Colonialism II

New Imperialisms, New Colonialisms, and New Political Geographies

The later decades of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth century witnessed European colonialism accelerate in pace and expand in scale. By 1914, much of the world was shaped by this process and its attendant, entwined webs of trade, migrants, political power, and knowledge. Historians usually trace this acceleration to the 1870s when free trade imperialism gave way to the more protectionist, competitive colonial order of the later nineteenth century. Certainly, global economic instabilities from 1873 to 1896 propelled the industrialized economies into an increasingly urgent search for new sources of raw materials and new markets for their manufactured goods. Further, when the leading imperial powers met at the Berlin Conference (1884–85) in an attempt to preserve free trade, their inability to agree a formula led to a more trenchant ‘new imperialism’ whereby the European powers carved up huge swathes of territory as secure resource bases and markets. The Scramble for Africa, for example, left 90%of the continent under colonial rule. At a global scale, from 1885 onward, an additional 20% of the world’s territory and 10% of its population were brought under direct European control. For some commentators, this ‘new imperialism’ was the apogee of European expansionism; indeed, for some, 1870–1914 constitutes the ‘Age of Empire’.

This second articles on colonialism outlines this process briefly. It focuses upon the ways that space and colonial territory became finite in this period, and consequently, how they became prizes to be claimed, then mapped, surveyed, and delimited, and thereafter to be disputed and redistributed by the Western imperial powers. In particular, it outlines the growth of the political geographical theories and practices that in some instances prompted these projects, and in many cases facilitated and legitimated them. It is noted that the production of geographical knowledge was not a unified process in this period, and that there was some ambivalence and debate about the ties between geography and empire. In general, however, geographical knowledge and practices provided increasing service that assisted, explained, and facilitated colonialism. This serious intellectual support helped to produce an increasingly variegated mosaic of colonial territories from the 1870s. It also resulted in an ever more politicized geography, and a new subfield of political geography, that addressed this colonial world.

Colonialism Amidst Global Closure

The colonial world was far more fluid and manifold than can be outlined here; it changed and evolved as the world it co constituted became more globalized, interconnected, and enmeshed. In addition, far from being the uniform, coherent impress sometimes envisaged in Western imperial capitals, colonialism was contingent and experienced differently in each context as colonial policies were negotiated locally by the many groups involved. These complex and shifting matrices of culture, power, diplomacy, technologies, consensus, and oppression therefore produced numerous different experiences of empire, and an account of this length can only be partial. That said, this article highlights two complications that particularly impacted upon the political geography of colonialism from the 1870s.

One complication of the late nineteenth century was that the reenergized imperialism of long established powers such as France and Britain was augmented by the nascent imperialism of more recent states. After unification in 1871, the German state established territories in Cameroon, Togoland, Namibia, and Tanzania in the mid 1880s. Meanwhile, the Italians, unified in 1861, also sought their ‘place in the sun’ with a stuttering colonial campaign in East Africa from 1885. Elsewhere, longerestablished states also began forging empires on the back of their expanding economies. The United States seized the Philippines from the dissolving Spanish empire in 1898, while the Japanese began expanding into parts of East Asia in the same decade. Meanwhile, the Russian Empire consolidated its possessions across Siberia and central Asia. Indeed, colonialism became so commonplace that the Belgian King Leopold II felt able to develop a private empire in the Congo from 1885. Imperial ambitions, therefore, were spreading in scope and scale, and direct colonial rule was visited upon still more world regions as a consequence.

A second complication arose in the form of the ‘closing world’. Some commentators worried that the era of European expansionism since the fifteenth century was threatened by a looming shortage of (what was imagined to be) vacant space. Africa was almost fully partitioned by 1891, and even the North and South Poles would be ‘conquered’ by 1911. For anxious observers, this crisis of space portended a world where states would have to coexist in an interconnected, interdependent system. Some episodes in the mid nineteenth century had emphasized the increasing connections between European states. The cross border contagion of the continent wide crash of 1847–48, and the subsequent working class uprisings in France, Italy, and Germany demonstrated this growing relatedness. New communications and transport technologies also imploded the experience of space, distance, and time. The 1869 opening of the Suez Canal, for instance, collapsed the travel time between Asia and Europe. It brought the ‘Orient’ ‘nearer’ to Europe, and was further evidence of this space–time compression.

