Is imperialism dead?

Same same, but different.

This newsletter was distributed via Mailchimp on 7 July 2019. The following content was reformatted for Substack.


Photo by yours truly. This image is part of a series on how the Catholic Church alleviates, as well as perpetuates, poverty in the Philippines, for Vice Asia.


“Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well." –Frantz Fanon

Having just finished a two-year Master's degree in international development, I've come to question the idea that the world is now a more tolerant place when more nuanced forms of domination continue to proliferate. The imperialism of Ferdinand Magellan and Cecil Rhodes is quite stark by today's standards. Yet, if we define "imperialism" as "a policy of extending a country's power and influence through colonisation, use of force, or other means" (Oxford Dictionary of English, 2019; emphasis added), then the ghost-of-imperialism-past appears alive and well. I wonder whether the Brexiteers would agree, being one of many groups of people who want nothing but to "take back control" from the power-tripping elite.


What I’m Reading

How the US had hidden its empire (The Guardian)

"The United States likes to think of itself as a republic, but it holds territories all over the world – the map you always see doesn’t tell the whole story." 

WeChat is Watching (Nautilus)

Image credit: Kevin Hong

My friend Barclay Bram wrote this piece on how WeChat, a Chinese app that's likened to Whatsapp, is shaping his life in Chengdu, in the Sichuan province, as President Xi Jinping ups efforts to implement a nationwide social credit system. Faced with the choice of convenience, how steadfast will we really be to resist breaches on our privacy? 

How Oxford University Shaped Brexit—and Britain's Next Prime Minister (Financial Times)

What strikes me most about Oxford, as a city, is how steeped it is in history. This article by Simon Kuper illustrates how that history continues to be rewritten in the bowels of the British political class. 


What I’m Watching

You can follow the movies I've been watching on Letterboxd – a social networking site for sharing opinions and reviews on films.

Birds of Passage (2019)

Set in 1970s Colombia, Birds of Passage depicts the indigenous Wayuu people as they were lured by the country's drug trade, entangling them in the claws of modernity where the "New World" enters and tradition dissolves.

Joshua Wong: Teenager vs. Superpower (2017)

This documentary provides the short history leading up to the protests which have recently overwhelmed the news–a movement born out of the efforts of Joshua Wong, a young activist who, in 2011, challenged the implementation of Hong Kong's national education system, criticised for being biased towards the "Chinese model." In light of recent events, the activists of Hong Kong appear to have come full circle–two years after this film was released.  Available on Netflix.


What I’m Listening to

Podcast: 'What does the Hollywood college scandal tell us about class privilege?' on Beyond Today

Imperialism comes in insidious forms–privilege, being one of them. This is about the college admission scandal shaking the United States where wealthy parents bribed top universities to admit their children into undergraduate programmes.

Podcast: 'The Battle for Europe' on The Daily

This five-part podcast series by The New York Times' The Daily, investigates the rise of nationalism across Europe. Episode 1 looks at how the project of regional integration following the Second World War became a scramble back to segregation as mass migration and a crippling debt crisis riddles the continent. 


Cultural Learnings is a newsletter written by Sai Villafuerte. You can support it by sharing this post, emailing your thoughts or answering this survey.

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