Making England WesternOccidentalism, Race, and Imperial Culture

Making England WesternOccidentalism, Race, and Imperial Culture

Saree Makdisi

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780226923130

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

This book traces the claim that England at the turn of the nineteenth century through the Romantic period and beyond was not what we know today as a “Western” country. It identifies Occidentalism as a set of discourses articulating a decades-long process that made England Western across a wide range of transformative economic, political, and cultural processes. From the late eighteenth century on, a range of interior populations, today considered white and English, came to be seen from a certain privileged standpoint as culturally and racially separate and inferior (savage, uncivilized, Orientalized), hence not fit as members of the nation, alien, when compared with an emergent notion of a “we” or an “us,” those considered more appropriately at home in a Westernizing and modernizing England. The process involved the development and consolidation of a new cultural and civilizational notion of the West, an Occident to which England could eventually claim to belong. Unlike much postcolonial criticism, this book reads metropolitan and colonial spaces as overlapping and for a time inseparable, with many of the same discourses of power, race, and claims of a civilizing mission deployed internally as well as externally against populations who were regarded as inferior in cultural, racial and civilizational terms--not merely class-based. Thus the space that would eventually come to be established as the Occident—the site of a culture or civilization claiming to be democratic, modern, fair, liberal, progressive, scientific, secular, rational, productive, and so on—had first to be Occidentalized.