Post-Anti-Colonial Histories: Representing the Other in Imperial Britain

by Elazar Barkan
Citation
Title:
Post-Anti-Colonial Histories: Representing the Other in Imperial Britain
Author:
Elazar Barkan
Year: 
1994
Publication: 
The Journal of British Studies
Volume: 
33
Issue: 
2
Start Page: 
180
End Page: 
203
Publisher: 
Language: 
English
URL: 
Select license: 
Select License
DOI: 
PMID: 
ISSN: 
Abstract:

Post-Anti-Colonial Histories : Representing
the Other in Imperial Britain

New Aliens. By not being Others we define ourselves. We have always done so. In bad times the barbarians were at our gates; on more fortunate occasions we were at theirs. As we changed, so did our alter ego. A hundred-plus years ago in England, "we" were the upper classes, perhaps the middling lot aspiring upward. Primarily men. The Others populated the Empire, the East End of London, and even many social and geographic quarters closer to home. And if we were not men, we mostly pretended we wished we were. We wrote our history, as well as theirs. In time, growing familiarity transformed many strange aliens into us, an acquaintancy which led to multicultur- alism, gender assertiveness, and subjectivism. In the process we found new aliens-the DWEM (dead white European males).

Some of us have maintained our moral righteousness throughout, whereas others have been skeptical all along. Having gone through a generation of a strong antipatriarchalianticolonial writing, writers of different persuasions have come to reevaluate and pose challenges to the new edifice. Suspended between conflicting incredulous postmod- ernist sensibilities and a pragmatic sense that communication is main- tained despite its announced demise, it seems an opportune moment to examine the new attitudes to writing (imperial) history in light of such questions as the role of agency within and against a dominant discourse, the place of morality in the writing of history, and the pro- cess of alienation mediated among competing victimizations. I would like to address two enigmatic issues at present: first, to examine the ability of the "Other" to speak (or more appropriately the ability of some to speak in her name) and, second, to probe the limits of the verbalization of the visual. The texts I examine illustrate the ambiva-

ELA~AR is associate professor of h~story at the Claremont Graduate School.

BARKAN

Journcrl of British Studic>s33 (April 1994): 180-203 01994 by The North American Conference on British Studies. All rights reserved. 0021-937119413302-0003$01.00

lence of writing academic "objective" history while privileging subjec- tivity and differentiation.

In the deluge of methodologies, imperial histories have become exuberantly rich and uncertain. As ambiguity reigns over the status of evidence and interpretations, as fiction, visual images, and psychohis- tory have come to assert a new historical authority, the mixture of data opens the possibility of negotiating through diverse media a veracity of an undetermined reality. In this particular instance we could ask (i) in what way should cultural historians enrich the traditional documentary sources by using other media, or alternatively (ii) is the task of cultural history merely to contextualize fiction and art by placing them in their "correct" historical setting? The answer could have been reasonably straightforward had we known how to compare different evidence, "voices." But as sources and texts conflict, and as absences at times become more telling than presence, assigning priorities turns into the most promising and frustrating part of writing. During the past two decades, the new (orthodoxy of) feminist and anticolonialist writ- ings have confronted the traditional scholarship by elucidating new evidence and interpretations to challenge the self-assuredness of the Eurocentric world. The initial moral outrage and the process of self-discovery energized many writers way beyond any pedantic methodological concerns. Thus to assign a seminal place to Edward Said's Orientalism is to recognize that the agenda has changed and that a new epistemology must be devised in order to respond to moral concerns without necessarily embracing any particular ontological claims.' For the better part of the past fifteen years, these polarized positions were amplified, but recently a new intermediate position has evolved, a post-anti-colonial critique, one that takes into account the anticolonialistipoststructuralist sensibilities but that examines them in light of more traditional methodological and epistemological approaches. New imperial cultural history exhibits novel modes of "pro- fessionalizing" moral outrage, adjudicating among conflicting claims and plural victimizations. In the process, the Other is intellectualized and distanced (anesthetized) as knowledge replaces empathy or suffer- ings.

The increased social, ethnic, and gender diversity among contem- porary scholars, as well as the eagerness to compensate for past wrongs, has led some critics to replace analysis by communal guilt

' Edward W. Said, Orientulism (New York, 1979). Said has recently "updated" his position, in C~ilturc. ntzd Irnperiali.st77 (New York, 1993). See also E. Barkan, "Fin de Siecle Cultural Studies," Tikkutz (JulyIAugust 1993),pp. 49-51, 92.

and intellectual paraly~is,~

whereas others reveal the temperament and compassion of a prosecutor.%ither way, the DWEMs are easy tar- gets. They have left plenty of incriminating evidence, and numerous eager writers rush to bring class action. Despite such initial overen- thusiasm and exaggerated claims, recent nuances and differentiated studies have begun to acquaint "us" with "our" very intricate histori- cal ego4-a self which has become as frightening and strange as any alien ever was. Such reflexivity created competing legitimacies on the basis of different forms of past discriminations. How does one negoti- ate the claims of European women versus people of Has all this new scholarship forced cultural history into a theoretical self-defeating posture? Can the subaltern speak? "Contemporary interpretations of alterity are increasingly victims of their own apprehension. . . . Even as the other is privileged in all its pluralities, in all its alternative histo- ries, its concept-function remains too embedded in a theoretical duality

Especially poignant is Eric Cheyfitz, Tlzc~ Poc~tic,.s of'lmperiali.sm: Tratz.slntiotz atzd Colonizertion jiorn the Tc~nzpcst to Tarzun (Oxford, 1991): "Those of us who live within the privilege of Western patriarchy live in an increasingly narrow psychic and social space. For we cannot afford to enter most of the social spaces of the world; they have become dangerous to us, filled with the violence of the people we oppress, our own violence in alien forms we refuse to recognize. And we can afford less and less to think of these social spaces, to imagine the lang~~ages

of their protest, for such imagining would keep us in continual conflict, in continual contradiction of ourselves, where we are increasingly locked away in our comfort. Terrorizing the world with our wealth and power, we live in a world of terror, afraid to venture out, afraid to think openly. Differ- ence and dialogue arc impossible here. We talk to ourselves about ourselves, believing in the grand hallucination that we are talking to others" (p. xiv).
'For example, Marianna Torgovnick, Gone Prirnitivc: Snvcrgc~ Itztc~llc~~ts,

Modern Livcs (Chicago, 1990); Sally Price, Prirnitivc~ Art in Civilized P1ac.c.s (Chicago, 1989), see below.

