Deconstructing The Colonial Narratives Surrounding Migration — Part 3

6 min readJan 16, 2022

Binarist Thinking And The Dehumanization Of The ‘Other’

Western Europe after the Alhambra Decree (1492) is a totally different place than before. With a Bubonic Plague that killed most of the continent’s population a century before and a colonial structure ready to be deployed worldwide, it was only a matter of time before a myriad of new laws got adopted by the rising colonial superpowers and that would seal the fate of the worldwide political and economic landscape for the next five centuries.

Welcome to the ‘Modern Era’ and its unmistakable binarist thinking.

Colonialism is based on the idea of an exploitative, coercive relationship between a colonizer and a colonized (the Aristotelian “masters/slaves” duality). The European ‘Renaissance’ marks the rise of the western European male who owns property, as the only accepted referentiel for the colonizer while everything else will be considered as ‘Other’ (women, men without property, non-whites etc.) that can and should be colonized.

“The Noble Savage” by John White, Virginia 1585. Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

In order to normalize that perception of the world on a global scale, a system of narration was needed to justify the dehumanization of the Other.

Here are 3 examples of narratives designed to accompany the European colonial project:

The myth of the “Noble Savage”

The origins of white washing go deep back in History.

One of the most efficient narratives European scholars have used in the 16th, 17th century and afterwards, is the myth of the “Noble Savage” (in French “Le bon sauvage”).

In order to justify the objectification of non-whites, necessary to their instrumentalization as slaves, Europeans have invented the fantasy according to which extra-european peoples were supposedly in a pre-human condition similar to that of animals: not knowing civilization nor culture.

A page of Omar ibn Said’s autobiography, written in Arabic in 1831, and a restored, colorized photograph of Omar ibn Said, right, around the 1850s. (LOC/Yale University Library)

In reality, when Europeans arrived to the African coasts, they found flourishing kingdoms and sophisticated cities they made sure to passionately…




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