EWS 375 Readings - Said - Intoduction

EWS 375 Readings - Said - Intoduction - E2 Introduction...

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Unformatted text preview: E2 Introduction bout five years after On'mtalim was published in 1978, I began to gather together some ideas about the general relationship between culture and empire that had become clear to me while writing that book. The first result was a series of lectures that I gave at universities in the United States, Canada, and England in 1985 and 1986. These lectures form the core argu- ment of the present work, which has occupied me steadily since that time. A substantial amount of scholarship in anthropology, history, and area studies has developed arguments I put forward in On'eutdirm, which was limited to the Middle East. So I, too, have tried here to expand the argu- ments of the earlier book to describe a more general pattern of relationships between the modern metropolitan West and its overseas territories. What are some of the non-Middle Eastern materials drawn on here? European writing on Africa, India, parts of the Far East, Australia, and the Caribbean; these Africanist and Indianist discourses, as some of them have been called, I see as part of the general European effort to rule distant lands and peoples and, therefore, as related to Orientalist descriptions of the Islamic world, as well as to Europe's special ways of representing the Caribbean islands, Ireland, and the Far East. What are striking in these discourses are the rhetorical figures one keeps encountering in their descrip- tions of “the mysterious East,” as well as the stereotypes about “the African [or Indian or Irish orjamaican or Chinese] mind," the notions about bring- ing civilization to primitive or barbaric peoples, the disturbingly familiar ideas about flogging or death or extended punishment being required when “they" misbehaved or became rebellious, because “they" mainly understood force or violence best; “they" were not like “us," and for that reason de- served to be ruled. xii Introduction Yet it was the case nearly everywhere in the non-European world that the coming of the white man brought forth some sort of resistance. What I left out of Grimm was that response to Western dominance which cul~ minated in the great movement of .decolonization all across the Third World. Along with armed resistance in places as diverse as nineteenth- century Algeria, Ireland, and Indonesia, there also went considerable efforts in cultural resistance almost everywhere, the assertions of nationalist identi- ties, and, in the political realm, the creation of associations and parties whose common goal was self—determination and national independence. Never was it the case that the imperial encounter pitted an active Western intruder against a supine or inert non-Western native; there was always some form of active resistance, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, the resistance finally won out. These two factors—a general world-wide pattern of imperial culture, and -a historical experience of resistance against empire—inform this book in ways that make it not just a sequel to On'mtalim but an attempt to do something else. In both books I have emphasized what in a rather general way I have called “culture.” As I use the word, “culture” means two things in particular. First of all it means all those practices, like the arts of descrip- tion, communication, and representation, that have relative autonomy from the economic, social, and political realms and that often exist in aesthetic forms, one of whose principal aims is pleasure. Included, of course, are both the popular stock of lore about distant parts of the world and specialized knowledge available in such learned disciplines as ethnography, historiogra- phy, philology, sociology, and literary history. Since my exclusive focus here is on the modern Western empires of the nineteenth and twentieth centu- ries, l have looked especially at cultural forms like the novel, which I believe were immensely important in the formation of imperial attitudes, references, and experiences. I do not mean that only the novel was important, but that I consider it :17: aesthetic object whose connection to the expanding societies of Britain and France is particularly interesting to study. The prototypical modern realistic novel is Robinson Cmae, and certainly not accidentally it is about a European who creates a fiefdom for himself on a distant, non- European island. A great deal of recent criticism has concentrated on narrative fiction, yet very little attention has been paid to its position in the history and world of empire. Readers of this book will quickly discover that narrative is crucial to my argument here, my basic point being that stories are at the heart of what explorers and novelists say about strange regions of the world; they also become the method colonized people use to assert their own identity and the existence of their own history. The main battle in imperialism is “m .. .