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EWS 375 Readings Said - Ch. 1

EWS 375 Readings Said - Ch. 1 - CHAPTER ONE OVERLAPPING...

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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTER ONE OVERLAPPING TERRITORIES, INTERTWINED HISTORIES Silence from and about the subject was the order of the day. Some of the silences were broken, and some were maintained by authors who lived with and within the policing strategies. What I am interested in are the strategies for break— ing it. TONI Moantson, Playing in the Dari History, in other words, is not a calculating machine. It unfolds in the mind and the imagination. and it takes body in the multifarious responses of a people's culture, itself the infinitely subtle mediation of material realities, of underpin- ning economic fact, of gritty objectivities. BASIL Dawnson, W in Modem Hitter) ( I ) Empire, Geography, and Culture A ppeals to the past are among the commonest of strategies in interpreta- tions of the present. What animates such appeals is not only disagree- ment about what happened in the past and what the past was, but uncertainty about whether the past really is past, over and concluded, or whether it continues, albeit in different forms, perhaps. This problem ani- mates all sorts of discussions—about influence, about blame and judgement, about present actualities and future priorities. 4 OVERLAPPING TERRITORIES In one of his most famous early critical essays, T. S. Eliot takes up a similar constellation of issues, and although the occasion as well as the intention of his essay is almost purely aesthetic, one can use his formulations to inform other realms of experience. The poet, Eliot says, is obviously an individual talent, but he works within a tradition that cannot be merely inherited but can only be obtained “by great labour." Tradition, he continues, involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a percep- tion, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe fi'orn Homer and within it the whole of the litera- ture of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the time- less as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his own contemporaneity. No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone.1 The force of these comments is directed equally, I think, at poets who think critically and at critics whose work aims at a close appreciation of the poetic process. The main idea is that even as we must fully comprehend the pastness of the past, there is no insr way in which the past can be quarantined from the present Past and present inform each other, each implies the other and, in the totally ideal sense intended by Eliot, each (to-exists with the other. What Eliot proposes, in short, is a vision of literary tradition that, while it respecrs temporal succession, is not wholly commanded by it. Neither past nor present, any more than any poet or artist, has a complete meaning alone. Eliot’s synthesis of past, present, and future, however, is idealistic and in important ways a function of his own peculiar history;2 also, its conception of time leaves out the combativeness with which individuals and institutions decide on what is tradition and what is not, what relevant and what not. But his central idea is valid: how we formulate or represent the past shapes our understanding and views of the present. Let me give an example. During the Gulf War of 1990—91, the collision between Iraq and the United States was a funcu by the Party, Arab in array c: occupai groundl wrongss prizes. not a c: pursuiu war inn Elion presenit rialism.. of quess use altr: attemp pally en atic, w contribr Hilferdl Kennet: Paul K of Will. Zinn, a can poll and sag ; (or not], Thea; scarcely; of calm: fact thfl l twentie over on | Americ who is :-. and F ra New Zr; large svn Empire, Geograpbv, and Culture 5 Ip a a fiinction of two fundamentally opposed histories, each used to advantage the - by the official establishment of each country. As construed by the Iraqi Baath Ions l. Party, modern Arab history shows the unrealized, unfulfilled promise of usly Arab independence, a promise traduced both by “the West” and by a whole be array of more recent enemies, like Arab reaction and Zionism. Iraq's bloody , he occupation of Kuwait was, therefore, justified not only grounds, but also because it was believed that the Arabs wrongs done against them and wrest fro prizes. Conversely, in the American vi not a classical imperial power, on Bismarckian had to right the m imperialism one of its greatest ew of the past, the United States was but a righter of wrongs around the world, in pursuit of tyranny, in defense of freedom no matter the place or cost. The e _ war inevitably pitted these versions of the past against each other. 1 - Eliot’s ideas about the complexi attempts at delimitations of the ve “tram-Lav..