Cultures of Empire: Colonizers in Britain and the Empire in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: A Reader
edited by: Catherine Hall
Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2000, ISBN: 9780415929066; 350pp.; Price: £75.00
University of York
Date accessed: 28 November, 2023
Cultures of Empire is an ideal volume for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students, along with other scholars seeking to reflect on developments in an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that has rapidly evolved in little more than a decade. As a compilation of fourteen articles and book chapters published since 1989 (most of which have appeared since the mid-1990s), the collection testifies to the burgeoning interest among social and cultural historians, anthropologists, and literary critics in the centrality of empire in Britain's past and postcolonial present. It is now increasingly common to assert that empire was crucial to the identity of colonizers as well as colonized, that Britain's domestic and overseas histories cannot be disentangled, and that imperial dimensions continue to be relevant in Britain as well as former colonies the wake of widescale decolonization after the Second World War. Despite the appearance of an increasingly large number of studies on these subjects, however, scholars grappling with these issues cannot forget the hesitancy, if not outright hostility, with which many engaged in British studies have greeted efforts to bring metropolitan and imperial themes together into the same field of analysis. Indeed, scepticism and rejection of these topics' relevance continues in many circles, making Cultures of Empire an especially welcome and accessible contribution to the collective endeavour to have empire taken seriously as part of British culture, both historically and in the present.
Catherine Hall's introduction provides inroads into these debates and charts some of the main trajectories within colonial and postcolonial studies. She discusses a diverse set of writers ranging from Seeley and Dilke in the Victorian era to C. L. R. James and Frantz Fanon, who in distinct ways were all key figures in the development of concepts later taken up by scholars writing after decolonization. Hall then briefly explores the impact of postcolonial critics such as Edward Said, feminists like Joan Scott, and poststructuralists more generally in influencing how topics connected with colonial and postcolonial culture have come to be approached. Widely-used concepts including 'culture' and 'difference' as well as specific contributions made by prominent individual scholars--including those whose work is reprinted in this volume but also many others--are summarised in clear language that will be readily comprehensible to those newly initiated into this field, who may well find some studies of colonial and postcolonial topics to be off-putting in both their jargon and often intensive use of theory. Throughout this reader, Hall's choice of works helps readers both to take various forms of theory on board and explore how a number of scholars apply them in more specific case studies. Part I of Cultures of Empire is accordingly entitled 'Using Theory', although in truth all the pieces included in the remaining three parts also might fall under this heading to greater or lesser degrees.
Part I's articles are highly suggestive not only of prominent theoretical approaches to this field and some of the topics that have attracted much attention to date, but also indicate some promising roads forward for future scholarship which are then examined more closely in some of the following chapters. Joanna de Groot's well known '"Sex" and "Race": The Construction of Language and Image in the Nineteenth Century' and Nancy Leys Stepan's more recent Race, Gender, Science and Citizenship' set the stage for later chapters which delve further into these themes in more focused studies. First published in 1989, De Groot's piece is an appropriate beginning given its pioneering treatment of issues which are now routinely taken on board by those working in this area. Discussing examples mainly from British and French literature, painting, and travel writing with a focus on the Middle East, de Groot provides a means of, amongst other things, enhancing and contesting Edward Said's arguments in Orientalism. In the nineteenth century, she summarises, 'representations and discourses of sexual identity and difference drew upon and contributed to comparable discourses and representations of ethnic, "racial", and cultural identity and difference' (37). More specifically, she argues that 'there are not only similarities but structural connections between the treatment of women and of non-Europeans in the language, experience, and imaginations of Western men. The structural link is constructed around the theme of domination/subordination central both to nineteenth-century masculine identity and to the Western sense of superiority' (38).
Although they do not receive the same degree of attention, class constructs also enter her discussion, particularly with references to how elite Western men benefited most directly from cultural representations which consolidated their power over gender, class, and ethnic 'inferiors', both within Europe and overseas. Stepan's contribution examines additional dimensions of race and gender linkages, highlighting the role of science in defining the 'universal individual' of liberal theory who possessed citizenship rights that derived from the combination of being male and European. Difference from this perceived 'norm' represented through the physical body became a deviation from it, and both women and non-Western peoples fell into these 'other' categories and were denied the political rights enjoyed by European men. In short, 'the reality of the differences embodied in the human species turned a political/ethical argument about individual rights into a biological argument about group difference' (65). Stepan connects this to the long-standing stumbling block within feminism, namely, the fact that 'women continually evoke first the irrelevance, and next the relevance, of their sex difference' (62). Her discussion draws brilliantly upon a tremendous range of recent scholarship to consider questions whose dimensions far exceed the boundaries of Britain and its empire. Indeed, as both she and de Groot show, British, French, and other Western discourses on gender and race might share much in common and be mutually constitutive.
