Clio/Anthropos: Exploring the Boundaries between History and Anthropology 9780804772402

This volume looks at the intersection between history and anthropology to reveal the contingencies of the production of

179 51 4MB

English Pages 312 Year 2009

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Clio/Anthropos: Exploring the Boundaries between History and Anthropology

Citation preview

CLIO / ANTHROPOS Exploring the Boundaries Between History and Anthropology

Edited by Andrew Willford and Eric Tagliacozzo

Stanford University Press

Stanford California

Stanford University Press Stanford, California ©2009 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system without the prior written permission of Stanford University Press. Printed in the United States of America on acid-free, archivalquality paper Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Clio / anthropos : exploring the boundaries between history and anthropology / edited by Andrew Willford and Eric Tagliacozzo. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8047-6020-1 (cloth : alk. paper) 1. Ethnohistory. 2. Anthropology and history. I. Willford, Andrew C. (Andrew Clinton) II. Tagliacozzo, Eric. GN345.2.C55 2009 909'.04—dc22 2008053333 Typeset by Westchester Book Composition in Adobe Garamond, 10.9/13


§ 1



History and Anthropology: Strange Bedfellows


Eric Tagliacozzo and Andrew Willford

§ 2

In Search of the Colonial Subject


David Arnold

§ 3

Laughing at Leviathan: John Furnivall, Dutch New Guinea, and the Ridiculousness of Colonial Rule


Danilyn Rutherford

§ 4

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies: Historical and Ethnographic Perspectives


Eric Tagliacozzo

§ 5

Chronotopes of a Dystopic Nation: The Birth of “Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


Claudio Lomnitz


Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad: The Post-emancipation “Labor Problem” Viranjini Munasinghe



iv §7

The Nationalization of Anthropology: Japan and China in Manchuria


Prasenjit Duara

§ 8

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


Andrew Willford


Unsettled Stories and Inadequate Metaphors: The Movement to Historical Anthropology


David William Cohen






We are delighted that this book is appearing in print after what seems like a long time since its inception. The impetus for the volume came through a small workshop organized on this topic at Cornell University. Seven of the essays appearing here originally came to us through this venue; we are grateful to Patricia Spyer for presenting her ideas at the workshop, though her essay did not appear in the final volume. Danilyn Rutherford stepped in with a contribution that admirably filled this void, so we were delighted to be able to welcome her into the fold. Noa Vaisman was a terrific studenthelper for the workshop, and we thank her profusely, as we thank Margaret Rolfe, Barb Donell, and Bonnie Blanding-May, who helped with various organizational matters. Our colleagues in history and anthropology, Sandra Greene, Tamara Loos, Jane Fajans, Terry Turner, and David Holmberg, also agreed to act as discussants during the workshop, for which we thank them very much. Finally, we wish to thank the many funding bodies at Cornell—the East Asia Program, the Southeast Asia Program, the South Asia Program, the Einaudi Center, the Society for the Humanities, and the departments of history and anthropology, all of whom supplied funds so that the workshop could happen. It would not have occurred without these generous grants. We wish to thank Muriel Bell, Jennifer Helé, and Joa Suorez at Stanford University Press for their patient editorial and organizational efforts. Working with them was a great pleasure, and we think they have made the book better through their interventions. Jane Ferguson and Tom Patton helped us to prepare the manuscript for publication. We wish to thank Rosalind Morris for reading the entire manuscript. Her generous v



advice and masterful critique proved invaluable. We also thank the anonymous referees for the press who encouraged us in their rigorous and insightful reviews. They helped us to sharpen and tighten the project while also helping us to see which critical questions could be extended. Finally, our greatest debts are to our families: Vasantha, Rabin, and Anisha, and Kathy, Clara, and Luca, who sustained us through the long editorial process and into publication. We hope this book will suggest not only the breaking of some old paradigms, but the creation of some new ones as well. If the book makes that contribution to our respective literatures and to knowledge in general, we will be very glad indeed.

§ 1 History and Anthropology: Strange Bedfellows Eric Tagliacozzo and Andrew Willford

Academic disciplines, like political regimes, seem to generate their most assertive moments of self-rationalization when they perceive themselves to be responding to a “crisis” that casts doubt on the foundations upon which they stand. Academic and political processes are, of course, not simply parallel formations or the product of an odd juxtaposition. Rather, they are mutually constitutive forces in the workings of modernity. That is, the production of disciplines, cultures, and archives are part of the workings of power. This very observation has inspired much historical ethnography. The present volume recognizes and builds upon this understanding of power and knowledge1 but also suggests further that an unsettling of academic disciplinarity—as one possible response to a perceived crisis of knowledge— opens up new opportunities for examining the inner workings of power, culture, and the archive. Put boldly, the authors in this volume, in varied ways, use the interdisciplinary boundaries of history and anthropology to reveal the contingencies of knowledgeproduction. By this we refer not only to the terminologies of expertise that produce disciplinary knowledge and evidentiary-based truth claims but also to the servicing of such truths in the name of political and cultural projects. Several of the essays in this volume reveal a parallel between the workings of cultural and political knowledge and the dynamic logic of the interstitial boundaries that animate disciplinary truths in academic life. In turn, this revelation proves particularly useful for producing a critique of the contradictions and contingencies within political identifications and ideologies, particularly within the various spaces of the colonial and postcolonial world. 1


Tagliacozzo and Willford

The recent so-called crisis of representation in the social sciences (and, increasingly, in the humanities as well) has made crossing disciplines more and more common in history and anthropology. A sense of persisting urgency has been lent to this process by the publication of several seminal texts, such as Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) and Clifford and Marcus’s Writing Culture (1986), and by the growth of the Subaltern, Postcolonial, and Cultural Studies fields since that time.2 These critiques have refashioned scholarship primarily on the non-Western world, yet their combined influence has also been felt strongly in studies on Europe and North America. Anthropologists and historians alike have been grappling with these changes in vantage and representation and have increasingly been looking toward each other’s methods for answers on how to proceed. The present volume aims to tease out and explain the ramifications of each of these disciplines’ cadences increasingly turning toward each other for inspiration and for authorization. We were specifically interested in rethinking the relationship between power and culture, in reevaluating ideas and concepts of incorporation and resistance, and in examining hegemony and history in an increasingly asymmetrical global system. As Nicholas Dirks has suggested, the imbrication of history and anthropology emerged at a time when the “colonial state changed from a ‘revenue state’ to an ‘ethnographic state’ ” (2002: 56). Dirks argues that the colonial state authorized an “ethnographic imperative” to know its subjects— that is, to archive through an explosion of writings and classifications about caste and various other “barbaric” native practices. As an ethnographic archive and as a primary historical source, the state, he suggests, “produces, adjudicates, organizes, and maintains the discourses that become available as the primary texts of history” (2002: 59). In a word, the ethnographic archive became a “principal form of governmentality at the same time that governmentality expressed itself through the categories of historical thought and writing” (61). The sedimentation and classification of knowledge, in other words, took place through ethnographic practice, a legacy of historical anthropologizing that is troubling, to say the least. Dirks reminds us, as have many Subaltern Studies scholars, that the archive already bears the traces of the state’s anxious regimes of classificatory knowledge-production in all cases. This troubling of the archive need not, of course, invalidate various truths of these same repositories (or of ethnography, for that matter), though it

History and Anthropology


opens up to us alternative readings of both. The so-called state3 is not a monolithic or unitary subject, and the authorizing voice of its documents often betrays anxieties of rule. One of the principal contributions of this volume, as demonstrated in several of its essays, is that it lays bare various reasons behind the anxieties of rule, or of authorizing knowledges in general. This, we maintain, is felicitously deciphered through the disciplinary boundary-crossing of anthropology and history, its troubling history notwithstanding. Yet Dirks’s points are worth further reflection. For instance, in locating a classificatory truth that is attempted by various authorizing gestures (states, laws, authorities, institutions) but never fully achieved, one might find that the logic of the supplement (Derrida 1976: 141–164) is at work in the generation of ethnographic truths about colonial or postcolonial subjects. That is, an originary lack in the Law itself may be haunted by its own violent suppression of its arbitrariness (i.e., a performative founding act). The historicity and contingency of the state’s truth claims, for instance, may require compensatory elaboration in a chain of substitutions, signifiable in time and space as ethnographic Others, thus deferring and displacing this originary lack with supplementary violence.4 As Derrida argues, there is a “mystical” dimension to authority and the Law, in its performative utterance: “There is here a silence walled up in the violent structure of the founding act; walled up, walled in because this silence is not exterior to language” (2002: 242). The act is haunted, he adds, as “its ghostliness deconstructs from within all assurance of presence, all certainty no criteriology assuring us of the justice of a decision. . . . But as a performative cannot be just, in the sense of justice, except by grounding itself in the conventions and so on of other performatives, buried or not, it always maintains within itself some irruptive violence” (2002: 253–256). In this sense, an originary lack inherent in the “irruptive violence” of Law is supplemented through the “archive fever” (Derrida 1995) of an ethnographic state. Grounding itself “in conventions” provides an aura of retroactive historicity to the violence of the state and Law; and the ethnographic archive, in turn, is a critical part of this exercise and the exercising of the Law’s ghostliness. That is, the contingency inherent in the violence of the letter of the Law, or the colonial or postcolonial state more generally, requires a continuous source of exteriority as a source of authority. This is the function of the ethnographic archive.


Tagliacozzo and Willford

Read in such a light, our understanding of the governmentality of the colonial state is enriched. The limits and excess inherent in the practices of the “ethnographic state” allow us to see, paradoxically perhaps, how scholars can deconstruct, interrogate, and critique official historiographies while simultaneously theorizing the dialectical push and pull between state imaginaries and various subjects as they are constituted, circumscribed, and affected by the illocutionary force of state practices, ideologies, and discourses. The authors in this book are concerned with the problem of agency and subjectivity vis-à-vis the powers of the law or the state. As David Arnold (Chapter 2) argues, through an optic first opened by Foucault, “colonial governmentality . . . allows for seeing colonialism as a form of modernity sufficiently powerful and persuasive to impel (in his case) Indians to rethink themselves. Second, it exemplifies agency in that Indians alone are capable of translating, negotiating, and reconstituting that modernity as their own.” The instability of the state, law, or authority does not necessarily lead to an agency or intentionality that is not subject to the gaze of the state’s disciplinary arm or identificatory imago. Put simply, subalterns are not making history of their own choosing, free from the force of law, or the traces of the historical archive. Nevertheless, in the “silences” and “elisions” of the disciplinary gaze, as David William Cohen (Chapter 9) argues, there is fertile ground for rethinking both knowledge-production and subjectmaking. In our view, the stark choices between subjection and intentionality, or between closure and openness, are not tenable intellectual positions. Rather, in seeing oscillations within disciplines and subjects, an interpretive spectrum opens that avoids historicism or romanticism. That is, just as the apparent historicism of context appears to determine how actual subjects would think, feel, and identify, we see an interruption coming from two juxtapositions of authoritative knowledge. First, the purported governmentality of power structures that be—and with them the state practices including, though certainly not limited to, the ethnographic archiving of difference—is itself supplemented through the agentive practices of discrete subjects. Through this the lacking force of law is reiterated by subaltern subjects who appropriate authorized knowledge to their own ends (but not of their own free choosing, of course). That is, the suturing of ideological gaps occurs in the face of suppressed or contingent knowledges through the work of agentive subjects who complete or silence the ideological gaps,

History and Anthropology


rather than piercing the veil of ideology, which would represent a more romantic view of subaltern agency. Indeed, the excess of identification that often occurs where ideology appears most absurd and untenable suggests that the tenacious hold of ethnic and religious hierarchies, purities, and boundaries is contingent upon the “irruptive violence” (and the supplementary archive practice of the ethnographic state), as Derrida would have it, of colonial and postcolonial statecraft. “The ghostliness that deconstructs from within” does not, in other words, (necessarily) produce critical reflection, but rather, excessive identification in the shadow of the Other’s lack, as in Lacan’s designation of neurotic and compulsive identification. The impossibility—yet tenacity—of certain identifications are elucidated in several of these essays, though in different theoretical registers, be they Foulcauldian, Marxian, Lacanian, or Derridean. A second point, and one that parallels the first, concerns the production of knowledge at the interstices of disciplinary authority. One might ask, as does David William Cohen here, whether gesturing toward another discipline acts to complete or to further authorize the disciplinary status that is “borrowing” or “smuggling” from the other. The logic of the supplement again shadows the interdisciplinary move. Is anthropology’s or history’s lack supplemented or reauthorized through their respective boundary crossings? Are new gaps and fissures created by the cross-boundary intervention leading to a reiteration of the very notion of disciplinarity, and the very need to fill in those gaps with the authority of the archive and ethnography, respectively? As Cohen puts it succinctly, “the blurring model (with regards to interdisciplinarity) evades epistemological reflection.” Rather, what we call for, and hopefully achieve, is a critical reflection upon the processes of authoritative action and disciplinarity. This is a call for seeing without the enframing disciplinary logics of vision.5 The interweaving of, and parallels between, academic knowledge-production and knowledge, power, and subjection in the political field are, we claim, better understood through this attentiveness to the interstices and boundaries that lie at the heart of these essays. Toward that end, the editors invited essays from several prominent practitioners within both fields, whose interests, methodologies, and expertise spanned disciplinary and geographic boundaries. For the anthropologists, the editors selected Claudio Lomnitz of Columbia University, two of whose books, Exits from the Labyrinth: Culture and Ideology in the Mexican National Space (1992) and Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of


Tagliacozzo and Willford

Nationalism (2001), spoke directly to these processes. Also invited was Danilyn Rutherford of the Anthropology Department of the University of Chicago. Rutherford’s recent book, Raiding the Land of Foreigners: The Limits of the Nation on an Indonesian Frontier (2003), exemplifies the interdisciplinary spirit we were seeking in its combination of theoretical innovation, ethnographic sensitivity, and historical breadth and depth.6 The third anthropologist asked to present work was Viranjini Munasinghe of Cornell University, whose book Calaloo or Tossed Salad: East Indians and the Cultural Politics of Identity in Trinidad (2002) is an ethnography simultaneously concerned with the processes of history. The historians are represented through David Arnold of Warwick University, formerly at the University of London (SOAS), who is the author of two works which themselves cross boundaries, this time in India— Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in NineteenthCentury India (1993) and Police Power and Colonial Rule, Madras, 1859–1947 (1986). A second historian invited was David William Cohen of the University of Michigan, whose books (including Siaya: The Historical Anthropology of an African Landscape [1989] and The Combing of History [1994]) have dealt with these themes in Africa. Our third historian was Prasenjit Duara of the University of Chicago / National University of Singapore, whose books Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1942 (1988) and Rescuing History from the Nation (1995) cross the boundaries between history and anthropological approaches as well. Both of the editors then wrote a chapter for the ensuing volume too, Willford tacking from the anthropological side of things and Tagliacozzo leaning in historically.7 The geographical expertise covered in this volume is quite global, therefore; Mexico, the Caribbean, Africa, India, China, Southeast Asia, and Oceania are all explored. The turn toward anthropological methods and questions by scholars engaged with history has been under way for quite some time now. Though we will not offer a comprehensive assessment here,8 perhaps the signal moment in this process was the series of essays that appeared in the Journal of Modern History in the 1980s; these came in direct response to the publication of Robert Darnton’s Great Cat Massacre (1984).9 Darnton, heavily influenced by his Princeton-area colleague in anthropology, Clifford Geertz, undertook a social history of events surrounding Carnival in Paris in the 1730s. His avenue of vision was explicitly symbolic, following ideas first suggested by Geertz in “Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight” (1973). This was history

History and Anthropology


as it had not been done before, and the results both pleased and outraged a range of specialists on both sides of the Atlantic. Since this great debate, other historians have made use of the techniques and methodologies of anthropology; some of the better-known practitioners include Prasenjit Duara (for China), Robert Harms (for Africa), and Ann Stoler10 (for Indonesia, and, increasingly, for colonial societies generally).11 The successes (or failures) of these experiments have been judged differently by different scholars, but the debate on how historians see has certainly been richer as a result. From the anthropological side, Eric Wolf’s influential Europe and the People Without History (1982), aside from providing a masterful politicaleconomic history of the last five centuries, provoked anthropologists to reconsider their privileging of fieldwork-derived “hypothetical isolates.” Wolf historicized the largely synchronic paradigms in sociocultural anthropology of the 1950s and 1960s by demonstrating their emergence in reaction to the ethnocentric excesses of cultural evolutionism. While synchronic analyses attempted to demonstrate the functional validity of non-Western societies and institutions, the elision of history and questions of power within such studies privileged structure over agency and stasis over change. While Clifford Geertz’s ideas may have inspired some historians, his focus on the semiotic process—his famous ever-changing “webs of meaning”— suggested the importance of temporal inquiry. Indeed, much of Geertz’s writing incorporated a long-range analysis (Islam Observed, 1968; Negara, 1980; The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973). However, Geertz, while inspiring interest among historians, also inspired a historical and political-economic critique of his analysis of “meaning.” Both the camps of Marxian theorists interested in the social production of value within and between societies (e.g., Eric Wolf and Sidney Mintz) and the postcolonial- and Foucault-inspired scholars of the genealogies of cultural / political discourses (e.g., Bernard Cohn [1990], John and Jean Comaroff [1993–1997], Nicholas Dirks [1987], Renato Rosaldo [1980], Talal Asad [1993], and Michel-Rolf Trouillot [1995]) are attentive to power and hierarchies of knowledge. Also, the more structurally oriented analyses of social continuity and dialectical engagement within global systems (Marshall Sahlins [1982], Jonathan Friedman [1994], and Bruce Kapferer [1998], for example) looked to questions of practice and agency through history. It might be said, particularly for Sahlins and Kapferer, that indigenous notions of “history” were always already theorized through


Tagliacozzo and Willford

culturally distinct logics that generated their own understandings of temporality. Therefore, while we cannot and should not envisage an anthropology that does not look to historical analysis in doing “historical” work, from this culturalist structuralist perspective, academics cannot deploy a transhistorical category to understand the very academic category we call “history.” In a famous debate between Gananath Obeyesekere (1997) and Marshall Sahlins (1995), however, Obeyesekere accused Sahlins of robbing the Hawaiians of the capacity to “reason,” in effect Orientalizing the Hawaiian conception of temporality, personhood, and cosmology by subsuming their conceptual capacity under the culturally distinct logic of “mythico-praxis.” Sahlins, in turn, accused Obeyesekere of silencing Hawaiian (cultural) voices and of projecting a universal Western subjectivity upon the reading of the archive. While we do not wish to enter into the merits or demerits of this debate, the theoretical differences between the two revealed the disjunctures between a postcolonial, psychoanalytic, and transhistorical intervention (Obeyesekere) and that of a culturally relative structuralist (Sahlins) reading of the archive. The key point being suggested here is that no amount of data being marshaled by either scholar would satisfy the other, given that their intractable positions vis-à-vis the evidentiary sources were grounded in their different epistemologies. Comparative questions, never more urgently asked in an ever-globalizing capitalist world, require an understanding of the contingencies of difference. The current academic seductions of globalization and the pressing need for theorizing diaspora, displacement, inequality, violence, and revivalism within an increasingly polarized world system tempt social analysts into making categorical, and often teleological, generalizations. These ultimately privilege Western epistemic forms alongside elite, nonWestern assertions of cultural difference. Rather than allowing such academic, and ultimately politically charged, discourses to become naturalized and inevitable (as suggested by the now infamous “Clash of Civilizations” hypothesis authored by Samuel Huntington [1996]), the present volume seeks avenues for studying the contingencies of global interaction and the politics of cultural representation. By drawing on the anthropological perspective of “local knowledge,” to use Geertz’s designation, coupled with the longitudinal genealogy of how the “local” has been produced, we seek dialogue and new directions for future interdisciplinary collaboration.12

History and Anthropology


China India

Mexico Trinidad


Africa Malaysia

map 1.1:

New Guinea

Sites discussed in the volume.

These essays achieve these aims in different ways. David William Cohen, who is both a professional anthropologist and a historian, working on materials from Africa, argues in Chapter 9 that the metaphors of smuggling, backing into, and blurring have served as several means of explaining the development of historical anthropology. These movements have been particularly pronounced in the post–World War II relations between the disciplines of anthropology and history. However, Cohen stresses that these frames provide at best only a restricted view of the unfolding of new work claiming the status of historical anthropology. For Cohen, to hold that historical anthropology can be understood by reference to the biographies of disciplines is to suggest that there are no other languages, paradigms, and epistemes other than those emergent within the disciplines. Important elements within the unfolding literature associated with historical anthropology may also be reckoned as developing outside the disciplines, or against discipline. There may be an “ethic” reflected in this work that the potential power of historical anthropology may lie in the absence of disciplinary configuration and in the absence of an encompassing and controlling account of the field. In this his work is profoundly democratic: It shuns the idea of a “master narrative.” In fact, one of the great possibilities of historical anthropology, according


Tagliacozzo and Willford

to Cohen, is this transgressive quality of the marriage between the disciplines, as the union between the two approaches destabilizes the notion that any one journey toward understanding local truths is going to be the “correct” one. Prasenjit Duara, writing about China in Chapter 7, extends this by considering the circumstances under which anthropology becomes part of the project of nation-making in mid-twentieth-century East Asia.13 Japanese anthropology, which flourished under imperialist expansionism, made racially and culturally based anthropogenetic claims upon indigenous peoples and the land upon which they lived in regions such as Manchuria. Chinese anthropology developed its own historically based ethnography in response to such claims in these contested regions, thereby creating some of the conditions for absorbing the peripheries of the old empire into the emerging nation-state. The confluence of these two forces is fascinating: it shows in one arena one of the larger themes of this volume, which is that both history and anthropology were continually used and reused for different ends by different parties at different times. Though the Japanese surveys of Manchuria were among some of the most detailed ethnographic work ever done in Asia up until that time (and still in fact hold up well in certain cases and on certain topics), the very production of such knowledge under the very political circumstances of occupation rendered this same knowledge as problematic and suspect to the Chinese who inherited Manchuria as part of their own nation-state after 1949. Duara explores these dualities over a period of time when his very oscillation of “authenticity” and “reliability” was cast into doubt, not so much by the nature of the findings, but by the process of knowledge-production itself during a turbulent political era in East Asia. David Arnold, whose research focus has been South Asia generally and India in particular, considers different historical and anthropological approaches to colonialism and argues for the importance of colonialism as a subject of scholarly investigation in and of itself. In Chapter 2 Arnold focuses on the idea of a “colonial subject,” primarily with respect to recent writing on South Asia. He considers the impact of historical anthropology on writing about this part of the world, and of Foucault, Said, and Subaltern Studies as well. Arnold argues for a positive view of “the colonial subject” and of his or her agency, rather than a passive one in which the subject is simply “made” by the colonial state. His chapter, therefore,

History and Anthropology


has resonance far outside of South Asian Studies proper—the birthplace of Subaltern Studies where he was one of the founding members of that collective. If the “colonial subject” enters these discussions as a modulator of these paradigms and not just as an object of classification, typification, and rule, then some of the power dialectics inherent in these questions of how knowledge and order are produced quickly change. Arnold has been one of the scholars most responsible for helping along this sea change in vantage, and his views are quite apparent in this volume. Eric Tagliacozzo, a specialist on Southeast Asian history, takes a different tack in examining these questions, concentrating instead on the meeting between history and anthropology in inanimate objects. In Chapter 4 Tagliacozzo explores the life histories of export ceramics in various Philippine societies, as seen from both historical and ethnographic points of view. Trade ceramics have come to the Philippines for well over a thousand years, and they have been incorporated into local lifeways in a bewildering variety of uses. Tagliacozzo shows how some pieces are said to be able to fly and / or talk, while others have been powdered down to make medicines, and still others have been used to bury the dead. Historical notices on the use of ceramics in local cultural complexes are abundant, and the twentieth century saw anthropologists doing concerted fieldwork to uncover the many uses of these objects in various Philippine societies. Tagliacozzo explores the history of tradewares in the Philippines from both historical and anthropological vantages and asks how they should be interpreted in the longue durée narrative of Philippine culture and society. His concern for the role of inanimate objects as part of these discourses shows how the meeting between the two disciplines is not only geared toward explaining human beings, but geared toward the larger world that human beings live in, alter, and exploit at the same time. Few objects contain in their physical structures and in their historical passages a better lesson toward these ends than tradewares, since these pieces have been prized and traded for a very long time. They have also undergone metamorphoses in meaning at numerous points along their journeys. The historians’ essays in this volume show how much anthropology as a discipline, and more importantly as an epistemological means of inquiry, has penetrated into historical writing. Each of the authors has appropriated different aspects of anthropological thinking into the fiber of his or


Tagliacozzo and Willford

her discussion. For David William Cohen, who works on Africa, there is a concern in bringing forth life histories of people for whom almost all historical records have been produced by colonizers. For David Arnold, who works on India, the concern has been subalternity: how, as others in this school have asked before him, do we get the colonial subject to speak? Arnold resists a frequently expressed ethnographic romance with voicing the subaltern, noting that speaking is not enough when the conditions of enunciation are such that such speech is inaudible or ineffectual in producing political agency for the subaltern subject.14 Can ethnographic methods provide any guide here? Arnold tells us that ethnography is not about giving voice to the Manichean struggle of the authentic subaltern against its oppressor. Rather, “by delving into non-confrontational struggles, we highlight the omnipresent tension and contradictions between hegemony and autonomy in consciousness, between submission and resistance in practice.” To Arnold, this allows us to theorize more richly the conditions of subjection in the postcolonial context. Or, we could ask, is “giving voice,” as a means to make truth claims for culture and authenticity in ethnographic terms, ever isolable from the social and institutional conditions of enunciation and iterability? For Duara, the written record is enormous: Japanese ethnological literature on China is voluminous, but how is it to be interpreted? How should it be read? And for Tagliacozzo, the vestigial remains are not texts, but objects themselves— traditionally the domain of ethno-archaeologists to explain. Yet how can history and anthropology be married in this case to say something meaningful about the “social lives” of these things, as Arjun Appadurai (1986) has elegantly written? Can we trace objects— and with them the culture of human beings—through historical time and into an ethnographic present? In all of these cases, the volume’s historians have been asking how anthropology destabilizes normative historiographical ways of knowing, in a variety of contexts and in a broad spectrum of places. Can history still be written without recourse to anthropological thinking and the questions anthropology asks in its treatment of everyday living subjects? It certainly can; historians traffic with the dead, usually, and as such the nature of excavating life histories and life experiences of those already departed is at base a different endeavor from ethnography. There is no “talking back” in history—or very little of it until we get to the past several decades, at any rate. Yet it has become clear that much of the

History and Anthropology


richest and newest history writing has seen fit to select and adapt anthropological methodologies, despite these disjunctures in access to the subjects of study. This volume argues that this willingness stems from a fundamental recognition by historians of the efficacy of anthropological lines of inquiry. A newfound reflection on the self as author has permeated Clio’s disciples, for example, and there are good reasons to believe that that this shift in vantage point is at least partially based on a sideways glance at the evolution of the so-called reflexive turn in anthropology. Similarly, a rigorous reinterpretation of classifying rubrics, mechanisms, and categories in writing history is also (arguably) attributable to historians reading anthropologists, as these epistemologies underwent such serious self-scrutiny among ethnographers that historians could hardly fail to notice. Turning now to the anthropologists in this volume, Viranjini Munasinghe, a specialist on ethnicity and nationalism in the Caribbean, traces the antecedents for contemporary Trinidadian ethnic discourses to the discourses of metropolitan agents and planters who desired cheap and bonded labor to replace the labor of ex-slaves after emancipation. Focusing primarily upon the period prior to the arrival of Indians in Trinidad, Munasinghe argues in Chapter 6 that the production of cultural difference was independent of direct social contact and, as such, anticipated future relations between Indo and Agro-Trinidadians. A template, in other words, for what was to follow, traces of which are still felt contemporaneously, was forged in the crucible of colonial discourse, policy, and power. In making a case for indentured labor, they created a discourse about cultural difference that demarcated “the Negro” from “the Coolie.” These same characteristics, now “naturalized,” are used by Trinidadians to draw distinctions between those of African descent and Indian descent, but the role of the producers of this cultural difference remains opaque. By foregrounding the productive context of this cultural difference—the alleged post-emancipation “labor problem” in Trinidad— Munasinghe historicizes today’s ethnic stereotypes by anchoring them in a specific political economy, while also offering, more broadly, a trenchant critique of cultural essentialism. She also presents a general argument about ethnicity that forces a reconceptualization of the relation between space and the production of cultural difference. Munasinghe argues that the production of cultural difference in the form of an ethnic boundary is not


Tagliacozzo and Willford

necessarily contingent upon a shared physical space or face-to-face interaction, or organized interactions, between the groups in question, a common assumption in theorizing ethnicity. Claudio Lomnitz, like Cohen a professional anthropologist and a professional historian, offers a useful bridge between these two disciplines. Writing in Chapter 5 on Mexican history, culture, and nationalism, Lomnitz employs the concept of the “chronotope” from Bakthin to demonstrate how spatiotemporal frameworks were deployed as narrative tools in creating a “historical consciousness” of “dependency” with regard to Mexico’s relationships with the United States during the era of the Porfirio Diaz presidency. Through chronotopes, Lomnitz argues, “movement in space can be figured as movement in time, and vice versa . . . political change is guided by or leads to the invention of new chronotopes.” As key elements of political ideology and statecraft, chronotopes also prove felicitous to the discussion of history and ethnography. Through that which went untranslated, unheard, or misconstrued, Lomnitz demonstrates how the chronotope established a pernicious logic of dependency that silenced the experiences of everyday subjects. Specifically, the contours of the image that took shape during Diaz’s dictatorship were shaped by regimes of value, which included how Mexico was represented on Wall Street and in the increasingly dialogic space of the transnational zone along the borderlands. Lomnitz describes subtle and not so subtle forms of racialization that emerged through photographic representations of Mexico. The chronotope of the “past as present,” situating Mexico vis-à-vis the United States, was figured with images by American photographers, acting as ethnographic archivists. The centerpiece of the essay is an extended analysis of James Creelman’s interview of President Diaz. Creelman, known for his work in the dubious racialized science of physiognomy, described Diaz as the “natural leader of an inferior people.” Lomnitz explains why Diaz allowed himself to be interviewed by Creelman, suggesting that the chronotope of dependency made him dependent upon a “racist” narrative in order to justify a political discourse of transitional rule. Finally, Lomnitz asks why alternative representations of Mexico, particularly “muckraking” and other de-essentializing narratives proved nontranslatable and mute during the chronotope of dependency period. Andrew Willford (Chapter 8), writing on Malaysia and specifically the Tamil-speaking diaspora in this nation-state, traces the ethnic political

History and Anthropology


divides of colonial to contemporary labor discourses. Through analysis of the Tamils’ socioeconomic history, Willford addresses the following questions: Why, in the midst of economic expansion, have the Tamils languished behind other ethnic groups in Malaysia? Why, given their political weakness, are Tamils in Malaysia plagued by internal divisions? Last, why do many Tamils express their collective identity and search for individual empowerment through religion? Willford argues that while historical political economic analysis sheds necessary light upon the contours of ethnic politics in Malaysia, the ostensible obsession with ethnic identity in Malaysia reveals, paradoxically, the unstable, contingent, and indeed “empty” reality of the ethnic signifier in nationalist ideology. Willford shows how the archiving of ethnic stereotypes in Malaysia was built upon techniques of repetition, acting against memories and experiences that were often more ethnically or culturally fluid or permeable. In this sense, his chapter shares with Lomnitz, Duara, Rutherford, and Munasinghe a concern with the phantasmic and racialized force behind national imaginaries, particularly as they take ethnic and religious form. The impossibility of naturalization or symbolic closure in ethnonationalist discourse, it is argued, fuels a fetishistic attachment to cultural and religious identity as an aspiration to authenticity. Willford concludes with a discussion of how Tamil Hindu revivalism is situated within the larger domain of Malaysian nationalism. In conclusion, the tension between the historiographic naturalization of difference and the apparently compelled ethnographic reiteration of Tamil or “Indian” difference is brought into sharp relief. This is done not to suggest that the present is the natural outcome of the past, but rather, to demonstrate a spectral presence in the archive that still haunts the living. The theme of impossible naturalization, or the anxieties of authenticity and legitimacy in colonial and postcolonial rule, is addressed forcefully by Danilyn Rutherford (Chapter 3), whose familiarity with Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and Papuan societies allows her to draw into sharp analysis the antecedents of separatism and tensions between the Indonesian state, its nation-making projects, and the anxious legacies of colonial rule. Rutherford’s essay engages a seemingly flippant question that proves to have wide implications for how one approaches the history (and historiography) of imperialism. Why is John Furnivall’s classic account of statebuilding in colonial Burma, The Fashioning of Leviathan, so funny? Rutherford argues that Furnivall’s humor reflects more than simply his


Tagliacozzo and Willford

disdain for the British imperial project. Rather, it registers tensions inherent to the colonial enterprise on the frontiers of European rule. The author analyzes the implications of her claim—that the fear of ridicule not only dogged, but also fed the expansion of colonial power into frontier regions—by exploring episodes in the history of western New Guinea, a territory that was long a backwater of the Netherlands Indies. She shows how the particular “policy of display” pursued by the Dutch gave rise to stubborn anxieties concerning, as one official put it, “the prestige of our nation in the eyes of foreigners”—not to mention the native “Papuans” themselves. Rutherford describes how the market economy introduced mechanisms that threatened to erode differences, destabilizing colonial discourses of hierarchy. The possibility of being overheard, mocked, and mimicked was a very real source of anxiety to “Leviathan,” who apparently here, as in many other colonial contexts (Bhabha 1994; Spyer 2000; Rafael 2005; Anderson 2005; Cannell 2005), feared mockery and generally being translatable to an Other who was not fully translatable to Leviathan. These anxieties15 played a key role in the Netherlands’ decision to retain western New Guinea as a separate Dutch colony after the rest of the Indies gained independence as the Republic of Indonesia. As such, this chapter exposes the historical roots of Papuan separatism and provides a way of conceptualizing the region’s troubled status in Indonesia today. In the implicitly dialectical logic deployed by these four essays, the national and colonial project of making pasts authentic in the ser vice of political cultures produces a retroactive, or anterior, future. That is, as great dialecticians (e.g., Hegel, Marx, Freud, Heidegger, Derrida, and others) have argued, albeit in different ways, the futural aspirations of the modern subject produce its counter in the desire for timeless truth and cultural authenticity. In these essays we see a concern with silencing the contingent aspects of colonial and postcolonial statecraft through points of identification—a past that is wholly past, archived, yet strangely retrievable as “tradition.” Yet as “tradition,” it remains somewhat “funny,” as Rutherford suggests, a site of uncanny recognition, display, and ritualization, or repeated iteration, and concomitant partial silencing of anxiety. Iterations of racialized separation, as Willford and Munasinghe suggest, silence more complex and contingent realities, confirming in the discourses of ethnicity what Hobsbawm and Ranger (1983) observed in a historical register—the power of repetition in the production of “tradition.”

