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Tensions of Empire

Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World

Frederick Cooper
Ann Laura Stoler
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: 1
Pages: 463
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  • Book Info
    Tensions of Empire
    Book Description:

    Starting with the premise that Europe was made by its imperial projects as much as colonial encounters were shaped by events and conflicts in Europe, the contributors toTensions of Empireinvestigate metropolitan-colonial relationships from a new perspective. The fifteen essays demonstrate various ways in which "civilizing missions" in both metropolis and colony provided new sites for clarifying a bourgeois order. Focusing on the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, they show how new definitions of modernity and welfare were developed and how new discourses and practices of inclusion and exclusion were contested and worked out. The contributors argue that colonial studies can no longer be confined to the units of analysis on which it once relied; instead of being the study of "the colonized," it must account for the shifting political terrain on which the very categories of colonized and colonizer have been shaped and patterned at different times.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91808-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda
    (pp. 1-56)
    Ann Laura Stoler and Frederick Cooper

    Europe’s colonies were never empty spaces to be made over in Europe’s image or fashioned in its interests; nor, indeed, were European states self-contained entities that at one point projected themselves overseas. Europe was made by its imperial projects, as much as colonial encounters were shaped by conflicts within Europe itself. How one goes about identifying the social and political reverberations between colony and metropole is a difficult task. This collection is built on extensive appraisals that are occurring within history, anthropology, and literary studies and contributes to efforts to revamp both our terrains of inquiry and the very questions...

  6. Part I: Framings

    • 1 Liberal Strategies of Exclusion
      (pp. 59-86)
      Uday S. Mehta

      In its theoretical vision, liberalism, from the seventeenth century to the present, has prided itself on its universality and politically inclusionary character. And yet, when it is viewed as a historical phenomenon, again extending from the seventeenth century, the period of liberal history is unmistakably marked by the systematic and sustained political exclusion of various groups and “types” of people. The universality of freedom and derivative political institutions identified with the provenance of liberalism is denied in the protracted history with which liberalism is similarly linked. Perhaps liberal theory and liberal history are ships passing in the night spurred on...

    • 2 Imperialism and Motherhood
      (pp. 87-151)
      Anna Davin

      Around the beginning of this century infant life and child health took on a new importance in public discussion, reinforced by emphasis on the value of a healthy and numerous population as a national resource. During the nineteenth century most political economists had tended to believe with Thomas Malthus that excessive population was dangerous, leading to the exhaustion of resources, and consequently to war, epidemic disease, and other natural checks on growth. This argument was strengthened by Darwinist notions of the struggle for existence as an essential part of the survival of the race.¹ In the last decades of the...

    • 3 Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse
      (pp. 152-160)
      Homi Bhabha

      The discourse of post-Enlightenment English colonialism often speaks in a tongue that is forked, not false. If colonialism takes power in the name of history, it repeatedly exercises its authority through the figures of farce. For the epic intention of the civilizing mission, “human and not wholly human” in the famous words of Lord Rosebery, “writ by the finger of the Divine”¹ often produces a text rich in the traditions of trompe l’oeil, irony, mimicry, and repetition. In this comic turn from the high ideals of the colonial imagination to its low mimetic literary effects, mimicry emerges as one of...

  7. Part II: Making Boundaries

    • 4 Images of Empire, Contests of Conscience: Models of Colonial Domination in South Africa
      (pp. 163-197)
      John L. Comaroff

      In the mid-1820s, John Philip, superintendent of the London Missionary Society at the Cape, stepped up his controversial campaign for the right of “coloured peoples” to sell their labor in a free market (Ross 1986: 77 ff.). His arguments, laid out inResearches in South Africa,called on no less an authority than Adam Smith: the “vassalage” of the coloreds, he declared (1828, 1:367), not only violated the “principles of political economy”; it also had a “depressing” moral effect on the entire population, making the “aborigines” into worthless miscreants and their masters into idle tyrants. Anticipating both Durkheim and Hegel,...

    • 5 Sexual Affronts and Racial Frontiers: European Identities and the Cultural Politics of Exclusion in Colonial Southeast Asia
      (pp. 198-237)
      Ann Laura Stoler

      This essay is concerned with the construction of colonial categories and national identities and with those people who ambiguously straddled, crossed, and threatened these imperial divides. It begins with a story aboutmétissage(interracial unions) and the sorts of progeny to which it gave rise (referred to as métis, mixed-bloods) in French Indochina at the turn of the century. It is a story with multiple versions about people whose cultural sensibilities, physical being, and political sentiments called into question the distinctions of difference that maintained the neat boundaries of colonial rule. Its plot and resolution defy the treatment of European...

    • 6 “The Conversion of Englishmen and the Conversion of the World Inseparable”: Missionary Imperialism and the Language of Class in Early Industrial Britain
      (pp. 238-262)
      Susan Thorne

      When the Rev. George Greatbatch arrived in North Meols, a small village in western Lancashire, his “heart sank” before the widespread “ignorance and general behavior” of the native population.¹ The area to which Greatbatch had been sent by the Lancashire Itinerant Society shortly after its founding in 1801 (Greatbatch was the society's first appointment) would be described by one of his successors as “probably one of the most unenlightened and uncivilized parts of the kingdom”² Greatbatch himself decided to submit to an arduous fifteen-mile commute from Newburgh rather than bring his wife and children to live among such a people:...

