Settler colonialism is a form of colonial formation whereby foreign people move into a region. An imperial power oversees the immigration of these settlers who consent, often only temporarily, to government by that authority. This colonization sometimes leads, by a variety of means, to depopulation of the previous inhabitants, and the settlers take over the land left vacant by the previous residents. Unlike other forms of colonialism, the "colonizing authority" (the imperial power) is not always the same nationality as the "colonizing workforce" (the settlers) in cases of settler colonialism. The settlers are, however, generally viewed by the colonizing authority as racially superior to the previous inhabitants, giving their social movements and political demands greater legitimacy than those of colonized peoples in the eyes of the home government.
The land is the key resource in settler colonies, whereas natural (e.g. gold, cotton, oil) and human (e.g. labor, existing trade networks, convertible souls) resources are the main motivation behind other forms of colonialism. Normal colonialism typically ends, whereas settler colonialism lasts indefinitely, except in the rare event of complete evacuation (e.g., the Lost Colony of Roanoke) or settler decolonization. The historian of race and settler colonialism Patrick Wolfe writes that "settler colonialism destroys to replace" and insists that "invasion", in settler colonial contexts, is "a structure, not an event".
Settler colonialism is a global and transnational phenomenon, and as much a thing of the past as a thing of the present. There is no such thing as neo-settler colonialism or post-settler colonialism because settler colonialism is a resilient formation that rarely ends. Not all migrants are settlers: settlers come to stay, and are founders of political orders who carry with them a distinct sovereign capacity. And settler colonialism is not colonialism: settlers want Indigenous people to vanish (but can make use of their labor before they are made to disappear). Sometimes settler colonial forms operate within colonial ones, sometimes they subvert them, sometimes they replace them. But even if colonialism and settler colonialism interpenetrate and overlap, they remain separate as they co-define each other.
In the ancient world
Settler colonialism has occurred extensively throughout human history, including in the ancient world.
Greek settlers founded city-states through much of the coastlines of the Mediterranean. Under the Macedonian Empire, the Hellenistic pattern of settler colonies extended deep into Western Asia. However, many of the people living in these cities were non-ethnic Greeks who had adopted the dominant Ancient Greek language and its concomitant Hellenistic civilization.
The Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire commonly established settler colonies in newly conquered regions. The colonists were often veterans of the Roman army, who received agricultural land to develop. These agricultural communities provided bastions of loyal citizens in often hostile areas of the Empire, and often accelerated the process of Romanisation among the nearby conquered peoples. Near the city of Damascus in present-day Syria, the contemporary settlements of Mezze and Deraya can trace their origins back to villages opened for settlement by the Romans during the third century CE. Philip the Arab, the Roman Emperor from 244-249, designated this area around Damascus a colonia, and encouraged settlement by veterans of the VI Ferrata legion, as commemorated by coins minted in the city around this time.
In early modern and modern times
During the early modern period, some European nation-states and their agents adopted policies of colonialism, competing with each other to establish colonies outside of Europe, at first in the Americas, and later in Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
In the Americas
European colonization of the Americas began as early as the 10th century, when Norse sailors explored and settled limited areas on the shores of present-day Greenland and Canada. According to Norse folklore, violent conflicts with the indigenous population ultimately made the Norse abandon those settlements.
Extensive European colonization began in 1492, when a Spanish expedition headed by Genoese Christopher Columbus sailed west to find a new trade route to the Far East but inadvertently landed in the Americas. European conquest, large-scale exploration, colonization and industrial development soon followed. Columbus's first two voyages (1492–93) reached the Bahamas and various Caribbean islands, including Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Cuba. In 1497, sailing from Bristol on behalf of England, John Cabot landed on the North American coast, and a year later, Columbus's third voyage reached the South American coast. As the sponsor of Christopher Columbus's voyages, Spain was the first European power to settle and colonize the largest areas, from North America and the Caribbean to the southern tip of South America. Spanish cities were founded as early as 1496 with Santo Domingo in today's Dominican Republic.
