By Michæl Dietler
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Extra resources for Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France
The answer to the first question is, I think, fairly easy. The kinds of practices clustered under the label of colonialism have been implicated frequently as some of the most significant forces in world history. 45 Moreover, other regions (such as Latin America) had suffered long periods of transformative colonial domination in previous centuries before finally ridding themselves of European control during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Following the rapid collapse of all the European empires in the face of indigenous resistance during the middle decades of the twentieth century, the term postcolonial has become a popular rubric for the contemporary world situation.
42 Moreover, Rome provided a practical source of models for the practices and vocabulary of both Enlightenment and high modernist colonialism. 43 Greek and Roman colonial models were, in fact, both contrasted and combined in a variety of complex ways. The English classicist Gilbert Murray’s opinion that “at home England is Greek, in the Empire she is Roman”44 exemplifies some of these analogical complexities and paradoxes. While the United States has generally preferred to see itself alternatively as a modern Athens or a descendant of the Roman Republic,45 analogies from abroad have tended more toward the Roman Empire, and usually toward its less flattering characteristics.
But more important, they constitute the initial phases of engagement between alien Mediterranean states and indigenous societies that, whatever the original configuration of relations of power, created the conditions that drew all the parties into a process that eventually resulted in a clearly asymmetrical colonial situation. That colonial situation did not suddenly appear fully formed: it emerged out of a complex prior history. ”60 It is a serious analytical error to assume that asymmetrical relations or structures of power that ultimately appeared in later periods were an inevitable feature of the first stages of the encounter rather than a product of a subsequent complex history of interaction and entanglement.