‘An example of colonisation of minds, ideas — South Asia’

The coloniser may be expelled but traces of colonisation remain: Kloeble at KLF session

Omar Qureshi March 28, 2021


Colonisation is often reduced to the occupation of land, the killing and enslavement of people, but South Asia stands as a prime example that the coloniser also colonises the minds and ideas of people.

This region is a depiction of how deep-rooted colonisation can actually be.

These views were expressed by German novelist, playwright and scriptwriter, Christopher Kloeble, on Saturday, during a session titled ‘South Asia and Europe: Connecting the Cultures’ at the 12th Karachi Literature Festival.

“Colonisation doesn’t have to come with atrocities,” he said, adding that even after a country attained freedom, the traces of colonisation remained starkly visible for a long time, making it extremely difficult for a nation to escape the colonial past.

Kloeble then discussed information collection and exchange during colonisation. Speaking in the context of South Asia, he explained that people from scientific backgrounds and professions visited the region to gather information about weather, the region’s terrain, people’s likes and dislikes, agriculture, human behaviour and other subjects.

They conveyed it back to the East India Company, which funded the excursions, said Kloeble, adding that “After gaining all the [needed] information, it became easier for the [colonist] to conquer the world.” “Therefore, scientists were also part of the problem as they worked to facilitate colonisation,” he concluded.

Kloeble also spoke about his writings on India and said he did not see too many similarities between South Asia and Germany, as the former was ruled by the British and not many Germans resided in the subcontinent under the British regime.

“This is why many Germans still don’t know much about South Asia,” he added.

However, Kloeble visited India many times and that, he said, helped inform his characters and include other details of the subcontinent and local trivia in his works. Had it not been for his visits, he told the audience, he would have failed to realise the significance of the details he noted during his frequent trips to the country and included in his works.

Besides, it was the perusal of books and documents on 19th century India, written by explorers, that helped him understand the behaviour of the people at the time, said Kloeble. “I was able to link the behaviour of people to them not establishing colleges for women, fearing that empowering women would lead to society’s downfall, which was helpful for me,” he said.

The playwright further stated the protest following the Delhi rape case in 2012 deepened his understanding of women being suppressed in South Asia. “We have a female chancellor in Germany, but India had a female prime minister much earlier than that. Despite that, if you are a woman in South Asia, even one from a rich family, you are at a disadvantage,” he observed.

“People think a woman’s role is limited to looking after kids and does not include going out for work.” Yet, it is problematic if people in Germany and other developed countries talk negatively about India, he said, explaining that the critique on the ground of India being “dirty” or still in the grips of a caste system implied a sense of superiority among developed nations.

Kloeble then discussed the act of translating literature and other texts and elaborated on what may be lost - or gained - in the process of translation.

Every time a person translates a work, they rewrite it in some way, he said. “Translators are writers and the tone of a book changes when it is translated,” the playwright opined.

Elaborating on this view, he said, “Sometimes, people tend to connect a book with [certain] themes other than what was originally intended because that specific aspect is of importance in their country"


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