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study, bodies of knowledge to assemble and to bring into shape: it was believed absolutely

rightful for Western science to scrutinise African people without their consent.


In colonial exhibitions towards the end of the 19 -century entire native villages were put on


For ‘brig and little boys’


The British Empire was a man’s world, much more emphatically than Victorian patriarchal

society back in Britain. At every level, men ran the colonies. The masculinity of the Empire

determined the character of colonial masculinity of the Empire determined the character of

colonial activity including writing in so many ways. England sent her ‘energetic and worthiest’

to found colonies. Illuminating research has been done in recent years on women’s


writing in the Empire: women travellers and settlers might take care to emphasise their

femininity to compensate for their unconventional adventuring roles. However, the

predominance of men at every level of imperial engagement, the definitive maleness of all

ignored: women were ‘out of it’.

that was done cannot be British male strength and ability to

rule were presented as justification in themselves for colonisation: such evocations of vigour

and success kept colonial administrations and armies well-staffed with new recruits. Where

women figured at all in the world beyond the seas it was as seductive distraction, unmanning

and polluting for those who fell under her spell.

Colonial writings are full of scenes not merely of male bonding, but of solidarity between

men figured as self-mirroring and doubling. The target public of imperial adventure tales,

then, was predominantly male.

In sum, the imperial adventure story, like the public school, raised ideological support for a

male-led Empire, instilling in boy readers an image of self-confident British manliness, an

ideal of robust character combining Christian honour with patriotism.

4. Colonised Others

Always with reference of the superiority of an expanding Europe, colonised peoples were

represented as lesser: less human, less civilised, as child or savage, wild man, animal, or

Early anthropologists categorised colonised peoples as ‘primitives’, inferior

headless mass.

to Europeans. According to this approach, the naming of other peoples was an act of

downgrading. Even before Darwin, colonisation was represented as a survival of the fittest:

those best at imposing their power were deserving of hegemony. Usually, the coloniser was

described as masculine, Christian, civilised, and rational, while the colonised as feminine,

irrational, and weak.

However, depending on the context and imperial interest, certain categories of people or

cultures were deemed to be closer to the European self than others (Irish were superior to

Indians; among Indians, Sikhs and Pathans were ranked above Bengalis).

In missionary and explorer writings, the image of Africa darkened in equal but opposite

proportion to Europe’s attempts to redeem Africans from darkness; this meant that Africans

could be characterised as responsible for their own degradation. The imagery of the African

continent as savage and degraded predated Social Darwinist ideas regarding the differential

development of cultures.

No matter how diligently colonisers translated unfamiliar landscapes, from their cultural and

‘script’ of that unfamiliarity was meant to remain

geographic standpoints the original

inaccessible, frustrating the eye of the scientist and governor alike. Apart from the desire to

understand and control, there was also the need to avoid or delimit anything that eluded

control: one way of doing this was to screen the incomprehensible as far as possible out of


the picture; another was simply to name the strange as strange (admit to the unreadability

of the Other). Sometimes, the coloniser projected onto the native his own discomfort,

representing him as unruly, inscrutable, or malign. India became the sign of a universal

Incomprehensibility (Kipling: ‘you can’t focus anything in India’); the African forest, too,

relentlessly signals impenetrability.

Yet if never free of the threat of destabilisation, colonial power had still to produce an illusion

of permanence: hence the prevalence of reams of documentation, ethnographic and

scientific studies, journals, accounts, censuses, dispatches, laws, etc.





Emily’s journal as an example of travelogue

In Imperial Eyes, M. Louise Pratt (post-colonial critic) considers the ways in which European

travelogues were used to represent cultural difference in what she calls ‘contact zone’ i.e.

people geographically and historically separated come into contact with each other.


Travelogues have shaped European mental representation of the Other’ and so

contributed to the stereotypes still present in today’s racist discourse. Imperial Eyes and the

theory it displays, has to do with the so-called Colonial Discourse (the term colonial refers

to the all context of colonialism). It has to do with imperialism and textuality. Imperialism and

colonialism worked through textuality, using languages, words, and phrases to subdue

people. The contact zone is that space of hybridity, where cultures meet each other.

Emily tries to be a neutral observer, in fact she uses rhetorical strategies of the perfect

scientist, this is evident in the ways she introduces her pseudo-scientific truths. In the

aftermath of the Enlightenment, scientific writing sounds objective and truthful. In colonial

writing, the notion of absolute objectivity is false. It is used to construct a Eurocentric

Emily: ‘as is commonly known’ p. 24; ‘I am led to believe’ p. 28; ‘it should be


clear’ p. 25; “The gentleman informed me, in a short but edifying lecture, that the true natives

of this region were of an Indian origin (hence the name West Indies). Sadly, they were

unused to European ways and has to be dispatched.”

discovered to be too troublesome and

P. 24. Despite her objective formulation, her words contain her subjectivity. She never

questions white superiority; she always takes it for granted. She always uncritically

accepts historical facts and events that white men tell her, without investigate about their

truth. As a would-be scholar, her diligent report reveals an un uncritical mind rather than an

investigative mind. When Emily describes black people what she usually does is to employ

a zoological vocabulary. Her choice of words and terms is not innocent. Language is never

innocent. Her expressions have negative consequences on black people; above all, in front

of the unknown, which is everything that she does not know, she describes it using a

European code. She remains limited, trapped inside the European world view and language.

