Shut-up and listen: Implications and possibilities of Albert Memmi’s characteristics of colonization upon the “natural world”

Sean Blenkinsop, Ramsey Affifi, Laura Piersol, Michael De Danann Sitka-Sage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper begins by exploring the anti-colonial work of Tunisian scholar Albert Memmi in his classic book The Colonizer and the Colonized and determining whether the characteristics of colonization that he names can be successfully applied to the current relationship between modern humans and the “natural world”. After considering what we found to be the five key characteristics: manufacturing the colonial, alienation and unknowability, violence, psychological strategies (bad faith), and language, history, and metaphor we draw clear parallels, through selected examples, to the exploitative relationships enacted in many realms of the modern human/nature relationship. In so doing the paper posits that the beings that comprise the “natural world” are colonized. It then continues from that position to explore the possibility of cultivating practices of listening to the voices of these colonized others to inform anti-colonial ecopedagogy as allies. We employ the term “shut-up” as an anti-colonial gesture to remind ourselves as much as others of the importance of first listening to the colonized other before engaging in “post-colonial” theorizing about prospective relationships or liberatory solutions “for” them. Given the fast-paced and cacophonic urban life many humans increasingly inhabit, and the disciplined and reiterative practice(s) required to learn to listen to other voices, we suggest caution and care when importing postcolonial theory into “environmental” contexts and seek to instigate further discussion as to how we might enact solidarity with other beings as anti-colonial allies in education. To this end, we conclude the paper with some educational implications based on research at a place-based school and focus on the role history, language and metaphor play in manufacturing a colonial relationship, but also provide a potential means for changing relationships with the diverse beings with whom we share the planet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-365
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Philosophy and Education
Issue number3
Early online date23 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • environment
  • colonization
  • Albert Memmi
  • education


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