'See, e.g., Rcprcscwtution.~,vol. 37 (Winter 1992). This issue, entitled "Imperial Fantasies and Post Colonial Histories," displayed several perspectives on the current sensibilities in the field. The opening article (Dipesh Chakrabarty, "Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for 'Indian' Pasts?" pp. 1-26) tries to imagine what a peripheral history might look like without referring to the center. The subaltern without the suburban. Nicholas B. Dirks ("Castes of Mind," pp. 56-78) from a traditional historical methodology informed by cultural differences confronts the "orientalist" critique and describes "recent critical theory" as "merely gestured toward history-no sooner completing the gesture than appropriating history to support ahistorical-and even antihistorical-readings of texts. The ease with which critical readings of colonial texts and 'third world' referents are made in certain literary circles today may indicate the ironic birth of new orientalism" (p. 74).

' Nupur Chaudhuri and Margaret Strobel, eds., Western Womoz untl Impc~ricrlism: Cotrlplic,iry atzd Rcsisrancc~ (Bloomington, Ind., 1992); Margaret Strobel, Kliropeatz Wornc~n und the Sc,c.ond British Empire (Bloomington, Ind., 1991); Suvendrini Perera, Rmchcs of Empirc: Tlzc~ Ktzglish Novr1,frorn fi:dgewortlz to Dicltc~ns (New York, 1991). For the American context, see Ellen Carol Dubois and Vicky L. Kuiz, Utzc~quul Sistcrs: A M~ilric~~ilrurcrl

Render in U.S. Wotncn's History (New York, 1990).

of margin to enter."^ The subalterns are being pulled to the center like moths, scorching their alterity in the process.

The subaltern, a Gramscian detour through India, has achieved local (U.S.) prominence that has become associated primarily with Gayatri Spi~ak.~ the Subaltern

Her answer to the dilemma, "Can Speak?" has been variously interpreted as a depressing negation, a pessimistic view which denies the ability of the Other to achieve a voice, and by Spivak herself as (merely) a localized despair, "the rhetoric of the ending" (p. 89). Her realllarger agenda was to overcome the ever-present danger of romanticizing the subaltern.' For Spivak, the move from a detached posture toward political activism provides a moment of truth for the Other's perspective: "the name subaltern for everything that is different from organized resistance is a warning that tells us that we organize, as we must organi~e,there is something beyond the margin of organi~ability that begins to construct itself."" Yet, the significance of the geographic positioning of the spokesper- sons for the subaltern in the affluent middle class of the First World, a voice articulated often by displaced scholars in U.S. suburbs and campuses, poses a profound challenge to subjectivity and therefore authenticity. When the legitimacy and extent of the suburban subaltern are questioned, the geographic dilemma may arise due to political, professional, and personal reasons, but no easy demarcation can be drawn. Does a victim ever lose a voice'? When does an authentic subal- tern become a suburban, losing her voice? What is the significance (if true) that few postmodern insights are evident in Indian publications by people who do not spend time in the First World and who are more likely to express a traditional critique of imperialism?'" In contrast, the subaltern group itself is an Indian elite educated largely in leading First World schools. A similar dilemma faces African writers who, for reason of exile or otherwise, have found themselves in the United States participating in the postmodern postcolonial critique which is

'Sara Suleri, Thc Rhetoric cjfEngli.th India (Chicago, 1992), p. I.

'The initial subaltern studies were edited by Ganajit Guha (1982-87) and were informed largely by Marxism and structuralism. See the selected papers in the American edition, Ganajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, eds., Selcc~tcdSubultcrnStlidies (New York, 1988), with Edward Said's preface; Spivak's introduction is tilted more toward the critical studies.

Howard Winant's interview with Spivak, "Gayatri Spivak on the Politics of the Subaltern," Soc.iuli.st Rcvic~w 20, no. 3 (1990): 81 -97.

' Ibid., p. 90.

"' See, for example, Sujit Bosc, Attitudcs to Itnpc~riali.sm: Kipling. Forstc~r and Puul

,Sc.ott (Uelhi, 1990); Ghulam Murshid, Rel~ictcrtzt Dchutcrtztc: Response of Bengali Wornc~tz to Modernization, IN4Y-1905 (Kajshahi, Bangladesh, 1983).

very heavily loaded with jargon and which is not available in Africa itself. If the subaltern is the polari~ed position of the elite (both Indian and occidental), the status of the subaltern discourse which is emanat- ing from a very select academic elite deserves additional reflections.

Gyan Prakash provides a taxonomy of Indian historiography which addressed these issues from a historian's perspectives." He distinguishes between the "post-Orientalist" and the "subaltern" by allowing the latter, while rescuing "the subaltern from the will of the colonial or nationalist elite," to also claim "autonomy for the subaltern consciousness." The postorientalist, in contrast, focuses on "power relations": "It attempts to disclose that which is concealed when is- sues are posed as India versus Britain; crime versus law and order; and traditional, reactionary, and oppressive treatment of women ver- sus their modern and progressive emancipation. The purpose of such disclosures is to write those histories that history and historiography have e~cluded."'~ These sentiments intentionally recall earlier social- ist and radical histories. Prakash's reading of orientalism constructs an Occident that is synonymous with imperialism as a cluster of op- pressions. He does not, however, negate the role of "minority voices in the first world," which have been natural allies in the anti-imperialist drive, nor does he subscribe to intellectual segregation, emphasizing instead how, in the process of modernization, the "third world, far from being confined to its assigned space, has penetrated the inner sanctum of the first world," becoming an active agent.I3

In both versions-the subaltern and the postorientalist-those previously subjugated regain independent voices and are looking for a brighter future. Struggle, yes, but with a hope. Spivak is apologetic for a seemingly terminal pessimism; Prakash highlights the reappropri- ation of power. But, as he correctly observes with regard to his own survey, "It is difficult to overlook the fact that all of the third-world voices identified in this essay, speak within and to discourses familiar to the 'West' instead of originating from some autonomous essence."14 He ascribes such resilience to the embedded contestational nature of the subjugated. Similarly, the recognition of occidental minorities as Others opens the door to an analysis of plural victimizations. Although he sees this as the postorientalist resolution ("such destabilization of

" Gyan Prakash, "Writing Post-orientalist Histories of the Third World: Perspec- tives from Indian Historiography," Compcrrcrtivc~St~tdic~s

in Society and History 32, no. 2 (1990): 383-408.

I' Ibid., pp. 400, 401.

" Ibid., p. 403.

'I Ibid.

identities and crossing of carefully policed boundaries promise a new third-world historiography that will resist both nativist romanticization and Orientalist distancing"),I5 it is perhaps more appropriate to reflect on how such a posture maintains the occidentalist modernist attitude of destabili~ing one's own space, as Sara Suleri emphasi~es in the quote above. This is a contestation which is being transformed through traditional dialecticism into a post-anti-colonialism, effacing any essen- tial dichotomies but maintaining the inherent tension between agency and the process of legitimizing a voice. It is easy to see this as one more posture of appropriation-the marginal is able to speak only through the center-or to view such pluralism as pragmatism, while the center as a continuously changing space becomes more diverse along ethnic and gender lines. Such reading naturally creates an enigma because of the close affinity of my view of postorientalism with nine- teenth-century occidental theories of progress. But I am not alone. Participating in the discourse while self-examining and reflecting from afar at present may be the characteristic mode of writing "better" history while maintaining essential skepticism.

