Archive for August, 2008

Writing on Mozambique, pt. 4: A truncated history of colonial Mozambique II

Like just about any other process, colonization is deeply contradictory. It emanates from the drive to conquer and subjugate for economic reasons, but there’s no such thing as just “economic reasons.” There is pride and prestige involved, and that becomes a significant motivating factor as well. They operate in conjunction. But this matter of pride and prestige comes from the subjugation of entire peoples — and brazen exploitation — and somehow this is transmogrified into a civilizing mission. Colonialism came to bring civilization, commerce and Christianity to the masses, after all. So, really, relax, we’re doing you a favour by occupying your country and killing thousands and perhaps millions of you and stealing your natural resources and, where possible, exploiting your labour. Hooray! But here, I’m not too concerned about how the Portuguese elite used colonialism to feel better about themselves [see PA 108-116]. Rather, I’m going to focus on the imposition of certain politics as they played out in Mozambique.

Indigenato: Citizen and Subject

In 1950, according to a census cited by Perry Anderson, Mozambicans numbered about 5.67 million (not including the Portuguese settlers) [PA 109], and white settlers numbered about 48,000 [PA 100] and mestiços (“mixed”) numbered 25,000 [PA 110]. While official Portuguese ideology was anti-racialist, the regime set up a legal system of differentiation between Portuguese citizens and natives/subjects — needless to say, the categories corresponded to racial lines. The entire system of separation was called Indigenato:

Article 23 of the Decree-Law excludes all natives from any rights vis-a-vis non-native political institutions (i.e. the caricature of voting and common rights possessed by the white population). Article 9 restricts freedom of movement. Article 32 states that work is an indispensable element for the native’s progress and permits administrative enforcement of it. Article 26 specifies that obligatory labour can be enforced for fiscal default. [PA 108]

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6) »