The 'Colonization of Mind' By Taye Negussie (PhD)

Taye Negussie (PhD)
Colonization of MindIn its August 2012 issue, in a piece entitled “Ruling through Soft-power”, this magazine described how Western domination of the developing world evolved from the past direct physical control, occupation and colonization (in the eras of slavery and colonialism) through the barrel of gun to the present approach of bringing countries under their hegemonic sphere of influence via the soft-power of popular culture. Rule through the power of cultural influence aspires to captivate the heart of people with the sole purpose of satisfying the selfish interest and greed of the hegemonic power – hence the ‘colonization of heart’.
Together with the popular culture, an equally powerful and yet subtle tool of maintaining and perpetuating Western hegemonic domination entails the intellectual sphere that systematically manipulates and subjugates the mental faculties of people as typified by the West-modeled behavioral education system, thus, the ‘colonization of mind’.
The downward race to subjugation
Evidently, in most developing countries – the former colonies as well as countries that supposedly evaded the direct colonization of the past century such as Ethiopia – the core educational institutions and practices such as medium of instruction, curriculum contents, teaching methodologies, routine administrative practices, methodologies of knowledge creation and dissemination at large are all but modeled after the dominant Western behavioral education system.
To be sure, the educational curricula of most higher educational institutions in these countries are to a considerable extent a copy-paste of Western Universities. The educational texts and reference materials are entirely Western origin. Even local anthropological and historical books have been written either by Westerners or locals but with a Western perspective. Invariably, the medium of instruction is either English or French. And at times, fluency in instruction language may count more than fair comprehension of a subject matter. All academic researches are to be undertaken, evaluated and disseminated strictly within a Western framework. Even, those trivial educational administrative procedures and practices such as European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) as used in many Ethiopian universities in recording course credit sufficiently bear the mark of a Western influence.

Likewise, many elementary and junior schools work hard and fast to give their educational environment a Western texture. Witness the common practices in many private schools here in Addis Ababa that involve an extraordinary and unparalleled dedication to English language, far greater than any other academic subject, to the extent of prohibiting students to converse in any local language other than English; displaying foreigners in advertisements, and even requiring kindergartens kids to address their female teachers with the English honorific title ‘Miss’… , instead of using one from their mother tongue.
Ironically, the pivotal force behind this thoughtless imitation of Western behavioral education system seems to be the indigenous intellectual elites-themselves the fruits of the same educational system and whose world view has fully been westernized – who presumably maintain entirely uncritical and a kind of superstitious belief and attitudes to what appears remotely Western.
Unsurprisingly, this self-imposed intellectual dominion and submission initiative enjoys a huge moral and material backing both from within and outside on a selection mechanism also modeled after the Western system.
