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Chapter 1 - Race and Empire in the 1890s

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2023

Dustin Friedman
Affiliation:
American University, Washington DC
Kristin Mahoney
Affiliation:
Michigan State University
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Summary

This chapter extends the argument of anticolonial critics, such as Ania Loomba and Sylvia Wynter, to suggest that we think of race less as a distinct, autonomous category and more as an underpinning force contributing to the destabilizing elements of the fin-de-siècle social world. By expanding our theoretical framework to consider late-nineteenth-century manifestations of anti-Blackness, the chapter argues that we can enrich our mapping of the ways that “race” as an expansive category both propped up and disordered the British empire and thereby build on earlier critical interpretations of the workings of empire and difference in fin-de-siècle narratives. To help write toward this reframing, the author turns to Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Story of the Brown Hand” (1899). This short tale about the ghost of an Afghan hillman haunting a British surgeon upon his return from Mumbai (“Bombay”) to Wiltshire teaches us how the brownness of Asians took shape through biocentric terms against the period’s longstanding anti-Blackness in ways that are historically specific but also ongoing in the present.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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