Category Archives: History

In 2008, Paraguayan author predicted and described the Pope’s resignation

Life, at times, imitates art.

In the novel, “The Apocalypse of Benedict” (El Apocalipsis según Benedicto) published in 2008, prize-winning Paraguayan author, Esteban Bedoya, accurately describes the Pope’s retirement at the age of 85. Incredibly, one paragraph of Bedoya’s novel reappeared 2 years later in 2010, when Benedict XVI, in an interview (which was later published as a book) with a German journalist, expressed a possible condition for his retirement. At the end of Bedoya’s short novel, after his retirement, the ex-Pope was continued to be called “Benedict”.

In the first part, with an admirable writing style that is both precise and surgical, Bedoya tells a story, very similar to reality, of the public life of Benedict XVI, whose full name is Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, who after the death of John Paul II, was elected as the 265th Pope on the 19th May, 2005.

In the second part, Bedoya unleashes his creativity and, amongst other events, Benedict XVI resigns. What follows, is a recommendation for anyone who has yet to read the book: to get themselves a copy and read it.

But it’s not just by coincidence or chance that Bedoya is lead to such an accurate prediction. It is however, the development of the novel that drives and justifies this outcome.

The resignation and retirement of the Pope, detailed in Bedoya’s fiction, is now seen today repeated in reality and has taken many by surprise. Accordingly, use of this fiction should be highlighted as an effective method to interpret and explain what really occurs in the dark, yet elaborate corridors of the Vatican.

One of the extracts from the novel that accurately describes certain sentiments and reasons for retirement which have since been publicly expressed by Benedict XVI himself, years after Bedoya’s novel had been published, includes:

The press speculated and started rumours which spoke of the retirement of the Pope: Benedict himself had announced his intention to resign in the case of being unable to carry out such responsibility (“The Apocalypse of Benedict”, page 21).

Benedict’s sentiment in Bedoya’s 2008 novel, fits perfectly with the paragraph highlighted by the Basque newspaper, GARA, on 12th February 2013 which reads:

The protagonist himself (Joseph Ratzinger), in a book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, confessed in November of 2010 his willingness to “resign due to illness, if physically, psychologically and spiritually (he) were not able to perform (his) job (in:

The idea is not to take away potential readers of the novel, so in it, after the resignation, the former Pope was continued to be referred to as Benedict…

In light of this, Cubadebate published the article: “Lombardi: We will continue to call him Benedict XVI” (in:

It’s worth highlighting the film “Habemus Papam”, by Italian film director Nani Moretti, which tells the fictional story of Cardinal Melville, who, when elected Pope, suffers a panic attack that prevents him from taking office. However, in the case of the Bedoya’s novel, both the identity and age of the Pope who decided to retire is actually depicted: the same Joseph Ratzinger – Benedict XVI, at age 85.

To think that a Pope can retire is not something extraordinary, even though the last time it happened was 598 years ago, but to actually predict the name and age of the Pope who has now, in real life, resigned and retired…. well that’s a different story.

In turn, author Frei Betto has so far written about five resignations, including that of Benedict XVI:

In the history of the Church there are four popes who resigned …: Benedict IX (01/05/1045), Gregory VI (20/12/1046), Celestine V (13/12/1294) and Gregory XII (04/07/1415). Benedict XVI will be the fifth, as of 28 February 2013 (in:

Literature is also capable of writing the history of the future

In delving into universal literature and cases of authors who produced works considered clairvoyant, emerge the names of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury and Manuel Scorza.

Julio Venre was a successful French writer thanks to his ability to attract a very diverse readership. He captivated audiences by pioneering the science fiction genre and his works were not only popular in his time, but even still today.

He predicted with great accuracy in his fantastic tales the appearance of some of the products generated by the technological advances of the twentieth century; TV, helicopters, submarines and spaceships (in:

Herbert George Wells was a writer, novelist, historian and British philosopher. Wells wrote science fiction novels such as “The Time Machine” (1895), whose original title was “The Chronic Argonauts”, “The Invisible Man” (1897), “The War of the Worlds” (1898) and “The First Men in the Moon “(1901).

George Orwell, under the pseudonym of Eric Blair, was a British writer, and wrote the novel “1984” in 1948. Perhaps this title arose as a rearrangement of the last digits of the year to place the work in the future. It is often cited as a counterexample to a utopia (an imagined place in which everything is perfect), with “dystopian fiction” (an imagined place in which everything is undesirable). In this book the concept of “Big Brother” emerges; a police state which is totalitarian, vigilant and repressive, as it used to be three decades ago, due to results of projects like “ECHELON” (UKUSA Security Agreement: United States, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

Ray Douglas Bradbury, American science fiction writer, wrote fantasy stories with a poetic prose such as; “The Martian Chronicles” (1950), “The Golden Apples of the Sun” (1953), “A Medicine for Melancholy” (1960), “The Machineries of Joy” (1964) “Ghosts of the New” (1969), and among his novels, the unforgettable “Fahrenheit 451” (1953), is also highlighted as part of his dystopian fiction.

