Authored by: John Marriott

The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Imperial Histories

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754664154
eBook ISBN: 9781315613277
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042525


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I choose to think of colonial modernity as the condition created by the process of modernisation attendant on western global expansion. Through European colonisation in particular, attempts were made to inscribe imperial subjects within the space of modernity. 1 1

Achille Mbembe, ‘On the Power of the False’, trans. Judith Inggs, Public Culture 14 (2002): p. 634.

Such a project experienced varying degrees of success, for, although universalising in intent, it lacked coherence and met significant resistance from subjects opposed to western influence. In its global reach, however, colonial modernity forged complex relationships which transcended discrete and elemental units such as nation states or civilisations, and in so doing shaped the contemporary world. 2 2

Tani E. Barlow, ‘Introduction: On “Colonial Modernity”’, in Barlow (ed.), Formations of Colonial Modernity in East Asia (Durham, NC, 1997).

The notion of colonial modernity therefore touches on a range of vital questions about the origins of modernity, the nature of colonial rule, and the relationship between colonies and the imperial metropolis, all of which this chapter hopes to address. To begin, let us investigate modernity itself, and consider whether it operates in the plural or singular.

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