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Strategies for Investigating ‘Popular Imperialism’
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Cultural Sciences. (Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4041-6150
2012 (English)In: Global Communities: Transnational and Transdisciplinary Exchanges, Linnaeus University, Växjö, 29-30 October, 2012, 2012Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Classic imperial history generally focused on diplomacy and administration at an elite level.  With the rise of subaltern studies and postcolonial theory, attention was shifted to the colonized populations.  In recent years, many scholars have begun investigating settlers and their interactions with colonized peoples.  However, a fourth category of people involved in the imperial project, the metropolitan population of the various imperial powers, has received little scholarly attention.[1]  Nevertheless, the fact remains that most of the major colonizing countries were democracies during the era of New Imperialism, thereby implicating their populations to at least some degree in the colonial project.

The relatively few attempts to study “popular imperialism”, or the degree of involvement of metropolitan populations in their countries’ expansion overseas, have been somewhat problematic.  The first group of historians to analyze popular imperialism was strongly influenced by Marxism and often became bogged down by attempts to define reified class categories that were stymied by a more complex historical reality.   Moreover, in studying the attitudes of the metropolitan population, popular imperialism does not focus on the colonized, potentially opening it to criticism from postcolonial scholars.  Finally, while historians of popular imperialism have been very successful in unearthing vast amounts of colonial propaganda targeted at metropolitan populations, it remains unclear what real affect these had on public opinion and government policy. 

Nevertheless, I believe that studying popular imperialism helps to answer important questions that complement those posed by more classic postcolonial scholars.  It can reveal insights into why countries devoted so many resources to colonizing distant and, in many cases, (to the metropole) unimportant lands.  More importantly, it can help answer the humanitarian question of how such horrendous atrocities that accompanied nearly all colonial projects could be condoned (or ignored?) by the citizens of the democratic countries that undertook them.  What does this say about how (or whether) such people residing in imperial metropoles were cognizant of belonging to global communities? My paper will analyze the various approaches used to study popular imperialism from the 1980s until the present day and will argue that some of their methodological tools can be valuable to future studies.  I will conclude by describing how they could be applied to my own field, Japanese colonialism, where the question of collective responsibility is particularly strongly contested.

[1] At least from an imperial perspective.  They can rightly be said to have dominated history-writing otherwise.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012.
Keyword [en]
popular imperialism, audience reception, media reception, historical methodology
National Category
History
Research subject
Humanities, History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-52005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-52005DiVA: diva2:918048
Conference
Global Communities: Transnational and Transdisciplinary Exchanges, Linnaeus University, Växjö, 29-30 October, 2012
Note

Ej belagd 160420

Available from: 2016-04-08 Created: 2016-04-08 Last updated: 2017-01-18Bibliographically approved

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