Manuel Scorza, excellent writer, poet and social activist from Peru, wrote the monumental epic series “The Silent War”, composed of five novels: “Drums for Rancas” (1970); “Garabombo, the Invisible” (1972), “The Sleepless Rider “(1976), “The Ballard of Agapito Robles”(1976) and “Requiem for a Lightning Bolt” (1978). In the latest of the series, Scorza wrote about certain characters and their actions which, two years later, came true in a few sociopolitical cases in Peru.

However, in the case of “The Apocalypse of Benedict” Esteban Bedoya went a step further, venturing into unchartered territory and creating a piece of literature which, five years ago, described with amazing accuracy something that then was the future and today is now the present.

International recognition of Bedoya’s nouvelle format

In some proposals for the classification of novel literary works nouvelle or novella is a story of a lesser extent than a novel and is defined by Julio Cortázar as a “genre somewhere between a story and a novel.”

With respect to the number of words in a nouvelle, some authors set their limits between 30,000 and 50,000 words, but it is not an inflexible rule. Two nouvelle works are: “The Tracker” by Julio Cortázar and “Perjury in Snow” by Adolfo Bioy Casares.

This extension which responds to the nouvelle format is apparently where Esteban Bedoya is most comfortable. “The Apocalypse of Benedict” in its Spanish version has 13,389 words and in English, 14,756. His excellent nouvelle will be republished under the title of “The Ear Collector” and in its Spanish version will be 35,914 words.

The novel “The Apocalypse of Benedict” is not limited to the accuracy of the story and guessing what happens now in 2013, it has outstanding literary merit pertaining to both the structure and the level of creativity. In fact, for this work Bedoya received the 2010 PEN America/Edward and Lily Tuck Prize for Paraguayan Literature.

As a writer, Bedoya has also received awards from the Academy of American Poets (1982) and publisher, Helguero (1983).

His much publicized novel “The Bear Pit” (2003), was translated into French under the title “La fosse aux Ours” (2005), the German title “Der Bärengraben” (2009) and published in France by La dernière Goutte.

His novel “The Evil Ones” (“Les Mal-aimés”) (2006) was translated and published in France as by L’Haremattan and the novel, now titled “The Ear Collector” will be translated into French and published in France by La dernière Goutte.

“The Apocalypse of Benedict” is being translated into English for publication in the United States.

After ten years of his creative work being published, Esteban Bedoya’s writing continues to increase in creativity, with genuine stories that are not only worthwhile reads, but are enjoyed with the same pleasure as that of the best of Augusto Roa Bastos.

Article by Vicente Brunetti from Kaos en la Red (translated by Gabrielle Hall).

Tagore and the West

Chilean academic Claudio Coloma applies Peripheral Thought Theory to the response to Rabindranath Tagore to the Japanese defeat of the Russian forces in 1905.

Frequently, Rabindranath Tagore is known by his artistic work, especially in Latin America. This is demonstrated most obviously in his Nobel Prize in literature. But throughout his life, Tagore also had an important role in the area of non-fiction. Many works were composed to interpret the Indian and Asian political reality during the first half of the twentieth century. It is thanks to these works that it is possible to see the Western influence on Tagorian thought.

It is possible that the Western influence on Tagore’s thought came from two ways. First, Tagore, the Indian man, had to suffer with the European imperialism in Asia, and specifically in India. To have born and lived in a downtrodden people had to be a hard experience when a man, as Tagore, had knowledge about the historic greatness of India as well as of Asia.

Second, in spite of European imperialism, Tagore was able to discriminate between the European domination in Asia (specifically in India) and the virtues of the Western modern thought. In this sense, Tagore admired some Western ideas related to freedom and, in consequence, he was motivated to achieve a better Indian society.

To understand both the impact of European imperialism as the influence of the Western thought ways, it is necessary before to consider briefly the Peripheral Thought Theory[1]. This theory is used systematically to study the non-Western thought formulated especially in the last two hundred years. According to this theory, Europe is called the ‘centre’.

Thus, during this time we have been able to see Western influences and motivations, in cases where peripheral leaders, intellectuals and politicians have gone beyond their own cultural borders in order to think about the future, welfare or development of their own societies. Specifically this kind of thought has been yielded when non-Western thinkers have followed a special feeling of fascination, perplexity or rejection about the centre.

The peripheral intellectual thought has swung between two mainstreams like a pendulum: in one side, there have been intellectuals who have rejected the intellectual and cultural influence from West and at the same time have valued their own social and cultural roots. In the other side, there have been intellectuals who have yielded ideas with the purpose to imitate aspects from West into fields such as policy, economy, or culture.

