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Barbaric Custom and Colonial Science

Teaching the Female Body in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan

Janice Boddy

This chapter explores the process of reforming ‘refractory’ female bodies in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. It discusses the goals of the Midwives Training School in Omdurman and the methods of the British women who established it during the 1920s and 1930s in light of ethnographic data from the rural north. I suggest that while midwifery training had contradictory outcomes and failed to under- mine the logic that underpinned the practice of pharaonic (female) circumcision, some aspects of it became woven into the fabric of Sudanese daily life in unexpected ways. Parties to the colonizing venture looked, inescapably, in two directions at once: to the imme- diate situation in which they were mutually engaged, and to the respective cultural contexts of health from whence they came and in which they remained grounded.

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Images, Selves, and the Visual Record

Photography and Ethnographic Complexity in Central Cape York Peninsula

Benjamin R. Smith

This essay addresses anthropological engagement with photography in indigenous Australian contexts. Following the work of Gell and Edwards, and drawing on the history of photography and ethnography in central Cape York Peninsula, I explore some ways that photographs may exceed relations of objectification and exoticism. Many ethnographic photographs have continued to circulate within and beyond Cape York Peninsula, while others have been returned to the descendants of those portrayed. This process of circulation may be accompanied by shifts in the meanings drawn from images, and increasing numbers of photographs are being taken by Aboriginal people themselves. Both these photographs and the engagement of earlier photographs by Aboriginal people demonstrate differences with the ways that photographs are dealt with in ‘Western’ contexts. Whether as ‘social things’, as objects, or as distributed aspects of the agency of those taking or featuring in them, photographs remain active in their interaction with viewers and demand a more nuanced analysis of colonial relationships.

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Missionaries and Colonialism in a Postcolonial Museum

Or, How a Finnish Peasant Can Become an African Folk Hero

Ian Fairweather

This article sets out to locate a particular postcolonial museum in its historical context, concentrating on local responses to change. It focuses on the specific historical interaction between villagers in northern Namibia and Finnish missionaries, and demonstrates that the dynamics of this interaction have led the villagers to remember the past in terms of a cleavage between pagans and Christians that is played out in the regular performances that take place for foreign visitors at the Nakambale museum. I argue that the performance of ‘tradition’ allows local people to transform the narrative presented in the physical layout of the museum into one that both emphasizes their own historical agency and demonstrates their contemporary Christian identities. The traditional/modern dichotomy implied by the museum’s narrative of the civilizing influence, brought by Christianity, provides them with an opportunity to do just that.

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Worst Conceivable Form

Race, Global Capital, and The Making of the English Working Class

Zach Sell

W. E. B. Du Bois noted that the nineteenth-century US slave plantation corresponded with the factory in its worst conceivable form. This article expands upon Du Bois's insight to consider the emergence of the English working class in correspondence with American settler slavery and colonial projects within the British Empire. From above, elites theorized about the exploitation of labor as a world historical project to compare the enslaved, the colonized, and the English worker against one another. From below, proletarian intellectuals imagined the freedom of English laborers through the condition of the enslaved in the American South and Jamaica and the colonized in South Asia. By placing these histories from above and below together, this article argues that it is impossible to conceive of the English working class making itself and being made at remove from the enslaving and colonizing projects of global capital.

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Cécile Mathieu

*Article translated by Matthew Roy

This article explores French imaginaries of different human groups between the world wars through a study of the Larousse universel of 1922. Dictionaries are generally assumed to be reliable tools for understanding language, reflecting a single, universally accepted, and neutral norm. In fact, as this article demonstrates, the Larousse universel of 1922 conveys an imaginary of otherness very specific to the time and place of its publication. Analyzing ethnonyms (names of peoples or ethnic groups) and demonyms or gentilics (names for residents or natives of a particular place) as well as the associated illustrations, I provide a typology of the dictionary’s treatment of the otherness of different peoples. Exoticism, colonization, war, and zoology emerge as the four themes around which human groups are concentrated. In particular, the predominance of the semantic feature warlike reveals the worry suggested by “the foreign” in the aftermath of World War I.

