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Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History / Edition 1

Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History / Edition 1

by Ann Laura Stoler


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Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History / Edition 1

A milestone in U.S. historiography, Haunted by Empire brings postcolonial critiques to bear on North American history and draws on that history to question the analytic conventions of postcolonial studies. The contributors to this innovative collection examine the critical role of “domains of the intimate” in the consolidation of colonial power. They demonstrate how the categories of difference underlying colonialism—the distinctions advanced as the justification for the colonizer’s rule of the colonized—were enacted and reinforced in intimate realms from the bedroom to the classroom to the medical examining room. Together the essays focus attention on the politics of comparison—on how colonizers differentiated one group or set of behaviors from another—and on the circulation of knowledge and ideologies within and between imperial projects. Ultimately, this collection forces a rethinking of what historians choose to compare and of the epistemological grounds on which those choices are based.

Haunted by Empire includes Ann Laura Stoler’s seminal essay “Tense and Tender Ties” as well as her bold introduction, which carves out the exciting new analytic and methodological ground animated by this comparative venture. The contributors engage in a lively cross-disciplinary conversation, drawing on history, anthropology, literature, philosophy, and public health. They address such topics as the regulation of Hindu marriages and gay sexuality in the early-twentieth-century United States; the framing of multiple-choice intelligence tests; the deeply entangled histories of Asian, African, and native peoples in the Americas; the racial categorizations used in the 1890 U.S. census; and the politics of race and space in French colonial New Orleans. Linda Gordon, Catherine Hall, and Nancy F. Cott each provide a concluding essay reflecting on the innovations and implications of the arguments advanced in Haunted by Empire.

Contributors. Warwick Anderson, Laura Briggs, Kathleen Brown, Nancy F. Cott, Shannon Lee Dawdy, Linda Gordon, Catherine Hall, Martha Hodes, Paul A. Kramer, Lisa Lowe, Tiya Miles, Gwenn A. Miller, Emily S. Rosenberg, Damon Salesa, Nayan Shah, Alexandra Minna Stern, Ann Laura Stoler, Laura Wexler

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900822337248
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 05/05/2006
Series: American Encounters/Global Interactions Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 568
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Ann Laura Stoler is Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies and Chair of the Anthropology Department at The New School for Social Research. She is the author of Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule and Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (also published by Duke University Press), and a coeditor of Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World.

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Haunted by Empire



Copyright © 2006 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-3737-9

Chapter One


Intimidations of Empire: Predicaments of the Tactile and Unseen

Haunted by Empire explores the familiar, strange, and unarticulated ways in which empire has appeared and disappeared from the intimate and public spaces of United States history; how relations of empire crash through and then recede from easy purview, sunder families, storm sequestered spaces, and indelibly permeate-or sometimes graze with only a scarred trace-institutions and the landscapes of people's lives. To haunt is "to frequent, resort to, be familiar with," to bear a threatening presence, to invisibly occupy, to take on changing form. To be haunted is to reckon with such tactile powers and their intangibilities. To be haunted is to know that such forces are no less effective because of disagreement about their appropriate names. Haunted by Empire is a book steeped in such predicaments. It works through-and rests uncomfortably in-the fierce clarity of intimacies and in those ambiguous zones of empire that refused or refuted colonial appellations. To be haunted is to be frequented by and possessed by a force that not always bares a proper name.

This volume seeks to carve out a common ground of conversation betweenUnited States history and postcolonial studies. It rests on the claim that these fields share more points of comparative reflection than either field has recognized or allowed. Its focus is neither on the applicability of colonial studies to North American history in general nor on a comparison of colonialisms in the abstract. Rather, it attends to what I have called the politics of comparison: what students of North American history and postcolonial studies have chosen to compare and what scholarly commitments, historiographic conventions, and political investments have dissuaded or encouraged them to do so.

For more than two decades studies of the colonial have thrived on an analytic wave across the disciplines concerned to trace the social construction of difference and the historical production of social categories. A sustained assault on the politics of knowledge orients the postcolonial field. Poised at the forefront of both impulses, postcolonial scholarship has sought to understand how the macrodynamics of colonial rule worked through interventions in the microenvironments of both subjugated and colonizing populations and through the distinctions of privilege and opportunity made and managed between them.