History and Anthropology


In a sense, then, the anthropological move to history, and vice versa, is not merely interdisciplinary, but against the disciplinary production of colonial and postcolonial subjects. That is, methodological blurring reveals analytic optics into the archiving of disciplinary knowledge. As in the case of “identity” politics in colonial and postcolonial subject-making, this seems to require evidence of the archive in order to exert an aura of truth in the face of ideological absurdity, contingency, fracture, and domination. The greater the contradictions of power and ideology, the greater the “archive madness,” as Derrida (1995) argues, to produce the illusion of truth that is established in the archive. Yet, as the authors in this volume show, this effect of power—this “madness” to objectify, racialize, and classify difference, buttressed by an archivable structure—is one of anxious mastery and anxious rule. Or, as Derrida (1995) suggests, the greater the archive madness, the more spectral the archive becomes. The analytical move to compel “laughter,” or what Cohen in this volume describes as “lightness” (for instance, the critique of the uncanny traces left by the signifier and the political economy behind its force of dissemination), is a critical and political intervention. That “Leviathan just could not take a joke,” as Rutherford suggests, speaks to authors as diverse as Michael Taussig (1987), Homi Bhabha (1994), and James Siegel (1997). All of these scholars have harkened back to Hegel’s insights regarding the menace (of recognition) that haunts fantasies of mastery, the sometimes violent consequences of which are buttressed by laws and identities that cover over their very contradictory and fractured natures.16 Classificatory truth, a kind of “archive madness” through racialized difference, is anxiously repetitive, iterable, yet seemingly unstable, and wholly dependent upon the power of the archive. As Lomnitz points out, guarding certain truths in times of crisis through “chronotopes,” or fixating upon symbolic figures, not only guarded certain “truths” but also served the obfuscation of the private aspirations of the middle class. This, as Lomnitz argues, is a political and psychological effect. Similarly, though the racialized stereotypes of Trinidad ostensibly function to serve material interests, as Munasinghe details through colonial rationalizations, their symbolic resonance exceeds rational explication, producing a legacy of ethnic difference. In all four of these “anthropological” chapters, therefore, the political implications of what might be called a historiographic desire to make pasts stable and retrievable are examined in a manner that requires the analytic fusing of the longue durée, its desired representation in cultural and


Tagliacozzo and Willford

political discourse, and the particular modernist aspirations of those with the agency to produce partially stable discourses that mask contingent sources of power and wealth. All of the anthropologists, in turn, in recognizing historiographic desire within the cultural politics of their respective case studies, have deployed the tools of historical analysis in an attempt to disclose and critique what is being silenced by discourses of the nation, ethnicity, and religion. In that sense, the anthropologists necessarily turn to history in order to avoid complicity in the nostalgic ideologies of cultural continuity, difference, and authenticity, just as the historians turn to anthropology for questions of power, agency, voice, symbolic processes, and the emotive power of cultural discourses. While complementarity through interdisciplinarity yields important insights, we do not wish to imply that one discipline completes what the other lacks through this engagement. The essay by David William Cohen makes this point quite forcefully, if not playfully. As mentioned at the outset, this volume points to a way in which, as Cohen has suggested, this so-called interdisciplinary work between Clio and Anthropos works against “discipline.” Cohen points to both a political engagement outside the academy among key participants in the project of historical anthropology. At the same time, he illuminates ways in which the laying bare of the contingencies of knowledge-production that are provoked by interdisciplinarity also produce an effect of “lightness”— what we might also call a deconstructive moment in which culture, knowledge, and the archive are simultaneously unsettled. The essays in this volume share a political commitment to a critical project that is enabled through the unsettling of disciplinary knowledge, although the evidential bases of knowledge under consideration in the essays vary. The “empirical” knowledge that is marshaled by some is revealed to cover over, objectify, mask, and “identify”—and thereby obscure— contingencies of power. On the other hand, the critical analytical and theoretical moves made in other essays are predicated upon materialist, psychoanalytic, or linguistic suppositions, themselves “archivable” intellectual paradigms deriving their theoretical objectivity through an authority of knowledge, an archon, in Derrida’s (1995) terms. Duara, for instance, illuminates how this confluence of disciplinary knowledge and imperial power drove Japan’s ethnological archive in China. The present volume, in short, claims that the interface of anthropology and history reveals important contingencies in the production of knowledge—and that these have important implica-

History and Anthropology


tions. Quite simply turning to the archive denaturalizes cultural essentialism, while a turn to ethnographic experience unsettles the objectivity of the archive. Both, in turn, point to the limits of the other, and in so doing produce a means of political critique. Historians and anthropologists seem to be in dialogue with each other more now than they ever were in the past. If this is the case—and we believe it is the case—then a book chronicling these directions on a global scale, unshackled by temporal or geographic boundaries, but with evolving methodologies and mechanics cast front and center, is a very good idea. The success of joint history / anthropology programs such as the University of Michigan’s in seeding scholars across the width and breadth of the academy has been one important trend in this larger, overall process of disciplinary communion. If it is not yet routinely done, history departments now hire ethnographers as an increasingly common practice, and the opposite disciplinary “infiltration” holds true as well. It would certainly be almost shocking to open up a history or anthropology syllabus in the early twenty-first century and not see some visible presence of the other’s paradigms in the pages of a term’s readings. Without taking the notion of diff usion too far, it seems safe to say that the two disciplines are now more than parallel tracks of inquiry, but rather are by their very intellectual programs straining toward one another in an honest and self-conscious attempt to explain the human experience. As we have stated in the pages of this volume, much of this disciplinary movement toward each other has been about elucidating structures of power: governmentality, archives, and classification are all part and parcel of this process. But they are not the whole story, or even most of the story, necessarily. If we have centered on these themes here, it is because they have a common valence across the geographies studied in this volume, from Mexico and the Ca ribbean to Africa and India, and eventually through Southeast Asia and Oceania all the way up to China and Japan. Yet the convergence between history and anthropology has been about other relationships as well, moving away from the all-important locus of the bonds between societies and states. These are also intimate geographies, where the fusion of the disciplines can help us to understand how people lived their lives in the concourse of their daily existences. The focus on materiality is one of the ways forward; Appadurai was among the first to move us all as an intellectual community in that direction, but Malinowski came long before him in this regard with his research on the famous kula


Tagliacozzo and Willford

rings of the southwestern Pacific. History and anthropology also meet in other ways in the following pages, from a concern with trade, travel, and cross-fertilization of cultures to the substantiation of communities by means other than through the dictates of the state. All of these approaches and concerns speak to a maturing of the “inter-disciplinary moment” in the social sciences. Old questions can be asked in new ways, and even new questions can come about as a result of reoriented paradigms of how to ask questions about the lives of human subjects. We do not purport to have all of the answers as to how history and anthropology should meet or must intersect in order to remain relevant— far from it. What we hope we have done in the pages that follow is to lay out a schemata for a range of approaches, asking how questions may be put forward so that the meeting of these two disciplines can produce valuable insights that are more difficult to achieve when each discipline works in isolation. If that has been achieved by the eight authors represented in this book, then this compendium will have made a valuable contribution in our eyes. We are convinced that real disciplinary transgression is a necessary and (in fact) healthy intervention— one that represents a world of possibilities, rather than a “breaking” of boundaries that have been erected to ensure the salience or health of any artificially constructed branch of knowledge. Without such challenges, in fact, the disciplines are fated to slow genetic deaths of irrelevance in our view, since their founding principles and methodologies will not have been pushed and / or challenged in rigorous, searching ways. We hope we have accomplished this act of testing, appropriation, and fusion in the contributions to this volume. At the very least, we desire that our book will act as something of a clarion call for others to follow suit in these aims. The intersection between history and anthropology is more varied now than it has ever been— one only has to look at the shelves of academic bookstores and university libraries to see that this is the case. Historians have increasingly looked to the methodologies of anthropologists to explain inequalities of power, problems of “voicelessness,” and conceptions of social change from an inside perspective. By the same token, ethnologists have increasingly relied on longitudinal visions of their subjects, inquiries framed by the lens of history rather than purely structuralist, culturalist, or functionalist visions of behavior. The authors in this volume have all been mindful of these intersections and have dealt with the

History and Anthropology


problems and possibilities of the blurring of these boundaries in different and often very exciting ways. We hope that these approaches may provide further fodder for a cross-disciplinary experiment that is already well under way, one that can only help in the description of peoples and their cultures in a world that is both increasingly boundaryless in many ways, but, at the same time, is also alarmingly attached to the cata loging and marking of national, ethnic, racial, and religious differences.

Notes 1. The works of Bourdieu (1984) and Foucault (1980) are particularly influential. 2. See Said (1978), Clifford and Marcus (1986), Butler (1990), and Spivak (1988). 3. There is a tendency to reify this construct in social science discourse, granting it absolute logocentric intentionality and presence, when we might prefer to speak of a state effect, or the effect of law or authority (see Abrams 1988). 4. A similar logic is found in Agamben (2005), where he argues that the “anomie” within the heart of Law is shored up through the “state of exception,” a figure of displacement. 5. On enframing vision, see Heidegger (1977). 6. Rutherford’s historical anthropological lens is also put forward in two articles (1996, 1998). 7. For Tagliacozzo’s historical work, which has also been ethnographically informed, see Tagliacozzo (2001, 2002, 2005). For Willford’s turn to questions of history, see Willford (2006a, 2006b). 8. For a more extended discussion, see Dirks (1996), Cohen (1994), and Axel (2002). 9. See Darnton (1984, 1986), Chartier (1985), LaCapra (1988), Fernandez (1988), and Mah (1991). 10. Ann Stoler is both a historian and an anthropologist. 11. See Duara (1988), Harms (2002), and Stoler (1985, 1991). 12. See Geertz (1980a). For exemplary interdisciplinary volumes, see Axel (2002) and Siegel and Kahin (2003). 13. For interesting comparative cases involving the emergence of national folklore, literature, and tradition in the context of Thailand and Japan, see Morris (2000) and Ivy (1995). 14. See also Spivak (1999).


Tagliacozzo and Willford

15. Another good explication of this colonial anxiety can be found in the Indonesian context in Stoler (2002). For a rich discussion of the “anxieties of empire” in the context of colonial Malaya and how it produced obsessions with classificatory order, “standing reserve” (in Heidegger’s sense), and civilizational discourse, see Morris (2007). 16. Two prominent examples that elaborate this idea in broader historical and psychoanalytic terms are Agamben (2005) and Zizek (1993).

Bibliography Abrams, Philip. 1988. “Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State.” Journal of Historical Sociology 1(1): 58–115. Agamben, Giorgio. 2005. State of Exception. Keven Attell, trans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Anderson, Benedict. 2005. Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti- Colonial Imagination. London: Verso. Appadurai, Arjun, ed. 1986. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Arnold, David. 1986. Police Power and Colonial Rule, Madras, 1859–1947. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 1993. Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth- Century India. Berkeley: University of California Press. Asad, Talal. 1993. Genealogies of Religion. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Axel, Brian, ed. 2002. From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and Its Futures. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Bhabha, Homi. 1994. “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse.” In Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture. London: Routledge. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. Cannell, Fenella. 2005. “Immaterial Culture: ‘Idolatry’ in the Lowland Philippines.” In Andrew Willford and Kenneth George, eds., Spirited Politics: Religion and Public Life in Contemporary Southeast Asia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asian Program, 159–184. Chartier, Roger. 1985. “Text, Symbols, and Frenchness.” Journal of Modern History 57(1): 682– 695. Clifford, James, and George E. Marcus, eds. 1986. Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press.

History and Anthropology


Cohen, David. 1989. Siaya: The Historical Anthropology of an African Landscape. Athens: Ohio University Press. ———. 1994. The Combing of History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Cohn, Bernard. 1990. An Anthropologist Among the Historians, and Other Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Comaroff, Jean, and John Comaroff. 1993–1997. Of Revelation and Revolution. 2 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Darnton, Robert. 1984. “Workers Revolt: The Great Cat Massacre of the Rue Saint Severin.” In Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. New York: Random House, 75–104. ———. 1986. “The Symbolic Element in History.” Journal of Modern History 58(1): 218–234. Derrida, Jacques. 1976. Of Grammatology. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, trans. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ———. 1995. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Eric Prenowitz, trans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 2002. Acts of Religion. London: Routledge. Dirks, Nicholas. 1987. The Hollow Crown: An Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom. New York: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1996. “Is Vice Versa? Historical Anthropologies and Anthropological Histories.” In Bernard Cohn, ed., The Historic Turn in the Social Sciences. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 17–52. ———. 2002. “Annals of the Archive: Ethnographic Notes of the Sources of History.” In Brian Axel, ed., From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and Its Futures. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 47– 65. Duara, Prasenjit. 1988. Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900– 1942. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ———. 1995. Rescuing History from the Nation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Fernandez, James. 1988. “Historians Tell Tales: Of Cartesian Cats and Gallic Cockfights.” Journal of Modern History 60(1): 113–127. Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power / Knowledge. New York: Pantheon. Friedman, Jonathan. 1994. Cultural Identity and Global Process. London: Sage Publications. Geertz, Clifford. 1968. Islam Observed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 1973a. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books. ———. 1973b. “Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight.” In Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books. 412–453. ———. 1980a. Local Knowledge. New York: Basic Books. ———. 1980b. Negara. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Tagliacozzo and Willford

Harms, Robert. 2002. The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds of the Slave Trade. New York: Basic Books. Heidegger, Martin. 1977. “The Question Concerning Technology.” In The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. New York: Harper and Row. Hobsbawm, Eric, and Terence Ranger. 1983. “Inventing Traditions.” In Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1–14. Huntington, Samuel. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster. Ivy, Marilyn. 1995. Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kapferer, Bruce. 1998. Legends of People, Myths of State. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. LaCapra, Dominick. 1988. “Chartier, Darnton, and the Great Cat Massacre.” Journal of Modern History 60(1): 95–111. Lomnitz, Claudio. 1992. Exits from the Labyrinth: Culture and Ideology in the Mexican National Space. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2001. Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Mah, Harold. 1991. “Suppressing the Text: The Metaphysics of Ethnographic History in Darnton’s Great Cat Massacre.” History Workshop 31: 1–20. Morris, Rosalind. 2000. In the Place of Origins: Modernity and Its Mediums in Northern Thailand. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2007. “Imperial Pastoral: Reading Virgil at the End of Empire.” Representations (special issue on Transpacific Modernisms, edited by Colleen Lye) 99: 159–194. Munasinghe, Viranjini. 2002. Calaloo or Tossed Salad: East Indians and the Cultural Politics of Identity in Trinidad. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Obeyesekere, Gananath. 1997. The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Mythmaking in the Pacific. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Rafael, Vicente L. 2005. The Promise of the Foreign: Nationalism and the Technics of Translation in the Spanish Philippines. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Rosaldo, Renato. 1980. Ilongot Headhunting, 1883–1974: A Study in Society and History. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Rutherford, Danilyn. 1996. “Of Birds and Gifts: Reviving Tradition on an Indonesian Frontier.” Cultural Anthropology 11(4): 577– 616. ———. 1998. “Trekking to New Guinea: Dutch Colonial Fantasies of a Virgin Land, 1900–1940.” In Frances Gouda and Julia Clancy-Smith, eds., Domesticating the Empire: Race, Gender, and Family Life in French and Dutch Colonialism. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 255–272.

History and Anthropology


———. 2003. Raiding the Land of Foreigners: The Limits of the Nation on an Indonesian Frontier. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Sahlins, Marshall. 1982. Islands of History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 1995. How Natives Think: About Captain Cook, for Example. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books. Siegel, James. 1997. Fetish, Recognition, Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Siegel, James T., and Audrey R. Kahin, eds. 2003. Southeast Asia over Three Generations: Essays Presented to Benedict Anderson. Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University Press. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1988. In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics. London: Routledge. ———. 1999. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Spyer, Patricia 2000. The Memory of Trade: Modernity’s Entanglements on an Eastern Indonesian Island. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Stoler, Ann. 1985. Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra’s Plantation Belt, 1870–1979. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ———. 1991. “Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Gender, Race, and Morality in Colonial Asia.” In Micaela di Leonardo, ed., Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist Anthropology in the Postmodern Era. Berkeley: University of California Press, 51–101. ———. 2002. “Developing Historical Negatives: Race and the (Modernist) Visions of a Colonial State.” In Brian Keith Axel, ed., From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and Its Futures. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 156–188. Tagliacozzo, Eric. 2001. “Border Permeability and the State in Southeast Asia.” Contemporary Southeast Asia 23(2): 254–274. ———. 2002. “Smuggling in Southeast Asia: History and Its Contemporary Vectors in an Unbounded Region.” Critical Asian Studies 34(2): 193–220. ———. 2005. Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States Along a Southeast Asian Frontier, 1865–1915. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Taussig, Michael. 1987. Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Trouillot, Michel-Rolf. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press. Willford, Andrew. 2006a. “The ‘Already Surmounted’ Yet ‘Secretly Familiar’: Malaysian Identity as Symptom.” Cultural Anthropology 21(1) (February): 31–59.


Tagliacozzo and Willford

———. 2006b. Cage of Freedom: Tamil Identity and the Ethnic Fetish in Malaysia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Wolf, Eric. 1982. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press. Zizek, Slavoj. 1993. “Enjoy Your Nation as Yourself.” In Slavoj Zizek, Tarrying with the Negative. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 200–237.

§ 2 In Search of the Colonial Subject David Arnold

Of all the many ways in which the long-running engagement between history and anthropology might be construed, this chapter centers on what I take to be one of the most currently significant—the constitution of the “colonial subject.” I believe this to be an issue of mutual and growing interest to historians and anthropologists of the non-Western world and one that has the potential for further interdisciplinary inquiry. Since this volume invites individual perspectives, I should indicate at the outset that as a historian of British India, my rather presumptive premise is that anthropology only belatedly came to recognize the full significance of colonialism. I would not want to claim that anthropology only recently discovered history but that the anthropological scholarship of the past twenty years in particular has shown a new awareness of colonialism as a distinctive phase in history and as being significantly, perhaps uniquely, constitutive of modern beliefs, identities, and attitudes. Recent anthropological work (e.g., Pels 1997; Mathur 2000; Pels and Salemink 2000) attests to a newfound prominence given to colonialism and colonial subjects that both echoes and (in some respects) goes well beyond the importance many historians have long attached to colonialism. Apart from a few pioneering voices and some largely theoretical forays into the “colonial situation” and the “colonial encounter” (Balandier 1965; Asad 1973), this engagement with colonialism appeared largely absent from, or subdued within, most anthropological scholarship before the late 1970s (a lacuna arguably more evident with respect to South Asia than some other parts of the extraEuropean world). 27



If there now appears to be a greater degree of convergence between anthropology and history in terms of their mutual awareness of colonialism, there has also been increased recognition among historians, in part learning from anthropologists, of the complex means by which colonial power operated and exercised its influence. Taking the “colonial subject” as a central concern is one way of trying to address the intellectual transformation that has reconfigured the study of colonialism over the past two or three decades and, I would argue, it lies at the heart of what historians and anthropologists now mean by— or dispute about—“the colonial.”

Anthropology and “the People Without History” In the early 1970s, when the Area Studies paradigm reigned supreme (and I was laboring on my doctoral thesis on the political history of south India in the 1920s and 1930s), it seemed as though anthropology was much the dominant discipline. With a few exceptions—notably Bernard Cohn, with his insistence on the need for a “historical anthropology” concerned with both “the delineation of cultures” and “the formation of these in historical time through the study of events which affect and transform structures” (Cohn 1987: 73)— South Asian anthropology seemed to have little truck with history, nor much want to. It seemed able to lay claim to an authority and an authenticity in “knowing” India to which few historians (at least in Britain) could aspire. Anthropologists had a confidence in their methodology and scholarly lineage not many could match. They conducted fieldwork among authentic Indians in real villages, while historians burrowed, termite-like, in dark and dusty colonial archives, or, at best, interviewed a few doddery old men (rarely women) about their fading reminiscences. Anthropologists knew all about caste (the prerequisite for any serious debate about how and why Indians thought and acted as they did) and about the village community as the undisputable quintessence of Indian society (Marriott 1955; Srinivas 1966; cf. Dirks 2001: 52– 60, 251–254). Although what they wrote about bore the label “modern India,” their writing suggested a near timeless continuum in which the colonial period was only a fleeting moment and a distant perturbation. In such a context the idea of Indians as having been “colonial subjects” (except in a narrow legal sense) seemed almost risible. Ironically, though, this anthropological India

In Search of the Colonial Subject


seemed to replicate at least one reading of the colonial archive. The ethnographic texts of such now-familiar figures as H. H. Risley and Edgar Thurston, who compiled their magisterial surveys of India’s “castes and tribes” between the 1890s and early 1920s, similarly seemed to preclude colonial modernity. They focused instead on customs, rites, occupations, and myths that reached back into a precolonial and uncolonized past, though, in a more modern reading, those same texts have provided evidence of one of the most systematic means by which Indian subjects were colonially constituted (Pinney 1990; Dirks 2001; Anderson 2004). Many historians in the 1960s and 1970s worked, as I did, either on aspects of colonial rule in India or the nationalist riposte to it, while anthropologists— again Cohn stands out as an exception— seemed to go to great lengths to ignore colonialism. Or, if they did acknowledge its existence, they apparently doubted that it had much impact on a society as vast and impenetrable as India, on a civilization so deep-rooted, so self-assured, and so complex. In seminal works of the 1960s on religion and culture, the “British” and “colonialism” attracted only passing attention: the contrast with more recent works by anthropologists of South Asia, where colonial rule and Western representations of India seem allpervasive, is striking (e.g., Inden 1990). Some historians of the 1960s and 1970s, however, viewed colonial rule as so inherently weak and intrinsically alien as to be incapable of having more than a superficial, if selfdeluding, influence on Indian society and its governance (Frykenberg 1965). Or, again, historians worked with a model of colonial power that revolved around abruptly dichotomous notions of “collaboration” and “resistance” that resonated with the polarized idioms of Nazi-occupied France. Capable of encompassing anything from active involvement to “acquiescence and resignation,” collaboration was seen to signify “control by manipulation rather than by force.” All those “whose actions fell into line with the purposes of the British,” including indigenous chiefs and princes, government servants and the English-educated elite, could be “classed as collaborators” (Seal 1968: 8– 9). Thirty years later, scholarship on South Asia looks and feels substantially different. Caste now seems more malleable, more historically constructed, than it did in the 1960s and 1970s. Scholars have grown skeptical about the once axiomatic “self-sufficiency” of the Indian village, having discovered part of its origins not in the field but in early colonial and nationalist thought. Anthropology as a whole appears less preoccupied



with the contemporary world or more disposed to see its formative influences in a colonial and postcolonial past. Historians, increasingly interested in the agency of non-Western subjects and less preoccupied with imperial stratagems, have become more wary of collapsing the complexity of Indian attitudes, experiences, and motivations into a homogenized and superimposed “collaboration.” “Resistance” has had a longer and healthier existence, though even its more “romantic” representations have been criticized or tempered by a concern for the everyday “entanglement” of power and resistance (Haynes and Prakash 1991). At the same time, though, the nature and significance of India’s colonial experience remains contested. There are scholars who persist in seeing the colonial presence as weak, compliant, and dependent upon “dialogic” engagement with Indian society and culture (Irschick 1994). As C. A. Bayly puts it, “European and indigenous discourses both played a role in the construction of modern India. European knowledge may have been hegemonic, but it was never absolute” (Bayly 1996: 370). On the other hand, there are those historians who stress the “gross outcomes” of colonial rule— the violence, expropriation, and racism— and dispute the idea of colonialism as a kind of Anglo-Indian partnership in which Indians appear complicit in their own subjugation (Chakrabarty 2004: xv). These different orientations create different interpretations, not just of colonialism but also of the nature and significance of colonial subjectivity. In some ways history has grown more confident over the past three decades, more self-critical in its expanded understanding of “the archive,” more versatile and diverse in its use of methodology and theory. By some accounts, anthropology has entered a phase of “intense self-scrutiny and self-doubt” (Cohen and Odhiambo 1989: 2; see also Cohen, Chapter 9 in this volume), though this hardly does justice to the vitality and originality of recent South Asian anthropology. There has, perhaps, been a partial (and not unwelcome) blurring of disciplinary boundaries, creating a new anthropological engagement with history and with the kinds of sources historians once proprietorially considered their own. But the last thirty years has also seen a significant shift in the intellectual orientation of history and anthropology in relation to South Asia. One of the great changes has been a new recognition (not confined to these disciplines) of the centrality of colonialism and its far-reaching effects. For this sea change there were precedents. Eric Wolf’s manifesto twenty-five years ago for “the people without history” still seems to strike

In Search of the Colonial Subject


the right note, calling for a “history that could account for the ways in which the social system of the modern world came into being, and that would strive to make analytic sense of all societies, including [from a Western perspective] our own” (Wolf 1982: ix). In contrast to the idea that entire societies could be encapsulated in the study of a single village, Wolf insisted that “human populations construct their cultures in interaction with one another, and not in isolation” and that “most of the groups studied by anthropologists have long been caught up in the changes wrought by European expansion, and . . . have contributed to these changes” (Wolf 1982: ix–x). Anthropologist Sidney Mintz aspired to something similar, though with an even more commodity-specific focus than Wolf, in his study of sugar (Mintz 1985). History and anthropology alike have learned to engage with the globally integrative processes of capitalist-fueled European expansionism and the lives of transregional migrants and diasporic communities, including the slaves who made sugar production in the Americas possible. Perhaps, with hindsight, one misses in Wolf (less so in Mintz) those references to “power” and “knowledge” that have become ubiquitous in postFoucauldian, postcolonial scholarship and that offer new ways of negotiating between the local and global, of revealing the cultural effect behind economic exchange and political domination. But Wolf was surely right, in moving from the village to the world, to recognize the importance of nonWestern agency in processes primarily associated with European expansion and the possibility—even necessity—of that agency being located among the “people without history”—a point exemplified in terms of race and gender in Judith Carney’s study of “black rice” in the Carolinas (Carney 2001). As Wolf observed: “We can no longer be content with writing only a history of victorious elites, or with detailing the subjugation of dominated ethnic groups. Social historians and historical sociologists have shown that the common people were as much agents in the historical process as they were its victims and silent witnesses” (Wolf 1982: x). In this ambition Wolf captured the populist urge, evident from the 1970s onward, to study collective mentalities and subaltern experiences, a move that underpinned much of the historical and anthropological enterprise and the shared intellectual endeavor of the past thirty years. Wolf aspired to see the world “as a whole, a totality, a system, instead of as a sum of self-contained societies and cultures” (1982: 385), but where did this leave the colonial subject? By following a Marxian trajectory, focusing



on the rise of capitalism in Europe and the expansion of commodity and labor frontiers, Wolf essentially subsumed colonialism within capitalism. He represented the people caught up in the processes of global expansion as capitalism’s servants rather than colonialism’s subjects. As he put it: “In one population after another around the world, people’s lives were thus reshaped to correspond to the dictates of the capitalist mode” (1982: 353). People “of diverse origins and social makeup were driven to take part in the construction of a common world” (1982: 385), but there is little sense in Wolf’s analysis, beyond reference to the class distinctions, socioeconomic inequalities, and proletarian diasporas, to indicate the constitution of colonial subjects.

Foucault and After The decline in academic authority of the Marxian paradigm of class and capitalism has favored the growth of other ways of interpreting the nature and effect of European colonialism. While bypassing colonialism in his own work (but cf. Stoler 1995; Young 1995), Michel Foucault was instrumental in opening up for consideration two rather different perspectives on the modern— and hence conceivably colonial— subject. In the first of these, most evident in Discipline and Punish (1977), the reader is presented with a modern regime of power, exemplified by the Benthamite panopticon, in which the incarcerated individual is subject to the constant and reformative gaze of the centrally positioned prison guard. Here the inner nature (as well as the external character) of the subject is defined by the power and knowledge exercised over him, largely precluding his own agency, except to the extent of electing to comply rather than face the sanctions consequent to resistance. In contrast to earlier representations of power, Foucault saw it as dispersed, decentered, and not restricted to the state. In the modern, carceral space, the effect of power is to create in the prisoner (and his social analogues) a “docile body.” Only subsequently did Foucault concede that the gaze might be interrupted, resisted, or reversed (Foucault 1980: 146–165). Foucault’s conceptualization of power, his close attention to techniques of bodily discipline and surveillance, and his foregrounding of the politics of the body have been highly influential in South Asian history and anthropology (Arnold 1993; Alter 2000: 84–87). And yet it is often an extreme and one-dimensional interpretation of Foucault’s Discipline and

In Search of the Colonial Subject


Punish that is invoked colonially, with power entrenched as an attribute of the colonial state, to be interrogated in the light of seemingly imperfect colonial institutions or their supposedly premodern, even “feudal,” forms (in fact, “feudalism” was precisely one of the ways in which British colonialism strove to represent Indian subjectivity). Hence, while Nicholas Dirks has remarked of South Asia (following Cohn as well as Foucault) that colonialism “was made possible, and then sustained and strengthened, as much by cultural technologies of rule as it was by the more obvious and brutal modes of conquest that first established power on foreign shores” (Dirks 1996: ix), other historians, particularly in writing about different parts of the colonial world, have been more skeptical about the applicability of Foucauldian concepts of power / knowledge. Megan Vaughan, for instance, argued that in Africa, “colonial states were hardly ‘modern states’ for much of their short existence, and therefore they relied, especially in their early histories, on a large measure of ‘repressive power’ ” (Vaughan 1991: 10). In his study of Vietnam’s colonial prisons, Peter Zinoman similarly concluded that they more closely resembled the chaotic and brutal Bastille of France’s ancien régime than the orderly panopticon evoked by Foucault, further remarking that there was little evidence in Vietnam for “the pervasive circulation of disciplinary practices throughout the social body” (Zinoman 2001: 6–7). Was British India, seen in a comparative colonial context, a peculiarly “modern” regime of power? Did colonialism’s early arrival and singular longevity on the subcontinent (and the concurrent evolution of modern forms of power in both Britain and its premier nonwhite colony) give rise to systems of knowledge and an array of disciplinary practices that were largely unparalleled in later and different colonial regimes? Is the sympathetic reception of Foucault among some scholars of South Asia a conceptual reiteration and methodological elaboration of the long-standing debate over whether British rule in India was deeply transformative or merely superficial and transitory? My inclination would be to answer “yes” to all of these. It surely remains possible, even if we only follow Foucault in seeing the carceral as exemplary, to see in the colonial prison an evident intentionality with respect to surveillance, reformation, and modernity, even if the discernible effects of that regime of power were still more compromised and contested than in metropolitan France. But there is more than one Foucault with whom to engage. In his later writings, beginning with the first part of his History of Sexuality (1979)



and his essay on governmentality (1991), Foucault offered a different, or more developed, framework for how power and the making of the modern subject might be understood. Foucault did not invent the idea of the modern subject, but he brought to it an interpretive clarity and political significance that has had a great impact on the interpretation of the colonial subject as a modern subject (Chakrabarty 2000: 117–148). In his later writings, Foucault saw people becoming subjects in both the sense of their being subjected to someone or something else through relations of dependence and control and in the sense of their being actively engaged in fashioning their own identity through self-knowledge (Foucault 1982: 208–226). Modern subjects assume for themselves those concerns for “conduct” and “population,” for managing the body, sexuality, longevity, and welfare that emanate from a modern regime that aspires to exercise the power of government over them. In this extended sense, government, to quote Colin Gordon, “is not just a power needing to be tamed or an authority to be legitimized. It is an activity and an art which concerns all and which touches each . . . it is an art which presupposes thought” (Gordon 1991: x). While the subjects in Discipline and Punish more closely resembled objects, exposed to techniques of disciplinary power over which they exercised no control, governmentality’s modern subjects learn how to be governed and how to govern themselves. By this amended reading, power is only power (rather than the mere exercise of physical force) when addressed to thinking subjects, free to act in one way or another. It presupposes, rather than annuls, their capacity to be agents (Gordon 1991: 5). It is this later elaboration of Foucault’s thinking about power, agency, and subjectivity, translated into “colonial governmentality,” which arguably holds the greatest potential for understanding colonialism and the constitution of its subjects (Scott 1995), and which is being taken up in the history and anthropology of South Asia (e.g., Hodges 2005). Foucault thus makes possible a double shift in the reading of colonialism. First, his governmentality allows for seeing colonialism as a form of modernity sufficiently powerful and pervasive to impel Indians to rethink themselves. Second, it exemplifies agency in that Indians alone are capable of translating, negotiating, and reconstituting that modernity as their own. Thus, to follow the example given by Dipesh Chakrabarty, the modernity and modern subjectivity to which nineteenth-century Bengal gave birth could only have issued from the “colonial crucible” and in part (but only

In Search of the Colonial Subject


in part) by replicating “some aspects of European narratives of the modern subject” (Chakrabarty 2000: 148). Where Foucault sidelined colonialism, Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) placed it firmly center stage. In his view, the discourses that colonialism generated (or those that anticipated it or sustained it after formal decolonization) profoundly shaped the separation, subordination, and domination of non-Western “others” as colonized subjects. In Said’s view, history, anthropology, geography, and other academic disciplines were implicated in, and lent authority to, this creation of “Orientals” as negative stereotypes, the backward and barbaric antithesis of Western civilization and its self-assumed superiority. But powerful as Said’s polemic intervention has been, and central though a notion of “othering” has become to understanding colonial subjectivity, his argument was unapologetically grounded in exteriority. “Orientalism is premised upon exteriority, that is, on the fact that the Orientalist, poet or scholar, makes the Orient speak, describes the Orient, renders its mysteries plain for and to the West” (Said 1978: 20–21). Critics have been eager to argue that by concentrating so exclusively on “the West” and its exterior reading of “the East,” Said grossly simplified and homogenized both of these immensely pluralistic entities, robbed them of their historical shifts and cultural nuances, and denied the peoples of “the Orient” any apparent agency in making their own histories and selfhood (Washbrook 1999). Read in this light, it could be argued that Said reinforces an idea of colonial subjects as fashioned by the ideologies and practices of colonial (and postcolonial) masters and eliminates their capacity for interiority as well as agency. A more sympathetic and constructive view might, however, be that Said was actually appealing to those the West typifies as “Orientals” to recognize the depth of their subjugation as epitomized by Western Orientalist discourse. They need to see the degree to which they have internalized Orientalist rhetoric and so the imperative to contest and radically reconstitute that knowledge in order to liberate themselves from its dominance (Bhambra 2007: 103–104, 154–155). While Said’s critique of Orientalism and his postcolonial reformulation of Foucault’s power / knowledge paradigm has been immensely influential in rethinking South Asian history and anthropology, not least in relation to colonial discourse and practice (Inden 1990; Breckenridge and van der Veer 1993), there has been a contrary reassertion of a more “dialogic” interpretation of how colonial knowledge was



constructed and deployed (Irschick 1994; Bayly 1996). Or, looking beyond South Asia, there has been a search for a more “entangled” historical anthropology in which people and objects exist in a world of shifting, unstable meanings and in which colonizers and colonized are themselves diverse and differentiated categories, irreducible to crude dichotomies (Thomas 1991). A third author instrumental in framing discussion of the colonial subject has been Homi Bhabha. In his work we are still enclosed in the realm of discourse and the construction of the colonial subject and the exercise of colonial power through the discursive articulation of racial, sexual, and cultural difference. But drawing less on the governmentality of Foucault or the Orientalism of Said than on the Frantz Fanon of Black Skin, White Masks, Bhabha’s interpretation centers on the idea of a colonial subject “overdetermined from without,” sustained by the white man’s (or white woman’s) fantasies, fears, and desires. Black and white are locked together in a kind of mutually antagonistic dance, a “Manichean delirium” that creates a “deep psychic uncertainty” not only in the black subject but in his or her white master or mistress as well. “The Negro enslaved by his inferiority,” Bhabha quotes Fanon as saying, “the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation” (Bhabha 1994: 43–44). There is a frenetic, unstable quality about the colonial subjectivity Bhabha derives from Fanon, a permanent state of psychological distress and looming violence that afflicts both parties. The alienating force of colonialism, as articulated through race, is so powerful— even primordial—that modernity rarely intrudes (Young 1990: 141–156). It is only when Bhabha departs from Fanon and turns specifically to India that a more measured kind of subjectivity intrudes, but one largely of colonialism’s making. Bhabha recruits a trio of British authors— Charles Grant, James Mill, and T. B. Macaulay—to illustrate colonial intentionality in making reformed, compliant subjects, though he also allows for the parallel creation of “inappropriate” subjects (Bhabha 1994: 86–88). Bhabha is surely right in highlighting “the return of the subject” (1994: 187) in postcolonial and postmodern scholarship and the prominence this gives both to agency and to ambiguity. He is illuminating— and salutary—in rejecting the “binary closures” (185) that characterized much earlier writing about colonialism and its subjects. As he puts it: “The postcolonial perspective resists the attempt at holistic forms of social

In Search of the Colonial Subject


explanation. It forces a recognition of the more complex cultural and political boundaries that exist on the cusp of these often opposed political spheres” (173). And yet in relying so heavily on literary examples and exemplary texts, Bhabha propels us still further from historical and cultural specificity, from the experience of actual colonial subjects, and to leave unexplored the difficulty of how to recover subjectivity, especially from colonized non-elites. His use of Fanon contributes to a frenetic and divided reading of colonial subjectivity that fits uncomfortably with Indian actualities.

Sourcing Subjectivity What kind of historically and anthropologically informed concept of the colonial subject has, then, been made possible through recent scholarship? What defines the colonial nature of this subjectivity as against that which might characterize any modern subject? Three main elements of that subjectivity are suggested by that literature (cf. Pels and Salemink 2000). First, there is a conceptualization of colonial subjects essentially as seen by the colonizers, through imperial eyes, and predicated on their sense of superiority and selfhood and the “otherness” or alterity that distinguishes them from the colonized (or about-to-be colonized). The foundations of colonial difference were variously constructed around history, race, and environment, around dichotomous concepts of civilization and savagery, or Said’s “imaginative geography,” in which “other” people inhabit “othered” lands. Such an extreme emphasis upon difference, with its repeated insistence on the subject’s inferiority, backwardness, and degeneracy, might be more pronounced in a colonial situation than elsewhere. Ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Jews in Europe or the Irish in nineteenth-century England, were similarly subjected to discursive discrimination. However, in a colonial situation “difference” might determine attitudes to entire populations (and their constituent groups), not merely minorities, and be elevated to a place of primacy in state policy and in colonial discourse and practice (such as urban segregation, land seizures, labor recruitment, and crime control). The creation of colonial subjects implied an agenda of moral as much as material “improvement.” As Alice Conklin has noted with respect to the French in colonial West Africa, “Their subjects . . . would not be civilized until they simultaneously consumed more, became literate, and



gave up certain barbaric practices” (Conklin 1997: 38). Privileging “otherness” might reaffirm for the colonizers the superiority of their “civilizing mission” and lend legitimacy to the stark fact of domination and exploitation. But “otherness” also facilitated the task of governing by generating social stereotypes, ethnographic collectivities that purported to define “the African,” “the Bantu,” “the Bengali,” or “the lazy native” (Alatas 1977), in ways that helped simplify and direct colonial control or that created the reassuring illusion of “knowing” the colonized, better even than they knew themselves. Thus colonial subjects are created, not made through their own volition. They appear as silent witnesses to their own birth. However, two objections or qualifications to an externally generated definition of the colonial subject might immediately be raised. First, as Nicholas Dirks and others have pointed out, this “colonial sociology” (and the “new epistemic regime” in which it was embedded) might itself be mediated by the involvement of “native informants” who, from their own relatively privileged position, helped to direct the colonizer’s gaze, to fashion his understanding of history, society, and religion, property rights, and gender relations (Dirks 1993: 310). Second, as Megan Vaughan noted with respect to Sub-Saharan Africa, there might be significant disagreement among the colonizers themselves as to how the essentializing differences between colonizer and colonized were constituted and what their practical implications might be (Vaughan 1994: 173–174). In particular, there might be a basic contradiction between attempts to “other” a set of subject people (by assigning a determining role to differences of race, climate, and custom) and measures intended to incorporate them within Europe’s universalizing discourses, such as those arising from medicine and psychiatry, in ways that emphasized common physiological or psychological characteristics. Science occupied a pivotal role, whether in lending authority to difference or in propagating universality— or in oscillating between the two. Race might seem to be the “most obvious mark of colonial difference” (Chatterjee 1993: 20), and yet even in India, where the politics of race and racial categorization seemed all-pervasive (Sinha 1995), ideas of health reform, disease control, and dietary management suggested that many of the inherent characteristics associated with race might be actually amenable to change or could be internalized by the colonized in making their own subjectivity (Arnold 1999). In general, this externally generated understanding of colonial subjectivity implies (as, to a large extent, does Said’s Orientalism) a dominant

In Search of the Colonial Subject


European dynamic acting on a relatively compliant indigeneity. At the least (in keeping with the Gramscian concept of hegemony), it suggests an exceptional ability on the part of ruling groups, consciously or simply from the strength of their social position and cultural authority, to shape the lives of subordinates or subjects. This further raises the question of the degree to which colonialism— operating in situations in which the cultural, social, and political worlds of the rulers and the ruled were even more remote, or still more segregated, from each other than in Europe— was ever genuinely hegemonic and possessed an actual ability to constitute its subjects except in the most speculative and self-deluding sense. Rather, some argue, colonialism necessarily operated through coercion rather than through consent, and it was force that did most to regulate or to disturb indigenous populations and to frame the politics of colonial rule. As Vaughan remarks in discussing health and hegemony in colonial Africa, the discourse of medicine was often “an alienating rather than an integrating one,” in the sense that medical intervention relied on “a combination of coercion and technology” rather than on changing— or having the ability to change—Africans’ perceptions and behavior (Vaughan 1994: 191). This stance is not dissimilar to Ranajit Guha’s view that, since British rule in India depended far more on dominance than hegemony, colonialism remained forever “a foreign intrusion into the indigenous society” (Guha 1997: 63). Even when the British spoke of “improvement,” their primary concern was to exercise and maintain their own control. In such a reading, the colonial subject was a being ruled by force, able only to resist or to submit. Second, while not altogether neglecting coercion, recent scholarship on India (and many other parts of the colonial world) has tended to balk at this extreme depiction of colonialism. Scholars have argued instead for a variety of ways in which “the colonial” and “the indigenous” were themselves plural and entangled rather than discrete, monolithic entities, irreducible to a single, paradigmatic mode of power. They see colonial dominance as not only physical but also as operating more furtively, seductively, and discursively, as in education, through texts, curricula, and the deployment of literary sources (Viswanathan 1989). Colonial state formation and the birth of colonial subjects appear as mutually constitutive processes. Colonial law is understood as impacting Indian society in ways that extended beyond the “salvationist rhetoric” of the colonial state and reformed Indian domesticity and patriarchal authority (Singha 1998: 122).



