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Critical Perspectives on Colonialism: Writing the Empire from Below

ISBN: 9780415537384 | 041553738X
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Routledge
Pub. Date: 12/23/2013

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Over the last few decades, the study of texts has increasingly occupied centre-stage within the study of empire. A now voluminous literature emphasizes the ways in which such 'texts' represented and objectified colonial 'others', thus serving as key mechanisms for the production of 'difference' and, in turn, for the establishment and maintenance of empires. Given the intensely textual character of colonialism, the written word has been acknowledged as a key technology of imperial power. This collection extends this field of study by bringing much needed focus to the vibrancy and vitality of minority and marginal writing about empire, and to their implications as expressions of embodied contact between imperial power and those negotiating its consequences from 'below'. While considerable attention has been paid to the ways in which hierarchies of gender have shaped such texts, the existing scholarship tends to privilege published texts and also the writing of colonizers. Hence vernacular and performative forms of writing the empire have been largely overlooked, leaving an important history of the highly contested history of empire mostly untapped. In addressing this gap, the essays in this collection explore how less powerful and less privileged actors in metropolitan and colonial societies within the British Empire have made use of the written word and of the power of speech, public performance, and street politics. This book breaks new ground by combining work about marginalized figures from within Britain as well as counterparts in the colonies, ranging from published sources such as indigenous newspapers to ordinary and everyday writings including diaries, letters, petitions, ballads, suicide notes, and more. Showcasing remarkable historical research by leading historians working with an impressive array of original material from around the globe, the chapters in this collection bring to light largely hitherto unknown histories of subalternity. Critical Perspectives on Colonialismexplores the extent to which writing can serve as a weapon of the powerless, focuses on the entangled, interactive and dynamic character of the relationships between the spoken and the written word, and illustrates the significance of fragments on our understandings and definitions of 'the archive' and how we write history from and about the margins. Each chapter engages with the methodological implications of working with everyday scribblings and asks what these alternate modernities and histories mean for the larger critique of the 'imperial archive' that has shaped much of the most interesting writing on empire in the past decade.

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