Role Of Religion In Colonialism

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The essay will examine the role of religion in colonial and imperial encounters. After a brief explanation about colonialism and the necessity – for the colonisers – to re-shape the subjectivities of colonised peoples, the essay will investigate two case studies: the Tswana people in the context of European colonisation of Africa, and Britain Romanisation in ancient times. It will be shown, through these case studies, that religion was used as a soft power to achieve the ‘colonisation of consciousness’ of subjugated peoples, but it will also be argued that the process led to a form of religious syncretism, as natives entered in a process of negotiation of new social-religious identities mixing both cultures. Brute force might be sufficient to conquer new territories, but cannot ensure the long-term cohesiveness of an empire: colonial institutions, settlements, local elites (favouring colonial interests), economic ties and cultural aspects play a significant role in achieving what colonial historian Peter Bakewell has labelled the ‘conquest after the conquest’ (Bakewell 1995:296). Historian and political scientist Alexander Motyl, who has written extensively on imperial systems, argues that an empire can last for centuries by establishing an effective mechanism for channelling resources and providing security, and by the promotion of the core elite’s dominance, and its acceptance by the peripheral elites (Motyl 2001:22-3). For Third-Worldist Franz Fanon, subjugated peoples
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