Needless to say, through an educational system designed in its favor, the West has now managed to impose its own world views, cultural dogmas and practices on the larger part of our planet. Evidently, this process forms the basis that aided its behavioral education system to assume a hegemonic status at the moment. Nevertheless, this is not to deny the West its immense contribution in providing some fundamental theoretical insights, technological inventions and discovery that significantly improved the lot of humanity. And yet, in my view, making essential contributions and imposing one’s world view upon others ought to be regarded as distinct phenomena. Thus, this piece mainly seeks to explore the latter.
Power-knowledge interplay
As a matter of fact, the hegemonic status of the Western behavioral education system, more particularly Western science, has further been bolstered by a well-orchestrated ideology of scientific ‘objectivity’, ‘neutrality’ and ‘universalism’.
In this regard, a prominent French scholar Michael Foucault in a number of his writings asserts the strong interconnectedness between power and knowledge. He argues that the validity of knowledge does not utterly rest upon its truthfulness but is produced and maintained in circulation through the work of a number of different institutions and practices geared to protect and promote the interests of the power that be.
Foucault provides an analysis of how the European expansion and colonization of a huge part of the world aided to impose their system of knowledge on the colonized countries which they proposed as global ‘objective’ systems of knowledge, but which were, in fact, formulated from a Western perspective with Western interests at their core. This imposition of knowledge took place through excluding other, equally valid forms of knowledge which were perhaps more relevant to the context of the developing countries.
Thus, he disputes out right the widely held view that characterizes the paradigm of Western science as objective, dispassionate and reflective of universal truth. Moreover, history affirms the fact that the Western science itself, far from being simply a neutral, culturally-unbounded and universally valid system of knowledge, it is indeed a uniquely Western cultural construct and historical phenomenon that emerged within the context of the radical economic and socio-cultural transformation that overwhelmed Europe since the 16th century.
Pierre Bourdieu, one of the few most influential sociologist and educationalist of the 20th century, also suggests educational institutions disseminate certain forms of knowledge through which people can be controlled. They disseminate ‘legitimate knowledge’, the knowledge of the hegemonic power, under the illusion of universal knowledge belonging to everyone.
Michael Apple, in his book, Ideology and Curriculum, argues a hegemonic knowledge saturates our consciousness so that every reality we see and interact with seems to be the only one. He is referring here to those organized assemblage of meanings, doctrines and assumptions formally or informally transmitted in educational institutions. It is through hegemonic knowledge that the control over people and resources become smooth. Accordingly, educational institutions become agents of cultural and ideological hegemony that mainly promote the varied interests of the hegemonic power.
Thus, it must be clear that our conventional education system modeled after the West and which we often take-for-granted and leave unexamined could indeed well be a subtle tool that effectively puts us in a tricky state of intellectual subjugation and spiritual enslavement.
Admittedly, some die-hard advocates of Western system may argue that in this time of globalized world the sole route to compete and survive is by virtue of being ‘westernized’; but, the success story of East Asians well informs us that it is indeed quite possible to beat and win in the global arena without necessarily being ‘westernized’.
Taye Negussie (PhD) is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Addis Ababa University. 