The first way of the Peripheral Thought is called “Identitario” which means “be like us”, whereas the second way is called “Centralitario” which means “be like the Centre”. According to this theory, this dilemma is the main feature of the non-Western thought and it would be most important than another academic dilemmas such as Negro/White, Rich/Poor or Women/Men, because this kind of oppositions can be analyzed thanks to this two notions of Peripheral Thought Theory.

Another important feature of this theory is that, in spite of that the intellectual peripheral production around the world has rejected or approved the Western culture, at the same time among peripheral intellectuals there have been a common perception that the West is the most powerful social formation.[2]

Some of main works in which we can see the Western influence on Tagore´s non-fiction ideas are “Nationalism”, “Greater India”, “The problem with Non-Cooperation”, “Crisis in Civilization” and “The Spirit of Japan”.

The Impact of the European Imperialism

According to Tagore, Europe had increased its power over Asia. This reality meant humiliation. But paradoxically, this humiliation was not produced by Europe´s dominion over Asia; the root of the humiliation was could be found into Asia.

As one adherent of Pan-Asianism´ ideas, Tagore thought that Asia has been a more successful society than Europe, but this situation changed because Asia stayed in the past without progress; to Tagore Asia “is like a rich mausoleum which displays all its magnificence in trying to immortalize the dead (…) For centuries we did hold torches of civilization in the East when the West slumbered in darkness (…) then fell the darkness of night upon all the lands of the East”.[3]

It was not new say that the West was not guilty, or at least, that West was not the prime culprit for Asian humiliation. Throughout the history of India, several Indian intellectuals, from Rammohan Roy until Hamid Dalway, including Syed Ahmad Khan, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, B.R. Ambedkar, Rammanohar Lohia have written about the roots of problems of India, which in turn were firstly the caste system, religion struggles and gender injustices, and then were problems related with the independence from United Kingdom.[4].

But, the worth of Tagore´s ideas, compared with his countrymen, was his interest on Asia and not only on India, for this reason is important his intention to establish the Pan-Asian movement. In this sense, Tagore´s connection with many intellectuals from the rest of Asia was important, especially with Japan, because this country was an exceptional case after Meiji´s Reforms. Basically, the Japan of Meiji had been the period in which this country was able to successfully achieve "Modernization".[5]

Thanks to its success, Japan became a new magnet to many peripheral intellectuals. There were two Japanese organizations that had a key role in this achievement: Kokuryukay and Genyosha. According to Cemil Aydin, both organizations fostered ties with many nationalists and intellectuals from Asia; one of them was Rabindranath Tagore[6].

The summit of Japanese modernization process was the triumph over Russia at war of 1904-1905. Many intellectuals thought after triumph that it was possible to be free from the Colonization and retake the self-government. The impact of the Russo-Japanese War crossed the East Asia borders and was able to achieve inspiration from leaders of West-Africa, black leaders in the USA, Muslims, Indian, and other peoples.[7]

Thanks to his special relationship with Japanese intellectuals (one of them was the father of Pan-Asianism, Okakura Tenshin) Tagore was not indifferent to the Japanese triumph. In respect of this, Tagore wrote “One morning the whole world looked up in surprise, when Japan broke through her walls of old habits in a night and came out triumphant”.[8]

But he was not totally at ease with the celebrations of Japanese triumph. In fact, Tagore became worried about the Japanese nationalism that strongly emerged after 1905, because nationalism was enemy of heterogeneity of Asia, especially in India. According to Tagore, nationalism was the root of violence. Furthermore, after victory, Japan colonized Manchuria and Korea (1910). According to Tagore, if in India people acquired these kinds of fanaticisms, the consequences could be devastating[9].

Thus, Tagore rejected the Japanese attitude, and by contrast to his first impressions, he stated: “I have given up Japan. I feel more and more sure it is not the country for me”.[10]

What was the reason to declare this? The reason would have been: Japan adopted the modernization with “all its tendencies, methods and structures, and dream that they are inevitable”. That is, thanks to the Meiji Reformsm Japan had to be a new creation and not a mere repetition. To be a copy was like wearing the skeleton with another skin.[11] Their modernization meant a deception because the main difference between Asia and West was the use of wisdom, work and love versus the use of violence.

Despite the deception, the Japanese experience and the contact with West were not always unfortunate facts, because it was possible to understand that the world needed the values of India and of the rest Asian peoples. Thanks to this understanding, it would have been possible re-light the torch of civilization in the East and put an end to humiliation.

