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Discourse on Colonialism


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.

The force of [Frantz] Fanon and a stylistic elegance unique to himself…


Césaire’s essay stands as an important document in the development of third world consciousness — a process in which [he] played a prominent role.

Library Journal

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.

—Maryse Condé, Columbia University

Aimé Césaire was born in Martinique in 1913 and educated at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. The celebrated poet, novelist, and philosopher, conceptualized négritude in his first book, Return to My Native Land (1939). This prose poem, which André Breton called “nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of all time,” recounts Césaire’s conscious adoption of an African identity. Césaire is the author of several volumes of poetry and numerous plays, including A Season in the Congo (1967) and an African version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1969). He was elected mayor of Fort-de-France, Martinique, and for many years, served as representative of the island in the French National Assembly. Césaire is the subject of a three-part documentary Aimé Césaire: un voix pour l’histoire (1994) by the internationally acclaimed director Euzhan Palcy, distributed by California Newsreel. Robin D. G. Kelley is professor of history and Africana studies at New York University. He is the author of Race Rebels (Free Press, 1996), Yo Mama’s Dysfunktional! (Beacon, 1998), and Hammer and Hoe (Univ of North Carolina, 1990).

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Publication Date: January 2001

Number of Pages: 102

Paperback ISBN: 9781583670255

eBook ISBN: 9781583674109