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Colonialism and Development

Page history last edited by Carole McGranahan 8 years, 8 months ago

Table of Contents


Colonialism and Development  


Main Points

     Colonialism and development are two important topics studied by anthropologists. How they relate to one another is important in understanding the current world system in many ways, such as why some countries are developed and some are underdeveloped.  It can also show us how culture adapts to changes in the world system and also how individuals are affected by colonialism and development.   In addition to explaining the background to the current power system in the world, anthropology of colonialism and development also play a role in the future of development.  Anthropologists of these areas have recently become integral actors, and sometimes critics, of development projects around the world.   

          Development anthropology is a branch of applied anthropology. Its roots have been traced back to earlier anthropologists such as the functionalist anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski.[1] Anthropology has become important to development work since the 1970s because of, "the apparent failure of economically oriented approaches to development"[2]. This failure prompted the study of social aspects of development.  Anthropology studies local impact on communities and the importance of understanding local beliefs and values which was found to be lacking in earlier development projects.  Also since the 1970s anthropologists have begun to play a role in the development field by working with development organizations. Many have worked with organizations as "cultural experts" that allow development work to adopt a community-based, culturally-sensitive approach[3].  Anthropologists can apply their expert knowledge of a culture to development projects in the area and ensure that  development projects do not clash with local culture.  For example, an anthropologist's understanding of medical ideals in a culture can help a medical organization to provide treatment that people will accept.  If people believe that their symptoms are caused by a spirit rather than a virus, then perhaps they will not take the antibiotics prescribed to them.  Anthropologists may advise health workers of these cultural differences to avoid the waste of time and resources of providing treatment that is not accepted.  

     Anthropology as a unique discipline offers several important ides to development work.  First, anthropologists are careful not be ethnocentric, and try to apply cultural relativism. Development anthropologists understand that while a country may be economically underdeveloped, the culture is just as rich in poor countries as in wealthy ones.  The goal of development plans is not to converting “savage”,  “uncivilized”, or “lesser” people into the "civilized" world of development. Rather it is about introducing knowledge and resources from a developed, or wealthy, area into a less developed area.  There are many forms of both knowledge and resources, and often the two overlap.  For example, spreading knowledge of health facts, such as the necessity of water purification, can better the health of those in the underdeveloped area.  The resources for this same problem, like water purification technology, may also come from a more developed nation.  Another difference that provides a niche for anthropology in the field of development is that anthropology is holistic, combining history, the study of individuals and also their greater social organization, politics, language, etc. which allows development to be studied from a well-rounded perspective.  These elements of anthropology have made some anthropologists very critical of past and current colonial practices as well as past and present development projects.    Because anthropologists look at the whole picture of how a society operates, they can be critical of development projects that ignore or clash with one element of a culture.  Also, anthropologists may see problems with colonialism if it promotes cultural imperialism.  The study of how cultural imperialism has affected countries under colonial power is important for anthropology because it is important to the history of modern cultural practices.  

          Anthropologists in the field of colonialism and development studies also face the question of whether it is is appropriate for them to intervene in development projects or if they should remain neutral.  In participating with development projects, anthropologists forsake their neutral position in society in which they study.  Some critics have argued that development anthropologists are reversing the traditional anthropological practice of "restricted applied intervention"[4] Others take this intervention as a form of applied anthropology in which an anthropologist helps solve a problem in the community in which they work.  Some anthropologists have not become development workers but rather are very critical of development projects.  Some say that colonialism and development projects should not be pursued at all.  Some anthropologists, such as Escobar, raise the issue that in many parts of the world, "there is widespread resistance to development projects"[5] In the case of resistance these critics of colonialism argue that "modernization" may not be the great goal that people in the developed world say it is. 

     The relationship between colonialism and development is another important subject for anthropology.    Many of the countries that are considered to be underdeveloped today have histories of colonialism.  Colonialism often had as much cultural influence on a colonized land as political and economic influence.   Colonialism interfered with local values on how women should dress, who can marry, how men should treat women, etc. Many colonial practices did not involve any consideration for local culture. Colonial officials drew land boundaries in ways that split ethnic groups between two nations, imposed taxes on natives that jeopardized their ability to work for themselves (like the rubber tax in King Leopold's Congo that required natives to harvest rubber for the colonists), and  often monopolized on natural resources so the natives had no way to profit from their own land.  Anthropology has been called the "handmaiden of colonialism"[6] because many colonial officials conducted anthropological research in order to govern the natives, however the methods used during this time have changed dramatically.  Many of these early studies of the natives were conducted without participant observation, which often means the rule imposed on colonized societies came from people who did not directly work with them.