Similarly the debate over Afrocentricity and the rejection of any occidental exemplars is primarily an American PoMo position. Leo- pold Senghor, for example, could talk only a decade ago about the revolution of 1889 led by Leo Frobenius (explicitly evoking the com- parison with 1789-which remains 7'he Revolution), the entrepreneur- anthropologist as the one who facilitated the cultural and historical constructions which helped the early negritude activists to formulate their own ideological positions. The very Frobenius who symboli~ed cultural imperialism in its predatory stage. It is not difficult to see Senghor's failure as inscribing the subaltern, at the very moment of triumph, in the image of the European mastery. In contrast, Afrocen- trism and subalterity aim at transcending the appeal of the center, of defining the self not vis-a-vis imperialism, but seem to be continuously seduced by centers of power. A successful Australian overview of the field which negotiates the very enigma of the subaltern is The Empire Writes ~ack.'~

However, even from a firm contestational ideological posture one cannot talk about a singular perspective. "The Empire" has many voices for whom the First World is only one oppressor, but so are local elites. The local internal political!cultural rivalry assumes a more significant role the closer one gets to the action. Thus, the

l5 Ibid., p. 406.

l6 Bill Ashcroft. Gareth Griffiths. and Helen Tiffin. Thc~Ernairc Writes Back:Thcorv and Practicc~ it? Post Coloniul Litcrut~trc~s (I,ondon, 1989).

holekuja critics (Chinweizu, Onwuchekwa Jemie, Ihchukwu Madubu- ike) rejected African savants like Wole Soyinka for writing in English, for a definition of African nationalism vis-a-vis the center (1970s), and encountered Soyinka's response, "Neo-Tarzanism: The Poetics of Pseudo-Tradition" (1975),17which left the debate at a stalemate. For embracing a reality, a tradition, or an identity turns out to be deter- mined by chronology, an invention which is localized by privileging a constructed primordial stage.

Mainstream historical scholarship has been slow in incorporating the new insights from the anticolonialist literature (which has been confined primarily to literary criticism). Traditional disciplinary bound- aries are encouraged at times by the chivalrous attitude to "historical facts" often displayed in these writings by nonhistorians. Perhaps the most threatening for the profession was the claim that the new con- cerns can be neither addressed nor judged by old standards-that immediate moral concerns are to be privileged over received scholarship. In the professional jargon, the polari~ation of historicism and pres- entism left critical space only to the latter. As the intellectual tide shifted in favor of postmodernisms, facts lost their allure; interpreta- tions became everything. However, in the process, new and excellent scholarship has evolved, though for the uninitiated it is oftentimes difficult to excavate this from the verbiage of the outcry over the canon. High public profile enabled some moralists to have turned ear- lier victimization into a manipulated success, precisely the kind of ahistorical writing that accentuates the methodological alienation be- tween historians and literary criticism. Before discussing the new and invigorating scholarship, one ough~ to underscore where, pragmati- cally, historians would wish to tread only very carefully.

A recent example of such misapplication is Marianna Torgovnick, Gone Primitive,a book which was reviewed widely and favorably, building on the combined potential energy embedded in various victim- izations of European patriarchy to entertain and titillate the reader under the posturing of scholar~hi~.'~

Torgovnick's choice of topics is very adequate, though not surprising, as is her main premise: the simi- larity in the victimi~ation of women in the West and of peoples of color-a timely topic which attracted a great deal of favorable atten- tion. The text, however, is a different matter, especially when "histori-

" Ibid., pp 128-29.
'' Torgovnick (n. 3above).

cal" judgment is employed. Torgovnick examines the attraction in the Occident to the Orient and the exotic with grandiose moves, and she treats history as a literary text which can be enhanced by general historical observations or allusions but which is open to any appropria- tion of "evidence" as a literary device. With no distinction between "historical" evidence and metaphors, Torgovnick offends common sense, not merely historical professional standards. A great deal of the book is devoted to demystifying any "positive" role which might be attributed to earlier anthropologists (such as familiarii-ing the Occident with the Other) because they were after all mere imperial agents and misogynists. Although the villains are exposed, historical empathy is absent, as are the perspectives of the victims. The duality of center and periphery is not investigated, and instead the only stable, morally superior position is that of the critic. For example, Torgovnick aims her critique at, among other works, Bronislaw Malinowski's The Sex~talL$e of ~ava~es,"which she sees as "licentious," and at his method of gathering data, as imposing on and interfering with the is- landers.

After the publication of his diary a generation ago, Malinowski has long been an easy target.2" The historian may or may not feel empathy toward his torments while carrying on "field" research, may criticize or understand his appropriation and voyeurism, but either way there is a great deal of data to be discussed and interpreted. Torgovnick begins by exploring the distinction between ethnography and pornography, but, instead of attempting to formulatc a possible demarcation (or to efface any), she chooses to devote her limited space to a symbolic analysis of the typography of the jacket of the paperback edition of Malinowski's book, published twenty-five years after the author's death.*' Torgovnick is not interested in the particular aestheti- cism of the representations; instead her emphasis focuses on the "pen- etration" of the author's name into the titlclsubject of the book. By describing the typesetting of the title relative to the author, the reader is expected to deconstruct the subject of the book, as well as the relationship between anthropologists and the peoples they study and the status of victimization. She repeats a similar analysis regarding Michel Leris's writings about Africa. It is almost tempting to suggest that perhaps it is easier to look at books than to read them, but Torgov- nick's analysis of Malinowski's text is sound, and there is no doubt

l9 Bronislaw Malinowski, Tlze Sexual Life of Savages (New York, 1927)."See, e.g., James Clifford, The Predicament ofculture (Cambridge, Mass., 1988). I' Bronislaw Malinowski, A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term (London, 1967).

that she could have amplified her case by keeping closer to the text. 1 do not think her approach was frivolous, but the results are. Few, if any, are aware of the details Torgovnick overlooks or would pay atten- tion to the radically polarized modes of justifications she employs. To thc casual reader the analysis says that it is OK to judgc a book by its cover, especially if you know in advance what you are going to think about it. To the reader, the book advocates a trivial approach. If you are making a "moral" point, any evidencc will do.

