This term is sometimes used to denote the meeting of peoples, ideas and cultures that necessarily accompanied the colonial project. The word “exchange” implies balance, equity and is defined as the “act of giving one thing receiving another (especially of the same kind or equivalent value) in return”. It also connotes an idea of a benign and even desirable cosmopolitanism.

Whilst it’s crucial to remember that colonised peoples had and continue to have their own agency and navigate(d) colonialism in innovative and defiant ways, it’s important and accurate to acknowledge the huge power imbalance and very real material and social consequences of colonial rule that continue to this day. Using a term like “exchange” without qualification obscures these kinds of power relations in favour of an uncritical mutuality, which does not account for the more negative aspects of colonialism.

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