     Colonialism and anthropology are linked so closely.  One rose out of the other.  The British and French empires were two of the largest and longest lasting empires in history.  The British empire was said to be one in which the "sun never set."  It covered a fifth of the world's land surface and ruled a fourth of its population.  The French empire covered 4 million square miles and included nearly 60 million people.  Both empires had two distinct phases.  At the end of World War II, many countries in Asia and Africa gained independence rather quickly.

     The reasons for colonialism included slave labor, extracting resources, expanding territory and military power, and the spreading of European religions (mainly Christianity).  Today, postcolonial countries still face many problems.  The effects of colonial rule are still being felt in those areas.  Most third world and developing countries today were once part of European colonialism.  The United States in some contexts is considered postcolonial because of its independence from Britain.  However, due to its current world power, treatment of Native Americans, and its territories around the world it has changed the definition of postcolonial.    

     Some of the major organizations associated with development today have faced criticism from anthropologists for their lack of sensitivity to cultural values. For example, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will loan money to struggling nations, but only if they comply with IMF demands to make severe economic changes. The IMF will only help countries that it believe will be able to sustain the effects of their involvement. . In addition to giving the IMF economic control of the country, these stipulations also create cultural changes. For example if the IMF says that a increase in industrial jobs is a necessary then the farming community will eventually be destroyed.  


Key Terms


  • Ethnocentrism- "judging other cultures using one's own cultural standards"[7]
  • Colonialism-  "Political, Social, economic and cultural domination of a territory for an extended time:" [8]
  • Cultural Imperialism- dominance of specific cultural ideas and practices[9] It refers to the spread or advance of one culture at the expense of others, which is modifies, replaces, or destroys-usually because of differential economic or political influence"[10]
  • Imperialism- Policy aimed at seizing and ruling forein territory and peoples[11]
  • Development and Underdevelopment theory- Andre Gunder Frank’s theory about the exploitation of the underdeveloped nations and regions by the developed nation-states and regions.[12]
  • Modernization- the Western practice of transforming non-capitalist preindustrial countries into capitalist, industrial economies.[13]
  • Indigenous Peoples-  Original inhabitants of particular areas.
  • Intervention Philosophy-  Ideological justification for outsiders to guide or rule native peoples.
  • Postcolonial-  Relations between European nations and areas they colonized and once ruled.
  • Industrial Revolution-  Socioeconomic transformation through industrialization. (In Europe after 1750).
  • Development and Underdevelopment Theory-  Andre Gunder Frank's theory about the systematic exploitation of underdeveloped nation-states and regions by developed nation-states and regions. 



Key Figures

Because the study of colonialism and development is fairly new to the discipline of anthropology, and it encompasses such a wide variety of topics, there are no specific people credited with being the main pioneers of this subject. There are, however, numerous anthropologists who have and continue to rigorously study and theorize on the subject of World Systems, colonialism, and development, including Eric Wolf, Michael Taussig, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Christopher Chase-Dunn,  among many others. From Eric Wolf, beginning his research in 1952, to present day, where anthropologists continue to work with the theory, the World Systems Theory has become a very prevalent way of thinking.