Ideas of masculinity, propagated by colonialists, mingled with indigenous gender tropes to acquire a new agency in the discourses of the Bengali middle class (Chowdhury 1998). The ways in which colonialism constructed history or concepts of “primitive” tribals shaped not just colonial practices but also the perceptions of other colonial subjects and their postcolonial heirs (Banerjee 2006). Colonialism thus had a substantial role in the cultural constitution of its subjects, but not an unfettered role. The limitations to the exercise of colonial power was evidenced through resistance, evasion, and noncompliance, even in prisons and reformatories, institutions where the might of the colonial regime might be presumed to be most effective (Arnold 1994; Anderson 2004), and through the regime’s own economy of power, the self-circumscription created by financial and administrative constraints or the perceived impossibility or undesirability of transforming “lazy,” “ignorant,” “effeminate,” and “dissolute” “natives” into productive, educated, virile, law-abiding subjects. Third, and most crucial, colonial subjectivity can be defined in terms of the colonized creating their subjectivity from indigenous as well as colonial sources. Given that the impact of colonialism was far from homogeneous, the colonized were bound to be affected by colonialism in different ways and to different degrees. Some, especially in the Westerneducated middle classes, can be seen as closely associated with the cultural goals of the colonial / Western order while simultaneously articulating a modernity grounded in indigeneity. In India, such an iconic figure as Rammohan Roy (1774–1833), through his involvement with education and social reform in early nineteenth-century Bengal, can be seen as indicative of the ways in which an Indian could retain a high-caste Bengali identity and appearance while simultaneously assimilating aspects of the West (Mani 1998; Chakrabarty 2000: 120–129). Other colonial subjects were drawn even more fully into the colonial ambit by their criticism of “traditional” Indian society, by their conversion to Christianity, or by their “ideological fixation” with the West’s scientific and technological achievements. But, even among middle-class intellectuals, ambiguity also remained (Habib and Raina 1993: 349–350). Do such subjects otherwise exemplify Bhabha’s Fanon-based interpretation— or do they rather suggest less-divided selves and a greater degree of inner assurance and capacity for self-knowledge? Paradoxically, one of the examples Guha takes up in his discussion of colonialism as “dominance without hegemony” is that of Mohandas

In Search of the Colonial Subject


Gandhi, whose South African years (1893–1914) span a wide spectrum of subject possibilities from Anglicized loyalist lawyer to radical critic of empire and “modern civilization.” It was precisely in order to free himself from the cultural (as well as political) constraints of colonialism and attain “self-rule” that Gandhi found it necessary to pursue a highly personalized form of decolonization through the reform of dress, diet, speech, and sexual conduct (Guha 1997: 43–47; cf. Alter 2000). But there were many other figures in India and in other Western empires, especially among the middle classes, who manifested a similarly complex subject position, including those seemingly model subjects, educated in the language of the colonizers, who became Westernized in manners and dress and were employed in the colonial administration (Watson 2000: 40–41). In understanding such figures and their subjectivity, an ethnohistory of manners and “conduct” (to echo Foucault) becomes central and revealing. Historical and anthropological studies of dress and “the problem of what to wear” or the use made by Indians of photography in their own social practices and cultural worlds (Tarlo 1996; Pinney 1997) take us still further away from a simple colonizer / colonized or collaborator / resister dichotomy and into a world in which colonial subjects create, not untutored, a modernity of their own. Such studies demonstrate that colonial subjectivity was not a passive site for the inscription of colonial goals and desires but a site to which the colonized brought an agency and interiority of their own.

Some Residual Issues There are, no doubt, many other aspects of colonial subjectivity that warrant consideration, but, if only for reasons of brevity, I will confine myself to two. The first is the question of where, within a colonial context, the line is to be drawn between the colonized and the colonizers, or whether that division, which appears self-evident in so much of the literature on colonialism— expressed in terms of race, class, political authority and spatial exclusivity—is in actuality blurred and contested. The work of Ann Stoler (1989) on the Dutch East Indies, supplemented by studies of “poor whites” and Eurasians in British India, suggests a more fluid situation in which the rhetoric of race was subverted by a more complex reality (Arnold 1979; Hawes 1996; Caplan 2000). In general, though, subaltern Europeans remain peripheral, ungrounded figures in the history



of colonial India while there has been, by contrast, a large and longestablished literature on the social life of the white elite that often verges on the sentimental and nostalgic. On the other hand, the ethnohistory of European involvement in India’s bureaucratic life and public ceremony was one of the tasks Cohn energetically and imaginatively pursued (Cohn 1987, 1996). The more general issue is how far these white sojourners can themselves be conceptualized as colonial subjects and not simply as a class and race apart. Some historical and anthropological studies of colonialism, more especially of Africa (e.g., Comaroff and Comaroff 1992), have drawn Europeans administrators, missionaries, and mine managers into the picture as objects worthy of study in their own right and as influences in shaping indigenous subjectivity. Fanon’s account of French colonial Africa further supports the idea that all who lived under colonialism—whites as much as others—were caught up in a whirl of mutual anxiety, antagonism, and desire that left none unaffected. Thus, the “colonial encounter” differentiated those Frenchmen and women (or their British counterparts) who lived and worked in the colonies from those who had never quit their native shores. Or, as Stoler sees it in her colonial reading of Foucault, colonies created “bourgeois bodies and racial selves” that in turn affected social hierarchies and cultural attitudes in the modern metropole (Stoler 2002: 140–161). The argument for the inclusion of “non-natives”— poor whites, “domiciled Europeans,” and Eurasians— as colonial subjects seems compelling. The second residual issue concerns the possibility of knowing the subaltern subject. As part of its recuperative endeavor, one of the original ambitions of the Subaltern Studies project was to locate consciousness and agency among India’s subordinated classes— among peasants, tribals, and the urban working classes in particular—in opposition to both Indian and colonial elites (Guha 1982). That ambitious project was overtaken by a number of intellectual and academic challenges, not all of which it proved able to surmount. Two appear particularly relevant to colonial subjectivity. The first is that it has proved easier and perhaps more intellectually rewarding to discuss members of the Indian intelligentsia as thinking, self-conscious subjects and agents of modernity (Kaviraj 1995; Chakrabarty 2000) than to develop a much comprehensive understanding of more truly subaltern mentalities, though that has certainly been attempted and with some conspicuous success (Guha 1983;

In Search of the Colonial Subject


Hardiman 1987, 1996; Amin 1995). The consequence is that colonial subjectivity has too often been presented through the peculiar prism of bourgeois modernity, whether by studying exemplary individuals or by seeing peasants and workers primarily as depicted through middle-class discourse. A second consideration connects to the first. One part of the critical response to Subaltern Studies was to argue that the consciousness (and hence the subjectivity) of the subalterns was, given the paucity of original testimony, largely inaccessible to the present-day scholar and that by emphasizing resistance historians were attributing to subalterns a political consciousness and modern selfhood they could not have possessed or that, at best, lay beyond recovery (O’Hanlon 2000). The immediate effect of this critique was to stymie attempts to substantiate subaltern subjectivity and to encourage scholars to retreat to the more articulate bourgeoisie, whose mind-set could more readily be discerned. It might, however, be argued that over recent years there has been a steady accumulation of historical studies that have continued to extend and deepen awareness of subaltern subjects. Historians have begun to liberate from their previous obscurity the inmates of the prison, the mental asylum, the lock-hospital, the work house, and the orphanage and to see these colonial institutions as, in the first instance, instrumental in the formation of one kind of colonial subject. Disciplined, punished, medically examined, dieted, dressed, measured, and photographed—these institutionally sited subalterns appear subject to a degree of surveillance and control that typified the colonial order at its most intrusive and partially replicate colonially aspects of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (Arnold 1994; Mills 2001; Anderson 2004; Hodges 2005). Something of this regulatory, interventionist making of colonial subjects is evident, too, from the Criminal Tribes Acts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Radhakrishna 1989; Nigam 1990a, 1990b). At the same time, especially in turning to the 1920s and 1930s, one can see ways in which colonial regimes themselves turned away from some of their earlier, more coercive policies and sought, as in rural health and hygiene, a new governmentality of local engagement, which, however presumptive in some respects, did seem to elicit public engagement and appeal to a perceived need for cleaner homes, better diets, and healthier babies (e.g., Hydrick 1937). What equally emerges from the expanding literature on subaltern subjects is a more complex and nuanced picture in which the seeming



compliance of “docile bodies” is interrupted by acts of defiance and evasion, by demonstrations of subaltern agency even in situations that appear least propitious to their articulation. New work, as on environmental history, gives a growing sense of how rural as well as urban populations mobilized around issues affecting their rights and well-being in ways that indicate both a recognition of colonial power and the growth of modern subjectivity (Agrawal and Sivaramakrishnan 2000; Cederlof 2008). Even if the consciousness of these subaltern subjects remains in some ways elusive (by its very nature, and not due solely to the paucity of documentation), recent research adds evidence of a colonial subjectivity that was indicative of far more than colonial imposition or stereotyping.

Bibliography Agrawal, Arun, and K. Sivaramakrishnan, eds. 2000. Agrarian Environments: Resources, Representations, and Rule in India. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Alatas, Syed Hussain. 1977. The Myth of the Lazy Native: A Study of the Image of the Malays, Filipinos and Javanese from the 16th to the 20th Century and Its Function in the Ideology of Colonial Capitalism. London: Cass. Alter, Joseph S. 2000. Gandhi’s Body: Sex, Diet, and the Politics of Nationalism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Amin, Shahid. 1995. Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chaura, 1922–1992. Berkeley: University of California Press. Anderson, Clare. 2004. Legible Bodies: Race, Criminality and Colonialism in South Asia. Oxford: Berg. Arnold, David. 1979. “European Orphans and Vagrants in India in the Nineteenth Century.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 7: 104–127. ———. 1993. Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth- Century India. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 1994. “The Colonial Prison: Power, Knowledge and Penology in Nineteenth-Century India.” In David Arnold and David Hardiman, eds., Subaltern Studies VIII. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 148–187. ———. 1999. “ ‘An Ancient Race Outworn’: Malaria and Race in Colonial India, 1860–1930.” In Waltraud Ernst and Bernard Harris, eds., Race, Science and Medicine, 1700–1960. London: Routledge, 123–143. Asad, Talal, ed. 1973. Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter. London: Ithaca Press.

In Search of the Colonial Subject


Balandier, Georges. 1965. “The Colonial Situation: A Theoretical Approach.” In Pierre L. Van den Berghe, ed., Africa: Social Problems of Social Change and Conflict. San Francisco: Chandler, 34– 61. Banerjee, Prathama. 2006. Politics of Time: “Primitives” and History-Writing in a Colonial Society. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Bayly, C. A. 1996. Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780–1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bhabha, Homi K. 1994. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge. Bhambra, Gurminder K. 2007. Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Breckenridge, Carol A., and Peter van der Veer, eds. 1993. Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: Perspectives on South Asia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Burchell, Graham, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds. 1991. The Foucault Eff ect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Caplan, Lionel. 2000. “Iconographies of Anglo-Indian Women: Gender Constructs and Contrasts in a Changing World.” Modern Asian Studies 34: 863–892. Carney, Judith A. 2001. Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Cederlof, Gunnel. 2008. “The Agency of the Colonial Subject: Claims and Rights in Forestlands in Early Nineteenth-Century Nilgiris.” In Marine Carrin and Harald Tambs-Lyche, eds., People of the Jangal: Reformulating Identities and Adaptations in Crisis. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 233–258. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2000. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Diff erence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ———, ed. 2004. Foreword to The Bernard Cohn Omnibus. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Chatterjee, Partha. 1993. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Chowdhury, Indira. 1998. The Frail Hero and Virile History: Gender and the Politics of Culture in Colonial Bengal. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Cohen, David William, and E. S. Atieno Odhiambo. 1989. Siaya: The Historical Anthropology of an African Landscape. London: James Currey. Cohn, Bernard S. 1987. An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1996. Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.



Comaroff, John, and Jean Comaroff. 1992. Ethnography and the Historical Imagination. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Conklin, Alice L. 1997. A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and French West Africa, 1895–1930. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Dirks, Nicholas B. 1993. “Colonial Histories and Native Informants: Biography of an Archive.” In Carol A. Breckenridge and Peter van der Veer, eds., Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: Perspectives on South Asia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 279–313. ———. 1996. Preface to Bernard S. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ———. 2001. Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. London: Allen Lane. ———. 1979. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. London: Allen Lane. ———. 1980. Power / Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972– 1977. New York: Pantheon Books. ———. 1982. “The Subject and Power.” In Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 208–226. ———. 1991. “Governmentality.” In Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds., The Foucault Eff ect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 87–104. Frykenberg, R. E. 1965. Guntur District, 1788–1948: A History of Local Infl uence and Central Authority in South India. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gordon, Colin. 1991. “Governmental Rationality.” In Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds., The Foucault Eff ect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1–52. Guha, Ranajit. 1982. “On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India.” In Ranajit Guha, ed., Subaltern Studies I. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1–7. ———. 1983. Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1997. Dominance Without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Habib, S. Irfan, and Dhruv Raina. 1993. “The Discourse of Scientific Rationality: A Study of Master Ramchandra.” In Tejaswini Niranjana, P. Sudhir, and Vivek Dhareshwar, eds., Interrogating Modernity: Culture and Colonialism in India. Calcutta: Seagull, 348–368.

In Search of the Colonial Subject


Hardiman, David. 1987. The Coming of the Devi: Adivasi Assertion in Western India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1996. Feeding the Baniya: Peasants and Usurers in Western India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Hawes, C. J. 1996. Poor Relations: The Making of the Eurasian Community in British India, 1773–1833. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. Haynes, Douglas, and Gyan Prakash, eds. 1991. Contesting Power: Resistance and Everyday Social Relations in South Asia. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Hodges, Sarah. 2005. “ ‘Looting’ the Lock Hospital in Colonial Madras During the Famine Years of the 1870s.” Social History of Medicine 18: 379–398. Hydrick, J. L. 1937. Intensive Rural Hygiene Work and Public Health Education of the Public Health Service of Netherlands India. Batavia, the Netherlands Indies: n.p. Inden, Ronald. 1990. Imagining India. Oxford: Blackwell. Irschick, Eugene F. 1994. Dialogue and History: Constructing South India, 1795– 1895. Berkeley: University of California Press. Kaviraj, Sudipta. 1995. The Unhappy Consciousness: Bankimchandra Chattopadhaya and the Formation of Indian Nationalist Discourse. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Mani, Lata. 1998. Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India. Berkeley: University of California Press. Marriott, McKim, ed. 1955. Village India: Studies in the Little Community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mathur, Saloni. 2000. “History and Anthropology in South Asia: Rethinking the Archive.” Annual Review of Anthropology 29: 89–106. Mills, James. 2001. “Indians into Asylums: Community Use of the Colonial Medical Institution in British India, 1857–1880.” In Biswamoy Pati and Mark Harrison, eds., Health, Medicine and Empire: Perspectives on Colonial India. London: Sangam Books, 165–187. Mintz, Sidney W. 1985. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking Penguin. Nigam, Sanjay. 1990a. “Disciplining and Policing the ‘Criminals by Birth’, Part 1: The Making of a Colonial Stereotype—The Criminal Tribes and Castes of North India.” Indian Economic and Social History Review 27: 131–164. ———. 1990b. “Disciplining and Policing the ‘Criminals by Birth’, Part 2: The Development of a Disciplinary System, 1871–1900.” Indian Economic and Social History Review 27: 257–287. O’Hanlon, Rosalind. 2000. “Recovering the Subject: Subaltern Studies and Histories of Resistance in Colonial South Asia.” In Vinayak Chaturvedi, ed., Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial. London: Verso, 72–115.



Pels, Peter. 1997. “The Anthropology of Colonialism: Culture, History, and the Emergence of Western Governmentality.” Annual Review of Anthropology 26: 163–183. Pels, Peter, and Oscar Salemink. 2000. “Introduction: Locating the Colonial Subjects of Anthropology.” In Peter Pels and Oscar Salemink, eds., Colonial Subjects: Essays on the Practical History of Anthropology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1–52. Pinney, Christopher. 1990. “Colonial Anthropology in the ‘Laboratory of Mankind’.” In C. A. Bayly, ed., The Raj: India and the British, 1600–1947. London: National Portrait Gallery, 252–263. ———. 1997. Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs. London: Reaktion Books. Radhakrishna, Meena. 1989. “The Criminal Tribes Act in Madras Presidency: Implications for Itinerant Trading Communities.” Indian Economic and Social History Review 26: 269–295. Said, Edward W. 1978. Orientalism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Scott, David. 1995. “Colonial Governmentality.” Social Text 43: 191–220. Seal, Anil, 1968. The Emergence of Indian Nationalism: Competition and Collaboration in the Later Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Singha, Radhika. 1998. A Despotism of Law: Crime and Justice in Early Colonial India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Sinha, Mrinalini. 1995. Colonial Masculinity: The “Manly Englishman” and the “Eff eminate Bengali” in the Late Nineteenth Century. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Srinivas, M. N. 1966. Social Change in Modern India. Berkeley: University of California Press. Stoler, Ann Laura. 1989. “Rethinking Colonial Categories: European Communities and the Boundaries of Rule.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 13: 134–161. ———. 1995. Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2002. Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule. Berkeley: University of California Press. Tarlo, Emma. 1996. Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India. London: Hurst. Thomas, Nicholas. 1991. Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Vaughan, Megan, 1991. Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness. Oxford: Polity Press.

In Search of the Colonial Subject


———. 1994. “Health and Hegemony: Representation of Disease and the Creation of the Colonial Subject in Nyasaland.” In Dagmar Engels and Shula Marks, eds., Contesting Colonial Hegemony: State and Society in Africa and India. London: British Academic Press, 173–201. Viswanathan, Gauri. 1989. Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India. New York: Columbia University Press. Washbrook, D. A. 1999. “Orients and Occidents in Colonial Discourse Theory and the Historiography of the British Empire.” In Robin Winks, ed., Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 5: Historiography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 596– 611. Watson, C. W. 2000. Of Self and Nation: Autobiography and the Representation of Modern Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Wolf, Eric R. 1982. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press. Young, Robert. 1990. White Mythologies: Writing History and the West. London: Routledge. Young, Robert J. C. 1995. “Foucault on Race and Colonialism.” New Formations 25: 57– 65. Zinoman, Peter. 2001. The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862–1940. Berkeley: University of California Press.

§ 3 Laughing at Leviathan: John Furnivall, Dutch New Guinea, and the Ridiculousness of Colonial Rule Danilyn Rutherford One step above the sublime, makes the ridiculous. — Thomas Paine, 1795 (Paine 1991: 1590) Strictly speaking, we do not know what we are laughing about. — Sigmund Freud, 1905 (Freud 1960: 102)

Colonialism has rarely been called “ridiculous.” Exploitative, yes; violent, of course; but rarely has it been presented as the butt of a joke. Yet if we believe John Furnivall, every study of the spread of colonial rule should bring precisely this quality to light. Furnivall begins The Fashioning of Leviathan, his 1939 study of the first decades of British colonialism in Burma, by reflecting on why so little has been written about the birth of empires. Even Hobbes avoided the topic. Hobbes referred to “that great Leviathan called a Commonwealth or State” as “but an Artificial Man” (Furnivall 1939: 3). But when it came to describing Leviathan’s birth, Hobbes recast the creature as a “Mortall God” and described the event in mythical terms. Hobbes is driven to myth, because Leviathan has this at least in common with the immortal gods that we know little or nothing of his childhood. This is not strange; for no god is quite immune to ridicule, and children cannot help being ridiculous at times: if Aphrodite had caught cold, when rising from the foam on her first birthday, she was already big enough to use her pocket-handkerchief without being told to do so by her nurse. A god must An earlier version of this chapter appeared in Danilyn Rutherford, “Laughing at Leviathan: John Furnivall, Dutch New Guinea, and the Ridiculousness of Colonial Rule,” in James T. Siegel and Audrey R. Kahin, eds., Southeast Asia over Three Generations: Essays Presented to Benedict R. O’G. Anderson (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2003), 27–46.


John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


feel secure in his divinity to let himself be laughed at, and Leviathan is not sufficiently at home in heaven to allow it. (Furnivall 1939: 3)

Neither an anthropologist nor a historian of a conventional sort, John Furnivall understood very well the inherently ridiculous nature of the colonial state on the frontiers of empire. The Fashioning of Leviathan is a comic masterpiece, as well as an insightful foray into the violent underpinnings of modern colonial power. In this chapter, I relate these two aspects of Furnivall’s study, showing how laughter and insight go hand in hand. I apply the lessons implicit in Furnivall’s humor to the imperial frontier that long persisted in western New Guinea, in the eastern hinterlands of the Netherlands Indies. (This area now comprises the Indonesian province formerly known as Irian Jaya, which was recently divided into the provinces of Papua and West Papua.) I show how phenomena that some might call “mestizo”—but that Furnivall called “ridiculous”— were an unintended effect of colonial intervention and an incitement to bring the territory under greater control. My argument takes Furnivall at his word: I approach the comedy that pervades The Fashioning of Leviathan as a means of diagnosing a central feature of colonial practice. In excavating the ridiculous from the archives of British imperialism, Furnivall does more than make fun of colonialism; he reveals an aspect of the colonial situation that both dogged the apparatus and stimulated its growth. As such, Furnivall’s method enables us to build on the findings of more recent scholars, who have called into question conventional explanations of European imperialism. Consider Elsbeth Locher-Scholten’s analysis of Dutch efforts to consolidate colonial rule within the Netherlands Indies’ boundaries at the turn of the twentieth century. This endeavor did not in any simple sense result from the “economic interests of the metropole,” “international competition,” or the need to create a “diversion from internal problems” (LocherScholten 1994: 93). At the same time, its impetus did not come from the “periphery”—that is, the colony— alone. A new set of global imperatives, including “the expanding demands of economic privileges (tariffs and mineral exploitation) and the task of the modern western state to provide for the safety of European entrepreneurs, missionaries, and civil servants,” created the context for colonial expansion (1994: 111). Paying heed to the interests and anxieties of the colonial administrators who called for increased intervention in areas under their jurisdiction, Locher-Scholten



shows how a concern for “the prestige of our nation among foreigners” in this increasingly fraught setting was a key factor in the launching of “pacification” campaigns. These campaigns began when local officials felt that their authority had been called into question, generally through the resistance of indigenous rulers to official incursions. “Ethical imperialism,” as Locher-Scholten dubs the phenomenon, giving new meaning to a favorite Dutch watchword of the time, had enormous effects. Twentieth-century state formation “resulted in foreign domination in many details of personal life, a process of westernization which in turn led to the forceful reaction of nationalism and at last to Indonesian national independence” (1994: 111). Yet the potential for laughter lay at its origins. The intervention of local officials sparked a reaction that led Dutch authorities to worry about their regime’s reputation in the eyes of the natives, no doubt, but also from the perspective of an imagined global audience. “Ethical imperialism” began, in other words, with officialdom’s fear of appearing as ridiculous—the opposite, one might argue, of having prestige. In this chapter, I suggest that Dutch New Guinea is a particularly good place to explore what we might learn from laughing at Leviathan. Above I repeated part of Locher-Scholten’s citation of an 1892 statement from the head of civil administration in Batavia. The full sentence reads: “The prestige of our nation among foreigners does not allow us to leave the population of Irian Jaya [sic] in their miserable and depraved condition” (Locher-Scholten 1994: 107). From a distance, it was easy to blame the irregularities of colonial practice in New Guinea on the “depravity” of its Papuan inhabitants. Up close, in the North Moluccan town of Ternate, where officials responsible for administering the territory in the nineteenth century were based, intervention in New Guinea brought to the foreground vicissitudes that every colonial project to some degree shares. Called on to create an impression of colonial sovereignty, at the lowest possible cost, these officials dreaded that others would discover the absurd nature of their claims. In the conclusion, I reflect on the implications of this aspect of western New Guinea’s colonial history for the Netherlands’ postwar decision to retain the territory as a separate colony when the rest of the Indies gained independence. But before turning to this history, let us first consider Furnivall’s insights on the logic and limits of modern colonial power.

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


Hobbes in Burma The Fashioning of Leviathan focuses on a species of “Mortall God” for which, as Furnivall notes, the “searching light of truth” was likely to be particularly “embarrassing.”1 As Prasenjit Duara points out in Chapter 7 of this volume, on the frontiers of empire questions of sovereignty and authenticity invariably come to the fore. The study provides a “step by step” account of “the incorporation in the Indian Empire of newly conquered territory; the building up of a local administrative organization; the gradual adjustment and adaptation of this local organization to the mechanism of the central government; and, finally, the assimilation of the new province within the general imperial system, so that it could no longer be distinguished from the rest of India except by such accidents of geography as its peoples and product” (Furnivall 1939: 3–4). Furnivall constructs this narrative on the basis of letters written between 1825 and 1843 by Mr. Maingy and Mr. Blondell, the first two commissioners of the occupied zone of Tenasserim, the earliest outpost of what later became British Burma. At the time the letters were written, Tenasserim’s future was far from certain. This narrow belt of coastal forest, accessible only by boat, had been won from the Thai by King Alaungp’aya of Burma some fifty years before the British assumed control. Viewed from the metropole, the occupation was but one variable in the British attempt to determine what sort of presence in the region would serve the Empire’s interests best. The commissioners thus faced a challenge: to make the territory pay, they needed investment; to get investment, they needed a commitment from the Empire; to get a commitment from the Empire, they needed to make the territory pay. They had to do all this while instituting a political order entirely different in form and ideology than the polity that had come before. The magnitude of this task becomes clear when we compare Furnivall’s portrayal of the first commissioner’s arrival in Tenasserim with the following description of his Burmese predecessor’s eighteenth-century campaign to capture the south. [King Alaungp’aya’s] initial power came from his army, a force unparalleled in recent times, and grew as he developed a more complete array of hegemonic devices, including symbolic regalia and the means to manipulate ethnic identity. The momentum of his victories and the legends that swept


Rutherford around the new king provided him with an aura of supernatural power. By chain letters and sponsored ballads, he sowed fear among the population ahead of his armies, thereby weakening the will of his opponents and creating massive defections. In promising release from slavery, he won over additional groups of men. (Steinberg et al. 1985: 101)

Enter Mr. Maingy on September 9, 1825, with four clerks, three translators, and a pair of servants. Shipwrecked on his first attempt, the new commissioner finally made it to the port town of Mergui and posted his own “chain letter,” which proclaimed his intention to provide Mergui’s inhabitants with a “civil and political administration on the most liberal and equitable principles.” Rest assured that your wives and children shall be defended against all foreign and domestic enemies. That life and property shall enjoy every liberty and protection, and that your religion shall be respected and your Priests and religious edifices secured from every insult and injury. Proper measures shall immediately be adopted for administering justice to you according to your own established laws, so far as they do not militate against the principles of humanity and natural equity. In respect to revenue and all other subjects your own customs and local usages shall be taken into consideration, but the most free and unrestricted internal and external commerce will be established and promoted. (Furnivall 1939: 5–6)

The new commissioner closed by promising that at “all hours and places” “even the poorest inhabitants” would be welcome to see him “on business” (Furnivall 1939: 6). Mr. Maingy did keep an elephant and seemed to have a sense of personal dignity, but he was hardly the stuff of ballads. One can hardly imagine a greater contrast between the commissioner’s sporting efforts to legitimate his rule and the majestic aura his predecessor maintained. Mr. Maingy fashioned his Leviathan, in good Hobbesian style, “by Art according to the rules of common sense” (Furnivall 1939: 136).2 His goal was to create a secure and lawful environment in which “liberal principles” (and commerce) could thrive. In Furnivall’s chapter headings, one finds the colonial state stripped down to its essentials: jails and policing, road building and revenue, foreign policy, and so on. But Furnivall was keenly attuned to the questions of power, knowledge, and the archive that Andrew Willford and Eric Tagliacozzo raise in Chapter 1 of this volume. The concern that propels Furnivall’s inquiry is not how the

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


inhabitants of Tenasserim were incorporated into the British Empire, but how someone like Mr. Maingy could think himself capable of such a feat. The answer lies in the internal workings of the colonial bureaucracy. For Furnivall, the archive is not simply a record of colonial practice; it is a key element in the apparatus of colonial rule. By basing his analysis solely on the commissioners’ official correspondence, Furnivall establishes the degree to which this apparatus both sustained the two men’s confidence and controlled their fate. Mr. Maingy’s letters ended up in “the Secret and Political Department of the Government of India where, apparently they were regarded as so inviolably secret that for some years they were fi led unread” (Furnivall 1939: 19). Mr. Blondell, by contrast, had to answer to bureaucrats in Calcutta who were beginning to develop an institutional memory with regard to Tenasserim. Furnivall registers the ebb and flow of bureaucratic supervision by populating the study with multiple “Leviathans.” On the one hand, the reader is invited to witness Leviathan’s birth on Burmese soil; on the other, Leviathan is always already present in the form of Calcutta’s meddling hand in the region’s affairs. Although Furnivall associates “common sense” with the rationality of a system “geared for profit and productivity,” Leviathan’s guiding principles turn out to be equally multifarious. There is local common sense, residing in the commissioners’ expeditious responses to Tenasserim’s limitations and opportunities. There is common sense in Calcutta and presumably in England, serving different sets of utilitarian needs. What counts as common sense changes what counts as what Furnivall calls “human decency.” As “Leviathan Indicus” assumes control of Tenasserim, those who fashioned the local system with a “velvet glove” become the human grit in the machine. This is why Mr. Blondell, who instituted the “compassionate” policy of taxing tribal communities at six times the going rate, can end the book as a “conservative” and “nationalist” (Furnivall 1939: 134). However ironically, Furnivall anticipates the well-established insight that nationalism is a product of the administrative pilgrimages offered by the colonial state (Anderson 1991: 53–56). Make no mistake: however serious Furnivall’s conclusions might be, The Fashioning of Leviathan is incredibly funny. There are two ways of accounting for this feature of the text. Furnivall’s first career was as a colonial official, serving in the south of Burma, where the study was set. But in 1939, when The Fashioning of Leviathan was published, Furnivall



was partway through his second career as a bookstore owner with close ties to the Burmese nationalist movement. On the one hand, Furnivall deploys comedy for a classical purpose: to demean an exalted institution. The Fashioning of Leviathan anticipates themes from Furnivall’s monumental studies of colonialism, Netherlands India and Colonial Policy and Practice (see Furnivall 1944, 1956). In these decidedly less humorous works, Furnivall elaborates a critique of colonial society, calling it “plural” (i.e., inhabited by ethnic and racial groups that only meet in the market). In a population utterly lacking the “common will” that Furnivall viewed as integrating functioning democracies, the “survival of the cheapest” is the rule that prevails. In The Fashioning of Leviathan, Furnivall notes, in a similar vein, that colonialism’s “common sense” is often at odds with the “claims of life.”3 Obliquely, by taking up Hobbes’s moniker to describe the colonial state, Furnivall calls attention to what he regards such a regime as missing—the “sense in common” or “common will” that is arguably a key element of Hobbes’s understanding of the basis and outcome of the social contract.4 For Furnivall, who views the precolonial order as one in which people were “fast bound to honesty by the ties of social life,” it is the colonial system that inaugurates a life that is “nasty, brutish and short” (Furnivall 1939: 45). On the other hand, the study plays on a potential for comedy that is intrinsic to the materials Furnivall cites. Take, for instance, Furnivall’s account of the importation of convict labor from the subcontinent. The Commissioner recognized that the jails were not very secure. But they were not meant to be very secure. He regarded the convicts as so much cheap labour imported to make roads; if he had to spend money on housing the labourers he might as well employ more expensive local labour on the roads. But the people in India who supplied the convicts looked at matters in a different light; when they were asked to supply convicts for Tenasserim, they thought it a providential opportunity to get rid of their hard cases. At that time the Government of India was engaged on rooting out the thugs, that strange caste of professional murderers. So it happened that among one batch of convicts sent to labour on the roads there were twenty five who had been “guilty of Thuggee and Murder,—part of a desperate gang of Thugs which had lately been broken up in Central India” and “whose safe custody was an object of paramount importance.” Nasty fellows to build roads with, these, or to keep in confinement in a wooden bungalow with a thatched roof. It was hardly playing the game to send convicts of that type to a well-meaning officer who had quite

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


enough trouble in building up his own little corner of the Empire. Mr. Maingy protested vigorously, but in vain. He asked for convicts and kept on asking; Thugs were convicts, so they sent him Thugs, and kept on sending. It is not surprising then to read of murders by Thug Convicts who “not only confessed the murder, but gloried in the act and vied with each other in shouldering the guilt.” Even that did not convince the authorities in India that thugs should not be exported to Tenasserim. For, many years later, a young missionary, destined to become famous as an educational pioneer in Burma, was sent to the hospital in Moulmain, seriously ill. But he found the hospital more dangerous than his disease. Left alone under the charge of a convict hospital assistant, apparently quiet and well mannered, he was alarmed by a sudden change in the man’s demeanour. All was quiet in the hospital, and the convict was performing the usual duties of a sick nurse, when suddenly a ferocious glare lighted up his eyes and he sprang at the sick man’s throat. Fortunately, for lack of practice, his hands had lost their cunning, and the noise of the struggle attracted help; the assailant was overpowered and, presumably, discharged from his duties in the hospital. He was a thug, one of the men sent in the early days to labour on the roads, and after all these years his lust for murder was not yet quenched. The missionary lived to educate Prince Thibaw, and to see his pupil massacre his relatives on a scale that would have done credit to the most devout of thugs. Still, it was rather a slur on the medical profession to appoint a professional murderer as a hospital assistant. (Furnivall 1939: 37–38)

The judicial system provides fodder for similar stories. In an attempt to respect his native subjects’ own sense of justice, Mr. Maingy appointed a jury of local notables to render decisions, which included sentencing a man accused of rape to be paraded through town with his face blackened, despite the fact that they had just acquitted him (Furnivall 1939: 19). Mr. Maingy found the courts to be quite efficient—no lawyers were allowed, so cases sailed quickly through the system— even though there was room for improvement. “There might have been even less crime, if people understood what the English regarded as offenses” (1939: 30). Furnivall does not relate these details solely to amuse his readers. Rather, in detailing the absurd outcome of decisions that must have seemed reasonable at the time, these anecdotes illustrate the forces that led to Calcutta’s intrusion into local affairs. In more neutral terms, one could describe Mr. Maingy’s “ridiculous” policies as an effect of the “mestizo” qualities of the situation in Tenasserim (see Taylor 1984). After all, Mr. Maingy did try to draw on Burmese “law and order” in establishing his regime. Still, in suggesting a smooth confection of ingredients, the term



does not quite capture Mr. Maingy’s predicament. Mr. Maingy was compelled to envision the world he created from the perspective of distant others who shared his commitment to “humanity” and “natural equity.” Yet this world took shape through his interactions with colonial “subjects” who no doubt interpreted his behavior in very different terms. This scenario, in which one comes to perceive a situation from multiple perspectives, all at once, is essential to the comic, if we can trust Freud’s formulations. The comic, like jokes and humor, derives from the “economy of expenditure” that results when one contrasts what one witnesses to more proper or predictable ways of acting. In the difference between the energy it takes to meet conventional expectations and that exposed by the comic figure one observes emerges the “quota” that one “laughs off.”5 A common form of comedy takes as its object the “naïve,” a person who devotes more effort to physical activities (e.g., walking or gesturing in an exaggerated way) and less to mental activities (e.g., reasoning with little regard for logic) than the observer imagines him or herself expending in a similar situation. But another form, more relevant for our purposes, entails a process of degradation, through which an esteemed person or institution is put into a comic situation or frame. One way to render such a person or institution ridiculous is to make them “tally with something familiar and inferior, on imagining which there is a complete absence of any expenditure upon abstraction” (Freud 1939: 210–211).6 Furnivall’s comparison of that abstraction par excellence, the colonial state, to a runny-nosed child, a devouring monster, and an outof-control machine certainly fits within Freud’s formulations. But another and potentially more potent component of The Fashioning of Leviathan’s comic vision lies in the nature of the materials on which Furnivall drew. The writings of European colonial officials, like Mr. Maingy, provide a fertile field for what Freud (1939) calls the “Janus-faced” experience of the comic. On the one hand, these officials had to present their actions as meeting the standards of a colonial regime whose objectives were framed in terms of abstract values. On the other hand, they had to appeal to local interlocutors, to elicit, at the very least, a simulacrum of consent. The fact that officials sought this consent against the backdrop of the threat of force did not resolve the interpretive dilemma faced by the state’s agents; if anything, it made it even more difficult to gauge when the “natives” were making a mockery of one’s rule. Colonial encounters brought to the forefront

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


what Freud describes as key sources of pleasure in “innocent” jokes: the “illogic” that comes into focus when different forms of rationality come into contact, a fixation on the “acoustic images” of alien words. No doubt, this potential pleasure would have been a source of discomfort for officers responsible for reforming native ways. In The Fashioning of Leviathan, Furnivall uses laughter not only as a weapon, but also as a lens to bring into focus aspects of the colonial situation that might otherwise have remained obscure. It is no accident that this work is comic, whereas Netherlands India and Colonial Policy and Practice are not. In fact, the earlier and the later works are not as similar as one might think. Where Furnivall’s account of the “plural society” provides a portrait of what one might call the horizontal dimension of the colonial system— as epitomized in the market, where groups maintain their distance, even as they interact—The Fashioning of Leviathan focuses on the vertical dimension.7 The colonial official, unlike the colonial capitalist, cannot take difference for granted, for what is at stake is the validation of inequality. As Homi Bhabha and others have noted, modern colonial discourse is inherently unstable.8 The colonial project is justified by the racist presumption that the colonizers are inherently more civilized and rational than those they colonize. But it is also justified by a vision of progress in which this disjuncture, however gradually, is bridged. The ridiculous emerges at moments like those described in The Fashioning of Leviathan, when officials come face to face with the estrangement that is a necessary component of the civilizing mission. The colonial market, at least as Furnivall describes it, does not stimulate this kind of selfconsciousness; even the power of currency to erode differences, so stressed by Marx (1967) and others, fails to threaten colonial boundaries (see also Simmel 1978; Bohannon 1955). Furnivall was clearly mistaken in presuming the existence of ethnic and racial identities that were as much the outcome of colonial practice as its object. But his formulations do open an interesting angle on the complexities of colonial consciousness. To complicate matters even further, one could argue that the ridiculous arises when the “vertical” meets the “horizontal.” On the one side, we have colonial officials anxiously seeking an indication of the “natives’ ” recognition of their authority. On the other side, we may well have “natives” using their interactions with the state’s agents to appropriate something of value from across a linguistic and cultural divide.



Furnivall is not the only writer to have found comedy at the heart of state power.9 But The Fashioning of Leviathan provides a distinctive perspective on the colonial situation. To arrive at this perspective, one must move beyond Furnivall’s understated wit, which follows the conventions of a particular brand of British humor, to scrutinize those aspects of colonial rule that provided this sensibility with such fertile ground.10 Approached in this fashion, Furnivall’s study demonstrates why it is possible to read colonial reports against the grain, as more than simply an expression of metropolitan ideologies. In the fodder for ridicule that lurks in these reports, one finds evidence of a range of alternative points of view. In the remainder of this chapter, I explore the comparative implications of this interpretation of Furnivall’s study by examining the fashioning of colonial authority in a part of the Netherlands Indies where Leviathan’s “infancy” was extended. The anecdotes that follow may not be as funny as those that Furnivall recounts, but they prove equally revealing. In coastal New Guinea, as in Tenasserim, colonial expansion turned on the fact that Leviathan just could not take a joke.