Other powers such as France also founded colonies in the Americas: in eastern North America, a number of Caribbean islands, and small coastal parts of South America. Portugal colonized Brazil, tried early (since 1499) colonizing of the coasts of present-day Canada, and sat for extended periods on the northwest bank of the River Plate (including it in the Brazilian region). This was the beginning of a dramatic territorial expansion for several European countries. Europe had been preoccupied with internal wars, and was only slowly recovering from the loss of population caused by the bubonic plague; thus the rapid rate at which it grew in wealth and power was unforeseeable in the early 15th century.
Eventually, the entire Western Hemisphere came under the ostensible control of European governments, leading to profound changes to its landscape, population, and plant and animal life. In the 19th century alone over 50 million people left Europe for the Americas. The post-1492 era is known as the period of the Columbian Exchange, a dramatically widespread exchange of animals, plants, culture, human populations (including slaves), communicable disease, and ideas between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres following Columbus's voyages to the Americas.
Starting from the 1880s, various governments of Afghanistan have pursued policies towards the goal of having more ethnic Pashtuns (Afghans) settle in northern Afghanistan (especially in Afghan Turkestan). These Pashtun colonization policies had three major purposes—to strengthen Afghanistan government's hold on its northern territories, to allow Afghan governments to deport their opponents up north, and to help economically develop northern Afghanistan.
The native inhabitants of the Central Highlands are the Degar (Montagnard) peoples. Vietnam conquered and invaded the area during its "march to the south" (Nam tiến). Ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) people now outnumber the indigenous Degars after state sponsored colonization directed by both the government of South Vietnam and the current Communist government of unified Vietnam. The Montagnards have fought against and resisted all Vietnamese invaders, from the anti-Communist South Vietnamese government, the Vietcong, to the Communist government of unified Vietnam.
The Montagnard lands in the Central Highlands were subjected to state sponsored colonization by ethnic Vietnamese settlers under the South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem which resulted in estranging the Montagnards and leading them to reject Vietnamese rule.
The South Vietnamese and Communist Vietnamese colonization of the Central Highlands have been compared to the historic Nam tiến of previous Vietnamese rulers. During the Nam tiến (March to the South) Khmer and Cham territory was seized and militarily colonized (đồn điền) by the Vietnamese which was repeated by the state sponsored colonization of Northern Vietnamese Catholic refugees on Montagnard land by the South Vietnamese leader Diem and the introduction to the Central Highlands of "New Economic Zones" by the now Communist Vietnamese government.:151-
The thousand year violent war the Vietnamese in the lowlands had with the Montagnards in the mountains was a long established custom and the Vietnamese used the derogatory word "Moi" (savages) to address the Montagnards, the South Vietnamese government was strongly against the autonomous Montagnard CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Groups) who were fighting against the Vietcong because they feared that the Montagnards would gain independence so the South Vietnamese and Montagnards violently clashed against each other. The Vietnamese Communists implemented harsh punishment against the Montagnards after the defeat of South Vietnam.
The Montagnard Rhades mounted a revolt, seizing hundreds of Vietnamese civilians and soldiers, assassinating officers of the Vietnamese special forces and seizing American advisers on 19–20 September but the 23rd Division of the South Vietnamese army stopped them from sizing Ban Me Thout, the provincial capital of Darlac Province.:146-
In the Central Highlands the Montagnard FULRO organization fought against both the Communists and South Vietnamese due to discrimination by the South Vietnamese army against the Montagnards. After the victory of the Communist North Vietnamese, the Vietnamese refused autonomy to the Montagnards, and on Montagnard land they settled around one million ethnic Vietnamese in addition to using "reducation camps" on the Montagnards, leading the Montagnard FULRO to continue the armed struggle against the Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese were originally centered around the Red River Delta but engaged in conquest and seized new lands such as Champa, the Mekong Delta (from Cambodia) and the Central Highlands during Nam Tien, while the Vietnamese received strong Chinese influence in their culture and civilization and were Simonized, and the Cambodians and Laotians were Indianized, the Montagnards in the Central Highlands maintained their own native culture without adopting external culture and were the true indigenous natives of the region, and to hinder encroachment on the Central Highlands by Vietnamese nationalists, the term Pays Montagnard du Sud-Indochinois PMSI emerged for the Central Highlands along with the natives being addressed by the name Montagnard.:28- The tremendous scale of Vietnamese Kinh colonists flooding into the Central Highlands has significantly altered the demographics of the region.:29-
Violent demonstrations with fatalities have broken out due to Montagnard anger at Vietnamese discrimination and seizure of their land since many Vietnamese Kinh were settled by the government in the Central Highlands.