Six years before that Tagore wrote “The Spirit of Japan”, where he warned on Japanese menace. He wrote a series of essays (1909-10) about the meeting between India and the Englishman. In these essays Tagore wrote about expectations that India could achieve thanks to its encounter with the West: “On us to-day is thrown the responsibility of building up this greater India, and for that purpose our immediate duty is to justify our meeting with the Englishman. I shall not be permitted to us to say that we would rather remain aloof, inactive, irresponsive, unwilling to give and to take, and thus to make poorer the India that is to be”.[12]

The Tagore´s Respect for Western Thought

Tagore thought that “in the heart of Europe runs the purest stream of human love, of love of justice, of spirit of self-sacrifice for higher ideals (…) in Europe we have seen noble minds who have ever stood up for the rights of man irrespective of colour and creed”. These Europe´ good features were countered with a contrary tendency—“supremely evil in her maleficent aspect where her face is turned only upon her own interest, using all her power”.[13]

Certainly, the concept of freedom was the best aspect of Europe and this notion complemented Indian concerns with injustices related to caste system, the Untouchables´ situation, Muslim-Hindu disputes, and gender differences. In this sense, India had to learn from West.

In addition, Tagore admired the European literature and art for its beauty, because both mean “fertilizing all countries and all time”.[14] According to Tagore, both freedom and culture beauty were seen as an opportunity to get a balance between spirit and material things. But, unfortunately to get this purpose would be difficult thanks to temptations of power. In this sense, reviewing the Japanese experience, this country was a failed instance: “unfortunately, all his armour is not living, some of it is made of steel, inert and mechanical. Therefore, while making use of it, man has to be careful to protect himself from its tyranny”.[15]

One successful instance of benefits of European culture, which in turn was learnt by India, was the reign of law. The law meant the balance between power and freedom, because the British government established order (or at least more stability) and respect among castes, colours and religions. Nonetheless, according to Tagore, this instance would be mirror of the spirit of the West and not of the nation of the West.[16]

To be fair, his estimation of European civilisation did not imply that there was only one alternative. Tagore was concern to be clear on this point. In this sense, his speech entitled “Crisis in civilization” is emphasises the existence many civilizations with noble purposes, such as Japan (despite its failures) Russia, Iran, Afghanistan or China[17].

Finally, reviewing Peripheral Thought Theory and this small sample of Tagore´s ideas, it is possible to state that this Indian intellectual was a man who strove to achieve a balance between ideas from the Centre and the Periphery.

This point is important if it is considered that Tagore is mainly known as a poet and mystic man, at least in Latin America, instead of as a non-fiction author who was able to state original points of view about the encounter between different civilizations.

Thus, the Tagorian thought was able to be “Centralitario” or “Identirario”. His main concern was the thread to the freedom of downtrodden peoples across Asia. Hence Tagore was able to “be like the Centre” or “to be like us”, demonstrating that he had an open mind to understand and to explain the complicated reality of Asia at the first half of past century.

[1] The Peripheral Thought Theory have been proposed in Chile by Eduardo Devés, from the beginning, as an academic parameter to study the Latin American thought throughout the 20th Century, but actually this theory is being used also to research about contemporary Asian and African thoughts, in order to achieve a global perspective and a best understanding about the non-Western thought. Eduardo Devés Valdés, “El Pensamiento Latinoamericano en el siglo XX”, 3 volúmenes, Editorial Biblos, Buenos Aires, 2000-2004.

[2] Devés Valdés, Eduardo, “Las disyuntivas del pensamiento latinoamericano y periférico”, Seminario de Investigación Interdisciplinaria. Facultad de Estudios Generales, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto Río Piedras. Ciclo de conferencias Octubre-Diciembre 2006. p.1.

[3] Tagore, Rabindranath, “Nationalism”, Norwood Press, USA, 1917, p.65-66.

[4] These priorities can be demonstrated in Ramachandra Guha´s book entitled “Makers of Modern India”, Penguin Books, India, 2010.

[5] Understanding “Modernization” as a concept from the West.

[6] Cemil Aydin, “The politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia”, Columbia University Press, USA, 2007, p.57.

[7] Coloma, Claudio, “Disyuntiva y reivindicaciones periféricas ante el impacto de la Guerra Ruso-Japonesa”, Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Santiago de Chile, 2010.

[8] Tagore, Rabindranath, “The Spirit of Japan”. Sisir Kumar Das editor, “The English writings of Rabindranath Tagore, volume three, a Miscellany”, Sahitya Akademy Edition, New Delhi, 1996.

[9] Sen, Amartya, “Tagore y la India”, Fractal nº10, julio-septiembre, 1998, año 3, volumen III, pp. 121-168.

[10] Rabindranath Tagore´s letter addressed to C.F. Andrews, 11th June, 1915, cited by Patrick Colm Hogan & Lalita Pandit, editors, “Rabindranath Tagore: universality and tradition”, Associated University Press, USA, 2003, p.47.

[11] Op.cit.

[12] Rabindranath Tagore, essay includes in Ramachandra Guha´s book entitled “Makers of Modern India”, Penguin Books, India, 2010, p. 189.

