lørdag 3. juli 2021

British rule in India: an abusive relationship

Amartya Sen has delivered a critical appraisal of British rule in India (Illusions of empire: Amartya Sen on what British rule really did for India, 29 June). Yet what is missing from his ponderings is a clear critique of the apologist arguments which underpin inquiries into the so-called “achievements” of colonialism.

Instead, he highlights an issue of methodology, namely the impossibility of envisaging an India in which British rule had not occurred. While Sen acknowledges the difficulty of such an evaluation, he finds merit in queries which seek to establish how India was lacking at the time of British conquest and how those deficiencies were met by the new rulers. He promptly embarks on such an examination.

In my view, the question of how the colonised benefited from colonialism is akin to asking how the survivors of abuse benefit from the relationship with their abusers. An analysis ostensibly seeking to obtain understanding of relationship dynamics can quickly descend into a catalogue of justifications for atrocious acts and behaviours. The argument that “it was not all bad” is one inevitably advanced by perpetrators and is insidious in either context. Meanwhile, neither survivors of abuse nor the formerly colonised are able to precisely quantify their detriment, yet profound loss is experienced by both.