Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial, 1890-1920: by Elleke Boehmer

By Elleke Boehmer

This e-book explores the political co-operations and textual connections which associated anti-colonial, nationalist, and modernist teams and participants within the British empire. Boehmer considerably questions winning postcolonial paradigms of the self-defining state, syncretism and mimicry, and dismantles still-dominant binary definitions of the colonial courting.

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B. 60 In 1912 Ezra Pound commented symptomatically on the new cross-cultural and cosmopolitan modernist order. The West’s more intimate intercourse with 58 59 Prakash, ‘Introduction’, After Colonialism, 9–10. Maud Gonne, letter to W. B. Yeats (10 Feb. ), The Gonne–Yeats Letters 1893–1918, 166–7. This new international awareness of the many-sidedness of God, and the potential interconnectedness of all religions, was embodied in the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where Sister Nivedita’s guru the Swami Vivekananda presided.

17 By contrast to this Annie Besant, despite her early radicalism, propagated the idea of self-government within the framework of empire, and saw loyalty to the crown as a unifying ideal for India; she at no time openly called for purna swaraj, total freedom. Indeed, in so far as she did not join the Indian National Congress till 1913, two years after Nivedita’s death, and did so because she had become disillusioned with educational work as a primary force for change, as 16 Kumari Jayawardena, The White Woman’s Other Burden (London: Routledge, 1995), 285.

54 Elites became acquisitive of modes of self-invention that were at once individualistic and modern, bearing a certain international currency, yet seemingly built on tradition and autochthonous custom. This impulse to borrow and ‘reroute’ traditions is evident in the parallel lateVictorian efforts in nationalist India and Ireland, both shaped by Theosophical influences, to reconstruct the past as the repository of a lost racial (Aryan) essence and as the root of a renewed modern selfhood. No doubt the predominant maleness and overtly masculine ideology of most nationalist/anti-colonial elites in this period also promoted the looking-across to others’ methods and strategies.

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