[13] Op.cit, p.195.

[14] Op.cit, p.194.

[15] Rabindranath Tagore, “The Spirit of Japan”,, 1916, p.5.

[16] Rabindranath Tagore, essay includes in Ramachandra Guha´s book entitled “Makers of Modern India”, Penguin Books, India, 2010, p. 198-199.

[17] Rabindranath Tagore, speech includes in the Rakesh Batabyal´s book entitled “The Penguin Book of Modern Indian Speeches: 1877 to the Present”, Penguin Books, India, 2007, p.453-459.

Lorenzo Veracini on settler colonialism

‘Here from Elsewhere: Settlerism as a Platform for South-South Dialogue’
Discussion Roundtable, Institute for Postcolonial Studies, Melbourne, 21/10/10
Participants: James Belich, Lorenzo Veracini, Kate Darian Smith

Lorenzo Veracini

1) Settler colonialism as a compound category is an antipodean-developed paradigm. This origin makes it an important platform for South-South dialogue.

Actually placing “settlers” and “colonialism” in the same analytical field required overcoming a number of conceptual blockages. It took decades. The nineteenth century – the century of the “settler revolution” (see Belich 2009) – did not think that they could be compounded. Indeed the settler revolution had cleaved the two apart: Marx, who engaged extensively with Wakefield (see Pappe 1951), thought that the settler colonies were the only “colonies proper”; Mill, who wrote extensively on colonisation and colonialism kept them rigorously separate (see Bell 2010). Archibald Grenfell Price was probably the first, in 1929, to theorise a particular form of colonial activity distinct from other colonial endeavours. Settler-driven colonialism – “independent” settlers – had been more effective colonisers than other metropole-directed groups (Price 1929). He was explaining South Australian specificities in the context of Australian diversity; and yet, he did not propose an exceptionalist account. On the contrary, his outlook was systematically comparative, proof that paradigmatic shifts are often grounded in parochial concerns.

I have elsewhere followed the development of “settler colonialism” as a concept since the 1930s (Veracini forthcoming). In the context of this trajectory, the notion that settler colonial settings were fundamentally different from both metropolitan and colonial contexts was recurrently proposed from the “South”. The settler themselves said so (the Algerian, Rhodesian, and south African settlers, for example, all at one point or another claimed a local version of southern exceptionalism), and the scholars, even if their agenda differed dramatically from the settlers’, confirmed it (i.e., Donald Denoon’s outline of settler capitalism in the southern hemisphere [1983], the “staple theory” of economic development that turns into a staple “trap” at the antipodes [see Schedvin 1990], Patrick Wolfe’s emphasis on the fundamental inapplicability in the specific conditions of settler colonialism of the master slave dyad typical of colonial studies [Wolfe 1999], and James Belich’s discovery, even if he does not use these terms, that settler colonialism is primarily about reproduction, not production, and that settler colonialism is immediately autonomous from the colonising metropole [2009]). Whether at the level of practice or theory, the notion that settler colonialism should be seen as a distinct formation came from the South.

That this was an original development and that only recently this notion has become better received in the northern hemisphere should be emphasised. On the contrary, scholarly traditions have consistently understood settler colonial phenomena either as colonial or metropolitan ones, not as an autonomous formation (alternatively, parochialising exceptionalist paradigms have been put forward). Marx and Engels, as mentioned, thought that settlers and metropole were part of the same analytical field. Lenin, and twentieth century Marxisms, on the contrary, conflated colonial and settler colonial forms and considered all colonialisms part of the general process of imperialist appropriation. Imperialism, it was argued, reorganised precapitalist economies anywhere, and integrated all peripheries into the world capitalist economy – the settler was, in Ronald Robinson’s words, the “ideal prefabricated collaborator” of imperialist endeavours (Robinson 1972). Likewise, anticolonial “Third Worldism” routinely collapsed the settler locales and the colonising metrople within the “global North” category, while only some within postcolonial studies preferred to include the settler colonies within the bounds of the “postcolonial” experience (even though this remained contentious and it was acknowledged that settler postcolonialities should be considered a specific subfield [see Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin 1989]).

2) Even if it remains an antipodean-developed paradigm, the applicability of settler colonialism has recently been expanded. Indeed, the indigenous/settler divide is now seen informing locales and experiences way beyond the settler Angloworld (see Belich 2009). This flexibility makes it a privileged platform for South-South dialogue.

Influential historians of Africa and Latin America Mahmood Mamdani and Richard Gott, for example, have convincingly deployed a settler colonial paradigm (Mamdani 1996, Mamdani 2001, Gott 2007; for a call to look for settler colonial phenomena beyond the “colonies of settlement”, see Edwards 2003). Both macroregions are generally considered as typically non-settler colonial. Africa and Latin America did not have the sustained economic development and political stability that settler colonialism, in marked contrast against colonial underdevelopment, would produce. Moreover, Africa did not have locales where white settlers constituted the majority of the population, and Latin America was inherently “hybrid”, it did not have the ethnic and racial homogeneity that typically characterises settler colonial formations.