  1. I do not necessarly disagree with this analysis but I do not know what he is suggesting? Should we learn everything in Amharic,Oromo or Tigirina? Who would this benenfit? The writer went on to blame “educated elite” for making education westernised but he himself is writing or making his point in English???
    We are a very poor country where the majority of the population suffers from lack of good education. I wish we were thought everything in english and learn our language a as a subject only. This would have given us a head start in this globalised world. Yes, I know you don’t like to hear that but it is a reality. We migrate to dangerous routes better opportunity to compete but the writier argue this to be not proven by comparing us by the Asian Tigers.
    For your information sir, the Asian Tigers did not became what they have become due to sticking to their languge but they were the back yard of Japan; their colonising master who left them with the technology and the industry from which Japan was operating at the hight of its industrialization. Look at Indians. They are very cultured but English is as native as their mother tongue hence they move around the globe easily. As for research and other measures of education being entirely western, what do you expect, when everything from PHD to Birth Certificate is produced at the clique of two fingers by anyone, which is why it is no good to be corrupt. That is the only reason. No credibility. Anyways western education is not going to harm us. That is the least of our problem right now, just encourge education in every avenue.

  2. ይህ ፅሁፍ ምን ለማለት እንደፈለገ አልገባኝም። ዌስቶች ዶሚኔት የሚያደርጉት ያላደጉትን ሀገሮች ብቻ ሳይሆን ያደጉትንም ሀገሮች ነው፣ ለምሳሌ ምስራቅ ሀገሮችን እነ ጃፓንንም ኮርያኖችንም ነው።በመጀመሪያ የስው ልጅ ሁልጊዜ አዲስ ጎማ መፍጠር የለበትም፣የተፈጠረውን ለራስ እንዲሆን አድርጎ መጠቀም ደሞ ትክክል ነው። የዌስት ትምህርትን ወስዶ መጠቀም ከኮሎኒያሊዝም ጋር ምን አገናኘው። እነደዚህ ብለን የኢስት ብሎክን ትምህርት (የሶቭየት ህብረትን) ስለ ላንድ ሎርድ ቡልቴ ወይም ስለ ሚሊሺያ ጫልቱ የሚለውን ወስደን የት ደረስን።በአሁኑ ሰአት አለምን በኢኮኖሚም ሆነ በፓለቲካ አየመራች ያለች ሀገር አሜሪካ ራስዋ እዛው በይበልጥ በሰለጠኑትና አውሮፓውያን ላይ በሶሻል በኢኮኖሚ በፓለቲካ በትምህርት ዶሚኔሽን አላት። ከኮሎኒያልዝም ጋር የሚያገናኘው ምንም ነገር የለም። ታዬ ንጉሴ ” ኢስት አስያ” የሚላቸው ሀገሮች እነማን ናቸው? ምናልባት አንድ የባንክ ባለቤት የሆነ ሰው ለደሀዎች ተመጣጣኝ የሆነ ብድር አበደረ ከሚለው ተነስቶ ይሆን። እነደዛ ከሆነ ነገሮች ሁሉ ይጠባሉ ማለት። ወይስ “ኒዎ ሊበራሊዝም ኢዝ ዴድ” የሚለው የመለስ ዜናዊ አባባል ጋር ይገናኝ ይሆን።
    በመጀመሪያ እኛ የዌስቶችን ስራ የሚጠቅመንን ወስደን በስነስርአቱ እንጠቀምበት እንጂ፣ በተጨማሪም ካለ የኢስት አስያን ወስደን እንጠቀም እንጂ፣ የኢስት አዝያ የዌስት ብሎ መለያየቱ ግን ብዙም ጥቅም ያለው አይመስለኝም። ሁሉንም ከኮሎኒያሊዝም ጋር ማገናኘት የለበንም። እንድያውም ኢስት አዝያኖች በዌስቶች ዶሚኔትድ ናቸው፣ቻይናዎች ራሳቸው የዌስትን ስራ በመውሰድ ነው በአለም ላይ በገበያ እየተወዳደሩ ያሉት ። የዚህ ፅሁፍ ፅንሰ ሀሳቡ አልገባኝም። ብዙው ቲዎሪ ነው። ወደ ፍልስፍናም ይወስደዋል። በፍልስፍና ደግሞ ያደገ ሀገር የለም።

  3. I love Taye’s article. What he said is right from A to Z. If you imitate the west, you produced nothing. You have no confidence in yourself. Learning in one’s own language encourages creativity. Let’s take West African countries for the sake of argument. Nigeria, for instance, has been using English since independence. If a bolt is missing or broken from a given machine, they have to call London for replacement part. Their creative potential is locked. They are not as creative as they supposed to be since their mother tongues have not been mediums of instruction. Nigerians supposed to be on the moon long time a go. The same is true for Ghana, Mali, Ivory Coat…etc. All these counties will remain developing countries for ever because their languages disappeared from private and public life. It is true Nigeria has produced a few well-known writers who have been writing in English. That, however, is not mean it is possible to succeed using foreign languages as a nation.
    One’s own language is very important. All European countries have been using their languages, and they are doing fine. China, Japan, Israel, Iran…etc too, are doing great. Those countries that have been using English, French , Spanish or Portuguese have become tails and beggars. It is dead end for them. 21 million Kenyans do not have toilets after 50 years of independence.
    In conclusion, a country that doesn’t use its own languages is nothing but slaves for ever. It will never create knowledge that creates wealth. Period.

  4. Woyanes are known for introducing a highly discriminative education system to make the majority helpless locals who can not speak any other language than their mother tongue, may be this man is trying to promote their malicious program in a sugar coated fashion. We need to watch out, we have malicious wolves in our midst.