Up until French rule, the Central Highlands was almost never entered by the Vietnamese since they viewed it as a savage (Moi-Montaganrd) populated area with fierce animals like tigers, "poisoned water" and "evil malevolent spirits", but the Vietnamese became greedy and voracious for the land after the French transformed it into a profitable plantation area to grow crops on, in addition to the natural resources from the forests, minerals and rich earth and realization of its crucial geographical importance.
The anti-ethnic minority discriminatory policies by the Vietnamese, environmental degradation, deprivation of lands from the natives, and settlement of native lands by a massive amount of Vietnamese settlers led to massive protests and demonstrations by the Central Highland's indigenous native ethnic minorities against the Vietnamese in January–February 2001 and this event gave a tremendous blow to the claim often published by the Vietnamese government that in Vietnam There has been no ethnic confrontation, no religious war, no ethnic conflict. And no elimination of one culture by another.
The same state sponsored settlement of ethnic minority land by Vietnamese Kinh has happened in another highland region, the Annamite Cordillera (Trường Sơn), both the Central Highlands and Annamite Cordillera were populated by ethnic minorities who were not Vietnamese during the 20th century's start, but the demographics of the highlands was drastically transformed with the mass colonization of 6 million settlers from 1976 to the 1990s, which led to ethnic Vietnamese Kinh outnumbering the native ethnic groups in the highlands.
Most of the highlands like the Annamite Range and the Central Highlands were populated by ethnic minorities who were not Vietnamese during the 20th century's start, but the demographics of the highlands was drastically transformed with the mass colonization of 6 million settlers from 1976 to the 1990s, which led to ethnic Vietnamese Kinh outnumbering the native ethnic groups in the highlands. The Vietnamese Kinh dominated government media propagate negative stereotypes of the highlander ethnic minorities, labeling them as "ignorant", "illiterate", "backward" and claim that they are impoverished and underdeveloped because of their own lack of economic and agricultural skills. Ethnic Vietnamese Kinh settlers have negative stereotypes and views of the native ethnic minorities with barely any intermarriage and little interaction since they deliberately choose to live in different villages which are a stark difference from the government's portrayal of harmonic relations between minorities and Vietnamese, with the government claiming that "backward areas" are experiencing "development" from the Vietnamese Kinh settlers they are encouraging yet these places are not underdeveloped and no advantages have come about the minorities form the Vietnamese Kinh settlers, instead only negative consequences of the Vietnamese colonization have been brought upon the minorities like the wiping out of their culture and replacement by Vietnamese Kinh culture and exacerbated poverty due to control of the economy by the Vietnamese Kinh.
Cham Muslims in the Mekong Delta have also been economically marginalized and pushed into poverty by Vietnamese policies, with ethnic Vietnamese Kinh settling on majority Cham land with state support, and religious practices of minorities have been targeted for elimination by the Vietnamese government.
The native peoples of Mindanao are the Moro Muslims and the Lumad Animists. They have been turned into a minority by the settlement of millions of Filipino Christians from Luzon and the Visayas onto their land.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Moro and Lumads controlled an area which now covers 17 of Mindanao’s 24 provinces, but by the 1980 census, they constituted less than 6% of the population of Mindanao and Sulu. Heavy migration to Mindanao of Luzon and Visayans, spurred by government-sponsored resettlement programs, turned the indigenous Lumads and Moros into minorities.