Eric Wolf



Eric Wolf

     Eric Wolf was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria in 1923. As anti-Semitism in Europe increasingly worsened through the 1920s and into the 1930s, Wolf’s family sought to escape Nazi persecution by moving first to England, then finally to the United States in 1940.[14] Upon arrival in America, Wolf enrolled in Queen’s College in New York.[15] Despite his interest and curiosity about ethnicity and diversity since childhood,he explored a number of different majors before finding his niche in anthropology.[16] In 1942, only two years after starting school, Wolf’s studies were interrupted when he joined the army to fight in World War II, where he won a Silver Star for bravery.[17]Following the war, he completed his undergrad and received Bachelors degrees in both sociology and anthropology in 1946.[18]Wolf then began his Ph.D. in Anthropology at Columbia University, studying under notable figures such as Boasian anthropologist, Ruth Benedict and cultural ecologist, Julian Steward.[19]Wolf took to Steward’s anthropological approach, and he was provided the opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico and do his doctoral dissertation with Steward, who was conducting a research project in this country. [20]In 1952, when Steward accepted a position at the University of Illinois, Wolf followed him and worked three years as a research assistant. After that, Wolf went on to hold teaching positions at the University of Virginia, Yale, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and finally Herbert Lehman College and the City University of New York until his death in 1999. [21]

     Wolf’s theoretical work focused on multiple subject areas. His first area of study involved looking at peasant communities and the relationship between peasantry and power, very much from a Marxist point of view. This theoretical interest began with his research in Puerto Rico as a graduate student, but he continued to look into this subject area further in Mexico and Europe. [22]   Wolf's work on peasantry eventually led into his research on more global issues, looking particularly at the effects of globalization on local communities. His 1982 book Europe and the People Without History focused on the relationship between capitalism its effect on development of cultures around the world.[23]He strongly believed that cultures are not isolated, statics entities, but are all interrelated and affected by one another and argued that social organizations (i.e. bands, tribes, chiefdoms and states) are developed and expanded in different societies based on capitalist modes of production within a larger context outside of their borders. [24] Finally, Wolf looked at the relationships between “culture, ideology, and power.”[25]Eric Wolf strongly advocated the idea that cultures are as much formed by the outside world as they are by the community itself.[26]


Michael Taussig

(1940-       )



Michael Taussig was born in Sydney, Australia in 1940. He began his schooling at the University of Sydney, where he studied medicine, then moved to the UK in 1966 to study at the London School of Economics, and later at the University of London.  In 1969, Taussig began his first stint of fieldwork in South America, where he studied Colombian peasant communities. [27] Taussig was a strong proponent of using ethnographies as an anthropological tool, as opposed to merely “a means for transmitting data”, and he opposed looking at the world from a Western ideological perspective. [28] Mr. Taussig is also well known (and some may argue, notorious) for his unconventional style of ethnographic depictions, as well as the radical subject matter of his research; many areas of his studies are quite provocative. [29] His first book, The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (1980) analyzed Western capitalist culture from the perspective of native Columbians and Bolivians. [30] In 1984, he wrote the essay, Culture of Terror; Space of Death, which considers the role that terror and torture played in colonization of African and Indian nations. [31] Also notable is his 1987 book, Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man, in which he looks at the effects of colonialism on the indigenous people of Colombia, particularly analyzing the relationship between foreign colonization and Shamanistic healing rituals. [32] His writings are innovative in that he openly includes both fiction and non-fiction elements, referred to as fictocriticism; he believes this method helps capture the essence of a culture. [33] Michael Taussig has written many additional works, some as recent as this year. He is currently one of the most popular professors among students in the Anthropology department at Columbia University. [34]



Immanuel Wallerstein

(1930-        )



     Immanuel Wallerstein was born in 1930 in New York. He attended Columbia University and received his masters and Phd there as well. Wallerstein is an American sociologist, a historical social scientist, and world-systems analyst.[35] Wallerstien’s theory fell in between those of Karl Marx and Weber. Wallerstein’s goal when he created World systems theory was to revise aspects of Marxism, notably the following,  (1) the fundamental reality if social conflict among materially based human groups, (2) the concern with a relevant totality, (3) the transitory nature of social forms and theories about them, (4) the centrality of the accumulation process and competitive class struggles that result from it, (5) a dialectical sense of motion through conflict and contradiction. Wallerstein’s ambition has been to revise Marxism itself.”[36] In more simple terms, Wallerstein disagreed with the way Marxism not only defined conflict, but made it so that society could not progress without it. He also disagreed that a complete class struggle would result from these conflicts, only then enabling society to move forward through the different stages of Marxism in order to come to the final stage, communism.