These changes therefore entailed a radical shift in the human experience of space. Geographical imaginaries had to be reconceptualized and geography was forced onto national agendas. The responses of European governments – as they struggled to reassert control – revolved around territorial concerns. First, governments increasingly erected tariff barriers in attempts to insulate flailing economies from the unstable world economy. Second, the European powers constructed a complex matrix of military alliances that, some argue, eventually precipitated World War I. Third, as noted above, states old and new engaged in colonial expansionism in search of raw materials and new markets, while hoping that empire building might also unite (or at least distract) metropolitan populations. The changing context also demanded new geographical theories to help explain this closing world. These will be expanded further after discussion of another aspect of geography that flourished in this period.

Making Colonial Space with Maps and Boundaries: Practical Political Geographies amidst Global Closure

One aspect of geographical ‘science’ fundamental to patterning the world with colonies was the practice of cartography. This was significant because it was through maps, surveys, and boundary making that colonizing powers were able to demarcate, represent, and, by extension, know their colonial territory. In addition to constructing these political units practically, maps also helped to constitute colonies symbolically for audiences in Europe. They were among the most significant tools of Western imperialism, and demonstrate clearly geography’s central role in imperial service.

From the mid 1970s, critics exposed geography’s service to imperial militarism and expansionism, and there is now consensus that rather than see geographical knowledge as objective, detached data, we should regard it as an assemblage of power–knowledge central to the construction and governance of territory. The role of maps in this process rests partially upon their frequent use in the direct application of political authority. Their collation of information about topography, settlements, population distribution, and other data makes them crucial to the effective military suppression of territory. Thereafter, this same encompassing grasp of data helps facilitate the direct policing, control, and governance of space. Yet, these explicit political applications are often masked by the widespread, popular faith in the apolitical objectivity of cartographic ‘science’, and this latent power of maps augments their explicit applications. Consequently, maps and survey routinely became an instrumentalized part of colonial government.

Perhaps inevitably then, the new imperialism changed the nature of colonial cartography. In Africa, for example, earlier European maps of the continent were constructed primarily to locate trading stations and ports for commercial purposes. After 1884, they focused increasingly upon defining and delimiting newly bounded colonial territories – for cartography was the way of cementing knowledge of, and control over, overseas regions. The lasting significance of this process is evidenced by the modern maps of Africa that are still patterned by many of these colonial boundaries. Indeed, we have now lost sight of how significant the practical business of boundary making was. In this era of colonial rivalry, borders needed to be defensible and sometimes militarized too; likewise, establishing firm divisions between Self and Others was also of symbolic importance for colonizers. In Britain, key politicians, such as George Curzon, and leading figures in geographical institutions, such as Thomas Holdich, each theorized effective boundary making at length. Meanwhile, those working in the field busied themselves creating robust and durable borders by fitting them to lines of latitude and longitude, or to natural features such as ridges, rivers, or lakes. Indeed, boundary making was seen as a significant, applied geographical practice, and record of this work can be found throughout the geographical journals of the period.

Yet the problems with grafting Western concepts of bounded nation states onto African landscapes were legion – particularly as the cartographers and boundary makers seldom paid attention to extant African territorialities or traditions of conceptualizing political space. As a result, nations were divided, and communities were subject to changes of imperial rule at a stroke. But again, the subsequent longevity of these alien territorial models is in part testament to the power of maps. For these colonial boundaries were established by an apparently accurate, irreproachable ‘science’, and once these newly surveyed lands were enshrined within cartographic documents as unified, European colonial territories, they would be reproduced as such increasingly, accruing evermore credibility over time. By contrast, the indigenous geographies and place names that these Western maps erased were increasingly forgotten. In extremis, imperial mapping flattened and buried local geographies, instead producing maps that portrayed desocialized, vacant lands ripe for colonization.

The disregard for African territorialities reached its nadir when colonial territory became a diplomatic currency traded by imperial powers after their conflicts elsewhere. For instance, the border between British Nigeria and the German Cameroons altered three times between 1886 and 1919. First, a geometric border was established as the British and Germans scrambled for African territory. Second, German expansionism from 1901 to 1906 established new ‘natural frontiers’ related to geographical features. Finally, after World War I, as the British and French squabbled over the partition of this German colony, a new border was: ‘‘ydrawn in a casual way with a blue pencilyby a diplomat [in London] who knew nothing of the lands and peoples he was dividing’’ (Yearwood, 1994: 218). Again, for local communities, this arbitrary process entailed new rulers, new citizenship, and revised colonial burdens. Worse still, their creeping symbolic power meant that each iteration of these maps would further subsume local geographical knowledge. As many Europeans also saw the practice of cartography as another marker of their superiority over the colonized, map making visited further slights upon local communities.

