Crime and Empire: The Colony in Nineteenth-century Fictions of Crime
Oxford University Press, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 205 pages
The language of crime and punishment is everywhere, especially in the context of building new global orders where old imperial relationships between the west and the rest of the world are being redefined and redesigned. This book is about one of the formative moments of this rhetoricalstrategy of representing empires. By looking at a variety of British narratives about India being produced from the later half of the eighteenth century onwards, it suggests that the discourse of crime was one of the major representative tools which the British employed to understand, imagine, andrule the vast country. However, to understand the full implication of this strategy for British understanding of both the colonised 'others' and a particular image of 'self', we must study the formation of this discourse not only in the context of the colony, but of its peculiar importance within'domestic' Britain itself. Nineteenth-Century British society placed a huge amount of importance on issues of crime, punishment, order, and policing. These issues became fundamental to British claims of being a civilised nation. Naturally, they became an important part of British colonial/imperialstrategy. But, since in Britain these issues were sites of contest and not consent, of debate and opposition and not unquestioned hegemonic power, they were inherently risky tools to use in building an ideology of empire. As the various readings of the narratives employing 'fictions' of crimeoffered here shows, an opposition or critique of empire was formed through these fictions even as they were used to build a consensus for empire-building. The slippages and ambiguities associated with imperial narratives then, are not products of some inherent semiotic disorder. Rather, they grewout of a particular history within which the rhetoric employed by these narratives took shape. This book is an attempt to recover the traces of that history within the various imperial fictions of crime.
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