Nonetheless, Mamdani extensively demonstrated how the postcolonial condition reverses but does not supersede a colonially determined relationship between “native” and “settler” (he defines a “settler” anyone who doesn’t have an ancestral homeland or lives outside his ancestral homeland). He outlined how in many postcolonial contexts dominated by nationalist regimes an indigenous ascendancy is enforced to the detriment of variously defined exogenous alterities (and how many of the intractable conflicts of postcolonial Africa depend on the inability/unwillingness to move beyond this dichotomy [Mamdani 2002, Mamdani 2009]).

Similarly, Gott noted how genocidal attacks against indigenous people in Latin America actually followed independence, not Spanish colonisation, and how recent political developments in the region can be interpreted as an indigenous renaissance in opposition to established settler colonial political orders. He thus proposed to fundamentally upturn received historical narratives of latin America: settler colonialism, not independence or neo- or informal colonialism followed the end of formal colonial subjection.

3) But there is another way in which reflection on settler colonialism as a distinct formation can facilitate an original approach to South-South dialogue. Even if they prefer to imagine themselves operating in an empty setting, settlers inevitably displace indigenous peoples. Relatedly, even if they would like to free themselves from settler imposition, indigenous peoples operate within settler colonial orders. Settlerism and indigeneity coconstitute each other.

Francesca Merlan (2009) has recently proposed in an essay published in Current Anthropology a history of the emergence, consolidation and eventual internationalization of a global category comprising all indigenous collectivities since the 1920s (see also Niezen 2003). “International indigeneity”, she noted, emerged in Scandinavia and in the Anglophone settler colonies and only eventually, indeed only very recently, became a truly global phenomenon. However, the “establishing” settler states did not support the ultimate institutionalization of indigeneity in international affairs, and voted as a bloc (CANZAUS) in 2007 against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (see also Allen, Xanthaki 2010). This, Merlan argued, is a paradox that can be explained by reference to these countries’ liberal democratic political institutions. The “establishing” countries’ rejection of the Declaration “is consistent with the combination of enabling and constraining forces that liberal democratic political cultures offer” (303), she concluded. Liberal democratic political cultures allowed for the expression of indigenous political activism but eventually what could be construed as indigenous demands for special status clashed with a generalised reluctance to recognise the special claims of a particular constituency.

And yet, there is an alternative explanation beside Merlan’s sophisticated argument. If we define indigenous peoples as the “original inhabitants” of a particular locale, and considering that all polities are one result of one type or another of different processes of military and demographic expansion, the permanence of indigenous peoples is a possibility that equally characterises metropolitan, colonial and settler colonial contexts. However, only if we realise that “indigeneity” has its roots in settler colonialism, that “indigeneity” is a relational category that acquires its full meaning when it is paralleled by its dialectical counterpart – the non indigenous settler (Fanon famously noted that “it is the settler who has brought the native into existence and who perpetuates his existence” [1967: 36]) – we can better understand why it was the settler polities that voted against the Declaration. Only in the context of what I have elsewhere defined as the settler colonial “situation” there is a permanent distinction between an indigenous and an indigenising exogenous collective (see Veracini 2010).

Metropolitan and postcolonial polities could more easily accommodate the Declaration’s terms than settler polities whose current sovereign dimension is fundamentally premised on the original dispossession of indigenous peoples. Crucially, if the colonial relation fundamentally defines both metropole and colony (and their postcolonial successors), it does so in terms of externality: colonialism is something done somewhere else (i.e., the colonies), or by someone else (i.e., exogenous colonizers). In the metropole and in the colony, it is this externality can ultimately sustain a claim to indigeneity (if colonialism is extraneous to the polity, and if colonialism can be defined as a form of intergroup domination characterised by an exogenous ascendancy [as Ronald Horvath had proposed in another Current Anthropology article in 1972], the polity is indigenous by definition). However, this claim is impossible in the case of the settler colonies/societies, where colonialism is performed on the spot and by the settler, and where in any case there is no specific moment inaugurating a post-settler colonial predicament. Thus, whereas the Declaration is a largely irrelevant text in metropolitan and postcolonial settings, these can comfortably claim to be indigenous polities, it constitutes a potential challenge to the sovereign order in settler colonial contexts. Despite its cautious formulation, as it protects indigenous peoples’ rights above settler prerogatives, the Declaration constitutes a powerful anti-settler manifesto. Contra Merlan, I would conclude by noting that it wasn’t a bland statement, but the unresolved settler colonial character of the settler polities, and that it isn’t only a matter of liberal democratic political cultures and their constraints. It is settler colonialism (indeed, focusing attention on liberal democratic institutions may imply a neglect of the unresolved dynamics of settler colonialism).

