The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration

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Duke University Press, 1993 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 212 pages
The white man's burden, darkest Africa, the seduction of the primitive: such phrases were widespread in the language Western empires used to talk about their colonial enterprises. How this language itself served imperial purposes--and how it survives today in writing about the Third World--are the subject of David Spurr's book, a revealing account of the rhetorical strategies that have defined Western thinking about the non-Western world.
Despite historical differences among British, French, and American versions of colonialism, their rhetoric had much in common. The Rhetoric of Empire identifies these shared features—images, figures of speech, and characteristic lines of argument—and explores them in a wide variety of sources. A former correspondent for the United Press International, the author is equally at home with journalism or critical theory, travel writing or official documents, and his discussion is remarkably comprehensive. Ranging from T. E. Lawrence and Isak Dineson to Hemingway and Naipaul, from Time and the New Yorker to the National Geographic and Le Monde, from journalists such as Didion and Sontag to colonial administrators such as Frederick Lugard and Albert Sarraut, this analysis suggests the degree to which certain rhetorical tactics penetrate the popular as well as official colonial and postcolonial discourse.
Finally, Spurr considers the question: Can the language itself—and with it, Western forms of interpretation--be freed of the exercise of colonial power? This ambitious book is an answer of sorts. By exposing the rhetoric of empire, Spurr begins to loosen its hold over discourse about—and between—different cultures.

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The thesis of David Spurr's book, The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Travel Writing, presents not just a rational indictment of Western writing about the so-called 3rd World, because it is that, but also indicts the imperialist language as it is applied/extrapolated into the mainstream media of the the alleged 1st worlds to additionally dehumanize persons of color at home. I'm looking at you Sinclair, and Clear Chanel, and Tribune, and WashPo and NYT....
This is a categorization of how the white world strategically communicates to itself and the world how it views the non-white world, as expressed in the titles of concurrent chapters and their themes: 1. Surveillence: Under Western Eyes; 2. Appropriation; Inheriting the Earth; 3. Aestheticization, Savage Beauties...see most of National Geographic's history; 4. Classification, the Order of Nations; 5. Debasement: Filth and Defilement; 6. Idealization: Strangers in Paradise, and 7. Resistance: Notes Toward and Opening.
IMO this book is even more urgent now, in 2018, as the nations with permanent imperial dreams, and seemingly infinite war-making capacity, have doubled, tripled down on their lust for, and ability to inflict, permanent war. With the aid of mainstream news complicity, and their adherence to rhetoric about "the other" that continues to dehumanize non-white nations, the pernicious repetition of the rhetoric of empire poses as great a danger to world peace now as it ever has. This is a must read for media critics, activists and social-justice proponents who continue to have their best efforts falsely equated by the msm with bigots and hate groups with the blood-stained hands. A formidable contribution of to understanding of media and society.
Rashard Zanders

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