The full complexity of the relationship between cartography and empire cannot be outlined here, but it should be clear that both the process of mapmaking and the maps themselves were significant elements in constructing the colonial world. Further, the belief that geographical experts – with maps and data to hand – were among the best placed to construct new states after conflict persisted through to the mid twentieth century.

Theorizing Political Geographies and Colonial Expansionism amidst Global Closure

Late nineteenth century Europe also saw geography established as an academic discipline in the main imperial states. By resonating with the prevailing Darwinian zeitgeist, geography positioned itself as the science that explained the differing connections between society and environments across space. It did this above all via theories of environmental determinism. Studies that mapped racial groups and related their supposed social development to differing geographical conditions became central to colonial discourse. But another legacy of this period was that many of these new professional geographers were keen to demonstrate both their practical reach and their political relevance to the states that funded them. One such public service was the attempt to conceptualize and explain the changing context of the closing world. A distinctive product of this response was the development of political geography – a perspective that focused upon questions of territory, state, and nation. Mindful of their obligations and despite their supposed objectivity, proponents of this new political geography often sought to justify colonial expansionism; likewise, others proposed ways to reorder the world after conflict.

For instance, the 1890s found Friedrich Ratzel, the figure who established German academic geography, worried about his country’s future in a world of diminishing space. He proposed a way of responding to this context with his theories of the ‘organic state’ and Lebensraum (‘living space’) in his 1897 book Politische Geographie. Here, Ratzel moved beyond orthodox legalistic notions to theorize states as organisms that, given natural selection, had to expand and devour the space and resources of adjacent states or be consumed themselves. For Ratzel, because the Germans were a ‘strong’ people due to their long established roots in the German soil, they would inevitably expand to attain their appropriate Lebensraum. Indeed, this process could be read as the natural, biological law behind state growth, with colonialism revealing the Darwinian order of states. Yet Ratzel’s theories were also inflected by his nationalism and his status as a colonial agitator keen to see Germany become a continental and colonial power. These interests ensured that Ratzel’s theories were soon mobilized to provide sustained intellectual support for German colonialism in Europe and beyond.

In Britain, this changing world also agitated Halford MacKinder – the founding figure of British geography. He mirrored Ratzel’s inseparable interests in geographical education and politics: he regarded ‘thinking geographically’ as essential to the continued health of the British Empire. He sought to educate Britain’s elite about the looming threats of the closing world in his paper: ‘The geographical pivot of history’ in 1904. This article identified the potential of recent over land transport technologies (particularly railways) to integrate the vast resources of North, West, and Central Asia. As this extensive region was invulnerable to British maritime power, it had the potential to expand relentlessly, and unimpeded, throughout Eurasia and Africa, to eventually conquer the globe. Mackinder’s theory was not only a warning for the British Empire, but it was also a way of rethinking the changing world by considering its intersections of space and politics, or better, its political geography.

Innovative though they were, these Eurocentric theories assumed that Western powers enjoyed a remit to intervene globally. They also saw colonial empires as a solution to the challenges of the closing world. A few dissenting voices objected to these cosy links between geography and imperialism. The Russian anarchist and geographer Petr Kropotkin complained that the discipline should be promoting cooperation between peoples rather than Darwinian struggles over territory. Other leftist geographers in France, Ireland, Italy, and the UK also worried about geography’s state service. These concerns, however, were outweighed by the majority of geographers who put their scholarship at the service of expansionist states – a process that accelerated further in the twentieth century.

Reconfiguring the Colonial World: Redrawing Boundaries with a Politicized Geography

By 1914, one third of the world’s population and a half of its territory were under colonial rule. Consequently, the European wars of the early twentieth century infected regions much further afield, and colonial troops died for ‘mother countries’ they had never seen. More specifically, World War I led to colonies being transferred – again, as a diplomatic currency – from defeated to victorious powers at the post war Versailles peace conferences. According to US president Wilson – the most powerful voice at Versailles – the world was to be reconfigured along lines of national self determination. This did not apply to those colonies deemed unready for self governance, however. They became League of Nations mandates overseen by established imperial powers. The Ottoman Empire’s Middle Eastern colonies were divided between the British and the French, for example. Here was the political geography of colonialism writ large as borders were redrawn and colonies were mandated to new rulers overnight.