‘ 've' - . WT'vu; —p. ‘.-.-e 'a “avg-nu”.- _ _ . _ .. _ - -.---— awn runs" over land, oil: right to settll now plans in time decides on narration forming andl constitutes 0: grand narrat: colonial won many Europa protagonists,: community. Second, a: refining and . been known: believed than ages of a mu You read Dz: thought andl tradition in aggressively; “them," aim: sense is a so. in recent “r-' rigorous codz' permissivenu ticulturalism: have produc: In this sec: ideological u Apollonian 11 expose them I it apparent t: taught to tea; appreciate a;; tions while it Now the venerating c: from, hecauss ists as a resul] sordid cruelu ld that the Vhat I left 'hich cul- he Third neteenth- ble efforts ist identi— ties whose \lever was 1 intruder 1e form of resistance llture, and 18 book in npt to do er general :wo things If descrip- iomy from I aesthetic :, are both .pecialized istoriogra- focus here eth centu- h I believe references, It, but that g societies rototypical :ntally it is :tant, non- fiction, yet 1d world of 3 is crucial no heart of world; they vn identity . .. nerialism is Imducnhn xiii over land, of course; but when it came to who owned the land, who had the right to settle and work on it, who kept it going, who won it back, and who now plans its future—these issues were reflected, contested, and even for a time decided in narrative. As one critic has suggested, nations themselves are narrations. The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them. Most important, the grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment mobilized people in the colonial world to rise up and throw of imperial subjection; in the process, many Europeans and Americans were also stirred by these stories and their protagonists, and they too fought for new narratives of equality and human community. Second, and almost imperceptibly, culture is a concept that includes a refining and elevating element, each society's reservoir of the best that has been known and thought, as Matthew Arnold put it in the 18605. Arnold believed that culture palliates, if it does not altogether neutralize, the rav- ages of a modern, aggressive, mercantile, and brutalizing urban existence. You read Dante or Shakespeare in order to keep up with the best that was thought and known, and also to see yourself, your people, society, and tradition in their best lights. In time, culture comes to be associated, often aggressively, with the nation or the state; this difemndates “us" from “them,” almost always with some degree of xenophobia. Culture in this sense is a source of identity, and a. rather combative one at that, as we see in recent “returns” to culture and tradition. These “returns” accompany rigorous codes of intellectual and moral behavior that are opposed to the permissiveness associated with such relatively liberal philosophies as mul— ticulturalism and hybridity. In the formerly colonized world, these “returns” have produced varieties of religious and nationalist fundamentalism. In this second sense culture is a sort of theater where various political and ideological causes engage one another. Far from being a placid realm of Apollonian gentility, culture can even be a battleground on which causes expose themselves to the light of clay and contend with one another, making it apparent that, for instance, American, French, or Indian students who are taught to read their national classics before they read others are expected to appreciate and belong loyally, often uncritically, to their nations and tradi- tions while denigrating or fighting against others. Now the trouble with this idea of culture is that it entails not only venerating one’s own culture but also thinking of it as mmehow divorced from, because transcending, the everyday world. Most professional human- ists as a result are unable to make the connection between the prolonged and sordid cruelty of practices such as slavery, colonialist and racial oppression, xiv / Introduction and imperial subjection on the one hand, and the poetry, fiction, philosophy of the society that engages in these practices on the other. One of the diflicult truths i discovered in working on this book is how very few of the British or French artists whom I admire took issue with the notion of “subject” or “inferior” races so prevalent among officials who practiced those ideas as a matter of course in ruling India or Algeria. They were widely accepted notions, and they helped fuel the imperial acquisition of territories in Africa throughout the nineteenth century. in thinking of Carlyle or Ruskin, or even of Dickens and Thackeray, critics have often, I believe, relegated these writers’ ideas about colonial expansion, inferior races, or “niggers” to a very different department from that of culture, culture being the elevated area of activity in which they “truly" belong and in which they did their “really” important work. Culture conceived in this way can become a protective