Ann Laura Stoler's contribution to this volume also tackles a set of themes encompassing the culture and politics of empire in a wide variety of settings, and encourages scholars to consider the extent to which distinct European colonising nations and colonized arenas might be evaluated comparatively. Her chapter 'Cultivating Bourgeois Bodies and Racial Selves' is taken from her book Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (1995), which as such places great emphasis on interweaving her interpretations of Foucault's publications and lectures with her own research on European colonial dynamics. With respect to Stoler's more detailed analyses of Foucault's work, readers are advised to consult other parts of her book as well since this particular chapter does not fully indicate the depth of her theoretical engagement with him. Still, this selection provides a good introduction to other aspects of Stoler's work, namely her emphasis on the need to consider what 'colonial contexts afford us for rethinking how European bourgeois culture recounted the distinctions of its sexuality' (87). Turning away from the more common tendency to prioritise how European concerns and policies had an impact overseas, Stoler first examines 'the class tensions around racial membership in the [Dutch] Indies' and then connects these with 'the work of race in fixing bourgeois distinctions in Europe itself' (90-91). European bourgeois racial, class, and sexual anxieties and identities derived from a combination of interactive metropolitan and colonial experiences and understandings. Stoler focuses primarily upon Dutch (and to a lesser degree French) examples, yet situates these within a broad range of studies on British, German, and American colonial questions. One of the most valuable aspects of Stoler's work is the encouragement it offers to other scholars to examine in greater depth how these issues took on contours specific to certain arenas. To what extent do the histories of various colonising nations overlap, and to what extent were they unique? Similarly, to what degree were policies pursued by colonizers overseas tailored to particular settings or characteristic of colonising projects more generally? Scholars of British imperial questions can learn much from Stoler's, Stepan's, and de Groot's pieces, as they employ not only a range of theoretical approaches but also they demonstrate the broader perspectives deriving from engagement with cross-national, cross-colonial contexts.
Ironically, even as it increasingly takes up imperial dimensions, the field of British studies remains largely insular in that its practitioners typically restrict themselves to considering British imperial questions and shy away from comparing and contrasting these with the dynamics of other empires. Moreover, metropolitan Britain still remains the main point of departure for embarking upon the study of its empire, rather than the reverse. The next two essays in Cultures of Empire, however, indicate alternative paths. Gyan Prakash's chapter 'Subaltern Studies as Postcolonial Criticism' provides an excellent analysis of one of the most influential recent approaches to the study of South Asia's colonial past and postcolonial present. Exploring the methodological concerns of the many scholars whose work has featured in the series of Subaltern Studies volumes dating from 1982, he summarises how this collective of authors 'accus[ed] colonialist, nationalist, and Marxist interpretations of robbing the common people of their agency' and 'announced a new approach to restore history to the subordinated' (121). Amongst this group are many of the best-known figures within colonial and postcolonial studies such as Ranajit Guha, Gayatri Spivak, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Shahid Amin, Partha Chatterjee, Gyandendra Pandey, and of course Prakash himself, who alongside figures like Homi Bhabha are among the pantheon of this interdisciplinary field. This chapter examines the wide-ranging approaches that Subaltern Studies has incorporated, critiqued, and adapted to its own purposes to produce 'a catachrestic combination of Marxism, poststructuralism, Gramsci and Foucault, the modern West and India, archival research and textual criticism' (133). Just as importantly, it suggests how its methods and subject matter have had, or can have, an impact for scholars whose work concerns regions outside South Asia and, crucially, outside the colonized world as well. Subaltern Studies invites those examining Britain or other Western nations to, as Chakrabarty put it, 'provincialize Europe': to turn away from using Europe as a 'silent referent' for evaluating other regions and to examine how understandings of 'Europe' or 'the West' have been constituted relationally through interactions with and understandings of the 'third world' (128, 129).
