Nick Hughes

"Discourse on Colonialism" by Aimé Césaire

Nick Hughes shares poet and polititian Aimé Césaire's "Discourse on Colonialism," which critically analysed colonialism's long-lasting effects.

Discourse on Colonialism (cover) by Aimé Césaire Originally published in 1950

Discourse on Colonialism was originally published in 1950

Aimé Césaire was born in 1913 in Martinique when it was a French colony. He was a poet – his first major work ‘A Notebook of a Return to my Native Land’ was published in 1939. He was also a politician – elected as mayor of Fort de France and Representative to the French National Assembly in 1945. Césaire served as mayor and assembly representative until 1993 – 47 successive years. Discourse on Colonialism was originally published in 1950.

Césaire’s writing is powerful, visceral, confrontational, capable at times of acerbic and surreal humour, but also of eliciting reactions of shock and even repulsion. He unmasks the values of colonialism which he argues persist into his own time, compelling the reader to think about the long-term legacies of colonialism – both how historic injustices may be due for redress or reparation, but also whether the values of colonialism may persist unchallenged in institutions and practices that are still with us today. For example, his criticisms of colonial justifications for land expropriation on the basis of a claimed “efficiency” of production, challenge us to ask whether similar justifications are still at work in arguments in favour of private property ownership over customary or collective land use systems.


Name Nick Hughes (he/him)
Role Staff
Department The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources


A growing library of references recommended by staff and students across the Bartlett

view all

Share your references and work with us! Help shape our collective curriculum.

Get in touch!