One possible resolution to the contradiction between a historicist and a presentist posture is through a dialogic ("negotiation") approach in which thc positions of the subject and the writer are mediated with- out privileging eithcr. Torgovnick, however, conducts a monologue. For examplc, in discussing the racism of Franz Boas as a proponent of white supremacy, her understanding of the intricacies of the history of anthropology relies primarily on published material and secondary sources. As she focuses on Boas's The Mind ofprimitive an,*' the title again seems to be more important than the content, and her reduc- tionist interpretation cmphasizes the supposedly constructed dichot- omy between the primitives and the civilized. Boas, in contrast, uti- lized the conventional terminology of the late nineteenth century to compare thc "primitive mind" and the "modern person" as ideal types in order to reject rigid dichotomies. Torgovnick misses Boas's writing on "Primitive Mind" before 191 1 (he had published since 1894) and is only partially correct about the 1938 revised edition in her claim that it was writtcn against the Nazi menace (Boas had tried to publish a revised version since the late twenties, but his publisher kept reprinting the old edition and postponing the ncw edition). More significant, in relation to his contemporaries, Boas's writings against racism were extensive and lasted from the 1890s to his death.23 Marshaling ideas out of context, Torgovnick takes the high moral ground and effaces any distinction between Boas, Joseph Conrad, others who were considered antiracist, and those whom they opposed. Although it may seem too obvious, perhaps it is worth noting that this type of critique, which places the Western critical tradition along a linear progression where the present is always viewed as superior to the past, without self- reflexivity about it-for example, Torgovnick vis-8-vis BoasIConrad- resembles very closely the confidence and lack of self-reflection which

22 Franz Boas, The Mind of Primitive Man (New York, 1911).

"On Boas, see Elazar Barkan, The Retreat of Sr.irnt+c Racism (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 76-90 passim; and on Boas's publications before 1911, see George W. Stocking, Race, Culture, and Evolutiotz (New York, 1968; reprint, Chicago, 1988), esp. pp. 214-22.

had been characteristic of the worst phases of patriarchy. Further- more, appropriation can go either way. This can perhaps be well illus- trated by the contradictory marks given to Conrad's Heart oJ'Darkness or Mary Kingsley's Travels in West Afri~a,'~ which have become the yardstick for contemporary critics of Victorian writers about Afri~a.'~

Suleri does not criticize Torgovnick directly but shows how the genre and tone Torgovnick represents are very limiting. Suleri ap- proaches the same set of issues in The Rhetoric ofEnglish India with much greater sophi~tication.~~

Methodologically, she goes beyond the "indiscriminate reliance on the centrality of otherness" which "tends to replicate what in the context of imperialist discourse was the familiar category of the exotic" and avoids the inclination in current discourse "in its often unscrupulous conflation of the issues of race, class, and gender" to "replicate the Orientalist desire to shroud the East in a 'female' mystery."27 This unease which Suleri feels as the shortcoming of the critical discourse is formidable and difficult to resolve empiri- cally. While the text achieves its greater complexity in posing these issues, Suleri's conscious decision to collapse chronologies leads her to privilege her own presentist position. Empathy can go only so far. This becomes especially problematic because the historical agency is manipulated. For example, in a rich chapter entitled "The Feminine Picturesque," where the alternative legitimacies of the Anglo-Indian women's perspectives are investigated, Suleri has no difficulty in showing a self-proclaimed "simple narrative by an eyewitness" (Har- riet Tytler's evaluation of her own writing describing the 1857 rebellion) as a "compelling account of the derangement of maternity in Anglo-India."28 While the analysis is effective, the epistemological po- sition is problematic: Why should Tytler's "simple" account demand to be read in any other way? Suleri's theoretical position presumably ought to forestall any such judgments which replicate the appropriation of the colonial narrative by its chroniclers. The geographiclgenealogi- cal tension between the text and the critic represents the suburban dilemma: Tytler, although an Anglo, wrote in India; Suleri, although from Pakistan, writes at Yale. Are these new perspectives, or are they merely a new twist of occidental appropriation? Can the subaltern

24 Joseph Conrad, Heart c?f'Darkness (London, 1902); Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa (London, 1897). 25 See, e.g., Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Tmnsculturation

(London, 1992), who gives Kingsley especially high marks.

*"uleri (n. 6 above).

*'Ibid., pp. 12, 16.

*'Ibid., p. 98.

speak only in the suburb? Does such a speech act negate the political potency of the analysis or its agent?

Among new cultural historians of imperialism who are informed by post-anti-colonialist categories and who take for their subject matter the center as well as the empirelmargin, old-fashioned empiricism has been enriched by such theoretical sensibilities while maintaining a stronger "realistic" perspective. Howcvcr, such an interdisciplinary project becomes especially problematic as methodologies seem to con- flict. The impending fear is that, with so many perspectives, "every- thing goes." However, reading works like those by Mary Cowling, John Mack, J. A. Mangan, or Chaudhuri and Str~bel,~~

one cncounters more empiricism than theorizing, as well as a "faithful" adherence to evidence, which raises a strong suspicion that the proclaimed demise of intersubjectivity ("realism") may very well be on its own deathbed. On the basis of sound historical investigations which underscore the advantages of knowledge over ideology, most of these writers subject their work to old-fashioned empirical verification while taking account of the anticolonialistlantiracist positions. Thus we learn that, even at the highest stagc of imperialism, its rcpresentatives disclosed divcrsity, that images (visual included) hadlhave a meaning which can be contex- tualized and can be undcrstood a century later, that intentions matter, and that, beyond a very general characterization of the imperialism or Victorianism, detailed investigations can still salvage communication in the fluid and subjective postmodern world.

This is particularly cvident in collections of essays such as those edited by Mangan or Chaudhuri and Strobel, where imperialism is no longer a unidimensional DWEM's pastime but a diverse phenomenon. Mack's description of Emil Torday's work shows how, even during the height of the most aggressive white supremacy, some imperialists had close affinity and empathy with the non-European pop~lation.'~ This blurred demarcation bctwcen "us" and "them" receives a ncw twist by Cowling, who demonstrates how the quintessential modern

29 Mary Cowling, The Artist as Atztlzropologist: The Reprcsentatiotz qf Type and Character in Victorian Art (Cambridge, 1989); John Mack, Emil Torday and the Art of the Congo, 1900-1909 (Seattle, 1991); J. A. Mangan, ed., Making Imperial Mentalities: Socialization and British Imperialism (Manchester, 1990); Chaudhuri and Strobel, eds.

(n. 5 above).

Compare Christraud M. Geary, 1mages.from Bamum: German Colonial Photog- raphy at the Court of King Njoya, Cameron West Africa, 1902-I915 (Washington, D.C., 1988).

study of the Other-anthropology-began perhaps as much from inter- est in the poor and the destitute in England as it did from the spread of imperialism.

