Englightenment or Empire: Colonial Discourse in German Culture

By Russell A. Berman | Go to book overview

1
THE ENLIGHTENMENT
TRAVELOGUE AND THE
COLONIAL TEXT

The eighteenth-century Enlightenment, with its emphatic faith in the value of reason, has left a legacy that continues to structure underlying cultural assumptions in many dimensions of social life. To command legitimacy, choices have to appear to be rational; to point to the irrationality of a decision or a judgment is tantamount to denouncing it. Public figures today are surely unlikely to invoke the spread of an idealistic spirit of reason as the core of a Hegelian history. It is certainly the case, however, that much contemporary discourse involves imagery of the rule of law and international regulation, as if particular norms of behavior and codes of action were deemed appropriate to apply around the world. That, however, is little more than a form of the Enlightenment’s vision of the universal character of reason’s sway, a regime in which the disappearance of prejudice would lead necessarily to emancipation.

Yet from the start, the Enlightenment and its insistence that the institutionalization of reason would further human freedom have been criticized. This critique came not only from traditionalist defenders of the ancien régime of prerational structures but also from others who, very much subscribing to Enlightenment visions of freedom, doubted whether reason could be an effective vehicle for emancipation. Might not the terrorism of reason suppress the imagination, as the German romantics feared? Had not the Napoleonic campaign of reason led to a new imperial tyranny? Might not the world structured

-21-

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Englightenment or Empire: Colonial Discourse in German Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- The Enlightenment Travelogue and the Colonial Text 21
  • 2- Gerhard Rohlfs and Geographic Writing 65
  • 3- Henry Stern and Missionary Space 104
  • 4- Engendered Colonies 134
  • 5- Colonial Literature and the Emancipation of Women 171
  • 6- The Myth of Anticolonialism 203
  • Notes 241
  • Selected Bibliography 249
  • Index 259
  • In the Modem German Culture and Literature Series 271
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