Empire and After

Empire and After: Englishness in Postcolonial Perspective

Graham MacPhee
Prem Poddar
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    Empire and After
    Book Description:

    The growing debate over British national identity, and the place of "Englishness" within it, raises crucial questions about multiculturalism, postimperial culture and identity, and the past and future histories of globalization. However, discussions of Englishness have too often been limited by insular conceptions of national literature, culture, and history, which serve to erase or marginalize the colonial and postcolonial locations in which British national identity has been articulated. This volume breaks new ground by drawing together a range of disciplinary approaches in order to resituate the relationship between British national identity and Englishness within a global framework. Ranging from the literature and history of empire to analyses of contemporary culture, postcolonial writing, political rhetoric, and postimperial memory after 9/11, this collection demonstrates that far from being parochial or self-involved, the question of Englishness offers an important avenue for thinking about the politics of national identity in our postcolonial and globalized world.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-333-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Introduction: Nationalism beyond the Nation-State
    (pp. 1-22)
    Graham MacPhee and Prem Poddar

    In recent years there has been a sustained renewal of interest in British national identity at popular, political, and academic levels, and strikingly a common feature in each case has been the concern to differentiate between “British” and “English” and define a distinct sense of Englishness. The English flag (the cross of St. George as opposed to the flag of the United Kingdom, the Union Jack) has gained a currency inconceivable even ten years ago; politicians and media pundits have devoted extraordinary amounts of time to arguing about the nature of English identity, or listing which characteristically local landscapes, persons,...

  5. Part I: Nation & Empire

    • Chapter 1 “As White As Ours”: Africa, Ireland, Imperial Panic, and the Effects of British Race Discourse
      (pp. 25-56)
      Enda Duffy

      The most controversial, and, in recent years, frequently quoted description by a Victorian Englishman of the Irish is the following:

      I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw along that hundred miles of horrible country. I don’t believe that they are our fault. I believe that there are not only more of them, but that they are happier, better, and more comfortably fed and lodged under our rule than they ever were. But to see white chimpanzees is dreadful; if they were black, one would not feel it so much, but their skins, except when tanned by exposure, are...

    • Chapter 2 Writing about Englishness: South Africa’s Forgotten Nationalism
      (pp. 57-72)
      Vivian Bickford-Smith

      Strangely, and despite numerous studies on African and Afrikaner nationalism in recent times, there is still very little analytical writing about the history of Englishness, the “prime nationalism of South Africa, against which all subsequent ones ... reacted” (Ross 1999: 43). In other words, though England and the English are obviously present in an array of South African grand narratives—often as either largely unnuanced heroes or villains—there has been surprisingly little overt analysis of the inculcation, content or experience of this nationalism beyond a single article written twenty years ago (Sturgis 1982). As a consequence of this lacuna,...

    • Chapter 3 Passports, Empire, Subjecthood
      (pp. 73-86)
      Prem Poddar

      The first page of any British passport “requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.” However, as aGuardianreporter notes, for those who hold such a passport but fall under the category of British Dependent territories citizenship or British Overseas citizenship, “the freedom from let or hindrance comes to an abrupt end if they choose to approach our own island shores” (17 April 1991: 18). As a promise...

    • Chapter 4 Friends Across the Water: British Orientalists and Middle Eastern Nationalisms
      (pp. 87-100)
      Geoffrey Nash

      In this essay I shall focus on the identification of English travelers with specific oriental peoples and societies in nineteenth and early twentieth century travel and political writing, and how this might be seen to intersect with considerations of “home.”¹ My geographical areas of concern are England and the Middle East, in the nineteenth century polarities in terms of the conventional binaries of developed/undeveloped, modern/primitive, civilized/uncivilized. The connection between them is established in a body of writings by English travelers to the region, including famous names like Burton, Palgrave, Doughty, the Blunts, and Thesiger.

      In the field of British travel...

    • Chapter 5 Under English Eyes: The Disappearance of Irishness in Conrad’s The Secret Agent
      (pp. 101-118)
      Graham MacPhee

      In recent years, Joseph Conrad’s fiction has been credited with extraordinary insight into the cultural and intellectual implications of European colonialism, a capacity often tied to the author’s status as a Polish exile standing at one remove from the British Empire and its dominant ethos of “Englishness.” Recent interest in Conrad’sThe Secret Agent([1907] 1983), a novel that revolves around an anarchist bomb attack on the Greenwich Observatory in London, suggests that Conrad may assume a similar role for critics and commentators attempting to map the broader cultural significance of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade...

  6. Part II: Postcolonial Legacies

    • Chapter 6 Brit Bomber: The Fundamentalist Trope in Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album and “My Son the Fanatic”
      (pp. 121-138)
      Sheila Ghose

      A CNN segment commenting on the 7 July 2005 London terrorist attacks juxtaposes images of three bearded, swarthy men, identified by a reporter’s voice as terrorists: “shoe bombers” Richard Reid and Sajid Badat, and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, killer of reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. The voice then states, “What do these men have in common? A British passport.” A large image of such a passport fills the screen, covering and replacing the men’s faces.¹ The segment ends by emphasizing the “risk of home-grown terrorism”; the London terror acts were not only executed but also possibly thought up “at home.”...

    • Chapter 7 Crisis of Identity? Englishness, Britishness and Whiteness
      (pp. 139-158)
      Bridget Byrne

      In 1998, the Runnymede Trust set up a Commission on the “Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain” which set out to produce a review of the current state of multi-ethnic Britain. After two years of extensive consultation and discussion, the Commission produced a report which argues that Britain in the year 2000 was at a turning point or crossroads with different potential roads ahead:

      Will it try to turn the clock back, digging in, defending old values and ancient hierarchies, relying on a narrow English-dominated, backward-looking definition of the nation? Or will it seize the opportunity to create a more flexible, inclusive,...

    • Chapter 8. Conserving Purity, Labouring the Past: A Tropological Evolution of Englishness
      (pp. 159-180)
      Colin Wright

      Colonial and postcolonial theorists alike have frequently referred to the “rhetoric of Nationalism,” yet they have rarely considered the application of rhetorical analyses to discourses of nationalism, English or otherwise. The phrase “rhetoric of Nationalism” thus tends to carry simplistically pejorative resonances, tapping into both a traditional philosophical distrust of rhetoric (dating back to Plato) and a liberal critique of nationalism (allying it with right-wing extremism). In contrast, if rhetoric is conceived of more generously—in its full disciplinary complexity as a theory and site of symbolic negotiation—national identity becomes thinkable not only as a violent grand narrative, but...

    • Chapter 9 All the Downtown Tories: Mourning Englishness in New York
      (pp. 181-200)
      Matthew Hart

      This essay analyses the awkward intersection between English nationalism and global neoliberalism in New York City’s British Memorial Garden, which on its completion in 2007, will be dedicated to the memory of the British victims of the September 2001 terror attacks. With the obvious exception of United States citizens, these sixty-seven men and women form the single largest national group of the dead, and with this construction, they will be honored by a memorial that, unique among those on American soil, divides the dead along national lines.

      The Garden will be built on the site of a Parks District property...

  7. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 201-202)
  8. Index
    (pp. 203-211)