Assistant Professor, Singapore Mangement University
Research on the negative impacts of colonialism is well-established across the social sciences. In spite of this, considerable variation exists in how postcolonial states situate their colonial histories within national narratives. Some states frame their colonial experience negatively, denouncing their former colonizers and highlighting anticolonialism as inherent to nationalism. Yet other states highlight the positive elements of colonial rule, valorizing imperial institutions and situating their national identity in continuity with the colonial past. We argue that the way independence was achieved explains this variation: Countries that achieved independence through conflict developed negative frames denouncing their colonial past, while countries that achieved independence through peaceful transition developed positive frames valorizing their former colonizers. Qualitative evidence from three Southeast Asian countries and quantitative analysis on a global dataset of postcolonial states corroborates the theory.