Culture 1989

Gartrell, Beverly. ‘Colonialism’ and the Fourth World: Notes on Variations in Colonial Situations. Culture, 1989. 6(1): 3-18.

In this article, two issues about colonialism are addressed. Gartrell talks about the terminology used to discuss colonialism, and looks at the differences between “internal” and “external” colonialism. This is done by looking at the change in the demands of labour and land. It is through a comparison of the colonial process done by the “settlers” and the “new economic activists” that we see Gartell’s argument.

The author discusses the terminology at the beginning of his article. It is here that he points out that the domination of non-European worlds has shaped our thinking process concerning the definition of colonialism.

The difference between the settlers’ colonial rule and the new activists Gartrell explains, is “the changing needs of the dominant power for control of 1) the colony’s land, and 2) the labour of the colonized populations”. Gartrell describes how settlers maintained their domination by using representatives and other methods of control and the settlers were articulating the long-term process of the colonial system. The settlers used the land, and the labour to full extent. The new activists did not use the land to the full extent. This process with the settlers is “external” colonialism. The settlers colonial system is an example of how people think about the term colonialism, normally connected to European expansionism, in non-European worlds.

Gartrell discusses decolonization. It is here that Gartrell makes reference to “internal colonialism”, which is about “the fact that a subjugated indigenous population and a dominant population originating elsewhere are contained within one state apparatus that controls one unified territory”. The change in labour and land is discussed. It is here that Gartrell gives examples of how the term colonial can be applied to Western peoples who are dominated. The author demonstrates this idea by displaying the difference of rule between administrators, and the government. One of the main differences demonstrated in the article is that instead of using the people living on the land as a resource of labour, the government now is displacing the dominated groups with little concern about their means of living.

After pointing out these differences of control, Gartrell returns to discuss terminology. He gives a brief history of the term “colonialism”, and shows that the term is directed to understand European expansionism, and is not being applied to current Canadian or other Western worlds own colonialism. Gartrell suggests that we should maintain the historical roots of the term, however we should give attention to the different results of colonialism.


JULIE NEILANS York University (Maggie MacDonald).