Civility and Empire: Literature and Culture in British India, 1822-1922

By Anindyo Roy | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Civil conduct

Colonialist discourse does not simply announce a triumph for civility, it must continually produce it, and this work involves struggle and risk.

Paul Brown, “This Thing of Darkness” (1985)

Civility operated on identities in changing historical and material contexts by marking them as normative subjects of race, gender, class, and nation. It also allowed the relational links between these categories to be subjected to a form of rationality that has been called the “governing-effects on colonial conduct” (Scott 1995:204). Repeatedly our attention is brought to bear on the centrality of this notion of conduct, a notion that made civility a contested site of making and unmaking, and a differential node from which imperial culture both registered and worked out its narratives of identity and alterity. In fact, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the historical exigencies facing the modern state provided the necessary forms of incitement and interdiction through which conduct became the defining structure for the establishment of identity. Whether it is the mercantile agent of empire, the baboo, the soldier, the imperial magistrate, the nautch girl, the missionary, the native convert, or the colonial supervisor, the emphasis on their “conduct” is inescapably visible in the history I have attempted to chart. In fact, the essential historicity of civility is made visible in the kind of work that is performed to sustain the dynamic set in place by conduct, folding together varying discourses that relate to questions about law, inheritance, nationhood, and class.

In chapter 2, I argued that this historicity operates through a specific negotiation of the relationship between the metropolitan self and colonial governance, and between the private-public dichotomy that is found in John Stuart Mill's liberalism. As Mill's colonial writings demonstrate, this negotiated relationship manifests the normalizing power of civility and its ability to consolidate the patriarchal authority of the modern liberal state in the colonial era, which is exemplified by the liberal philosopher's ongoing preoccupation with conduct and imperial governance. Therefore, Mill's salvific possibilities for new political and radical states of being can be considered only in relation to a form of civility underwritten by the colonial legacies of government and the familial lineages of

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Civility and Empire: Literature and Culture in British India, 1822-1922
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Colonial Civility and the Regulation of Social Desire 34
  • 2 - Writing the Liberal Self 61
  • 3 - Policing the Boundaries 90
  • 4 - Savage Pursuits 122
  • 5 - Civility and the Colonial State of Body in Leonard Woolf 144
  • Conclusion 178
  • Notes 187
  • References and Bibliography 200
  • Index 213
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