encompassing the last decades of the nineteenth century to the mid-1970s - known as
the Third Empire - the Portuguese colonial state directed their attention to the
colonization and exploration of the Portuguese colonies in Africa, while deriving
revenues from an economy sustained by emigrant remittances. After a brief socialist
interlude and decolonization, at a time when contemporary globalization was emerging,
Portugal entered the European regional economic block. The history of the Portuguese
Empire reveals that Portugal became a subaltern imperial metropolis, a center that was
itself an intermediary subordinated to more powerful centers, and at the same time a
nation of emigrants.
The five studies in this special issue "Colonialism as a Continuing Project, take
into account in the analysis not only the mutual constitution between colonizer and
colony - or between ex-metropolis and ex-colony - but also their locations in the wider
political economy in different historical times. While representing a shift from European
frames of analysis towards a "recognition of interdependence, albeit structured through
power, rather than a notion of hierarchy with the 'center' firmly in place and the
periphery marginalized" (C. Hall 1996: 69), we focus on Portugal's viewpoint as a
subaltern empire. We view this empire as simultaneously the colonizer and savage - as
well as a post-colonial semi-peripheral nation in the global political economy (Santos
1993).
Against the background of Portugal's shifting positioning in the global political
economy, the essays brought together in this issue focus either on specific colonial
situations (Pina Cabral on Mozambique and Angola in the African continent; Bastos on
Goa in South East Asia) or examine colonial reconfigurations in post colonial times
(Sieber, Vale de Almeida, and Feldman-Bianco). Reflecting the ongoing orientation
within both colonial, as well as postcolonial studies, these essays represent a shift from
a European focus solely on the colonizer to an emphasis on the colonizer and colonized
(as well as ex-colonizer and ex-colonized) as part of a single unit of analysis (S. Hall
1996; C. Hall 1996; Cooper and Staler 1997). But since the interdependencies between
imperial metropolis and different colonial sites, as well as between former metropolis
and former colonies, have specific histories, positions and relations of power, the case-
studies suggest the importance of examining the specific relationships between
colonizer and colony - as well as between former colonizer and former colonies - each
within the broader space of empire or of former empire during different junctures of
global capitalism. The choice of this broader unit of analysis further allows us to
understand the relationships between and among colonies (or former colonies) in
imperial and postcolonial times, as well as of the brokerage role of elites (see Bastos on
the role of Goan Creole elites in colonial times and Feldman-Bianco on Portuguese
speaking immigrant leaders in post-colonial Portugal).
The Portuguese case allows for comparisons between central and subaltern
empires. In "Doctors for the Empire: the Medical School of Goa" Bastos demonstrates
that to understand the particularities of a colonial experience and the positioning and
identity of the colonized and the colonizer, the history of an empire must be understood
within a global context. Similarly, Joao de Pina Cabral by introducing us to a colonial
intellectual, Henrique Galvão, illuminates the ways in which the Portuguese as
colonizers, who had few resources to create the technology of empire, were particularly
apt at creating an ethnography of the "savage" as a sword and shield for their brutal
colonial presence.
We employ, as our unit of analysis, the colonial space within which colonizer and
colonized came to know themselves by defining themselves in relationship to the other.
This allows us to emphasize that the production of colonial knowledge occurred not
only within the bounds of nation-states but also transnationally, across imperial centers.
There was in the past and there continues to be after the formal political independence
of the colonies, the mutual constitution of colonizer and colonized. All of the papers
make this clear. The medical practitioners who provide the conflicting narratives of
Goa's medical school and Galvão's portrait of African "cannibals," which reveals not
African practices but Galvão's colonial mentality, introduce us to this mutual
construction during the colonial era. The continuities emerge in Miguel Vale de
Almeida's portrait of postcolonialist Portugal championing the struggle of the East
Timorese against Indonesia. Similarly Tim Sieber and I examine the ways in which
contemporary Portuguese are constructing their national identity on a global terrain
imbricated not only with the colonial past, but also with the continuing connections of
Portugal to the lusophonic world it established.
This focus on mutual constitution within colonial space also highlights the
importance of looking at former empires and their more recent reconfigurations, with
special attention to the relationships between and among colonies. Goa is located at the
same time in South Asia and, was until 1961, simultaneously located within the
Portuguese Empire. From that point of view, as Bastos paper shows, we can better
understand why a story that the Goans told, and to a certain extent continue to tell about
themselves, contain nostalgic references to the colonies in Africa, Portuguese ancestry,
and the foundational days of the Portuguese Empire. In the same vein, we begin to feel a
significant lacuna in the accounts of the East Timor by the world media and human
rights documentaries that placed the struggle only in the context of the big powers and
Indonesia. Timor was a Portuguese colony until 1974. Only by locating East Timor in
that historical configuration can we understand the Portuguese emotional catharsis in
relation to the Timorese and the importance of Timor for the reconstruction of Portugal
in postcolonial times. In the same manner, I suggest in my study of "Sameness and
Difference" that we can look with a new analytical lens at the relationship between
Brazil and Portugal, as well as among Portugal, Brazil, and the former Portuguese, and
African colonies in the past and today in the context of immigration.