The modern state of Iraq finds its origins in this process. In 1919, the Versailles diplomats mandated the erstwhile Ottoman territory of Mesopotamia to the British, who had been developing their presence in the oil rich region since 1914. So alien was the initial administration imposed by the British, however, that both the Shia and Sunni communities united in armed resistance. The British quelled this opposition, and in 1921 proclaimed a new state that forced together the Sunni communities around Basra in the south, with the Shia regions around Baghdad in the center of the new territory. The Kurdish lands to the north were also incorporated, as was the region around Mosul in 1925, after a lengthy border dispute with Turkey. These different ethnicities were contained within die straight stretches of boundaries that betray their construction by British cartographers. In theory, the tensions between these groups would ease with time: 80 years on, they provide fault lines that appear to be unraveling – despite the West’s continued belief in its right to intervene in the region.

The colonies were secondary to the main business of Versailles, however, which was the reconstruction of Europe. This process also involved territorial realignments as the shattered Austro Hungarian and German Empires were stripped of territories, and a series of new states were created. In part designed to contain any future German resurgence and to buttress Europe against the Soviet Union, these new states were also supposed to provide national self determination for the peoples of Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe. Once again, politicized geographers were involved in constructing new borders and states. Isaiah Bowman, director of the American Geographical Society, became the key player in the House Inquiry: the body that furnished the US diplomats with details, statistics, and maps as they sought to construct the world that Wilson’s idealist agenda demanded.

At face value, the House Inquiry provided objective, scientific geographical knowledge: independent expertise that was entrusted with determining national destinies. In practice, this was not always so. When Bowman needed data to underpin the US plans for the former Austrian–Hungarian Balkan territories, for instance, he commissioned the respected Serbian geographer Johan Cvijic to provide it. Cvijic produced a series of maps representing the region’s population density, and its religions and languages (which were considered markers of ethnicity). These data helped to underpin the creation of Yugoslavia: a new state proclaimed as a coherent ethnic mix, despite the Croat, Albanian, Bosnian, Montenegran, and Slovenian populations alongside the majority Serbs. Yet, Cvijic had been mapping these populations since 1906, and had gradually exaggerated the distribution of Serbs, while downplaying the scale of the Albanian and Macedonian populations to the south of Serbia. Nevertheless, Cvijic’s skewed representations resulted in a Serbian-dominated state. As we saw in the 1990s, after the demise of Cold War certainties and the death of long standing Yugoslav President Tito, this imbalance and the long subsumed ethnic rivalries of the former Yugoslavia prompted civil war.

These brief vignettes demonstrate how the Versailles conferences, often relying on geographical expertise, refashioned colonial territories. The diplomats hoped they were establishing a stable, peaceful world order. The perceived slights of the settlements, however, prompted revisionism from some of the totalitarian states that also emerged from the chaotic aftermath of World War I.

The Political Geographies and Accelerated Colonialisms of Inter-War Totalitarianism

The unparalleled slaughter of the Great War begot consequences beyond its stark demographic impact. So encompassing was the trauma that increasing numbers began questioning long established social and political models. The economic downturn from 1929 yielded additional damage and prompted further radical thinking. While liberal democracy struggled onward in most imperial powers, communism promised different solutions in the Soviet Union. Elsewhere – notably in Italy and Germany – fascist, totalitarian regimes emerged with alternative revolutionary programs. Both the Italian and German regimes were nationalistic, bellicose, and felt cheated of their territorial rights at Versailles. Subsequently, both developed clear foci upon territory and engaged in sustained, accelerated colonial expansionism. These two contexts also catalyzed Europe’s largest geopolitical movements, which both supported colonial aggrandizement intellectually. This article continues by outlining the theories and practices of these totalitarian colonial geographies briefly.

The strictures imposed on Germany at Versailles were seen as vindictive by many. Karl Haushofer, a demobbed general who returned to civilian life as a Munich geography professor, was particularly irked by the Allies’ use of geographical knowledge at the conferences. In response, he was determined to apply geographical knowledge to solve Germany’s problems, and he thus developed a geopolitical perspective that melded the political and the spatial to explore the inter war flux of boundaries, territory, and resources. Articulated through his journal, Zeitschift fu?r Geopolitik, this nationalist, applied perspective asserted Germany’s right to reintegrate its territory and people, to develop the nation’s geographical imagination, and to advise on its territorial reorganization. It also justified a renewed German empire overseas and in Eastern Europe by adapting Ratzel’s ‘organic state’ and Lebensraum theories. With these theories pushed to their limits, geopolitkers proposed a vast German empire encompassing a North–South sector of the Earth that included all global environments. This empire would consist of a colonial hinterland in Africa and Scandinavia that served the industrial heart of Germany. Parallel panregions in Asia and the Americas were also theorized as self sufficient territorial blocks. The plan, therefore, was for global scale colonial empires in the future.