- - ited States as 'ho Paul Kennedy’s The Ru: and Fall of the Gram: Powers, the revisionist history he 5, of William Appleman Williams, Gabriel Kollto, Noam Chomsky, Howar he .' _i'-. inn, and Walter Lefeber, and studious defenses or explanations of Ameri- led I can policy as non-imperialiSt written by various srrategists, theoreticians, ier ’ and sages—all this has kept the question of imperialism, and its applicability he I ill (or nor) to the United States, the main power of the day, very much alive. at, l -' These authorities debated largely political and economic questions. Yet it. ' scarcely any attention has been paid to what I believe is the privileged role me of culture in the modern imperial experience, and little notice taken of the facr that the extraordinary global reach of classical nineteenth- and early- in twentieth-century European imperialism still casts a considerable shadow on over our own times. Hardly any North American, African, European, Latin ns American, Indian, Caribbean, Australian individual—«he liSt is very long-— ut who is alive today has not been touched by the empires of the past. Britain ur and France between them controlled immense territories Canada, Australia, 6 OVERLAPPING TERRITORIES Hong Kong as a colony until 1997), and the Indian subcontinent in its entirety—all these fell under the sway of and in time were liberated from British or French rule; in addition, the United States, Russia, and several lesser European countries, to say nothing of Japan and Turkey, were also imperial powers for some or all of the nineteenth century. This pattern of dominions or possessions laid the groundwork for what is in effect now a fiilly global world. Electronic communications, the global extent of trade, of availability of resources, of travel, of information about weather patterns and ecological change have joined together even the most distant comers of the world. This set of patterns, I believe, was first established and made possible by the modern empires. Now I am temperamentally and philosophically opposed to vast system- building or to totalistic theories of human history. But I must say that having studied and indeed lived within the modern empires, I am struck by how constantly expanding, how inexorably integrative they were. Whether in Marx, or in conservative works like those by J. R. Seeley, or in modern analyses like those by D. K. Fieldhouse and C. C. Eldridge (whose England} Mil-riot: is a central work),’ one is made to see that the British empire integrated and fused things within it, and taken together it and other empires made the world one. Yet no individual, and certainly not I, can see or fillly grasp this whole imperial world. When we read the debate between contemporary historians Patrick O’Brien“ and Davis and Huttenback (whose important book Mammal»: and flat Pan-air qumpin tries to quantify the actual profitability of imperial activi- ties),’ or when we look at earlier debates such as the Robinson—Gallagher controversy,‘ or at the work of the dependency and world-accumulation economists Andre Gunder Frank and Samir Amin,’ as literary and cultural historians, we are compelled to ask what all this means for interpretations of the Victorian novel, say, or of French historiography, of Italian grand opera, of German metaphysics of the same period. We are at a point in our work when we can no longer ignore empires and the imperial context in our studies. To speak, as O'Brien does, of “the propaganda for an expanding empire [which] created illusions of security and false expectations that high returns would accrue to those who invested beyond its boundaries" is in effect to speak of an atmosphere created by both empire and novels, by racial theory and geographical speculation, by the concept of national identity and urban (or rural) routine. The phrase “false expectations” suggests Great Expectations, “invested beyond its boundaries” suggests Joseph Sedley and Becky Sharp, “created illusions,” suggests Mariam perduer—the crossings over between culture and imperialism are compelling. ' It is diffl of culture: preserve it but, I subrl context. T' erything al. we must tr planned to: indigenous: about, set-t: that is liven people anc: that literar- Spenser, fit where he in rants, with Ireland, wll For the 1} over land geographic idea that th I virtually d.. none of we struggle is .. cannons bu: - A whole as well as tl : _asensethau in what the - ti" age ofempz: great colon I continued 1 | sorts of tea. arm: ofth== .j'.._present anci 'f‘ Atthe ce- uring the em in its rated from nd several were also pattern of Feet now a of trade, of uterus and nets of the :le possible lSt, system- :hat having ck by how Vhether in in modern ie England's ish empire [er empires see or fill}! ms Patrick um and the :rial activi- .