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

By Anindyo Roy | Go to book overview

2

Writing the liberal self

Colonial civility and disciplinary regime

The nineteenth-century British nation-state organized itself around a disciplinary regime that was guided by the ideologies of metropolitan liberalism and its reigning political economy. Civility played a regulative normative function within that regime by constituting a form of “governmentality” through its politics of subjectivity. Under this function, the self is always subject to surveillance-to a form of self-monitoring that produced boundaries determining an “interiority” for the liberal self. Coterminous with the formation of this interiority is the need to define and situate the colonial other, a need that manifests itself in the public domain in the imperial articulations of governance. This interlinking of governance, subjectivity, nation, and colony is the focus of this chapter on civility. By centering my arguments around John Stuart Mill's Autobiography-an exemplary narrative about the process of writing the “liberal self”-and his colonial writings I wish to excavate two underlying histories, histories that mark the terrain between the disciplinary tasks of colonial governance and the constitution of liberalism's normalizing discourses. I trace these two histories as they appear embedded in the life and political career of Mill, and then in the life that he captures in his retrospective autobiographical narrative.

From 1823 to 1858, John Stuart Mill not only developed his philosophy of liberalism through his political writings but also served as an examiner in the Office of Correspondence with the East India Company, where he deployed his liberal philosophy for shaping his ideas on the administrative policies of the Indian empire. In addition to authoring such key works as System of Logic (1843), The Principles of Political Economy (1848), On Liberty (1859), and Considerations on Representative Government (1861), he contributed numerous essays on ethics, religion, history, law, and education to major Victorian periodicals during this period of his life. It is clear that the formulation of the key concepts of liberalism in Mill took place within a discursive environment charged with questions about colonial governance. The story of his own life that Mill recounted in the Autobiography was published posthumously in 1873. The account of his political career as a colonial bureaucrat can be gleaned from Mill's numerous handwritten “Indian dispatches” published as official East India Company documents; from his essays in the London and Westminister Review, Parliamentary Review, Sessional Papers of the House of the Lords, and Fortnightly Review; and from key petitions he wrote as an East India Company

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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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