Antoinette Burton's contribution to this volume--'Who Needs the Nation?: Interrogating "British" History'--reinforces this agenda by suggesting alternatives to what she calls the 'siege mentality' of mainstream British historiography. Either the empire failed to be considered at all, or was designated as 'separate sphere' and 'out there'. The current project of (some) historians and literary critics, on the other hand, erases false distinctions between Home and Away 'to recast the nation as an imperialized space--a political territory which could not, and still cannot, escape the imprint of empire' (140). However, many scholars, according to Burton, still need to be wary of 'leav[ing] intact the sanctity of the nation itself as the right and proper subject of history . . . rather than insisting upon the interdependence . . . of national/imperial formations in any given historical moment' (140). Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic (1993), for Burton as for an increasing number of scholars, points the way forward by depicting the nation as a porous construct, its 'borders' continually crossed by the migration of peoples, ideas, and goods, making it 'precarious, unmoored, and in the end, finally unrealizable' (144).
Whether or not historians of Britain fully support Burton's arguments (the fact that many Britons have seen themselves as historical actors in national terms clearly must be taken on board even if the 'nation' as a concept is rightfully challenged, for instance), her article sets the stage for the essays in Part II of this volume, entitled 'The Empire and Its Others "At Home"'. Hall has chosen to begin this section with a piece by Kathleen Wilson that falls outside the stated nineteenth- and twentieth-century chronological bounds of this reader. Yet the inclusion of 'Citizenship, Empire and Modernity in the English Provinces, c. 1720-90' is welcome, for Wilson cogently argues that 'the ideological legacies of eighteenth-century war, state, and empire-building shape the ways in which nationality was understood for two centuries or more to come'. Her emphasis here is on how 'the forms of English identity and belonging produced by the British nation-state in the age of its first empire' led to 'the naturalization of certain forms of identities--social, sexual, political, racial, and national--whose traces refuse to disappear' (159). Some such traces re-emerge in the issues explored in another of this section's essays, Sonya Rose's 'Sex, Citizenship, and the Nation in World War II Britain'. Although Wilson and Rose consider events separated by nearly two hundred years, in some respects they are able to ask similar questions about how citizenship and persons deemed to fall short of its ideals become conceptualised at given moments. Rose considers how wartime challenges allowed the relationship between female sexual morality and citizenship to become enhanced as a public concern. Women's behaviour that suggested the expression of individual libidinal desire was condemned on the grounds that this reflected a lack of self-sacrifice on behalf of a supposedly unified nation under threat. Moreover, sexual relationships with soldiers were widely criticised, particularly those with men of colour who were either American or colonial servicemen based on Britain, since these 'jeopardized Briton's sense of themselves as white. The specter of "half-caste" babies threatened to blur the racial lineaments of white British national identity and make the new black presence a permanent "social problem" rather than a temporary wartime inconvenience or one limited to the colonies and to a few port areas in the metropole' (254). In this discourse, the nation was perceived to be threatened by the coming together of an 'internal other'--British women whose sexual actions fell short of ideals of citizenship and femininity--and an external one in the form of foreign or colonial men who were 'racially' distinct (269).
The remaining three articles in Part II are primarily devoted to literary, travel, and historical writing consumed by the British reading public. Two contributions--John Barrell's 'Death on the Nile: Fantasy and the Literature of Tourism, 1840-60' and Luke Gibbons' 'Race Against Time: Racial Discourse and Irish History'--concern peoples and places fitting uncomfortably within delineations of both the British empire and racial categories. Ireland--long part of the Britain yet simultaneously a colony in many respects--was a widely radicalised terrain as well. As Gibbons summarises, 'the "otherness" and alien character of Irish experience was all the more disconcerting because it did not lend itself to visible racial divisions', or, in the words of Homi Bhabha, 'epidermal schema' (208, 220). Still, the 'racial mode' became commonly employed, deriving from a range of analogies to that compared the Irish to peoples of African descent but even more importantly to native Americans. Racialised Irish stereotypes, moreover, came to be used not only by Britons like Carlyle seeking to justify conquest and subordination, but also by Irish nationalists, revivalists, and revisionist academics to alternatively denigrate or valorise Ireland. Flexible and unsettling racial ideologies are equally apparent in Barrell's work, which assesses how travel accounts by both Britons and Americans expressed concerns about the identity of Arabs and/or the modern Egyptians. These writers reflected uncertainties within Western scientific, ethnographic, and philological debates about the extent of the similarities between the inhabitants of mid-nineteenth-century Egypt and those of northern European origin. Questions such as 'Are the modern Egyptians white or black? Human or animal? . . . The same or different? . . . Were the Semitic and the Indo-European languages unrelated? And if so were Semitic languages, as some suggested, of African origin?' all posited the extent to which these writers shared common ground with the modern Egyptians, who represented a borderline, liminal, and 'hybrid or mongrel race' (200-201). For those who wanted Egyptians to be securely 'other' and inferior, potential resemblances rendered their own identities and claims insecure. British and American accounts overlapped in many respects, yet Barrell also considers how they took on specific contours that derived from the distinct histories of imperialism, racism, and slavery in these nations (190).