Still on a carriage on her way to the plantation, she comes across “a number of pigs (…),

and after them a small parcel of monkeys.” But what she has taken for pigs and monkeys

are “nothing other than negro children, naked as they were born, parading in a feral manner”

(pp. 23-4). She repeatedly associates the black inhabitants of the island with the animal

kingdom and classifies them as subhuman. In negating their humanity, she constructs the

slaves different from white people and their unredeemable savagery.

As for identity, is not something essential, it is a cultural construct, being a result of our lives,

of our way of thinking and living, our history and stories. We are made up of different stories,

which are the result of our encounters. Identity is always negotiated, it is changeable, not

fixed. Cultural identity of the post-colonial subject is always fluid, displaced, it crosses


different spaces and times, it crosses different borders and cultures. Emily’s point of view

expresses an idea of identity and culture, that is fixed, unchangeable, with no way out

and no remedy. The colonisers’ role was that of making black people civilised. She refers to

slave homes as “narrow nests” (67) and the noises coming from the slave village as a distant

“braying” (32). Observing the black people’s favourite pastime of dancing after sunset, she

comments as follows: “their movements appeared to be wholly dictated by the caprice of the

moment” (p. 44) Throughout the text there are many examples of Emily’s reflections about

her changing ideas, and in this way, she constructs ‘otherness’. Through language, Emily

builds black people otherness. She reacts to the unknown, by building their difference, using,

in Emily’s mind,

and creating stereotypes. The colony and its inhabitants are constructed

which mirrors the European mind. “I looked on with revulsion as these cannibals clamoured

to indulge themselves with this meat, and I wished that with the growth of civilisation in the

might soon cease” (p. 44)

negro, the gorging of such unacceptable swinish parts Emily casts

a disapproving look upon black people’s passion for wearing extravagant clothes on

Sundays and festive occasions. She prefers to see “the negroes, male and female, in their

filthy native garb, for in these circumstances they do not violate laws of taste which civilized

people have spent many centuries to establish.” (p. 66) The eating habits of the slaves make

Emily be convinced that they are below or beyond what she considers properly human and

that’s why she feels this hate towards them, their cultures, and their habits. She criticises

“their ability to dress without concern for conventional morality” (p. 21). For Emily, their half-

nakedness is itself sign and symptom of sexual intemperance: “Negro relations would

appear to have much in common with those practised by animals in the field, for they seem

to find nothing unnatural in breeding with whomsoever they should stumble upon.” (p. 36)

The Process of Othering

Colonial discourse is based on the concept of difference. It reserves subject-hood for the

coloniser and the objecthood for the colonised. A series of dichotomized hierarchies

construct the colonial other and generate stereotypes to suggest that the other is entirely


knowable. Difference is constructed through language. The term refers to anyone

who is separated from one self. The existence of others become crucial in defining our place

in the world and in defining what is normal. In the colonial context, the Eurocentric eye is

always the subject; on the contrary, the other, that is black people, are considered objects,

completely knowable. The subject is the one who has the power to know, everything that is


knowable is an object. According to post-colonial theories, the existence of the is

crucial because the subject exists in his (colonised) gaze. In colonial discourse the

subjectivity of the colonisers is in the colonised gaze but the identity of the colonised is

located in the imperial eyes. The term “othering” describes the process by which colonial

discourses produce their subjects. Of course, the colonial discourse is a discourse of

power, based on violence, exploitation, and unequal relations. It is also important to notice


that the colonising other is established at the same time as its others’ are

produces as subjects. The construction of the Other is fundamental in in the construction of

the self. Othering is a process of self-definition.

