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Colonialism in Question

Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History

Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 339
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  • Book Info
    Colonialism in Question
    Book Description:

    In this closely integrated collection of essays on colonialism in world history, Frederick Cooper raises crucial questions about concepts relevant to a wide range of issues in the social sciences and humanities, including identity, globalization, and modernity. Rather than portray the past two centuries as the inevitable movement from empire to nation-state, Cooper places nationalism within a much wider range of imperial and diasporic imaginations, of rulers and ruled alike, well into the twentieth century. He addresses both the insights and the blind spots of colonial studies in an effort to get beyond the tendency in the field to focus on a generic colonialism located sometime between 1492 and the 1960s and somewhere in the "West." Broad-ranging, cogently argued, and with a historical focus that moves from Africa to South Asia to Europe, these essays, most published here for the first time, propose a fuller engagement in the give-and-take of history, not least in the ways in which concepts usually attributed to Western universalism—including citizenship and equality—were defined and reconfigured by political mobilizations in colonial contexts.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93861-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. PART I Colonial Studies and Interdisciplinary Scholarship

    • 1 Introduction: Colonial Questions, Historical Trajectories
      (pp. 3-32)

      The burst of scholarship on colonial studies in the last two decades—crossing the disciplinary boundaries of literature, anthropology, and history—has begun to fill one of the most notable blind spots in the Western world’s examination of its history. Yet there is something strange about the timing: scholarly interest in colonialism arose when colonial empires had already lost their international legitimacy and ceased to be viable forms of political organization. Earlier, when colonialism was an object of mobilization, scholars and intellectuals were most captivated by the drama of liberation movements and the possibilities of “modernization” and “development” for people...

    • 2 The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Colonial Studies, 1951–2001
      (pp. 33-56)

      When Georges Balandier published “La situation coloniale” (The Colonial Situation) in 1951, colonial empires were at the heart of profound debates and struggles. By the 1970s, colonialism had been banished from the realm of legitimate forms of political organization. What remained “colonial” in world politics passed itself off as something else. The burst of scholarship on colonial societies in the 1980s and 1990s thus appears paradoxical, and so too does the lack of response and follow-up to Balandier’s brilliantly incisive article in the two decades after its appearance.

      Colonialism, about which European publics—including left publics—had been ambivalent for...

  6. PART II Concepts in Question

    • 3 Identity
      (pp. 59-90)

      “The worst thing one can do with words,” wrote George Orwell half a century ago, “is to surrender to them.” If language is to be “an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought,” he continued, one must “let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about.”¹ The argument of this paper is that the social sciences and humanities have surrendered to the wordidentity;that this has both intellectual and political costs; and that we can do better.Identity,we will argue, tends to mean too much (when understood in a strong sense), too...

    • 4 Globalization
      (pp. 91-112)

      There are two problems with the concept of globalization, first the “global,” and second the “-ization.” The implication of the first is that a single system of connection—notably through capital and commodities markets, information flows, and imagined landscapes—has penetrated the entire globe, and the implication of the second is that it is doing so now, that this is the global age. There are certainly those, not least of them the advocates of unrestricted capital markets, who claim that the world should be open to them, but that does not mean that they have gotten their way. But many...

    • 5 Modernity
      (pp. 113-150)

      The wordmodernityis now used to make so many different points that continued deployment of it may contribute more to confusion than to clarity. Scholars who use the term are trying to address issues of great importance for debates over past, present, and future. Modernity is evoked in public debate, and such uses demand attention. But modernity is not just a “native’s category”; it is employed as an analytic category as well—defining a subject for scholarly inquiry—and that is where its value is in doubt. Four perspectives on modernity run through much of the academic literature:


  7. PART III The Possibilities of History

    • 6 States, Empires, and Political Imagination
      (pp. 153-203)

      General Charles de Gaulle, speaking in Normandy on June 16, 1946, asserted that here “on the soil of the ancestors the State reappeared.” After the nightmare of defeat, the French state would now reestablish “national unity and imperial unity.” This dualism of nation and empire recurred throughout the speech: the state would “assemble all the forces ofla patrieand the French Union”; it would unite “all the Empire and all of France.” De Gaulle distinguished “the metropole” from “the overseas territories attached to the French Union by very diverse ties,” while evoking the “future of 110 million men and...

    • 7 Labor, Politics, and the End of Empire in French Africa
      (pp. 204-230)

      Having devoted most of this book to conceptual issues and historical arguments that range widely over time and space, I turn now to a specific situation. It is a small part of a bigger story, but I want to tell it with enough narrative density to establish the value of confronting original sources on the politics of decolonization and to suggest the interest in pursuing related topics.¹ But this is not just any case. The conjuncture of World War II—from a little before through the decade after—was a time of definitive change in the political forms available to...

    • 8 Conclusion: Colonialism, History, Politics
      (pp. 231-242)

      Howone does history shapes how one thinks about politics, and how one does politics affects how one thinks about history. I have argued throughout this book for telling a story about colonialism with full attention to the shifting trajectories of historical interaction, to the range of possibilities that people at any time could imagine for themselves and the constraints on their imaginations and on their possibilities of realizing their imaginations. The story cannot be told very well as a tale of progress toward “modernity” or as the advance of “globalization” in the face of people trying to assert their...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 243-312)
  9. Index
    (pp. 313-327)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 328-328)