Haushofer’s geopolitics augmented other forms of applied science under Nazism that also called for renewed German imperialism overseas and in Eastern Europe. These ideas were realized from 1937 onward as Nazi expansionism ripped through Central and Eastern Europe, and into the Western Soviet Union. In the latter regions especially, the Nazis planned a distinctive accelerated colonialism whereby, after military conquest, these areas would be cleared of the peoples deemed alien to the Third Reich. The dark histories of this killing perhaps constitute the nadir of European expansionism. Eventually, Nazi ambitions envisaged the construction of German colonial landscapes. Although facilitated by the modern disciplines of area research and spatial planning, these were to be socially conservative landscapes of rural towns and settler colonies stocked by soldier farmers with large families. The aim of this ‘total planning’ was for 20 million ethnic Germans to be consolidated within the Reich by the late twentieth century. They would work the ‘German’ soil of Eastern Europe and constitute an ‘East wall’ against Bolshevism. Ironically, however, the maps and statistics produced by German geographers to support this vision were eventually used to partition Germany after 1945.

In Fascist Italy, geopolitical theories also developed in response to the Versailles conferences and their perceived failure to rectify Italy’s paltry share of the colonial world. In 1930s’ Trieste – itself a border city transferred from Austria in 1919 – political geographers Giorgio Roletto and Ernesto Massi developed an Italian version of geopolitics amidst the wider politicization of Italian geography under Fascism. Their monthly journal Geopolitica (1939–42) declared a unique, synthesizing perspective. It claimed to encompass all elements of the unstable modern world, while offering ‘scientific’ arguments for expansionism with this ‘geographical doctrine of empire’. Such ambition resonated with Fascist Italy’s wider colonial ambitions – not least because Italy was a relative latecomer to colonialism. Initial adventures in Eritrea and Somaliland from 1885 were inconclusive; later, an 1896 defeat at Adowa in Ethiopia was disastrous. Nevertheless, the desire to rank alongside other European powers prompted successive governments to nibble at the few remaining slivers of Northern and Eastern African territory. In 1911, Italy invaded Ottoman controlled Libya’s coastal regions, and, after 1918, started to extend their rule southward into the Sahara. Under the belligerent Fascist regime from 1922, this process accelerated.

In Libya, for example, this entailed a threefold process of conquering the space and population militarily, then mapping and surveying the territory, and finally, settling a new colonial landscape with Italians. The military conquest involved using modern warfare against the indigenous resistance. In Cyrenaica and the interior, this entailed a lengthy campaign that cost of over 80 000 Bedouin lives. Once this ‘pacification’ was complete, the Italians began mapping and surveying the region. Between the later 1920s and 1942, the state cartographic service had mapped almost the entire 1.8 million km2 of Libya. As elsewhere in the colonial world, the symbolism of mapping newly conquered territory and deploying this modern, ‘scientific’ practice was acknowledged explicitly. Also, as elsewhere, the cartographers were augmented by a series of interdisciplinary surveys of the Libyan interior from the early 1930s. The Societa` Geografica Italiana – with its close ties to the state and its tradition of supporting field sciences – organized this self proclaimed ‘colonial science’. Seven expeditions were despatched into the Sahara, and returned enough data for the Italians to construct a European version of the territory that could be comprehended by them as a governable colonial domain. Indeed, so explicit was geography’s service to this accelerated colonialism that one historian labeled Libya ‘‘an authentic laboratory’’ of ‘‘geographical science’’ (Del Boca, 1988: 272).

Finally, the regime created settler colonies along Libya’s coastal regions. These were to be populated by veterans and their families who were housed in the same explicitly modern, spatially ordered settlements that had been developed in the ‘internal colonization’ of the Pontine Marshes to the South of Rome. Save for those voices recovered by Ali Abdullatif Ahmida, we know little of the indigenous perspectives on this late European colonialism, and we need to explore these further. Similarly, we need to learn more about the lesser studied colonialisms, such as the Italian, Portuguese, or Dutch experiences, to broaden our appreciation of the whole imperial era.

