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Literature Discussion -


Review of: Decolonizing the North

By Jamileh Dastmardi (Cypress)



Faculty of Communication Media Studies
Eastern Mediterranean University

Review of: Decolonizing the North
Jamileh Dastmardi
Supervisor: Associate Professor Dr. Tuğru lİlter


Spring 2014

 This review is based on the eighteen chapters of the book Eco-feminism, written by: Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva. The subject of Chapter 18 is “Decolonizing the North.” It has four parts. Like Ethical decolonization, the problem of population, economic colonization, and intellectual colonization. In this chapter, Vandana, argued that, how the colonization of indigenous people of South of the North. The North, in the name of "development" and "civilization" ruled by the people of the South, they were causing of damage and tremendous changes in the field of ethical, economic, population and poverty.

The process of colonization begins with the physical occupation of land and the domination of the Indigenous people. Decolonization, as mentioned earlier, is the act of reversing the process of colonization. It can be said that decolonization, is constructive rather than destructive. The methods of decolonization which are common examples aimed at reversing the destructive effects of colonialism are religious propaganda, cultural, social and economic incorporation. (Tripod).

Decolonization refers to the undoing of colonialism, the establishment of governance or authority through the creation of settlements by another country or jurisdiction. The term generally refers to the achievement of independence by the various Western colonies and protectorates in Asia and Africa following World War II. This conforms to an intellectual movement known as post-colonialism. Decolonization can be achieved by attaining independence, integrating with the administering power or another state, or establishing a "free association" status. (Tripod).
In Vandana Shiva’s decolonizing the North, the scholar delves into four different but essentially interrelated areas. In Page 264, she explained how the white men are becoming increasingly heavy for the earth and especially for the South. And reveal that around 500 years of history, each time a relationship of colonization has been established between the North and nature and people outside the North. (Shiva, 1992, P264).

She gives an overview of the manner by which colonizers and travelers knowingly and unknowingly conducted "research" on indigenous cultures in various foreign and "primitive" lands. She mentioned decolonizing the South is intimately linked to the issue of decolonizing the North. And she mentioned that Gandhi clearly formulated the individuality of freedom, not only in the sense that the oppressed of the world are one.


Also, the decolonization of the North is also essential because the processes of wealth creation simultaneously create poverty, processes of knowledge creation simultaneously generate ignorance, and processes for the creation of freedom simultaneously generate unfreedom. (Shiva, 1992, P264).

According to Vandana Shiva, “in one side, the white man came in the name of development and civilization and colonized the Third Worlds, so the white man's burden consisted of the need to civilize the non-white people of the world, depriving them of their resources and rights. And on the other side, white man in the name of protecting the environment in a Third World environment, taking control of their rights and resources”. It seems that the East is also constantly monitored and controlled by West. In this article, the South colonized by North and each time the North claims no control over the lives of people in the South of the white man.   (Shiva, 1992, P 265).

Colonialism began with the objective of exploiting natural resources; without sustainable management, it led to the destruction of wildlife habitats especially in the forests. Mining and industrial activity led to the pollution of the air, water, and soil, as did the building of transportation systems. The increased demands of the new cities and ports led to more energy production and its related environmental effects and misuse of resources may result in war, change of religion and culture, etc. The paradoxical consequence of the white man's burden is that, the earth and other people carry new burdens in the form of environmental destruction and creation of poverty and dispossession.

In case of decolonization, between 1945 and 1960, three dozen new states in Asia and Africa achieved autonomy or outright independence from their European colonial rulers. There was no one process of decolonization. In some areas, it was peaceful, and orderly. In many others, independence was achieved only after a protracted revolution. A few newly independent countries acquired stable governments almost immediately; others were ruled by dictators or military juntas for decades, or endured long civil wars. Decolonization was often affected by superpower competition, and had a definite impact on the evolution of that competition. It also significantly changed the pattern of international relations in a more general sense. (US Department of State, Office of the Historian Group).

It should be noted that environmental protection and development cannot be achieved by the colonized nation’s nature. According to Rabindranath Tagore, “an Indian poet in Indian culture, the principles of life in nature as the highest form of Cultural Revolution. The author has tried to clarify this important point, nature, environment and forests in Indian culture, and people's lives, is an important place”.

The effects of technology underlie early twenty-first century global challenges. On one hand, since the enlightenment, technology (especially science-based technology) has offered the promise of a better world through the elimination of disease and material improvements to standards of living. (Chaliand). On the other hand, resource extraction, emissions of dangerous materials, and pollution of air, water, and soil have created conditions for  unprecedented environmental catastrophe and have already caused irreversible damage to  the biosphere. While the future might promise a vast acceleration of technological innovation, the scale and impact of environmental degradation may reflect this vast acceleration as well. A related painful paradox is that, despite the ongoing technological revolution, the majority of the world population still lives in abject poverty with inadequate food, housing, and energy, plagued by illnesses that could be easily cured if clean water and simple drugs were made available.  (Vergragt, 2006).

 Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poem that Vandana Shiva mentioned in this article, “attacked their perception of nature as a kind of goodness, and argued that the respect, wherewith men are imbued in what they call nature has been a discouraging obstacle to the empire of man over the inferior creatures of God”. He said, “exactly reduce of this concept was the capitalism and colonization project”. According Tagore  idea,“ the loss of the concept of nature as a family is the rising sense of exploitation and domination”. (Shiva, 1992, P265).

Historically the idea of civilization was formulated during the period of the rise of capitalism in order to confirm the principle of historical progress, the necessity for the alternate of the feudal system, when the claim that it was God-given no longer satisfied social and philosophical thought. Instead, it was maintained that history was motivated by man's very important interests, his aspiration to realize the principles of social justice and legal equality.  So denial of the right of nature, exploitation and benefit come up.  (Spirkin, 1964).

In colonization of the countries in the name of “development” and “civilization”, the human right and nature is experiencing destruction and in concept of colonial people's rights and the environment, are ignored and slavery and barbarism finding meaning. In the other part of Shiva’s argument is that, “all brutality was sanctioned on the basis of this assumed superiority and European men's exclusive status as fully human”. According to the concept of Shiva, “the destruction, exploitation of the indigenous people and animals, morally, was not wrong”. The definition of western modern society for Third World countries is un-developed and un-civilized countries that they should develop and civilize. So for exploitation of backward people, scientific combined the religious missions to deny right to nature and expropriating the territory and possessions of other peoples. (Shiva, 1992, P266).

Shiva realized that, “in process of development of underdeveloped societies, the rise of science and technology is destroying the people’s lives and nature. We can say that in most cases the nature of death, because, manipulated and incorrect methods of science. So those incorrect functions of the science of nature, caused by nature and natural resources in their natural state and alive-looking mode, turn, and this has resulted in the growth and development of capitalism. Moreover, as a conceptual framework, the mechanical order had associated with it a framework of values based on power, fully compatible with the directions taken by commercial capitalism. The next function of West, as contributing to the ecological crisis, was the proposal to help solve this problem, and this makes it abandon the right of the people to people and from place to place, it means  the transfer of the sought rights to the North.”

Shiva argued that, “based on the moral of development all natural rights must be considered. But kind of ignoring this principle has caused profound nature as rights to be ignored, and people are under pressure and will only think of survival services”. A diversity of animal and plant life, to the development and advancement of technology would disappear. In science for growth of technology, has arrived, a lot of damage and losses to the environment, animal and plant life. Science and ethics, based on democracy, could not respect, equality the nature and human communication rights, the only abnormalities result in the development and modernity is the destruction of nature ecological life and people's rights. ( Shiva, 1992, P267).

For example, in making drugs for human diseases, bomb, pathway and roads, mines, stationery many species of animals and plants are lost in clinical laboratory tests. Reduced fertility and various species of animals and plants is causing shortages of food for other animals so other animals kill the other to survive; all these results are of modern development.
Another issue that Shiva considers is that, “the population, in the developed and civilized nations of the Third World, nature and the environment, and animals are at risk of destruction; loss of fertility and reduced plant growth due to different tests are causing food shortages. Food shortages and population explosion will be greater of environmental degradation and pollution. Overpopulation is causing poverty, more people become consumers, thus causing the recession. In Asia, Africa and Latin America, there is a high rate of poverty and wealth is in the hands of only five percent of the world's population”. The North, resolving their economic and environmental crisis, in the name of development and civilization, colonizes the South, exploitation of natural resources, biodiversity and that exploits people there, and because of their profit, there is degradation in the South’s environmental. (Shiva, 1992, P268).

Most important and critical discussions of Shiva, on the topic of decolonization the North is: the growth of affluence, the growth of poverty. She mentioned that, “the process of growth of the economy can be separated into two: the growth of affluence and the growth of poverty”. First one it means growth of capitalism. The means of destruction of nature and exploitation of people, this growth creates. By destruction of nature poverty grow up. She said, “Environmental destruction and poverty are causally linked, not to the process of growth, but to each other. Solving the environmental crisis is growing poverty and great growth in the first part. The next story, wealth and abundance through poverty, that if you produce what you consume, you do not produce. Both growth and consumption, has a secret, but the actual process that is causing poverty is hidden. ( Shiva, 1992, P269).

Capitalism creation and growth from colonization are based on growth and is exploitation of people or the environment. In the capitalistic society, there are a small number of people getting rich, but the huge numbers are not rich. For example the corporations are those parts of the population that are getting rich, but the workers are that part of the population in the society not rich.  Corporations exploiting people and nature for their benefit for producing of any product, have costs that are external, that is these costs are not included in the benefit.