Emily’s ‘colonial

pseudo-scientific objectivity is employed to construct the other’ and

to sustain the European hegemony. Native people of the colonies have been constructed

by the European colonisers as the colonial Other. This construction is based on the concept

of difference, and on a series of dichotomies (white/black, civilization/savagery). Emily can’t

offered by the black slaves: “I (…) informed

stand to hear the distorted version of English

her that I had no desire to hear my mother-tongue mocked by the curious thick utterance of


the negro language” (29) The English language becomes a site of contest and of a

revolutionary struggle. The colonised appropriates the English language of the master and

uses it for his scope. Emily lays at the centre of the colonial project as Franz Fanon said in

his work “Black skin. White masks” published in 1952, a man who has a language possess

as a consequence the world expressed and implied by that language. Language is the

means by which European people expressed cultural differences, power, and imbalance.

the ‘Post-colonial Literature’ written

Today the literature of ex-colonies, that is the so-called

by people coming from ex-colonies or whose lives had to do with the history of colonisation,

this literature decentralizes the power of language. Colonised people who are forced to use


the colonisers’ language run the of internalising their perspectives, the view of the

dominant group. The effects on the individual are pathological. A language is a means by

which people make sense of the world and understand themselves. The imposition of the

English language has erased the memories of pre-colonial cultures. Language installs the

power of the dominance of the West. But languages also become a weapon of struggle.

Even if it manifests and expresses the dominance of the empire, conveying a Eurocentric

vision of the world, it can become a very important weapon against the empire in the hands

of colonised people. The revolution and rebellion of colonised people takes place in and

though language. Post-colonial writers and critics are able to write and speak in English. So,

they denounce the values of the colonisers and their imperialist ideology. In other words,

the post-colonial margins write back at the post-imperial centre. This is a way of challenging

and subverting the imperial centre.

Cambridge’s narrative

Cambridge’s mastering of English, jeopardises rational boundaries and problematises

them. Cambridge’s life story occupies the central position between the first and the second

chapters. This is a paradox because he does not belong to the centre but to the margins. It

narratives. It opens and closes with the words: “Pardon

intrudes into two Euro-dominated lines.”

the liberty I take in the burdening myself with these hasty (133, 167). The ideas of

marginality and centrality are presented in order to be questioned. Cambridge’s focal

position is also reflected in the title. It is as if Cambridge apologies for his intrude into the

European history. He recounts his life, his childhood in the Africa where he grows up as

Olumide. He is kidnapped and carried off to the coast, survives the Middle Passage and is

immediately returned to England where he serves as “Black (Thomas) in a rich man’s


household. Here he comes into contact with the Christian faith and has himself baptized as

“David and marries a white servant. Freed after the death of his master and


he receives an unexpected inheritance from his master and then decides to set out to do

missionary work in Africa. What Phillips does is to question the logic of imperialism and

colonisation; he also shows how the boundaries between colonisers and colonised

disappear, the one influencing the other and vice versa. Post-colonial writers look at the

world with transnational eyes, meaning that they depict and represent subjects and identities

as transcultural and transnational. They are so always in movement and not fixed. Identities

are always the result of negotiation. Cultural identities are in movement, liquids, unstable,

unfixed and they define themselves through the contact with other one. Novels written by

post-colonial authors are always polyphonic novels, meaning that there are different points

of view, there are different truths and all of them must be accepted. As for Cambridge,

there are different protagonists, each of them recounts their own story and narratives; these

stories cannot be understood without making comparison with other narratives. They are

linked and connected.



The fact that he changed identities is expressed in the different names he used. He is an

because once in England he doesn’t really belong there, once

example of hybrid identity,

in the plantation, he doesn’t feel as a slave because of his background. This puts him in a

condition of being in between and thus making him feel alienated. In England, he has

uncritically absorbed all the English teachings. Both Emily and Cambridge accept external

On board ship, he’s

teachings in a passive way. sold into slavery again; his third and last

crossing of the Atlantic eventually takes him to the Cartwright plantation where he acquires

the name of Cambridge. On the plantation, he takes Christiana as his partner. She practises

obeah. The two refuse to cooperate with the overseer. Things get out of hand when Brown

seduces Christiana and accuses Cambridge of stealing provisions. Cambridge’s narrative

is bound to be read in relations to Emily’s. one of the functions of Cambridge’s account is to

in Emily’s narrative.

elucidate the grey areas This is a paradoxical reversal of the European

civilising mission supposed to bring light to the population living in the darkness of ignorance.

Cambridge’s narrative represents a reversal of Emily’s and it dismantles her pseudo-

its very foundations. Cambridge’s narrative sounds more trustworthy

scientific discourse as

than Emily’s narrative. Because Cambridge doesn’t judge people in racial terms, but

individually on their own worth; Cambridge tries to avoid generalisation, on the contrary

Emily’s narrative ‘how’

reflects the European spirit. For example, she reports the on human


actions, which is usually evident. Cambridge tries to discover the of things, which is

‘why’ has to do with hearts and minds. Nevertheless, as Cambridge’s

not always clear. The

tale develops, readers discover that he is the rebellious slave who refuses to become mixed

up in Brown’s plan to undermine slave solidarity. Readers also discover Cambridge’s self-

alienation, his strong desire to be accepted by white society. He strongly feels an inferiority

induced by the same values he advocates. Cambridge’s identity is located

complex in-

Cambridge’s story is a voyage into otherness

between, and this makes him be alienated.

