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This chapter introduces key concepts in postcolonial studies and discusses recent developments of postcolonial criticism within biblical studies, such as empire studies, liberation hermeneutics, and cultural studies, including materialist, race/ethnicity, feminist, and queer approaches to empire and colonialism.
This chapter asks what it means to read Darwin in the middle of what appears to be the seventh mass extinction in Earth’s history, and the first caused by the actions of a single species, our own. Dipesh Chakrabarty argues that the Anthropocene marks the point at which “the wall between human and natural history has been breached,” thus mounting an unprecedented challenge to the foundations of humanism. However, one could make a similar claim for Darwin. On the Origin of Species arguably ruptured the divide between human and natural history by revealing that we are not, and never have been, fully separate from the web of life. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that the Anthropocene crisis has been brought about precisely by the failure to adequately internalize this central Darwinian insight. Reading Darwin in the Anthropocene means understanding both the degree to which our intellectual milieu is indebted to his work and the fact that his world was profoundly different from our own precisely because of the greater scope and power of what Carolyn Merchant calls “autonomous nature” within it. The historical distance separating us from Darwin marks not only a profound shift in the idea of nature, but in the ontological state of nature itself, which is to say the configuration of existing (and/or vanishing) species and ecosystems completely apart from our ideas of them. We need to reckon with both sides of that equation, and the relationship between them, if we are to understand Darwin’s relevance for our own efforts to forestall mass extinction in the present.
This chapter outlines how the travels of Rowe’s Fair Penitent across Kingston, Calcutta and Sydney accumulated meanings related to the theatricality of state and colonial power, the counter-theater of the subaltern, whether women, Indigenous, enslaved or incarcerated, and the need for limits on patriarchal privilege if national reproduction were to be successful in alien settings and on other people’s lands.
This chapter outlines the historical background to the present by analysing the transition from empire to multicultural democracy that took place in the second half of the twentieth century. It situates the post-1945 history of race and immigration within a broader frame that includes both the role of race in the wider context and deeper history of the British Empire as well as the national and local experiences of race within the ‘mother country’ over a much longer history. We argue in this chapter that it is simplistic to see the postcolonial period as one that saw the move from empire to multicultural democracy. Rather, we suggest that it is important to provide a conceptual and empirical frame that highlights the ways in which processes of racialisation and exclusion helped to fashion a particular politics around race in British society whose consequences remain with us today. And so, we also outline the conceptual frame that we use in the book to explore the changing spheres of political incorporation that have shaped the position of minorities in British society.
The confrontation of the foreign was a key aspect of the theatrical culture of eighteenth-century British culture. The performances of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comic opera The Duenna (1775) in Kingston, Jamaica, and his comedy The School for Scandal (1777) in Calcutta, Bengal, enabled residents to embrace both the love of alterity and the longing for home that were each endemic to colonial life, as the comic figures of the Jew and the nabob and the forlorn figure of the enslaved child suggested that Britishness and otherness were not far removed from each other, as theatrical performance in circulation began to sketch in more similarities than differences dividing us from them.
How a theatrical way of viewing the world, and the performance of English theatre in foreign domains, shaped empirical social theories, secured sovereignty, seized geopolitical space and claimed both knowlege and power over the others on whose land they lived. Provincializing metropolitan culture was crucial to the task.
For the last 5,000 years humans have been steadily transitioning to state/kingdom power structures. This chapter explains the demographic and political causes of the transition to institutional power, most frequently vested in lineages, and the ways in which institutional religions have supported institutional power in states and kingdoms. Personal and institutional power are inversely related in states and kingdoms, and this chapter explorea some examples of authoritarian and libertarian regimes, as well as the conflict within our own (US) society on these questions. Following on the idea of structural power, it reviews various aspects of institutional coercion (laws, taxes, conscription, slavery), as well as the ways institutions regulate the flow of information to control populations (the execution of William Tyndale, Spanish burning of Mayan texts, Nazi book burning, etc.). It finishes by discussing the expansion of empires and the resistance some populations show to externally imposed institutional authority.
The Conclusion brings the works chapters into a synthetic discussion of what this book is designed to do: introduce On the Destruction of Jerusalem to contemporary scholarship and point to the ways in which it can enhance our knowledge of historiography, speech-writing, exemplarity, anti-Judaism, Classicism, biblical reception, and Greek-to-Latin literary adaptation in Christian late antiquity.