Barrell examines tourist accounts written by both men and women, but does not explicitly highlight the extent to which gender determined how Britons and Americans evaluated Egypt's inhabitants. Janaki Nair, however, foregrounds gender in her contribution to this volume, 'Uncovering the Zenana: Visions of Indian Womanhood in Englishwomen's Writings, 1813-1940'. First published in 1990, Nair's piece, like de Groot's, alludes to many themes within the space of a few pages that later scholars have pursued in far greater detail. Nair considers how the zenana (the separate women's quarters in some Hindu and Muslim homes) both literally and figuratively became the 'principal space . . . from which Englishwomen could produce new 'knowledge' of the colonized', given their privileged access as women to areas off limits to colonising men (226). She provides a discourse analysis of their writings about Indian women that charts how these changed during the era in question. Aside from its clearly conveyed and convincing arguments about the meanings of selected texts, one of this article's strongest aspects is its careful delineation of the conditions structuring how these women's writings have been read in recent decades. Some liberal feminist historians working in the 1980s sought to demonstrate that Englishwomen also played their own part in imperial ventures, areas of endeavour traditionally marked as 'masculine'. A substantial portion of their recovery work, however, uncritically celebrated Englishwomen in India as hard working, well-intentioned, and self-sacrificing, taking its place within cultural productions of Raj nostalgia popular in Britain after the end of empire. This approach, Nair asserts, not only pays insufficient attention to Englishwomen's diverse roles in and attitudes towards India, but also obscures their privileged position within the colonial power structure. In sum, their writings need to be assessed in ways that surpass attempts to rectify their supposedly 'unhonoured and unsung' lives overseas (228). Nair's excellent and multifaceted analysis serves as a reminder of the extent to which postcolonial British concerns continue to shape how India's colonial past is imagined, both by academics as well as wider audiences.
Part III of Cultures of Empire turns to 'The Empire and Its Others "Away"'. All three articles effectively problematise one-dimensional portrayals of colonizers and their interactions with the colonized, contributing nuanced discussions of the particularities of colonial endeavours that took on specific dimensions according to their location, time, and the individuals and groups participating in them. Elizabeth Vibert examines men working in north-western North American in the first half of the nineteenth century in 'Real Men Hunt Buffalo: Masculinity, Race and Class in British Fur Traders' Narratives'. She considers the class-based and insecure forms of masculinity not only in the British traders' self-representations but also in their portrayals of different sectors of indigenous society they encountered. They contrasted industrious, brave and manly Plateau buffalo hunters with fishing tribes they described as 'lazy and indolent to an extreme' (282). Depictions of 'the Indian' were thus never uniform; nor were they static. Vibert illustrates how the interactions between British men and native American peoples, and their descriptions of them, changed in tandem with the shift from trading activity to settlement in the region. British traders constituted the 'advance guard of colonialism'. During the earlier part of the period discussed here, 'they did not compete with Aboriginal people for land and resources; rather, they were dependent on them for access to those resources' and also commonly married or co-habitated with indigenous women. 'Not until the fur trade gave way the settlement frontier', Vibert summarises, 'would material competition lead to a hardening of colonial discourse and a systematic refiguring of the Indian hunter as wasteful brute' (290). In addition, settlement brought increased numbers of European women, and marriage with them became an additional marker of British manhood. Even when the dimensions and priorities of the colonial encounter had altered, however, these early traders' accounts long retained their influence and served as key 'ethnographic' records of native American societies and 'anticipated generations of popular iconography' (282).