Students of European colonialisms understand the concept of race as a central colonial sorting technique. Like other classificatory techniques, it establishes categories and scales of comparison. Racial thinking secures racial designations in a language of biology and fixity and in the quest for a visual set of physical differences to index that which is not "self-evident" or visible-neither easy to agree on nor easy to see. Scientific taxonomies of race stress the "concrete" measures of racial membership, but they, like social taxonomies, depend implicitly on a belief in the different sensibilities and sensory regimes imagined to distinguish human kinds. Within these racial grammars distinct affective capacities get assigned to specific populations. This comparative imagining does not necessarily ascribe a different repertoire of sentiments to different groups. Rather certain groups are imagined to have more limited emotive capacities or are endowed with more intense displays of affective expression.

Recognition of the power of classification is more familiar to studies of empire than is attention to how those categories work on the ground. Classificatory schemes may be instruments of reason, but their content is not. Colonial authority depended on shaping appropriate and reasoned affect (where one's sympathies should lie), severing some intimate bonds and establishing others (which offspring would be acknowledged as one's own), establishing what constituted moral sentiments (family honor or patriotic duty); in short, colonial authority rested on educating the proper distribution of sentiments and desires. Domains of the intimate are not the only place to register the hierarchical terrain on which such comparisons get played out. But they are strategic for exploring two related but often discretely understood sources of colonial control: one that works through the requisition of bodies-those of both colonials and colonized-and a second that molds new "structures of feeling"-new habits of heart and mind that enable those categories of difference and subject formation.

The belongings of race, religion, and citizenship in part dictated colonial entitlements. But those in turn were decided by local knowledge and close encounters. Racial affiliations varied with who slept with whom, who lived with whom, and who acknowledged doing so; who was recognized as one's child and by whom one was nursed, reared, and educated; who was one's spiritual light and by whom one was abandoned. In the case of those labeled "mixed-blood" or "half-caste" children-an imperial icon in itself in Australia, French Indochina, Samoa, the Dakotas, and the Dutch East Indies-a demonstrated disaffection for one's native culture and native mother were critical gatekeeping criteria for European membership. Evidence of disdain or estrangement and sympathy for thoughts and things native were basic to the white community's entry requirements. Those thresholds of racial membership, sexual access, and colonial status were not "private" sites of respite or retreat. In recluse and repose race was put to the test. In these "tense and tender ties" of empire, relations of power were knotted and tightened, loosened and cut, tangled and undone. These ties are not microcosms of empire but its marrow.

French, British, Belgian, German, and Dutch colonial administrations in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, Asia, and Africa instituted labor regimes, social policies, urban planning, and medical protocols that produced and marked off social kinds, consolidated racial taxonomies and actively reordered the intimate spaces in which people lived. Understanding why those who governed cared so much about those spaces-what they imagined they could control and what they imagined occurred there-has altered our sense of governance and of how people defied it. Those tense and tender ties played out in beds, kitchens, nurseries, and schoolrooms were secured and subverted by too much knowledge and not enough, by newly acquired tastes, cadences of speech and movement within and outside what people at particular times considered private or called "home."

Those who governed the Netherlands' Indies, British Malaya, and French Indochina saw concubinage between European men and Asian women as a problem when they worried about political subversion. It is they who proposed the establishment of segregated nurseries in the Indies when anxious about European political loyalties, they who launched repeated commissions investigating domestic arrangements between women of color and colonial men when they feared growing political disaffections among subordinate whites. It was among those ministers of colonies, directors of education, labor, and public health who ran racialized states and their reformist institutions, operating within their racialized regimes of truth, not those of postcolonial scholars, that matters of the intimate were squarely identified as matters of state.