Finally, our emphasis on colonialism as an ongoing process aims at bringing to
light social continuities - or reconfigurations - of empire within the context of dramatic
change. From this viewpoint, this set of essays attempts to decipher the interstices and
intricacies underlying power, domination, subordination, inclusion and exclusion in
colonial and postcolonial times. Therefore, these essays differ from studies that focus
solely on the so-called post colonial moment, that is to say the "moment after the
Empire." Those studies tend to examine primarily the ruptures and differences after
independence, focusing on the construction of new ideologies. In spite of their
contributions, postcolonial studies by leaving out the cultural and political continuities
sustained in spite of dramatic political ruptures have been able to present only partial
histories. In contraposition, our stress on reconfigurations that represents enduring
connections despite dramatic change points to the complexities of continuing colonizing
projects of former colonial powers producing homogeneity as well as difference. This
approach enables us to discern both co-optation and resistance in colonial and
postcolonial times.
REFERENCES
Hall, Catherine
1996 Histories, empires and the post-colonial moment. In The postcolonial
Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons. Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti,
eds. pp. 65-77. New York: Routledge
Hall, Stuart
1996 When was "The postcolonial"? Thinking at the Limit. In The postcolonial
Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons, Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti,
eds. pp. 242-260. New York: Routledge.
Cooper, Frederick and Ann Laura Stoler
1997 Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda. In Tensions
of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Fredrick Cooper and Ann
Laura. Stoler, eds. pp. 1-58. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of
California Press.
Santos, Boaventura de Sousa
1993 Modernidade, Identidade e a Cultura de Fronteira. In Revista Critica de
Ciências Sociais 38 (December):ll-50, Coimbra, Portugal: CES/ University of
Coimbra.
... The Luso-Brazilian postcolonial moment comprises both a historical period after Brazilian independence from Portugal, and a discursive field of power relationships informed by a long common history. Cautious about the idea of rupture which studies on postcoloniality have often emphasised (Bastos et al., 2002), Feldman-Bianco (2001b) urges scholars to examine the continuities of the former colonial relationships in terms of sameness as well as difference in order to understand the rearrangement of colonial legacies within contemporary global capitalism. Other authors have examined different aspects of Luso-Brazilian relationships, and their combined production provides a much more nuanced presentation of this history than I have room to set out here (see Horta, 2009;Ribeiro, 2002Ribeiro, , 2010Souza et al., 2010;Thomaz, 2002;Vieira, 1991). ...
... A feeling of solidarity that comes from a sense of partaking in a common colonial history and language, despite unequal political and economic positions, has been synchronous with the need to create distinct postcolonial national identities and follow different nation-building projects. Such simultaneity of closeness and separation has resulted in the perception that Luso-Brazilian relationships contain an unusual and special kind of ambivalence, making it difficult to institute a clear division between the categories of Portuguese and Brazilian , 2001bRocha-Trindade and Fiori, 2009;Santos, 2006;Xavier, 2007). ...
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By the late 1990s, when I was conducting ethnographic fieldwork research in Lisbon, the ‘dentists’ case’ had become a familiar trope for the presence of Brazilian immigrants in Portugal. Although it involved a small group of Brazilian and Portuguese professionals, it gained visibility in the media of both countries, escalating into a political and diplomatic quarrel, and culminating in the amendment of the 1966 Cultural Accord. I use Victor Turner’s concept of social drama to address the case as a chapter in the cyclical pattern of connection and disconnection of postcolonial Luso-Brazilian relationships. Drawing from a recent discussion on the concept of cosmopolitanism in migration studies, I employ the idea of postcolonial sociabilities to help explore the seemingly inherent ambiguities in the relationship between Brazilians and Portuguese.
... Tercatat 350 tahun penjajahan oleh Belanda yang dilanjutkan oleh 3,5 tahun oleh Jepang menjadi bagian dari masa lalu Indonesia (Steenbrink, 2006;Ray, 1967;Van Goor & Van Goor, 2004;Aziz, 2012). Selain dua bangsa tersebut, berbagai negara seperti Portugis, Perancis dan Inggris juga pernah singgah dan menetap di wilayah Indonesia sebagai penakluk (Ray, 1967;Feldman-Bianco, 2001). ...
... children to the park. xv Several authors, both Portuguese (such as for instance, Almeida 2004; Araújo and Maeso 2011;Matos 2012;Peralta 2015) and non-Portuguese (such as for instance, Feldman-Bianco 2001;2007;Machado 2004;Sieber 2004;Fikes 2009) have underlined the fact that Portugal has not yet carried out a critical analysis of its colonial rule and, as Sieber refers (2004, 549), it has not even fully superseded the ideologies of the right wing Estado Novo regime. I have written elsewhere (Santos 2014b; Santos 2018/forthcoming) on this lack of self-questioning over the colonial rule; I have also written on the role the way the history of the nation is taught plays in the weaving of this patriotic pride for the colonial endeavour as expressed by the majority of the students (Santos 2014b). ...
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Cooper, Frederick and Ann Lama Stoler 1997 Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda. In Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Fredrick Cooper and Ann Laura. Stoler, eds. pp. 1-58. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press. Santos, Boaventura de Sousa 1993 Modernidade, Identidade e a Cultura de Fronteira. In Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais 38 (December):11-50, Coimbra, Portugal: CES/ University of Coimbra. Downloaded by ["Queen's University Libraries, Kingston"] at 02:58 28 December 2014