Civilisation and the Excluded: Ideas and Practices of Differentiation in the Colonies during the Interbellum

Publication type Article
Status Published
Institute of World History RAS
Lomonosov Moscow State University
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameISTORIYA

In this article the author analyses the complex nature of the relationship between Europeans and local populations in the colonies. The colonisation process implied an 'alliance' of political dominance and cultural hegemony. Colonisation was an exercise of power structured by distinctions. Although the Great War undermined the white man's civilising image, it by no means destroyed his civilising impulse. After 1918, all colonial powers gradually shifted to a “developmental” style and humanitarian rhetoric of colonial rule more in keeping with the spirit of the times. However, ideas and practices of differentiation, exclusion, segregation and everyday racism towards the indigenous population of the colonies continued to be normative. Opposition between Europeans and local populations thus remained characteristic of most colonial communities. The smooth operation of the system was conditioned by a clearly delineated divide between the coloniser and the colonised. Ideas of superiority and racial doctrines continued to shape the colonial situation in the 1920s and 1930s. Segregation and exclusion from political and social life of local elites and populations divided European colonial societies, at the heart of which was the indigenous type. It modestly participated in shaping their own destiny under the leadership of the colonisers, being one of the main elements of differentiation and exclusion in the colonies between the two world wars. Despite the active rapprochement and diversity of communicative practices between the 'men of empire' and the local non-European population in the colonies, there remained a clear caesura of the differences between them.

Keywordscivilisation, civilising mission, colonial culture, Europeans, everyday racism, segregation, imperial space, colony
Publication date07.11.2022
Number of characters40776
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