Thus, reflection on the dynamics of settler colonialism can help understanding a multiplicity of situations: what in one of the founding texts of what should consolidate into “settler colonial studies” Alan Lawson defined the (settler) “Second” world (Lawson 1995), as well as what are generally referred to as “Third” and (indigenous) “Fourth” worlds. Settler colonialism ultimately contributes to South-South dialogue by proposing that settler and indigenous experiences should integrate traditional understandings of the binary relationship between North and South. I propose these three insights, and the suggestion that the distinction between colonialism and settler colonialism should be regarded analytically and not geographically (that is, that it is a distinction between separate forms and not between “colonies of exploitation” and “colonies of settlement”), as a preliminary framework for developing “settler colonial studies” as a genuinely global and transnational paradigm.


Stephen Allen, Alexandra Xanthaki (eds), Reflections on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2010.

Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in post-Colonial Literatures, London, Routledge, 1989.

James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Duncan Bell, “John Stuart Mill on Colonies”, Political Theory, 38, 1, 2010, pp. 34-64.

Donald Denoon, Settler Capitalism: The Dynamics of Dependent Development in the Southern Hemisphere, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1983.

Penny Edwards, “On Home Ground: Settling Land and Domesticating Difference in the ‘Non-Settler’ Colonies of Burma and Cambodia”, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 4, 3, 2003.

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1967.

Richard Gott, “Latin America as a White Settler Society”, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 26, 2, 2007, pp. 269-289.

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Alan Lawson, “Postcolonial theory and the ‘settler’ subject”, Essays on Canadian Writing, 56, 1995, pp. 20-36.

Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism, Oxford, James Currey, 1996.

Mahmood Mamdani, “Beyond Settler and Native as Political Identities: Overcoming the Political Legacy of Colonislism”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 43, 4, 2001, pp. 651-664.

Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2002.

Mahmood Mamdani, Saviours and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, London, Verso, 2009.

Francesca Merlan, “Indigeneity: Global and Local”, Current Anthropology, 50, 3, 2009, pp. 303-333.

Ronald Niezen, The Origins of Indigenism, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 2003.

H. O. Pappe, “Wakefield and Marx”, The Economic History Review, 4, 1, 1951, pp. 88-97.

A. G. Price, “Experiments in Colonization”, in J. Holland Rose, A. P. Newton, E. A. Benians (eds), Cambridge History of the British Empire, 7, 1, London, Cambridge University Press, 1929, pp. 207-242.

Ronald Robinson, “Non-European Foundations of European Imperialism: Sketch for a Theory of Collaboration”, in R. Owen, B. Sutcliffe (eds), Studies in the Theory of Imperialism, London, Longmans, 1972, pp. 117-140.

C. B. Schedvin, “Staples and Regions of Pax Britannica”, Economic History Review, XLIII, 4, 1990, pp. 533-559.

Lorenzo Veracini, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Lorenzo Veracini, “Constructing ‘Settler Colonialism’: Career of a Concept”, Portal: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, forthcoming.

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‘Here from Elsewhere’–settler-colonialism with a southern horizon

James Belich, Lorenzo Veracini, Kate Darian-Smith

James Belich, Lorenzo Veracini, Kate Darian-Smith

Here from Elsewhere was the final in this year’s Southern Perspectives series at the IPCS. The series began with Raewyn Connell’s outline of ‘southern theory’ as a counter-hegemonic argument against the concentration of knowledge in the metropolitan centres. It set the scene for speculative propositions about forms of knowledge particular to the periphery, which included developments in indigenous theory, tidalectics and humid thinking.

One of the obvious points of connection between countries of the south lies in the settler-colonial experience. But recent developments in settler-colonial studies disturb the comfortable opposition between centre and periphery, north and south. The Imperial/Settler binary is counterbalanced by the Settler/Indigenous divide. While it might seem possible for those who cast themselves as ‘southern’ to join in solidarity against the metropolitan centres, there remains the historical conditions that continue to split these nations along colonial lines.

New Zealand historian James Belich (Victoria University, Wellington) began by outlining the argument in his recent book Replenishing the Earth. He articulated the three phrases of Anglo settlerism: incremental, explosive and re-colonisation. In the discussion that followed, Belich’s concept of the ‘re-colonisation’ was seen as implying that the flow of influence from Britain had ebbed before it was re-kindled.

Specialist in settler colonialism Lorenzo Veracini (Swinburne University, Melbourne) provided an analytic account of the distinction between colonialism and settlerism. He argued that settlerism was a distinctly southern phenomenon, emerging from the periphery. The discussion questioned the qualitative difference in relations with indigenous between colonial and setter. Veracini gestured the difference as one between the colonist addressing the indigenous with ‘You, work for me!’ (colonial), or ‘You, go away!’ (settler).

