Ethnic and Cultural Pluralism in the Colonial Social Order

R. D. Grillo

in Pluralism and the Politics of Difference

Published in print July 1998 | ISBN: 9780198294269
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599378 | DOI:
 Ethnic and Cultural Pluralism in the Colonial Social Order

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The colonial state represented a new type of polity, which emerged from the sixteenth century onwards. Colonial states, such as Spain, in the Americas, and Britain and France in Africa, differed fundamentally from patrimonial polities that had little interest in ‘civilizing’ and transforming their subjects, even if they thought them ‘barbarian’. Although extraction remained a fundamental objective, colonial states also sought to transform societies and cultures. In fulfilling this ‘dual mandate’ they anticipated and, in certain respects, epitomized modernity, as did French colonial policies of assimilation, grounded in the ideals of the Revolution and the Enlightenment. At the same time, opposition to the theory and practice of assimilation led both France and Britain towards the creation or retrenchment of ‘difference’, institutionalizing tribal identity, and tribalism, in the political process through forms of indirect rule.

Keywords: Africa; Americas; assimilation; Britain; colonial states; dual mandate; France; indirect rule; Spain; tribalism

Chapter.  10700 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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