-Gallagher cumulation nd cultural :rpretations alian grand Joint in our atext in our expanding us that high tries"a is in :13, by racial .dentity and Empire: Geography, and Culture 7 It is diflicult to connect these different realms, to show the involvements of culture with expanding empires, to make observations about art that preserve its unique endowments and at the same time map its affiliations, but, I submit, we must attempt this, and set the art in the global, earthly context. Territory and possessions are at stake, geography and power. Ev- erything about human history is rooted in the earth, which has meant that we must think about habitation, but it has also meant that people have planned to have more territory and therefore must do something about its indigenous residents. At some very basic level, imperialism means thinking about, settling on, controlling land that you do not possess, that is distant, that is lived on and owned by others. For all kinds of reasons it attracts some people and often involves untold misery for others. Yet it is generally true that literary historians who study the great sixteenth-century poet Edmund Spenser, for example, do not connect his bloodthirsty plans for Ireland, where he imagined a British army virtually exterminating the native inhabi- tants, with his poetic achievement or with the hisrory of British rule over Ireland, which continues today. For the purposes of this book, I have maintained a focus on actual contests over land and the land’s people. What I have tried to do is a kind of geographical inquiry into hiatorical experience, and I have kept in mind the idea that the earth is in effect one world, in which empty, uninhabited spaces virtually do not exist Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings. A whole range of people in the so—called Western or metropolitan world, as well as their counterparts in the Third or formerly colonized world, share a sense that the era of high or classical imperialism, which came to a climax in what the historian Eric Hobsbawm has so interestingly described as “the age of empire" and more or less formally ended with the dismantling of the great colonial structures after World War Two, has in one way or another continued to exert considerable cultural influence in the present. For all sorts of reasons, they feel a new urgency about understanding the pastness or not of the past, and this urgency is carried over into perceptions of the present and the future. At the center of these perceptions is a fact that few dispute, namely, that during the nineteenth century unprecedented power—compared with which the powers of Rome, Spain, Baghdad, or Constantinople in their day were far less formidable—was concentrated in Britain and France, and later in other Western countries (the United States, especially). This century -._.-. ._.' -........:..-....-' amen—H... ...'._._..._..' '-...._....__.._.- ' ' ' '-'..;.....t.._..._.._._._._._._........_.__' " ' " ' u...—... ‘-__..a...._..._-;.-_:.... .. . 3. i r .i 'l " i. g. 8 OVERLAPPING TERRITORIES climaxed “the rise of the West," and Wesrern power allowed the imperial metropolitan centers to acquire and accumulate territory and subjects on a truly astonishing scale. Consider that in 1800 Western powers claimed 55 percent but actually held approximately 3 5 percent of the earth’s surface, and that by 1878 the proportion was 6-; percent, a rate of increase of 83,000 square miles per year. By 1914, the annual rate had risen to an astonishing 240,000 square miles, and Europe held a grand total of roughly 85 percent of the earth as colonies, protectorates, dependencies, dominions, and common- wealths.’ No other associated set of colonies in history was as large, none so totally dominated, none so unequal in power to the Western metropolis. As a result, says William McNeil} in Tb: Pursuit affirm, “the world was united into a single interacting whole as never before.”‘° And in Europe itself at the end of the nineteenth century, scarcely a corner of life was untouched by the facts of empire; the economies were hungry for overseas markets, raw materials, cheap labor, and hugely profitable land, and defense and foreign- policy establishments were more and more committed to the maintenance of vast tracts of distant territory and large numbers of subjugated peoples. When the Western powers were not in close, sometimes ruthless competi— tion with one another for more colonies—all modern empires, says V. G. Kiernan,” imitated one another—they were hard at work settling, survey- ing, studying, and of course ruling the territories under their iurisdicrions. The American experience, as Richard Van Alstyne makes clear in The Rin'ug American Empire; was from the beginning founded upon the idea of “an impm'um—a dominion, state or sovereignty that would expand in population and territory, and increase