For example, those costs that are not included in the benefit, are taxed, transportation, fuel, and workers’ salary. The worker should take care of their life, but the elite people like corporations do not care about their life, they are rather exploiting the workers as labor against low pay; manufacturing of such products are causing air pollution, but the owners do not care about the environment, and only think of their own proceeds. People have become used to living with this condition. Exploiting, unsafe life is the high cost of environmental degradation and pollution that should pay by lower social class. A variety of diseases, air pollution, destruction of plant and animal habitats, are the presence of capitalist societies.
Types of causes of poverty are two:

Individual: poverty is explained by individual circumstances and/or characteristics of poor people. Some examples are: amount of education, skill, experience, intelligence, health, handicaps, age, work orientation, time horizon, culture of poverty, discrimination, together with race, sex, etc.

Aggregate. There are two types of aggregate poverty theory: case and generic. There is no agreement on which is the correct explanation of most poverty.

1. Case. Add up all poverty explained by individual theories, and that is equal to the total or aggregate poverty. In other words, according to case theories of poverty, individual and aggregate explanations are really the same. According to these theories, aggregate poverty is just the sum of individual poverty.

2. Generic. Poverty is explained by general, economy-wide problems, such as

  • Inadequate non-poverty employment opportunities
  • Inadequate overall demand (macro problems, macro policy)
  • Low national income (Less Developed Country).

On one hand, some people work and their income is so less and they cannot put food on their table, the other hand, some of the people producing something they need, they have everything, but just for their life survival, but still they are poor. The first group of poverty is dangerous because when the growth comes out, the environment is destroyed, and this is substitute economy.
If generic theories are correct, poverty is caused by one set of forces (general, economy-wide problems) but distributed according to individual theories. (Srinivas).

In substitute economy, we are producing what we need, not for export. This economy is not the kind of economy, because it is not bringing any money and profit. Housewife is a good example of this issue. Housewives, doing all matters related to cooking, cleaning the house, take care of her husband and children; do not get paid without regard to these matters. This is the kind of exploitation of the women.

 In this kind of economy, plant and animal habitat is destroyed, the exploitation of the lower classes of society in the development and growth of the abundance of capitalist society, and the growth of poverty. And this is the secret of great growth, through the creation of poverty. People thought that the destruction of the environment, get them done, and that is causes of poverty.
According to Shiva’s argument, the economic value is divided into three categories:

  • Consumptive value: value of the products directly without passing the market, wood, fodder and game meat.
  • Productive use value: Value of products through the exploited
  • Non- consumptive use value: Indirect value of ecosystem functions such as watershed protection

South poor people who securing their life from nature, they are just consumers.  Producers are traders and merchants of the North, which are responsible for the destruction of natural wealth. North only has the capacity to protect own interests, not the interests of the South. The poor South is always massive capital exporters to the North. Development and civilization, environmental protection, is the particular policy of the capitalist economy, which is hidden in the form of production and profits. It means that, in the name of development and modernity in Third World countries, people and the environment exploit for their own benefit.

 The North in the name of development of the South, deny the role of the South, as the donor of the biological resources to the North, but at the end again the South people are an underdeveloped society that is what the North calls them. The main cause of poverty in the South is an abundance of produce grown in the North.

The last argument of Shiva“is about intellectual colonization, that the growth of knowledge, the spread of ignorance. She believes that, ignorance greatly is created with the development of scientific knowledge”. She said, “From the traditional view cannot lead us to revert to ignorance, and the ignorance of man-made, will always be with us till the end, and this conscious ignorance is embedded socially”. According to Shiva, “science has two faces: on the one hand, science resulted in the elimination of ecological crises, and the other will cause other problems such as environmental degradation”. For decolonization of the North Shiva recommend two ways, “first of all, the ability of science to solve the ecological crisis is an important step for decolonization of the North, the second step is linked to a refusal to acquiesce to the growing, the pervasive power of ‘intellectual property rights’ ”. (Shiva, 1992, P273).

Another discussion of Shiva at the end of this article is about how the South is robbed by North, and the function of tariff and trade that how the states gave financial freedom and industrialization to the North Corporation companies doing anything but for the growth and survival of the North denied the freedom of the South. Shiva mentioned, trade negotiations are a strange place for products of the mind to be discussed and yet what happened with the rich countries of the North, having forced. And the market power is the apparent motivation for drive privatizations and own life itself. And the white man's life depends on the other species for survival and value and the earth and South have paid heavily for 500 years for the white man's burden.



  • Tripod. (N.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2014, from
  • Shiva, V. (1992). Decolonizing the North. p. 265.
  • US Department of State, Office of the Historian Group. (N.d.). MILESTONES: 1945–1952, Decolonization of Asia and Africa, 1945–1960. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from US Department of State, Office of the Historian Group:
  • Vergragt, P. J. (2006). How Technology Could Contribute. Boston: Tellus Institute.
  • Spirkin, A. (1964). Dialectical Materialism. Moscow: A. S. Pushkin.
  • Chaliand, G. (N.d.). THIRD WORLD: definitions and descriptions. Retrieved April 17, 2014, from Third World Traveler:
  • Srinivas, H. (N.d.). SD Features. Causes of Poverty, pp.





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