           Wallerstein defined the World Sytems theory as, ”A world-system is a social system, one that has boundaries, structures,member groups, rules of legitimation, and coherence. Its life is made up of the conflicting forces which hold it together by tension andtear it apart as each group seeks eternally to remold it to its advantage..”[37] Wallerstein’s research outlined the functioning of the capitalist world-economy as a system, the how and why of its orgins, its relations with non capitalist structures in previous centuries, comparative study of alternative modes of production, and the ongoing transition to socialism.Wallerstien's  "World-systems theory grew out of  early work on African development, which he came to see as inextricable from a larger international economic and political order." [38] This early work enabled him to write three books, telling exactly what he thought the world systems was and how it worked throughout the years. In 1974, Wallerstein wrote a paper entitled, The Rise and Future Demise of the World Capitalist System: Concepts for Comparative Analysis, then in1976 he published The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century.1600-1750. This book is considered to be the landmark contribution to sociological and historical thought, triggering reactions across the globe[39].In 1980 he published The Modern World-System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World Economy. In 1989, he published his third work, The Modern World-System III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy 1730-1840

These significant works give the very framework for how the world systems theory has been laid out and are sources that anthropologists today fall back on when determining if they will use the world systems theory with their own research.




Key Texts


The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century - Immanuel Wallerstein[40]


     This book, penned in 1976, is an essential piece of literature regarding World-Systems theory as it largely defines and outlines what a world-system is, how it functions, and what it means for participating groups. Wallerstein defines a world-system as "a social system, one that has boundaries, structures, member groups, rules of legitimization, and coherence," in which the theoretically self-contained life operates through the interaction of conflicting forces and the resulting tension.[41]  According to Wallerstein, there are only two functioning types of world-systems: (1) world empires and (2) world economies.  In world empires, both economics and politics are under singular control of the dominating country.  In other words, the division of labor, trading practices, etc. are all controlled by one entity that is under the control of only one political system.  This type of system has not truly existed since the fall of the Roman Empire.  The second type, the world economy, has dominated the world eco-political structure for the last 500 years.  In world economies, the economy is too large and complex for a single political structure to control.  This type of system represents multiple political entities under the umbrella of a larger economic system made possible by the freedom and expansion of capitalism.  Wallerstein briefly discusses a third possible system, a socialist world government, but dismisses it as one such system has never truly existed.  

     World-economies consist of four key areas: (1) core states, (2) peripheral areas, (3) semiperipheral areas, and (4) external areas.  The main political and economic machinery (bureacracy, military, etc.) is located in the core states, which are also responsible for much of the national culture of an area.  These core states benefit the most from economic success as they tend to exploit the lower groups, particularly the peripheral areas.  Peripheral areas are not solid states with a strong government, but rather areas largely under the control of the core states.  They export raw materials to the core and rely on coercive labor for their existence.  The semiperiphery is a necessity in this type of system as a buffer between the core states and these peripheral areas who may easily become frustrated with the state of their existence.  This means they act as an intermediary between the powerful leaders and the less-influential workers, representing some of the interests of each and helping to extinguish lower-class revolt or upper-class exploitation if needed. Areas in the semiperiphery tend to be either core states in decline or peripheral areas trying to prove themselves to make their way up the societal ladder. The fourth type of area, external areas, are parts of the world that exist outside of the world-economy.  They maintain their own economic system and are largely isolated from the rest of the world-system. These areas are constantly changing as peripheral areas become semiperipheral, semiperipheral become core states, etc.  Wallerstein claims that world systems are based on a hierarchical distribution of labor tasks between and within these areas.

     The current world system has been developing for centuries through a series of processes outlined by Wallerstein.  These are as follows: (1) bureucratization, (2) homoginezation of the local populus, (3) expansion of the military, (4) introduction of absolutism (the economic and political system wherein ultimate authority rests in the government) and the end of feudalism (the system where lords were in control economically and militarily of their vassals or workers), (5) economic diversification, (6) expansion into new markets, (7)  absorption of competing systems and inclusion of large continents (Asia and Africa), (8) shift of core states to purely industrial concerns, and finally, (9) an increase in manufacturing (particularly with the rise of industrialization in the periphery and semi-periphery).  It is through these steps that the European Bourgeoisie rose in the 16th century to develop into today's modern world-economy.  Prior to this, Europe was controlled by feudalism, a control that created a crisis when commerce and the population stopped expanding.  As Wallerstein discusses, the move towards capitalism in the 16th century allowed continued economic growth and allowed the economy to supersede political boundaries for the first time.  A large part of this rise lies in the class system and the emergence and consolidation of classes through self-definition.  In other words, classes become what Wallerstein calls "class conscious" when they are able to operate as a group within their political and economic arena.  Generally, classes are created out of conflict, a process that tends to reduce divisions to two classes (i.e. the upper class and the bourgeoisie), but can be between members of a single class as well. 