  5. የኛ አንዳነድ ዶክተሮች ችግር ብዙውን ጊዜ ጊዜያቸውን የሚጨርሱት ግሎባል በሆነ አይዶሎጂ ነው። ከሀቅማቸው ውጪ ነው የሚያወሩት። አሁን የዌስት የሆነውንና ያልሆነውን መርጦ መለየቱ አይከብድም ?አራስን ከሁሉም አዛምዶ ተቀብሎ አዋህዶ መስራቱ አይቀልም?። ምሁራን ስለ ኢንተግሬሽን ነው እንጂ ማስተማር ያለባቸው ስለ ዲስ ኢንተግሬሽን ማስተማር የለባቸውም።
    የካንፑቺያው መሪ “ቦልቦት” የተባለው ሰውዬ ፣ የሰው ልጅ ከተማ ምን ይሰራል፣ ገጠር ገብቶ ማረስ አለበት፣ አምራች ማለት ገበሬ ነው፣ ብሎ ወደ ስድስት ሚሊዮን ህዝብ ራሱ በፈጠረው አስተሳሰብ ነው የፈጀው። ይህ ሰው በኢኮኖሚ ያደጉት እነ ጃፓን ስዊድን 80% ከተማ እንደሚኖሩ ሊያወቅ ይችላል ግን ለሱ አያመቸውም ይመስለኛል። ሊሆኑ የማይችሉ ነገሮችን መመኘት ማለት ያለ ዌስት እንፍሉዌንስ መኖር ይቻላል ብሎ ማሰብ ጊዜ ማጥፋት ይሆናል። ወይስ እንደ ድሮው አልባኒያ መሆን አለብን ወይስ እንደ አሁኑዋ ዚምባቡዌ። ቁዋንቁዋን በተመለከተ ከሆነ መጀመሪያ በራስ ቁዋነቁዋ ልክ እንደ ጀርመን እንደ ጃፓንና ኮርያ እየሰሩ የሌላውን እንደ ሁለተኛ በማድረግ መጠቀም በጣም ጥሩ ነው። እንደ ናይጄርያ ግን ቡክ፣ ፔንና፣ ፔንሲልን ብቻ በማወቅ እንግሊዘኛ ተናገሪ ማለት አይቻልም፣ ናሽናል ቁዋነቁዋ ማድረግም የሚጠቅም አይመስለኝም። ኢትዮጵያ ውስጥ የላቲን ፊደል እንግሊዘኛ እያለ ሌላ ደግሞ ተጨማሪ የላቲን ፊደል በአዋጅ በየክልሉ በስራ ላይ ማዋሉ ከእናት ቁዋንቁዋ ጋር የሚያገናኘው ነገር የለም፣ የሰዎች መብት ማስከበሪያም አይደለም፣ ማደናገሪያ ነውእንጂ። እንዲያው የባቢሎንን ዘመን መፍጠር እነጂ።
    ፀሀፊው ያተኮረው በዌስቶች ቁዋንቁዋ ላይ ብቻ ሳይሆን በኢኮኖሚውም፣ በፓለቲካውም፣ ወዘተርፈ ይመስላል። ፀሀፊው ነገሮችን ያየበት መንገድ አድካሚ ነው። አንዳንድ የኛ ምሁራን ትንሽ ተጨባጭ፣ፕራክቲካል፣ የሆነ ነገር ከማቅረብ ይልቅ እነዲህ ውስብስብ ያለ ነገር ላይ ያተኩራሉ። ትዝ ይለኛል ድሮ በቀበሌ አስገድደው ስለ ብዝበዛ ሲያስተምሩን ” ኤስ ሲካፈል በ ቪ ሲባዛ በመቶ” ይሉን ነበር፣ እኔ ድሮም አልገባኝም አሁንም አልገባኝም። ለምን ከጥሁዋት እስከ ማታ አንደሚያስተምሩንም አልገባኝም ነበር። ከሀገር እድገት ጋር ያለው ግንኙነትም አሁንም አልገባኝም። ይሄን ቲዎሪና ፎርሙላ ወደ ሀገር ላስገቡልን ምሁራን የእጃቸውን ይስጣቸው ነው የምለው።

