Archive for July, 2008

Writing on Mozambique, pt. 3: A truncated history of colonial Mozambique I

No long theoretical preamble here — I’ll try to provide a brief history of colonial Mozambique. I focus mostly on when it gets closer to independence (in 1975), because that’s what we’re gunning for in my paper (and because colonial occupation gets more systematic after the 1880s). I’m also leaving out the pre-colonial history, not because I don’t think it’s important, but because I do think colonialism radically transformed a lot of things, and to whatever extent it preserved, eradicated or transformed pre-colonial relations, that’s what the post-colonial moment had to work with.

Colonialism is brutal, and just about anywhere you go in the world today you can see its after-effects reverberating. There are those who would consider themselves critical and yet try to pass off one kind of colonialism as better than another (because, I don’t know, the French causing a million deaths in Algeria is better than the British causing a few more million in India?), and then there are snots like Sarkozy who imagine that colonialism was the best thing to happen to savage races since Jesus. The truth is that colonialism fucked shit up, everywhere. The violence was tremendous, physically, morally, psychologically, structurally, violence to modes of thought and production of knowledge. Many more forms of violence beside. After significant, bloody and often violent resistance (yeah, even in India, Gandhi notwithstanding) many colonizing powers decided to give up formal political control to the emergent native bourgeoisies of the colonies (something Frantz Fanon referred to as “false decolonization”), maintaining significant political ties and dependent economic relations, i.e., establishing neo-colonialism.

But when it comes to brute force and utter persistence in maintaining formal political control over colonies, Portuguese colonialism wins. (Remember, Rhodesia and South Africa were no longer British colonies, so much as they were ruled by gangs of rich white men, and so that took longer — 1980 and 1994 respectively, and 1990 for Namibia.)

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Writing on Mozambique, pt. 2: Development and Marxism

As I considered my earlier post on the definition of “meaningful development” I realized that a lot of what I said could also be stated in terms of the Marxian theory as I understand it.

My second-last paragraph pointed out that individuals often have an individualized perspective on development (e.g., the necessity for education) even though these perspectives may be widely shared. Here we have an example of the dialectic between immediate needs and objective needs. The immediate need of many in Mozambique is an increase in income by which they can sustain themselves. Many have realized that being educated, or getting their children educated, leads to an increase in income. They thus strive to get at least some of their children (if they survive) educated. We’re still at the level of immediate needs here, the necessity of education is individualized and it becomes dependent upon a transaction. Compare to Adorno (though he isn’t talking about a society like Mozambique’s):

Not only are needs satisfied purely indirectly, by means of exchange-values, but within the relevant economic sectors produced by the profit-motive, and thus at the cost of the objective needs of the consumers, namely those for adequate housing, and completely so in terms of the education and information over the processes which most affect them.

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Writing on Mozambique, pt. 1: Discourse on Development

I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to work on a paper on the politics of Mozambique. The reasons for this are both political and personal, and the ways in which these two intersect. It was due at the end of April, which seemed reasonable at the time, but then a whole series of events followed and life in general took a tanking dive and I’ve been trying to deal with a lot of that. I haven’t been able to work on the paper, and when I try, I fail quite miserably.

But if I can’t bring myself write on Mozambique, perhaps I can write about writing on Mozambique (argh, postmodernism’s revenge!). I’ve done a bit of research — having gone through dozens of journal and news articles and a few books. All of this raises more than a few questions for me, to which I have no satisfactory answer. I hope my musings here will help to, at least, organize the issues for me and give me focus in writing the paper.

I took the class in the first place for a few reasons. I could have taken David McNally’s class on Marx’s Capital — which would have been fantastic, no doubt — but I felt like I needed a grounding in the way capitalism works, internationally, on the ground. I have more than a passing interest in the politics of southern Africa and I wanted, also, to examine how the post-colonial moment has been working out (answer: not well). Also, I heard that this might be one of the last times that John S. Saul would be teaching the class (and, indeed, it was the last class he taught), and that it was worth it to take a class with him. (Saul is a noted scholar-activist, and he was involved in the struggles against colonialism and apartheid, back in the day.) Of course, I also heard and kept hearing other stuff about Saul — vague and non-specific rumours, all of which turned out to be unsubstantiated; and the fact that he seemed to assign his own work a lot was a bit disconcerting, but ultimately, it wasn’t a problem at all.

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The Star’s Crime & Punishment Series

In what can only be called a freak burst of actually getting someone to do investigative journalism, The Star has managed to put together a brilliant series of stories on Crime & Punishment. I’ll be trying to parse through it in the coming weeks, but it looks really good. Check it out.

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