enclosure: check your politics at the door before you enter it. As someone who has spent his entire professional life teaching literature, yet who also grew up in the pre—World War Two colonial world, I have found it a challenge no: to see culture in this way—that is, antiseptically quarantined from its worldly affiliations—but as an extraordinarily varied field of endeavor. The novels and other books I consider here I analyze because first of all I find them estimable and admirable works of art and learning, in which I and many Other readers take pleasure and from which we derive profit. Second, the challenge is to connect them not only with that pleasure and profit but also with the imperial process of which they were manifestly and unconcealedly a part; rather than condemning or ignoring their participation in what was an unquestioned reality in their societies, i suggest that what we learn about this hitherto ignored aspect actually and truly enhance: our reading and understanding of them. Let me say a little here about what I have in mind, using two well-known and very great novels. Dickens's Gm: Expectant)»: (186i) is primarily a novel about self-delusion, about Pip’s vain attempts to become a gentleman with neither the hard work nor the aristocratic source of income required for such a role. Early in life he helps a condemned convict, Abel Magwitch, who, after being transported to Australia, pays back his young benefactor with large sums of money; because the lawyer involved says nothing as he disburses the money, Pip persuades himselfthat an elderly gentlewoman, Miss Havisham, has been his patron. Magwitch then reappears illegally in London, unwel- comed by Pip because everything about the man reeks of delinquency and unpleasantness. In the end, though, Pip is reconciled to Magwitch and to his reality: he finally acknowledges Magwitch—hunted, apprehended, and fa- tally ill—as his surrogate father, not as someone to be denied or rejected, col Err. the in : alll Hu Intrudacn'an xv Ihy though Magwitch is in fact unacceptable, being from Australia, a penal ult colony designed for the rehabilitation but not the repatriation of transported ish English criminals. or Most, if not all, readings of this remarkable work situate it squarely within 5 a the metropolitan history of British fiction, whereas I believe that it belongs ed in a history both more inclusive and more dynamic than such interpretations ica allow. It has been left to two more recent books than Dickens’s—Robert en Hughes’s magisterial Tb: Fara! Shore and Paul Carter’s brilliantly speculative :se T17: Road to Botany Bay—to reveal a vast history of speculation about and ry experience of Australia, a “white” colony like Ireland, in which we can of locate Magwitch and Dickens not as mere coincidental references in that y” history, but as participants in it, through the novel and through a much older and wider experience between England and its overseas territories. ck Australia was established as a penal colony in the late eighteenth century nis mainly so that England could transport an irredeemable, unwanted excess .ie population of felons to a place, originally charted by Captain Cook, that ee would also function as a colony replacing those lost in America. The pursuit ly of profit, the building of empire, and what Hughes calls social apartheid :ls together produced modern Australia, which by the time Dickens first took m an interest in it during the 1840s (in David Copperfield Wilkins Micawber iy happily immigrates there) had progressed somewhat into profitability and a re ' sort of “free system” where laborers could do well on their own if allowed so to do so. Yet in Magwitch IV as Dickens knotted several strands in the English perception of convicts Lit in Australia at the end of transportation. They could succeed, but they Id could hardly, in the real sense, return. They could expiate their crimes in a technical, legal sense, but what they suffered there warped them into permanent outsiders. And yet they were capable of redemption-— as long as they stayed in Australia.‘ ; Carter's exploration of what he calls Australia’s spatial history offers us another version of that same experience. Here explorers, convicts, ethnogra- phers, profiteers, soldiers chart the vast and relatively empty continent each in a discourse that jostles, displaces, or incorporates the others. Botany Bay is therefore first of all an Enlightenment discourse of travel and discovery, then a set of travelling narrators (including Cook) whose words, charts, and intentions accumulate the strange territories and gradually turn them into “home.” The adjacence between the Benthamite organization of space (which produced the city of Melbourne) and the apparent disorder of the Australian bush is shown by Carter to have become an optimistic transfor- ._-_"1=-13 3w :3 5-5-25 4 . xvi Intmdum'on mation of social space, which produced an Elysium for gentlemen, an Eden for laborers in the 184m.3 What Dickens envisions