Much of the definition of oppression is attributed to its nineteenth-century roots. Particularly, the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, and John Stuart Mill were pivotal in outlining the systematic nature of oppression, which has tremendous influence in its modern forms. On the one hand, the works and philosophies of Gandhi, de Beauvoir, Malcolm X, among others, have added dimensions to oppression, updating its conception to contemporary twentieth century.
Imperialism and colonization dominated the discourse on oppression especially during the early part of the 20th century. From Africa, Asia to Latin America, there was a wave of liberation movements that demonstrated various experiences of oppression and the attempts to be free from it. One of these experiences is the emergence of conflicts such as World War II wherein colonies were expected to provide warm bodies to fight in the frontlines as well as supply the raw materials and augment the war chest of their masters. The wartime sacrifices underscore a form of oppression that has permeated since the previous century and has spilled over to the 20th. Then, individual experiences amidst the dawn of modernity and the increased contact of people from various part of the globe gave rise to the growth of nationalism. This aspect is highlighted in the case of Gandhi. He is one of the most vocal advocates of decolonization in Asia. Gandhi’s crusade for India’s independence from Britain was inspired by personal maltreatment as he was building his career in Africa as a lawyer. As a non-white person, he experienced being thrown out of first-class train car, barred from certain hotel rooms and beaten for no reason but his color.
Gandhi’s philosophy behind the liberation movement he launched underscored a kind of oppression India experienced in its relationship with Britain.