This volume summons these insights to work through-and push on-a basic set of premises: that matters of the intimate are critical sites for the consolidation of colonial power, that management of those domains provides a strong pulse on how relations of empire are exercised, and that affairs of the intimate are strategic for empire-driven states. To pose these as points of reference is not to suggest consensus on what counts as the intimate and why it matters. Few of the essays concur on how domains of the intimate relate to the structured violences of imperial states. Similarly, if there is some accord on the relevance of the concerns of colonial studies to North American history there is less on how these histories converge-and why their historiographies should as well. Such dissonance provides the grit and grist of the volume.

What is shared is an analytic disposition to extend our historical imaginations in often unrehearsed and awkward ways-to consider social imaginaries of high and low, colonial subjects, agents and architects that spanned continents and traversed empires and national borders. What is also shared is a willingness to think about the distribution of sentiments within and between empire's subjects and citizens as part of imperial statecraft, to envision the interior landscapes of ordinary women and men caught in the movements that dislocation and dispossession coerced or cajoled. Not least is a shared commitment to think the intimate through and beyond the domestic and through and beyond the management of sex. We ask-in very different ways-how habits of the heart and comportment have been recruited to the service of colonial governance but never wholly subsumed by it. We attend, again with different emphasis and consequence, to those proximities of power-close encounters, unspoken knowledge, in close quarters-in which racialized differences might be recessed or held in brutal relief.

Some senses and sites of the intimate are foregrounded over others. Domestic space, schooling, and public hygiene figure prominently in this volume; the pungent, violent intimacy of prisons, barracks, and detention centers does not. Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay haunt the edges of these pages, pressing for further attention. Unexplored here, they declare the limits of our collective purview, reminding us that the colonial intimacies are first and foremost sites of intrusive interventions.


Attention here is on the social categories that comparison demands and the explicit and tacit commensurabilities that acts of comparison require. Colonialism was at once a comparative endeavor and a protracted war of assessments over what could be measured by common principles of right and rule-and who should be exempt or excluded from them. What Ian Hacking calls "making up people" is a critical colonial project-a racially laden measuring of what is thought to distinguish human kinds. Such assessments were dependent on what could and could not be seen, on visible markers of distinction as well as nonvisible ones, on evaluations of implicit cultural competencies as much as a mastery of public recognized norms. The management of bodies and dispositions-and racialized thinking about them-underwrote the most benevolent reforms. Social reform enlisted the participation of agents to distinguish social categories and to assign which intrusions and interventions of body and person could be foisted on them: on a subject population (but not a republican citizenry), on a colonized population (but not on colonizing whites), on impoverished poor white settlers (but not well-heeled "real" Europeans), and on enslaved black groups (but not on Native Americans).

If comparison is a scholarly, analytic task, it is also a historical and political one. We begin with the observation that colonialisms' actors and agents critically reflected on analogous governing practices and on those earlier and contemporary contexts from which lessons might be learned. Attending to their practices of comparison opens to their personal and professional trajectories-and sometimes to unexpected and subjacent connections. Looking to "other littorals" than the Atlantic hub of U.S. history takes us with a French slave manager in eighteenth-century Louisiana away from the Yankee continent to the "proper caresses and prudent distance" he culled from across the Caribbean. Russians moving eastward to Alaska in the 1780s worried over the activities of "North American Republicans" in the Northwest and thought about their own colonial projects in relation to some European models of settlement and not others. But it was their prior Siberian experience that shaped immediate strategies to produce progeny and profits-as well as their comparative imaginations. The specific nature of the fur trade, not St. Petersburg mores, guided which kinds of domestic unions the local Russian Orthodox Church sanctioned for Aleut and Alutiiq women and Russian men. Some, like the U.S. protestant missionaries in the Middle East, brought their notions of tolerance with them. In the 1840s they sought to Christianize Ottoman Arabs just after failing to do so among Native Americans at home.

Some comparisons were between empires, not within them. Alexis de Tocqueville's understanding of democracy and imperialism derived in part from the double vision he maintained throughout the 1830s and 1840s, from what he knew of democracy and Amerindian annihilation in America and French colonial policies in North Africa. And in the nineteenth-century Pacific, with its convergence of German, French, and U.S. empires, officials competed to assign sovereignty by identifying individual subjects, making every move in relation to "half-castes," what Damon Salesa aptly describes as "an intimate manifestation of an international frontier."

