In 1961 Frantz Fanon wrote a book called "The Wretched of the Earth". In the preface of the book Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the following:

The European elite decided to fabricate a native elite; they selected adolescents, branded the principles of Western culture on their foreheads with a red-hot iron, and gagged their mouths with sounds, pompous awkward words that twisted their tongues. After a short stay in the metropolis they were sent home, fully doctored.

I am looking for more historical context behind this thought. Was there a known practice for colonial expansion that included indoctrinating natives with western values before sending them back, or is this an interpretation of events that just occurred naturally through expansion of colonial powers.


2 Answers 2


This practice certainly existed. Within french colonialism:

French colonial officials, influenced by the revolutionary ideal of equality, standardized schools, curricula, and teaching methods as much as possible. They did not establish colonial school systems with the idea of furthering the ambitions of the local people, but rather simply exported the systems and methods in vogue in the mother nation. Having a moderately trained lower bureaucracy was of great use to colonial officials. The emerging French-educated indigenous elite saw little value in educating rural peoples. [...]
In South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975 there were two competing colonial powers in education, as the French continued their work and the Americans moved in. They sharply disagreed on goals. The French educators sought to preserving French culture among the Vietnamese elites and relied on the Mission Culturelle – the heir of the colonial Direction of Education – and its prestigious high schools. The Americans looked at the great mass of people and sought to make South Vietnam a nation strong enough to stop communism. The Americans had far more money, as USAID coordinated and funded the activities of expert teams, and particularly of academic missions. The French deeply resented the American invasion of their historical zone of cultural imperialism.

The boundary between "events that occured naturally" and "known practice" is blurry. If the french believe their ideas of equality (in a capitalist interpretation: everyone has the equal right to form a company, or sleep under a bridge) etc. are basically correct - as long as these ideas don't get into the way of exploiting colonial labor - it would be natural to teach the native bureaucrats these ideas. What else should they teach?

It's been ages since I read Fanon, but my guess would be that he describes the effect of the training, not the more-or-less conscious intent.

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    Thanks for that helpful reply, this provides me with some much needed context. The passage was by Jean-Paul Sartre in the preface to Fanon's book which might be why he didn't go into great detail. May 4, 2022 at 7:30

The practise existed in British ruled India. The British administration decided, despite the Indians request for education in technology and the sciences, to educate them in English literature. In fact, this is the origin of the subject as pounted out by a number of scholars. This way, it acculturated them into 'British values', whilst denying them the actual education they would need to industrialise India - which is one reason why there are still hundreds of millions of poor peasants in India - and there are few in Europe.

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    citations needed
    – RedSonja
    May 9, 2022 at 13:54
  • [citation needed] (from a reputable source). For your unsubstantiated statements.
    – RedSonja
    May 10, 2022 at 7:09
  • 1
    There are indeed hundreds of millions of poor peasants in India, and hasn't Indian been independent since 1947 and hasn't that been enough time for change? May 15, 2022 at 15:35

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