and entails the silencing of his ancestral self. Exiled from his nature, exiled from his name,

for him mastering the English language guarantees his discursive visibility but tragically

determines his fate. Emily and Cambridge, though historically polarised into exploiter and

exploited, have enough in common. Black people are always being silenced; they represent

the unsaid, they are not visible, and do not exist as subjects. If we can find them as

characters and protagonist in novels is thanks to post-colonial writers, who re-narrate the

past from a different point of view, which is not euro-centric. They recount another story from

a different voice. They disrupt the western power. By uncovering the hidden affinities

between colonisers and colonised, the novels blur the traditional boundaries between the

two and disrupt binary dichotomies. Cambridge and Emily experience the crossing of the

Atlantic as a passage of loss because each of them has lost his and her identity. The

common de-humanization during the Middle Passage binds the two characters as two

victims who are reduced to silence. Cambridge is the victim of the colonial system and Emily

is the victim of English society. Their texts are attempts to escape their being in the margins.

Their voices are bound to fall into historical silence.



Slavery’s genesis

Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean in 1492 initiated a period of genocide and enslavement

of the native Amerindian people. Bu in 1503, Bishop Las Casas (protector of the Amerindian)

proposed an alternative to indigenous labour in the form of a systematic importation of


blacks, initially to work in the mine. Building on an earlier Spanish and Portuguese practice

of enslaving African along the Atlantic coast, Charles V granted a patent to a Flemish

corporation in 1517 to import 4000 black slaves per year into Cuba and Jamaica (Spanish

holdings). Black slavery was practiced throughout the American colonies; by the mid of the

19th century, after the American civil war and after the rise of the abolition movement,

slavery was abolished. In 1807 the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade became law

throughout the British Empire: it is not abolishing slavery itself but prohibited the traffic in

slaves. Slavery in the British Empire was abolished in 1833. In 1862 U.S president Abraham

Lincoln proclaims emancipation of slaves; 1863: 13th amendment of U.S Constitution

follows in 1865 banning slavery. Slavery had existed in Europe from classical times, but by

the 11th and 12th century it became increasingly uncommon in Northern Europe. It was

during the mid of the 15th century that Portugal established trading relations on the African

coast and used African slaves as a resource. It has been estimated that during this operation

over 12 million black were shipped in chains across the infamous Atlantic Middle Passage

as the horrific journey is usually referred to. It is so called because it forms the central section

of the triangle trade.

The Black Atlantic, modernity and double consciousness

The Atlantic middle passage refers to the Atlantic crossing from Africa to Americas

experienced by commodified human cargo en route to the New World slavery. Many slave-

trading ships travelled in a triangular pattern with three main passages.

• Started in England, the main passage transported manufactured goods (weapons and

gun powder for black slaves) to West Africa.

• The second passage brought human cargo to the America.

• The third passage was a return to England with American raw materials (cotton, sugar,

tobacco, coffee, rice).


The term Atlantic” was employed for the first time by the black British critic Paul

Gilroy (1993). In his study, he addresses the cultural and historical linkages that unified the

peoples of African descent on both sides of the Ocean that had been the scene of the

diaspora of black Africans resulting from the Atlantic slave-trade across the infamous Middle


Passage and the so called triangular trade (Africa, the Americans and Europe). if two

simple words, can contain the horror, the journey was called the Middle Passage. It was a

nightmarish journey for a triad that had its beginning and end in England. The Atlantic

cross could take as long as 10 weeks, though the duration of voyages varied widely

depending on the wind, on the weather. It was a pilgrimage so hellish that no words can

hold enough horror. The ships were densely packed and the voyage was brutal, because

of the living conditions many Africans died and those who died were thrown over-board.” By

using the word Black Atlantic, Gilroy delineates a space that is not specific, but it is a hybrid

mix of all the cultures involved. The Atlantic is black because of the black bodies thrown

down from ships, both dead and alive. The Black Atlantic is a transnational space which

transcends national boundaries. He stresses how the slave trade allowed Western

countries to achieve their economic power, because there is a strong connection between

capitalism, modernity, and colonialism. The middle passage, or Black Atlantic, had a central

importance on the construction of modern identity. At first, there were no people calling

themselves Africans: people identified themselves with different tribes, without adding

reference to colour or the name of the continent. So, black and African identities were born

during the Middle Passage and developed in subsequence years and generations.

The term diaspora refers to people who have been displaced and it is used in post-colonial

studies to described groups of people who have been removed and forced to migration. It


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Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in scienze della mediazione linguistica (RAGUSA)
Università: Catania - Unict
A.A.: 2017-2018

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher chiara.venuto15 di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Cultura e Letteratura inglese I e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Catania - Unict o del prof Polopoli Valeria.

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