     Wallerstein concludes by discussing how technology is largely changing how world-systems operate.  Our current world-economy is relatively stable, but remains a dynamic system wherein change occurs regularly to the benefit of some and the detriment of others.  The careful balance of power and control is still successful because of the nature of capitalism and the ability of leaders to operate within the system while maintaining political autonomy.  




"Anthropology and the Development Encounter: The Making and Marketing of Development Anthropology" - Arturo Escobar[42]


     In "Anthropology and the Development Encounter," Arturo Escobar offers a meticulous critique of the developmental anthropology and its role in the modern world.  He begins by outlining the history of developmental anthropology, tracing it back to the 1970s when there was a rise in the employment of anthropologists by institutions such as World Bank, US AID, and NGOs as "cultural experts in the field" where their research and work was being done.[43]  These institutions often understood culture as a problem to development, one in which anthropologists offered the solutions through their expertise.  Between 1975 and 1980, what Escobar terms the "era of rapid expansion" occurred wherein several anthropologists became deeply involved with social work, intervening in local issues on a deeper level than seen before.[44]  Escobar's critiques this involvement by arguing that by intervening in this way, these "researchers" often had to change their research ideals to conform to the system: "Developmental anthropology, as it is currently practiced, is largely determined and constrained by views of development and anthropology that conform closely to mainstream models in both fields."[45] These mainstream models rely on western senses of knowledge and tend to adhere to what Escobar calls "questionable practices."  They ignore the implication of post WWII labels such as "developed" and "underdeveloped" and automatically take Europe to be the first world, constructing all ideas of European development as natural.  According to Escobar, these "questionable" ideas drive each of the three aspects that define developmental anthropology: discursive operations (how principles of the field are articulated), processes of institutionalization, and practices of intervention (how organizations actually work with local people and how their projects are carried out).[46]

     Development anthropology is deeply entwined with the ethical dilemma of involvement.  Escobar constantly questions whether or not anthropological involvement in social projects is ethical or not.  In his eyes, the rise of involvement has largely been a way for anthropologists to get themselves on the map as it almost guarantees employment and allows them to build a place for themselves in a world context.  In addition, Escobar asserts that the way anthropologists contort to fit within the bureaucratic organization of these institutions compromises the validity of their research and authority. In response to this criticism, many anthropologists contend that it is better to get involved even if it is through groups that require them to conduct their research in a particular way rather than to "stand on the sidelines."[47]  They go further by explaining that more often than not, they are able to find organizations whose goals align with theirs, allowing them to complete their research that might have otherwise gone unfunded.  Escobar responds fervently to this claim by saying that they are taking for granted the idea that their work is meaningful to the locals they are working with and aligns with the naive belief that their work is solely to help the poor, not for career gain.  Furthermore, these organizations all operate in a way where anthropologists must work with the idea that development is inevitable and, in fact, the right thing to do, despite widespread resistance from much of the third world.  According to Escobar, this represents an over-controlling Western desire to "discipline the natives, control their aspirations, and redefine their priorities and realities," a process that is inherently ignorant and morally wrong.[48]  This critique directly echoes many critiques of colonialism as oftentimes colonists pursued new areas with the intent of converting natives to their political, economic, social, and religious systems.  Colonial anthropologists were often charged with assisting in this process as they "interpreted" the new cultures so as to help colonial officials determine the best plan of action - a plan that usually involved conquering and assimilating the natives into the culture of the colonizers. This represents the same imperialistic goals Escobar says development anthropology is guilty of possessing, nurturing, and pursuing. 

