The Story-Time of the British Empire

The Story-Time of the British Empire: Colonial and Postcolonial Folkloristics

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    The Story-Time of the British Empire
    Book Description:

    In The Story-Time of the British Empire, author Sadhana Naithani examines folklore collections compiled by British colonial administrators, military men, missionaries, and women in the British colonies of Africa, Asia, and Australia between 1860 and 1950. Much of this work was accomplished in the context of colonial relations and done by non-folklorists, yet these oral narratives and poetic expressions of non-Europeans were transcribed, translated, published, and discussed internationally. Naithani analyzes the role of folklore scholarship in the construction of colonial cultural politics as well as in the conception of international folklore studies.Since most folklore scholarship and cultural history focuses exclusively on specific nations, there is little study of cross-cultural phenomena about empire and/or postcoloniality. Naithani argues that connecting cultural histories, especially in relation to previously colonized countries, is essential to understanding those countries' folklore, as these folk traditions result from both internal and European influence. The author also makes clear the role folklore and its study played in shaping intercultural perceptions that continue to exist in the academic and popular realms today. The Story-Time of the British Empire is a bold argument for a twenty-first-century vision of folklore studies that is international in scope and that understands folklore as a transnational entity.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-456-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Fields: Colonialism, Folklore, and Postcolonial Theory
    (pp. 1-10)

    In folklore studies throughout the twentieth century, scholars have studied their materials within the boundaries of modern nation states. Therefore, barring comparative analyses between folklore of one country or community and that of another country or community, the history of folklore research, critical studies on folklore collectors and their ideologies, and the socio-political implications of folklore studies have all been seen within national boundaries. This is probably natural for a discipline whose emergence is understood in folklore theory as rooted in the context of the building of modern nation states in Europe.¹ From the concept to its practice, “collection of...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Motive: The Contexts of Colonial Folklorists
    (pp. 11-22)

    Folklorists present narrative and poetic texts born out of someone else’s imagination. Their role in it is of a dilemmatic nature—as writers of the text they invariably mix their own words with those of the oral narrator, as translators they create unprecedented texts. Yet, they are not the tellers of these stories, but the “collectors” of these texts. The act of collection is not a natural creative urge, but a conscious decision based on a reason that “motivates” the author to initiate the act of collection. “Collection” is an intellectual activity in terms of its difference from creative expression....

  7. CHAPTER 3 Method: The Striving of Colonial Folklorists
    (pp. 23-75)

    Devising a method to collect folklore was the most important step in the colonial context, as “method” involved establishing a communication across boundaries of language and culture. In the process of collection, issues of race, power, and violence came into play—a process that Walter Mignolo has termed “coloniality.” METHOD used to compile a collection of folklore was everything, not because it was strictly defined, but because it was not possible to define it at the scale of the Empire. Every collector was faced with a unique situation, brought to the task distinctive skills, and had to work out his...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Theory: Colonial Theories of Folklore
    (pp. 76-114)

    The British colonial collectors are famous for having declared their inability (for lack of time) to theorize upon the folklore materials collected by them. Indeed, there is no formulated theory—neither by the colonial folklore collectors, nor by later scholars. Richard Dorson has detailed the chronology of publications and perceptions separately for India and Africa (Dorson 1968), but has not attempted a theoretical abstraction on colonial folkloristics. In contrast to these claims, close reading of colonial texts lets me propose that colonial collectors constantly offered theoretical abstractions of folklore.

    “Theory” in folkloristics is that particular frame in which any collector...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Story-Time of the British Empire: Transnational Folkloristics as Theory of Cultural Disjunctions
    (pp. 115-128)

    Analyses of motives, methods, and interpretations of the British collectors of Indian and African folklore allow for certain generalizations to emerge. The “global” situation of the colonial folkloristics was at one level only conceptual. For individual collectors it was limited to their engagement with folklore of one or two colonies. Many collectors compiled only a single volume of folklore collection, while some wrote more, but on one or two regions or communities. The narrators, too, were narrating in their “age-old” locales. So how was the situation global? What does “global” mean in this context and how did it impact the...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 129-134)
    (pp. 135-139)
  12. Index
    (pp. 140-145)