The Significance of Colonization in Asia

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Colonial empires, constructed by maritime powers such as Portugal andSpain, led to the development of new ideas and capitalism that grewto the rest of Europe. This gave rise to colonization of a number ofcountries and regions throughout the world. It was in the twentiethcentury that those countries under the yoke of colonization rose toarms and fought to liberate their countries. Many analysts haveforwarded many arguments regarding the effect of the colonial powerson their colonies. For instance, in Asia, Salman Rushdie published abook that spoke about the post-colonial meta-fiction, and the way thecolonial masters affected third worlds significantly. The book,Midnight’s Children, has since been a major post-colonialnovel which fictionalized the events of Indian history from themoment they gained independence back in 19547 until the declarationof emergency in 1976 by the then Congress Prime Minister. Rushdie’saspiring novel discards the British colonial varieties of India andhypotheses a ‘new’ creation and a new representation of Indianinhabitants and past in an endeavor to deliver better actuality toIndian descriptions and history. This paper reflects on thesignificance of colonialism in Asia by de-centering Rushdie’s book,Midnight’s Children.


There are many reasons why people should view capitalism as one ofthe most significant effects of colonialism to Asia. Beforecolonialism, the economic system of Asia was not capitalistic.Capitalism migrated from the Western economies to several parts ofthe Asian region, including India. Presently, a number of Asiancountries have successfully implemented capitalism, something thathas made them superior in the world average economic growth rate.Despite the slowing down of the global economic growth, occasioned bythe poor performance of economic indicators, Asian countries haveconsistently impressed. All this is credited to the colonialintroduction of capitalism. Despite the fact that there are certaindifferences in the themes of Asian capitalism and Western capitalism,the two are more or less the same. In fact, the author illustratesthe transformation as follows

First were the fishermen ….at the beginning of time, when Bombaywas a Dumbbell-shaped Isle elongated, at the middle, to a taperedstrand afar which one could see the ideal and biggest harbor in Asia,when Mazagaon, Matunga, Salsette and others Colaba were islands, too,before repossession, before recessed piles turned the Isles into anextended peninsula (Rushdie 101).

On the other hand, David Mitchell’s book , ‘The ThousandAutumns’ offers an explanation on the messy relationshipbetween Japan and European trading partners i.e. Dutch. The book’sdescription of the Dutch as discourteous and greedy and the Japaneseas flippant and haughty helps explain the tense relationship thattranspired between the two partners. In addition, it helpsdemonstrate the untrustworthy relation during colonization in Asia.However, the book also reveals the cross-cultural love that developedduring colonization as well shows how colonization allowed peoplefrom different cultures to mingle and interact.

Rushdie’s, Midnight’s Children, demonstrates the theme ofcapitalism effectively through Shiva. Before the colonization ofIndia, cultural beliefs greatly influenced the economic trends. Shivarepresents the cultural Indian god of Destruction. According toRushdie, Saleem, who is the god of creation, represents Brahma. Theauthor to represent the relationship between creation and destructionuses these two characters. In deeper meaning, there are factors thatinfluence the prosperity, while others influence destruction. Thiscreation and destruction cannot only be looked at in terms of livingthings and such. The creation of a strong economy and its destructionare also factors that can be influenced by the cultural beliefs of acertain people. In thought, Saleem is the representation ofidealistic socialism. On the other hand, Shiva is a realisticrepresentation of capitalism. These are examples of the division andunification of a given nation. However, one has to realize that therelationship between the two is ambiguous. This is the reason why thedivision that exists between the two characters is exaggerated by theinfluences of western practices, such as capitalism. In fact,capitalism as developed by the colonizers shifted power to the handsof the colonizers as Rushdie illustrates

The British and Portuguese exemplified their influence by fluctuatingthe city’s friendship with the “benevolent vested guidance of thedeity Mumbadevi, whose appellation—Mumbai—may fine have developedinto the city’s name (101)