  6. I know my comment will be deleted; but let me write my opinion in regard to this article. I completely understand Mr.Taye. Those of you who could not understand him, it is okay, it is not your level. You have a computer to write comment does not necessarily mean you have deeper ability to analyse. This man so brilliant and know what is going on. Hirut, EPRDF cadre, she just wanted to sell everything and live good life, she cannot think beyond her nose. Mr.Taye, I understand you. I suggest collaborate with like minded people and make a difference. You must understand everyone can not understand you. You must understand there was Ethiopians who support colonization and joined Italian. There will be those who can not think at all beyond their nose. I have been saying all these for about 10 years now. I have been saying the country and the people are being held hostage.The country is blacked out from thinking and innovation because every Ethiopians spends their entire life learning English vocabularies. Even western technologies are not translated to local languages and not accessible to the populous. The entire nation is blacked from technology. if you see, all the developed countries use their language. The only country that has not used its language is Ethiopia. You can check all the languages are even encrypted in an international language data base except our language. Look all the country which use their language, England, France, Swedene, Danmark, Finland, Israel, Korea, Taiwnae, Chinese, Russian, Arabs, Iran, Japanese, Norway, … all these country use their language. You must understand you are talking to colonized mind and do not expect positive feed back from Hirut. We must decolonized Hirut and her likes. There is no short to development by throwing away your language. Language is a tool kit for development. I am 100% with you. We must do something practica. You can contact me, I am very serious.

  7. Dear Geremeaw, please my brother, I beg you to write a proper Amharic or leave like me and write in English. I tried to read it but it is a nightmare. you write English in amhaaric? This is disgusting ; why do u need amahric if you are writing English? why you are write English in Amharic? This is abusive of language. Please either use Amharic or English. I am offended, the tigrignea speakers writer Amharic and English in Tigrignea and the amahric speakers write English in Amharic? what a nightmare , oh my God, I tried to read your comment but I stopped because I could not read the English in Amharic. Please do not abuse Amharic . Dot abuse any language. Please


  8. @gezaee
    የቁዋንቁዋ ሰው ከሆንክ ስለ ኢኮኖሚ ገብተህ ብዙ እንዳታወራ እመክርሀለሁ፣ እሱን ለኢኮኖሚ ለአዋቂዎች ተወው። ፅሁፉ ብዙም ምስጢር የለውም። ድሮ አንደኛ ደረጃ የተማርነው የአብዱል ታሪክንም አታድረገው ለንጉሱ ስለሚስጥር የተናገረውን ማለት ነው። ይህ ፅሁፍ ያልነካካው ነገር የለም፣ ሁሉም የምእራባውያን ተፅኖ እንደሆነ አድርጎ ነው ያቀረበው። የማይጠቅመንን ነገር መውስድ የለብንም፣ ግልፅ ነው። ግን በደፈናው ሁሉንም ከኮሎኒያሊዝም ጋር ማያያዙ ትክክል አይመስለኝም።

  9. @gezaee
    በጣም ተረጋጋና ሀሳብን በነጥብ በነጥብ አስቀምጥ። በተፈጥሮህ አንተ ራዲካል የሆነ አስተሳሰብን ልትወድ ትችላለህ፣ ግን የሚሆነውንና የማይሆነውን መለየት መቻል አለብህ። እነዲያው ዝም ብሎ ቡራ ከረዩ ማለት ምንድን ነው። ይህን ሁሉ ስትፅፍ ምንም ነጥብ እንኩዋን አላስቀመጥክም። እንድያውም ፀሀፊውን ኢሜይልህን በመስጠት ሀይጃክ ነው ያደረግከው። ሰዎችን በቃላት አጣጣላቸውና በአፃፃፋቸው ለመፈረጅም ሞክረሀል፣ ልክ አንተ በምትፈልገው ስለ አልገቡልህ ማለት ነው። ስሜትህን በመቀነስ ለማስረዳት ሞክር።
    ብዙ የዚህን ፅሁፍን ተመሳሳይ ሀሳቦችን የሚያቀርቡ ሌሎች ግለሰቦች አሉ። ለምሳሌ
    ኢትዮጵያ ራሱዋ ኢንዱስትሪያል ሪቮሉሽን ማካሄድ አለባት የሚሉ፣ ሀገራችን ቴክኖሎጂ አያስፈልጋትም በበሬ አርሰን መኖር አለብን የሚሉ፣ እኛ የምንከተለው የቻይናን ሞዴል ነው ማለት፣ አሁን የመጣው ፈሊጥ ደሞ ኢነዶኔዥያ ውስጥ አንድ የባንክ ባለቤት ለደሀ በትንሽ ወለድ ብር አበደረ አለማችንም በሱ መንገድ መሄድ አለባት የሚሉ ተመሳሳይ አስተሳሰቦች አሉ። ለኔ ግን ችሎታ ማለት ኢኮኖሚያችንን፣ ህጋችንን፣ ፓለቲካችንን ከምእራባውያን ጋር አጣጥመን፣ ቁዋነቁዋችንን በማሳደግ፣የሌላውንም ቁዋነቁዋ እንደየአግባቡ በመጠቀም ። ጎጂ ባህሎችን አስወግዶ፣ ጠቃሚ ባህሎችን በመውሰድ መኖር ነው እንጂ።
    ሌላው ፋይዳ የለውም።