          On top of critiquing developmental anthropologists, Escobar critiques the very definition of the field as outlined by the American Anthropological Association.  This definition states that "Development anthropology is scientific research with significant applications within the development project cycle.  Its objective is to enhance benefits and mitigate negative consequences for the human communities involved in and affected by development efforts.  Development anthropologists are involved in development projects in a variety of ways, the specific roles being determined in part by the particular stage in the life cycle of the project."[49] According to Escobar, this definition makes the process seem rational when it is really largely uninformed and built in a way so that developmental programs can be the solution to "problems" worldwide.  Furthermore, this definition was produced by the heads of corporations and organizations in Washington, not by anthropologists in the field, furthering the need for researchers to conform with organizations instead of work by their own ideals.  In this definition, developmental anthropologists are seen as "cultural brokers," forging the gap between local people and large organizations.  This naively grants them the role of representing the emic (local) perspective when, in reality, they are representing the etic (outsider). Furthermore, beyond the simple definition, Escobar argues that developmental anthropology as a field and practice has been largely unsuccessful at self-critique, creating the idea that their work is "doing good" and can exist without the self-analysis necessary for academic and social accuracy.   To truly represent this perspective, researchers would need to completely disentangle themselves from the institutions, a process that is impossible when these institutions are writing their paychecks.[50]  

     Escobar contextualized his critique in a look at reforestation projects in Haiti wherein organizations that viewed Haitians as as a different developmental stage tried to reforest areas for cash crops without considering why the trees were being cut down in the first place (social competition and aggression).[51]  The organizations actively tried to redefine the lifestyles of the peasants to fit capitalist ideals even though the issue was not economic but social.  Escobar discusses at length how modern projects such as this are not completed with the "proper" concerns in mind.  Instead of being culturally correct and socially relevant, involving the participation of the poor themselves, they tend to just be oriented around modernization and monetization of poor rural societies with the goal of integration into the national and world economy without looking into how these improvements would affect the people.  He discusses the New Directions mandate, formed between 1973 and 1975 by US AID wherein the organization tried to repurpose itself to work solely with "providing basic human needs for the poor" while requiring that a "social soundness analysis" took place (an assessment of how to create a project to fit a culture's specific needs and how it would impact the values, beliefs, and social structures of the local people).[52]  While this was a step in the right direction, Escobar remains discontent with its practice and success in the field as it still ignored important factors (e.g. direct local involvement, understanding of cultural priorities, and the moral dilemma of involvement, among others). 

     Escobar concludes by discussing his ideal form of developmental anthropology.  In order to have a relationship between anthropology and development, he argues, those involved must take a more critical look at the terminology and structures that define the practice.  Ideally, the process would be reoriented to be self-critical, distanced from mainstream conceptions of development, and sensitive to social analysis, movements, political struggles, and construction of identities rather than simply giving basic needs to the poor.  This type of research "could examine how communities in the third world are progressively constituted through the political technologies in development and could elucidate the larger cultural and economic projects that such technologies deploy with them."[53]  If this were to happen, Escobar believes there could be a fruitful relationship between the two entities that could actually function as a mediator of world issues.




"Culture of Terror--Space of Death. Roger Casement's Putumayo Report and the Explanation of Torture" - Michael Taussig [54]


In Michael Taussig’s article published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, the violent and horrific stories of Colonialism unfold. Taussig uses his own voice as well as the voices of Roger Casement, Alfred Simson, Walter Hardenburg, and others to shine light on the darkness of “development” in the New World. This article brings in reflection, stories, and first-hand accounts from the Peruvian Amazon, focusing on the Putamayo Indians.

Central to Taussig’s article is the Putamayo Report was “submitted to Sir Edward Grey, head of the British Foreign Service, and published by the House of Commons on 13 July 1913.”[55] The extensive report focused on the rubber industry and how it painfully affected the indians who were forced into labor for colonizers. “Deaths from torture, disease, and possibly flight had decreased the population of the area by around 30,000 during that time.” [56]

     Taussig emphasizes torture that comes hand in hand with colonization. Walter Hardenburg, who also spent time in Peru, wrote in his article:

“They are inhumanly flogged until their bones are visible. Given no medical treatment, they are left to die after torture, eaten by the company’s dogs. They are castrated, and their ears, fingers, arms, and legs are cut off…The whites cut them to pieces with machetes and dash out the brains of small children by hurling them along trees and walls.”[57]

This story goes on and on, and so do many other appalling accounts of torture by colonizer to the colonized.

