Anticolonial Eruptions: Racial Hubris and the Cunning of Resistance

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by Geo Maher

University of California Press

3/29/2022, paperback

SKU: 9780520379367


This incisive study reveals the fundamental, paradoxical weakness of colonialism and the enduring power of anticolonial resistance.

Resistance is everywhere, but everywhere a surprise, especially when the agents of struggle are the colonized, the enslaved, the wretched of the earth. Anticolonial revolts and slave rebellions have often been described by those in power as "eruptions"--volcanic shocks to a system that does not, cannot, see them coming. In Anticolonial Eruptions, Geo Maher diagnoses a paradoxical weakness built right into the foundations of white supremacist power, a colonial blind spot that grows as domination seems more complete.

Anticolonial Eruptions argues that the colonizer's weakness is rooted in dehumanization. When the oppressed and excluded rise up in explosive rebellion, with the very human demands for life and liberation, the powerful are ill-prepared. This colonial blind spot is, ironically, self-imposed: the more oppressive and expansive the colonial power, the lesser-than-human the colonized are believed to be, the greater the opportunity for resistance. Maher calls this paradox the cunning of decolonization, an unwitting reversal of the balance of power between the oppressor and the oppressed. Where colonial power asserts itself as unshakable, total, and perpetual, a blind spot provides strategic cover for revolutionary possibility; where race or gender make the colonized invisible, they organize, unseen. Anticolonial Eruptions shows that this fundamental weakness of colonialism is not a bug, but a permanent feature of the system, providing grounds for optimism in a contemporary moment roiled by global struggles for liberation.

Number 15 in the University of California Press series American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present.


"This book is a treasure, dissecting the insidious workings of colonialism in degrading the colonized. It is also a roadmap for resistance and decolonization."--Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, historian, professor emerita, and author of Not "A Nation of Immigrants"

"While structural violence is omnipresent and ubiquitous, this book is a necessary reminder that it is not, however, inevitable. Geo Maher's latest book is a necessary telling of the subversive cunning of global rebellion, deftly illuminating the long history and contemporary path of revolution and resistance unfolding around us."--Harsha Walia, author of Border and Rule and Undoing Border Imperialism

"In this short, sharp book, Geo Maher reads the ruling-class tendency to describe anticolonial, antislavery, anticapitalist, and antiauthoritarian violence as an 'eruption' as a way to map both the tectonics of revolution and the ideological loam beneath which democratic demands are obscured until they burst into plain sight. Any real change in our society or in the world more generally, Maher suggests, is more likely to result from action rather than argumentation."--Walter Johnson, Winthrop Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

About the Author:

Geo Maher is Visiting Associate Professor of Global Political Thought at Vassar College, author of Decolonizing Dialectics and A World without Police, and coeditor of the Duke University Press series Radical Américas.