  10. Dear PHD:
    I admire you putting this article. It is a very good observation. When I go through the article I see an intellectual person and a victim like anybody else. What have you done to yourself not to be influenced or not to be a victim of such ” metal colonialism” or Did you wake up after the damage is already done? Culture can grow by diffusion or transmission or by both. It is a wise thing to examine every element, to filter out the garbage.
    I believe the West is civilized and technologically advanced compared to the other part of the globe. Hard work, creativity, innovation, invention, system of government and sense of freedom are good things we can emulate from the West.
    I am not really sure that our language can handle all those scientific information and data in a manageable fashion. If it does, it is the sole responsibility of PHDs and the likes to show us the way. I hope the writer will consider such idea of being a pioneer partner with like minds. Good luck to all of us.

  11. @Dr.Taye and @Mr. Gaezee ,
    Both of you are excellent thinker. In Europe there are 45 countries. Each and every country´s educational system in the School and University is in their own mother tongue language.They are copying new things each other in short time with their own language, that is why they are developed (one factor)!.
    According to United Nation study about language, human beings understand more the nature and express their idea clearly and perfectly with their own mother tongue language than the second language or colonial language. Albert Einstein, the father of modern physics was a German Jew. Because of the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933 – 1945, he was emigrated to the USA and was a professor of physics at Princeton University until his death in 1955 in the US. As he was living in the US, he was asked whether he thinks first in German language or English, he answered,”Oh My God, i think at first always in German language(his mother tongue) and then i translate it in English (his second language)”.
    Secondly, language is culture. That means colonial language is colonial culture which dominates our true own culture, norm and identity. We will remain dependent on the culture and norm of our masters and we ignore our culture like Addis Ababa private kindergarten. These children speak neither Amharic nor English correctly. They are lost generations.
    In Ethiopia approximately over 80 % of the population do not understand or speak English, because these 80 % live in the country side with no electricity and clear water, they are illiterate. The rest 20 % speak a broken English. One thing is very encouraging in Addis, the film industries are making film now in Ethiopian language, and people understand it and enjoy it more than the film in French, English or Chinese language.
    If our people can´t fully understand the language, how can our people understand the complex nature of this world, in order to improve their standard of living through research and development. Language is the key factor for development.
    Ethiopia is not an independent nation according to education system in the school and university. We have to be ourselves. Ethiopians should debate openly whether we have to use in the school and at the university level at first, our own language or not.
    Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Russia, Sweden, French, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Finland, Holland… etc. ,except colonized nations, use their own language at first. They are now industrial nations.
    What about Ethiopia? We can do it, in the Internet age, every thing is possible regarding language! Of course we can also learn besides as a second language English, French, Chinese, Arabic, Hispanic, German… etc.
    Thank you Dr. Taye for this noble idea!
    Merry Christmas!

  12. @europe
    ቁዋነቁዋን በተመለከተ የተሰጠው ማብራሪያው ተስማሚ ነው።
    አጠቃላይ በሆነ መንገድ የተሰጠው ማብራርያው ተስማሚ ነው

  13. Definitely, the article is very relevant and eye opener. I know you are critical sociologist. Keep it!

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