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date: 05 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

There are three macro-level actors typically identified in the connection between contested decolonization, escalating levels of violence, and shrinking civilian spaces: the imperial authorities that resisted pressure to withdraw, settler populations wedded to white minority rule, and the anti-colonial nationalist groups determined to impose social control. This chapter discusses how reductive explanations of this type begin to unravel as soon as the forms of violence practised are explored. It is not that political struggles between imperialists and their opponents were irrelevant to violence and the ends of empire, but instead to indicate that violence in the late colonial world was rarely as binary as fighting “for” or “against” empire. There are multiple reasons for this violence, most being directly related to social standing, but remote from any unifying decolonization narrative. The most proximate of all was holding civilian status—a category whose juridical fragility was matched by its spatial insecurity.

Keywords: Insurgency, violence, decolonization, civilian, non-combatant, counter-insurgency, massacre, human rights

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