Historian Kate Darian-Smith (University of Melbourne) reflected on her own research, particularly in the circulation of objects related to reconciliation around the Pacific rim. In discussing the significance of objects such as the brass gorgets, Darian-Smith pointed to the active ways in which settlers proceeded to make their claims on the new land. She also implied a gender dimension in analysis of settlerism.

The following discussion continued the spirited contestation and defence of the settler-colonial paradigms that were presented. In terms of ‘southern perspectives’, it raised some important questions:

  • What is the substantial difference between the settler-colonialism experienced in Australasia and that of the United States?
  • What is the prognosis for the condition of settler-colonialism? Is it an original sin beyond redemption?

Clearly, the notion of a southern perspective must critique the manufactured forms of solidarity that elide the violence of colonisation. Settler colonial studies provides a powerful argument to expose facile alliances.

But settler-colonial studies also provides a powerful enabler of south-south dialogue by exposing exceptionalism as a common condition. In the case of Australia, the concept of the ‘great southern land’ encourages the narrative of a lucky country with singular promise. Through the settler lens, we see the way other countries create parallel forms of exceptionalism, particularly from the booster narratives of explosive colonisation. This applies not just to Anglo cousins, but across the latitude to Latin America and southern Africa.

So the challenge now awaits to use this platform as a way of journeying out beyond the familiar forums into south-south conversations. This notion of south is not the ground we stand on, but the horizon towards which we can gaze.

Here from elsewhere: Settlerism as a platform for south-south dialogue

Thursday 21 October 2010 7:30-9pm

Institute of Postcolonial Studies, North Melbourne

James Belich, Kate Darian-Smith, Lorenzo Veracini

The southern question is figured as a struggle by colonies to liberate themselves from metropolitan centres in order to realise their own destinies at the other end of the world. This includes taking up the challenge of co-existence with peoples originally displaced by the process of colonisation. But what remains of the relation between metropolitan centre and periphery? Is there evidence of exchange between oldland and newland that offers a more reciprocal arrangement? What does this mean for potential solidarity between countries of the periphery?

Professor James Belich is at the Stout Research Centre, University of Wellington. His two volumes on New Zealand history, Making Peoples and Paradise Reforged, are considered comprehensive and engaging. His recent publication Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1780-1930 is described in the TLS as ‘one of the most important works on the broad processes of modern world history to have appeared for years.’

Professor Kate Darian-Smith is Professor of Australian Studies and History at the University of Melbourne. Kate has written widely on Australian history and on the British world. Her works include, as co-editor of Britishness Abroad: Transnational Movements and Imperial Cultures, Melbourne University Press, 2007 and Text, Theory, Space: land, literature and history in South Africa and Australia, Routledge, 1996. She is currently working on an ARC-funded project (with Penny Edmonds and Julie Evans) on Conciliation Narratives in British Settler Societies in the Pacific Rim.

Dr Lorenzo Veracini is a Senior Research Fellow at Swinburne University and holds a Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship. He joined the ISR in early 2009 and has studied history and historiography in Italy and the UK before moving to Australia in the late 1990s. He is the author of Israel and Settler Society (Pluto Press 2006) and What is Settler Colonialism? (forthcoming). He is currently writing a global history of settler colonialism and is on the editorial board of the new journal, Settler Colonial Studies.

Institute of Postcolonial Studies
78-80 Curzon Street
North Melbourne
Victoria 3051 Australia (map)
Tel: 03 9329 6381
Admission – $5 for waged, $3 for unwaged, and free for members.

Parallel Pasts, Convergent Futures? Comparing New Zealand, Iberia and Latin America

A Stout Research Centre/ Victoria Institute for Links with  Latin America (VILLA) conference  
Victoria University of Wellington 
2‐4 September 2010

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor José Colmeiro, University of Auckland
  • Professor Tom Dwyer, University of Campinas, São Paulo
  • Professor Alfredo Martínez Expósito, University of Queensland
  • Professor Lisa Matisoo‐Smith, University of Otago
  • Professor Marco A. Pamplona, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro

Organising Committee: Prof. James Belich, Dr Nicola Gilmour, Prof. Richard Hill, Prof. Warwick Murray, Prof. Rob Rabel, Mrs Patricia Vasconcelos Cavalcanti de Marotta

The Iberian Peninsula and the British Isles are the two leading producers of overseas settler societies in the history of the modern world. Yet the pasts and presents  of  the  two diasporas, which made and  remade Latin America and  ‘neo-Britains’  such as New Zealand, are seldom compared. This conference will explore   comparisons,  connections,  and  convergences,  past  and  present,  between  New  Zealand and the countries of Iberia and Latin America. 

To register visit:‐centre/about/events/conferences.aspx