The next two chapters also evoke the diversity within colonial endeavours and outlooks by considering arenas in which white settlers of British territories assumed powerful roles in other imperial arenas outside their own. Australian Methodist missionaries in the western Solomon Islands and white officials in the Ovamboland area of South West Africa--which came to be 'indirectly' ruled by the Union of South Africa in the early twentieth century--both constitute forms of colonial activity twice-removed from Britain, yet still fall within its imperial rubrics. Nicholas Thomas' 'Colonial Conversions: Difference, Hierarchy, and History in Early Twentieth-Century Evangelical Propaganda' is in many respects one of the strongest pieces in this volume. He uses the example of the western Solomon Islands near the turn of the century to illustrate the many forms colonising projects took, differing not only by their location and time period but also within distinct settings at a given moment. Thomas contrasts the outlooks and goals of missionaries with those of secular colonizers, considering how evangelical attitudes shared more in common with the French ideology of assimilation than with the assumptions of local colonial administrators in how they evaluated the Pacific Islanders' potential to evolve away from 'savagery'. Australian Methodist missionaries saw barbarism as increasingly part of the Islanders' past, highlighting their own role in laying the groundwork for social growth and positive transformation. Thomas perceptively analyses how forms of missionary propaganda--including film, 'before' and 'after' photographs, and written accounts--were used to illustrate how the Islanders had changed, supposedly as a result of the missionaries' diverse activities. This case study suggests ways scholars can evaluate conflicts and diversity inherent in colonising projects elsewhere and benefit from using a comparative approach within as well as across colonial arenas.
Thomas foregrounds the value of analysing visual as well as textual evidence as sources of ethnographic 'knowledge' about colonial culture, as does Patricia Hayes in her article '"Cocky" Hahn and the "Black Venus": The Making of a Native Commissioner in South West Africa, 1915-46'. Hayes looks closely at two interrelated ways in which white South African administrators of the newly-acquired territory of Ovamboland enhanced their power over the population they governed: compiling information about the Ovambo and frequent recourse to physical violence. As the Native Commissioner in this area between 1920 an 1946, Carl Hugo Linsingen Hahn--also known as 'Cocky' Hahn--played a leading role in these assertions of control. Hayes explores how allegations made against Hahn by other white administrators led to investigations into his brutality, yet his ultimate exoneration made it far less likely that colonial practices and misdeeds in Ovamboland would be questioned. Hahn's activities cast a long shadow over the region, both in the form of the photographic and written images he left behind as well as in the sanctioned use of force. Hayes evaluates Hahn's legacy, moreover, by exploring how his sanitised image becomes disrupted when the oral recollections of the Ovambo, recorded in the 1970s, are taken into account. Oral evidence enables the gendered nature of administration and violence to be reconsidered in new ways, an endeavour that is even more urgent given their lengthy history.
The articles included in Parts II and III of this volume, then, collectively offer readers many positive examples of how scholars can fruitfully weave together theoretical concepts with archival material to create subtle and complex assessments of colonial culture; how specific case studies can add to broader understandings of colonial dynamics when compared and contrasted with other settings; and how the colonial and postcolonial eras connect easily be disentangled. Although it is impossible to do justice to every colonial arena overseas and facet of Britain's empire 'at home' between the covers of one volume, Hall's choices here accurately suggest the range of possibilities that scholars from several disciplines are currently pursuing and indicate what kinds of new work can be done to expand upon this. How, then, might this commendable collection be improved? First, in a reader whose title purports to encompass 'colonizers in Britain and the empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries', far more attention needed to be paid to the period after the First World War. Of the articles discussed thus far about the colonial era itself, only Nair's, Rose's, and Hayes' contributions effectively cover the period between the 1920s and 1940s. Most of the articles focus on the period between c. 1840 and 1910, a chronological emphasis mirrored in the scholarship done on imperial topics not included here. Hall's inclusion of Wilson's work on the eighteenth century also falls outside the stated bounds of this book, yet in a positive sense. Although space restrictions undoubtedly played a role in determining how much attention various periods could receive here, one solution both to the potential which including the 1700s reveals and the problem posed by under-representing the twentieth century would have been to make this a two-volume reader. This would have enabled Hall to place Wilson's excellent study alongside other articles concerning different themes in a similar period, and follow them up with the nineteenth-century topics in ways that illustrate the continuities between these eras. The second volume could then have been fully devoted to the uneven and incomplete transition from the colonial to the postcolonial across the twentieth century, and included a far wider range of work not only on the period ending with the Second World War but also on the cultural issues connected with widescale decolonization culminating in the 1950s and 1960s.