    • 7 Race, Gender, and Citizenship in the German Colonial Empire
      (pp. 263-284)
      Lora Wildenthal

      One of a recent series of antiracism posters in Berlin has asked, “When you think, Who is German, is the thought at the back of your mind really, Who is Aryan?” It is an unkind but accurate analysis of widely held, powerful assumptions that pervade discussions of xenophobic and racist violence, political asylum, citizenship, and naturalization. Antiracists as well as proponents and passive supporters of racist violence often take it for granted that victims and potential victims, particularly people of color, are foreign. However, the image of a homogeneous white German people confronting a legally and culturally distinct foreign people...

  8. Part III: Colonial Projects

    • 8 “Le bébé en brousse”: European Women, African Birth Spacing, and Colonial Intervention in Breast Feeding in the Belgian Congo
      (pp. 287-321)
      Nancy Rose Hunt

      A group of Western family planning experts elicited this remark from one Zairian while investigating “traditional” methods of birth control in Kasai and Shaba in 1976 and 1977. The survey team was interested in the “cultural precedent” of Zairian mothers abstaining from sexual intercourse while nursing. This way of “regulating fertility and spacing children” seemed to indicate that “long before the influx of Western ideas, the understanding of the importance of child spacing to maternal and infant health was widespread in these cultures.” The researchers were alarmed by Zaire’s population growth rate, and feared the country’s 27 million people would...

    • 9 Tradition in the Service of Modernity: Architecture and Urbanism in French Colonial Policy, 1900-1930
      (pp. 322-345)
      Gwendolyn Wright

      When the Parisian art critic LCandre Vaillat visited Morocco in the 1920s, he was enraptured with what he saw. Casablanca and especially Rabat seemed to represent the convergence of two diametrically opposed paths for twentieth-century cities: a modern vision of wide, orderly streets coexisted, apparently peacefully, with the picturesque charm of the indigenous North Africa madina, a setting adapted to a more traditional way of life. Morocco, Vaillat wrote, is “a laboratory of Western life and a conservatory of Oriental life.”¹

      Like other astute European visitors, Vaillat recognized that this cultural imagery constituted an essential element of the French colonial...

    • 10 Educating Conformity in French Colonial Algeria
      (pp. 346-370)
      Fanny Colonna

      In 1912, Rector Jeanmaire answered a journalist who had accused him of being the tool of an educational policy that clearly favored the natives: “I won’t believe that what is good for our children is bad for native children” These words became famous and are often cited as a definitive and irrefutable expression of the neutrality of the school system in Algeria.¹ According to the republican version, proof that the educational system stood independent of the colonial power lay in its indisputably assimilationist instruction of the Algerians and in its desire to maintain in the colony the same objectives as...

  9. Part IV: Contesting the Categories of Rule

    • 11 The Difference—Deferral of a Colonial Modernity: Public Debates on Domesticity in British Bengal
      (pp. 373-405)
      Dipesh Chakrabatfy

      In nationalist representations, the colonial experience of becoming modern is haunted by the fear of looking unoriginal. This is understandable, for some of the founding myths of European imperialisms of the last two hundred years were provided by narratives that, as Meaghan Morris has recently reminded us, always portrayed the modern as something that had already happened somewhere else.¹ Nationalist writings therefore subsume the question of difference within a search for essences, origins, authenticities, which, however, have to be amenable to global-European constructions of modernity so that the quintessentially nationalist claim of being “different but modern” can be validated.² While...

    • 12 The Dialectics of Decolonization: Nationalism and Labor Movements in Postwar French Africa
      (pp. 406-435)
      Frederick Cooper

      Patterns of decolonization are particularly difficult to unravel because we know the end point: the emergence of the independent state from colonial rule. It is tempting to read the history of the period from 1945 to 1960 as the inevitable triumph of nationalism and to see in each social movement taking placing within a colony—be it by peasants, by women, by workers, or by religious groups—another piece to be integrated into the coming together of the nation. What is lost in such a reading are the ways in which different groups within colonies mobilized for concrete ends and...

    • 13 Cars Out of Place: Vampires, Technology, and Labor in East and Central Africa
      (pp. 436-460)
      Luise White

      This essay is about things that never happened. The African vampires discussed here are not the undead but men and occasionally women specifically employed—as firemen in East Africa and game rangers in Central Africa—to capture Africans and extract their blood.¹ Such vampires were said to exist throughout much of East and Central Africa; they were a specifically colonial phenomenon and were first noted in the late 1910s and early 1920s. In the colonial versions of these stories, most vampires were black men supervised on the job by white men, but in postcolonial versions who works for whom has...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 461-462)
  11. Index
    (pp. 463-470)