The native Moro Muslims and Lumads were supplanted by the first Spanish and American colonization programs with Christian settlers taking control of key areas and disrupting the Muslim's administrative structures and control over resources, the Americans chose Christian settlers to become officials of settler populated townships instead of Lumads and Muslims, with the environment becoming ruined due to the activities of the settlers and logging.:22- Severe deterioration of the land in Mindanao ensued after the continuing influx of Filipino settlers, with the land becoming essentially useless.:23- Eric S. Casiño wrote on the interaction between the Filipino settlers, the Moro Muslim and Lumad natives and the impact on the environment in his book "Mindanao Statecraft and Ecology: Moros, Lumads, and Settlers Across the Lowland-highland Continuum".
The Americans started a colonization program on Mindanao for foreign agricultural companies and Filipino Christian settlers against the native Muslims and non-Muslim Lumads of Mindanao, in order to secure the area with a Christian presence and help the American military assert control over the area once it was conquered.
90% of Mindanao's people used to consist of native Moro Muslims at the start of the 20th century but the invasion and colonization sponsored by the American and Philippine governments led to Filipino Christian settlers turning into the majority of almost 75% of the population, with the American colonial government helping to kick natives off their land and giving the land titles to Christian colonists.:17- Media compared the American conquest of the west from the Native Americans to the Filipino conquest and settlement of Mindanao from the Muslims, the Philippine government, Philippine military and Filipino militias used extremely violent tactics against natives to support the settlers.:18-
The government agencies involved in settlement on Mindanao were the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA) and subsequently the Land Settlement and Development Corporation (LASEDECO), followed by the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA).
The Americans used their control over property and land laws to let American corporations and Filipino Christian settlers take over Lumad and Moro Muslim resources and land and depriving them of self-governance after eliminating the sovereignty of the Moro Sultanates, and ignoring Moro requests for their own independence, with the Philippine government continuing the colonization program after independence leading to a humongous number of Filipino settlers streaming into Moro territories, and this led to Moros making moves for independence and armed struggle against the Philippines.
After 1960 the settlement program turned the Moro Muslims into a minority from their previous majority in Mindanao, similar to what happened in the Indonesian Transmigration program where Javanese people where frontier areas are settled with ethnic Madurese and Javanese people.
Severe violence between native Muslims and Christian settlers erupted due to the influx of Christian colonists, companies and other entities seeking to exploit new land on Mindanao who engaged in land grabbing. Lumad and Muslim interests were ignored by the state sponsored colonization program led by the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA) which provided benefits for the colonists and made no consideration for the Muslims.
Moro Muslims are just 17% of Mindanao's population whereas prior to the colonization program initiated by the governments of the Philippines they had been a massive majority and the colonization and land grabs led to the current violent conflict, with private companies and Filipino colonists from the Visayas and Luzon taking lands from Moro clans with the Philippine government issuing land titles to settlers and ignoring Moro ownership of the land since they declared Moro land as public lands.
Massive settlement by Filipino Christian colonists continued after independence was granted and rule passed to Christian Filipinos from the Americans and land disputes the Christian settlers had with the Muslim and tribal natives broke out in violence, eventually the colonization, along with the Jabidah massacre, led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro armed insurgency against Philippine rule.
The Philippine government encouraged Filipino Christian settlers in Mindanao to form militias called Ilaga to fight the Moros. The Ilaga engaged in massacres and atrocities and were responsible for Manili massacre of 65 Moro Muslim civilians in a Mosque on June 1971, including women and children. The Ilaga also engaged in cannibalism, cutting off the body parts of their victims to eat in rituals. The Ilaga settlers were given the sarcastic nickname as an acronym, the "Ilonggo Land Grabbers’ Association".
The Moros were only incorporated into the Philippines by "conquest and colonization", constituting a separate nation from Filipinos analogous to the experience of Native Americans who violently resisted American conquest.
The CHT were subjected to colonization be Bengalis supported by the government of Bangladesh after independence. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts Bengali settlers and soldiers have raped native Jumma (Chakma) women "with impunity" with the Bangladeshi security forces doing little to protect the Jummas and instead assisting the rapists and settlers.