Why did Britons get up a play wherever they went? Kathleen Wilson reveals how the performance of English theater and a theatricalized way of viewing the world shaped the geopolitics and culture of empire in the long eighteenth century. Ranging across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans to encompass Kingston, Calcutta, Fort Marlborough, St. Helena and Port Jackson as well as London and provincial towns, she shows how Britons on the move transformed peripheries into historical stages where alternative collectivities were enacted, imagined and lived. Men and women of various ethnicities, classes and legal statuses produced and performed English theater in the world, helping to consolidate a national and imperial culture. The theater of empire also enabled non-British people to adapt or interpret English cultural traditions through their own performances, as Englishness also became a production of non-English peoples across the globe.
W. E. B. Du Bois was one of the most significant American political thinkers of the twentieth century. This volume collects 24 of his essays and speeches on international themes, spanning the years 1900-1956. These key texts reveal Du Bois's distinctive approach to the problem of empire and demonstrate his continued importance in our current global context. The volume charts the development of Du Bois's anti-imperial thought, drawing attention to his persistent concern with the relationship between democracy and empire and illustrating the divergent inflections of this theme in the context of a shifting geopolitical terrain; unprecedented political crises, especially during the two world wars; and new opportunities for transnational solidarity. With a critical introduction and extensive editorial notes, W.E.B. Du Bois: International Thought conveys both the coherence and continuity of Du Bois's international thought across his long life and the tremendous range and variety of his preoccupations, intellectual sources, and interlocutors.
Chapter 1 applies Mbembe’s concept of necropolitics to define necropolitical law as the norms, practices, and relations of enmity that justify and legitimize discounting life through killing, as well as through the diminishing of socially and politically empowered life. Mapping the co-constitutions of racialized discounted lives within the domestic terrain of the United States, as well as in global sites of the long War on Terror, the chapter’s provocation is that law – notions of authority, legitimacy, and community – is at work in effecting the nationally and globally discounted lives of the long War on Terror. Chapter 1 also supplies the contours for the book’s methodology and epistemology: law as culture; an interpretive sociolegal reading for law attentive to law’s archive and law’s violence; a normative commitment to rule of law’s scrutiny and restraint of power; and a suspicion of the roles of spectacle, affect, and publicity in displacing rule-of-law’s commitments to power’s accountability and to law as public thing.
This chapter argues that the various forms of fallibility historically identified in the genre of the essay – the tentative, the unfinished, and the imperfect – add up to a freedom from mastery that is peculiarly conducive to the consciousness of the postcolonial subject. The author examines essays by writers such as J. M. Coetzee, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, C. L R. James, Jamaica Kincaid, and Arundhati Roy.
Despite its enduring strength, the Roman tradition has become unreadable in the twenty-first century. Conventional civil war tropes, however, are consistent and clear. While a narrative about citizen armies clashing against each other on the battlefield accords with the Latin concept – civil war derives from bellum civile – Roman literature figures civil discord as a matter of the heart. Fratricide, suicide, rape, rent marriages, incest, falling in love with the enemy all speak to the violence of same on same that makes civil war not just a matter of formal warfare, but a symptom of the collapse of the social bond. Although the protagonists in civil war narratives are male, the women they love or betray threaten to take over their stories.
Vergil’s ambivalence toward the Augustan renewal sets the stage. His overt celebration of an end to civil war and a new age of imperial expansion, which will direct Roman militarism outward, runs counter to the metaphorical register of both the Georgics and the Aeneid. Rome’s history, from the beginning, into the future, is figured as a struggle, only ever partially successful, to contain internal violence. The tension between his integrative and disintegrative gestures is formative for the Roman tradition.
The Eurocentric critique of the International Relations discipline has brought welcome attention to non-European international thinkers, and anti-colonial or anti-imperial thinkers in particular. Frequently these thinkers and associated movements are rightly described in thematic terms of emancipation, equality, and justice, in opposition to the hierarchical worldview of empires and their acolytes. Notwithstanding the broad validity of this depiction, a purely oppositional picture risks obscuring those aspects of ‘non-European’ international thought that evade simple categorisation. Drawing upon archival material and historical works, this article applies approaches offered by global intellectual history to the works of late colonial Indian international thinkers, exploring the mixed registers of equality and hierarchy, internationalism and imperialism present in their writings. Concentrating on three ‘sites’ connected by the common themes of diaspora and mobility: the plight of Indians overseas in East Africa; the concept of ‘greater India’; and the international political thought of Benoy Kumar Sarkar, the article complicates the internationalism/imperialism divide of the early twentieth century, showing how ostensibly opposed scholarly communities sometimes competed over similar forms of knowledge and ways of ordering the world. This offers a framework by which the contributions of global intellectual history can be applied to the study of international political thought.
