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Colonialism’s Culture: Anthropology, Travel, and Government

Thomas, Nicholas
ISBN: 0745612156Category:


1 in stock

Colonialism is not just a matter of military conquest and economic exploitation: it is also a process of imagining through which dominated populations are represented in ways that play upon and legitimize racial and cultural differences. In Colonialism’s Culture, Nicholas Thomas explores the perceptions of colonized populations which have emerged in the course of European expansion and critically assesses different approaches to colonial representation. Thomas argues that, while negative ideologies of racial denigration have been important, there is also a range of romanticizing, sentimental and exoticist images of others that require fuller appreciation. These images continue to play a significant role today, both in contemporary liberal attitudes towards other cultures and in scholarly disciplines like anthropology.Colonialism’s Culture offers a wide-ranging account of the development of ideas about human difference and otherness, and of the conflict-ridden expression of these ideas in colonial projects at particular times. Thomas draws examples from the texts of eighteenth-century anthropology, nineteenth-century missionaries and colonial administration, and novelists of colonialism such as John Buchan. He shows that colonial culture was not some homogeneous ideology that dominated the colonized, but an array of discourses with their own internal tensions and contradictions.By reviewing debates about colonial culture and developing an innovative set of arguments, this book provides a stimulating introduction to a challenging field. aeo This is a topical subject area which draws not just on anthropological material, but also on literary and historical sources. aeo The book provides a good introduction to the whole field of studies on colonial discourse and histories — discussing, among others, the work of Said and Bhabha.In a wide-ranging account of the development of ideas about human difference, Nicholas Thomas challenges reigning theories that portray colonialism as monolithic in character, purpose, and efficacy throughout the world. Taking issue with such writers as Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Gayatri Spivak, Thomas describes colonialism not so much as a discourse but a project–a project in which the interactions among colonizing and colonized people are far more variable and reveal greater ambivalence than generally imagined. In addition to his review of current literature in cultural studies, the author provides extended reflections on photographs, colonial novels, exhibits of indigenous art, ethnographic films, and recent Hollywood films in order to reveal how deep and pervasive is colonialism’s culture for colonizer and colonized.

Thomas proposes that historicized, ethnographic explorations of the colonial experience are the most fruitful approaches to understanding colonialism’s continued effects. He draws on travel, anthropology, and government as vehicles that gave nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Europeans exposure to colonized populations and provided a language through which to discuss them. The author reveals colonialism to be a complex ongoing cultural process–one in which dominated populations are represented in ways that play upon and legitimize racial and cultural differences. A provocative book for specialists, Colonialism’s Culture can also serve as a stimulating introduction for students across the social sciences and humanities interested in this multifaceted field of inquiry.
xi, 238 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. #191021 (Name on fep and some light pencil scoring.)

Additional Information

Author Thomas, Nicholas
Number of pagesxi, 238 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
PublisherPolity Press, Cambridge
Year Published1994
Binding Type


Book Condition

Near Fine