From colonization to globalization: Continuities in colonial ‘commonsense’

Huygens, Ingrid (2009) From colonization to globalization: Continuities in colonial ‘commonsense’. In: Introduction to Critical Psychology (2nd ed.). Sage, pp. 267-284. ISBN 9781847871732

[img] PDF
Restricted to Repository staff only


Official URL:

Abstract or Summary

For me, oppression is the greatest calamity of humanity. It diverts and pollutes the best energies of man – of oppressed and oppressor alike. For if colonization destroys the colonized, it also rots the colonizer. Memmi, 1965: xvii Modern Western psychology emerged and developed in the context of European conquest, exploitation and domination. That historical link is no accident. Indeed, it can help us understand how psychological concerns may be approached more critically in our increasingly globalized world. Thus, American community psychologist Tod Sloan, in his useful introduction to globalization, poverty and social justice, asks a largely psychological question: why, in light of what the world has experienced through exploitation built into capitalist economics, do so many people believe capitalism is a good system? His answer – ‘the curious phenomenon associated with ideology’(2005: 319) – is a central theme of this chapter. I present first a brief critical history of colonial relations to help link cultural and psychological phenomena such as ideology with ‘the entangled web’ of global economic and political processes in which human survival and wellbeing are now embedded (Marsella, cited in Sloan, 2005). I focus throughout on the relationship between colonizer and indigenous peoples. The term ‘indigenous peoples’ emerged in the 1970s from the struggles of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the United States and the Canadian Indian Brotherhood as a way to internationalize the experiences and issues of some of the world’s colonized peoples (Smith, 1999). I also attempt to internationalize the issues, in this case for some of the world’s colonizer peoples, by using an approach consistent with a critical psychology. In this chapter I consider globalization as a form of ongoing colonialism, open to the same criticism that it relies on an instrumental racism and European cultural supremacy as ideological supports. These ideologies are the building blocks for a contemporary version of a colonial‘commonsense’ that colonizer groups in modern societies draw upon for everyday decisions. Such ‘commonsense’ continues to see indigenous people as an enemy and assertions of their collective rights as primitive impediments to a world-wide capitalism. A single case story woven throughout the chapter illustrates a situation in New Zealand in which I was involved as an activist Pakeha psychologist. The story provides an example of how racism and cultural supremacy are ‘lived ideologies’ (Billig, Condor, Edwards, Gane, Middleton, & Radley, 1989) in contemporary Western societies. These ideologies underpin a pervasive ‘commonsense’ with which colonizer groups support, or at least acquiesce in, modern-day confiscations and suppressions of indigenous peoples. The impact of such a ‘colonial commonsense’ on indigenous peoples in New Zealand, has particular application to other former British colonies such as Australia, Canada and the United States of America where non-indigenous groups are now the numerical majority.

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions:Schools > School of Social Development
ID Code:534
Deposited By:
Deposited On:19 Jan 2010 00:28
Last Modified:15 Feb 2012 01:44

Repository Staff Only: item control page