ahorbinski: an imperial stormtrooper with the word "justic3" (imperial justice)
Bibliographic Data: Hevia, James L. The Imperial Security State: British Colonial Knowledge and Empire-Building in Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Main Argument: Hevia states at the beginning that "the Indian Army Intelligence Branch, and the forms of knowledge it produced, is the focus of this study. The records of the Branch, its library, archives and correspondence, make quite clear the scope and depth of the epistemological project at the core of British imperialism" (2). Hevia argues "that military intelligence was a product of the new mechanisms of state formation, the disciplinary and regulatory regimes, to use Michel Foucault's terms, that transformed European states in the second half of the nineteenth century into militarized polities" (5). Hevia argues that studying the imperial intelligence apparatus leads one to appreciate "the role of the military in initiation, influencing, and implementing policy" (16). Also, "military intelligence not only framed imperial strategies vis-a-vis colonized areas to the east, but produced the very object of intervention: Asia itself" (ibid).

Imperial security )

Critical assessment: James Hevia's English Lessons is easily one of the best books I've read in graduate school, and I'm not surprised to be saying that this is another excellent study, although somewhat more restricted in scope. But the final chapter in particular brings it all home brilliantly--how empire perpetuates itself after its death, how colonial processes are turned on the metropole and vice versa, how no knowledge is ever neutral or apolitical and how history has real consequences. Brilliant.

Further reading: Hevia, English Lessons; Kipling, Kim; Mitchell, Rule of Experts; Charles Callwell, Small Wars

Meta notes: In the current phase of this story, we should all be very clear that we in the metropole are not the British Army intelligence officers, but rather the Chinese--and the subjects of these regimes in Asia and elsewhere are still subject to them, in an evolved form.
ahorbinski: A snakes & ladders board.  (struggle & stagger)
Bibliographic Data: Hevia, James L. English Lessons: The Pedagogy of Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century China. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003. [Globally either by Duke or by Hong Kong University Press.]

Main Argument: Hevia's animating position in this complex and excellent book is that "imperialism was always more than guns and goods; it was also a cultural process involving resistance to and accommodation of forces or entities attempting to achieve hegemonic control over specific geographic spaces" (3). In English Lessons he documents the intertwined colonialist violences of arms and of language that, in conjunction with the resistance and participation of Chinese populations, deterritorialized and reterritorialized spaces geographic, linguistic, cultural and social in China over the long 19th century: "a pedagogical project was undertaken, that was itself a form of colonization" (13): the Western colonial powers sought to teach the Qing, and later the Chinese, how to behave "properly" in the international sphere of their own devising. Hevia's "fundamental objective is to reopen the study of Euroamerican imperialism in East Asia and to clarify the nature of colonialism in nineteenth-century China" (14-15). Along the way, Hevia demonstrates how these imperialisms operated equally in the colony and in the imperial metropole, rendering familiar things equally strange in both places, and locates China within these "globalizing forces" (27).

The reasonable thing is to learn from those who can teach. )

Critical assessment: I think this might be the best book we've read so far in this class. Certainly for my money it presents the best balance of actual descriptions of historical processes in concert with what those processes meant. I particularly like that Hevia prioritizes the actual violence the Western colonial pedagogy in Qing China entailed; for Lydia Liu, by contrast, the violence of language is primary, which I appreciate but which I think is fundamentally putting the cart before the horse. Hevia tosses off more brilliant insights per chapter than other writers manage in an entire book, and there are multiple concepts in here--particularly his extended discussion at the end of "the return of the repressed" and the role of the 19thC empires in the rise of the tropes of global conspiracy and global power in the late 19th and 20thC. There's an entire book waiting to be written on the evolution of this concept from Sherlock Holmes to Fu Manchu to superhero comics to James Bond--the empire is the conspiracy, and its the linkage of colonial peripheries with imperial centers via the empire itself that gives rise to the specter of global conspiracies and global organizations fighting them. That's a digression, but it's testament to how fascinating Hevia's idea is. I also think he does a better job than some of not giving the Qing short shrift as agents in their own right, though the focus of the book remains on the discourse the British told to themselves. Anyway. Brilliant, fascinating, well-written and also a beautifully designed book.

Further reading: Brian Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars, Mr. Kipling's Army, Armies of the Raj; Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Crowded Hours, Jonathan Spence, To Change China, The Gate of Heavenly Peace

Meta notes: I admire the way Hevia views both tangible objects of material culture (dogs, loot, buildings, land) and intangible objects--rituals, media, advertisements, photographs, economies--as equally imbued with meaning and equally open to being de- and re- territorialized and contextualized; it gives his narrative a real heft that the more rarified discourse of someone like Lydia Liu necessarily lacks, though Liu outstrips him in some respects. The two books remain complementary and necessary, but I'm more personally attracted to Hevia's style than to Liu's.

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ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

August 2017

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