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From Exoticism to Authenticity

Textbooks during French Colonization and the Modern Literature of Global Tourism

Claudine Moïse

*Article translated by Francine Tolron

This article explores the French fascination with “the primitive” and “the exotic” in the post–World War I years through a study of representations of the French colonies in textbooks intended for primary and secondary schoolchildren. It then compares these representations with contemporary French-language tourist literature in Ontario, Canada, demonstrating continuities between these “exotic” representations of the colonial other and contemporary discourses centered on “authenticity” in the world of international tourism.

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Of Pirates, Postcards, and Public Beheadings

The Pedagogic Execution in French Colonial Indochina

Michael G. Vann

While there is a large body of literature on violence in colonial history, most studies have looked at either the bloodshed of conquest, major revolts, or decolonization. Despite the undeniable importance of such moments in the history of empire, an over-emphasis on these events creates a punctuated narrative where violence enters the story line, rears its ugly head, and then retreats. This paper argues that a complete understanding of the colonial encounter requires us to look at the violence in the many days between the arrival of the colonizers' expeditionary forces and the final achievement of national liberation. By examining the intersection between a rebellious band of pirates, a colonial state bent on revenge, and an opportunistic postcard maker, the portrait that emerges is one of a colonial society where violence was not just commonplace but an essential technique in maintaining the colonial order. Be it in the form of criminal violence that challenged French rule, the institutionalized violence of the state execution, or the symbolic reminders of such violence in the form of cheap postcards for sale in the city streets, acts, images, and memories of colonial violence were omnipresent. Importantly, the colonial state publicized its violence, making its ability to punish known to all. This violence terrorized the conquered native population and reassured the vulnerable white community. It is only in this context that other topics in colonial history such as educational reforms, city planning, and economic development can be understood.

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Susanne Grindel

Taking as its starting point the current debate over the significance of history in the National Curriculum for England, this article examines the place of the country's colonial past in its national culture of memory. In the context of debates about educational policy and the politics of memory concerning Britain's colonial heritage, the author focuses on the transmission and interpretation of this heritage via school history textbooks, which play a key role in the politics of memory. This medium offers insight into transformations of the country's colonial experience that have taken place since the end of the British Empire. School textbooks do not create and establish these transformations in isolation from other arenas of discourse about the culture of memory by reinventing the nation. Instead, they reflect, as part of the national culture of memory, the uncertainties and insecurities emerging from the end of empire and the decolonization of the British nation's historical narrative.

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Sarah Besky and Jonathan Padwe

In this article, we use plants to think about territory, a concept that is at once a bulwark of social theory and an under-theorized category of social analysis. Scholarship on plants brings together three overlapping approaches to territory: biological and behaviorist theories; representational and cartographic perspectives; and more-than-human analysis. We argue that these three approaches are not mutually exclusive. Rather, different epistemologies of territory overlap and are imbricated within each other. We further argue that these three approaches to territory inform three distinct domains of territoriality: legibility and surveillance; ordering and classification; and exclusion and inclusion. Through examples of how plants operate in these three domains, we illustrate the analytical potential that a more-than-human approach to territory provides. We conclude, however, that attention to the particularities of plant ecologies can help move multispecies discussions more firmly into the realm of the political economic.

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Racialized Capacities and Transgressive Mobility

“Asian” Laborers and “Western” Urban Transportation in Colonial Manila and Singapore

Michael D. Pante

This article places race at the analytical center of a comparative urban transport history of early twentieth-century Singapore and Manila. It focuses on motorization, as seen in the influx and eventual dominance of streetcars and automobiles. The British and the American colonizers turned these Western-made vehicles into symbols of colonial modernity, defined in racialized terms. They regarded the different “Asiatics” as naturally ill-equipped to handle streetcars and automobiles, and when the colonized proved them wrong, the colonizers framed these acts using the racialist discourse of “potentiality.” Nevertheless, the native transport laborers appropriated motorized vehicles in ways that the colonizers did not imagine. Machines presented the natives a world of knowledge, which was maximized for financial gain. The acquisition of various forms of knowledge thus revealed a paradox of the civilizing mission: the colonizers exposed natives to the world of civilized knowledge, but the acquisition of this knowledge disrupted colonial discipline.