Colonial Culture.pdf

Colonial Culture.pdf
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  Social Scientist Colonial CultureAuthor(s): Susantha GoonetilakeSource: Social Scientist, Vol. 4, No. 6 (Jan., 1976), pp. 25-40Published by: Social Scientist Stable URL: . Accessed: 14/10/2013 04:49 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  . Social Scientist   is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Social Scientist. This content downloaded from on Mon, 14 Oct 2013 04:49:36 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  SUSANTHA GOONETILAKE Colonial Culture CULTURAL COLONIZATION is emerging as one of the dominant factors in the social situation of colonial and neo-colonial countries. Colonial artefacts as well as world outlooks tend to be among the most pervasive influences to persist after formal decolonization. This article attempts to examine the global structure whereby colonial culture is generated, trans- mitted and received, with special attention to the process of its legitimiza- tion. Long before the days of imperialist expansion, cultural contacts existed between peoples far and near,equal and subordinate. The Egyptians transmitted rudimentary concepts of building, writing and irrigation to surrounding regions in the millennium before Christ. Similarly, river valley civilizations like those of the Indus and Sumer exchanged cultural artefacts as is evident in the archaeological remains of the two regions. At a less known but equally dramatic level there were cultural transactions across the Indian and Pacific Oceans with people of Malay- sian and Polynesian stock carrying cultural artefacts like outrigger canoes to regions extending from East Africa to the Pacific Islands. At a more sophisticated level, there was the transmission of the mathematical know- ledge of India, mainly algebra, to the European nations through the Arab intermediaries in AD ninth or tenth century. Similarly at an This content downloaded from on Mon, 14 Oct 2013 04:49:36 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  SOCIAL SCIENTIST earlier period there was transmission to India of geometry from Greece. Sometimes these cultural transmissions took the form of diffusion from a dominating culture, like the spread of ideas from the Graeco-Roman world then in ascendancy, to the barbarian regions of Europe. The cultural transmission before the sixteenth century had one distinguishing feature. Between dominant and dependent peoples, it took place within an unequal relationship and regional boundaries. Thus trans- mission of culture within the Roman Empire was confined largely to the relatively small (in global terms) geographical area of the imperium. Transmission of cultural patterns of ancient India happened largely through the medium of Buddhism and was more or less regional in scope. Starting with the sixteenth century this pattern changes drastically with the growth of a world economy. In the sixteenth century, the Portu- guese and the Spanish made their voyages of discovery, circumnavigated the earth and developed relationships of trade, warfare and culture which can only be described as global in range. With the sacking of the civilizations in Central and South America and the partial genocide that followed, vast quantities of wealth were transferred to Europe. This pattern of plunder was repeated in Africa and Asia with varying degrees of brutality. A global outlook began to take shape in the European nations which grew rich on the spoils of conquest. The empire-building in far-flung territories set in motion a process where- by cultural artefacts were adopted from remote regions, legitimized in Europe and transmitted to other parts of the world. This process of collec- tion of cultural artefacts and re-transmission supplemented those that arose within the European countries themselves. Cofeefrom North Africa Cultural artefacts so transmitted included not only consumption items like food, clothing, furniture and art objects but also systems of ideas and concepts like religion. It is essential to study the exact mechanism by which this transmission system was maintained in order to realize the present implications of cultural domination. We will therefore trace a few cultural artefacts that arose within the peripheral countries and trace their re-transmission patterns. In addition, we will also trace how cultural arte- facts that arose within the Western countries themselves were transmitted. Such transmission and their reception were dependent on the socio-econo- mic, political and cultural conditions of the peripheral countries, as well as of the countries in the metropolitan centre. By taking a few examples we will attempt to make clear some of the main features of this system. In a cursory compilation, one can name literally hundreds of cul- tural artefacts taken ftom the periphery and found acceptance in the centre, to be re transmitted to other parts of the periphery. For example, among foodstuffs, coffee and cocoa which are modern man's main beverages, tobacco which is his main recreational smoking enjoyment, spices, manioc, chillies, curries, potatoes and corn are some of the main 26 This content downloaded from on Mon, 14 Oct 2013 04:49:36 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  COLONIAL CULTURE items. Among intellectual ideas and artistic traditions, the Japanese woodcut has influenced impressionism while African and Oceanic art has exerted a major impact on modern sculpture. According to the British Encyclopaedia, offee today is consumed by one third of the world's population. Discovered in AD 850 coffee plants were srcinally grown in Kaffa and taken to Southern Arabia where they were cultivated for about 500 years. Coffee became