The reappraisal of imperial histories leads to excavating points of contestations in very unexpected junctures. Nowhere perhaps is that more surprising than in the depth of West Indies slavery. Thus Patricia Rooke focuses on the politically subversive element in the work of missionaries who through Christianity empowered West Indians to find their own voice." Thus the role of the missionaries is reconstituted from being agents of destruction (colonialismlmodernization) to media- tors in an impossible situation. The subaltern speaks through a very unlikely mediuml~oice.~~

The agenda is no longer simply to highlight the terrible condition of slavery or to recognize it as the most horren- dous and fundamental expression of imperialism but to search for sources and agents of change. What role did the different participants play? Was Christianity just an additional tool in the physical and cul- tural oppressionldestruction of blacks, or was there perhaps within Christianity an alternative space to the absolute authority of the slave- holders? Rooke argues for the latter, underscoring the opportunities opened for the black elite within Christianity. Focusing on the mission- aries' approach to the educability of blacks and on their fundamental human egalitarianism, she suggests that the missionary activities were the initial steps on the long road to equality. Social mobility and hope were the novelties introduced by Christianity-both conceivably im- portant for their West Indian beneficiaries even in the midst of general destruction. The nuances of the missionaries' work and the changing political circumstances of the postslavery society (1834-) become the focal point. This is a very contentious point; is there an absolute evil beyond which nuances cease to make a difference? Such a demarcation is yet to be investigated, but the larger implication of the study in the present context is that, despite the fundamental power imbalance embedded in the missionary-indigenous relationship, the sociallindi- vidual tension can be represented only in its specificity.

" Patricia Kooke, "Slavery, Social Death and Imperialism: The Formation of a Christian Black Elite in the West Indies, 1800-1845," in Mangan, ed., pp. 23-46.

''Compare, e.g., with Richard Price, Alabi's World (Baltimore, 1990), one of the more celebrated volumes to integrate history and anthropology with a postmodernist perspective, which constructs the Others' voice through church archives, among other sources.

Cowling traces the representation of aliens in England, Mack goes to Africa, and the contributors to the collected essays come from all over the empire. Yet, it would be impossible to rank the subjects of study along a scale of alienationlracism. At times there is little need for comments; such is an illustration in Cowling by James Redfield which compares the facial expression of an Irishman with that of a terrier dog.33 Although there are numerous examples of similar follies, the issue is perhaps not merely to expose the evil and stupidity of earlier ages but also to investigate how rational, sensible people, not exceptionally pathological, could have engaged in such practices. An obvious explanation is that they were ignorant, despite their self- conviction to the contrary. A sobering thought.

The theoretical formulations in the introductory essays in both Chaudhuri and Strobel, as well as in Mangan, underscore the tension between castigating colonialism for its oppression and recognizing the various forces which operated within the systcm. The informal (and formal) socialization under imperialism is confrontcd with the "prob- lem of maintaining cultural identity and cultural continuity" while ac- counting for thc changcs within the colonial setting. The pendulum swings between a view of the colonialists as being "just like us" and the preferred view that "the European in the empire wasfrequently changed, oftcn substantially, by 'the experience of dominance' " (emphasis added).34 If the long-term impact of cultural imperialism is to be tested according to its imprint on the young generations, a central question to the interpretation of the imperialist phenomenon becomes whether "youth" tends to adapt or reject indoctrination. None of the studies attempt to pose the question. Constructing synonymy among multiple victimizations by applying new sensibilities to conventional analytical concepts such as moderni~ation, progress, and race discrim- ination can be misleading. For instance, victimintion on the basis of gcndcr and racc is thought to create closc affinity between women and people of color. Yet, the more we encounter conflicting evidence, the less probable such an answer becomes. Mangan differentiates between enculturation and acculturation-activc and passive indoctrination- only to include immediately both as the subject matter of the book and to recognize how both colonizer and colonized are active agents in the process. Resistance, adaptation, or rejection can rarely be foretold. Such a process is followed by reciprocity and multiplicity of cultural agents, enriching the analysis and forestalling any reductionist expla-

j1 Cowling, p. 37.
34 Mangan, ed., p. 2.

nations. As a result we are left without a model, an ideology, or a straightforward way to explain representations.

Following these new sensibilities and subject to multiple modern- ist contexts, the historian has to resort to old-fashioned tools such as specificity and individual judgment. The overall impression from such new cultural histories of imperialism is that adopting an a priori antico- lonialist, anti-Western perspective is no longer sufficient. Given the universal rejection of racism, a new differentiation among forms of victimization must take place to explain the nature of colonialism and its legacy. The new agenda will have to recognize the partial victimiza- tion among those ruled who supported or benefited from colonialism as legitimate Others, not merely as Quislings who enjoyed forbidden fruits. Western women find themselves, in hindsight, at the center of such junctures. It could aggravate submission, as Mervat Hatem concludes regarding the relative power of European women vis-a-vis Egyptian women which made them "avoid confronting their own pow- erlessness and gender oppression at home."35 Taking the "Western" a step farther, Sylvia M. Jacobs examines the role of African-American women as missionaries between 1880 and 1920.~' Despite facing the "triple jeopardy" (colonialism, sexism, and racism) and such subaltern burdens as being an ex-slave, and despite opposing in general the Euro- pean colonialism, these African-American women contributed to mod- ernization and appropriation; they after all thought of their own work as assisting in the "redemption"37 of the continent and enlightening the African women with Western-like gender roles. If these African- American women at the turn of the century were not subalterns, it is perhaps because as soon as they spoke-achieved a certain political voice-they surrendered their status as subalterns, while out there remained (as always) others who were deprived even more of their ability to speak.

One possibility of dealing with multiple victimizations is to priori- tize them. The first generation of feminist writers have tried to do precisely this, as does Janice N. Brownfoot, who privileges gender affinity over racial differences by focusing on emancipation through m~dernization.~'Her case study spotlights the way Malay women were

''Mervat Hatem, "Through Each Other's Eyes: The Impact on the Colonial En- counter of the Image of Egyptian, Levantine-Egyptian, and European Women, 1862- 1920," in Chaudhuri and Strobel, eds., pp. 31-58.

''Sylvia M. Jacobs, "Give a Thought to Africa: Black Women Missionaries in

Southern Africa," in Chaudhuri and Strobel, eds., pp. 207-28.

''Ibid., p. 208.

j8 Janice N. Brownfoot, "Sisters under the Skin: Imperialism and Emancipation of

Women in Malaya, c. 1891-1941," in Mangan, ed., pp. 46-73.

instructed by white women toward modernity, which led to profound socioeconomic and political changc, while the white women were con- currently being influenced by their darker sisters. But unfortunately we hear little about such mutual benefits beyond a declaration. Thus "sisterhood" remains a goodwill gesture, which supposedly resulted in a Victorian enlightened femininity that benefited from the educa- tional path women had taken: "It is also possible that women were more open-minded and adaptable than men to the realities of life in the colonies," the supportive evidence being the polarization between the "anti-intellectual cult of masculinity" at the private schools and women's socialization track of being educated by "governesses in a restricted family environment where their social contacts were policed and controlled."iy Not everyone might judge such an environment as enriching or liberating. The other predicament, as Marxian and antico- lonialist writers have underlined, is that modernization was a formida- ble component of cultural imperialism. And as the "subaltern project" has shown, it is not surprising that the local elite who benefited mostly from the changes, as well as those who enjoyed social mobility, were supportive of modernization. Such representations are readily suspected when claimed to be "authentic" voices. As the concept of universal sisterhood comes under attack by Third World women, an

"internal" occidental critique highlights the limitation of alternative educational possibilities which were opened to women in relation to imperialism. Allen Warren examines how the Girl Guides Association promoted the socialization of women who strove to become more like men. The ambivalence of the association in this context was that their feminism was manifested in their efforts to emulate males (boys in this case) and to promote "social imperiali~m."~" Their very "liberation" was a challenge to the analogy of gender to racism.

