Note-taking for the 12th.

The first half of class involved Michelle’s and KY’s presentation that focused on nationalism and language. Some of the major questions were how language is a tool of colonialism, and how is it a tool of nationalism? During KY’s presentation and subsequent discussion the focus switched to what he brought up in his last slide. We discussed modernism as it is linked to the 18C philosophy of individualism. This, in turn, led to the question of whether or not Joyce as a colonized writer is proposing a more traditional brand of nationalism or one that embraces the colonial past. During the second half of the class, we heard Rebekah and Praseeda’s presentation on the figure of the artist. This involved thinking of the artist as a product of modernity who exhibits “symptoms” of someone who lives in the urban metropolis. This presentation also discussed the role of the epiphany and how it engages with or reacts to exile. Epiphanies separates character from their authors and exiles from their past.

Example(s)

The main example used in the second half of class was that of Daedalus and Icarus, and how Stephen thought of himself as both. There was also the example of an epiphany when Stephen saw the woman in the sea and how it made him accept his own nature.

Just a few thoughts

I have decided to use this as a way to start a few thoughts that I might delve deeper into for my paper. I came across an interesting idea in a piece from another class by Shamsul A.B. called “A History of an Identity, and Identity of a History.” Shamsul talks about how the British employed ‘modalities’ in order to classify the colonial world/project. They used these modalities to make policies, textbooks, maps, basically anything that gave the information of the region. One of the modalities Shamsul mentioned was the ‘travel modality.’ It helped to “create a repertoire of images and typifications, if not stereotypes, that determined what was significant to European eyes…these aesthetic images and typifications were frequently expressed in paintings and prints as well as in novels and short stories.” As I read this I started thinking about Modernism within the travel modality. How does it function? Is it just another way to view tourism or was it an instigator of images and possibly even stereotypes? This might lead me to compare two of the books or pieces we’ve read in class or maybe I’ll find a different book. It might be interesting to compare Orwell with Wallace in that Wallace was writing a non-fictional piece that was supposed to be very factual whereas Orwell’s pieces are fictional. How do both speak about the travel modality? I think that by looking at the travel modality it could open up a few different perspectives on the reasons the colonial world was represented in the way it was.

Growing

I would just like to briefly run through a few things I found interesting in Woolfe’s piece, “Growing.” First of all I would like to mention his literary style. I find it funny that he can put in so many details when he recalls a story. For instance, he makes sure to tell readers what side of the island he was on when a certain incident happened. However, there are many times when he blatantly says he doesn’t remember specifics about certain incidents. Of course, this is probably attributed to the fact that he had letters and his own journal entries that aided him in recalling specifics of incidents, but it comes across as paradoxical and gives the whole piece the tone of an old man telling his grandchildren about when he was an imperialist.

This brings me to my next point. The section where he describes when he first began to realize what it meant to be an imperialist was an eye-opener. It made me realize that young civil servants at the time came to the colonies because it was viewed as just another job. He talks about having to put on a façade in order to live and work in the colonies. However, I don’t think he viewed the façade and imperialism, as he came to understand it, together until he was being accused of striking Mr. Harry Sanderasekara.

Just a couple of the things I enjoyed about the piece. There were some images and turns of phrase that were comedic. The inclusion of photographs made the reading much more real, but at the same time contributed to a sense of the surreal in Woolfe’s recorded memories. I think it will be interesting to compare this piece to Burmese Days in that there are a lot of similarities. However, the tone is totally different.

Stoler and Orwell

I found Stoler’s discussion of the “interior frontier” very intriguing. To think of mixed blood offspring as such a threat politically, morally, and sexually raises a lot of questions about the colonial enterprise and the civilizing mission. When paired with Burmese Days modern readers are also able to get a sense of what living at that time in those places might have been like.

Orwell has been described by some as a realist in his works. I can see that. His style of writing is very different from Conrad’s. Where Conrad would use close-up imagery to let his readers feel the tone Orwell takes it step by step. He explains things in detail in a matter-of-fact manner. He is also not like Forster who had the ability to make sweeping movements in his descriptive passages. Orwell uses the surface as something smooth and slippery, like it could reflect us but not let us see into the depths of the picture. This is why I can feel frustration, like the sweltering heat he describes, build and latch onto the characters like the crowd did in Shooting and Elephant. The sense that imperialism has that kind of weight on a writer says a lot about society. In this way, what is important is the emotional truth of Orwell’s work.

I think this can compare to Stoler’s article. The metissage really had no outlet. They were not allowed to be fully European nor could they be a native in everyone’s eyes. I can see where this is especially true with women who married native men and their children. If political rights were divvied out through the father’s side, the children would not have the same rights as their mother and this could be a disadvantage in regards to future education, marriageability, and careers. However, if the children were given the same or similar rights to their mother this could be hard on the family in that it might undermine the father’s role in the home. The repressive nature in the latter years of the colonial period can be seen through both tough legislations and works of fiction.