Attuning our historical senses to these movements and exchanges allows us to consider principles of comparison of historical actors themselves-what they conceived as equivalent contexts, glossed over as common features or marked off as wholly uncommon ground. In short, histories of what was rendered comparable and/or incommensurable at any one time have a story to tell of their own. The U.S. senator who noted in 1850 that comparison becomes impossible when you change the criteria of category inclusion as did the census every few years got just the point. Incomparability compels forgetting, just as comparison prescribes some lessons and effortlessly disavows others.

Attention to the historical categories of comparative practices refuses the comfort of discrete cases, highlighting instead those uneven circuits in which knowledge was produced and in which people were compelled to move. Not least, it brings into "sharper resolution" the kinds of knowledge generated-and on which people might draw-across imperial terrains and within them. But global circuits of knowledge production were never abstract. They were peopled with those who moved, changed identities, were captivated by alien cultural forms that they borrowed to reinvent their own. Actual people dismantled some aspects of colonial cultures, but many more did not. Those thresholds of inside and out were not confined to those people caught on the margins-as if "mixed-bloods" and "half-castes" were the only categories of people wrought with interior battles of bitterness and grief. Thresholds of inside and out were spread throughout the population and a fundamental feature of colonial situations, not unlike the dissociations Albert Memmi describes for French colonials in North Africa, who were quick to criticize the colonial administration, and to distinguish their own good works and intentions from it, while enjoying the privileges and pleasures it conferred.

Treating governance through the microphysics of daily lives has redirected historians to new readings of familiar archives and to new genres of documentation. It also has changed how we read-for discrepant tone, tacit knowledge, stray emotions, extravagant details, "minor" events. These elements can index how people made sense of these colonial conditions, what they successfully navigated or failed to maneuver. And they should train what ethnographic sensibilities we bring to our accounts. Orphanage records, housekeeping manuals, treatises on domestic hygiene, school medical reports, debates over breast-feeding, nurseries, and kindergartens (long part of the repertoire of feminist and family historians) now pertain to understanding the distances that separated imperial prescriptions from governing practices in ways they previously had not.


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Table of Contents


1. ANN LAURA STOLER Intimidations of Empire: Predicaments of the Tactile and Unseen....................1
2. ANN LAURA STOLER Tense and Tender Ties: The Politics of Comparison in North American History and (Post) Colonial Studies....................23
3. DAMON SALESA Samoa's Half-Castes and Some Frontiers of Comparison....................71
4. WARWICK ANDERSON States of Hygiene: Race "Improvement" and Biomedical Citizenship in Australia and the Colonial Philippines....................94
5. NAYAN SHAH Adjudicating Intimacies on U.S. Frontiers....................116
6. SHANNON LEE DAWDY Proper Caresses and Prudent Distance: A How-To Manual from Colonial Louisiana....................140
7. TIYA MILES "His Kingdom for a Kiss": Indians and Intimacy in the Narrative of John Marrant....................163
8. LISA LOWE The Intimacies of Four Continents....................191
9. KATHLEEN BROWN Body Work in the Antebellum United States....................213
10. MARTHA HODES Fractions and Fictions in the United States Census of 1890....................240
11. LAURA WEXLER The Fair Ensemble: Kate Chopin in St. Louis in 1904....................271
12. GWENN A. MILLER "The Perfect Mistress of Russian Economy": Sighting the Intimate on a Colonial Alaskan Terrain, 1784-1821....................297
13. ALEXANDRA MINNA STERN An Empire of Tests: Psychometrics and the Paradoxes of Nationalism in the Americas....................325
14. LAURA BRIGGS Making "American" Families: Transnational Adoption andU.S. Latin America Policy....................344
15. PAUL A. KRAMER The Darkness That Enters the Home: The Politics of Prostitution during the Philippine-American War....................366
16. EMILY S. ROSENBERG Ordering Others: U.S. Financial Advisers in the Early Twentieth Century....................405
17. LINDA GORDON Internal Colonialism and Gender....................427
18. CATHERINE HALL Commentary....................452
19. NANCY F. COTT Afterword....................469

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