The indigenous Buddhist and Hindu Jummas of Sino-Tibetan background have been targeted by the Bangladeshi government with massive amounts of violence and genocidal policies as ethnic Bengali settlers swamped into Jumma lands, seized control and massacred them with the Bangladeshi military engaging in mass rape of women, massacres of entire villages and attacks on Hindu and Buddhist religious sites with deliberate targeting of monks and nuns. The settlers are Muslims. The Karuna Bihar Buddhist temple was attacked by Bengali settlers.
Nearly the entire population of Taiwan is the result of settler colonialism. The so-called "Taiwanese people", made out of the "Hoklo Taiwanese" and "Hakka Taiwanese" are descendants of settler colonialists who migrated to Taiwan from Fujian province of mainland China in the 17th-19th centuries. The native Taiwanese aborigines are only 2% of the total population of Taiwan.
Europeans came and settled in Australia, in many cases displacing Indigenous Australians. The Indigenous Australian population, estimated at about 350,000 at the time of European settlement, declined steeply for 150 years following settlement from 1788, mainly because of infectious disease combined with forced re-settlement and cultural disintegration.
New Zealand's European population is the result of migration by Europeans since the beginning of the 19th century. The indigenous Māori population are a significant minority population in the 21st century. The Maori Language Act accords official status to the Māori language alongside English. Interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi remains a constitutional question in New Zealand politics.
In the Middle East
For decades, Saddam Hussein 'Arabized' northern Iraq, an act often referred as "internal colonialism". The policy of Saddam Hussein in North Iraq during the Ba'athist rule was described by Dr. Francis Kofi Abiew as a "Colonial 'Arabization'" program, including large-scale Kurdish deportations and forced Arab settlement in the region.
Following the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stated that the demographics of the island are continuously modified as a result of the deliberate policies of the Turks. Some suggest that over 120,000 Turkish settlers were brought to the island from mainland Turkey, in violation of article 49 of the Geneva convention. According to the UN resolution 1987/19, adopted on 2 September 1987, the UN expressed "its concern also at the policy and practice of the implantation of settlers in the occupied territories of Cyprus, which constitute a form of colonialism and attempt to change illegally the demographic structure of Cyprus".
Nakhchivan and Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic of Turkey (Turkish Kurdistan)
The Turkification of predominantly Kurdish areas in country's East and South-East were also bound in the early ideas and policies of the modern Turkish nationalism, going back to as early as 1918 (the manifesto of Turkish nationalist Ziya Gokalp "Turkification, Islamization and Modernization"). The evolving Young Turk conscience adopted a specific interpretation of progressism, a trend of though which emphasizes the human ability to make, improve and reshape human society, relying of science, technology and experimentation. This notion of social evolution was used to support and justify policies of population control - not unlike European colonialism. The paradigm of Kemalism rationalized the deportation-and-settlement program, reinforced with opinions of senior Young Turks that "In this country only the Turkish nation has the right to claim ethnic and racial rights. Nobody else has such a right". The Kurdish rebellions provided a comfortable pretext for Turkish Kemalists to implement such ideas, and in 1926 the Settlement Law was issued. It created a complex pattern of interaction between state of society, in which the regime favored its people in a distant geography, populated by locals marked as hostile (in this regard, according to Prof. Caroline Elkins, the policy of governing a distant land to send settlers in order to reshape demographics there to resemble homeland is named 'settler colonialism').
During the 1990s, a predominantly Kurdish-dominated Eastern and South-Eastern Turkey (Kurdistan) was depopulated due to the Turkey-PKK conflict. Turkey depopulated and destroyed rural settlements on a large scale, resulting in massive resettlement of a rural Kurdish population in urban areas and leading to development and re-design of population settlement schemes across the countryside. According to Dr. Joost Jongerden, Turkish settlement and re-settlement policies during the 1990s period were influenced by two different forces - the desire to expand administration to rural areas and an alternative view of urbanization, allegedly producing "Turkishness".
