Colonial VoicesThe Discourses of Empire
This accessible cultural history explores 400 years of British imperial adventure in India, developing a coherent narrative through a wide range of colonial documents, from exhibition catalogues to memoirs and travelogues. It shows how these texts helped legitimize the moral ambiguities of colonial rule even as they helped the English fashion themselves. An engaging examination of European colonizers’ representations of native populations Analyzes colonial discourse through an impressive range of primary sources, including memoirs, letters, exhibition catalogues, administrative reports, and travelogues Surveys 400 years of India’s history, from the 16th century to the end of the British Empire Demonstrates how colonial discourses naturalized the racial and cultural differences between the English and the Indians, and controlled anxieties over these differences
Acknowledgments vii 1 Introducing Colonial Discourse 1 2 Travel, Exploration, and ‘‘Discovery’’: From Imagination to Inquiry 12 Imagining Multiple Worlds: The Fantasy of ‘‘Discovery’’ 18 The Narrative Organization of Discovery 29 ‘‘Inquiry’’ and the Documentation of the Others 41 Conclusion: ‘‘Discovery’’ and Wonder, ‘‘Contracted and Epitomized’’ 49 3 The Discourse of Difference: Constructing the Colonial Exotic 55 The Colony and Imperial Wealth 57 The Exotic in English Culture 59 The Colonial Exotic: Aesthetics, Science, and Difference 60 The Sentimental Exotic 62 The Scientific Exotic 79 Conclusion: From the Indian to the Colonial Exotic 95 4 Empire Management: From Domestication to Spectacle 104 The Domestication of Colonial Spaces 106 Administering Colonial Spaces 121 ‘‘Raising the General Credit of the Empire’’: The Spectacle of Empire 140 Conclusion: Imperial Improvisation and the Spectacle 145 5 Civilizing the Empire: The Ideology of Moral and Material Progress 161 England’s Age of Improvement 164 Discipline and Improve 170 Imperial Lessons 174 The Salvific Colonial 178 Rescue, Reform, and Race 183 Conclusion: From Improvement to Self-Legitimization 194 6 Aesthetic Understanding: From Colonial English to Imperial Cosmopolitans 201 The Self-Fashioning of the Scholar-Colonial 204 Antiquarian Aesthetics and Colonial Authority 213 ‘‘Consumption, Ingestion, and Decoration’’: Colonial Commodities 219 The ‘‘Empire City’’: Pageantry and Empire 226 Conclusion: From Colonial English to Imperial Cosmopolitan 229 References 235 Index 260
Pramod K. Nayar is a member of the English Faculty at the University of Hyderabad, India. He has been Smuts Visiting Fellow in Commonwealth Studies at the University of Cambridge, the Charles Wallace India Trust–British Council Fellow at the University of Kent at Canterbury and Fulbright Senior Fellow at Cornell University. His many publications include States of Sentiment: Exploring the Cultures of Emotion (2011), An Introduction to New Media and Cybercultures (2010), Postcolonialism: A Guide for the Perplexed (2010), English Writing and India, 1600–1920: Colonizing Aesthetics (2008), and Writing Wrongs: The Cultural Construction of Human Rights in India (2012). Forthcoming is a book on new media.
Drawing on a vast array of textual sources, this analysis of the discourse of colonialism tracks the many narratives and narrative strategies of imperial domination. Focusing on British involvement in India, the material collated for this revealing study includes travelogues, administrative reports, memoirs, letters, exhibition catalogues, anthropological tracts, parliamentary debates, and instruction manuals. It shows how subtle changes of emphasis reflect evolving colonial attitudes toward conquered territories, shifting from flights of the imagination to factual inquiry, to a narrative of exoticism and heterogeneity that safely compartmentalized colonial “otherness” via natural history, ethnography, and cartographies of disease. The book adopts a thematic approach to elucidate the cultural myth-making at the height of European colonialism in the nineteenth century, focusing on law and order, landscape-planning, and domestication, and showing how dominance and political power were naturalized through awe-inspiring spectacles that humbled natives into obedience. This constructed colonial narrative helped legitimize imperial ambitions as charitable humanitarianism, rather than expose them as asset-stripping and economic manipulation. Finally, the narrative examines colonial aesthetics, arguing that disciplines like archaeology and art history situated Indian art and architecture within a colonial project of interpretation, ironically co-creating fresh notions of “Englishness” and English characters.
"Nayar makes the field of 'colonial discourse studies' irresistible to anyone seeking to explore the complex relationship between textual production, (South) Asian Orientalism, and the politics of empire building." - Walter S. H. Lim, National University of Singapore "Drawing on an enormous range of writing, Dr. Nayar provides a lucid and nuanced analysis of British representations of India as a continent to be discovered, controlled, ‘civilized’, and incorporated. This important book by one of India’s leading scholars gives students and scholars a significantly new understanding of the complex nature and history of colonial discourse regarding India." - C.L.Innes, University of Kent "A theoretical and historical perspective on colonial discourse…an impressive demonstration of the nature and power of discourse using an array of texts from the archive of British India." - Nandana Dutta, Gauahati University
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