Orwell and Chatterjee

George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” says a lot to me about the colonizers attitudes. The story uses symbols to let the reader feel the helplessness of the officer facing the daunting task of killing the elephant. The dead man, for instance, foreshadows the cruelty with which the elephant dies. However, it also represents the kind of social upheaval Burma (and other colonies) faced when Britain exerted their power.

When relating Orwell’s piece to Chatterjee’s one can find parallels in the attitude with which colonialism is spoken. Chatterjee explains that many people argue that colonialism did not come about the first time the British set foot in India, that instead it was a gradual shift from the local regime of power to one that was more powerful. One important argument Chatterjee brings up is that of colonial difference. She says that colonialism was all about making certain excuses for itself that were somehow meant to justify the fact that the British were there doing what they were doing. She says colonial difference had a lot to do with race, especially in the latter stages of British colonialism. So even though one argument states that the British were training the Indians in state building, another argument states that it was never Britain’s intention to give up the power to the Indians because as racial inferiors they would never be able to do it correctly.

I can see parallels between these attitudes and Orwell’s character. In the story, when such a disruptive thing happens (that probably happened before the British were there and would happen after as well) it is the colonial administration that is called on to solve the problem. The problem could have been solved in a number of ways. In fact, by the time the officer gets to the elephant he sees that it is calm and that there would be no need to shoot. But acting on an authority only he in the crowd possesses he goes along with the shooting. Then he justifies himself by saying that the Burmese were expecting him to do it and he had to keep up appearances. It is a very interesting attitude, that of taking responsibility because one has to. It goes on the assumption that everyone else simply cannot take responsibility. And it is surprising, but only to a degree, that the battle for who writes the history of places like India and Burma is still happening today.

Wallace and the creation of history

Wallace’s article was unexpected to me. Either I had forgotten what had been said in class about the context in which it was written, or the context was never brought up in discussion. So I went into the reading thinking that it would be an academic article from our time and was extremely surprised to find comments such as “I am inclined to rank the Dyaks above the Malays in mental capacity, while in moral character they are undoubtedly superior to them,” (68). It is interesting though that Wallace’s piece was considered an academic article in his time. The things he shared were considered unchallenged knowledge about a people and area of the world. I suppose that the first half of the article could have been judged as subjective by some readers even then, but the latter half, which talks mostly about his encounters with bugs, birds, and nature, was meant to be read as very factual and full of biological evidence. From a modern perspective though even the “science” in the piece is undermined by the mentality with which he views the Dyaks, Malays, Siamese, and all other races he mentions.

But I agree with one of the posts that brings up the question of the perspective we inevitably bring to the reading. There is probably something that we are not seeing and that we feel cannot be made visible unless we somehow revert back to colonial mentalities. If this was something that influenced Conrad when writing Lord Jim, it makes me wonder how what we read and take in as facts, science, truth, and knowledge affects our writing. It can be argued that literature helped to perpetuate imperialism so it is not so far-fetched to think that the literature our generation produces will help to create history as well.

A K-drama, Africa, and Achebe

When the introduction to Achebe’s article starts out by saying that the “piece strikes an overtly personal note and is written in anger,” it is right. Achebe obviously felt that he had to state what no one else would. In his view, it was not even as if they wouldn’t, it’s just that the prospect had never occured to them. Of course, this was written in the 1970s, when racism was at is so-called height in terms of violence and media coverage. Reading this article decades after it was written, I begin to wonder whether the work of ‘redressing’ has even begun. The reason I say this is because I feel that, like Achebe, we could look at representations of Africa, contemporary representations, and find out how and if they even begin to redress the racism engrained in Western culture.

We could look at movies like Blood Diamond and try to analyze, but I want to look at a slightly obscure example that, to me, says a lot about how it’s thought of nowdays. There is a Korean drama called Swallow the Sun. For the space of two or three episodes, the main characters find themselves in Africa getting prepared to rescue a king’s son from a diamond mine. Throughout these few episodes there was a lot of African dancing and singing shown, as well as some of the nicest resorts one could hope for. And then came the diamond mine. So for me a question that I’ve had before arose again. Does Korea have certain political or economic partnerships with Africa? I ask because my experience has shown that many Africans go to Korea for work or study. In the foreigner district of Seoul, many Africans have started businesses and plan to be there long-term. The fact that a Korean drama wants to show Africa as a destination, not necessarily a place like Korea (long-term, relatively stable, technologically advanced etc.), tells me that the racism that Achebe warns comes from narratives like Conrad’s has been on the move. That’s not to say that the West doesn’t still have a lingering “need” to juxtapose themselves against Africa’s “darkness,” but there has been a shift in the playing field. The West’s educational institutions teach and teach against racism. Achebe’s argument has played its part well in that it opened a very controversial debate. However, the story is not just about the West and Afica anymore. It’s not even about the West and the other. It’s about so-called “developed” and “undeveloped.” Nations with a certain lack of power get portrayed in whatever way the powerful require to stay powerful. For me, I find it difficult to imagine a world without racism because someone always finds a way to justify it. Achebe’s realization that “no easy optimism was possible” still holds.