for Pip, being Magwitch’s “Landon gentleman,” is roughly equivalent to what was envisioned by English benevolence for Australia, one social space authorizing another. But GmrExpemriom was not written with anything like the concern for native Australian accounts that Hughes or Carter has, nor did it presume or forecast a tradition of Australian writing, which in fact came later to include the literary works of David Malouf; Peter Carey, and Patrick White. The prohibition placed on Magwitch’s return is not only penal but imperial: subjects can be taken to places like Australia, but they cannot be allowed a “return" to metropolitan space, which, as all Dickens’s fiction testifies, is meticulously charted, spoken for, inhabited by a hierarchy of metropolitan personages. So on the one hand, interpreters like Hughes and Carter expand on the relatively attenuated presence of Australia in nineteenth-century British writing, expressing the fullness and earned integrity of an Australian history that became independent from Britain’s in the twentieth century; yet, on the other, an accurate reading of Great Expectations must note that after Magwitch’s delinquency is expiated, so to speak, after Pip redemp- tively acknowledges his debt to the old, bitterly energized, and vengeful convict, Pip himself collapses and is revived in two explicitly positive ways. A new Pip appears, less laden than the old Pip with the chains of the past—he is glimpsed in the form of a child, also called Pip; and the old Pip takes on a new career with his boyhood friend Herbert Pocket, this time not as an idle gentleman but as a hardworking trader in the East, where Britain's other colonies offer a sort of normality that Australia never could. Thus even as Dickens settles the difficulty with Australia, another struc- ture of attitude and reference emerges to suggest Britain’s imperial inter- course through trade and travel with the Orient. In his new career as colonial businessman, Pip is hardly an exceptional figure, since nearly all of Dickens’s businessmen, wayward relatives, and frightening outsiders have a fairly normal and secure connection with the empire. But it is only in recent years that these connections have taken on interpretative importance. A new generation of scholars and critics—the children of decolonization in some instances, the beneficiaries (like sexual, religious, and racial minorities) of advances in human freedom at home—have seen in such great texts of Western literature a standing interest in what was considered a lesser world, populated with lesser people of color, portrayed as open to the intervention of so many Robinson Crusoes. By the end of the nineteenth century the empire is no longer merely a shadowy presence, or embodied merely in the unwelcome appearance of a fugitive convict but, in the works of writers like Conrad, Kipling, Gide, and WWWM ._ _. - Loti, a centrz: pie—is set in and East Asia same time b. contemporar: prescience: h: American re] 1 ing the sea), ing conditim Francisco fifll Tomé mine,, trouble” as in We can si. bound to. greatest co: word for e : religion, fr: too, if any“ then we sh: continents world like: guess.3 Much of t: American g0u self-congratu. reaponsibility; number one, on. No Amer: the implicit vu is rarely refle: illusion of be: rhetoric who:: not just once quency in El“: Japanese, the Yet it won] . predictitin of ' with its string, American-fin. 1e 01' lude The trial: 'ed a :s, is litan pand utury ““7; that sup- geful vays. F the l Pip e not :ain s truc— nter- onial :ens’s Fairly years new some :8) of as of rorld, ntion ely a t of a :, and Inmdum'on xvii Loti, a central area of concern. Conrad’s Norma (19:34me second exam- ple—is set in a Central American republic, independent (unlike the African and East Asian colonial settings of his earlier fictions), and dominated at the same time by outside interests .because of its immense silver mine. For a contemporary American the most compelling aspect of the work is Conrad’s prescience: he forecasts the unstoppable unrest and “misrule” of the Latin American republics (governing them, he says, quoting Bolivar, is like plow- ing the sea), and he singles out North America’s particular way of influenc- ing conditions in a decisive yet barely visible way. Holroyd, the San Francisco financier who backs Charles Gould, the British owner of the San Tomé mine, warns his protégé that “we won’t be drawn into any large trouble" as investors. Nevertheless, We can sit and watch. Of course, some day we shall step in. We are bound to. But there’s no hurry. Time itself has got to wait on the greatest country in the whole of God’s universe. We shall be giving the word for everything—industry, trade, law, journalism, art, politics, and religion, from Cape Horn clear over to Surith’s Sound, and beyond it, too, if anything worth taking hold of turns up at the North Pole. And then we shall have the leisure to take in hand the o...
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