           Taussig begins the essay expressing the challenges of writing on torture when many of these stories are not first-hand accounts, but rather “word of mouth.” The narratives, originated in a time of fear and darkness, not only brought about silence, but also possible embellishments. It is to be noted, “while the immensity of the cruelty is beyond question, most of the evidence comes through stories. The meticulous historian would seize upon this fact as a challenge to winnow out truth from exaggeration and understatement. But the more basic implication, it seems to me, is that the narratives are in themselves evidence of the process whereby a culture of terror was created and sustained.” [58] Exaggerations are what fill in the empty silence instilled by fear. Taussig writes, “it is abundantly clear that cultures of terror are based on and nourished by silence and myth in which the fanatical stress on the mysterious side of the mysterious flourishes by means of rumor and fantasy woven in a dense web of magical realism. [59] The empty spaces, filled with rumor and mystery make it challenging for writers like Michael Taussig to draw the line between reality and imagination.

     The relationship between the colonized and colonizer is more complicated than Casement originally attempted to explain. “Casement mentions the possibility that, in addition to their drive for profit, the whites’ fear of Indian Rebellion impelled them toward viciousness.” [60]Not only did Casement attempt to give reason behind torture, he defended the Putamayo Indians when “he argued that the Putumayo Indians were more highly developed, morally speaking, than their white oppressors. The Indians lacked a competitive streak.” [61] So why the terror and violence? The cutting of limbs? Flogging? These horrific acts do not simply lie in economics and law alone. Torture is rooted in something much deeper. Paredes looked further than profit and rebellion to explain torture. He explicated that these “rubber station managers lived deeply obsessed with death. They saw danger everywhere and thought solely of the fact that they were surrounded by vipers, tigers, and cannibals. It is these ideas of death, he writes, which constantly struck their imaginations, making them terrified and capable of any act.” [62] The horrors of the jungle, along with horrors of savagery were the prism of which facts were bent through. [63]

     These motifs especially savagery, were central to the way colonizers viewed the world around them, leading to another explanation of torture. Taussig noted that “it is not the victim as animal that gratifies the torturer, but the fact that the victim is human, thus enabling the torturer to become the savage.”[64] Obsession with savagery and the belief that Putumayo Indians were barbarians lead to colonizers themselves to take on these brutal and savage characteristics. The misconstrued borrowing of different “cultural norms” of colonized to colonizer was also replicated from Independent rubber traders, employees of the companies, etc to the white torturers. Taussig clarifies that “although the Indians received the brunt of the terror, whites and blacks were also targets. Whether as competitors for Indian rubber gatherers… or as employees of the company, extremely few escaped the ever-present threat of degradation and torture.” [65]Everyone was looking at everyone else for guidance on how they should act, and the way torture fit into society. The chain of who tortured who created a sense of terrible normalcy and expected way of life.








Colonialism and Development reviews and critiques the interference in social and cultural life. Colonialism can be defined as the long-term foreign control of a territory and its people. Within the territory that is under control, the development (which is defined as the act of improving by expanding, enlarging or refining that territory) of that is underway. Critiques on Colonialism and Development include questions of representation and authority. Included in this is looking at the colonizers, who in most cases are the anthropologists and the colonized who are the people deemed to be living in a place in need of development. Along with this is the question of who gets to speak for who, those being developed or those doing the developing. The intersections of race, class, sexuality etc are barriers in the sense of colonization and development due to there being different ideas about these topics in different places. These intersections can be a problem when it comes to colonizing and developing a people and the place they live in. However, that is a problem that anthropologists are willing to work around in their quest for colonization and development.    [66] 