Even more crucially, a second volume might have done more justice to the postcolonial era itself, perhaps including contributions by those working in fields such as film studies as well as by historians, literary critics, and anthropologists who focus on more recent events. Analyses of the colonial heritage as it continues to exist in artefacts, places, and in the realm of memory (and forgetting) would provide many new perspectives for readers to take on board. As this reader now stands, although several contributors to earlier sections--particularly Hayes and Nair--make careful reference to the links between the colonial and the postcolonial eras, only one article is included in Part IV, which concerns 'Legacies of Empire'. Given that many parts of the British empire have been formally 'postcolonial' for decades or over half a century, the lack of emphasis on this is unfortunate. Regrettably, the one piece in Part IV, M. Jacqui Alexander's 'Not Just (Any) Body Can Be a Citizen: The Politics of Law, Sexuality and Postcoloniality in Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas', is in this reviewer's opinion the weakest in this volume by far. Its problems stem not from the important subject matter it considers, highlighting the ongoing presence of colonial practices and ideologies in parts of the Caribbean to consider topics ranging from the location of citizenship within heterosexuality and especially heteromasculinity (361), the criminalisation of gays and lesbians, the postcolonial state's reliance on revenue from (sex) tourism, and, more generally, the ways in which 'the work of decolonization (the dismantling of the economic, political, psychic and sexual knowledges and practices that accompanied the first 500 years of conquest) has been disrupted' (374-75). Rather, the difficulty here lies in Alexander's unsustained, meandering, and random treatment of these often vaguely explained issues, her undersubstantiation of many claims, and the use of language that obscures many of her central assertions. For instance, her treatment of colonial conditions, which continue to have an impact, is simplistic and lumps together many features that undoubtedly changed a great deal over 'the first 500 years of conquest'. A typical passage illustrating this lack of attention to historical specifics conveyed in obtuse language reads as follows:
Colonial rule simultaneously involved racializing and sexualizing the population, which also meant naturalizing whiteness. There could really be no psycho-social codices of sexuality that were not simultaneously raced. In general terms, these codices functioned as mythic meta-systems fixing polarities, contradictions and fictions while masked as truth about character. "Laws for the governing of Negroes, Mulattos and Indians" made it possible for white masculinity to stand outside the law. As the invisible subject of the law, he was neither prosecuted nor persecuted within it. Since it was lawful to reinforce the ontological paradox of slave as chattel, Elizabethan statutes of rape operated to legitimize violent colonial masculinity which was never called rape, yet criminalized black masculinity for rape. This would solidify the cult of true womanhood and its correlates, the white Madonna (untouchable) and the Black whore (promiscuous). (365)
Readers may well choose to accept these basic premises, but they need to do so based on wider knowledge acquired elsewhere. Believing many of Alexander's claims, as they are presented here, entails a leap of faith and a readiness to give credence to statements that unfortunately resemble stereotypical, one-dimensional truisms that thorough scholarship should be striving to dissemble. In light of the clear wording, historical specificity, and theoretical sophistication of the other articles included in Cultures of Empire, it is to be lamented that this volume concludes with an article that may well confirm many of the prejudices about colonial and postcolonial studies that persist among scholars hesitant to accept the relevance of both the issues its practitioners examine and the approaches they employ. If those working within these fields want their subject matter and methodologies to gain a wider and more appreciative audience, they might consider advice offered by one of the foremost historians of the American West, Patricia Nelson Limerick. Deploring the 'long, tangled, obscure, jargonized, polysyllabic' sentences which are standard fare in academic writing--and, one might add, particularly within colonial and postcolonial scholarship--Limerick urges writers to ask themselves the following questions:
'Does this have to be a closed communication, shutting out all but the specialists willing to fight their way through thickets of academic jargon? Or can this be an open communication, engaging specialists with new information and new thinking, but also offering an invitation to non-specialists to learn from [this work], to grasp its importance, and, by extension, to find concrete reasons to see value in the work of the university?'(1)
It is to be hoped that those turning to this volume will be inspired to take the field's claims more seriously after reading the admirable work included in Parts I to III, and that those actively engaged in making their own contributions will recognise that it is counterproductive merely to preach to the converted in language that is impenetrable to outsiders. Moreover, this reader's weakness with regard to the space it devotes to twentieth-century topics, and particularly to the decades after the Second World War, should act as an inducement to other scholars to pursue new research that helps correct this imbalance.
- Patricia Nelson Limerick, 'Dancing with Professors: The Trouble with Academic Prose', in Something in the Soil: Legacies and Reckonings in the New West (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 2000), 337, 340.Back to (1)