Talk by Qadri Ismail, University of Minnesota. 6/2/08.
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This paper reads three moments in the itinerary of culture, a term foreign to the Anglo-U.S. episteme till the late nineteenth century. The first, of Macaulay, solicits an understanding of Indian/native subjectivity as both different/unchangeable and similar/transformable. The second, of the anthropologist E. B. Tylor, writing in the wake of Matthew Arnold, theorizes this distinction with the concepts race and culture, respectively. At this moment, culture is understood in universalist terms, in the singular, as an interpellative condition. The third, the relativist/descriptive, or moment of culture in the plural, our contemporary sense of culture, is addressed through a reading of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. The paper argues that culture, as a concept, is inseparable from the political and epistemological imperatives of colonialism; one that, therefore, postcoloniality must put into question.
Qadri Ismail is Associate Professor of English at the University of Minnesota, specializing in cultural studies, postcolonial literature, literary theory, gender/sexuality, historiography, democracy, and human rights. Recent publications include Abiding by Sri Lanka: On Peace, Place and Postcoloniality (2005) Unmaking the Nation: The Politics of Identity and History in Modern Sri Lanka (1995. Reprinted Colombo: SSA, 1997), "(Not) at Home in (Hindu) India: Shahid Amin, Dipesh Chakrabarty and the Critique of History” (2008), and "Towards a Critique of Anthropology" (2004).