Abstinence and Display Western New Guinea became part of the Netherlands Indies early in the nineteenth century.11 In 1828 and 1848, the Netherlands Indies government drafted secret documents asserting sovereignty over areas of western New Guinea supposedly ruled by the North Moluccan sultanate of Tidore. These documents were kept secret for the simple reason that their publication would have exposed the degree to which Tidore’s sphere of influence had been inflated to suit Dutch needs. While there is no doubt that the Tidoran sultans sporadically received tribute from the “Papuan islands,” the polity’s authority was most tangible in the Raja Ampats, in the waters west of the Bird’s Head peninsula.12 Yet the colonial government used Tidore’s dealings in the region as the basis for its claim to New Guinea’s entire western half, which was made public in 1865.13 If indirect rule always rested on more or less fictitious foundations, when it came to New Guinea, Dutch officials were acutely aware of the fragile underpinnings of their right to rule. New Guinea was scarcely the only section of the colony where Dutch authority existed more or less only on paper. Before the period of ethical imperialism described by Locher-Scholten, the Indies government abstained

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


from direct involvement in much of the so-called Outer Islands.14 What was peculiar about western New Guinea was not simply its size, not simply its isolation, but also the fact that it abutted the holdings of other colonial powers. This was also the case in Borneo, yet in New Guinea, the threat posed by foreign intervention—or even just foreign attention—seemed much more palpable.15 It was not until the 1870s that England and Germany officially set the boundaries of their own colonies on the eastern half of the island. There was little actual saber rattling, merely a vague anxiety on the part of the Dutch that outsiders might mistake the territory for unclaimed land. During the nineteenth century, to assuage this fear, the government pursued what Smeele (1988) has called a policy of display: through limited concrete measures, the Netherlands Indies government attempted to create the impression of colonial occupation in New Guinea. Fort du Bos, founded in southwestern New Guinea in 1828, proved short-lived; disease and attacks by hostile locals decimated the small garrison of Dutch and native soldiers. Undertaken in response to rumors that the Australians were contemplating establishing a similar post, the experiment was the last of its kind for years to come. Instead of establishing settlements, the Indies government dispatched war ships to erect and maintain escutcheons at intervals along New Guinea’s coasts. Accompanied by the Tidoran war fleet, or hongi, the crews built or repaired bases for the metal shields, which were embossed with the Dutch coat of arms. Meanwhile, their commanders confirmed the appointment of local headmen, leaders who had received their Tidoran titles from various sources, ranging from the Sultan and his vassals, to European ship captains, to Papuan relatives and trade friends, who passed along such signs of investiture as gifts (see Ellen 1986). Each headman received a suit of clothing and a flag, which he was instructed to trot out whenever a foreign ship anchored near the village. The Dutchmen also distributed gifts of beads and knives to the natives, before loading up with food and water for the voyage to the next site. While the erection of escutcheons left sporadic evidence of Dutch sovereignty in the territory, it did not solve what Dutch administrators referred to as the problem of peace and order—the government’s failure to establish a monopoly over the legitimate use of violence. Given his responsibility for European security in New Guinea, the Dutch Resident of Ternate was not pleased when Protestant missionaries approached him in the mid-1850s with plans to establish a post in Doreh Bay, a popular



harbor on the northeastern tip of the Bird’s Head (Kamma 1976: 50). Yet the Resident soon found a use for the evangelists, who were well apprised of regional happenings, since they supported themselves by trading with the Papuans. The administration gave the “brothers” a monthly stipend for rescuing foreign shipwreck victims, whom the natives tended to kill. Eventually, the missionaries became a thorn in the government’s side, with their grisly accounts of Papuan raiding and immorality, which usually ended with a plea for the administration to apply a firmer hand. In the meantime, by preventing the scandal that would have resulted from the death of foreign nationals, the missionaries helped keep the Resident’s superiors off his back. After the Berlin Conference of 1885, which made effective occupation a condition for the holding of colonial possessions, the stakes in New Guinea rose. As we have seen, when in 1895 the Estates General in the Hague finally agreed to allocate funds for the placement of colonial administrators and police in New Guinea, lawmakers justified the measure not only in terms of the plight of the “deeply sunken” population, but also of the Netherlands’ reputation in the colonial world (see Locher-Schloten 1994: 107; see also Smeele 1988). In the south, attacks by Tugeri tribesmen had led to complaints by the British, who had demanded that the Dutch either control their Papuan subjects or move the border so that the British could curb the raids themselves. In the north, spurred by a new fashion in ladies’ hats, a “feather boom” had brought scores of Malay and European traders and hunters to New Guinea, where, with their modern rifles, they had exacerbated the region’s security problems by starting a small arms race among the various tribes. Between 1898 and 1901, the government founded permanent posts at Manokwari, Fak-Fak, and Merauke.16 But the government’s accomplishments never lived up to the expectations of optimistic observers, who cherished hopes that New Guinea would not only cover the cost of its own administration, but actually turn a profit for the Dutch. Despite the introduction of a head tax and corvée labor in limited parts of the territory, the Netherlands continued to follow a policy of display, albeit by different means. One could argue that the policy of display continued into the 1950s, when the Netherlands retained this final fragment of the colony after the rest of the Indies gained independence.17 But to understand the impetus behind the Netherlands’ costly postwar project in New Guinea, one must attend to a prior series of colonial moments. To borrow Locher-Scholten’s

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


terms, the Dutch authorities were “pulled into the periphery” in coastal New Guinea not simply by the “resistance” of their Papuan subjects, but also by the unexpected effects of their interventions. In the writings of officers charged with governing the territory, one detects a heightened awareness of the prospect of surveillance, not simply by their own superiors, not simply by other Europeans, but also by the Papuans, who turned their encounters with authority to their own peculiar ends.

Visions of the Ridiculous The best place to find the ridiculous in colonial documents concerning New Guinea is neither at the end nor at the beginning of an account. Dutch officials who described their forays into the territory, not surprisingly, incorporated particular agendas into their reports. One wrote of the Papuans’ “sweet, timid” nature as part of a diatribe against the depredations of the Tidoran war fleet. “Under a civilized government, they would surely quickly attach themselves to the same and could demonstrate great ser vice,” G. F. de Bruyn Kops concluded, in an effort to convince his superiors of the value of introducing direct Dutch rule (1850: 234). Some decades later, van der Crab ended a description of a similar journey with harsh words on the Papuans’ “disposition”—which was “in a word, bad”—to support his argument against greater investment in this godforsaken land.18 But in the middle of these reports— and often in the middle of particular paragraphs or even sentences—one finds an indication of these same officers’ awareness of imagined observers, above and beyond the official audience for which these texts were penned. Take, for example, de Bruyn Kops’s description of the pleasure with which one group of Papuans greeted the erection of an escutcheon in 1848. The natives took it with joy that the pole was a sign that the Dutch government had taken the place under its protection, because they hoped through this to remain free of the [visits] of the hongi. The upper chief was charged with keeping the pole in good condition, and, to the end of inspiring the people, they were told that it was an amulet for the village, the latter to their great satisfaction. (de Bruyn Kops 1850: 195)

For de Bruyn Kops, the natives’ “satisfaction” indexed their almost instinctive affinity for their “civilized” Dutch rulers. The despotic Tidorans,



by contrast, only enjoyed the appearance of Papuan loyalty; Papuan chiefs, de Bruyn Kops notes, only put on their yellow costumes and acted like leaders when they learned that the hongi was close at hand. But certain details in the passage indicate that the Papuans’ enthusiasm for the Dutch may well have rested on equally shaky ground. The people were “inspired” because they took the escutcheon for an “amulet”—called a korwar in this region—the temporary container of a vaguely ancestral form of power (see van Baaren 1968; Rutherford 2006). If nineteenth-century accounts are correct, when amulets ceased to work, the Papuans simply cast them into the sea. The details de Bruyn Kops paints into this happy scene belie his wider message: the Papuans’ “attachment” to the Dutch may not have been so solid after all. In arguing that the Papuans’ submission to the Tidorans was no more than a façade, colonial observers raised the question of whether the Papuans’ submission to the Dutch might not be equally superficial. Needless to say, this question was made all the more pressing by the fact that Dutch expeditions of the period traveled with the hongi in tow. Clearly, one could read the signs of Dutch sovereignty—including not only the escutcheons, but also the Papuans’ words and gestures—in multiple ways. An account of an 1858 expedition to Humbolt Bay ends with a long description of the joy with which the Tobati welcomed the raising of a Dutch flag over one of their “temples.” At the flag’s unfurling, “a cry of amazement and pleasure arose from the gathered crowd” (Commissie voor Nieuw-Guinea 1862: 100). The Tobati were eager for the Dutch officers to return and found a post—an observation that the report’s author presents with remarkable confidence, given that no one on the expedition knew the local language. Still, the report contains hints that the natives could be promiscuous in their affections. When the ship first arrived in Humbolt Bay, canoes soon surrounded the vessel, carrying natives whose necklaces reminded the Dutch visitors of the collars worn by French Legionnaires. Among the Papuans’ “screams,” one word was discernable—“Moseu”—interpreted by the travelers as “Monsieur”—a sign that the French had gotten to this bay first (1862: 86).19 The casual way that Tidoran titles circulated among the Papuans—and were accepted from visiting traders—would have left Dutch officials somewhat uneasy. Other Europeans just as easily could have raised their flag on Papuan territory. The Papuans may well have been equally “satisfied” by any European bearing gifts.

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


In fact, the most unlikely of characters did serve as agents of the Dutch colonial state. Much like Furnivall’s appropriately named Mr. Gouger, the merchant whom Mr. Maingy appointed as police superintendent, magistrate, and judge, these characters brought their own interests to the job.20 The missionaries were particularly inclined to view local happenings through their own distinctive lenses, as we learn in the 1873 Memorandum of Transfer penned by F. Schenck, an outgoing Resident of Ternate. Word reached Ternate in 1872 that a pair of Italian naturalists would soon be visiting New Guinea (Overweel 1995: 58–59). At first, the government called on the Resident to lend the visitors his support. But in May 1873 the Resident received a secret missive warning him to watch the naturalists carefully, in connection with the Italian government’s purported plan to establish a penal colony somewhere in the Netherlands Indies (1995: 59). Woelders, the missionary serving in the area where Beccari and Albertis launched their investigations, responded to the conflicting instructions with skepticism. He quickly developed his own reading of the Italians’ objectives: they were not simply spies, they were Jesuits, which in his mind was even worse! Convinced that the Italians were distributing rosaries to the Papuans, Woelders railed against the governments’ tolerance in a letter reproduced in the Resident’s report. We Hollanders show such liberality with strangers, not least towards “other thinkers” [i.e., Catholics] who may one day lead us to regret it . . . the Jesuits, notwithstanding a centuries long history that warns us against it . . . we cannot bear to have men surprise us with such Satanic wiles and all faults and errors of description without apprising others of the danger. (Overweel 1995: 59)

While the Resident notes that Woelders wrote “as a missionary,” he appreciated the information; it was only through Woelders that he had learned that the Italians had come and gone. In addition to the missionaries, visiting foreign nationals played a role in governing New Guinea, as another anecdote from Schenk’s Memorandum makes clear. Rumors of the murder of crew members from an English pearl fishing vessel reached Ternate by way of four Papuan heads, who had met the foreigners in Sorong, on the western tip of the Bird’s Head (Overweel 1995: 50–54). A further report from a Tidoran vassal on one of the Raja Ampat islands filled in the details. Having refused the



King of Salawatti’s help, the English captain had sent two sloops to Poeloe Jaar, a lonely offshore island, where the crew met some local people and communicated with gestures that they wanted them to go pearl diving. The local people obliged, then waited on shore until the crew was busy opening shells, after which they set on the men. The captain learned of the incident in Salawatti. After resolving the matter, the captain sailed on, leaving behind three letters: one for the first warship to pass through the area, one for the Prussian Consul General in Hamburg, and a third for the Sultan of Tidore, which thanked him for the King of Salawatti’s assistance. In fact, the captain had forced the King of Salawatti to accompany him to the interior near Poeloe Jaar, where the hastily assembled hongi caught three men, including one in possession of rifles belonging to the dead men. The search party took the culprits back to the scene of the crime, where the captain ordered the King of Salawatti to pronounce judgment. The Englishmen then shot one of the culprits and hanged his body from a tree as a warning. The captain left the other prisoners in Salawatti, having urged the King to execute them as well. The King of Salawatti was understandably quite uneasy about his role in the expedition, given the ban on hongi expeditions then in force. Still, the Resident was grateful. “Be that as it may, through this hongi expedition, lawful or not, but in any case compelled with a pistol on the chest and thus excusable, they took the law into their own hands, but at the same time bringing a good end to a thorny affair” (Overweel 1995: 54). The English captain’s actions met the requirements of “common sense” in this place where Dutch officials were more worried about angering foreigners than about the niceties of judicial process. Still, the little drama made it clear that Dutch officials were far from possessing a monopoly on “legitimate” force. By the end of the nineteenth century, this dispersal of official authority was beginning to grate. In 1903, a Dutch writer traveling with a team of naturalists met a headman on the offshore island of Biak; the headman was convinced that he had an official appointment from the government on the basis of a letter “that had nothing to do with that and contained the simplest matters.”21 Although this observer found the Papuans’ “familiar” relations with their European visitors amusing—and even heartening—the officers dispatched to bring New Guinea under an orderly administration at the turn of the century had a far less sanguine view of this state of affairs.22 While earlier writers were clearly interested in the reactions of the

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


Papuans, their requirements were modest: they asked only that the residents of particular, well-frequented trading stops be willing and able to express their awareness of Dutch sovereignty. Now the goal was to “enlighten” the Papuans. Where nineteenth-century officials confronted the fear of being observed—and replaced—by foreign interlopers, early twentieth-century officials faced the specter of appearing to the natives as the bearers of an alien, distinctly “unenlightened” power. The writings of Lt. W. K. H. Feuilletau de Bruyn, the officer who “pacified” the island of Biak in 1915, bear evidence of this danger.23 Feuilletau de Bruyn’s campaign on Biak was part of a broader effort to bring Papuan “criminals” to justice. Instead of exacting collective retribution, the new generation of officials apprehended individuals and sent them to jail. The new policy was no doubt one factor in the mass conversion of coastal Papuans to Christianity. With the government holding them responsible for paying taxes and serving jail terms, the Papuans had good reasons for inviting native evangelists to settle in their villages: they benefited from their fluency in Malay, the Indies’ administrative tongue.24 After a Biak warrior killed one of the Ambonese “teachers” serving on the island, the government intervened. Feuilletau de Bruyn’s goal in Biak was not merely to track down the subject; it was to institute a form of authority different from that exercised by the Tidorans. With people at such a low level of development, Feuilletau de Bruyn noted, one achieved more through “justice tempered with mercy” than with a “mailed fist” (Feuilletau de Bruyn 1916: 264). Nevertheless, in Feuilletau de Bruyn’s description of the military campaign, unexpected moments of identification emerge. In a chapter of his Military Memorandum of Transfer on native warfare, Feuilletau de Bruyn explains how Biak raiders would land their canoes some distance from an enemy village in order to approach the waterfront houses from the rear. Almost in passing, the Lieutenant admits that he and his troops deployed the same method “with much success” (1916: 259). Feuilletau de Bruyn comes close to admitting that the detachment’s surprise attacks recalled a long history of punitive raids. In order to compel the perpetrators to surrender, Feuilletau de Bruyn and his men took hostages, some of whom ended up at the government post in Manokwari. It was all the lieutenant could do to convince the locals that their loved ones had not been taken as slaves. As Feuilletau de Bruyn notes later in the report, it was relatively easy to collect taxes on the island. “Through the levying that Tidore in earlier days imposed, people are used



to the idea that taxes are levied by foreigners in order to prevent the punishment people know they would get, which the population (incorrectly) thought we would do as well” [the italicized section is crossed out] (1916: 360). The fact that Feuilletau de Bruyn felt compelled to eliminate the second half of the sentence in the published version of the text indicates the officer’s vague cognizance of his predicament. Resembling a Biak war party, calling to mind the Tidoran hongi, Feuilletau de Bruyn reproduced the old order on Biak through his very efforts to impose something new. Registered subtly in the writings of officials like Feuilletau de Bruyn, this local perspective, which placed the civilizing mission in an unexpected light, became even clearer in mission documents of the period. Although missionaries like Friedrich Hartweg, a German who served in Biak during the mid-1920s, should have been grateful to the government for suppressing native raiding parties and heathen feasts, the effects of the new policies did not always meet the brothers’ expectations. On the one hand, the native administrators who replaced Feuilletau de Bruyn failed to enforce the new regulations. We have a so-called prohibition against dance feasts. And it is naturally not followed. We have a prohibition on palm wine tapping, and that is good, but it is also only on paper. They took Marisan, the notorious raiding party leader, to Ternate [to prison]—and he escaped. They took a pair or so of pirates (murderers) to Manokwari [the government seat]—and they escaped. They have brought three murderers of village heads to the same place—they have escaped. Several years ago, those who incited unrest in North Biak were sent to Manokwari— each getting eight to ten years—and they all escaped. Can you imagine the impression this makes on the Papuan? (Hartweg 1927)25

A missionary, Hartweg noted, somewhat disingenuously, should avoid interfering in government affairs. But the Papuans themselves did not draw sharp distinctions between evangelists and government officers—they were all “pastors” in their eyes—and government policy had a direct effect on Hartweg’s work. The enforcement of the head tax had made it impossible for the missionary to carry out his duties without regular infusions of cash. “No Papuan is of a mind, now that he has to pay taxes and pay them quickly or be hauled away with truncheons and ropes, to work without receiving pay” (Hartweg 1927). Due to a financial mix-up, Hartweg had become deeply in debt, not only to the Chinese traders living near the mission post, but also to the Papuans his predecessor had employed. “You

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


know how a few Papuans can be worse than a blood sucker, but almost sixty Papuans have a claim to the 100 guilders [owed by Hartweg’s predecessor, Brother Agter, who was evacuated due to poor health]. They can talk you to death” (Hartweg 1927). Hartweg had to answer to mission society leaders in the Netherlands, whom he accused, in a particularly ill-tempered letter, of taking him to be “a monarchist or a Bolshevik” after they took issue with his criticisms of the government.26 But he also had to answer to local interlocutors, as his letters make clear. We can only guess what was at stake for Hartweg’s Papuan interlocutors in their interactions with the missionary, but it seems safe to suppose it was not his recognition.27 Hartweg’s letters are tragic, to the extent that we identify with his predicament, but comic, to the degree that within them, we sense how the potential for ridicule made itself felt.

Conclusion The ridiculous is the consequence of colonial intervention in settings where a systematic lack of shared understandings prevails. Such settings are not in any simple sense the product of isolation. Elsewhere, I have explored how a tendency to fetishize the foreign served to reproduce a mismatch between Biak perspectives and outsiders’ points of view (Rutherford 2003). Juxtaposed in the accounts produced by officials and missionaries, one finds evidence that the Papuans have embraced Dutch authority— and the authority of the Lord—and evidence that they have turned their interactions with these outsiders to very different ends. But in this essay, in the spirit of this volume and following Furnivall’s lead, I have approached this gap in understanding from a different angle, to shed light on the forces that fueled Dutch imperialism in this enormous, “neglected” land. In assessing these forces, one should not underestimate the impact on Dutch officials of serving in this difficult corner of the Indies. In 1884, A. Haga, a Resident of Ternate, ended his two-volume history of New Guinea on a despondent note: “Sovereignty brings heavy duties and great responsibilities and only over the course of an extended time will any great changes in conditions be foreseen” (Haga 1884: 435). Rather than governing New Guinea in this unbearably ridiculous fashion, some administrators suggested that the Netherlands should simply sell off the territory. But others, like Feuilletau de Bruyn, did not despair. In the 1930s, Feuilletau de Bruyn joined with former Residents of Ternate, Governors of the Moluccas, and



right-wing Dutch politicians in calling for a renewed policy in New Guinea, in part as a way of opening the territory to Indo-European migration (Rutherford 1998). In essays published in Tijdschrift Nieuw Guinea, a journal he edited for several years, Feuilletau de Bruyn backed the idea of imposing a penal sanction in New Guinea, which would provide jail terms to coolies who broke their contracts, and of limiting the Papuans’ rights to land (see Feuilletau de Bruyn 1933, 1936–1937). Feuilletau de Bruyn’s draconian proposals were never adopted. But the publications and institutions of the period set the stage for the Netherlands’ retention of New Guinea by providing a justification for separating the territory from the rest of the colonial state.28 Lijphart (1966) has suggested that the Netherlands’ decision to cling to western New Guinea when Indonesia gained independence was a symptom of the “trauma of decolonization.” Operating at a deficit, the Dutch experiment in postwar New Guinea could be read as an effort to compensate for the Indies’ sudden loss through the salvation of this long “neglected” land. A memoir recounting the adventures of a minor official on Biak during the 1950s suggests the quixotic nature of this project.29 Several chapters in the slim volume are devoted to the tension between the “pseudoperfectionism” of high-ranking officers in the air-conditioned seat of government in Hollandia and the “imperfections” their subordinates faced on the ground (van den Berg 1981: 57–59, 91–93). Van den Berg’s recollections sometimes call to mind Furnivall’s account of Leviathan’s antics.30 But van den Berg uses humor to defend what he calls the “New Guinea dream” (1981: 134). In a chapter entitled, simply, “Colonialism?” he sets straight a rumor that Biak was home to colonial extremists by recounting how an incident in which an employer chained a Papuan worker to a flagpole was simply an innocent practical joke (1981: 122–126). But if we follow Furnivall, it becomes clear that absurdity is no stranger to the violent exercise of colonial power. Biaks have made their own jokes about the colonial experience. One I recorded described a suspect pursued by Feuilletau de Bruyn and his soldiers, who hid from the detachment by climbing a tree. When the Dutch officials were distributing tobacco to a group relaxing below, the suspect could not contain his excitement. “Hey!” he shouted to the startled soldiers. “I get some, too!” And so the poor man took his place in the long line of prisoners, bound by barbed wire wrapped around their necks. This story turns on the tension between colonialism’s horizontal and vertical dimensions,

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


but from the perspective of those who bore the brunt of their society’s “reform.”31 Furnivall may claim that the colonial state does not have a sense of humor, yet he knew that law and comedy, like law and violence, go together. The Fashioning of Leviathan teaches us how to approach imperialism from within the Leviathan—where the ridiculous becomes a social fact.

Notes 1. “If there are sceptics, and especially if Leviathan himself be uneasy about his birth certificate and the social status of his parents, the searching light of truth may be embarrassing” (Furnivall 1939: 3). Furnivall clearly has the colonial state in mind here. 2. “[Leviathan’s] machinery is regulated by the laws of common sense, and he will grind out bread so long as he can go on grinding at a profit” (ibid.: 76). 3. Moreover, whatever “Leviathan cannot comprehend he instinctively regards as dangerous and puts forth all his strength to crush” (ibid.: 136). 4. See Richard Tuck’s (1991) introduction to Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. The inhabitants of the plural society lack precisely what Hobbes’s Leviathan inaugurates, according to Tuck’s reading: a public language that enables them to express and reconcile their opposing intentions, so they will not be driven to violence by uncertainty and fear. 5. See Freud (1939: 149, 234): “It is a necessary condition for generating the comic that we should be obliged, simultaneously or in rapid succession, to apply to one and the same act of ideation two different ideational methods, between which the ‘comparison’ is then made and the comic difference emerges.” 6. Freud (1939: 201) notes that this procedure allows the observer “to have an idea of [the institution] as though it were something common place, in whose presence I need not pull myself together but may, to use the military formula, ‘stand easy.’ ” 7. I would like to thank Jim Siegel for suggesting this contrast. 8. See Bhabha (1983: 18–36). It seems to me that this account of the “ridiculous” provides us with one way of thinking about what Bhabha describes as the threat underlying the fetishistic production (and reproduction) of the colonial stereotype. 9. See, e.g., Zizek (1993: 146). In a commentary on Kafka, Zizek points to the phantasmatic underpinnings of bureaucratic authority. “In so far as the law is not grounded in truth, it is impregnated in enjoyment,” Zizek writes, on the basis of Kafka’s account of the “obscene, nauseous phenomena” pervading the legal system described in The Trial. See also Mbembe (2001: 133). Mbembe refers to



obscenity (and jokes that refer to it) as “one modality of power in the postcolony,” as well as “one of the arenas in which subordinates reaffirm or subvert that power.” Significantly, Mbembe distinguishes between colonial and postcolonial violence, the former being linked, if not fully reducible to, “an overriding concern for profits and productivity.” What Mbembe calls the “aesthetics of vulgarity” has a greater role to play in the postcolony, with its rulers’ obsession for majesty and pomp. See Mbembe (2001: 113). 10. Sandra Macpherson, David Levin, and Jacqueline Goldsby helped me clarify this point. 11. On the history of colonial governance in western New Guinea, see Haga (1884), Kamma (1947–1949, 1976, 1977), van der Veur (1966), Salim (1973), Smeele (1988), Beekman (1989), and van Baal (1989). 12. Leonard Andaya stresses the role of Tidore in New Guinea. See Andaya (1993). But see Swadling (1996: 109–110), who argues that in the period before 1660, when the Dutch made their first formal treaty with Tidore, the North Moluccan Sultan of Bacan was the one who had “real influence” in the Raja Ampats. 13. No sooner did the Dutch expand Tidoran rule than they created a mechanism for dissolving it, in contracts that contained a clause stipulating that the Netherlands Indies government could assume direct governance of the region at any time. See Swadling (1996: 119). 14. For much of the century, the administration concentrated its interests and investment on the “inner island” of Java, which a system of forced cultivation transformed into one of the most profitable pieces of colonial real estate in the world. Dutch activities in the outer islands were overshadowed by a long and costly war in Aceh, a polity at the northwestern tip of Sumatra near the strategic Malakka Straits. See van Goor (1986). 15. Part of this anxiety could be due to the fact that in the 1780s and 1790s, the Bird’s Head peninsula had sheltered the English supporters of a rebellious claimant to the Tidoran throne. See Andaya (1993). 16. With the exception of three years in the 1920s, when New Guinea was governed as a separate residency, the territory remained divided between administrative units based on Ternate and Ambon. 17. In this time of rapid decolonization, Dutch officials were keenly aware of the publicity value of the social welfare programs they undertook on behalf of the “primitive” Papuans. Administratively and philosophically, the “ethical project” in the Indies as a whole provided a model for the mission in New Guinea. See van Baal (1989: 169). 18. “The disposition of the Papuans is, in a word, bad; they are crude in their manners, cruel to one another, treacherous with foreigners and traders, little subordinated to their own chiefs, and more than frank with Europeans. Most

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


writers on New Guinea are agreed on this point; also the work of the famous naturalist, Wallace, whom no one should deny a proper look, describes the Papuan in very unfavorable terms.” See van der Aa (1879: 131). 19. This is not to say that the escutcheons never served their purpose. Another officer reported in the 1870s that the escutcheon on Roon had fulfilled its function when the crew of an English ship, in search of water, had fled when they saw the Dutch coat of arms. See van der Aa (1879: 93). 20. “Mr. Maingy thought it would be unnecessary to enhance this salary, as it would suffice ‘to grant him the privilege of trading.’ Mr. Gouger must have found business profitable when, as Superintendent of Police, he could arrest those who owed him money and then, as Judge and Magistrate, choose whether to proceed them in his own court, civilly or criminally, having in either case good reason to expect a favorable judgement.” See Furnivall (1939: 23). 21. The encounter called to mind another headman who had “a receipt from a photographer as a letter of appointment. The letterhead of the receipt was printed with several medals that the man had won at exhibitions, but these stamp-like marks gave the thing its cachet.” See Lorentz (n.d.: 195). 22. “People once admonished us that we associated with them too familiarly and permitted them liberties that were not in fact proper. I believe that these persons are very mistaken and have more in mind the intercourse between Europeans and Malays or Javans. One must not forget that the Papuans feel entirely free and independent and can live very well without us. Indeed, the only thing in which our government can be noticed consists of the fact that the korano is given a Dutch flag and a black jacket with gold lace. He thus understands that at the arrival of a ship the bearer of the pretty jacket gets a double portion of the gifts in the form of tobacco and beads.” See Lorentz (n.d.: 31–32). 23. Feuilletau de Bruyn’s Military Memorandum of Transfer, which was later published as a book-length monograph, was obviously written with a scholarly audience in mind. See Feuilletau de Bruyn (1920). 24. See Feuilletau de Bruyn (1916: 244). According to Feuilletau de Bruyn, the general practice on Biak was for disputants to “buy” an interpreter to represent them in legal proceedings. Matters went badly for those who did not. 25. Hartweg did not mention this, but it seems clear that the Papuans’ impression of the government’s actions was further complicated by the fate of those who did serve out their jail terms—they often returned as Malay-speaking village chiefs. 26. Hartweg’s relationship with his superiors only worsened with time. The death of his two-year-old daughter in a dysentery epidemic that Hartweg’s family lacked the money to flee was a particularly difficult blow. He left Biak abruptly, and we hear little of him in official mission histories, even if North Biaks in the early 1990s still remembered his visits to their communities.



27. Elsewhere, I have argued that the mission post appeared to Biaks as a dangerous and alluring site to acquire the treasured media through which local persons and social groups were produced. See Rutherford (2003). 28. This decade also saw the founding of the New Guinea Studiekring, an organization chaired by van Sandick, a former governor of the Moluccas, and the publication of the first edition of a three-volume compendium on New Guinea. See Klein (1937). 29. See van den Berg (1981: 7– 9). Van den Berg’s book is called Baalen Droefheid: Biak-Nederlands Nieuw- Guinea sche(r)tsenderwijs. The title is neologism playing on the name of a famous governor of Netherlands New Guinea that roughly glosses “Bales of Sorrow.” 30. At one point, he describes how drivers who wanted a license had to pass a test that entailed identifying the entire repertoire of traffic symbols, even though the island had only one, unofficial, sign. See van den Berg (1981: 81–83). 31. Feuilletau de Bruyn notes that “tobacco” was the “small change” of Biak’s “economy”—it is the desire for this that fixes the poor victim in the soldiers’ gaze.

Bibliography Andaya, Leonard. 1993. The World of Maluku: Indonesia in the Early Modern Period. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso. Beekman, Elke. 1989. “Driekleur en Kruisbanier, De Utrechtsche Zendingsvereeniging op Nederlands Nieuw-Guinea 1859–1919.” Doctoral thesis, Erasmus University. Bhabha, Homi. 1983. “The Other Question.” Screen 24(6) (November / December): 18–36. Bohannon, Paul. 1955. “Some Principles of Exchange and Investment Among the Tiv.” American Anthropologist 57: 60–70. Cannell, Fenella, ed. 2006. The Anthropology of Christianity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Commissie voor Nieuw-Guinea. 1862. Nieuw Guinea: Ethnographisch en Natuurkundig Onderzocht en Beschreven in 1858. Amsterdam: Frederik Müller. de Bruyn Kops, G. F. 1850. “Bijdrage tot de kennis der Noord- en Oostkusten van Nieuw Guinea.” Natuurkundig Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië 1: 164–235. Ellen, R. F. 1986. “Conundrums About Panjandrums: On the Use of Titles in the Relations of Political Subordination in the Moluccas and Along the Papuan Coast.” Indonesia 41: 46– 62.

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


Feuilletau de Bruyn, W. K. H. 1916. Militaire Memorie der Schouten-eilanden, 31 August 1916, Nummer Toegang 10–25, Stuk 183, Nienhuis Collectie van de Department van Bevolkszaken Hollandia Rapportenarchief. The Hague: Algemeene Rijksarchief. ———. 1920. Schouten en Padaido-eilanden: Mededeelingen Encyclopaedisch Bureau, vol. 21. Batavia, the Netherlands Indies: Javaasche Boekhandel. ———. 1933. “Economische ontwikkelingsmogelijkheiden van Noord-NieuwGuinea in het bijzonder door kolonisatie van Europeanen en Indo Europeanen.” Koloniale Studiën 17: 514–539. ———. 1936–1937. “De bevolking van Biak en het kolonisatievraagstuk van Noord Nieuw-Guinea.” Tijdschrift Nieuw Guinea 1(1– 6): 169–177. Freud, Sigmund. 1960. Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. James Strachey, trans. New York: W. W. Norton. Furnivall, John S. 1939. “The Fashioning of Leviathan.” Reprinted from The Burma Research Society’s Journal 29(1). Rangoon: Zabu Meitswe Pitaka Press. ———. 1944. Netherlands India: A Study in the Plural Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1956 [1948]. Colonial Policy and Practice. New York: New York University Press. Haga, A. 1884. Nederlandsch Nieuw- Guinea en de Papoesche eilanden: Historische bijdrage. 2 vols. Batavia, the Netherlands Indies: Bruining; ’s Gravenhage: Nijhoff. Hartweg, Friedrich. 1926. Letter to the Board of September 23, 1926, UZV K31, D12. Oegstgeest, the Netherlands: Archives of the Hendrik Kraemer Institute. ———. 1927. Letter to the Board of February 7, 1927, UZV K31, D 12. Oegstgeest, the Netherlands: Archives of the Hendrik Kraemer Institute. Kamma, F. C. 1947–1949. “De verhouding tussen Tidore en de Papoese eilanden in legende en historie.” Indonesië 1 (1947–1948): 361–370, 536–559; 2 (1948–1949): 177–188, 256–275. ———. 1976, 1977. Dit Wonderlijk Werk. 2 vols. Oegstgeest: Raad voor de Zending der Ned. Hervormde Kerk. Klein, W. C. 1937. Nieuw- Guinee. 3 vols. Amsterdam: J. H. de Bussy. Lijphart, Arend. 1966. The Trauma of Decolonization: The Dutch and West New Guinea. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Locher-Scholten, Elsbeth. 1994. “Dutch Expansion in the Indonesian Archipelago Around 1900 and the Imperialism Debate.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 25(1) (March): 91–111. Lorentz, H. A. n.d. Eenige maanden onder de Papoea’s. Privately published edition dedicated to Prof. Dr. C. E. A. Wichmann, Leader of the New Guinea Expedition of 1903.



Marx, Karl. 1967. Capital, vol. 1. Frederick Engels, ed. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, trans. New York: International Publishers. Mbembe, Achille. 2001. On the Postcolony. Berkeley: University of California Press. Overweel, Jeroen A., ed. 1995. Topics Relating to Netherlands New Guinea in Ternate Residency Memoranda of Transfer and Other Assorted Documents. Irian Jaya Source Materials No. 13. Leiden: DSALCUL / IRIS. Paine, Thomas. 1991. The Age of Reason. Quoted in The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rutherford, Danilyn. 1998. “Trekking to New Guinea: Dutch Colonial Fantasies of a Virgin Land 1900–1940.” In Frances Gouda and Julia ClancySmith, eds., Domesticating the Empire: Race, Gender and Family Life in French and Dutch Colonialism. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 255–271. ———. 2003. Raiding the Land of the Foreigners: The Limits of the Nation on an Indonesian Frontier. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ———. 2006. “The Bible Meets the Idol: Writing and Conversion in Biak, Irian Jaya, Indonesia.” In Fenella Cannell, ed., The Anthropology of Christianity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 241–272. Salim, I. F. M. 1973. Viftien Jaar Boven Digoel: Concentratiekamp in Nieuw Guinea, Bakermat van Indonesische Onafhankelijkheid. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Contact. Simmel, Georg. 1978. The Philosophy of Money, 2nd ed. Tom Borromore and David Frisby, trans. London: Routledge. Smeele, Rogier. 1988. “De Expansie van het Nederlandse Gezag en de Intensiviering van de Bestuursbemoeienis op Nederlands Nieuw-Guinea 1898–1942.” Doctoral thesis, Institute of History, Utrecht University. Steinberg, David Joel et al. 1985. In Search of Southeast Asia: A Modern History, rev. ed. David Joel Steinberg, ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Swadling, Pamela. 1996. Plumes from Paradise. Boroko, Papua New Guinea: Papua New Guinea National Museum / Robert Brown. Taylor, Jean. 1984. The Social World of Batavia. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Tuck, Richard. 1991. Introduction to Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. van Baal, Jan. 1989. Ontglipt Verleden. 2 vols. Franeker: van Wijnen. van Baaren, Thomas P. 1968. Korwars and Korwar Style: Art and Ancestor Worship in North-West New Guinea. The Hague: Mouton. van den Berg, G. W. H. 1981. Baalen Droefheid: Biak-Nederlands Nieuw- Guinea sche(r)tsenderwijs. The Hague: Moesson.

John Furnivall and Dutch New Guinea


van der Aa, P. J. B. C. Robide. 1879. Reizen naar Nederlandsch Nieuw-Guinea ondernomen op last der Regeering van Nederlandsch-Indie in de jaren 1871, 1872, 1875–1876. ’S Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff. van der Veur, Paul W. 1966. The Search for New Guinea’s Boundaries. Canberra: ANU Press. van Goor, J., ed. 1986. Imperialisme in de Marge: De Afronding van NederlandsIndie. Utrecht: HES. Zizek, Slavoj. 1993. “The Obscene Object of Postmodernity.” In Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 141–153.

§ 4 Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies: Historical and Ethnographic Perspectives Eric Tagliacozzo

Introduction Ethnohistory has become an increasingly viable approach for telling the story of significant parts of the planet, especially of those areas and peoples that have been marginalized in one sense or another by the onslaught of capitalism in the past several centuries. As a methodology, ethnohistory has been used to examine historical consciousness as constructed through mortuary rituals (Oakdale 2001), the telling of tales about important group events such as traumas (Salomon 2002), and even how individual societies weave narratives about their own geographic inclusiveness in the broader patterns of human contact (Carson 2002). Scholars who use material culture practices as an index of these conceptions have been particularly adept at advancing the agendas of ethnohistory, whether this has been from ethnographic, psychoanalytic, or Marxist points of view (Silverman 1990; Berger 1992: 63–84).1 Indeed, it may not be an exaggeration to say that anthropology and history have often mingled best in the realm of material culture complexes and their readings, or what Jean-Christophe Agnew blithely calls “History and Anthropology: Scenes from a Marriage” (Agnew 1990). One global arena where this union has undoubtedly been effective has been Southeast Asia, as an inordinate number of first-rate ethnohistorical I wish to thank Harold Conklin, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Yale University, who read and critiqued an earlier version of this chapter. I am also grateful for audience comments at the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell, where this chapter was presented as a talk on April 27, 2003.


Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


investigations have been conducted in this part of the world. Clifford Geertz and Edmund Leach may be the most noted practitioners of this boundary-crossing approach to scholarship in the region, but in reality they are only two of several important investigators who have used Southeast Asia to advance ethnohistorical programs in new and sophisticated ways.2 In the Philippines in particular ethnographers have used history to great effect in describing upland trade routes (Conklin 1980; but see also Rutherford [Chapter 3 in this volume] more generally on markets), the longue durée of headhunting (Rosaldo 1980), and the morphing of Christian ritual (Cannell 1999: 1– 9). Not to be outdone, historians of the Philippines have also been sensitive to the possibilities of anthropology, whether this has been in the examination of early missionization and conversion (Rafael 1993) or maritime journeying in the Muslim seas of the southern archipelago (Warren 1981). The advice offered so many years ago by scholarly proponents of disciplinary fusion like Bernard Cohn (1987) seems to have been heeded, at least in research field locales such as the Philippines. The present chapter attempts to explore the relationship between export ceramics and societies in this Philippine context, both from historical and ethnographic points of view. Curling out in an arc from the Chinese mainland, Chinese porcelain and celadon can be found embedded in a variety of cultures: as heirlooms and burial jars in Philippine villages, adorning mosques and wats in Javanese and Thai religious buildings, and even as centerpieces on the tops of East African pillar tombs. Traveling the entire length of Asia’s maritime trade routes for more than a millennium, porcelain became part of the fabric of all of these societies in locally determined ways. Nowhere was this more true than in the Philippines. Incorporated into a bewildering array of rituals and local practice, they were used as bride-price items and as musical instruments; as a wealth-index and in magic; as child coffins and as wine jars. Few local peoples were unaffected by their export, and their legacy is still felt today in the more remote areas of the archipelago. In this chapter I will examine some of the histories and ethnographies of trade ceramics in the Philippines and how they have entered local societies in a variety of contexts. I contend that this narrative can be best understood through the observations of both historians and anthropologists, who together have left us a wealth of information on this important and understudied topic crucial to the story of Philippine societies.



Trade Ceramics: Histories of Movement Before we begin the search for historical references as to how these interactions first started (and the scope of their diversity), it is useful to briefly sketch the circumstances around the earliest arrivals of these tradewares from abroad. The international maritime routes previously mentioned funneled all sorts of goods between highly centralized kingdoms like China and the many port-polities of Southeast Asia—not the least of which was porcelain.3 Porcelain entered this nexus from the T’ang (618– 907) and Sung (960–1279) dynasties onward and became a major Chinese export industry by the Ming (1368–1644), usually finding its way into the monsoon countries in exchange for tropical forest products (Kamar Aga-Oglu 1961: 243; Laufer 1908: 248–251; Locsin and Locsin 1970: 4–5). In times of turmoil in China, as when the Sung Dynasty collapsed and was replaced with Mongol horsemen from the Central Asian steppes, other states were also able to enter this market. During the Mongol interregnum, Japan, Siam, and Vietnam flooded the region with their own wares at handsome levels of profit. Aside from being a purely economic commodity, export ceramics were also a ritual one as well, as they symbolized (by the very nature of their manufacture) the differences between highly centralized societies and smaller, less multifunctional ones. Porcelain and celadons were prized (alongside gongs, bells, and high-fire beads) as nonperishable goods by indigenous Filipinos, items that were resistant to the monsoon climate and impossible to make at Filipino levels of technology.4 They therefore became important in local patterns of culture at a very early date. Solheim (1964: 376–381) has shown how existing “Malayo / Polynesian” pottery networks in Insular Southeast Asia started to give way to these material newcomers during the Sung Dynasty, while Beyer (1947: 211) has identified jar burials as a Philippine culture-trait—which nevertheless started to be performed with export wares around this time—in Batanes, Sulu, and Rizal. Tenazas (1984: 157) has also shown how entire settlements could be geographically situated around this trade, as with the site of Magsuhot in Negros Oriental, which seemed to serve as an expanded forest-products collection center geared toward exchange for trade ceramics. By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, high-fired Asian porcelain and celadons were being traded very far away from their initial production

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


centers in China, Siam, and Vietnam. Chinese export wares in particular were being carried across global oceanic spaces— as far away as East Africa—in the early fifteenth century (Carswell 2000: 101, 126). From surviving shipwrecks we have an idea of the mechanics and dispersal patterns of many of these voyages, including the methods of shipment and quantities of cargo involved (Ridho and McKinnon 1979). Chinese data on the varieties, science, and motifs of these export wares is voluminous; researchers have documents and detritus that provide information on glazes, kilns, firing techniques, and artistic renderings of a startling amount of porcelain.5 The Philippines quickly became an important destination for a significant amount of this material, as the archipelago was relatively close to manufacturing centers in China and Vietnam and boasted a ready market for the products of this developing export trade.6

Historical Sources on Ceramics in Philippine Society Although the earliest knowledge on the uses of ceramics in the Philippines comes to us through archaeological reports, it is with written documents that many of these practices become fleshed out for the very first time.7 Commentary written through hearsay—or more usually through eyewitnesses— describes local Philippine customs vis-à-vis ceramics as the pieces themselves were being used. In this first section of the chapter I present a cross-section of what these many uses were and how they reflect not only individual Philippine societies but their methods of innovation and change. Often the descriptions reveal as much about the viewers as they do about historical communities of Filipinos. The sources of these observations range from Chinese port attendants and dynastic records8 to Spanish friars and administrators, all of whom seemed to find these varied practices fascinating. As a whole, they give us a feeling for the many ways in which export ceramics had not only penetrated local societies but in turn helped shape them, both in the realms of utilitarian, everyday use and in the realm of ritual. First and foremost on this historical list, interestingly enough, is an anthropological insight delivered by an external Chinese: Zhao Ru Gua (Chau Ju Kua), the harbormaster at Ch’uan-zhou port in the coastal province of Fujian. A keen listener and compiler of facts on the outside world, Zhao’s book Zhu Fan Zhi (written in 1225) is a combined ethnography / economic commentary on the nature of Sung Dynasty commerce. In his



capacity as a regulator of the coastal city’s trade, Zhao was able to speak to many traders—both Chinese and foreign—who had eyewitness knowledge of the length of the maritime routes. It is therefore as a mix of reportage and tall tales that we can examine his section on the Philippine islanders, of which he says the following: On each island lives a different tribe. Each tribe consists of about a thousand families. As soon as a foreign ship comes in sight the natives approach it to barter. They live in rush huts. . . . In the most remote valleys there lives another tribe called Hai-tan (the Negrito). They are of small stature, have brown eyes and frizzled hair, and their teeth shine between their lips. They live high up on the tops of trees, where they dwell in families of 3 to 5 individuals. Crawling through the thickets of the forest, they shoot from ambush at passersby, wherefore they are most dreaded, but if a porcelain bowl is thrown towards them they rush on to it, shouting with joy, and escape with their spoil. (Chau Ju Kua 1966: 161)

What is immediately interesting about this account is the dichotomy set up between larger (presumably coastal) groups, numbering up to a thousand families, and forest-dwellers, who live in much smaller units of five or less. The former, Zhao says, approach Chinese ships calmly and regularly when they want to trade, while the latter lurk just out of reach, trying by any means possible to get their hands on the jars. This is nascent ethnography, to be sure: two populations are described, each with a different ecological niche and size, but what further classifies them as separate are their attitudes toward ceramics. Solheim (1965: 265) has argued that one of the primary linkages between interior and exterior peoples in the Philippines was the “status-quest” for jars, but this Chinese account speaks to even larger patterns of Southeast Asian exchange, such as the overarching, modular thesis posited by Bronson in Karl Hutterer’s 1977 volume (p. 39). Zhao Ru Gua’s “ethnography” seems to be a direct corroboration of their upland / lowland hypothesis, which asserts a division of peoples in a pan– Southeast Asian context based on the remoteness of their geography. The unifying (and separating) bond in this instance was the entrance of the export wares, bringing groups together for trade and keeping them separate based on their frequency of dealing with such high-status imports. A second important insight delivered by the historical sources concerns the transvaluation of external Philippine diplomacy. By the early sixteenth




Ryukyu Taiwan

Burma Vietnam Pegu






Champa Funan

Isthmus of Kra

Laguna de Bay



Mindanao Aceh


Kota Batu







Jambi Banjarmasin


map 4.1:



Map of the Philippines and attendant ceramic routes.



century porcelain not only appears in Chinese and Spanish writings as a highly valued item coming into the archipelago, but also as a stock tributary gift from Filipinos paying obeisance to external powers. In the Mingshih (Records of the Ming Dynasty), notices recorded that a power struggle was erupting in the seas of the “Southern Ocean” (or Nanyang) in the early 1400s: Maguindanao and Sulu were on the losing end of the contest at that point in time and were bringing gifts of semi-vassalage—including Chinese porcelain—to their nominal overlords at Brunei (Roxas-Lim 1987: 44). A century and a half later, a Spanish notary, Hernando Riquel, wrote to the Crown that two ships were embarking for Spain filled with the tribute of Philippine rulers and that among the jewels and items of gold were porcelains, “many rich and large jars” (Riquel 1903: 249), as a token of local respect for the king. Finally, by the late eighteenth century Taosug datus (princes) residents in the lowland reaches of northern Borneo were also bringing jars to local Kenyah chiefs, partly in exchange for forest produce (which was then shipped out into the world market via Sulu) and partly as delicate political protection in a region renowned for its headhunting (Warren 1981: 76). All of these cases are interesting as they reveal a change in the nature of Philippine embassies over time; at one point only able to provide items of the environment to show their respects, Filipinos had now entered porcelain into the “language of obeisance” in their external relations, rerouting them into other parts of the region. Yet it would be wrong to assume that these export ceramics only served such ceremonial functions. The literature of the earliest Spanish contacts also depicts these tradewares as entering the mainstream of Philippine societies, reaching a range of Filipinos in very utilitarian ways. Pigafetta was wined and dined in Leyte by a group of local villagers, who presented him with two porcelain dishes full of rice and pork (Pigafetta 1903: 119). Later (in Cebu) he chronicled another description of local hospitality, which included a gourmand chief who received his party favorably: When we reached the city we found the king in his palace surrounded by many people. He was seated on a palm mat on the ground, with only a cotton cloth before his privies, and a scarf embroidered with a needle about his head, a necklace of great value hanging from his neck, and two large gold earrings fastened in his ears set round with precious gems. He was fat and short, and tattooed with fire in various designs. From another mat on the

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


ground he was eating turtle eggs which were in two porcelain dishes, and he had four jars full of palm wine in front of him covered with sweet-smelling herbs and arranged with four small reeds in each jar by means of which he drank. (Pigafetta 1903: 149)

Ceramics seem to have been preferred not only because of their exotic provenance but also based on other reasons: they were more hygienic than coconut or wooden vessels, and they were also easier to clean and did not affect the taste of food (Janse 1944: 37; Hobson 1962: 92; Honey 1954: 95–96). By this time they were also making inroads into all sorts of local activities and industries: as liquid and dry-foods containers, in the processing of foods such as preservation and pickling, and in manufacturing processes like tanning and the extraction of dyes (Roxas-Lim 1987: 9). The majority of these pieces were the sturdy stoneware jars known as martabans or tempayans, not the blue-and-whites or the pale green celadons currently seen in museums. These latter types were more often reserved for ritual functions, of which early sources tell us a great deal. Pigafetta’s notices of communal wine drinking from special jars in Cebu is not the only example of ceramics making their way into local Philippine culture. In fact, from the earliest Spanish explorers onward, a long list of such observations begins to enter the literature, as Europeans came face to face with ritual uses of porcelain on a wide geographic scale. Pigafetta also recounted seeing small tradewares being used as receptacles for the burning of incenses (benzoin, storrh, and myrrh) in Cebu funerals, while other pieces were used as betel-nut containers to house the areca before ceremonial consumption (Roxas-Lim 1966: 230). In 1601 Father Chirino saw jars being erected on promontories in the western extremities of Panay, offered to the spirits as supplications for safe voyages (Chirino 1903: 267), while four years later he saw them utilized as “charm-containers” in Bohol, the contents of which determined the precise times for sacrifices to cure local sickness (1903: 81). By mid-century Father Aduarte was contributing to these accounts, noting with astonishment that Filipinos placed valuable jars in places of “ritual power” alongside gold and gems, none of which was ever stolen by inhabitants of the region (either inside or outside of the village). The local inhabitants were too afraid of the sanctity of the location to ever attempt such a taboo, but when the jars were brought back to the village, they had evidently accrued the power of the place, for people then sought to eat off of them (Aduarte 1903b: 289). This last practice seems



analogous to practices still undertaken in Northern Luzon, where some indigenes of Mountain Province continue to bury jars of rice wine in ritually powerful places, the wine then only being drunk (from these same export porcelains) on ceremonial occasions (Solheim 1965: 256). Yet both of these Fathers (Aduarte and Chirino) also serve as conduits of a more debatable kind of information on ceramics in early Philippine society, namely of their destruction under the pressure of Spanish Christianization. The conflict between missionization and the survival of indigenous ritual was played out in many shapes and forms, and ritual paraphernalia— including porcelain and other “magically-invested items”—were a very material part of this battleground. In some cases, as in Pangasinan in 1640, the destruction of tradewares used in local rites seems to have been a voluntary act of conversion: Aduarte mentions that several local chiefs willingly brought their jars of quila libations to one resident Father, who then destroyed the contents with the help (and consent) of the local villagers (Aduarte 1903b: 243). Yet this cooperative approach seems to have been the exception rather than the rule. Chirino gives a long narration of a Father Sanchez in Bohol, who came to the problem with a different line of action: pouncing on the local stores of ceramics and magical horns, he trod and spat on the items—without the help of his native assistants, who were too afraid to join him—and then threw the entire cache into the river (Chirino 1903: 81–82). Another Father (Pedro de la Bastida), this time back in Pangasinan, “upset everything and broke the dishes and bowls and other vessels which (the villagers) used in their rites,” finally ending his rampage by burning the robes of the priestesses and the huts in which they lived. Aduarte was incredulous at his survival as “many were thus aroused to Christ and undeceived, but others, and not a few, were angry so that it was a wonder he was not slain” (Aduarte 1903a: 145). What is important for our purposes is less the heavy-handedness or insensitivity of conversion in these narratives, but more the ritual place ceramics occupied in the clash of different cultures: one aggressive and proselytizing, demanding faithful converts, the other an exposed, almost cornered one, simply trying to survive. Yet there is one Philippine practice concerning tradewares that stands out strongest in the historical sources, mentioned more frequently and with greater interest than any other ritual: the custom of jar burial. Beyer (1947: 115) reports that evidence of this practice has been found in Northeastern Luzon, Southern Tayabas, Sorsogon, Samar, Mindanao, Marinduque, Mindoro, and Palawan, though further excavations have been

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


conducted since the time of his writing.9 The so-called Boxer Codex of 1590 is perhaps the first in-depth notice of such rituals, in which bones were described as being placed in jars in the midst of Luzon houses, and jarlets and plates were interred with corpses in the lower Cagayan (Quirino and Garcia 1958: 432). Again, Father Aduarte transmits the feeling of these discoveries most forcefully, as he narrates in this episode from his shipwreck in the “Babuyones”: Now that our supplies were cut off, we were obliged, since food is necessary, to take it by force wherever we could find it, since they (the local inhabitants) would not sell it willingly; so for several mornings a troop of our Indians went out under escort of our soldiers, gathered what they could from the fields, and brought it back as food for all. At one time when they were engaged in this way they thought they had discovered a great treasure; for they found some porcelain jars of moderate size covered by others of similar size, and inside they found some dead bodies dried, and nothing else. (Aduarte 1903a: 115)

The use of the term treasure here is instructive, as evidently many Spaniards started to plunder these sites after learning of their potential value. Janse (1944: 41) also records burials in Batangas where ceramics were placed over the thorax, mouth, and feet of the dead, indicating a definite method to placement of the objects, while Fox discovered in his own excavations near the same site (Catalagan) that the largest number of porcelains were actually associated with children (Fox 1959: 345). The larger picture presented by all of these records—archaeological and historical—is one of a pervasive incidence of the custom. Ceramics were in use throughout the archipelago as objects essential to the afterlife.

Ethnography on Ceramics in Philippine Society Contemporary ethnologists in the Philippines have been interested in trade ceramics, the culture complexes surrounding them, and general issues of material culture and movement for quite some time. These studies have focused on porcelain in Mindoro (Lopez 1976: 4–5), ceramic distribution networks in Kalinga (Stark 1994: 169–198), and pottery wealth indices in Mountain province, Northern Luzon (Trostel 1994: 209–223), among many other issues.10 It was only in the beginning of the twentieth



century that serious empirical studies about the nature of Philippine society began to be written from anthropological perspectives. The local uses and traditions involving export porcelains fit into this evolving literature, as researchers cata logued ceremonies and practices with new attention to detail. Ethnographic theory also started to be applied toward these relationships, as explanations were sought for the mechanics of certain communal rites. The study of ceramics in Philippine culture continued to be undertaken along historical lines, but with a much greater emphasis now on how Filipinos were still using these pieces and how these customs had changed. One practice that did not substantially change in the years connecting historical and ethnographic inquiry was the practice of value-creation involving ceramics as an index of social hierarchy. It is no accident that a 1574 report of the Spanish Crown spoke of Chinese junks bringing earthenwares to trade with commoners and “silks and fine porcelains” as barter goods for chiefs; a distinction was already being made by this date, one which was perpetuated by the new owners of such objects (Riquel 1903: 245). In the early twentieth century, Christie (1909: 56) found solid evidence of a continuation of these value-perceptions among the Subanuns of Zamboanga, who competed within the peninsula to attain as many large drinking vessels (tempayan) as physically possible. Solheim (1965: 258) even points out that these tendencies still exist to the present day in many parts of the Philippines, as families engaged in important rites of passage (e.g., weddings, christenings, and circumcisions) still display their feasts in the best porcelains they can afford before the food is eaten by the guests. In this respect, the hierarchy-producing capacity of pottery as an index of wealth and prestige appears to be similar to the heirlooms shown by Wong (1978: 92) to be part of seventeenth-century St. Ana society: plates and saucers being bought for 1,500 guan, while a horse cost a mere 800.11 The survival of porcelains in a wide range of magical and religious practices is also confirmed by twentieth-century ethnographic literature. Cole (1912: 12–13) in particular cataloged a tremendous variety of these uses, perhaps most impressively among the Tinguian of Abra. The Tinguian had incorporated jars into a fantastic web of stories and oral literature by 1912: informants spoke of jars that could talk and went on solo journeys, and one was even reported to have gotten married and begotten children with a female piece in Ilocos Norte. A second folktale recounted fields full of jars trembling with their tongues hanging out, demanding to be fed betel on

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


pain of devouring the local villagers. Yet one does not merely have to enter the realm of local mythologies to see these relationships acted out: spiritmediums in the same area never sold their porcelains during their own lifetimes, opting to hand them down instead to the inheritors of their ritual powers, local female acolytes. In Rizal and Pampanga, tradewares were still considered to reveal the presence of poisons (through discoloration of the plate) as late as the 1960s (Roxas-Lim 1966: 229), while churches in Northern Luzon used them as receptacles for holy water, sometimes cementing them into the structure of the religious building itself (Solheim 1965: 261). A final, revealing example of the continuing belief in the efficacy of such pieces comes back to the funerary complex and its hold on Philippine life—this time in Sagada, Mountain Province. While excavating at the site, Solheim (1959: 129) heard stories of a local couple asking the resident priest if they could bury their dead child in a jar and still hope to have the baby receive Christian grace. The priest (who was known to be a moderate man) felt that this would be stretching doctrine a bit too far and therefore dissented; the child was buried in a coffin, and the matter was thought closed. Only a short time after, however, the parents of the child disinterred the corpse, cut up the body, and transferred it to a very old jar, which they then put back into the ground. Occurring right before World War II, the incident shows the continuing power of these local beliefs up until quite recent times—a hedging of bets, as it were, between Catholicism and far older customs still current in the countryside.12 Ceramics have also survived as an element of another age-old Philippine rite—the arrangement of bride-price. As late as the early twentieth century, the custom was very much alive in the interior regions of Mindanao, Palawan, and Luzon, with jars being part of exchanges at the unions of families or as partial or full payment for the acquisition of a wife. Among the Subanun of Sindangan these transactions developed into a complicated dialectic: the prospective bridegroom had to possess, among other things, a certain amount of tradewares—which were then belittled by the family of the girl, who demanded more—and so on and so on, the haggling sometimes lasting for days (Christie 1909: 114). In other areas the number of jars for bride-price were reckoned in equivalencies of carabao, with renowned pieces equaling certain numbers of the animals and less important types a corresponding amount (Locsin and Locsin 1970: 258). Tinguian youths even had to haul large Chinese jars on their backs to the houses of their new fathers-in-law, whom they were never again able to



figure 4.1: Manobo ceramics. Source: Garvan (1929). Reprinted with permission from the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.

address by name once the gifts had been presented (Cole 1912: 14). The place of tradewares in these rituals of course managed (as a corollary) to also penetrate local mythology. The same Abra folktales that recounted jars marrying and flying also reinscribed bride-price customs in the collective memory, telling of balaua spirit-houses filled nine times over with porcelains, all as gifts to a beautiful maiden’s family (1912: 13). Not all of these aspects of ceramics entering Philippine societies were so peaceful, however. The gradual extension of first Spanish and then

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


American authority to remote areas caused certain changes, one of which had important ramifications for the position of these tradewares. By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, headhunting was starting to be seriously suppressed in the more remote parts of the archipelago, as the colonial administrations tried to bring local peoples into what they called the “orbit of civilization” (Rosaldo 1980: 31 passim). This disrupted local patterns of equilibrium in a fundamental manner, as often one tribe would take heads from another in a raid and then make amends—“pay the balance”—by substituting the heads of their own members with an equal number of jars. Both heads and jars were religiously invested, powerful items; from the scattered evidence that we have, the exchange was seen to be an equitable one by both sides, though it may seem somewhat lopsided to Western sensibilities.13 Fay-Cooper Cole went on one of these conciliation missions with an Apayao group to a neighboring village and witnessed the distribution of eleven Chinese jars as compensation for a recent attack (Cole 1912: 15). Yet as headhunting was slowly phased out of the rhythms of these rural areas, items like gongs and charms— and especially esteemed porcelains—became correspondingly more important. As indicators of status and prestige between rival villages, export ceramics took on much of the slack created by the void of disappearing heads, which were increasingly rare goods as American influence expanded. In this case the intersections between political history, material culture, and rural ritual become immediately apparent; each acted on the others to mutate systems of exchange, with ceramics in a central place to help chart these metamorphoses. Another fascinating incorporation of porcelains that stands out in the ethnographic literature involves their use as musical instruments. Ethnomusicologists have noticed this widespread culture-trait from Northern Luzon (among the Kalinga, Igorot, and Ifugao) to Palawan (among the Tinguian and Tagbanuwa), with the ceramics generally being utilized as summoners of spirits (Wilson 1988: 38). Robert Fox has given eyewitness descriptions of this practice among the Tagbanuwa, in which a spiritmedium (usually female) will place betel and husked rice into an old bowl or plate, lift it over her head while tapping the container five to seven times, and then chant for the ancestors to come partake in the offering (Fox 1959: 364). It was essential, Fox says, that the receptacle be of true porcelain: the spirits could easily hear the difference in the clarity of the ring, so precious fifteenth-century vessels were the preferred item of choice. In his



Tagbanuwa: Religion and Society (1982: plate V) Fox publishes a photograph of the usual proffered arrangement, which shows a forest platform of bamboo resplendent with Chinese bowls, betel, and sacrificial chicks. FayCooper Cole also gave descriptions of these ceremonies, chronicling women sitting on special “spirit-mats” and covering their faces with their hands, shaking violently, and then calling the spirits by striking the ceramics with strings of seashells (1912: 15). The invocations were apparently successful: the ringing sound attracted the ancestors, the women were soon chanting and rocking, and the spirits spoke to the assembled villagers, all through the medium of the priestess. Yet how did Filipinos decide which porcelains were to be used for which ceremonies and why certain pieces were more valuable or desirable than others? These locally constructed indices are a vital part of the story, and fieldwork conducted during this century reveals that the choices were made along complicated lines. Solheim (1965: 266) noticed that different groups in Mountain Province seemed to prefer different types of jars, usually based on the texture or color of the outer glaze—not the provenance of the pieces (i.e., very valuable fifteenth-century Annamese wares could equal much less valuable eighteenth-century Swatow Chinese ones). Other authors also commented on the fact that local groups made no distinction between such histories, choosing instead to focus on the physicality of the piece (Fox 1959: 364–365; Cole 1912: 15; Evangelista quoted in Roxas-Lim 1966: 235). What has apparently emerged is completely indigenous, locally specific gradients for selecting such preferences: decisions made by Filipinos about foreign wares as to their new value in Philippine society. Surface attributes have often been at the forefront of these considerations, with the hardness or relative fragility of a piece, its smoothness or shiny texture, or the color of the glaze deciding its worth. But function has played a large part in these decisions as well, with ceramics often being integrated into uses that best fit their physical attributes: jarlets for oils and perfumes, spouted teapots for pouring, and large martabans for communal wine-drinking.14 In cases in which a village possessed enough different pieces, these varying delineations along ritual and utilitarian lines could be made easily. Ceramicpoor peoples, however, more often had to combine functions into single specimens: for example, a plate serving as a percussion instrument in a sickness exorcism might also be utilized in the payment of bride-price (RoxasLim 1966: 233). Many of these pieces were even given proper names, based along these same lines of function and physical appearance.

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


A final aspect of the incorporation of trade porcelains that needs to be mentioned briefly concerns the diffusion of stylistic attributes. Many ethnographers have commented on the ways iconographies travel along trade routes, with a symbol in the country of commodity manufacture metamorphosing into a different meaning after reaching its destination.15 This definitely seems to have taken place in the Philippines, with ceramics contributing substantially toward enriching the traditions of local artistic systems. The geometric patterns surrounding the lips and bases of Chinese jars have reappeared on Philippine textiles and embroidery, while also showing up on decorative carvings and in tattoos. Perhaps the most famous example of this transfusion, however, has been a zoomorphic one—the Chinese dragon of Ming Dynasty “dragon jars” bearing remarkable similarities to indigenous renditions of crocodiles. Yet a further aspect of this stylistic movement has been more technologically oriented than artistic, as Filipinos have also constructed a vast array of paraphernalia to complement the appearance of these ceramics. There are many examples of this category of material culture (i.e., mesh jar-holders and dish-protection amulets), but perhaps the best is the simple plank preserved in Yale University’s Peabody Museum, which was carved and installed to suspend heirloom pieces that a host’s guests could then see (Peabody Collection 7025, Item 229650). Projected social status here rode the combined artistic / technological wake of innovation, as Filipinos found new ways to exclaim the importance of their jars—and thus of themselves—to their neighbors and acquaintances. Without the importation of such tradewares, the stimulus for such a display would no doubt have been different—and most likely channeled into some other form.

Conclusions The flood of porcelain that started to inundate the Philippine archipelago from A.D. 1000 onward caused a variety of ripple effects on local cultures and societies. Archaeological data posits the entrance of such goods into a wide spectrum of ritual, with the first and most notable of these practices concerning the variable cults of the dead. Tradewares played an increasingly important part in these rites, as jar and secondary burials entered the cultural lives of generations of Filipinos. With the start of written notices about the Philippines by Chinese and early Spanish explorers, other customs involving porcelains were chronicled for the



first time, indicating ceramic-use in an expanded array of ceremonial functions. Given in tribute and utilized in everyday life, they were also a measure of social hierarchy and used in local ritual. The advent of Christianity and the missionization process endangered these practices but never fully destroyed them. Some Filipinos bowed to these pressures as a sign of their conversion, while others continued to revere the heirlooms handed down by their forefathers. By the time ethnographers began systematically cata loguing these rituals in the early twentieth century, ceramics had spread into almost every corner of the islands, from Batanes to Sulu and Palawan to Mindanao. More than perhaps any other material culture object imported from abroad, they were grafted into local systems on an extremely diverse scale, holding their place in the minds of generations of Filipinos. Studying the histories and cultural uses of export ceramics in the Philippine context allows us to see them as markers of a particularly complicated social terrain. In Janet Hoskins’s elegant terminology, trade ceramics have been “biographical objects,” or “things that tell the stories of people’s lives” (Hoskins 1998).16 More than acting as simply indices of social value or of the relationships between various human actors (Dant 1999: 40–59), these tradewares literally allow researchers to see the nuanced spaces where sociality and history meet in discrete, bounded societies. Though some theorists of material culture have used the data collected about such objects to make narrow, scientific observations about culture and society (Tite 1996: 231–260; Corn 1996: 35–54), there are signs that material culture is increasingly being used to say larger things about broad, global spaces.17 This has certainly been the case in arenas such as Oceania, where Malinowski famously did so with shells and the orbit of maritime kula networks, but this approach can also be mapped on to the Philippines as well. As items that allow us a nuanced glimpse into the ethnohistorical past of an archipelago of 7,000 islands, trade ceramics should hold a similar place of honor in blurring the boundaries between history and anthropology.

Notes 1. For three further studies along Marxist lines, see Miller (1998, 2005) and Apter and Pietz (1993). For a phenomenological reading, see Munn (1986a, 1986b). 2. See, for example, Stoler (1985), Siegel (2000), and Hickey (1982).

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


3. An extremely useful statement of the various actors and routes involved in getting Chinese (and other) porcelain into the Philippines is provided by Long (1992: 44– 60). 4. For the influence of particular Chinese kilns involved in the export trade to the Philippines, and problems of dating through their manufacture, see Chinese and South-East Asian White Ware Found in the Philippines (1993: 10–11) and Evangelista (1989: 15–28). 5. Three excellent sources that contain a broad spectrum of data on all of the above-mentioned aspects of ceramic production and aesthetics are the Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong (1979), Shanghai Institute of Ceramics (1986), and Penkala (1963: 89–124). 6. Because high-fire ceramics were produced in Siam, Vietnam, and Burma, but not in the Philippines, the latter archipelago is actually fairly underrepresented in literature on ceramics in Southeast Asian societies. See, for example, Rooney (1987), Guy (1989), and Brown (1988), three standard reference works on porcelain and celadons in Southeast Asia, none of which devote significant space to the history of these objects in the Philippines. 7. For two good sources on indigenous Filipino ceramic traditions, see Main (1982) and Scheanes (1977: 182). 8. Addis (1976: 1–20) and Gotuaco, Tan, and Diem (1997) provide useful summaries of the Chinese data on export ceramics in the Philippines. 9. A useful list of Filipino peoples participating in jar burial complexes, which supplements the data of this earlier source, is Barbosa (1992: 70– 94). 10. For the larger structures of trade, movement, and alliance through which export ceramics traveled, see Casino (1976: 26–30) and Bacdayan (1967: 43–50). 11. Further data on the Santa Ana site, and other regional caches, can be found in Evangelista et al. (1981: appendix 5) and SEAMEO Project in Archaeology and Fine Arts (1985): 11–13. 12. For another early discussion of sacred jars further to the south in Mindanao, see Garvan (1929: 1–265). 13. It is difficult to ascertain if this would have been the case in all of these transactions; very likely this would have been continually negotiated over time by different communities. 14. Function was important but by no means the only gradient for making these decisions. 15. Rena Lederman’s article on Highland New Guinea is invaluable here, as it traces (through the wonderful example of a Mendi boy who always wore a single sneaker) how this process can unfold in different contexts. See Lederman (1986: 168). 16. Of course, some of this notion had been articulated just previously to Hoskins by Arjun Appadurai (1986); it is safe to say that the reverberations of



his volume were seismic, both in anthropology and in other disciplines, including history. 17. See, for example, the entire issue of History and Anthropology fairly recently devoted to these questions across the wide ethnohistorical expanse of Austronesia in Jolly and Mosko (1994).

Bibliography Addis, J. M. 1976. “Early Blue and White Excavated in the Philippines.” Manila Trade Pottery Seminar: Introductory Notes 4: 1–20. Aduarte, Diego. 1903a. “Historia de la Provincia del Santo Rosario de Filipinas, 1693.” In Emma Blair and James Robertson, eds., The Philippine Islands 1493– 1803 (Translations from the Primary Documents), vol. 31. Cleveland: Arthur Clarke Company. ———. 1903b. “Historia de la Provincia del Santo Rosario de la Orden de Predicadores, 1640.” In Emma Blair and James Robertson, eds., The Philippine Islands 1493–1803 (Translations from the Primary Documents), vol. 30. Cleveland: Arthur Clarke Company. Agnew, Jean-Christophe. 1990. “History and Anthropology: Scenes from a Marriage.” Yale Journal of Criticism 3(2): 30–46. Appadurai, Arjun, ed. 1986. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Apter, Emily, and William Pietz, eds. 1993. Fetishism as Cultural Discourse. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Bacdayan, Albert. 1967. “The Peace Pact System of the Kalingas in the Modern World.” Doctoral thesis, Anthropology Department, Cornell University. Baradas, David. 1995. Land of the Morning: Treasures of the Philippines. San Francisco: Craft and Folk Art Museum. Barbosa, Artemio. 1992. “Heirloom Jars in Philippine Rituals.” In Cynthia O. Valdes, Kerry Nguyen Long, and Artemio C. Barbosa, A Thousand Years of Stoneware Jars in the Philippines. Makati City, Philippines: Vera Reyes, 70–94. Berger, Arthur Asa. 1992. Reading Matter: Multidisciplinary Approaches and Perspectives on Material Culture. London: Transaction Publishers. Beyer, H. O. 1947. “Outline Review of Philippine Archaeology by Islands and Provinces.” The Philippine Journal of Science 77: 3–4. Boxer, C. R. 1958. “A Late Sixteenth-Century Manila Manuscript, Translated by C. Quirino and M. Garcia, ‘The Manners, Customs, and Beliefs of the Philippine Inhabitants of Long Ago.’ ” The Philippine Journal of Science (Manila) 87. Bronson, Bennet. 1977. “Exchange at the Upstream and Downstream Ends: Notes Toward a Functional Model of the Coastal State in Southeast Asia.” In

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


Karl L. Hutterer, ed., Economic Exchange and Social Interaction in Southeast Asia: Perspectives from Prehistory, History, and Ethnography. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Southeast Asia Program, 39–52. Brown, Roxanna. 1988. The Ceramics of South-East Asia: Their Dating and Identification. Singapore: Oxford University Press. Cannell, Fenella. 1999. Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Carson, James Taylor. 2002. “Ethnogeography and the Native American Past.” Ethnohistory 49(4): 769–788. Carswell, John. 2000. Blue and White Chinese Porcelain Around the World. London: British Museum Press. Casal, Gabriel et al. 1981. The People and Art of the Philippines. Los Angeles: UCLA Museum of Cultural History. Casino, Eric. 1976. The Jama Mapun: A Changing Samal Society in the Southern Philippines. Quezon City: Ataneo de Manila Press. Chau Ju Kua. 1966. His Work on the Chinese and Arab Trade in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. Friedrich Hirth and W. W. Rockhill, trans. New York: Paragon Book Reprint Company. Chinese and South-East Asian White Ware Found in the Philippines. 1993. Singapore: Oxford University Press. Chirino, Pedro. 1903. “Relacion de las Filipinas, 1604.” In Emma Blair and James Robertson, eds., The Philippine Islands 1493–1803 (Translations from the Primary Documents), vol. 12. Cleveland: Arthur Clarke Company. Christie, Emerson Brewster. 1909. The Subanuns of Sindangan. Manila: Bureau of Printing. Cohn, Bernard. 1987. An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Cole, Fay-Cooper. 1912. Chinese Pottery in the Philippines. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History. Conklin, Harold. 1980. Ethnographic Atlas of Ifugao: A Study of Environment, Culture, and Society in Northern Luzon. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Corn, Joseph. 1996. “Object Lessons, Object Myths? What Historians of Technology Learn from Things.” In David Kingery, ed., Learning from Things: Method and Theory of Material Culture Studies. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 35–54. Dant, Tim. 1999. Material Culture in the Social Word: Values, Activities, Lifestyles. Philadelphia: Open University Press. Evangelista, Alfredo. 1989. “The Problem of Provenance in Manufacture of Chinese Trade Ceramics Found in the Philippines.” In Roxanna Brown, ed., Guangdong Ceramics from Butuan and Other Philippine Sites. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 15–28.



Evangelista, Alfredo, et al. 1981. “Country Report for the Philippines.” In SEAMEO Project in Archaeology and Fine Arts, SPAFA Final Report: Technical Workshop on Ceramics. Kuching: SPAFA. Fox, Robert. 1959. “The Catalagan Excavations.” Philippine Studies 7 (August). ———. 1982. Tagbanuwa: Religion and Society. Monograph no. 9. Manila: National Museum. Garvan, John. 1929. “The Manobos of Mindanao.” Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 23: 1–265. Geertz, Clifford. 1980. Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth- Century Bali. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Gotuaco, Larry, Rita C. Tan, and Allison I. Diem. 1997. Chinese and Vietnamese Blue and White Wares Found in the Philippines. Makati City, Philippines: Bookmark Books. Guy, John. 1989. Ceramic Traditions of South-East Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press. Hickey, Gerald. 1982. Sons of the Mountains: Ethnohistory of the Vietnamese Central Highlands to 1954. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Hobson, R. L. 1962. The Wares of the Ming Dynasty. Rutland, VT: Charles Tuttle and Co. Honey, William Bowyer. 1954. The Ceramic Art of China, and Other Countries of the Far East. New York: Beechhurst Press. Hoskins, Janet. 1998. Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of People’s Lives. New York: Routledge. Hutterer, Karl L., ed. 1977. Economic Exchange and Social Interaction in Southeast Asia: Perspectives from Prehistory, History, and Ethnography. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Southeast Asia Program. Janse, Olov. 1944. “Notes on Chinese Influence in the Philippines in PreSpanish Times.” Harvard Journal of East Asiatic Studies 8. Jolly, Margaret, and Mark Mosko. 1994. “Special Issue: Transformations of Hierarchy: Structure, History, and Horizon in the Austronesian World.” History and Anthropology 7: 1–4. Kamar, Aga-Oglo 1961. “Ming Porcelain from Sites in the Philippines.” Asian Perspectives 5. Laufer, Berthold. 1907. “The Relations of the Chinese to the Philippine Islands.” In Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collection 1, Part 2. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. Leach, Edmund. 1974. Political Systems of Highland Burma: A Study of Kachin Social Structure. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lederman, Rena. 1986. “Changing Times in Mendi: Notes Toward Writing Highland New Guinea History.” Ethnohistory 33(1): 1–30.