A similar tension of confronting sisterhood with the role of women as imperial agents is examined by a number of writers in Chaudhuri and Strobcl. But here is the unifying theme of thc essays: the distinc- tions among women become the focus and constitute gender as one among several variables. As a result a more complex picture emerges. Thus we are shown how Annie Besant's role in the lndian indepen- dence movement was shaped more by the relative strength of Indian nationalism than by her place as a woman4' or that modernization

3"bid., pp. 48-49.

4u Allen Warren, "'Mothers for the Empire'? The Girl Guides Association in Britain, 1909-1939," in Mangan, ed. (n. 29 above), pp. 96-109.

41 Nancy I,. Paxton, "Con~plicity and Resistance in the Writings of Flora Annie Steel and Annie Uesant," in Chaudhuri and Strobel, eds. (n. 5 above), pp. 158

was only one political ideology among several which competed for the Indian soul, localized by class and ethnic affinit~.~'

The limitations of universal modernization had been recognized already in the 1890s by the British, who sought to accommodate to the pressures of allowing oriental diversity, but their perspectives were limited by the reigning "social Darwinism." Negating such outright prejudice was an initial step, but one that challenged the uniformity of imperialism. As the anticolonialist literature is enriched, the competition among "legiti- mate" indigenous voices would increase. For example, the continuous imposition on lndia by invading elites (like the Hindu, who similar to the English were a foreign imposition and maintained an elite language for the upper classes which was continuously rejected in large parts of India) makes excavating "authenticity" a perpetual exercise in ap- propriation.

Visual images can enrich historical narratives, but they are also notoriously ambivalent. This becomes especially problematic as claims for "authentic representations" or "historical veracity" assume the existence of a recognizable reality. Yet the discrepancy between "real- ity" and "representations" can be dramatic at times. Cowling, for instance, shows how certain physiognomical analogies, phrenology, and criminal anthropology have outlived the scientific realism which had legitimized their initial appeal and have continued to exert influ- ence for many decades after becoming pseudosciences. Such "floating realism" is being recognized ever more widely by historians of science. Hut this coexistence of fact and fiction in the "real" world raises the predicament of "representations of what"? Ordinarily one assumes that the images serve to construct "something" about the society in question, but what? One ought to be very specific about whether one is talking about highbrowllowbrow culture, scientific status, or the uses of specific images. As Cowling shows the physiognomic origin of the concepts of "highbrow"1"lowbrow" within the context of her discussion on physiognomy, she also emphasizes how these images transcended their initial ~ignificance.~' Evaluating the impact of scien- tific realism vis-B-vis the individual limited ability to lead an indepen-

76. Compare the role of 1:. Sylvia Pankhurst's involvement in Ethiopia and her efforts on behalf of Haile Selassie ignoring the traditional aspects of his rule (including feudal- ism). See Strobel (n. 5 above), p. 65.

'''S. V. Sathyamurthy, "Victorians, Socialiration and Imperialism: Consequences for Post-imperial India," in Mangan, ed. (n. 29 above), pp. 110-26. 47 Cowling (n. 29 above), p. 78.

dent path, Cowling also demonstrates the potential diversity within the discourse. Thus we learn that a manual of physiognomy from 1880 used photographs of plaster models (but not of people!) to illustrate racial types,44 presumably because living ideal racial types could not be found. Although representations of the "races of Britain" in litera- ture and historical writings were in abundance, relatively few artistic specimens of this genre existed, suggesting an uneven intellectual in- vestment in the topic. Thus it may be too much to interpret W. P. Frith's ideal types as synonymous with the conventional racial beliefs: the most one can say is that a painting of his own family generated broad approval as representative of the English middle classes. But did Frith's choice of a Saxon John Bull racial type display a nationall racial preference? Perhaps, though this is precisely what one would like to know not to assume.45 Naturalism, however, is a feeble category which can go only so far and is often contradicted by the visual evi- dence, as, for example, in the case of the popular genre of the "science of character" (such as Charles Le Brun's Desire, painted in 1863) where the limitations of "natural" and "obvious" become salient. Thus the painting of Moses (1871) by J. Millais, even when interpreted according to phrenological and physiological standards, became the subject of an empirical, if not an epistemological, contr~versy.~~

Mixing discourses and displaced images may tempt one to collapse plurality into an imposed linear historical narrative. Thus for instance Cowling claims that criminal anthropology disappeared with Charles Goring's English She is right that its heyday was over, but the images nonetheless remained formative, especially in popular cul- ture, illustrated not least by the fortunes of the "brow" as a represen- tation of character (above). Yet it is almost refreshing to see that Cowl- ing is at times too eager to establish historical facts rather than discourse. Her main work is devoted to the work of Frith and his large

44 Ibid., p. 34.

45 Ibid., p. 361.

46 The weakest point in Cowling's hook is that, after she educates the reader as a

radical skeptic of visual evidence, she leaves us with scant information about the writers or the artists to enable an evaluation of their relative significance. Even regarding Frith's social/political views one learns very little. In a reference to the possible affinity between Frith's views and those of a conservative critic, we are told: "Though a staunch republi- can, Frith was conservative in his views, and certainly shared the average middle-class person's fear of insurrection, or even, as he put it, of too much 'liberty, equality, and fraternity' of the lower classes" (ibid., p. 334).