in strength and power.”12 There were claims for North American territory to be made and fought over (with astonishing success); there were native peoples to be dominated, variously exterminated, variously dislodged; and then, as the republic increased in age and hemi- spheric power, there were distant lands to be designated vital to American interests, to be intervened in and fought over—~e.g., the Philippines, the Caribbean, Central America, the “Barbary Coast,” parts of Europe and the Middle East, Viemam, Korea. Curiously, though, so influential has been the discourse insisting on American specialness, altruism, and opportunity that “imperialism” as a word or ideology has turned up only rarely and recently in accounts of United States culture, politics, history. But the connection between imperial politics and culture is astonishingly direct. American attitudes to American “greatness,” to hierarchies of race, to the perils of other revolutions (the American revolution being considered unique and some- how unrepeatable anywhere else in the world)" have remained constant, have dictated, have obscured, the realities of empire, while apologists for overseas American interests have insisted on American innocence, doing good, fil America: Yet 1 major N North politics: mentio: John St: mappin collecti: ers, pan ers, visi: possesss formatii As i and the: tory; “(I is the puts it: : trols thi be achn cultural lishing: largelyr in a kin: econon: Neit: acquisii ideologg ple mgr.- with (it! ture is “suboru the imy criticizl: gated a: were 0;» imaginu acquisiii present: of certs: Empire, Geography and Culture 9 good, fighting for freedom. Graham Greene’s character Pyle, in T64: Quiet Amman», embodies this cultural formation with merciless accuracy. Yet for citizens of nineteenth-century Britain and France, empire was a major topic of unembarrassed cultural attention. British India and French North Africa alone played inestimable roles in the imagination, economy, political life, and social fabric of British and French society, and if we mention names like Delacroix, Edmund Burke, Ruskin, Carlyle, James and John Stuart Mill, Kipling, Balzac, Nerval, F laubert, or Conrad, we shall be mapping a tiny corner of a far vaster reality than even their immense collective talents cover. There were scholars, administrators, travellers, trad- ers, parliamentarians, merchants, novelists, theorists, speculators, adventur- ers, visionaries, poets, and every variety of outcast and misfit in the outlying possessions of these two imperial powers, each of whom contributed to the formation of a colonial actuality existing at the heart of metrOpolitan life. , As I shall be using the term, “imperialism” means the practice, the theory, .3 and the attitudes of a dominating metr0politan center ruling a distant terri- I; tory; “colonialism,” which is almost always a consequence of imperialism, is the implanting of settlements on distant territory. As Michael Doyle puts it: “Empire is a relationship, formal or informal, in which one state con- trols the efl‘ective political sovereignty of another political society. It can be achieved by force, by political collaboration, by economic, social, or cultural dependence. Imperialism is simply the process or policy of estab- lishing or maintaining an empire.”“‘ In our time, direct colonialism has largely ended; imperialism, as we shall see, lingers where it has always been, _ in a kind of general cultural sphere as well as in specific political, ideological, economic, and social practices. _'I Neither imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act of accumulation and acquisition. Both are supported and perhaps even impelled by impressive __ ideological formations that include notions that certain territories and peo- : ple require and beseech domination, as well as forms of knowledge affiliated with domination: the vocabulary of classic nineteenth-century imperial cul— ture is plentiful with words and concepts like “inferior” or “subject races,” “subordinate peoples,” “dependency,” “expansion,” and “authority.” Out of imperial experiences, notions about culture were clarified, reinforced, criticized, or rejected. As for the curious but perhaps allowable idea propa- ,lgated a century ago by] R. Seeley that some of Europe’ s overseas empires were originally acquired absentmindedly, it does not by any stretch of the imagination account for their inconsistency, persistence, and systematized 3,7;le .. isition and administration, let alone their augmented rule and sheer nce. As David Landes has said 1n Tb: Unfiauud Pmmenbeus, “the decision - certain European powers . . . to establish ‘plantations, that is to treat their —_=.v=.._..r.:_'-'-_'gn'...._-= "-_ .7- -..1 _ - ' .-:_'.__-_':;_' ' . .'..-' :H.'.-'.-‘..'- --‘__ - .'IF" -_: ....
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