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


Locsin, Leandro, and Cecilia Locsin. 1970. Oriental Ceramics Discovered in the Philippines. 2nd ed. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle. Long, Kerry Nguyen. 1992. “History Behind the Jar.” In Cynthia O. Valdes, Kerry Nguyen Long, and Artemio C. Barbosa, A Thousand Years of Stoneware Jars in the Philippines. Makati City, Philippines: Vera Reyes, 25–69. Lopez, Violeta B. 1976. The Mangyans of Mindoro: An Ethnohistory. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press. Main, Dorothy. 1982. The Calatagan Earthenwares: A Description of Pottery Complexes Excavated in Batangas Province, Philippines. Manila: National Museum of the Philippines. Miller, Daniel, ed. 1998. Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 2005. Materiality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Munn, Nancy D. 1986a. The Fame of Gawa: A Symbolic Study of Value Transformation in a Massim (Papua New Guinea) Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1986b. Walbiri Iconography: Graphic Representation and Cultural Symbolism in a Central Australian Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Oakdale, Suzanne. 2001. “History and Forgetting in an Indigenous Amazonian Community.” Ethnohistory 48(3): 381–402. Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong. 1979. South-East Asian and Chinese Trade Pottery. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Museum of Art. Otley Beyer, H. 1947. “Outline Review of Philippine Archaeology by Islands and Provinces.” Philippine Journal of Science 77 (July–August): 3–4. Penkala, Maria. 1963. Far Eastern Ceramics: Marks and Decoration. The Hague: Mouton and Company. Pigafetta, Antonio. 1903. “Primo Viaggio Intorno al Mondo, 1525.” In Emma Blair and James Robertson, eds., The Philippine Islands 1493–1803 (Translations from the Primary Documents), vol. 33. Cleveland: Arthur Clarke Company. Quirino, Carlos, and Mauro Garcia. 1958. “The Manners, Customs, and Beliefs of the Philippine Inhabitants of Long Ago: Being Chapters of ‘A Late 16th Century Manila Manuscript,’ ” translated, transcribed and annotated. Philippine Journal of Science 87(4) (December): 389–445. Rafael, Vicente. 1993. Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society Under Early Spanish Rule. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Ridho, Abu, and E. Edwards McKinnon. 1979. The Pulau Buaya Wreck: Finds from the Song Period. Jakarta: Ceramic Society of Indonesia. Riquel, Hernando. 1903. “Las Nuevas Quescriven de las Yslas del Poniente, 1573.” In Emma Blair and James Robertson, eds., The Philippine Islands 1493–1803



(Translations from the Primary Documents), vol. 3. Cleveland: Arthur Clarke Company. Rooney, Dawn. 1987. Folk Pottery in South-East Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press. Rosaldo, Renato. 1980. Ilongot Headhunting, 1883–1974: A Study in Society and History. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Roxas-Lim, Aurora. 1966. “Chinese Pottery as a Basis for the Study of Philippine Proto-History.” In Alfonso Felix Jr., ed., The Chinese in the Philippines 1570–1770, vol. 1. Manila: Solidaridad Publishing House. ———. 1987. The Evidence of Ceramics as an Aid in Understanding the Pattern of Trade in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Asian Studies Monographs. Salomon, Frank. 2002. “Unethnic Ethnohistory: On Peruvian Peasant Historiography and Ideas of Autochthony.” Ethnohistory 49(3): 475–506. Scheans, Daniel. 1977. Filipino Market Potteries. Manila: National Museum of the Philippines. SEAMEO Project in Archaeology and Fine Arts (SPAFA). 1985. SPAFA Final Report: Technical Workshop on Ceramics. Bangkok: SPAFA. Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Academia Sinica. 1986. Scientific and Technological Insights on Ancient Chinese Pottery and Porcelain. Beijing: Science Press. Siegel, James. 2000. The Rope of God. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Silverman, Eric Kline. 1990. “Clifford Geertz: Toward a More ‘Thick’ Understanding?” In Christopher Tilly, ed., Reading Material Culture: Structuralism, Hermeneutics and Post- Structuralism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 121–159. Solheim, W. G. 1959. “Notes on Burial Customs in Near Sagada Mountain Province.” Philippine Journal of Science 88: 123–133. ———. 1960. “Jar Burial in the Babuyan and Batanes Islands, and Its Relationship to Jar Burial Elsewhere in the Far East.” Philippine Journal of Science 84(1): 15–148. ———. 1964. “Pottery and the Malayo-Polynesians.” Current Anthropology 5(5) (December): 368–375. ———. 1965. “The Functions of Pottery in Southeast Asia: From the Present to the Past.” In Frederick Mason, ed., Ceramics and Man. New York: WennerGren Foundation for Anthropological Research, 254–273. Stark, Miriam. 1994. “Pottery Exchange and the Regional System: A Dalupa Case Study.” In William Longacre and James Skibo, eds., Kalinga Ethnoarchaeology: Expanding Archeological Method and Theory. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 169–198. Stoler, Ann. 1985. Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra’s Plantation Belt, 1870–1979. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Export Ceramics in Philippine Societies


Tenazas, Rosa C. P. 1973. “Notes on a Preliminary Analysis of Cremation Burial.” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 1(2). ———. 1984. “Evidences of Cultural Patterning as Seen Through Pottery: The Philippine Situation.” In Studies on Ceramics. Jakarta: Proyek Penelitian Purbakala. Tite, Michael. 1996. “Dating, Provenance, and Usage in Material Culture Studies.” In David Kingery, ed., Learning from Things: Method and Theory of Material Culture Studies. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 231–260. Trostel, Brian. 1994. “Household Pots and Possessions: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Material Goods and Wealth.” In William Longacre and James Skibo, eds., Kalinga Ethnoarchaeology: Expanding Archeological Method and Theory. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 209–223. Warren, James Francis. 1981. The Sulu Zone: The Dynamics of External Trade, Slavery, and Ethnicity in the Transformation of a Southeast Asian Maritime State. Singapore: Singapore University Press. Wilson, Elizabeth. 1988. A Guide to Oriental Ceramics in the Philippines. Manila: Bookmark Books. Wong, Grace. 1978. “Chinese Blue and White Porcelain and Its Place in the Maritime Trade of China.” In Chinese Blue and White Ceramics. Singapore: SEACS, 175–182.

§ 5 Chronotopes of a Dystopic Nation: The Birth of “Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico Claudio Lomnitz

Introduction This chapter is a study of the early formation of the culture of dependent nationalism, a form of historical consciousness that fosters a pragmatic and immoral realism (often with a gesture of melancholic remorse) and justifies private benefits gained from the regretful present with a language of evolutionary transition. I conceive of dependency as a specific condition that emerged in Latin America when the national economies of those countries were reoriented to the United States and the United States became the guardian of their national credit, a process that began to take shape in the 1870s, but that only became a palpable reality by the late 1890s. I explore the culture of dependency by way of its “chronotopes,” that is, through the ways in which the nation was figured in space and time. Specifically, I describe two competing figures that emerged in this period. One of these took shape in a new field of international relations, while the other was a product of an emerging grassroots transnational organization. I argue that these two competing spatiotemporal frameworks (“chronotopes”) are a defining characteristic of dependency as a form of historical consciousness. An early version of this chapter was presented at the Davis Seminar in Princeton, and I am grateful to its members for their comments. Mauricio Tenorio, Carlos Bravo, Friedrich Katz, and Alan Wells pointed me to useful materials. I owe a debt of gratitude to Sharrona Pearl for her advice on physiognomy. The usual disclaimers apply.


“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


“Chronotopes” and Independence The concept of the chronotope was first formulated by Mikhail Bakhtin to refer to the spatiotemporal matrices that are the base condition of all narratives and linguistic acts.1 These spatiotemporal matrices are key elements of ideology, and in them a single image can stand iconically for a set of posited connections between time and place. Movement in space can be figured as movement in time and vice versa, which is why a chronotope is conceived as a matrix. Major political transformations involve changes in orientation. They require changing the situation, and the horizon of expectations, of collective actors. For this reason, political change is either guided by or leads to the invention of new chronotopes. So, for instance, conservative leaders of Spanish American independence movements, like Agustín Iturbide of Mexico, used the image of a tree, or of a family, to represent the connection between Spain and New Spain and to justify independence: New Spain was a branch of the Spanish tree, but it had grown so robust that it had sprouted its own trunk, and a new tree had taken form naturally in its own soil. The Mexican nation was thus an offshoot of the Spanish nation and its independence was the natural development of the growth cycle. Just as children become independent of their parents, so must Mexico be independent of Spain. The implication of this chronotope, captured in the spatialtemporal development of life-forms such as trees or families, was both revolutionary and conservative, since it justified national independence while framing it as a natural reassertion of the parental model. Mexico might therefore aspire to its own imperium; and its regions, its peoples, its sacred sites, and its city squares might each be used as a metonymic sign of the new Mexican empire. This conservative chronotope was not the only available orientation for the Spanish American republics on the world stage. A second formulation rejected the idea that the republics were like the grown children of loving parents or the proud offshoots of a grand old oak. Spain was no loving parent: American lands and peoples had been pillaged by ruthless conquistadors, kept willfully in abject ignorance by a scheming and retrograde clergy, and then mercilessly exploited by penny-pinching “foreign” (Spanish) merchants, who wanted nothing better than to keep the American peoples in their degraded state. In this formulation, the American peoples



existed as nations before Spain’s despoliation. Independence was a rejection of colonial expoliation by a people who had found hope in the new age of reason. Rather than standing before Spain as a youth stands before his parents, the people were simultaneously proof of the enlightened potential of the new republics and the degraded, deformed, and despoiled victims of Spanish usurpation. This second chronotope of national liberation, which eventually found its symbols in pyramids and virginal landscapes, framed independence as the grand beginning of a process of emancipation that would last until the final vestige of the colonial presence had been extirpated.

Why Dependency? “Dependency” is a concept that was first put forward by Latin American sociologists Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto as a new theory of imperialism that underscored a long history of unequal exchanges between manufacturing centers and the extractive economies that they imposed on their colonies. Dependency Theory’s key idea was that “underdevelopment,” rather than lack of development, was a special kind of capitalist development.2 As economic theory, “dependency” was disproved in several key aspects. I do not intend to revive Dependency Theory as such. Rather, I invoke dependency because the term usefully names a historical era within the broad arc of postcolonial history. The term postcolonial is too broad for an analysis of Latin America’s almost 200-year history of independent existence. Dependency, in my usage here, refers to an era in postcolonial history that can be dated roughly from the 1890s to the recent disarticulation of the “Washington Consensus,” when independent nations were reoriented to a new (noncolonial) imperial power whose capital generated rapid intensive development and new modalities of “underdevelopment.” Mexico was perhaps the first nation to undergo this transition.

New Chronotopes of Dependency Seen from a broad historical lens, Mexico’s modes of narrating the nation into historical time during the early postcolonial period can be described as an arc that moved from a horizon of utopian expectation during the early days of the nationalist movement to a feeling of despair

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


around civil strife and the various “sins of the nation.” This sentiment reached its nadir in the years immediately following the war with the United States (1848), moving to a sentiment of tentative new national aspirations after the triumph over the French in 1867, and finally to a formula of development that involved a progressive and often self-serving “realism” that formulated the present as a perpetual state of becoming, as a kind of prelude to true national history, to true national sovereignty. The latter of these transitions, from the sense of possibility that followed the French Intervention (1867) to the legitimation of a progressive dictatorship under Porfirio Díaz (c. 1888), can be summarized in the guiding chronotopes of President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada and of President Porfirio Díaz, respectively. Lerdo, who was ousted in a coup by Díaz in 1876, opposed a rail linkup with the United States, coining his famous motto of Entre la debilidad y la fuerza, el desierto—“Between weakness and strength, the desert.” Lerdo understood the utopia of national sovereignty and selfdetermination that had been reopened with the triumph over the French to be quite fragile. Mexico was too weak to withstand a rush of U.S. investors, colonists, fortune-hunters, speculators, and dollars. Yankee involvement should be kept to a minimum, and direct lines of mass transport should not be built. Díaz’s famous counterformulation was “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.” At the time, this chronotope had a different nuance than it does today. The reference to Mexico’s “distance from God” neatly synthesized a critique of earlier liberal utopianism: Mexico was far from God because Mexicans were far from being virtuous citizens. By 1876, this was obvious enough, because after the defeat of the French and of the Mexican Conservative Party in 1867, the triumphant liberals had not ceased to fight among themselves. The new consensus was that Mexicans still lacked the qualities that were necessary to attain the high ideals of liberal democracy. For this reason, Díaz contended, the United States’ power was the unsavory reality with which Mexico had to wrestle. Rather than insist on an unattainable republican utopia, the only guarantor of which was the Mexican desert, true patriotism called for a pragmatic manipulation of international relations: opening up Mexico to U.S. capital investment, but using peace and progress to transform the citizenry, and balancing concessions to the United States with concessions to European powers in order to avoid the nation’s subsumption into a new colonial relationship. That is the logic of dependency; and indeed the



Porfiriato was the time when the chronotopia of dependency came into being.3 The Diaz dictatorship marked a sea change in the relationship between Mexico and the United States. U.S. investments in mining, railroads, and agriculture skyrocketed.4 Alongside these investments came broad publicity campaigns for Mexico in the United States. These campaigns usually involved recasting the history of Mexico and its relationship with the United States. On the U.S. side, the campaigns were orchestrated in the early days by Mexican diplomat Matías Romero, who, together with major investors in New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere, offered countless banquets that served as useful occasions for publicizing Mexico’s new image and for doing business. On these occasions, Romero and the great investors of the period worked together to cast the history of Mexico in a new light. So, for instance, at an 1891 investors’ banquet in New York City titled “A Mexican Night,” Walter Logan gave a long speech in which he framed Mexican history as if it had finally reached its pivotal moment: Will [Diaz] in fact be like our Washington, immensely great in wartime, but even greater in peace? Will he, like Washington, be as apt for building as he was for destroying? The destiny of Mexico hangs on the solution to this question. . . . More than any living being, it can be said of this man that he is the Creator of a Nation.5

Why was Díaz, a man who first took office fully fifty-five years after independence and nine years after the defeat of the French, being called the father of the nation? It was because, by 1891, the Díaz government had laid conditions for a deep reorientation of Mexican economy and society. Under Díaz the nation had moved from being a highly unstable, economically stagnant and internationally isolated democracy to peace, international credit, and economic growth under a progressive dictatorship. Matías Romero wrote up, circulated, and refined the new versions of national history, defending Mexico against its detractors, providing statistical, historic, economic, legal, and political information on Mexico for the American public, and helping to explain how, for instance, Mexico’s low wages were offset by low productivity and high transportation costs and thus did not represent a threat to U.S. labor or why peonage in southern Mexico was not the same as slavery.6

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


Mexico itself became an arena of display for American capitalists, diplomats, intellectuals, and journalists, with choreographed demonstrations of public order, hospitality, financial potential, and human enjoyment—this alongside Mexico’s investment in its international image through participation in world’s fairs, international scientific congresses, and publications. In sum, an elaborate system of communication with and through the U.S. public, and its economic counterpart, Wall Street, was well established by the late Porfiriato.7 However, Mexico’s carefully managed international image faced a tenacious, though at first seemingly inoffensive, challenge from its border with the United States, a space of intensifying and often unsettling traffic. Beginning in the late 1880s, and prompted by the end of the Apache wars and by the construction of the rail line linking Mexico to the United States at El Paso / Ciudad Juárez, a much wilder and less easily managed set of representations flourished. These were the early years of intensified immigration of laborers to the United States.8 In the fields of Texas and the mines of Arizona, Mexicans became “a race” rather than a nationality. This in itself was a disturbing development for the national image, even if it touched only a minority of Mexicans directly. Moreover, border cities became relevant cultural sites for Mexico: Díaz’s political opponents could publish their views there while maintaining political connections on both sides of the border.9 By the 1890s there was a thriving newspaper business in Spanish and in English on the border and a dynamic political scene, as people moved between Mexico and the United States and utilized the conditions in one country to intervene in the other. This new modality of transnationalism had productive, but also destabilizing, effects. Each nation had its own “regimes of value”—instantiated not only by different currencies (backed by gold and silver standards), but also by the contrasting relative value of labor, consumer items, mechanical tools, and so on. As a result of these differences, traffic across the border could have almost magical effects: common American folk, for instance, were turned into members of a quasi-aristocratic caste, attended by servants and received by the local elite. Border movement also had the effect of turning Mexican immigrants into members of a segregated and discriminated “race” and, as such, they could become true champions of their nationality. So, for instance, Catarino Garza, a journalist who had migrated to South Texas in 1877, defended



the Mexican race against slander in the Texan press in the following terms: “We Mexicans consider ourselves to have purer blood than the Americans, given that in our country there is only a mixture of Spanish and Indian, and they [the Americans] are generally descendants of Irish adventurers, Polish beggars, Swiss, Prussians, Russians, and more than anything else filthy Africans.”10 Mexicans, Garza argued, had purer blood, nobler traditions, and better manners than Americans, and yet they were treated as an unthinking mass and used as electoral cannon fodder, carted across the border to Texas in exchange for alcohol in order to vote in fraudulent elections. “Mexico is badly judged because of the immigrants to this country,” he argued.11 In his journalistic practice, Garza regularly exercised his selfimage as defender of the race, challenging insulting Anglos to duels and exhibiting gallantry toward American women who, he claimed, “love for convenience, they are as easy to love, as they are easy to forget and to abandon.”12 The growing pressures to “defend the race” only made the temptation to change things back in Mexico greater, eventually pushing Garza to desperate (or megalomaniacal) extremes like insulting the honor of Mexican army general Bernardo Reyes and leading a rebellion to topple President Díaz from South Texas. It was their movement across the border that emboldened these Mexican immigrants, these “libres fronterizos”; they had demystified the falsely superior “Anglos” and made themselves into the representatives of the manliest qualities of their race. Another example of the cultural dissonance and productive instability produced by the new transnationalism is the case of Teresa Urrea, the socalled Santa de Cabora, a virgin folk-healer turned messianic religious leader who was raised as an icon of revolt in a set of uprisings in Sonora, among the Mayo and Yaqui, and in Chihuahua, most famously at Tomochic in 1893. The Santa de Cabora has been compared to other millenarian leaders of Latin America during this period, and especially to Antonio Conselheiro at Canudos, in Brazil’s northeast, who was martyred by the Brazilian army. However, the border situation takes the story of Teresa Urrea in an entirely different direction. In the face of her astounding popularity and her proximity to the border, the Diaz government decided better to exile Teresa than to make a martyr of her. So Teresa went to the American side of Nogales, where she was received by the local business community as “a Mexican Joan of Arc.” Contrary to her experience in Mexico, where she had been hunted by the law, Nogales offered Teresa every facility to settle there because of the business

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


that could be made from the mobs that she attracted and healed. From Nogales, the Santa de Cabora moved to Tucson, Douglas, and, eventually, to California. From those places, Teresa occasionally directed her attention back to Mexican affairs, decrying Porfirio Diaz’s policies against the Yaqui, for example. But her life was completely transformed. In Cabora, Urrea received pilgrimages of Mayo and Yaqui Indians and of Mexicans from the outback. Her image was printed on scapulars and raised on banners in village rebellions. Her life in the United States was profitable. She had an agent who paid her $10,000 to go an a national tour making exhibits of her “miracle cures.”13 Border crossing had transformed a millenarian religious charismatic into a freak show attraction. Both the Garza and Urrea cases are, in different ways, exemplary of the cultural transformations occurring on the U.S.–Mexico border around the 1890s. While the Mexican government and American business interests worked to stabilize the image of Mexico as a peculiar kind of “sister republic,” the new borderlands were generating new social movements and cultural forms.

Two Border Crossings Mexico had found a new formula for being in the world that was brokered internationally at the highest levels of government, science, and business. Stimulated by massive capital imports and booming export markets for Mexican commodities, the new development strategy also generated a less controlled grassroots version of internationalism, which we have been calling transnationalism, that involved movement of people between the two countries. These two modalities of internationalism—governmentbrokered international relations and grassroots transnationalism— generated contrasting chronotopes for Mexico. In order to understand why this was so, it is useful to look to the very different kinds of border-crossing experiences that went with these contrasting modalities, and then to inspect the sort of knowledge-products that emanated from them. I begin by offering two images of border crossings as ideal-typical (rather than as statistically representative) cases. In 1891, Norwegian anthropologist Carl Lumholtz crossed the U.S.– Mexico border near Bisbee, Arizona, on his way to the Sierra Madre as head of a geographical expedition. Prior to crossing the Arizona–Sonora



border, Lumholtz went to Washington, D.C., where “the late Mr. James G. Blaine, then Secretary of State, did everything in his power to pave my way in Mexico, even evincing a very strong personal interest in my plans.”14 Armed with the political support of the U.S. secretary of state, and with the financial support of the American Museum of Natural History and some of New York’s most prominent captains of finance and of industry— including Andrew Carnegie, J. Pierpont Morgan, Augustus Schermerhorn, and George Vanderbilt, among others—Lumholtz traveled to Mexico City, where “I was received with the utmost courtesy by the President, General Porfirio Diaz, who gave me an hour’s audience at the Palacio Nacional, and also by several members of his cabinet, whose appreciation of the importance and the scientific value of my proposition was truly gratifying.”15 Boosted by letters of introduction from the president, various ministers, and state governors, Lumholtz returned to the United States, finished preparing his expedition, and set off. His aims combined registering the ways of life of a primitive people and opening up a region that had been out of the reach of Mexican and U.S. investors due to the Apache wars, which had only concluded a few years before. Thus Lumholtz stated that: Primitive people are becoming scarce on the globe. On the American continents there are still some left in their original state. If they are studied before they, too, have lost their individuality or been crushed under the heels of civilization, much light may be thrown not only upon the early people of this country but upon the first chapters of the history of mankind.16

Lumholtz was attracted particularly by the Tarahumara because they were reported to be cave dwellers, like the extinct and mysterious Anasazi of New Mexico. And yet Lumholtz’s research was designed to be both a monument and an epitaph for these primitive peoples, since the expedition, with its team of scientists—including a botanist, a geologist, and a cartographer—was intended to open up the Sierra Madre for economic exploitation. Thus: The vast and magnificent virgin forests and the mineral wealth of the mountains will not much longer remain the exclusive property of my dusky friends; but I hope that I shall have rendered them a ser vice by setting them this modest monument, and that civilized man will be the better for knowing of them.17

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


Lumholtz’s project was a distinctly international production, characteristic of the new conditions of dependency. It rested simultaneously on the interests of New York investors and U.S. and Mexican authorities. It is true that his “orientalist” sensibilities led to forms of exoticization and unacknowledged appropriation that are generally associated with colonialism. However, these representations and practices were also embraced by Mexican authorities and by Mexico’s educated public. Lumholtz’s work is, in other words, a kind of “orientalist” science that is attuned to a postcolonial form of dependency, rather than to colonialism per se. The Sierra Tarrahumara had only very recently been opened to Mexican or foreign ventures; it had been a favorite hideout of Apache warriors until their final defeat in the mid-1880s. The fierce traits of the Apache were symbolically appropriated by the Mexican colonos who had “pacified” this frontier. “In the colonists’ eyes,” writes Ana Alonso, “the Apache became the epitome of an untamed masculinity construed as the ‘natural’ basis of power and authority.”18 But Lumholtz partook of this appropriation of the extinguished Apache in his own, and very different, way. When he first set out on his expedition, Lumholtz had thirty men with him, including rowdy and racist Americans, Mexicans, and Indians. After some months, he decided to shed the entourage and keep only his dog, Apache, to whom he dedicated some touching lines: Apache hailed from San Francisco. He was presented to me by a young friend, and while yet in his infancy had ventured out alone, in an express box, to join my expedition at Bisbee, six summers ago. On his mother’s side he came from one of the best canine families in the United States, and throughout my travels in Mexico had been my constant and efficient aidede-camp. . . . We buried him, like an Indian brave, with his belongings, his collar and chain, his trays and bedding.19

Rather than standing in for his own masculinity, the Apache, the very people who had kept travelers like Lumholtz out of reach of the Sierra Madre until 1890, were now harnessed into the spirit of the thoroughbred who was Lumholtz’s most loyal companion and servant. Apache and Tarahumara both represented the past in the present, the first as indomitable spirit, the second as the living confirmation of the truth of a past that was taking shape in museum and textbook, thanks to the efforts of those like Lumholtz and his faithful Apache.



Now let’s turn to a different border crossing, which occurred at the end of the period that we are examining, in 1914, on the Texas– Chihuahua border. Greenwich Village bohemian, journalist, Harvard graduate, and socialist John Reed arrived in the dusty town of Presidio, Texas, to cross into Ojinaga and cover the Revolution in the south. His socialist paper afforded him no letter of introduction to President Huerta, who was being ousted from power at that very moment. Neither did his trip involve long conversations with New York investors or with the State Department. Instead, Reed made his contacts in a bar in Presidio, Texas, in a scene that he ably portrayed in a memorable thumbnail sketch: At all times of the day and night, throngs of unarmed [Mexican] Federal soldiers from across the river swarmed in the store and the pool hall. Among them circulated dark, ominous persons with an important air, secret agents of the Rebels and the Federals. Around in the brush camped hundreds of destitute refugees, and you could not walk around a corner at night without stumbling over a plot or a counterplot. There were Texas rangers, and United States troopers, and agents of American corporations trying to get secret instructions to their employees in the interior.20

Reed sought to get to General Mercado, who was being routed by Pancho Villa’s forces. I wanted to interview General Mercado; but one of the newspapers had printed something displeasing to General Salazar, and he had forbidden the reporters in the town. I sent a polite request to General Mercado. The note was intercepted by General Orozco, who sent back the following reply: Esteemed and honored sir: if you set foot inside of Ojinaga, I will stand you sideways against a wall, and with my own hand take great pleasure in shooting furrows on your back.21

This was not exactly the red-carpet treatment that Lumholtz had received from the Mexican authorities. Nevertheless, Reed waded across the Rio Grande, interviewed his man, joined up with the rebel army, rode with Pancho Villa, and wrote one of the most compelling portrayals of the revolutionary process. Both Lumholtz and Reed wrote important books, but while Lumholtz’s work found its way into Spanish immediately and made a deep mark in

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


Mexican ethnology, Reed’s went practically unnoticed until the 1960s, despite the incredible fame later garnered by Reed for his coverage of the Russian Revolution. This difference is related to the social factors that made their border crossings so different. We are now ready for a close inspection of the contrasting chronotopes generated by international and transnational relations. To this end I study two well-known works: the Creelman-Díaz interview (1908) for the new internationalism, and John Kenneth Turner’s (1910) Barbarous Mexico for the new transnationalism.

International Investments in a Chronotope of Dependency: The Creelman Interview In March 1908, Pearson’s Magazine of New York published a richly illustrated interview with President Porfirio Diaz (see figures 5.1 and 5.2). In that interview, the aging dictator announced that Mexico was finally ready for democracy, that he would welcome and even support the formation of an opposition party, and that he was eager to retire to private life at the end of his term. Although Diaz had made a practice of denying an interest in prolonging his presidency at earlier preelectoral periods, he had never before supported the formation of an opposition party, nor cast so clearly his presidency as an already finished bridge to democratic life. An abridged version of the Creelman interview was immediately translated into Spanish and reproduced throughout the country. After the Creelman interview, Mexican politics opened up to fierce electoral competition. Diaz’s firm hold on national politics was over. The interview has therefore been referenced by historians as the symbolic conclusion of the dictatorship. The Creelman interview has generally been studied for its effects on Mexican political life, with special attention to the constant and multiple allusions to the interview as a cover for the new political opposition to Díaz. Beyond analyses of the political effects of Diaz’s declaration of tolerance and support for the opposition, however, the contents of the interview have received surprisingly little attention.22 What was the implication of giving this key set of pronouncements to an American, rather than to a Mexican, medium? What was the historical and cultural framing device that Creelman used to contextualize Diaz’s



sensational pronouncements? An analysis of the publication provides insight into Mexican public opinion as an internationally shaped artifact. One striking and unexplored feature of the Creelman interview is its discrete racism and, especially, the way in which racism is used to justify the dictatorship. Creelman opens his piece with a lofty and melancholic image that foreshadows his entire justification and glorification of Diaz: From the heights of Chapultepec Castle President Diaz looked down upon the venerable capital of his country, spread out on a vast plain, with a ring of mountains flung up grandly about it, and I, who had come nearly four thousand miles from New York to see the master and hero of modern Mexico— the inscrutable leader in whose veins is blended the blood of the primitive Mixtecs with that of the invading Spaniards—watched the slender, erect form, the strong, soldierly head and commanding, but sensitive, countenance with an interest beyond words to express.

Creelman turns from this striking chronotope— a new meeting between Mexico and the United States at Chapultepec Castle, a meeting no longer of two nations in war—to do homage to the great leader who single-handedly delivered his country from the grip of European invaders and from its eternal gravitation toward indolence and revolution. The hero thus demanded a portrait: A high, wide forehead that slopes up to crisp white hair and overhangs deepset, dark brown eyes that search your soul, soften into inexpressible kindliness and then dart quick side looks—terrible eyes, threatening eyes, loving, confiding, humorous eyes—a straight, powerful, broad and somewhat fleshy nose, whose curved nostrils lift and dilate with every emotion; huge, virile jaws that sweep from large, flat, fine ears, set close to the head, to the tremendous, square, fighting chin; a wide, firm mouth shaded by a white mustache; a full, short, muscular neck; wide shoulders, deep chest; a curiously tense and rigid carriage that gives great distinction to a personality suggestive of singular power and dignity—that is Porfirio Diaz in his seventy-eighth year, as I saw him a few weeks ago.23

This detailed description is written in the ciphered idiom of physiognomy, a pseudoscience that was popular in France, Germany, England, and the United States—and, indeed, in Latin America—and widely used by writers and journalists to key readers into the racial characteristics and preponderant qualities of a personality.

figure 5.1: Frontispiece of the Creelman-Diaz interview. Source: Pearson’s Magazine, March 1908.

figure 5.2: Opening portrait of Diaz in the interview. Source: Pearson’s Magazine, March 1908.

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


I showed Creelman’s description to a historian of physiognomy, Dr. Sharrona Pearl, who did not hesitate to offer her interpretation: blood mixing is the key dimension of the description, and it is cast principally as positive. Most of the features that are taken by Creelman as marking power and strength would also be read by his audience as primitive—as both a positive improvement on degenerating Spaniards and potentially as a mark of intellectual limitations. The forehead marks intelligence, as do Diaz’s eyes; the fact that they are deep-set could be a sign of lack of rigidity and perhaps some irresponsibility, as well as some limitations in his ability to read. The nose is a “Greek nose,” which is excellent, but also has features of the “snub nose,” which mitigates Diaz’s heroic virtue somewhat, as do the shiftiness of the eyes and flaring nostrils that emerge in other sections of the interview. In short, Diaz is brave, refined, rash, and intelligent, but somewhat brutal.24 All of these qualities, which lead Creelman into veritable hero-worship, also mark Diaz as a leader of his people, that is, as the natural leader of an inferior people, a concept that was developed in American physiognomy of the mid-nineteenth century and not infrequently used by pulp journalists like Creelman and, indeed, by the novelists of the period on both sides of the border. The deployment of physiognomy by international correspondents of the yellow press deserves some attention, because it provides a clue to the way in which a kind of “ethics of temporality” was being managed and developed by the pro-Díaz publicity machine in the United States. Physiognomy was popularized mainly to help urbanites navigate interpersonal relations in the new environment of the nineteenth-century industrial city.25 However, it also served to figure and justify race relations more broadly. So, for instance, Samuel Wells, an American physician whose handbook of phrenology and physiognomy was still in circulation during Creelman’s day, argued that “the special organs in which the Caucasian brain most excels, and which distinguish it from those of less advanced races, are Mirthfulness, Ideality, and Conscientiousness, the organs of these faculties being almost invariably small in savage and barbarous tribes.”26 More specifically, the European colonization of America was in some way a natural outcome of the European brain’s greater development of the “selfish group” of propensities. In their turn, slavery, colonial domination and class exploitation of the black man also found similar support from this popular “science.”



Thus Creelman’s painstaking descriptions of Díaz’s cranial structure and general demeanor— and the interview is littered with them— are a simultaneous portrait of the hero and of his race. An uncanny example of how this works can be found in another popular American physiognomy manual. James Redfield’s 1852 Comparative Physiognomy, which was still relevant for popular writing, says that the highest kind of leaders resemble lions—Redfield cites John Jacob Astor and New York governor and Erie Canal builder DeWitt Clinton as examples. As a people, Germans are like lions. There are, however, other kinds of leaders who are more like cats. Interestingly, Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés is among them. As Redfield writes: “On the following page is a portrait of Cortez, and it is seen to resemble a puma. A formidable cat is to pounce down upon the mice whose portraits are sculptured on the monuments of Central America, and is represented in the ‘Aztec children!’ ”27 Indeed, in this book, and on the force of numerous international exhibitions of two malformed children—Máximo and Bartola—who were alleged to be pure descendants of the Aztecs (see Figure 5.3)—Dr. Redfield identifies Aztec physiognomy with that of mice.28 Moreover, Redfield claimed that there existed a natural affinity between victims and executioners. Thus, People who resemble owls are attracted to the Aztecs, and find in them a gratification of their tastes and an ample field for the exercise of affection and fondness. The same is true of those who resemble cats. In the cat the qualities of the mouse are assimilated, and she can but love that which gratifies her, and which corresponds to the playfulness, the refinement, the cunning and so many other things, in her nature.29

If we transpose this racial logic forward to Creelman, we discover a double movement in Creelman’s psychophantic portrayal of Diaz. On one hand, Diaz was “the foremost figure of the American continent,” “an astonishing man,” and “there is not a more romantic or heroic figure in the world.” On the other hand, there was the suggestion that Diaz’s grandeur was conjunctural, a fleeting historical artifact, rather than a harbinger of, say, a new dominant race. Diaz’s grandeur was the product of the meeting of a willful leader and a degraded people. The successful elevation of that degraded people was a fitting tribute to Diaz in his twilight years.

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


figure 5.3: Bartola and Máximo, the so-called Aztec children, were allegedly captured from an untouched Aztec city called “Izamal,” a fraudulent story that was created from a report by American traveler John L. Stephens, whose travels in Yucatan were a raging best seller. Bartola and Máximo were actually bought and taken from their parents in their native Costa Rica and toured through the United States and Europe from 1851 until their deaths. This 1901 photo is from their inspection by German anthropologist Rudolf Virchow, published in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 33: 349–350.

This reading is easily extracted from the Creelman interview, but it is more bluntly laid out in Creelman’s biography of Diaz, written two years later, in 1910, in a much more defensive spirit, in the face of the harsh criticism that the Diaz government now faced, both in Mexico and in the United States. There Creelman was more forthright about Mexico’s racial problem and about Diaz’s role in it. The country that Diaz inherited had a serious birth defect: “In the raw attempt to apply the perfected institutions of Anglo-Saxon civilization to



the descendants of the dusky races which inhabited Mexico before the discovery of America by Columbus, the Mexican statesmen of 1824 put the principles of democratic government to a terrible ordeal.” Diaz, in this context, “was summoned to power from a youth of poverty and obscurity by the necessities of his divided and demoralized country; and he is as truly a creation of the weakness of his people as the peaceful and progressive Mexico of today is largely the product of his strength and common sense.”30 The Creelman interview with Diaz, contrary to his later Diaz biography, was written at a moment of relative optimism with regard to Mexico, and it was meant to be translated and published in Spanish, so that this historical frame was developed more subtly, favoring a melancholic eulogizing over direct criticisms of the Mexican race. Thus Diaz’s grandeur, and the grandeur of the Mexico that he represented, had peaked, and the general was now willingly relinquishing and giving way instead to the new American era: It is something to come from the money-mad gambling congeries of Wall Street and in the same week to stand on the rock of Chapultepec, in surroundings of almost unreal grandeur and loveliness, beside one who is said to have transformed a republic into an autocracy by the absolute compulsion of courage and character, and to hear him speak of democracy as the hope of mankind.31

In its melancholic strain, Creelman’s portrayal of Diaz is not unlike his earlier publication of an interview that he held with the great Sioux chief Sitting Bull: There he stood—the mightiest personality of a dying people whose camp fires were burning in America before Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem— native America incarnate, with knife and tomahawk and pipe, facing a stripling writer from a New York newspaper and telling the simple story of his retreating race.32

Indeed, as one reads the Creelman interview in a racial key, the question of why Diaz chose to give that journalist such an important interview becomes increasingly puzzling, and also quite revealing. Let me say outright that we are not entirely certain why Diaz decided to make his momentous revelations to Creelman and to Pearson’s Magazine. At the time of the interview, and for years thereafter, Díaz’s motives were

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


very much the subject of speculation. Very few members of Díaz’s closest circle seem to have been privy to his decision on the matter. Thus, finance minister José Yves Limantour recalled that “the members of the cabinet— myself included—and all of the people who were close to the President, except his private secretary, were unaware of the interview, and we were all equally surprised when we read it in the papers.”33 Porfirian economist Toribio Ezequiel Obregón suggested that in the aftermath of the 1907 crisis, the Díaz government wished to calm jittery U.S. investors on Mexico’s long-term stability, and that this explained why Díaz gave his interview to a foreign journalist and directed it to a foreign audience, badly miscalculating its effects—both internal and external.34 Limantour’s memoirs suggest otherwise, since the former finance minister claims to have had no knowledge of the interview. Indeed, Limantour pondered Díaz’s motivations for giving this interview and concluded that, although it was likely that the translator and / or Creelman exaggerated Díaz’s responses and caused undue harm, the only explanation for the interview itself was the weakening of Díaz’s mental capabilities, brought on by senility.35 Basing his conclusions on material from the State Department Archives, which were not open to Díaz’s contemporaries, historian William Schell has determined that the Creelman interview was foisted on Díaz by the highest U.S. functionaries: Ambassador David Thompson, Secretary of State Elihu Root—who had made a visit to Mexico City immediately prior to the interview—and President Roosevelt himself, with the intermediation of their candidate for Mexico’s presidential succession, Chihuahua governor Enrique Creel. Roosevelt’s aim was to extract a statement against reelection from Díaz, as part of their tough negotiation with the dictator on international policy. Roosevelt wanted Mexico to intervene in—and probably to absorb— Central America, in order to stabilize the region and to make it safe for the Panama Canal project. Díaz, however, had systematically resisted intervention. He did need to negotiate with Roosevelt, however, because Díaz needed his support to deal with the Magonista agitation on the border. Roosevelt’s “plot” failed, however, in so far as reelection occurred despite the Creelman interview, instability in Mexico was not averted, and neither Díaz nor Mexico served as the United States’ proxy in Central America.36 And yet we still do not know Díaz’s calculations in the matter. It is clear that he did not entirely disapprove of Creelman’s work in the interview,



since he subsequently authorized the journalist to become his biographer. Indeed, the questions that we ask of this event as cultural historians are a little different from those of the political or diplomatic historian: why did Díaz give a key interview, and then authorize a biography, to a newspaperman who had covered every imperial endeavor of the era with consistently chauvinistic racism? True, Creelman was a renowned journalist, who had interviewed European monarchs; but his disdain for the tropical races was as apparent as his interest in Great Men. Creelman had been in Cuba, in Haiti, in the Philippines; he had covered the Japanese invasion of Manchuria; he had interviewed Sitting Bull; he had published an impassioned defense of the role of “yellow journalism” in the Spanish American War, stating approvingly, with reference to Hearst, Pulizer, and the rest of them that “the modern editor is seldom contented unless he feels that he is making history as well as writing it.”37 Why prefer this man, who had a substantial published track record, to any of the Mexican journalists who were available to Diaz? Why, indeed, did Diaz later entrust him especially with writing a full-fledged biography and defense? There are political reasons that help explain Díaz’s choice: a more leftward-leaning U.S. journalist would certainly have been reticent to produce the sort of psychophantic portrayal that Creelman served up. But there is more to it than this. By the early 1900s, the Díaz dictatorship had its own dependence on the racist narrative reproduced by Creelman. The degradation of the Mexican nation, and the foreign recognition and admiration of Díaz as a human specimen and of his historical accomplishments, provided Díaz with the framework that he needed in order to float a scenario of managed democratic transition to the public. Thus, the demeaning representations of the Mexican race such as those offered up by Creelman allowed U.S. and Mexican opinion to join in the chorus of praise for the dictator and to assert that the country as a whole still deserved nothing better, while providing a melancholic language of transition as a legitimating device for the capitalist feeding frenzy that the dictatorship promoted. In this context, the subtleties of American racism could be profitably deployed as an internationally intelligible rationale and used to subdue utopian currents in both American and Mexican opinion. Indeed, the chronotope of dependency proposed by Creelman— a backward race that could be brought to the very brink of democratic life by sheer political will—had gained such currency during the dictatorship that it was common sense even to the opposition.