Zionism and the State of Israel
In 1967 the French historian Maxime Rodinson wrote an article later translated and published in English as Israel: A Colonial Settler-State? Lorenzo Veracini describes Israel as a colonial state and writes that Jewish settlers could expel the British in 1948 only because they had their own colonial relationships inside and outside Israel's new borders. Veracini believes the possibility of an Israeli disengagement is always latent and this relationship could be severed, through an "accommodation of a Palestinian Israeli autonomy within the institutions of the Israeli state" (Veracini 2006) Other commentators, such as Daiva Stasiulis, Nira Yuval-Davis, and Joseph Massad in the "Post Colonial Colony: time, space and bodies in Palestine/ Israel in the persistence of the Palestinian Question". have included Israel in their global analysis of settler societies. Ilan Pappé describes Zionism and Israel in similar terms. Scholar Amal has stated, "Israel was created by a settler-colonial movement of Jewish immigrants".
Some Palestinians express similar opinions - writer and sociologist Jamil Hilal, member of the Palestinian National Council lives in what he describes as "the heavily-colonised West Bank", and drew parallels in 1976 between South African and Israeli settler colonialism, writes that "as in Southern Africa, stretches of land were acquired by the Zionist settlers [...] and their Arab tenants thrown out". Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Dr. Nasser al-Qidwa opposes the policy of Israeli settlements and has described those efforts as colonialism.
According to a report by the FMEP issued in 2000, the settler population in the West Bank and Gaza strip grew from approximately 1,500 in 1972 to approximately 73,000 in 1989, and more than doubled that in 1998 to approximately 169,000. The report also describes demographics statistics indicating that, by place of birth, 78% of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza were from Europe or America, 19% from Israel, 3% from Asia, and 1% from Africa.
A number of scholars have objected to the idea that Zionism and the State of Israel are tantamount to settler colonialism. Avi Bareli, in his essay 'Forgetting Europe: Perspectives on the Debate about Zionism and Colonialism', argues that the "Colonialist School offered this alternative interpretation to replace the account of the return of the Jewish people to its land". Moreover, he asserts that it "ignores the economic, social, and cultural processes that spurred the Jews in Eastern Europe to emigrate to Palestine over decades in the twentieth century". Arnon Golan contends that "Zionism was not imperialist or colonialist in nature, but a national liberation movement that developed in eastern and central Europe, in conjunction with other national liberation movements in these regions" and that "Zionism was a diaspora national movement that aspired to promote its interests in the destined homeland through becoming a collaborator of imperial powers."
S. Ilan Troen, in 'De-Judaizing the Homeland: Academic Politics in Rewriting the History of Palestine', argues that Zionism was the repatriation of a long displaced indigenous population to their historic homeland, and that "Zionists did not see themselves as foreigners or conquerors, for centuries in the Diaspora they had been strangers". Troen further argues that there are several differences between European colonialism and the Zionist movement, including that "there is no New Vilna, New Bialystock, New Warsaw, New England, New York,...and so on" in Israel. He writes that "mandates were intended to nurture the formation of new states until independence and this instrument was to be applied to Jews, even as it was for the Arab peoples of Syria and Iraq. In this view, Jews were a people not only entitled to a state but that polity was naturally located in a part of the world in which they had originated, had been resident since the ancient world, and still constituted a vital presence in many areas of the region, including Palestine" and that "perhaps the most manifest or visible evidence—for those who would be willing to acknowledge—were found in the revival of Hebrew into a living language; the marking the landscape with a Jewish identity; and the development of an indigenous culture with roots in the ancient past." He concludes that "casting Zionists as colonizers serves to present them as occupiers in a land to which, by definition, they do not belong." Others such as Michael J. Cohen, and Bernard Avishai have similarly rebutted criticism of the State of Israel as a settler-colonial state.
- Human migration
- Indian removal
- List of diasporas
- Internal colonialism
- Impact of Western European colonialism and colonisation
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