47 Cowling, p. 39. See also Charles Goring, English Cor~vict: A Stati.rticu1 St~dciy to Wlziclz Is Added tlze Sclzedulc (?f'Meusur.ements and C;enczrul Antlzro~~ological Data

(London, 19 13).

scenery paintings, the epitome of Victorian reali~m.~' The interpreta- tion is mostly internal, so that when she ventures from visual images into history, she becomes too conjectural. Thus for example we learn that Queen Victoria's purchase of Frith's painting Ramsgute Sands (1851) sealed Frith's success (which would be a significant episode in the story). We are told that the purchase was motivated by the paint- ing's focus on "family life, with a predominance of women and chil- dren, a domestic and largely happy aura nestles comfortable over the whole."49 Perhaps, but we simply do not know why the queen ex- tended her patronage, although Cowling believes she does. We are not given any supportive evidence, and one can only assume it to be so, because that is a plausible understanding of Victoria. Yet, what hap- pens to such an assumption when confronted with Victoria's purchase of The 7wo Wuys of Lfe by Gustav Rejlander at about the same time, a photographic composition that was rebuked within a few years as porn~graphic?'~

It is worth focusing on these polarities because they sharpen our sensitivities to the tension embedded between imageslrepresentations and realitylfiction. Frith, whose work is examined closely in Cowling's analysis, is appropriated especially because his tremendous success is believed to have stemmed from the realistic nature of his paintings at the same time that Rejlander aspired to use the most realistic of mediums-photography-as art but was rejected. Photographic meta- phors were condemned, and Rejlander settled for conventional images. Both the studio photographer and the social painter depicted authentic and powerful illustrations of Victorian taste. The tension in the histori- cal narrative is evident in Cowling, who tends to recognize the limita- tions of realistic interpretations in her concluding comments to the various chapters but who, in the body of the text, leaves the reader in an empirical world. Thus, the intrinsic interest of the anthropological- cum-historical data in Frith's work is not fully spelled out. Were scien- tific and cultural biases the basis for Victorian art in general? Probably, but this is claimed more than shown.

As we move on to Africa, this potential reinterpretive complexity is wonderfully exhibited in Mack's book on Torday-an adventurer

48 Which is supposedly "the natural outcome of living in a scientific age." See Cowling, p. 93. 4y Ihid., p. 227. Kejlander appears in almost all accounts on nineteenth-century photography. Es- pecially good is Edgar Y. Jones, 17rtther qfArl Photogru~~hy:

0.G.Rc.jlnnder, 1831-1875

(New York, 1973). Also see E. Barkan, "Promiscuity: Greek Ethics and Primitive Exem- plars," in Prehi.storic~.sof the Futrtrc., E. Barkan and Ronald Bush, ed. (Stanford, 1994).

turned geographer and anthropologist, who represented imperialism in its darkest days in body and in spirit in the dark continent but who in retrospect turns out to have displayed unexpected cultural sensibilities and whose work provides a rich source for contemporary knowledge regarding African history. Torday, who went to Africa as a Hungarian adventurer representing Belgian interests, was hired by the British Museum. The curator of antiquities at the museum had shown interest in African ethnography and art in the 1890s. When Torday offered his services, he was retained for lack of alternatives and because of the growing competition with Germany over acquiring African artifacts (especially since the fervor of the post-Benin e~pedition).~' Torday became a valuable and inexpensive addition to the museum's staff. A contemporary exhibit of his collection is the occasion for Mack's vol- ume, which promises to be only the introduction to the complete catalog.

The collecting impulse, once a most powerful and persuasive argu- ment for imperialism and voyages of discovery, had fallen into disre- pute, but Torday could not have known about such later sensibilities. Once in Africa in the service of the British Museum, Torday assured London that, although Frobenius (the chief German collector in Africa) was boasting of amassing everything, "the old curiosity shop of Bloomsbury" would not be undersold by the Berlin ~useum.~%rom a distance, imperialist rivalry contextualized the interest in African art as essentially social Darwinist in character, a purely European competition with little regard for the Africans. Such an interpretation can be easily shown, as for instance Torday's paternalism is demon- strated by a caption to an illustration of the Mbala: "When kindly treated they are the most devoted servants one can find."5' However, Torday's own work, as well as the attitude of the museum's curatorial staff-Charles H. Read, Ormonde M. Dalton, and Thomas A. Joyce- suggest great interest in the material beyond antiquarianism. The bibli- ography points to the extent of their research. Torday's work remains a primary source for the cultures he studied, and his collection of art and material culture of central Africa is unmatched, even though his documentation has its limits. The exhibit is significant not merely for

'' E. Barkan, "Benin Art and the Dialectics of Modernism'' (unpublished manu- script).

'' Mack (n. 29 above), p. 28.

" Illustration facing p. 86, in ibid. 'Sorday also referred to the Mbala (northern Zaire) as the most primitive of all, and the only surprising technological aspect of their life was the bow, which was "absolutely above their intelligence"; he referred to canni- balism as purely part of a diet (ibid., p. 36).

its commemoration of Torday's work, which Mack does, but for its implication of our understanding of cultural facts: What does it mean that Torday's work maintains its validity? Did Torday's work encom- pass facts and objects which have meaning beyond their initial pater- nalistic context? Beyond that of being a text? Mack certainly thinks so, and this enhances the exhibition's "reality" as compared with being merely a "construction." In 1908, a collection of sculptures and objects sent by Torday from Africa was received enthusiastically at the museum and was deemed so exceptional that it was displayed immediately, similarly to the Benin treasures of a decade earlier. A comparably elated reception was voiced in 7'hc Times. At the very height of imperialism, this was a display of appreciating indigenous ethnographylart at its best, simultaneously with the initial European recognition of racism as embedded in imperialism, surfacing in the overwhelming condemnation of the Belgian atrocities in the Congo. If Torday is examined against the violence and harsh standards of imperialism, one can see how he might be evaluated positively. Yet, one may wish to ponder again whether there are moral/political limits beyond which no differentiation may take place.

Mack suggests that Torday collected objects which were most accessible to the European taste. As opposed, for instance, to the French avant-garde, the interests "of English-speaking anthropologists led to ethnographic arts being investigated on their own terms rather than simply appropriated by European art interest^."'^ His own evi- dence, however, suggests no such easy demarcation, and the illustra- tions show horrific masks which clearly contradicted "European taste." The longer Torday stayed among Africans, the more sensitive he became to their ways of life and the more he respected these in his own way. In collecting ritual objects-such as mwena sculptures, the loss of which carried heavy religious repercussions-he limited himself to replicas and unused new objects which did not interfere with reli- gious practices.55 One can read such practices as crude commodifica- tion or as cultural exchange, but no doubt the interchange involved some type of symmetry between the two parties. Torday was not an all-powerful imperialist agent but rather a trader and a collector who complained about his bankruptcy as a result of the high prices he had to pay: "I am now left absolutely de~titute."'~ Generally, Torday paid "good prices": "When our offer did not come up to the seller's expec-

54 Ibid., p. 19.
"Ibid., p. 38.
56 Ibid., p. 67.

tation he knew that he could carry his goods away without fear that we might use our influence with the great men of the country to put pressure on him to part with them against his wishes."57 This no doubt took place within a larger framework of potential exploitation and a clear inequality of power. But then Torday's description is of letting the market forces work out a price, without the use of external pres- sures. Imperialism was exploitative, but not everyone abused the situa- tion equally. Many no doubt did. The text is clear. The expectations that such an abuse will occur existed, but then among collectors there were also exceptions. Mack's description contradicts Sally Price's de- scription, who judges any exchange of African art that involves the West as e~ploitation.~'

After two years among the Mbala, Torday came to play a central role in the society, and in time he saw himself as representing the local people and mediating on their behalf with the imperial authorities. By 1907 he was confronting imperial policies as he and his aide W. H. Hilton-Simpson were embroiled in the intricacies of the local political ~ystem.~'Their anthropological information was a synthesis of lengthy discussions with many courtiers. One may view their work as a Whig- gish history of the court and the political system, perhaps not up to the standards of later social history, but hardly different from any European court history of the time.60 The most valuable objects and histories Torday collected were of the Kuba, who were very histori- call y minded and were able to provide through oral accounts sufficient evidence and chronology to be verified by external sources (for exam- ple, through the calculation of the eclipse to verify the chronology). But if Torday's histories have since been updated, "corrected," much of his work remains valuable. This may be read as merely suggesting that there are alternate constructions more accepted at present but not that his enterprise was fundamentally faulty. If, however, one sub- scribes to a more progressive outlook (that is "we know better") that denies the validity of Torday's narrative because it was contaminated by imperialism, the issue of a legitimate voice becomes poignant.