Within the question of representation, is the criticism that anthropologists are taking on the reformation of third-world countries in an effort to make a name for themselves in the world of anthropology. The anthropologist’s goal is not to help improve the lives of the people they become involved with, nor to honor their way of life, but to get recognition on behalf of their interaction with the people they are supposed to be helping. An example of this comes from “Anthropology and the Development Encounter: The making and marketing of Development Anthropology” written by Arturo Escobar. It states, “In sum, the "history of development anthropology" constructed by development anthropologists closely reflects the attempts of those anthropologists to build a space and an identity for themselves…” [67] Some anthropologists are not truly involved with a society to learn of a culture and its practices and to help improve a society in a positive way according to its cultural practices, but to make a name for themselves within development anthropology. This point is further stated through the quote, “Projects had to be socially relevant, to be culturally appropriate, and to involve their direct beneficiaries in a significant fashion. Such new concerns created an unprecedented demand for the anthropologist's skills. Faced with dwindling employment opportunities within the academy, anthropologists were more than eager to participate in the new venture.” [68] This means that the cultures that were looking for help or who were being identified as needing help were in a sense being used by anthropologists as an opportunity to further their careers within the field. The true concern to help what were being branded as societies that needed to be colonized and developed were not receiving the treatment they needed and deserved.






 Applied anthropology: the application of anthropological perspectives, theory methods and data to identify, assess and solve social problems. Anthropologists who visit and work in different cultures use applied anthropology to achieve the “The modernization and monetization of rural society, and with its transition from traditional isolation to integration with the national economy.” [69]The critique within the method of applied anthropology and in some cases developmental anthropology is that the places being developed, and the people in the places are suffering as a cause. To develop the Third World nations to the specific demands of the people that live in them is the challenge today. It has been thought that anthropologists are interfering in social and cultural life, not improving life. Escobar says that anthropologists “fail to value local reality, introducing in- stead new mechanisms of dependency and control…”  The problems being introduced into the already struggling societies causes,  “widespread resistance to development projects in many parts of the Third World.” [70] It has also been said that cultures have to be seen as self-producing entities, with their own unique capacities for self-creation and problem solving.” If development projects are to work at all. The people seen as the authority in these development projects are making problems worse for the people that they are attempting to help. The unequal power relations that are being shown represent the inability of both the colonizer and the colonized to work together in many cases to improve a lifestyle and move it forward. If it be that the colonizers (the anthropologists) are in some way taking advantage of the authority granted to them or that the colonized (possible third world country) are not taking the authority they have as the people who are expressing their needs, the unequal power relations still stand. Until a possible "shift discourse"  or a change to the character of the interaction between anthropologist [71] and subject happens and anthropologists and other authority figures involved in development and colonialism can see the cultures they are working with as these self-producing entities, then the frustration of anthropologists interfering rather than improving will continue. The view of representation and authority cannot really change anything until this shift happens and this need for shift is seen by both the anthropologist and the people they are attempting to help. Otherwise, in future years we will be saying, have we really changed anything in the lives of these people for the better? 




Ethnocentrism and it's Ramifications


The study and practice of Development by anthropologists is often viewed as ethnocentric in its very nature in that the anthropologist (usually from a western background) presupposes that the people being developed both want to be developed and that the anthropologist knows what is best for the community.  This is in effect culturally imperialistic, in that it places ethnocentric ideals upon what it means to be modern. The ranking of nations and societies into the first, second, and third worlds is intrinsically ethnocentric based upon the core countries political-economic standing. These descriptions of hypothetical stages of cultural developmental evolution generally, should be criticized as racist; in that they presume that some peoples are more evolved than others[72]and that each culture passes through the same socio-economic developmental stages.


Westernization, defined as “the influence of Western expansion on indigenous peoples and their cultures”[73] is often present in developmental projects. Serious problems can occur when powerful outside nations have exploited a cultural or ethnic group in the name of “development”. In order to adequately study and apply the development of the so called underdeveloped countries one must use a multilinear approach in order to remain culturally relativistic. In order to be effective in “developing” a society, one needs to understand that there is no uniform way of solving problems such as hunger, AIDS awareness and literacy among others. Another common road block associated with the development of many impoverished persons is that change may not be easily attainable through the discourse of fundamentalists in positions of power. Fundamentalism once used only in a religious sense is now applied to many aspects of culture including an anti-western “mind-set that is uncompromising and antirelativist, as one’s response to the openness and uncertainties of a cosmopolitan world"[74]








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