Magazine article European English Messenger

Lindner, Ulrike, Maren Mohring, Mark Stein, and Silke Stroh (Eds). 2010. Hybrid Cultures-Nervous States: Britain and Germany in a (Post)colonial World

Magazine article European English Messenger

Lindner, Ulrike, Maren Mohring, Mark Stein, and Silke Stroh (Eds). 2010. Hybrid Cultures-Nervous States: Britain and Germany in a (Post)colonial World

Article excerpt

Lindner, Ulrike, Maren Mohring, Mark Stein, and Silke Stroh (eds). 2010. Hybrid Cultures--Nervous States: Britain and Germany in a (Post)colonial World. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Postcolonialism has been defined, since its inception, as a transnational and cosmopolitan field of studies, yet, so far, there has been a relative dearth of comparative works providing a larger and inter-related picture of modern European imperialisms. A diffuse tendency to represent Empires as 'national' enterprises ('transnational' only in relation to their impact on the colonised countries/regions) has in the long run ironically contributed towards a 'devolved' perspective of what is in fact a field fraught with powerful political and ideological intersections. Furthermore, and possibly even more ironically, by confining the study of imperialism to a national methodological framework, and by according centre stage to the British and French empires, postcolonial scholars have often unwittingly reproduced, rather than deconstructed, the hegemonic relations shaped in the course of the 18th and the 19th century, leaving largely unexplored the assonances and collusions that connected large-scale to small-scale empires, and policies implemented at home with extra-European colonial practices.

Hybrid Cultures--Nervous States represents an important and timely contribution towards a redressing of such remarkable lacuna in the field of postcolonial studies. This collection of twelve essays maps out a new, exciting empirical and theoretical territory by providing a comparative investigation of British and German imperial (cultural) practices. Divided into three sections ("(Post)Colonial Identifications, Colonial Traditions, and Cultures of Memory"; "(Trans)national Consumer Cultures: From 'Kolonialwaren' to 'Ethnic Cuisine'"; "Multiculturalism Failed? Cultural Difference and the Debates on National Belonging"), it engages with a vast range of issues and subjects (from politics to history, literature and culture), yet manages to achieve a remarkable degree of unity in the methodological approaches deployed (focused on the notions of cultural transfer and histoire croisee), as well as in the attempt to identify transnational and transimperial phenomena. Even more importantly, the collection aims at deploying colonialism as an interpretative framework for social, political and cultural events (e.g. Germany's National Socialism) which are usually dealt with as 'European history', and which in fact were developed within the same trans/national colonial discourse. Finally, Hybrid Cultures--Nervous States should be also praised for its bold articulation of a comparative investigation of the contemporary notions of multiculturalism and 'cultures of memory' across British and German societies, fruitfully questioning the 'primacy' of the British Empire as the privileged lens through which post/colonialism is usually assessed.

In Section I, U. Lindner ("Encounters Over the Border: The Shaping of Colonial Identities in Neighbouring British and German Colonies in Southern Africa"), for example, points out how "colonial knowledge and self-understanding as a colonizer were developed not only within the boundaries of national empires but also across metropoles and the colonies of different empires" (5), while M. Pesek ("The Colonial Order Upside Down? British and Germans in East African Prisoner-of-War Camps During World War I") focuses on the interaction of the German and the British colonial powers in the re-definition of Europe's colonial order in Eastern Africa. E. Bischoff, in "Jack, Peter and the Beast: Postcolonial Perspectives on Sexual Murder and the Construction of White Masculinity in Britain and Germany at the Turn of the Twentieth Century", identifies the roots of German and British constructions of hegemonic masculinity as reliant on anthropological and medical discourses of the colonial age; J. …

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