popular among the Arabs soon and by the time West Europe was in its period of colonial ascendancy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was introduced on the continent. Coffee houses became widespread in Europe and America in the seventeenth century as centres of political, business, social and literary infuence. From the reign of Charles III to the early Georges, the London Coffee House was the centre of social life'. In Queen Anne's time there were well over 500 coffee houses and every respectable leader had his own favourite one. Coffee houses therefore filled the place now occupied by the club, although in a more relaxed and a cheaper fashion. Coffee houses also became a levelling influence as well as a place of exchange of information. Before journalism and telegrams, the coffee houses were centres for clearing political, military and business news at an informal level. Lloyd of later ship and insurance fame was a coffee-house keeper in Lombard Street and the rise of his business interests later had much to do with the central position occupied by the coffee houses. The coffee houses by becoming centres of fashionable discourse created a demand for coffee beans. To meet it the coffee plant was spread from Saudi Arabia to Sri Lanka in 1658, Java in 1696, Surinam in 1680, Martinique in 1723, Brazil in 1727, Jamaica in 1730, Cuba in 1748, Puerto Rico in 1755, Venezuela in 1784 and to Mexico in 1790. There- fore with Europe in ascendancy not only did coffee become fashionable in Europe, but it was now grown in those regions which had come under its sway. In addition, coffee drinking as a worldwide phenomenon was transmitted to those countries inside the periphery as well as outside. Cup that Cheers The same process is also seen in the case of tea. The earliest reference to tea is in a Chinese document of 350 BC and a manual of tea existed in China by AD 780. The first mention of it in European literature was in 1559 and the first reference by an Englishman was in 1615 according to British Encyclopaedia. At the time tea was introduced, England was the greatest coffee-drinking nation. First publicly sold in London in 1657 tea was advertised as excellent, and by all physicians approved, China drink . Tea rapidly gained in popularity to such an extent that in a few years, metal and leather tokens were used instead of small change in tea and coffee houses. Known as tea and coffee tokens these were generally 27 This content downloaded from on Mon, 14 Oct 2013 04:49:36 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  SOCIAL SCIENTIST accepted as currency in London's restaurants. By the middle of the seventeenth century, the use of tea as a beverage was well established in Holland. Together with tea came a need for other cultural artefacts surrounding the tea drinking process, leading to the manufacture of tea boards, tea pots, silver spoons, strainers and other items. It was the East India Company which was central to the introduc- tion and propagation of the tea drinking habit. Later, tea plantations were opened up in India and Sri Lanka using semi-slave labour. Concurrent with these events tea drinking spread to other parts of the world where the colonial bosses went. As the cultivation and drinking of tea was pre- dominantly done by the English or their colonials, there was a tendency for the tea drinking habit to spread largely to those countries under the direct or indirect influence of the British. To the latter category belonged the Middle East. Peripheral countries of other colonial empires like the French or Spanish were generally immune to tea drinking and acquired a greater taste for the cultural artefact transmitted by other colonizers, namely coffee. The two examples of tea and coffee relate to cultural transmission of artefacts from two regions of old civilization, namely Asia and North Africa. However,.cultural re-transmission was not limited only to these continents, but also to Latin America. Almost half the foodcrops grown in the world today is accounted for by corn and potatoes, both plants domesticated by American Indianss. Other Indian-developed crops like manioc have become staple food in Africa and parts of Asia. American Indians further introduced to the white man and through him to the rest of mankind more than 80 other domesticated plants including peanuts, chillies, tomatoes, pumpkins, pineapples, avacados, cocoa and tobacco. They also introduced at least 59 drugs including cocoa, (for cocaine and novocaine), curare and cinchona. In addition to these, the American region has given numerous devices like canoes, snow shoes, moccasins, hammocks, kayaks, ponchos and rubber goods like rubber balls, dog sheds and toboggans. We will discuss below three of the food cultural artefacts taken from the American region legitimated as desirable and retransmitted to other parts of the world. These products are respectively cocoa, potato and tobacco. Foodfrom the New World Cocoa srcinally came from Central and South America. Cocoa beans were used in the Maya and Aztec civilizations as means of exchange. The Aztecs used cocoa also as a beverage. On his fourth trip Columbus took cocoa beans to Spain where the drink was later greatly improved by the use of sugar. After a century in Spain, cocoa drinking spread to other parts of Europe and in 1657 the first shop selling cocoa was opened in London. By 1700 the English had added milk to the bever- age. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries fashionable chocolate drinking grew to almost a cult in London, Amsterdam and other European 28 This content downloaded from on Mon, 14 Oct 2013 04:49:36 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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