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


Thus, despite his proclaimed disdain for Creelman, whose handiwork had left Díaz’s cry “disfigured by the presumptuous and vulgar literature of yankee journalism,” Luis Cabrera concurred with Creelman’s assessment of the connection between the grandeur of Díaz and the inferiority of the Mexican race, if only to extract a very different conclusion: Feeling weak and tired, the dictator for the first time saw his work with the perspicacity that proximity to death brings, and with the clearness of vision that one has from great altitudes. And he understood that because it was a work that was founded on the weakness of our race by the will of a single man, it was brittle and unsubstantial (deleznable).38

The difference between Cabrera and Creelman was not in the guiding chronotope, but rather in the its political implications, for whereas Creelman went headlong into hero worship, Cabrera imagined a Díaz who found himself before death, terrified of the degraded state in which he was leaving his people. According to this revealing interpretation, the interview was a cry for help to the Mexican people: “And the dictator felt a pang of terror, as if he’d slipped at the edge of a deep precipice, and let out that cry for help [the Creelman interview], which was nothing but a desperate call for the Mexican people to save his work in ruins, because the people were the only ones who could save it.”39 On the eve of the Mexican revolution, Mexican public opinion was already inflected by U.S. opinion in a deep and subtle way, leading political figures even tacitly to rely on the racist chauvinism of the American imperialists of the day as a workable chronotope with which to frame the nation’s delicate political process.

John Kenneth Turner and the Rise and Limits of Transnational Time International relations, couched either in the language of scientific racism or in the popular idiom of physiognomy, justified the Díaz dictatorship and tempered its harsh realities by framing it within a language of becoming. Progress, for a racially inferior country like Mexico, meant acquiring the necessary accoutrements to sit at the table with the civilized progressive nations. It was, in other words, an evolutionary prerequisite to the true progressivism of the civilized world.



But while international relations in politics, the scientific community, and the press tended to buttress the Mexican state, a new field of transnational relations undermined Mexico’s dominant structure, at the very moment in which the dictator sought support from the prestige of American opinion. If border crossings such as those of Lumholtz and of Creelman served to qualify the Mexican dystopia—“far from God and close to the United States”—and to justify the regime as a stern but benign solution to it, the consolidation of the U.S.–Mexico border provided conditions for the formation of an alternative historicity for Mexico. The best example of this process is probably the work of John Kenneth Turner. Not coincidentally, Turner framed his reportage—first printed as a set of blockbuster articles on Mexican slavery for The American Magazine, and then compiled and expanded into the book Barbarous Mexico (1910)— as a response to Creelman’s panegyric, and more generally to the way in which the Diaz machine and its U.S. allies mediated the coverage of Mexican affairs in the United States. If Creelman’s interview involved a robust web of connections at the top of the U.S. and Mexican political systems, Turner’s reporting relied on an equally impressive set of connections between each nation’s dissidents. John Kenneth Turner decided to go to Mexico because of his acquaintance with the radical leaders of Mexico’s opposition Partido Liberal Mexicano, including Ricardo Flores Magón, who were all imprisoned in the Los Angeles County jail at the time. The meeting was not serendipitous. The consolidation of the U.S.–Mexico border meant that major American capitalists—the Guggenheims, the Rockefellers, Otis, Hearst, Stillman— now operated on both sides of the border. It also meant that Mexican laborers and American welders, merchants, and engineers were working on both sides of the border. Mexico’s dissidents in the United States met with the same kind of harassment faced by the Wobblies and other American anarchists, particularly in the years following the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley by the young anarchist Leon Czolgosz; this harassment was compounded by the hardened racism against Mexicans that had developed in the Southwest.40 Despite these difficulties, the United States remained a crucial point of reunion for Mexico’s opposition groups. Indeed, it is possible that the leadership of the Partido Liberal Mexicano, which had been founded in 1902, avoided creating an anarchist party even as they became progressively radi-

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


calized and retained their “liberal” credentials instead, not only because of the popular resonance of liberalism in Mexico, but also because anarchism was a crime in the United States and anarchists were explicitly banned from immigration.41 According to his account, Turner felt impelled to go to Mexico because of the dissidents’ insistence on the continued existence of chattel slavery there. His reportage was both a remarkable performance of the new possibilities brought forth by the new transnationalism and a radical reframing of Mexican national time. It is also a case study of the limited (though not inconsequential) success in disseminating a new border temporality that involved synchronizing Mexican and American time.

Transnational Ties Deployed to Destabilize International Arrangements Turner’s performance was “transnational” in at least three ways: first, the project was forged out of solidarity within an internationalist union movement that made sense now that Mexican and American miners and rail workers were employed by the same companies, operating on both sides of the border, and now that they faced the antagonism of the same publicity machine in both countries.42 Indeed, Turner’s effort to reveal Mexican conditions was as much a battle against Díaz as it was against American media moguls, politicians, and capitalists. Second, Turner’s reporting relied crucially on the guidance of Mexican socialist Lázaro Gutiérrez de Lara, who accompanied Turner throughout his travels. Third, like the Creelman interview, Turner’s journalistic feat would have been impossible for a Mexican newspaperman to achieve: Turner only gained access and the confidence of Mexican slave owners and taskmasters because he was able to pass himself off as an American investor. This double status as a privileged outsider and as a collaborator of privileged—because oppositional—insiders allowed Turner to defamiliarize the framework within which Mexico was routinely cast to the American public, turning stock images of travel writing into a denunciation of Mexican slavery and peonage that resonated with the United States’ recent and current social struggles. Rather than casting Mexicans as being radically Other, or as backward members of a “dusky” race, Turner emphasized similarities between Mexican conditions and recent



conditions in the United States, particularly slavery, and peonage in contemporary southern states, like Florida.43 Within Turner’s framework, rather than elevating the Mexican people, Díaz was the lynchpin in a system designed to keep them down. One of Turner’s most subtle—and radical—moves was his use of stock images from travel writing as pieces of evidence that fit seamlessly in a new narrative, thereby exhibiting their earlier distorted nature. So, for instance, an image of an Indian woman in front of a cactus (there were at the time dozens of picture postcards like it) is labeled “Slave Mother and Child— Also Henequen Plant,” the cactus being the cash crop around which Yucatecan slavery was built (see Figure 5.4).44 Similarly, Indian porters carrying wood or baskets—a typical image in the travel literature throughout the nineteenth century—were now lined up and exhibited as bonded laborers (see Figure 5.5). Rather than some exotic place, Turner paints Mexico as an extreme case of the familiar horrors of tyranny, of the power of trusts and monopolies, of peonage, of harsh anti-union repression, and, especially, of chattel slavery—all key themes in the history of American freedom. So, for instance, in his moving story on the enslavement, deportation, and extermination of the Yaqui Indians, Turner takes a moment to clarify that “Like the Mayas of Yucatan, they are Indians and yet they are not Indians. In the United States we would not call them Indians, for they are workers. As far back as their history can be traced they have never been savages. They have been an agricultural people.” 45 As for the qualities and characteristics of the Mexican race more generally, Turner reflects that the Yaquis are Indians, they are not white, yet when one converses with them in a language mutually understood one is struck with the likenesses of the mental processes of White and Brown. I was early convinced that the Yaqui and I were more alike in mind than in color. I became convinced, too, that the family attachments of the Yaqui mean quite as much to the Yaqui as the family attachments of the American mean to the American.46

Through an engagement with the forced separation of husbands and wives and of parents and their children, through detailed and thoroughly documented discussions of bodily punishment and of rape, Turner rehearses for Mexico the key themes of American abolitionism, which is

figure 5.4:

Slave mother and child. Source: Turner (1910).

figure 5.5:

Cargadores with baskets. Source: Turner (1910).

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


why his pieces— and then his book (which sold more than a million copies)—were likened in content and impact to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.47 James Creelman had spoken of Porfirio Díaz as “the father of the nation,” whose personal defects were in any case a reflection of the failures of his people: “he is as truly a creation of the weakness of his people as the peaceful and progressive Mexico of today is largely the product of his strength and common sense.”48 The rigors of dictatorship that he brought were the best medicine for a people who were in fact incapable of acceding to democracy except only partially and very slowly: For when Mexico threw herself shouting into Anglo-Saxon forms of democracy, she challenged her own history and traditions, ignored the instincts of the blood running in her veins, forgot the wrecked temples and palaces and the extinguished civilization of her prehistoric peoples—turning in a day of heroic emotion to institutions possible only to nations of the highest political capacity—and those who had suffered together in the name of the long oppressed republic drifted into war again, unconscious, perhaps, that the real question at issue was whether a political principle or a political method, true or possible in one place, is true or possible in all places, or if race or climate or time, or all three together, must determine whether a nation should be temporarily or permanently ruled from the bottom upward or from the top downward.49

Turner turned this kind of argument on its head: “The slavery and peonage of Mexico, the poverty and illiteracy, the general prostration of the people, are due, in my humble judgment, to the financial and political organization that at present rules that country—in a word, to what I shall call the ‘system’ of General Porfirio Diaz.”50 In their self-serving support for the dictatorship, American interests were supporting abroad a system that had been eradicated at home. In collaborating with the Diaz repressive apparatus, “the United States has been turned into a military dictatorship as sinister and irresponsible as that of Diaz himself.”51 Díaz, the coterie of planters and slave owners of the south, the band of jefes politicos and corrupt officials, and the American moguls that supported them were, all of them, a kind of hellish reincarnation of the slave-owning castes of the American South, hellish because they were fiercer: “Over and over again I have compared in my mind the condition of the slaves of Yucatan with what I have read of the slaves of our southern states before the Civil War. And always the result has been in favor of the black man.”52



In order to denounce the “Diaz system,” Turner availed himself of the entire arsenal of journalistic techniques that had been deployed in the United States, and so his work resonates not only with that of Harriett Beecher Stowe and other abolitionists, but also, and very strongly, with the work of the muckrakers. Thus, Turner is the first— and to my knowledge the only—reporter who ever applied the technique that was developed by Jacob Riis in How the Other Half Lives (1889) to expose the living conditions of Mexican lodging houses and tenements (mesones) with night photos, taken with the aid of a flashlight (see Figure 5.6).53 The combined effect of abolitionist-inspired reportage and the most powerful documentary techniques of the muckraker, compounded by Turner’s collaboration with Mexican liberals—who were represented in his work as patriotic freedom fighters, rather than as anarchists—was powerfully understood by the American public. The same was not necessarily the case of its Mexican counterpart, however. Thus, in 1912, after Porfirio Díaz had been ousted, Turner was honored with an interview with President Francisco I. Madero at Chapultepec Castle, the very site where Creelman had interviewed Díaz four years earlier. Madero told Turner that Barbarous Mexico had aided his cause greatly because it allowed the American people to understand that he was in fact fighting for freedom.54 It did not, however, aid the Mexican people in conducting an open discussion of Mexican slavery and of its social conditions. Turner’s book would not find its way into print in Spanish until 1955, forty-seven years after the initial publication of Turner’s articles. That first Mexican edition, Eugenia Meyer reminds us, was prefaced by Daniel Cosío Villegas, the dean of Mexico’s modern historians of the time and still the most widely revered historian of the Porfiriato, who not only dismissed the value of Barbarous Mexico as an inaccurate portrayal of Mexican conditions, but went on to doubt the very existence of John Kenneth Turner himself, speculating that the text had probably been penned by an (anonymous) Mexican liberal, and concluding that it is “worthless as a scientific document,” but that it could be profitably read by his contemporaries, instead, as a particularly effective political pamphlet.55 But Turner’s “propaganda” was apparently not so very effective in Mexico itself. Why? Although Mexicans had their own critique of peonage, and revolutionaries addressed most of the conditions that Turner discussed, there was little attempt to underscore similarities and synchronicity between Mexico and the United States. Cosío Villegas’s frosty reception of Turner is symp-

figure 5.6: Mexican muckraking. Interestingly, this strategy of social denunciation, which was entirely novel in Mexico, went and has continued to go unheeded in Mexican commentary on Turner’s work. Source: Turner (1910).



tomatic of this—particularly his reticence to embrace the fact that Barbarous Mexico might have been penned by an American. John Reed’s book, too, was left languishing without translation into Spanish for fifty years, and when it was printed in Spanish in 1954 it went practically unnoticed until the late 1960s. Thus, writer and former Villista Renato Leduc wrote of his surprise when he discovered, browsing in a secondhand bookstore, that “Johnny, Juanito, the smiling pug-nosed gringo of Chihuahua, was none other than the famous John Reed, heroic chronicler of the October Revolution.”56 The slowness to translate and the reticence to embrace, discuss, and circulate these border products, even when they supported the ideas of the Mexican revolution, is a testament to the fact that the tensions between the two chronotopes that we have explored remained in place. After the Revolution, national time was framed in ways that still relied more on Creelman’s chronotope than on Turner’s. National time was framed in ways that still hesitated to embrace Mexico’s contemporaneousness with the United States.

Notes 1. Mikhail Bakhtin, “Forms of Time and the Chronotope in the Novel,” in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin, Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, trans. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981). 2. Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, Dependency and Development in Latin America, Marjory Mattingly Urquidi, trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979). 3. The framework promoted a credible, and yet always challenged, language of perpetual transition that became the object of criticism and elaboration well into the twentieth century. The paradigmatic example is Samuel Ramos, who introduced a kind of Freudianism to Mexican philosophy in his 1930 work on national character. Ramos argued that Mexicans suffered from a collective inferiority complex. The implication was that this “complex,” which found its ideal-typical subject in the urban lower-class pelado, was principally a mentality and, therefore, curable. A therapeutic horizon to cure Mexicans of their “distance from God” had opened up with the Revolutionary state. Samuel Ramos, Perfil del hombre y la cultura en México (Mexico City: P. Robredo, 1938 [1931]). For a brilliant critique of Mexican theories of eternal becoming, see Roger Bartra, La jaula de la melancholia (Mexico City: Grijalbo, 1987).

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


4. John Mason Hart, Revolutionary Mexico: The Coming and Process of the Mexican Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 129–162; Hart, Empire and Revolution: The Americans in Mexico Since the Civil War (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Daniel Nugent, ed., Rural Revolt in Mexico: U.S. Intervention and the Domain of Subaltern Politics (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998); William Schell, Integral Outsiders: The American Colony in Mexico City, 1876–1911 (Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 2001). 5. Matías Romero, Artículos sobre México publicados en los Estados Unidos de América (México: Oficina Impresora de Estampillas, 1892), 168–170. 6. See, for an impressive compilation, Matías Romero, Mexico and the United States: A Study of the Subjects Affecting Their Political, Commercial, and Social Relations, Made with a View to Their Promotion (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1898). 7. See Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, Mexico at the World’s Fairs: Crafting a Modern Nation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Schell, Integral Outsiders; Justo Sierra, Mexico, Its Social Evolution, 3 vols. (Barcelona: Ballescá Editors, 1900). 8. For an overview, see John Mason Hart, ed., Border Crossings: Mexican and Mexican-American Workers (Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 1998). 9. See, for example, on San Antonio, Daniel Arreola, “The Mexican American Cultural Capital,” Geographical Review 77(1): 17–34. 10. Cited in Elliott Young, Catarino Garza’s Revolution on the Texas– Mexico Border (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 50. 11. Ibid., 31–33. 12. Ibid., 46. 13. Paul Vanderwood, The Power of God Against the Guns of Government: Religious Upheaval in Mexico at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 304. 14. Carl Lumholtz, Unknown Mexico: Explorations in the Sierra Madre and Other Regions, 1890–1898, vol. 1 (New York: Dover Publications, 1987 [1902]), viii. 15. Ibid., viii–ix. 16. Ibid., xvi. 17. Ibid., xvi–xvii. 18. Ana Alonso, Thread of Blood: Colonialism, Revolution, and Gender on Mexico’s Northern Frontier (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997), 71. 19. Ibid., 78–81. 20. John Reed, Insurgent Mexico (New York: International Publishers, 1969 [1914]), 32. 21. Ibid., 29–30.



22. The principal pieces on the interview are Eduardo Blanquel, “Setenta años de la entrevista Díaz-Creelman,” Vuelta 2(17) (April 1978): 28–33; and Schell, Integral Outsiders, chapter 6. 23. James Creelman, “President Diaz, Hero of the Americas,” Pearson’s Magazine 19(3) (March 1908): 231–232. 24. Sharrona Pearl, written communication, February 4, 2007. 25. Richard Gray, About Face: German Physiognomic Thought from Lavatier to Auschwitz (Detroit: Wayne State University, 2004); Sharrona Pearl, “As Plain as the Nose on Your Face: Physiognomy in 19th Century England” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 2005). 26. Samuel R. Wells, How to Read Character: A New Illustrated Hand-Book of Phrenology and Physiognomy for Students and Examiners (New York: Fowler & Wells Co., Publishers, 1894 [1869]), vii. 27. James Redfield, Comparative Physiognomy or Resemblances Between Men and Animals (New York: Redfield, Clinton Hall, 1852), 31–32. 28. For a detailed account of the dismal story of Máximo and Bartola, see Juan Comas, Dos microcéfalos “aztecas”: Leyenda, historia y antropología (México City: UNAM, 1968); and Nigel Rothfels, “Aztecs, Aborigines, and Ape-People: Science and Freaks in Germany, 1850–1900,” in Rosemarie Garland Thomson, ed., Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body (New York: NYU Press, 1996), 158–172. Bartola and Máximo were first exhibited at the Barnum Circus, and they were toured continuously, mostly in Europe, at least until 1901. The dates of their deaths are unknown. Although their status as “Aztecs” was quickly disputed by some scientists, the fame of the “Aztec Children” and their influence in public opinion was deep, widespread, and long-lasting, and they were viewed and discussed not only by the wide public, but also by the monarchs of Britain and of Prussia, as well as by leading European and American scientists into 1900. The drawing of Máximo in Redfield’s book is a copy of a drawing that was published in 1851 in the American Journal of Medical Sciences (vol. 25, 290). 29. Redfield, Comparative Physiognomy, 67. 30. James Creelman, Diaz, Master of Mexico (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1911), v. 31. Creelman, “President Diaz, Hero of the Americas,” 232–234. 32. James Creelman, The Wanderings and Adventures of a Special Correspondent (Boston: Lothrop Publishing Company, 1901), 295. 33. José Yves Limantour, Apuntes sobre mi vida pública (México: Editorial Porrúa, 1965 [1921]), 154. 34. Toribio Ezequiel Obregón, “El epílogo de la conferencia Creelman sera la entrevista Díaz-Taft,” El Antirreeleccionista, September 23, 1909. 35. Limantour, Apuntes, 154–156. 36. Schell, Integral Outsiders, chapter 6.

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


37. Creelman, Wanderings, 358. 38. Luis Cabrera, “El grito de Chapultepec,” in Obras Completas, vol. 2 (Mexico City: Editorial Oasis, 1974 [1909]), 28. 39. Ibid. 40. Dirk Raat, Revoltosos: Mexico’s Rebels in the United States, 1903–1920 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1981); James Sandos, Rebellion in the Borderlands: Anarchism and the Plan de San Diego, 1904–1923 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992); Neil Foley, White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks and Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); Arnoldo de Leon, They Called Them Greasers: Anglo Attitudes Toward Mexicans in Texas, 1821–1900 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983). 41. John Kenneth Turner describes U.S. authorities’ use of immigration law— including the anti-anarchist clause, as a ploy to collaborate closely and directly with the Diaz repressive machine—in Barbarous Mexico (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1914 [1911]), 272–279. 42. The strike at the Cananea copper mine (1906) provided the occasion for a rapprochement between the Díaz and Roosevelt governments; Mexico acquiesced to Roosevelt’s Central American policies in exchange for U.S. support in policing the magonistas in the United States and sharing intelligence on their border activities. Schell, Integral Outsiders, chapter 6. 43. The campaign against peonage in the South was still fresh in American public discussion at the time of Turner’s writing. See Pete Daniel, The Shadow of Slavery: Peonage in the South, 1901–1964 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972). 44. For general histories of Mexican photography, see Olivier Debroise, Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001); Estela Treviño, 160 años de fotografía en México (Mexico City: CONACULTA / CENART / Oceano, 2005); and Emma Cecilia García Krinsky, ed., Imaginarios y fotografía en México: 1839–1970 (Barcelona: Lunweg, 2005). 45. Turner, Barbarous Mexico, 38. 46. Ibid., 61. 47. For a discussion, see Eugenia Meyer, John Kenneth Turner, periodista de México (Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 2005), 13. 48. Creelman, Diaz, Master of Mexico, v. 49. Ibid., 3–4. 50. Turner, Barbarous Mexico, 110. 51. Ibid., “Preface to the Third Edition” (1911). 52. Ibid., 35. 53. Alberto del Castillo Troncoso, “La historia de la fotografía en México,” in Rosa Casanova et al., eds., Imaginarios y fotografía en México (Barcelona: Lunwerg, 2005), 71– 72.



54. J. K. Turner correspondence, 1912, cited in Meyer, John Kenneth Turner, 55. 55. Ibid., 49–50. 56. Reed, Insurgent Mexico, 17.

Bibliography Alonso, Ana. 1997. Thread of Blood: Colonialism, Revolution, and Gender on Mexico’s Northern Frontier. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Arreola, Daniel. 1987. “The Mexican American Cultural Capital.” Geographical Review 77(1): 17–34. Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1981. “Forms of Time and the Chronotope in the Novel.” In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, trans. Austin: University of Texas Press, 84–258. Bartra, Roger. 1987. La jaula de la melancholia. Mexico City: Grijalbo. Blanquel, Eduardo. 1978. “Setenta años de la entrevista Díaz-Creelman.” Vuelta 2(17) (April): 28–33. Cabreras, Luis. 1974 (1909). “El grito de Chapultepec.” In Obras Completas, vol. 2. Mexico City: Editorial Oasis, 19–28. Cardoso, Fernando Henrique, and Enzo Faletto. 1979. Dependency and Development in Latin America. Marjory Mattingly Urquidi, trans. Berkeley: University of California Press. Comas, Juan. 1968. Dos microcéfalos “aztecas”: Leyenda, historia y antropología. México City: UNAM. Creelman, James. 1901. The Wanderings and Adventures of a Special Correspondent. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Company. ———. 1908. “President Diaz, Hero of the Americas.” Pearson’s Magazine 19(3) (March): 231–277. ———. 1911. Diaz, Master of Mexico. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Daniel, Pete. 1972. The Shadow of Slavery: Peonage in the South, 1901–1964. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Debroise, Olivier. 2001. Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press. del Castillo Troncoso, Alberto. 2005. “La historia de la fotografía en México.” In Rosa Casanova et al., eds., Imaginarios y fotografía en México. Barcelona: Lunwerg. de Leon, Arnoldo. 1983. They Called Them Greasers: Anglo Attitudes Toward Mexicans in Texas, 1821–1900. Austin: University of Texas Press. Foley, Neil. 1997. White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks and Whites in Texas Cotton Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.

“Dependency” in Late Porfirian Mexico


Gray, Richard. 2004. About Face: German Physiognomic Thought from Lavatier to Auschwitz. Detroit: Wayne State University. Hart, John Mason. 1987. Revolutionary Mexico: The Coming and Process of the Mexican Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———, ed. 1998. Border Crossings: Mexican and Mexican-American Workers. Wilmington, DE: SR Books. ———. 2002. Empire and Revolution: The Americans in Mexico Since the Civil War. Berkeley: University of California Press. Krinsky, Emma Cecilia García, ed. 2005. Imaginarios y fotografía en México: 1839–1970. Barcelona: Lunweg. Limantour, José Yves. 1965 (1921). Apuntes sobre mi vida pública. México City: Editorial Porrúa. Lumholtz, Carl. 1987 (1902). Unknown Mexico: Explorations in the Sierra Madre and Other Regions, 1890–1898, vol. 1. New York: Dover Publications. Meyer, Eugenia. 2005. John Kenneth Turner, periodista de México. Mexico City: Ediciones Era. Nugent, Daniel, ed. 1998. Rural Revolt in Mexico: U.S. Intervention and the Domain of Subaltern Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Obregón, Toribio Ezequiel. 1909. “El epílogo de la conferencia Creelman sera la entrevista Díaz-Taft.” El Antirreeleccionista, September 23. Pearl, Sharrona. 2005. “As Plain as the Nose on Your Face: Physiognomy in 19th Century England.” PhD diss., Harvard University. Raat, Dirk. 1981. Revoltosos: Mexico’s Rebels in the United States, 1903–1920. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. Ramos, Samuel. 1938 (1931). Perfil del hombre y la cultura en México. Mexico City: P. Robredo. Redfield, James. 1852. Comparative Physiognomy or Resemblances Between Men and Animals. New York: Redfield, Clinton Hall. Reed, John. 1969 (1914). Insurgent Mexico. New York: International Publishers. Romero, Matías. 1892. Artículos sobre México publicados en los Estados Unidos de América. México City: Oficina Impresora de Estampillas. ———. 1898. Mexico and the United States: A Study of the Subjects Aff ecting Their Political, Commercial, and Social Relations, Made with a View to Their Promotion. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Rothfels, Nigel. 1996. “Aztecs, Aborigines, and Ape-People: Science and Freaks in Germany, 1850–1900.” In Rosemarie Garland Thomson, ed., Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York: NYU Press, 158– 172. Sandos, James. 1992. Rebellion in the Borderlands: Anarchism and the Plan de San Diego, 1904–1923. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.



Schell, William. 2001. Integral Outsiders: The American Colony in Mexico City, 1876–1911. Wilmington, DE: SR Books. Sierra, Justo. 1900. Mexico, Its Social Evolution. 3 vols. Barcelona: Ballescá Editors. Tenorio-Trillo, Mauricio. 1996. Mexico at the World’s Fairs: Crafting a Modern Nation. Berkeley: University of California Press. Treviño, Estela. 2005. 160 años de fotografía en México. Mexico City: CONACULTA / CENART / Oceano. Turner, John Kenneth. 1914 (1911). Barbarous Mexico. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co. Vanderwood, Paul. 1998. The Power of God Against the Guns of Government: Religious Upheaval in Mexico at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Wells, Samuel R. 1894 (1869). How to Read Character: A New Illustrated HandBook of Phrenology and Physiognomy for Students and Examiners. New York: Fowler & Wells Co., Publishers. Young, Elliott. 2004. Catarino Garza’s Revolution on the Texas– Mexico Border. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

§ 6 Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad: The Post-emancipation “Labor Problem” Viranjini Munasinghe

This chapter poses a rather unorthodox question: What does the midnineteenth-century post-emancipation labor situation in a relatively small Caribbean country, Trinidad, have to do with current theorizations of ethnicity?1 During my fieldwork in 1990, this is how a fifty-year-old cane cutter, Curlie, who lived in a village in Central Trinidad and who claimed Indian ancestry, explained the difference between “Negroes” and “Indians” to me: Indians, dey always progressive, dey wok for a little money, whatever dey wok for dey always put away a little, and the Negroes, whatever dey wok for dey will eat up everyting because dey want nice food, dey want woman, you understand . . . dey want to do all kind a ting with deir money.

When I asked him why “Indians” are so different from “Negroes,” he attributed it to differences in culture: Indian culture is far different from Negro culture. The Negro culture, as we see it, dey like to go to party like carnival, dey like to beat pan and smoke and go to drink and ting. Indian culture don’t have dat, you understand. . . . Now de Indian culture, here we have we fete too. But we Indian would take I am grateful to Tamara Loos for inviting me to present this chapter as a paper at the Comparative Histories Colloquium at Cornell University. I gained much from the astute comments of the participants, especially those of Sienna Craig. I am most thankful to Andrew Willford and Eric Tagliacozzo for giving me the wonderful opportunity to participate in this collaboration, and also for their patience. I would like to dedicate this chapter to Michel-Rolph Trouillot, who taught me to appreciate the place of history within anthropology.




out, let we say we go to a fete. We will provide for dat fete. When I say . . . let we say I work for five hundred dollars. Say if I have to save a hundred dollars from the five hundred, I’ll save my one hundred dollars. I have to buy my goods for tree hundred dollars . . . right . . . so that’ll be four hundred and I might have to get one or two more tings . . . what remains from dat I will fete. And if none remain, it have no fete for me. But a Negro would prefer to do without some of these goods and go and spend all in a fete. So dat is the difference between a Indian and a Negro.

Ethnic stereotypes depicting the thrift and industry of the IndoTrinidadian and the “fete” mentality of the Afro-Trinidadian are pervasive in contemporary Trinidad, and many Trinidadians, like Curlie, explain these alleged differences in character between the two major ethnic groups comprising Trinidad’s population on the basis of inherent cultural differences.2 When cultural attributes are perceived as natural and innate, it becomes imperative to understand the productive context for the emergence of such ethnic ideologies precisely because naturalization erases agency or the role of the producers of cultural difference. The aim of this chapter is to foreground the role of mid-nineteenth-century metropolitan agents and planters in the creation of an ethnic discourse that continues to this day in Trinidad. In today’s lay ethnic discourse, however, the role of these producers remains eclipsed, with Afro-Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians believing, for the most part, that the characteristics they attribute to members of each group are manifestations of natural cultural differences. But what are the circumstances that motivate people to differentiate themselves on the basis of supposed cultural criteria? Why does culture become significant for boundary maintenance in some historical contexts but not others? To be sure, these are not new questions in anthropology. In contrast to lay understandings of ethnicity, such as those expressed by Curlie, anthropological studies of ethnicity beginning with Barth’s (1969) pathbreaking work, “Ethnic Groups and Boundaries,” firmly displaced culture as the first principle, cause, or explanation for ethnic differences or antagonisms. Cultural criteria constituted the medium through which groups organized social interaction in order to optimize their situation in terms of access to material and symbolic resources. By shifting the unit of analysis from “culture content” to the “boundary,” the analytical models put forward by Leach (1954) and Barth (1969) suggested, at least for the times, a rather

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


novel stance toward understanding cultural difference—that cultural difference was produced and not the natural offshoot of an “assumed isomorphism of space, place and culture” (Gupta and Ferguson 1997: 34) and, I would add, the bearers of the latter—“a people.” This powerful analytical insight assumed a particular configuration of space. Cultural difference was no longer a consequence of naturally discontinuous spaces but a result of intense interaction between groups located in a shared physical space; the ethnic boundary marking cultural difference literally unfolded on the ground. In this chapter I reconceptualize the relation between space and the production of cultural difference in a way that does not necessarily assume a shared physical space or face-to-face interaction between the groups in question. This analysis will focus on the historical circumstances that produced Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians as essentially different peoples even before East Indians set foot in Trinidad. The historical context and the empirical base from which I present a general argument about ethnicity—the alleged post-emancipation “labor problem” in Trinidad— foregrounds colonial policy and factors of political economy that had everything to do with relations of exploitation that structured monocrop plantation production of sugar. Some of these relations included practices of former slaves that appear to be specific to Trinidad. As such, this chapter hopes to contribute to the rich literature on the “labor question” for the British Caribbean in general by posing yet another possible scenario on the basis of evidence from Trinidad. While the “labor question” regarding the period leading up to and soon after emancipation has raised much controversy among scholars of the British Caribbean, analysis of the Trinidad situation has been somewhat marginal to this debate. Trinidad’s unique position within the general scheme of evolution of the sugar colonies, combined with the relatively high wage rates that prevailed soon after emancipation (1838), seem to have engendered practices among the newly freed population that go against the grain of those observed in the other islands. The high wages gave ex-slaves the option of not toiling on the land of their former masters or that of their own. Thus, in Trinidad we do not see a burgeoning peasantry during this period, as was characteristic of other islands. As such, the evidence from Trinidad problematizes conventional scholarly assumptions regarding freed people’s commitment to land and cultivation resting on “naturalistic”



explanations. This respite from toil, however, was brief for the newly freed. The interests of big sugar planters triumphed with the arrival of indentured labor in 1845 from another part of the empire, India. The contemporary debates among all parties who had vested interests in either encouraging or preventing the influx of this “industrial reserve army” foreshadowed relations between those of African and Indian descent even before their physical encounter. I use this particular scenario, then, to question conventional assumptions about ethnicity that see the production of cultural difference as a direct consequence of social interaction anchored in a shared physical space. In their thoughtful essay calling for a theorization of the relation between the reterritorialization of space in the contemporary world and the politics of community, solidarity, identity and cultural difference, Gupta and Ferguson suggest that if we leave behind notions of “autonomous cultures” and “discontinuous spaces” and instead begin “with the premise that spaces have always been hierarchically interconnected, instead of naturally disconnected, then cultural and social change becomes not a matter of cultural contact and articulation but one of rethinking difference through connection” (Gupta and Ferguson 1997: 35). They also suggest that this postmodern era may have given way to novel forms of cultural difference and imagining community: [The transnational public sphere] has enabled the creation of forms of solidarity and identity that do not rest on an appropriation of space where contiguity and face-to-face contact are paramount. In the pulverized space of postmodernity, space has not become irrelevant: it has been reterritorialized in a way that does not conform to the experience of space that characterized the era of high modernity. (Gupta and Ferguson 1997: 37)

This chapter draws on both of these insights. My aim is to understand how cultural differences between Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians were produced through myriad interconnections that were hierarchically structured but, specifically, where these interconnections did not directly involve face-to-face interactions. Yet, I argue here that the production of cultural differences in the absence of face-to-face interactions is not emblematic only of postmodern times but has also provided a crucial mechanism for controlling labor in the colonized world of the nineteenth century. As such, I argue that the basis for ethnic differences demarcating AfroTrinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians was laid even before Indians set foot

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


in Trinidad beginning in 1845. This claim in turn prompts us to rethink the dominant Barthian position that views social interaction in the form of a boundary as the necessary factor for the production of cultural difference or ethnicity. I suggest the boundary be conceptualized in nonspatial terms or in terms of a space that is not restricted to a physical one. To understand the circumstances that produced Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians as essentially different peoples, I examine the colonial historical context from which emerged the material and ideological coordinates for structuring ethnic relations between Afro-Trinidadians and IndoTrinidadians that continue to this day.3 Focusing on the economic and political factors that contributed to the emergence of a particular colonial discourse around the “African” (ex-slave) and the “Indian” (anticipated bonded laborer), my aim is to uncover the factors that established a particular idiom to ideologically situate the East Indian in opposition to the African even before the moment of physical encounter. The tendency to naturalize cultural differences occludes not only the productive context of such differences but also the motives of the architects behind such schemes.

The Context: Pre-emancipation Trinidad In the early nineteenth century, labor supply became the principal problem for Britain’s West Indian planters. British abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and the Emancipation Act of 1833 had repercussions throughout the Caribbean. But each island experienced these events in ways limited to its own history, as well as to its current position within the region and the empire. Compared to other British islands, such as Barbados, Jamaica, St. Christopher, and Nevis, Trinidad, like British Guiana (Guyana), was a late participant in sugar production. Its resources barely tapped, Trinidad had yet to reach a “boom” period. The history of modern Trinidad dates from 1783. Under Spain from 1498 to 1783, Trinidad was largely neglected, relegated to the status of a “colonial slum” (Millette 1985: 1). Spanish colonial policy, unlike that of the British and French elsewhere, failed to encourage or harness private efforts for colonial exploitation.4 In part, the quest for gold and other precious metals motivated the Spanish colonial impulse. Having none, Trinidad was of minor importance. The Spaniards used Trinidad to raise provisions such as cassava, corn, tobacco, sugar, and cattle, much as they did with the larger islands of the greater Antilles (Dunn 1972: 15).



The island’s neglect was also due to the Crown’s role in the colonial enterprise. Spain’s colonies existed first and foremost for the benefit of the Crown. In fear of granting too much autonomy to the colonials, the Crown ruled out any possibility of developing its colonies using private Spanish enterprise or foreign capital. While it lacked the capital to develop the island, the Spanish Crown also hindered any other development attempts. Hence Trinidad remained economically unexploited for nearly three centuries. The year 1783 was a turning point in this history with the cédula of population negotiated by Roume de St. Laurent,5 which opened Trinidad to French migrants from the French islands, Grenada in particular.6 Three of the five provisions of the cédula would affect Trinidad’s subsequent settlement.7 First, every White settler was entitled to thirty acres of land, and fifteen more for each of his slaves. By tying land to labor, the clause gave an incentive to White migrants to bring as many slaves as they could afford. A second provision gave free Blacks and People of Color fifteen acres of land each, the allotment of which was to be increased if they brought slaves. A third provision gave legal sanction to non-White planters as a property-owning class (Millette 1985: 16, 17). These last two provisions were especially significant because they allowed the emergence of a large, settled Colored community in the island. The impact of the cédula on the island was substantial. Before 1783, plantation agriculture was almost nonexistent in Trinidad and manufactured goods were barely obtainable. Hardship and disease were common; politically and socially, “government” hardly existed. In 1783 the commerce of the colony depended entirely on the visit of a 150-ton Dutch vessel two or three times a year; the population was a meager 2,813 (1985: 7). The 1783 cédula increased the population of Trinidad dramatically and changed its composition (see Table 6.1). In 1777, Trinidad, with a land area of 1,864 square miles, had only a paltry 3,432 inhabitants (Newson 1976: 184); Barbados, with a much smaller land area, boasted a population of 82,516 as early as 1768 (Ragatz 1971: 30). By 1789 Trinidad’s population increased to 18,918; among the Whites, the French outnumbered the Spaniards by a ratio of 20:1 (Millette 1985: 25). The English component was negligible.8 Though Spain nominally ruled, it was mainly the French who governed the island after 1783. Both Spain and England were apprehensive of French hegemony, especially in the heyday of the French Revolution. The outbreak of revolution in St. Domingue (1791) and the triumph of the

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


table 6.1 The composition of the population of Trinidad in 1782 and 1789

Amerindians Slaves Free Coloreds Whites Total



2,082 310 295 126 2,813

2,200 10,100 4,467 2,151 18,918

source: Millette (1985: 7, 15).

