After the Imperial Turn

Thinking with and through the Nation

After the Imperial Turn

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: Published: May 2003

Asian Studies > South Asia, History > European History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

From a variety of historically grounded perspectives, After the Imperial Turn assesses the fate of the nation as a subject of disciplinary inquiry. In light of the turn toward scholarship focused on imperialism and postcolonialism, this provocative collection investigates whether the nation remains central, adequate, or even possible as an analytical category for studying history. These twenty essays, primarily by historians, exemplify cultural approaches to histories of nationalism and imperialism even as they critically examine the implications of such approaches.
While most of the contributors discuss British imperialism and its repercussions, the volume also includes, as counterpoints, essays on the history and historiography of France, Germany, Spain, and the United States. Whether looking at the history of the passport or the teaching of history from a postnational perspective, this collection explores such vexed issues as how historians might resist the seduction of national narratives, what—if anything—might replace the nation’s hegemony, and how even history-writing that interrogates the idea of the nation remains ideologically and methodologically indebted to national narratives. Placing nation-based studies in international and interdisciplinary contexts, After the Imperial Turn points toward ways of writing history and analyzing culture attentive both to the inadequacies and endurance of the nation as an organizing rubric.

Contributors. Tony Ballantyne, Antoinette Burton, Ann Curthoys, Augusto Espiritu, Karen Fang, Ian Christopher Fletcher, Robert Gregg, Terri Hasseler, Clement Hawes, Douglas M. Haynes, Kristin Hoganson, Paula Krebs, Lara Kriegel, Radhika Viyas Mongia, Susan Pennybacker, John Plotz, Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, Heather Streets, Hsu-Ming Teo, Stuart Ward, Lora Wildenthal, Gary Wilder


"[A] generally strong compilation of slim essays in a thick volume. . . . [F]or those scholars who recognize that the modern nation state may indeed be a fleeting historical fancy, this tome will offer numerous potent considerations, even for those, like myself, who do not normally concern themselves with issues British." — Akim D. Reinhardt, Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

"[A] great collection. . . . These scholars are . . . fiercely bright." — Susan Pedersen, Historical Journal

"Intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking. . . . This volume is replete with informative reference notes, it contains an excellent select bibliography, and it is a valuable addition to scholarship." — Edward C. Moulton, Journal of World History

"[R]ich and comprehensive. . . . Recommended." — Q. E. Wang, Choice

"[T]he diversity and contentiousness of the contributions offer the scholar of imperialism and nationalism stimulating reading." — Thomas Hajkowski, History: Reviews Of New Books

"Taken together, the essays in After the Imperial Turn make a compelling argument for using imperial history to interrogate the place of the nation in Western historiography." — Douglas M. Peers, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics

"The essays in this strong collection are wide-ranging. . . . Scholars interested in imperial studies will find After the Imperial Turn a useful and thought-provoking collection." — Juanita De Barros, H-Albion, H-Net Reviews

"The essays which Antoinette Burton has ably put together in After the Imperial Turn provide a valuable insight into the reasoning behind this turn, forcefully stating not only the arguments which have been mustered against the classic practice of imperial history, but illustrating their ramifications in the classroom." — Douglas M. Peers, Canadian Journal of History

After the Imperial Turn is an important collection of essays marking the 'coming of age' of 'new imperial history.’ One of its great strengths is its range—from the big picture to the local study, from the pedagogic to the institutional, from the British exemplar to a number of comparative perspectives, from the U.S. to the Caribbean and Hong Kong. This is an essential read for aspiring young historians.” — Catherine Hall, author of Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830-1867

“This is a timely intervention in the conversation on the nation sparked by critiques of the imperial foundations of modern nations and disciplines. It both assesses the fruits of the ‘imperial turn’ in scholarship and charts new directions on how to think and teach in the aftermath of the critiques of the nation. Incorporating perspectives from a range of disciplines and locations, the essays offer challenging reflections on the historicity of the present.” — Gyan Prakash, editor of After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Antoinette Burton is Catherine C. and Bruce A. Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, Department of History, University of Illinois. Among her books are Dwelling in the Archive: Women Writing House, Home, and History in Late Colonial India and At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: On the Inadequacy and the Indispensability of the Nation / Antoinette Burton 1

1. Nations, Empires, Disciplines: Thinking beyond the Boundaries

Rethinking British Studies: Is There Life after Empire? / Susan D. Pennybacker 27

Transcending the Nation: A Global Imperial History? / Stuart Ward 44

Empire and “the Nation”: Institutional Practice, Pedagogy, and Nation in the Classroom / Heather Streets 57

We've Just Started Making National Histories, and You Want Us to Stop Already? / Ann Curthoys 70

Losing Our Way after the Imperial Turn: Charting Academic Uses of the Postcolonial / Terri A. Hasseler and Paula M. Krebs 90

Rereading the Archive and Opening up the Nation-State: Colonial Knowledge in South Asia (and Beyond) / Tony Ballantyne 102

2. Fortresses and Frontiers: Beyond and Within

Unthinking French History: Colonial Studies beyond National Identity / Gary Wilder 125

Notes on a History of “Imperial Turns” in Modern Germany / Lora Wildenthal 144

After “Spain”: A Dialogue with Josep M. Fradera on Spanish Colonial Historiography / Christopher Schmidt-Nowara 157

Making the World Safe for American History / Robert Gregg 170

Asian American Global Discourses and the Problem of History / Augusto Espiritu 186

Race, Nationality, Mobility: A History of the Passport / Radhika Viyas Mongia 196

3. Reorienting the Nation: Logics of Empire, Colony, Globe

Periodizing Johnson: Anticolonial Modernity as Crux and Critique / Clement Hawes 217

The Pudding and the Palace: Labor, Print Culture, and Imperial Britain in 1851 / Lara Kriegel 230

Double Meanings: Nation and Empire in the Edwardian Era / Ian Christopher Fletcher 246

The Fashionable World: Imagined Communities of Dress / Kristin Hoganson 260

The Romance of White Nations: Imperialism, Popular Culture, and National Histories / Hsu-Ming Teo 279

Britain's Finest: The Royal Hong Kong Police / Karen Fang 293

One-Way Traffic: George Lamming and the Portable Empire / John Plotz 308

The Whiteness of Civilization: The Transatlantic Crisis of White Supremacy and British Television Programming in the United States in the 1970s / Douglas M. Haynes 324

Selected Bibliography 343

About the Contributors 357

Index 361
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3142-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3106-3
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