Mack is sometimes skeptical, not to say cynical, about Torday's reports. The combination of the scholar-administrator with colonial paternalism is at present very difficult to empathize with, as is the

"Emil Torday, On the Trail of the Bushongo: An Account of a Remarkable and Hitherto Unknown A.fricun People . . .Derived,from the Author's Pecronul Experience among Them (London, 1925), p. 193.

58 Price (n. 3 above).
"Mack, p. 46.
60 Compare Kate Ezra, Royal Art of Benin: The Perls Collection (New York, 1992).

comprehension of "colonial morality." But Torday practiced exactly this, choosing a unique career rather than being a regular imperial agent. He even brought a white man to trial for crimes against Afri- cans, at the height of imperial social Darwinism. Torday's overall view of the Kuba as very dignified people, often better than the Europeans in Africa, was reciprocated by the Africans who acknowledged this respect by naming many children after him ("Deke" in the local lan- guage). If Torday was an adventurer-turned-anthropologist, adminis- trators and travelers often held themselves to be scholars, and E. E. Evans-Pritchard in the Sudan was probably the most prominent an- thropologist to be entangled so closely in the colonial administration. Mack does well to show that the close encounters between anthropolo- gists and colonial administrators at times benefited from the latter's self-perspective as amateurs, scholars, and benefactors to the local population. While this may sound preposterous to postcolonial ears, it made sense to contemporaries.

The complex cultural stakes invested in the commodification of art are directly related to the writing of African history. The contemporary shibboleth is that commodification was bad and that it was exploitative of the local population. In contrast, Mack implies how intricate the subject is by showing which objects Torday did not purchase-specifically the royal charms which conveyed power and did not merely represent the king's power. In contrast, he acquired the "king figures" which were central to the Kuba ritual but were not a direct source of power. Their purchase involved intricate politicking but did not go against the wishes of the Kuba. The king, who supported the acquisition, pretended to object, so as to persuade his political oppo- nents to support the idea, to which he later "consented." The prize for the Kuba (in addition to monetary rewards) was the fact that the figures would be placed and treasured with similar objects from all over the world in the shrine of the British Museum. This did not in- volve direct exploitation by a powerful imperial agent of ignorant na- tives. The internal politics showed a great deal of independence by the Kuba elite, even if their knowledge of the British Museum was constructed by Torday, and he clearly could have misled them, which he did not. The Kuba were speaking in many voices. The intuitive demarcation between the charms and the figures, between religion and art, between reality and representations, seems to have been clearer to the participants than it is to cultural critics today.

Another form of appropriation which is frequently criticized is photography, both as documentary and art, where "structural exploi- tation" takes place regardless of whether the victim realizes it. Mack shows how such undifferentiated claims are unsatisfactory. At the very least the use of the photographs familiarized Europeans with African society and, together with sculptures, augmented the visual represen- tations of African cultures. Recently published early photography from Australia, New Zealand, and Africa has shown such reductionist claims to be unfounded, as the self-righteous Kiplings had been before- hand. Most instructive in this context is the comparison between the construction done by Torday and Frobenius." In Torday's photo he serves as an interlocutor for the old man who is at the center of the photo and the authority on the native people, the Kuba. The two other people in the photo also focus on the old man. Torday is practicing the contemporary anthropological wisdom of finding "the most author- itative font of local wisdom and tap into that source."" Torday de- scribed the hulaam as "a Kuba title applied to experts in narrative tradition," the "official historians." "Here is the Kuba's most "au- thentic voice."64 In contrast, Frobenius published a painting done ac- cording to a photo, which shows him at the center of a tent, sitting on a chair holding court. The light focuses on him, and the native partici- pants are sitting at his feet. Both representations belong to the same general discourse but display very dissimilar constructions. A photo- graph of Kot ape and his court in Nsheng depicts a group photo of about one hundred people. Why would such a representation be prima facie an exploitation?

An empire within-in a way, some of these stories can be read as old-fashioned empirical histories. But given the changing times, they operate within different sensibilities, mediating between different discourses: social history becomes anthropology, adventurers become scholars and/or criminals, and imperialism becomes (also) an exercise in education. This opens new potentialities. Cowling contributes to the redefinition of anthropology, which, in addition to its current method- ological difficulties, ponders its ontology. In this context, learning that the urban diversity in England provided an early motivation for the study of anthropology is very illuminating. The growth of the discipline has been ascribed to the growing familiarity with non-European-

6' Mack, pp. 50-5 1. Unfortunately, Mack leavcs ~nuch of thc visual rcpresentations as illustrations to the story rathcr than as thc focus of thc narrativc.

h2 Ibid., p. 40.

h3 Torday (n. 57 above), pp. 86-88.

'14

Compare Pricc (n. 32 above).

"primitivev-populations. Because the chronology and the lineage of the discipline supported it, anthropology became the study of primitive people, under whatever tcrminological disguise one tries to present it. However, Cowling claims that the discipline was much more diverse at its initial stage. That Europeans, and primarily the lower classes, were the subject matter of early anthropologists may turn out to gain popularity as the contemporary study of anthropology is becoming more aware of itself as a study of "Third World" rather than of "noble savages"; of encounters between the West and the rest, and not of the uncorrupted "rest." Poverty may in the near future replace primi- tives as the unifying theme for anthropology. E. B. Tylor is a more legitimate founding father than Henry Mayhew only if one escapes geographically from Europe. But, if one is going to end up in the social and cultural creativity of the slums, one may well start with Mayhew. Similarly, in the other texts the empire is mediated through more or less traditional European agents, but not as penetrators who save or. exploit the other, rather as an ongoing interaction with the local popu- lation. This receives its richest manifestations by the artistlphotogra- pherlanthropologist who constructs the Others' encounter with moder- nity; thus, it becomes clear that the level of estrangement between the aliens and us has narrowed, regardless of where "we7' or the "aliens" reside, or the skin color. A hundred years ago all others were very alien; today even the DWEMs may experience a sympathetic jury.

Comments
  • Recommend Us