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

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

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

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

Synopsis

This book addresses the idea of 'civility' as a manifestation of the fluidity and ambivalence of imperial power as reflected in British colonial literature and culture. Discussions of Anglo-Indian romances of 1880-1900, E.M. Forster's The Life to Come and Leonard Woolf's writings show how the appeal to civility had a significant effect on the constitution of colonial subject-hood and reveals 'civility' as an ideal trope for the ambivalence of imperial power itself.

Excerpt

The nineteenth century, the era from which we date our civility …

Lamb, Elia (1823)

The great need of “education” in our colleges … is to stimulate and foster, in all ways possible, the growth of a real University life, which may develop in those who share it loyalty, disinterestedness and public spirit, together with what, in default of a recognized name, we might, perhaps, call “civility.”

“Indian Universities, ” Calcutta Review (1897)

We to-day are haunted and beset by Babu English, enlightened discontent, and insolence of University degrees.

Calcutta Review (1893)

Decidedly this fellow is an original…. He is like the nightmare of a Viennese courier.

Kipling, Kim

This book is concerned with revisiting the concept of civility, which served as an implicit component in the British colonial project of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century. The power of civility lay in its ability subtly to impose control or effect exclusion by establishing a normative code of imperial Britishness that operated on the variables of nationality, class, and gender. However, the same concept came to acquire an elusive quality when transferred to the colonial domain, and it is this elusiveness, visible in the sometimes fractured rhetorics of civility, that opens up a new history of colonial power relations.

Why “civility?”

Censuring the colonial government for continuing to support the spread of Western education through the recently founded Indian universities, the Calcutta Review of 1897 pointed to the pernicious effects of such a policy on the social manners of Indian youth. After acquiring “the small amount of education involved in getting through one or two University examinations, ” the monthly claimed, the educated youth had adopted “a self-asserting, aggressive and bumptious manner,

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