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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: December 2009

4 - The colonialist as a contentious reader: Colenso and his hermeneutics


A bishop there was of Natal

Who took a Zulu for a pal

Said the Kafir ‘look’ ere

Ain't the Pentateuch queer?'

And Converted the Lord of Natal

A nineteenth-century popular verse

The cultural and hermeneutical interaction between the colonizer and the colonized is a complex one. In examining this interaction, colonial discourses often tend to explore the ambivalence and anxiety of the colonized. The last chapter was an example of this. An under-examined aspect of this encounter is the nature of the response of the colonizer. However imperialist and hegemonic the colonizer's role may be, his perception is often sharpened and interrogated by the experience of the colonized Other. Ashis Nandy, the Indian social scientist, in his study of the impact of colonialism on the colonizer, has identified four such reactions: sanctification of institutionalized violence; production of a false sense of cultural homogeneity in colonizing societies; encouragement of religious and ethical theories as part of the colonial project; and imputation of permanence and omnipotency to the colonizer. A rare fifth case involves opting out of the colonial framework and positioning oneself against the hegemonic and expanding discourse of the time. This chapter will consider an example of this last reaction – a model of dissent, exercised in this case by a missionary bishop who engaged in an imaginative hermeneutical and political enterprise, modified and controlled by a colonial mode of thinking.