Sociologists are adding specific disciplinary accents to the burgeoning literature in colonial, imperial, and postcolonial studies. They have been especially keen to add explanatory accounts to the historical literature on empires. Starting in the 1950s, sociologists pioneered the study of colonies as historical formations. Against traditional anthropological approaches, sociologists insisted on studying colonizer and colonized in their dynamic interactions, asking how both groups were being transformed. Like contemporary postcolonial scholars, sociologists began asking in the 1950s how metropoles were being remade by overseas colonialism and colonial immigration. Echoing discussions in the 1950s among sociologists working in the colonies, current discussions of postcolonial sociology question the applicability of Western social scientific concepts and theories to the global South and ask how sociology itself has been shaped by empire. Current sociological research on empires focuses on six sets of causal mechanisms: (1) capitalism; (2) geopolitics, war, and violence; (3) cultural representations and subjectivity; (4) resistance and collaboration by the colonized; (5) institutional dimensions of empires and colonies; and (6) conflict and compromise among colonizers at the heart of colonial states.


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