Another significant effect of colonialism to Asia is shuffling ofculture and identity. Rushdie’s novel reveals that there is aninner conflict of Saleem Sinai’s struggle to stick to his primaryidentity in a time of cultural re-identification. The character,Saleem, is born at a time of independence, and grows in a countrywhere he struggles to understand the events by transposing them intohis own history. In fact, Mitchell attests to this by saying that theadoption of Jacob into the Japanese culture happened against thebackdrop of integrity and steadfastness rather than colonization anddeceit (121). By the time the colonialists were leaving, they hadsignificantly changed the cultural make-up of the Asian colonies.Saleem, who is quite confused about his people’s true culture,finds himself resorting to violence, one of the oldest and mostrudimental methods of taking control. It is so bad that he ends upbecoming a serial killer. This raises the question as to whether hewould have been the same where it that his culture was not changed bythe colonialists. It is so bad that at a point, he begins toeliminate the persons that he feels do not conform to his character.The author uses physical and symbolic paradigms of violence to showthe net effect of the colonialists on the traditions of the Asian.Saleem is in a stage where he is coping with an agitated history anda re-identification process. He depicts traditional society whosehistory began more than two millenniums ago, which has now beenforced to submit to the sudden changes that have been introduced bythe British colonialists.

Rushdie’s book also reveals that the colonialists significantlychanged the political organization of Asia. The author uses India asan example to express the political opinions that were forwarded bythe daughter of the first Prime Minister, when she took over power.Her style of leadership is very similar to that of the colonialmasters. The emerging breed of the Asian leaders were less powerthirsty than the rulers of the earlier empires. Democracy andtransparency in leadership had taken center stage, which was as adirect result of the influence of the colonial masters. Anothersignificance of colonialism is that it gave the people a chance torise as nationalists and individuals who could influence theircommunities by their thoughts. The fight for independence andlinearization of the empires created such individuals. The narrator,Saleem Sinai, is an example of the products of colonialism who couldwordlessly communicate with other people through magical realism.Rushdie employs the technique of magical realism to show how thehistorical events were important in the re-building of the Asianculture after the colonialists left.

Through the book, and by using India as an example, the entire Asianregion is given a voice. The British colonialists, rather thecitizens of the Asian countries who had been molded by the presenceof colonialists, do not control the narrative. This post-colonialnarrative is a revelation of magical realism and its power to connectpost-colonial citizens and allows them to come together and shareideas. The space of separation that was systematically denied by thecolonialists and the Asian nationalists constructed the framework forthe rise of even stronger states-men and leaders in Asia. The Britishhad, almost unknowingly, significantly altered the ideology ofsocialism and nationalism of the Asians. The colonialists haddeployed the tactics of displacement, dislocation and distortion inan attempt to cement their power in the Asian colonies. This led tothe trend of the post-colonial Asians to separate themselves fromtheir colonizers, especially on ideology and societal frameworks.This trend can be directly attributed to the events of colonialism.

Thecolonization of Asia significantly improved the region’snationalism. It gave rise to organized political movements, whichwere important to the liberalization of their nations. The liberatorsdrove their colonial masters to restore their nation’sindependence. Across Asia, people created moderate nationalistmovements in countries where there were liberal colonial governments,while radical nationalism movements existed in countries governed byrepressive colonial masters. Rushdie using moderate and radicalcharacters in the novel clearly explains about the radicalism thatoccurred during the time.


As discussed before, the text identifies capitalism as one of thesignificant effects of colonialism in Asia. Capitalism has sincegreatly influenced the economy of the Asian countries, making themone of the fastest economically growing countries, even in times ofeconomic depression. Secondly, the colonization of Asia influencedthe region’s culture. One of the main characters, Saleem,demonstrates how colonization brought confusion to the culturalidentity of those who were born after the colonialists had left andtheir nations gained independence. To almost equal measures, thecolonization of Asia transformed its nation’s politicalorganization, which saw the emergence of political parties, politicalleaders and nationalist who took charge of the region’s leadership.

Works Cited

Mitchell, David. The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Random HouseLLC, 2010.

Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children. New York, NY: RandomHouse Publishers. 2011. Print.