Decolonization and Rethinking Colonialism

The Spanish Empire began to disintegrate in the nineteenth century, while, as noted above, the Ottoman, Austro Hungarian, and German empires were dissolved in 1919. Decolonization in the remaining European empires gathered pace in the inter war years as the growing opposition of the colonized surfaced amidst the period’s wider turbulence. As the shattered economies of the Western powers reeled after World War II, the process accelerated and was largely complete by the late 1960s.

There were some exceptions to this process although, in many respects, these demonstrate how imperialism changed and adopted more amorphous forms after 1945. Both superpowers of the Cold War period maintained relations with other states that can be considered colonial (or neocolonial) ties. The Russian Empire – as the Soviet Union until 1991 – retained its post 1945 Eastern European territories into the 1980s. It also developed a distinctive colonial socialism that extended into these ‘satellite states’. Conversely, the United States of America entered 1946 with a growing economy and an interest in developing its overseas influence. The neocolonial hold that the US had maintained over South America since the nineteenth century was now extended to other world regions. Arguably this was US colonialism by stealth: a shift from discredited territorial possession toward the ‘informal imperialism’ that rendered the world as a market for the US goods. Indeed, Western development and aid policies aimed at the Global South attracted allegations of exploitative neocolonialism from dependency theorists from the 1960s onward. The ideological, economic, and military contest between the uperpowers also trailed a series of conflicts in some former colonial possessions and satellite states. In these respects, colonialism did not fade away with the decline of formal imperialism, it simply changed its form and remained a significant actor in global affairs.

In the twenty first century, a growing debate explores the nature of contemporary empire. One position echoes the point above, and holds that formal imperialism has transmuted into new, flexible forms of capitalism that extend around the globalized world. But others insist that this deterritorialized world – with its flows of trade, finance, peoples, and cultures – still struggles with remnant structures of territoriality, borders, and the regulation of bodies within these frames. Hardt and Negri highlight the tensions within this emerging global geopolitical framework as the focus of sovereignty shifts from state centric perspectives to more decentred, fluid, biopolitical foci. Yet others insist that neocolonialism retains the tendency to install social divisions between peoples and places in our contemporary world.

Postcolonial studies emerged in parallel with decolonization. This project sought to undermine the naturalized assumptions of colonial discourse, to recover colonial voices and perspectives, and to complicate our appreciations of colonial experiences. It also sought to decenter Western narratives of the colonial era. Historically, for example, academic interpretations of imperialism had often been resolutely Eurocentric. Influential early commentators such as Hobson and Lenin read colonialism as something visited upon the underdeveloped world as a consequence of expanding Western capitalism. Many post 1945 Western models for the Third World echoed this ethnocentrism: designing states that mirrored their former colonial masters. Likewise, modernization theory – and its associated aid programs – assumed that the social, political, and economic development of former colonies should also replicate prior European experience.

Rather, postcolonial perspectives and new imperial histories have been eager to emphasize how colonial processes impacted upon both colonial realms and Metropolitan lands. They have exposed the myriad hybrid cultures constituted relationally by empire and that remained hidden between the blunt binary divisions of European colonialism. They also address the variations of colonial experience in different places, and how colonialism’s influence crept into domestic spheres, impacted upon individual bodies, and how it stretched into the biopolitics of population management and control. Increasingly, and at their best, postcolonial approaches are also sensitive to how colonial experiences were inflected by race, gender, class, and other subjectivities. To this end, scholars have focused upon retrieving the voices and experiences of all corners of colonized subjectivity and, increasingly of late, exploring the experience of postcoloniality – of being shaped by colonial cultures.

Geographers can serve this debate with discussion of the shifting spatialities of colonialisms past and present, of the changing natures of territory and boundaries, and of the roles of their discipline in representing, calculating, constructing, and reconfiguring the colonial world. This discussion of the political geographies of colonialism is curtailed by space and this article is unable to stretch much beyond the usual categories of late European imperialism. Other colonialisms from beyond Western Europe remain under researched, and the study of colonial modernity in each different context requires further attention. We also need more reflection upon the countless ways that the cultures of colonialism echo into our postcolonial present – that is, recognizing that colonialism did not simply happen in distant times and distinctive places, but produced much of our modern world.