Translated by Joan Pinkham
Introduction, A Poetics of Anticolonialism, by Robin D. G. Kelley
This classic work, first published in France in 1955, profoundly influenced the generation of scholars and activists at the forefront of liberation struggles in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Nearly twenty years later, when published for the first time in English, Discourse on Colonialism inspired a new generation engaged in the Civil Rights and Black Power and anti-war movements.
Aimé Césaire eloquently describes the brutal impact of capitalism and colonialism on both the colonizer and colonized, exposing the contradictions and hypocrisy implicit in western notions of “progress” and “civilization” upon encountering the “savage”, “uncultured,” or “primitive.”
Here, Césaire reaffirms African values, identity, and culture, and their relevance, reminding us that “the relationship between consciousness and reality are extremely complex… It is equally necessary to decolonize our minds, our inner life, at the same time that we decolonize society.”
An interview with Césaire by the poet René Depestre is also included.
Césaire’s essay stands as an important document in the development of third world consciousness — a process in which [he] played a prominent role.
Half a century later Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism has lost nothing of its dynamism and incantory power. Robin Kelley’s introduction is a valuable tool for helping the reader explore its thousand and one facets.