Can civil war ever be overcome? Can a better order come into being? This book explores how the Roman civil wars of the first century BCE laid the template for addressing perennially urgent questions. The Roman Republic's collapse and Augustus' new Empire have remained ideological battlegrounds to this day. Integrative and disintegrative readings begun in antiquity (Vergil and Lucan) have left their mark on answers given by Christians (Augustine), secular republicans (Victor Hugo), and disillusioned satirists (Michel Houellebecq) alike. France's self-understanding as a new Rome – republican during the Revolution, imperial under successive Napoleons – makes it a special case in the Roman tradition. The same story returns repeatedly. A golden age of restoration glimmers on the horizon, but comes in the guise of a decadent, oriental empire that reintroduces and exposes everything already wrong under the defunct republic. Central to the price of social order is patriarchy's need to subjugate women.
This chapter contributes to the debates about Samuel Johnson’s politics by considering the inadequacy of “Tory” as a label as balanced by Johnson’s unique contribution to the British public sphere in light of his determination to oppose aggressive forms of cultural nationalism. Considering Johnson’s journalism, his critical biographies, and Rasselas, Hawes explores Johnson’s deliberate cultivation of an anti-colonial perspective that burst through the usual framework for public discussions of the Seven Years War. In opposing the “Whig interpretation of history,” Johnson set himself against the principal vector of expansionist ideology. In his ability to combine anti-slavery and anti-colonial positions, Hawes argues, Johnson is uniquely prescient – and sometimes politically quite radical. His politics need to be understood as specifically anti-colonial, often reframing discussions of supposedly national affairs as manifestations of a colonial agenda.
This chapter examines a series of teapots, produced in the 1760s, whose material and decorative contradictions prompted questions about scale, knowledge, and mortality. By examining these different registers, the chapter reveals the diverse roles these diminutive and densely patterned teapots played in the cultural and social life of eighteenth-century Britain. The designs featured on these teapots sought to represent rock formations and fossils. In a culture increasingly interested in the emerging discipline of geology and the history of the earth, such designs prompted important conversations. At the same time, the materiality of these wares, which was both highly breakable and durable, allowed for questions about material knowledge. The material qualities also asked about the nature of human lives and mortality. Ceramics could be bequeathed over generations and broken in an instant. Finally, the function of these pots and their role in tea drinking, meant that these objects were constantly handled and made animate. The form of these wares was unusual, however, and their discordant features highlighted the “otherness” of objects. In exploring the different decorative, material, and functional aspects of these pots, the chapter shows how relatively small things were particularly adept at asking big questions.
While much has been written about tea utensils as signs of politeness, by comparison very little has been discussed about the box of tea, an indispensable article in the East India Company’s China trade. Still less has been written about the smallness of the box, which facilitated the movement of tea across ocean and land and shaped the aesthetics of protest in North America. Might the box of tea enable us to reassess how the material culture of an emergent British empire was fundamentally an empire of small things? This chapter analyzes smallness as the hallmark of a British colonial aesthetic sharpened by the complexities of the China trade. It examines boxes of tea as maritime merchandise before turning to botanical containers and tea caddies as sites of sensory engagement. Smallness, this chapter contends, emerged as a paradigm of intimacy that embedded an article of botany and commerce into the ebb and flow of domestic life. Like porcelain tea utensils, the small box played its part in tea ceremonies, while securing the careful management of a luxury product.
Two influential contemporary critiques of liberalism call attention to important sources of political polarization. On the one hand we have the claim, most closely associated with the political right, that liberalism promotes an empty, anomic individualism. On the other hand we have the claim, most closely associated with the political left, that liberalism is complicit in the power structures of capitalism and imperialism. In each case a freedom-centered liberalism puts these critics on the horns of a dilemma: they either have to admit that they are also committed to striking an appropriate balance between republican and market freedom – albeit one that is substantially different from the status quo – or else embrace some form of authoritarian or utopianism. I conclude by considering whether and on what terms liberalism so understood can accommodate its contractarian counterpart.