Historical Intrigues

The thing that I got most out of this week’s reading was a general rundown of the British empire in India. It was very intriguing, for instance, to find out that the East India Company was one of the first transnational corporations the world has seen. After reading an article by Myoshi about how transnational corporations are the new imperialism I found this history of the EIC quite fascinating.

Also, there was another quote that I really enjoyed. “The close ties-political, military, geographical, economic-exemplify the interconnection of imperial interest and ixpansion, each colony influencing and shaping other British possessions. I feel that this is very true. The effects can even be seen today. Just taking Singapore as an example, there is still a hefty amount of interaction between Singapore, India, and Malaysia, all three of which were British colonies. There are similarities between these three countries and Hong Kong, parts of Africa, and parts of the Carribbean, too. Another example I have seen, and which the article mentioned, is how in later years of British India, native police officers were sent to other British colonies to keep the peace. This brought India’s culture to Hong Kong (which was where I first saw a picture of it in a museum. It was something I hadn’t realized). The direct interaction between colonies has resulted in many cultural barriers being crossed.

Modernism and its influences

Gikandi’s article was a good example of the main question where it concerns modernism and its influences. I think, historically, Western art has been systematically flooded then drained of it’s influences in an attempt to preserve what is considered high culture. It became more and more prevalent with the addition of modernism to the repertoire. If modernism is about perspective, illumination, and the importance of representation, then it makes sense that artists like Picasso and even E.M. Forster would want to explore what they were seeing in Britain’s colonial strongholds. However, all this has led to questions similar to what Gikandi presents–what he talks about as the ‘difference that haunts and maintains [modernism].’ The difference between Western art and so-called colonial art and the consequential denial of influence. It is really an interesting aspect of modernism. When we look at history, the facts are that Britain claimed India and many other places in the world. It was a source of pride, economic flourishing, and political importance. Looking at London’s metropolitan culture today, it would be extremely difficult to deny the influence colonialism had on the empire itself. Yet simultaneously modernism keeps its hold on culture without admitting that the relationship is more mutual, rather like two children in a three-legged race.

Modernism and its influences

Gikandi’s article was a good example of the main question where it concerns modernism and its influences. I think, historically, Western art has been systematically flooded then drained of it’s influences in an attempt to preserve what is considered high culture. It became more and more prevalent with the addition of modernism to the repertoire. If modernism is about perspective, illumination, and the importance of representation, then it makes sense that artists like Picasso and even E.M. Forster would want to explore what they were seeing in Britain’s colonial strongholds. However, all this has led to questions similar to what Gikandi presents–what he talks about as the ‘difference that haunts and maintains [modernism].’ The difference between Western art and so-called colonial art and the consequential denial of influence. It is really an interesting aspect of modernism. When we look at history, the facts are that Britain claimed India and many other places in the world. It was a source of pride, economic flourishing, and political importance. Looking at London’s metropolitan culture today, it would be extremely difficult to deny the influence colonialism had on the empire itself. Yet simultaneously modernism keeps its hold on culture without admitting that the relationship is more mutual, rather like two children in a three-legged race.

Modernism and its influences

Gikandi’s article was a good example of the main question where it concerns modernism and its influences. I think, historically, Western art has been systematically flooded then drained of it’s influences in an attempt to preserve what is considered high culture. It became more and more prevalent with the addition of modernism to the repertoire. If modernism is about perspective, illumination, and the importance of representation, then it makes sense that artists like Picasso and even E.M. Forster would want to explore what they were seeing in Britain’s colonial strongholds. However, all this has led to questions similar to what Gikandi presents–what he talks about as the ‘difference that haunts and maintains [modernism].’ The difference between Western art and so-called colonial art and the consequential denial of influence. It is really an interesting aspect of modernism. When we look at history, the facts are that Britain claimed India and many other places in the world. It was a source of pride, economic flourishing, and political importance. Looking at London’s metropolitan culture today, it would be extremely difficult to deny the influence colonialism had on the empire itself. Yet simultaneously modernism keeps its hold on culture without admitting that the relationship is more mutual, rather like two children in a three-legged race.