Jacobins in France (1793) introduced an element of instability into the West Indies and to Trinidad in particular. Republican inclinations toward “Liberty” and “Fraternity,” which the Free Colored population of Trinidad was thought to harbor, threatened the legitimacy of colonialism, at least theoretically. Spain, in no position to effectively control tendencies it deemed subversive, offered little resistance to the 1796 British takeover of Trinidad (Millette 1985: 22–31). As the architects of the cédula had hoped, the French immigrants brought with them not only slave labor power, but also much-needed capital to exploit Trinidad’s abundant resources. The island’s first sugar mill was established in 1787. Its sizable population increase was matched and indeed surpassed by an equally impressive increase in production. In 1796, for example, “159 sugar plantations produced 7,800 hogsheads9 of sugar. One hundred and thirty coffee estates yielded 330,000 pounds of coffee; 103 cotton estates accounted for 224,000 pounds of cotton” (Millette 1985: 19). Despite this rapid increase in production, however, only one-twentieth of the potential acreage had been brought under cultivation. Although sugar would dominate the economy by 1810, immediately after the British takeover in 1796 uncertainty regarding Trinidad’s future as a slave colony held back plantation agriculture based on slave labor. During the initial years of British rule, the issue of how the island should be exploited and settled was vigorously contested between the abolitionists, who supported a system of colonization based on free labor, and the British capitalists, who desired large, slave-based plantations producing export crops. Colonists and investors anxious to profit from the unusually high sugar prices rushed to Trinidad during the initial years following the



British capture. However, the British government’s willingness to consider the abolitionists’ option of settlement by free laborers impeded the growth of the slave population after 1802. According to Brereton (1981: 46), “the rate of growth [of the slave population] dropped considerably, with an increase of only 1150 in 1802–11; there was the same number of sugar estates in 1834 as there had been in 1801.” Yet the land cultivating sugar almost doubled from 1808 to 1832 in contrast to coffee and cotton (crops associated with smallholders), which decreased (see Table 6.2). We can assume then that “sugar barons” were expanding their enterprises even during this period of contraction.10 Trinidad’s late entry into the larger Caribbean picture as a major sugarproducing colony helps to explain the contradictions that appeared after emancipation. The Emancipation Act of 1833 had specific repercussions for the various groups inhabiting the island. Sugar was not Trinidad’s only crop. Although sugar production had dominated since 1800, agricultural production was always diverse (Table 6.2). Cocoa, cultivated by native Indian laborers on Spanish-owned plantations, had been Trinidad’s major industry in the late seventeenth century. After a disastrous fungus epidemic in 1725, cocoa production declined but was revived in 1756 when a hardier variety was introduced (Brereton 1981: 3). During the late 1700s, Spanish settlers continued to cultivate cocoa in the valleys of the northern range. Cocoa was not dependent on slave labor in the same way as sugar was. For example, in 1815 cocoa used only 3.6 percent of the total slave population, while sugar employed 59.7 percent. Cocoa was typically a smallholders’ crop, cultivated largely by Free Coloreds and Blacks. Between 1803 and 1834 its production soared from approximately 150,000 pounds to 3 million pounds (Higman 1984: 59). Cotton and coffee too had figured prominently in Trinidad’s economy during the late eighteenth century. During the 1780s cotton was the favorite crop of French settlers and in 1788 it accounted for 70 percent of the value of Trinidad’s exports; by 1796, 103 cotton estates were producing 224,000 pounds of cotton (Brereton 1981: 17). The French planters also cultivated coffee. In 1796, 330,000 pounds were produced on 130 estates (Brereton 1981: 17). The output of coffee and especially cotton declined, however, between 1800 and 1834, in contrast to the production of cocoa and subsistence crops, which increased dramatically between 1824 and 1832 (Higman 1984: 59). But it was sugar that dominated the economy in the years leading up to emancipation. In 1832, sugar and its by-products accounted for more than 90 percent of the

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


table 6.2 Land use by crop: Trinidad, 1808, 1824, and 1832 (acres) Crop

Cane Cocoa Coffee Cotton Provisions Negro grounds Pasture Total




13,976 — — 1,740 7,897 — 9,260 32,873

22,425 9,369 1,903 669 5,997 10,010 11,974 62,347

27,724 10,380 1,200 146 16,004 — 10,694 66,148

source: Higman (1984: 701).

total value of exports, with cocoa contributing a modest 6.2 percent and coffee a mere 2 percent (Higman 1984: 59). Crop diversity and production unit size indicated that the landholding classes in Trinidad were not a homogeneous group in pre-emancipation Trinidad. Indeed, the Free Colored population and the French Creoles constituted a prominent landholding class during this period; their interests did not necessarily match those of the “sugar barons.” Trinidad had one of the largest Free Colored communities in the Caribbean. In 1825 they numbered 14,983, constituting 35.4 percent of a total population of 42,250 (Campbell 1992: 58). The terms of their entry into Trinidad, under the 1783 cédula, had given Free Coloreds near civil equality with Whites. Therefore, the Free Coloreds of Trinidad were among the most privileged in the Caribbean, especially with respect to land ownership (Campbell 1992). This group benefited enormously from the distribution of free land between 1783 and 1812,11 which consolidated their status as a significant landowning class, especially in North and South Naparima. In 1813, Campbell (1992: 108) estimates that there were at least 38 Free Colored planters in the Naparimas with a total of 862 slaves. Given that the entire Naparimas had 91 estates and 2,856 slaves, the Free Coloreds then possessed approximately 35.1 percent of the estates and roughly 30.1 percent of the slaves in the region. Of the 38 plantations, 17 were sugar estates; 3 were coffee estates; 1 combined coffee and provision cultivation; another combined coffee, cocoa, and provisions; and 10 were provision estates.12 However, the size of landholdings did not necessarily translate into wealth. A Colored proprietor with 100 carreaux (1 carreau = 3.2 acres) may have had only 10 carreaux in cultivation employing only 8 slaves (Campbell



1976: 27). The wealth of a planter ultimately depended on the amount of slave labor he commanded as well as the productive capacity of his land. Apart from a few Colored proprietors, such as Louis Philip, who owned large plantations and many slaves, most of the Colored proprietors were not prominent slave owners. Land was both cheaper and easier to obtain than slaves. Yet, land was of little use without slaves. In fact, Henry Fuller, a White sugar planter, reported to the Assistant Commissioners of Compensation in 1834 that planters bought estates merely to obtain the slaves, who were subsequently transported to other estates. William H. Burnley, an American-born “sugar baron,” successful merchant, and leading spokesman for the planter class and immigrant labor, stated to the commissioners that he had recently purchased Union Valley estate for the sole purpose of obtaining its slaves for work in another estate, and he left to ruin the cultivation, land, and machinery of Union Valley estate (Campbell 1976: 28). Slave labor, in short, was the necessary catalyst to translate landownership into wealth. White planters were clearly the most significant slave owners, and they dominated sugar, the preeminent capital-intensive, large-scale export crop (see Table 6.3). 13 From these figures, we can tentatively conclude that although Free Coloreds constituted a prominent landowning class, their estates and business transactions did not command the same size or volume as those of White planters. Thus, Free Coloreds did not represent elite sugar interests. The majority of Colored proprietors owned just a few acres of land and a handful of slaves, typically cultivating smallholder crops such as cocoa, coffee, and provisions. The nature of their small-scale enterprises earned them the contempt of White planters and administrators who considered their enterprises inefficient. Such an attitude was in some ways predictable; the Englishmen of this period thought the only worthwhile economic activity was the cultivation of sugar, which generated enormous profits. Characterizing the different “mentalities” of the Colored and English proprietors, Campbell appropriately remarks, Quick money, high profits were the only rationale for a life of exile in the tropics. Ironically to get the quick high profits of sugar cultivation Englishmen were willing to wait until they had accumulated some capital, by fair or foul means. . . . Planting coffee, cocoa, or cotton or breeding cattle on small sized farms was a way of life, fit for free coloured creoles, resident in their native environment with no real hope of social mobility. These activities were not the business of English entrepreneurs. (Campbell 1976: 39)

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


table 6.3 Slave holding by Whites and Free Coloreds having five slaves or more, 1824 Owners

Coloreds Whites





Total Number of Slaves

45 206

21 82

23 32

32 7

2,202 13,013

source: Campbell (1976: 29).

In the decades leading up to emancipation, sugar production became closely allied to British capitalist and planter interests. As early as 1809, British interests had supplanted all others, even the French Creoles, in the domain of sugar. For example, in that same year English planters produced 12.92 million pounds on 92 estates, while the French planters produced 11.94 million pounds on 143 estates (Brereton 1981: 47). The figures evidence the large-scale, relatively heavily capitalized production units of British enterprises in comparison to those of French Creoles. Accordingly, sugar became increasingly identified with English Creoles, English merchants, and members of large metropole-based firms operating their estates through local agents. This group, and its representative planter class, was intent on economic development based on slave labor; the abolition of slavery in 1834 was for them premature. Lacking sufficient capital to mechanize sugar production, the planters’ alternative was some other continuous and dependable supply of labor power. Whereas planters in older British sugar colonies were beginning to feel the limitations of slave labor, those in Trinidad were just beginning to experience its advantages.

The “Labor Problem” and Reactions to Emancipation Emancipation caught various Caribbean planter groups in different postures and attitudes on the road to riches. In Trinidad slavery was still important to the planter class.14 They reacted accordingly. For the large sugar planters, emancipation augmented their problems concerning labor. Without sufficient capital, planters were dependent on a reliable supply of labor to maintain their labor-intensive production units.15 Indeed, the pace of sugar production declined between 1805 and 1826 and again after emancipation in 1834. This suggests that although the initial outlay



table 6.4 Trinidad exports (sugar) Sugar Date

1831 1832 1833 1834 1835 1836 1837 1838 1839 1840 1841





23,756 25,912 22,761 26,280 22,434 23,965 22,925 20,721 20,044 16,942 18,939

449 774 533 1,093 1,125 1,367 1,087 1,210 1,310 1,290 1,251

5,500 6,805 5,165 5,535 4,768 4,928 3,622 2,679 3,538 3,795 2,713













source: Stanley Committee (1842: 56).

of capital and labor (after the British takeover of the island) bore fruit in a boom period, consistent input of capital and labor were insufficient to sustain that level of production (see Table 6.4). An analysis of the state of capital and labor during the 1830s verifies this contention. Much controversy has been generated regarding the “economic profitability of slave systems of production” around the time of emancipation. Historians such as Drescher (1977) and Engerman (1986, 1992) have attacked the Williams thesis16 by asserting that New World slave economies of the nineteenth century were not stagnant, inefficient, and declining systems but were instead expanding in profitability (Engerman 1992: 52–53). Still, we may claim that these systems tended to retard technological innovation. A number of factors militated against the mechanization of sugar production in some of the British colonies during and soon after emancipation. Lack of sufficient credit was an important factor. While merchants benefited from planter indebtedness in times of prosperity through the accumulation of interest and commissions, the tendency to lend money on the security of plantation property often led to a perilous overextension of credit when prices fell. Accordingly, in 1830, when prices fell sharply after the Napoleonic wars,17 some West Indian planters had exhausted their credit and their plantations were overladen with debt. Merchants were

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


compelled to sustain defaulted properties on onerous mortgage terms on the security of slaves, crops, and other property, since there was little likelihood that they could be resold at a profit (Green 1976: 43–44). Planters reacted to these difficult times by cutting back on maintenance costs; this led to the deterioration of buildings and equipment. The seasonal nature of sugar production also retarded extensive mechanization during slavery. As Green notes, Since planters were compelled to retain a full complement of slaves in the peak season, they were obliged to tolerate a degree of labor redundancy during other periods of the year. Rather than invest in costly agricultural machinery to magnify the extent of the redundancy, planters tended to rely on the manual labor of slaves whose maintenance costs they were obliged to bear whether or not they were fully employed. (Green 1976: 51)

Environmental factors and certain agricultural practices also circumscribed the extent of mechanization for some islands, such as Trinidad. The texture of the soil tended to be wet and heavy, and the extensive use of ratoons (fields regrown from cut cane) and the presence of tree stumps also prevented the use of the plough. Prospects for the British West Indian economy were not good, for emancipation threatened the coerced-labor basis of sugar production. Yet for various reasons some territories, such as Nevis, St. Vincent, Trinidad, and British Guiana, held promising prospects for investors but only if planters could command adequate labor. Though Trinidad suffered both from a low level of technology (in comparison to Barbados, Jamaica, and British Guiana) and from scarce labor, planters managed to sustain modest sugar export levels during the initial decade of freedom. Trinidad’s low level of technology posed a dilemma for the plantocracy when the Stanley Committee of 184218 interrogated them. Planters had a problem not only with insufficient labor, but also with insufficient capital, as evidenced by their archaic technology. But unable or unwilling to inject new capital to improve it, the planters targeted labor as their fundamental problem. As such, they had to argue that the solution to their problem lay not in improving their machinery, as suggested by the Committee, but in an immigrant labor force. Paradoxically, they were obliged to claim both that there was not enough capital, and that there was too much. Consider the following exchange between W. H. Burnley, the leading spokesman for Trinidad’s plantocracy, and the Committee.



mr . h aw e s: Do you work your sugar-mills by steam, or by water, or by cattle? mr . bur nl ey: Very few by water; I believe there are only three or four water-mills in the island: the majority of them by cattle; a large number of them now by steam. mr . h aw e s: None by wind? mr . bur nl ey: The cultivation, for the most part, in Trinidad is situated on the lee side of the island, where there is no steady breeze on which you can depend to move the windmills. mr . h aw e s: Do you feed your sugar-mills by hand or by steam? mr . bur nl ey: Generally by hand. mr . h aw e s: Then you have not in any way improved the cultivation of sugar or the processes since the period of slavery? . . . Therefore those more economical processes have not yet been adopted by you, in the belief that they would not be advantageous in Trinidad? mr . bur nl ey: I believe the inhabitants of Trinidad are very anxious to adopt all the economical processes they can, but the committee will observe that it is not always so easy to adopt even that little improvement. You may have a steam-engine already established, of a certain power, which is just sufficient to enable you to grind the canes that the coppers will boil off. If you then set up extra machinery which is to detract from its power, the whole will fail; so that to feed the mill by a cane-carrier would require you to change the engine. Many may consider it advantageous, but are deterred from doing it by the expense. (Stanley Committee 1842: 75; emphasis added)

Elsewhere Burnley contradicts this position: ch a ir m a n: Supposing the capital to be increased, do you think that the amount of machinery used might be advantageously increased? mr . bur nl ey: No; I think at the present moment the amount of capital is much too great in proportion to the population. If you introduced a larger population there is no doubt a larger capital might be employed. (Stanley Committee 1842: 76)

Taken at face value, this shift in emphasis from a lack of capital to that of labor suggests that even the existing level of technology could not be efficiently exploited due to insufficient labor. On the other hand, it could indicate the planters’ preference to maintain the status quo by means of a quick influx of cheap labor rather than to adopt innovative measures to improve the production process.

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


The first solution was traditional. It fitted very well the planters’ perception of Trinidad’s “labor problem.” Historian Bridget Brereton writes: Trinidad had always had a “labor problem.” It was an island newly opened up for sugar cultivation. It became British only ten years before the abolition of the British slave trade, and even before 1807 restrictions had been placed on the importation of Africans into the island. After 1807 the efforts of the antislavery lobby and the British government were concentrated on preventing an illegal trade of slaves from the older colonies of the eastern Caribbean and these efforts were increasingly successful after 1825. For a relatively large island, with considerable potential as a producer of raw sugar, its slave population was small. (Brereton 1981: 77)

As Table 6.5 indicates that from 1813 onward there was a steady decline in the slave population except for the year 1825.19 The declining slave population may have been sufficient only to maintain the land already under cultivation but inadequate for any further expansion. For instance, evidence presented to the Stanley Committee claims that in 1842 only 50,000 acres of the potential 200,000 acres of granted land were in cultivation (Stanley Committee 1842: 104, 105). Trinidad’s potential as a major producer of sugar was evident to all those who stood to gain from it. Planters’ expectations were high, as were local officials’ assessments of the natural resources of the island (Brereton 1981: 77). A massive increase in labor power became essential, in their view, for exploitation of these resources without mechanization. The end of slavery and apprenticeship in 183820 caught Trinidad with a planter class whose aspirations for attaining the heights of Barbados and Jamaica were now threatened because future sources of labor were uncertain. Accustomed to bonded labor, the planters could hardly envision the viability of sugar production without slaves. Accordingly, planters—and the Council of Government dominated by their interests—resisted the move to end apprenticeship two years earlier than originally provided by the Act of Emancipation. In a dispatch to Secretary of State Lord Glenelg in April 1838, Lieutenant-Governor G. F. Hill despairingly wrote: “I am inclined to the opinion that total discharge now [of apprentices] would benefit the planter, but fear I have not sufficient influence with the Council to so persuade them, or to carry a proposition to that effect” (Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [House of Commons], Papers Relative to the West Indies, 1839 [107] XXXVI: 551).



table 6.5 Registered slave population of Trinidad 1813 1816 1819 1822 1825 1828 1831 1834

25,696 25,544 23,537 23,388 24,452 23,776 22,359 20,657

source: Higman (1984: 415, 551).

There appears, however, to have been a division in planter opinion; in a subsequent letter Lieutenant-Governor Hill wrote, “Some proprietors will give immediate discharge. . . . On the other side there are some large holders of apprentices who will not relinquish their fixed vested legal right (as they call it) to the service of the praedial apprentice until 1840” (Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [House of Commons], Papers Relative to the West Indies, 1839 [107] XXXVI: 553; emphasis added).21 In the end, given the Crown Colony status of Trinidad, planters had little recourse but to accept the end of apprenticeship on terms imposed by the Colonial Office. Complete emancipation in 1838 called for a redefinition of labor relations throughout the British Caribbean. Planters were now faced with the problem of inducing free individuals to labor steadily, continuously, and cheaply on their former estates. Depending on the idiosyncrasies prevailing in each of the colonies, planters resorted to various strategies. As a long-term strategy some sought to sever their dependency on labor through technological improvements. Yet, most avoided to commit capital. The more prevalent practice was to curb the economic alternatives available to laborers and to increase the supply of labor through immigration. As Mintz writes, “Thus the reduction of economic alternatives available to the already existing labour supply, on the one hand, and the mechanical increase of that supply on the other, formed the two jaws of Caribbean plantation discipline, once slavery and apprenticeship had ended” (Mintz 1979: 215). In Trinidad, post-emancipation developments were significantly shaped by the ensuing struggle between the planters, who “wanted to

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


make freedom merely a nominal change in status,” and the ex-slaves, who “wanted to win a real economic independence of the planter and his operations” (Brereton 1981: 76). Trinidad’s planters, like those in Guyana and to some extent Jamaica, ultimately utilized both “jaws” of discipline— that is, the reduction of economic alternatives and the mechanical increase of the labor supply through indenture. Convinced that freedom meant their impending doom, planters in Trinidad explored the alternative of immigrant labor even before the end of emancipation. Post-emancipation characterization of the labor force as “unreliable, inadequate, extensively mobile, lazy, free-spending and expensive,” resonated with pre-emancipation fears—fears that were clearly expressed by Burnley and others of his ilk when they mobilized in defense of slavery. White slave owners, led by Burnley, organized a committee to investigate the character of the Negro in 1825 with the sole purpose of “ ‘proving’ how vicious and unreliable was free black labour” (Campbell 1992: 253). According to Campbell, “all the witnesses—and no coloured witnesses were called—testified that the negro slaves were dishonest, immoral, improvident, and of limited mental capacity. The master needed a strong hand to control his childish but potentially savage slaves. It was impossible to cultivate the estates by free black labour. The slaves were better off than free blacks; and slavery was in the interest of the blacks. One could not, it was said, ‘infuse European feelings and ideas into African races’ ” (1992: 253). Planters such as Burnley were actively generating a specific discourse on the alleged “labor situation” in Trinidad to support their case for immigration, and the negative portrayal of ex-slaves was a crucial legitimizing tactic.22 Making a case for immigrants meant derogation of the existing population. In time, many of the negative characterizations of the ex-slaves as well as planter caricatures of the anticipated immigrants became imputations of inherent characters to the respective groups and were utilized by these same groups to undermine one another.23 Thus, the “Negro” carried the same prejudices and contempt as the White man for the “coolie,” as did the “coolie” for the “Negro.” In short, planters’ targeted the ex-slaves as the cause of their problem and emphasized contract immigrant labor as the only possible solution. Therefore, when East Indian indentured laborers began arriving in 1845, they arrived already labeled as the “big sugar planters’ solution.” Because of their



very different positioning vis-à-vis the “labor problem” of the colony— ex-slaves as cause and indentured laborers as solution—a boundary was projected to differentiate the two groups that anticipated arguments of innate cultural difference that set the tone for future ethnic relations between the two groups.

Foretelling Ethnicity Metropolitan and local authorities believed that the only worthwhile economic activity in the colonies was the efficient production of sugar. As such, planters representing big sugar interests were in a privileged position to determine the fate of the colony, and those who favored immigration were bestowed with the authority and voice to create particular representations of Trinidad, which then became privileged as indisputable social and historical “facts,”24 even before the arrival of East Indians. The interests that motivated such representations were somehow omitted from the narratives. Indenture was primarily a sugar-oriented project and, therefore, not equally appealing to all planters. Thus, the substantial Free Colored population and the smaller White planters were not represented in the evidence offered to the Stanley Committee. In 1823 the Free Coloreds were said to constitute one-third of the total population of Trinidad (MacDonald 1986: 34) and in 1813 owned 37.3 percent of the estates and 31.5 percent of the slaves (Brereton 1981: 64). Yet, as I described earlier, the Free Coloreds were not significant slaveholders and their economic enterprises typically involved cocoa, coffee, and provisions. The elite Free Coloreds’ position on bondaged labor had been ambiguous. Even though, as slave owners, they had interest in the retention of slavery, the Free Colored planter elites did not openly side with White planters in their defense of slavery (Campbell 1992: 256). During the 1820s elite Free Coloreds were waging their own battle to win greater civil liberties.25 They did not want to jeopardize their relations with the British government by joining with the White planters to resist amelioration. Even the elite Colored planters, who dominated the initial phase of leadership for the Free Coloreds’ struggle, remained largely indifferent to amelioration. The second phase of leadership, which began around 1825, took a more liberal stance on amelioration and sided with the

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


British government. The support of the British government was particularly important for this second group of Colored elites who were not major slave owners but who had interests in securing jobs in the civil ser vice. Hence, their energies were spent on gaining greater civil liberties for their group. From the attitude of elite Free Coloreds on the question of amelioration, we can tentatively conclude that the securing of bondaged labor was not their paramount interest. Subsequently, unlike the big White planters, they had little vested interest in agitating for contract immigrant labor after emancipation. In fact, many Free Coloreds who were later active in the Legislative Reform Committee, one of the earliest middle-class political organizations formed in the 1850s, openly opposed Indian immigration and called for reforms antithetical to sugar interests. The reformers argued that immigration was an unjustified subsidy to the sugar industry that depressed wages of free workers (Brereton 1981: 143).26 Many White planters also could not afford to take part in the indenture system. Some, mostly French Creoles, had turned to other crops that required less labor and capital, such as cocoa. Thus, numerous factions within the planter class in the 1840s and thereafter found it disadvantageous to subsidize a scheme that was of no value to them. Subsequently, sugar became the almost exclusive domain of English Creoles and large metropole-based firms operating their estates through local agents, and contract labor became their solution to their problems with labor. Accordingly, the following analysis focuses on the discourse created by “big sugar” interests for whom contract labor became the solution to their labor problem. The complaints of the plantocracy are well articulated by W. H. Burnley, Robert Bushe (a proprietor of sugar estates and attorney for other estates), and R. H. Church (manager of two estates in Trinidad until 1841), who presented their case to the Stanley Committee of 1842. Burnley, Bushe, and Church are representative of elite planter interests since their investments lay in sizable holdings of sugar. Burnley was the proprietor of several estates and Church the manager of two estates whose combined acreage came to 668. The evidence they presented to the Stanley Committee regarding the “labor problem” and its “appropriate solution” augured the formalization of institutional and discursive mechanisms through



which East Indian bonded immigrant labor was directly counterpoised to African free labor. The problem these planters faced after apprenticeship ended was not absolute labor scarcity. What they lacked was a consistent, compliant, and reliable supply of labor. ch a ir m a n: Has the supply of labour in Trinidad diminished considerably since the commencement of freedom? mr . bur nl ey: The supply of labour has diminished considerably amongst the original labourers on the estates; but very nearly, probably, to the exact amount, the deficiency has been supplied and filled up by immigration;27 so that I presume, from what is stated in the Trinidad evidence, that the amount of labour at the present moment is pretty nearly what it was at the first period of emancipation; that is, with reference to field labour; but we find, with reference to manufacturing labour, that it is not the case; and we are of opinion that unless contracts for labour can be entered into, no number brought into the island will give us that continuous labour in crop time which will be found necessary to take off the crops. (Stanley Committee 1842: 53; emphasis added)

Indeed, between 1840 and 1842 an estimated 8,000 West Africans (liberated from slave ships destined for the New World who were then relocated to Sierra Leone and the island of St. Helena) were brought to Trinidad (Stanley Committee 1842: 68).28 Immigration from other West Indian islands and Africa readjusted the post-emancipation imbalance in the labor supply created by those slaves who refused to work on plantations as wage laborers and who found employment elsewhere.29 If the number of laborers had been sustained by this influx of immigrants, why were the planters claiming that it was impossible to maintain cultivation at preemancipation levels? The issue was, in part, one of control rather than sheer supply and demand. According to Bushe, pre-emancipation production levels could not be maintained after emancipation because now laborers only worked for nine hours, four days a week, during crop time, as opposed to the sixteen to eighteen hours of labor slaves had provided six days a week. Thus, on Bushe’s calculations, the labor supplied by a slave amounted to almost three times that of a free laborer. Despite the Order in Council, which stated that slaves were to work no more than nine hours a day, planters’ control over the slaves’ labor power enabled them to circumvent the law.

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


mr . bushe: We had great influence over the negroes during slavery, and for a small sum we induced them to work 18 hours; and we put the additional nine hours against the small compensation that we gave them. (Stanley Committee 1842: 288; emphasis added)

The new migrants, in contrast, were not bound by contract to a particular planter. By law (the Stephen Code of 1838), any contract made outside Trinidad became inoperative the moment the individual entered the island (Look Lai 1993: 53). This was indeed a pleasant welcome for those immigrants from Sierra Leone and the neighboring smaller islands, because once they arrived in Trinidad, the labor demand made it possible for them to successfully negotiate better terms of employment. In want of legal leverage, planters were therefore compelled at first to offer high wages and field assignments based on task work in order to lure these new immigrants’ labor. Planters’ testimony that relatively high wages prevailed in Trinidad is corroborated by other evidence (see Brereton 1981: 78; Look Lai 1993: 7–8). The daily wage for field labor in Trinidad in the 1840s remained around 50 cents, in comparison to British Guiana with 48 cents, Jamaica with 42 cents, Barbados with 30 cents, and Montserrat with 12 cents, the lowest daily wage (Look Lai 1993: 7–8). The issue of control was also manifest in the prevailing system of “tenancy at will,” which provided the use of house and provision grounds in exchange for labor. Interestingly, while the planters perceived this system as an instance of their generosity, evidence from planters, Stipendiary Magistrates, and other commentators shows that laborers went to great lengths to establish residency just outside the plantation boundary. American journalist William Sewell observed in 1852: I am of decided opinion that the tenure system of Trinidad has strengthened the dislike of the negro to perform estate work. It is true that the Trinidad planter exacts no rent from the laborer on his estate, and supplies him with medical attendance; but the laborer, in return, is compelled to work for the estate alone, and for five cents a day less than the current rate of wage. It may be urged, and with truth, that house-rent and medical attendance are worth more than five cents a day; but for these privileges the laborer is required to give up his independence, and I do not think it natural that even the negro should, of his own free choice, prefer the exchange. (Sewell 1968: 119)



In a similar vein, Hall (1978), in his contribution to the extensive debate on the post-slavery labor problem, has persuasively argued that this system of “free-rent” was most oppressive to the newly freed because it curtailed their freedoms by making demands on their labor time and that, in fact, laborers pressed for a complete separation of rents and wages. In order to drive down the wages, the issue of control figured prominently in the plantocracy’s insistence on contracts, which suggests that what they desired was not a labor market determined by supply and demand but rather a bound labor force. This was particularly true of sugar producers. Sugar production involved not only an agricultural realm but a manufacturing one as well. The latter required both a skilled and a constant labor force during crop time. Sugar exports declined by 22 percent after emancipation up until 1841, indicating that prevailing agricultural practices were not favorable for sugar. In contrast, those crops predominantly grown by French Creoles, former Free Coloreds, and ex-slaves on smaller units of production, such as cocoa and coffee, boomed during this period: cocoa exports increased by 50 percent and coffee by more than 30 percent (Stanley Committee 1842: 55). The rise in cocoa and coffee production contradicts planter assertions that high wages inhibited industry. The only avenue open to the sugar planter after the end of apprenticeship was to establish a contract between himself and the individual laborer in order to gain some control over the supply of labor. Judicial power had not only freed the slaves from their masters, but had also given them the privilege of controlling their own labor power. Given this privilege, once apprenticeship ended the ex-slaves were bound to no one and were free to dispose of their labor as they pleased, at least theoretically. The former slaves, now aware of the privileges associated with their newly acquired status, apparently refused to sign labor contracts. That many ex-slaves did enter into written agreements when they purchased land suggests that exslaves were not averse to contracts in general but only to those that they perceived as inherently unfair, particularly those that bound them to work for much lower wages than the highest prevailing rates. The frustration that these practices caused the planter class is neatly captured in the following exchange: ch a ir m a n: Do the labourers generally object to enter into written agreements?

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


mr . bur nl ey: They invariably object. . . . On the part of the proprietors, we are most anxious that they should enter into contracts, because we are satisfied that there can be no steady or profitable cultivation until they are established; but I do not think there has been any attempt made by the Government to induce the labourers to enter into contracts; on the contrary, I think the practice that has been pursued by the colonial authorities has rather deterred the labourers from so doing.30 (Stanley Committee 1842: 43)

Burnley’s plea to the colonial authorities to make contracts compulsory is clearly an attempt to swing judicial privileges to the side of the plantocracy. Quite interestingly, although Burnley’s interest is purely economic, he cleverly appeals to the humanitarian spirit of this era and provides an additional moral rationalization. Essentially, the legitimizing ground for exploitation had shifted. This meant a shift in vocabulary as well as in ideology per se. Burnley is pushed to argue that compulsory contracts would be advantageous to the prospective laborers in the long run. v iscou n t how ick : Should you not apprehend that if contracts were allowed to be entered into out of the island, they would be frequently entered into with labourers quite ignorant of the rate of wages? mr . bur nl ey: I think that probable; . . . But, under the present system, if it is intended to be for the benefit of the labourers, the public officers either go too far or they do not go far enough. In the first instance, a contract entered into, whatever may be the nature of it, whether good or bad, is vitiated and rendered null and void. If this is done solely for the benefit of the negroes, why, after annulling the contract, which may be a good one, should not the same care and attention be paid so that the next contract the negro makes is a fair . . . one? But no attention is paid to that; . . . What is the consequence? The vessel is always surrounded by a number of negro crimps, every one of whom is paid 20s. a head for engaging labourers for the ser vice of individual parties; no written contract is then entered into; it is merely a verbal one; and I am satisfied that under those circumstances the ignorant immigrants who arrive in the island make a variety of engagements which in the result are infinitely more disadvantageous to them than if they were allowed to make contracts out of the island, which might subsequently be examined, and rejected or confirmed by a board in the colony. (Stanley Committee 1842: 61; emphasis added)



Burnley is quite aware that the planters will be unable to convince the laborers in Trinidad to enter into contracts paying wages that are lower than the existing rates. Contrary to what he is saying, it is exactly the ignorance of the immigrants that he is counting on. It is they, unaware of the wage rate in Trinidad, who can be manipulated into entering these written agreements. The British representatives, in turn, appear to be quite aware of this manipulation. mr . st ua rt: Is it not better to let him [the immigrant], upon his arrival in the island, make an agreement than to let him enter upon terms previously to his arrival, when he is perfectly ignorant of the state of aff airs in the country? (Stanley Committee 1842: 62; emphasis added)

In response, Burnley argues that the present system is disadvantageous to the workers and that contracts will ensure the protection of vulnerable immigrants by holding the plantation owner responsible for their welfare. mr . bur nl ey: No, I think not, . . . I have already stated, that until we can get contracts for labour in the island of Trinidad, there can be no continuous cultivation; but, looking only at the advantage to the immigrant himself, I have no hesitation in saying that it would be much more beneficial to him to make an engagement with a proprietor out of the island, subject to the approbation of a Board, than to allow the present practice to continue. mr . st ua rt: You think it would be advisable to have the contract legal, so far as this, that he should be sure of receiving a certain amount of wages; but that if the amount of wages in the island were higher, he should have the option of seeking employment elsewhere? mr . bur nl ey: No; the higher wages which he would be off ered, would be wages entirely independent of any engagement to take charge of him in sickness and in health, and of maintenance and provision; for how is an immigrant at first to know how to provide himself even with the necessaries of life? (Stanley Committee 1842: 62; emphases added)

After this exchange, the Committee and Burnley explore other means by which the planter class might regain control over labor power. Alternatives suggested by both sides, such as a system of monitoring labor mobility, the implementation of rents, and limiting access to land, conform to what Trouillot (1988) has labelled “preventive tactics” in his discussion of Dominica:

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


The measures taken to contain the existing estate labor force were of two kinds: those of a quasi-totalitarian nature, aimed at maintaining by force as many laborers as possible on the plantation, along the model perfected during Apprenticeship itself; and those that tried to contain that labor supply by reducing the economic options available to the former slaves. The latter measures were geared at limiting the laborers’ access to (or gains from) productive resources, especially land. (Trouillot 1988: 104)31

In addition to these preventive tactics, planters also discussed “cooptative tactics” (Trouillot 1988: 104), such as raising import taxes (on products largely consumed by the masses), and also “defensive tactics” (Trouillot 1988: 104), namely, the supplementation of the labor supply through immigration. The significance of these measures comes to light against the background of the alleged lifestyle of the majority of the population—the emancipated slaves and unbound immigrants. In essence, the planters were compelled to portray a lifestyle that supported their grievances and legitimized their solution to the “labor problem,” namely, immigration by contract. They also could not appear too distanced from the humanitarian concerns then gaining currency in Britain.32 They sought refuge in a moral discourse. They claimed that the injection of a new labor force would create competition among labor and would ultimately benefit the existing labor force by improving their “moral character.” To legitimate this assertion, they had first to prove moral degeneration, an especially challenging task since recent reports from Stipendiary Magistrates unanimously attested to the general improvement in the disposition of the peasantry with freedom (Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [House of Commons], Papers Relative to the West Indies, 1841–1842 [379] XXIX, 55–59).33 Representing the larger planters, Burnley, however, rose to the challenge, tirelessly attempting to sway opinion, first by undermining the authority of contrary witnesses, and second, by carefully selecting his own evidence. ch a ir m a n: What is your opinion as to the moral improvement of the rising generation? mr . bur nl ey: I am of opinion that the rising generation, instead of getting better and improving, are deteriorating in their morals every day. I observe that in the report of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners . . . (upon Trinidad evidence), they have taken up a


Munasinghe contrary opinion. It is from my own inquiries and observation in the island that I judge. I am, therefore, glad to have an opportunity of stating to the Committee my reasons for forming a different opinion. It appears that they have relied entirely upon the opinions given by the clergymen, and paid little or no attention to that of the planters. Now I am certainly of opinion that the opinions of the clergymen are not exclusively to be relied upon, for it is a very invidious task for any gentleman to speak unfavourably of his flock. On questioning them . . . I found . . . they could give no reason for their opinion, except that marriages were much more frequent . . . and that the attendance at church was much more regular . . . both of which I know to be perfectly correct. But I do not think mere attendance at church, and an increased number of marriage ceremonies, constitute a sufficient test by which you are to judge of the civilization and moral improvement of the labouring population. In looking at their evidence, when they were questioned more particularly, the Committee will observe that it is not so favourable as in general terms they express their opinions. (Stanley Committee 1842: 57; emphases added)

In his testimony, Burnley repeatedly sought to correlate moral degeneracy with excessive mobility and the decline of provision ground cultivation. The planters’ desire for a settled, docile, secure, and bonded labor force depended on portraying the existing labor force as an extensively mobile, independent group, working when they needed money, not keeping to any contracts, and leaving whenever they felt they could find better conditions. Consider the following depiction of this mobile labor force: mr . st ua rt: But you can form no idea of the amount of annual immigration which is necessary to produce that result [competition among laborers that will drive wages down]? mr . bur nl ey: I should be very much afraid of giving any positive opinion on a subject which depends so much upon a variety of other circumstances. If Government will make such regulations as will be necessary, a smaller amount will answer; but if the additional population when introduced, are to be allowed, as they are at the present moment, to wander about throughout the island, without question or control, it will take a greater number; but with proper regulations and restrictions, a smaller number will suffice. (Stanley Committee 1842: 70; emphasis added)

Yet, evidence from the Stipendiary Magistrates shows that the propensity to rove was a characteristic not of the ex-slaves but of the newer migrants.

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


Thus, in a July 1841 letter to Lord Russell, Lieutenant-Governor Macleod wrote (based on the evidence of Stipendiary Magistrates): I conceive that the questions . . . refer entirely to the state of the peasantry, and as there seem to be only two points of complaint against the labourer; one for inebriety and the other a roving habit, I need but make the following remarks thereon. The first is thought to be from a pernicious system of giving a large allowance of rum; the second, which is almost entirely confined to the immigrants from the other islands, is supposed to be from a certainty of obtaining employment everywhere. (Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [House of Commons], Papers Relative to the West Indies, 1841–1842 [379] XXIX, 54; emphases added)

Further, in contrast to Burnley’s depiction, the ex-slaves appear very anxious to become settled, because they were known to pay exorbitant sums for small allotments of land. All the Stipendiary Magistrates’ reports attest to the phenomenal increase in the number of freeholders and the rise of hamlets and villages. On the pretext of containing excessive mobility, planters sought to regain control over labor not only by implementing contracts, but also through a system of policing. Thus, Burnley requested that the government reinstate a system prevalent during apprenticeship in which commandants were appointed to reside over districts to monitor the laboring population. Their duties ideally would include the following: bur nl ey: To know the whole of the labouring free population residing in their quarter; consequently no labourer could enter therein to settle before presenting himself to the commandant, giving his name, and stating from whence he came; having done which, he was at liberty to reside there. The commandant kept a list [before emancipation], and knew every individual residing in the quarter. I consider that it would be a wholesome check, without interfering with the liberty of the labourer, if he were obliged at the present moment, on quitting one quarter and going to another, to present himself to the commandant, state his name and whence he came. That would enable the commandant of the quarter in which he entered to communicate with the commandant from whence he came, and ascertain his general character and habits previously. (Stanley Committee 1842: 70–71)

Despite the repeated assurances that this monitoring system would not infringe on the liberty of freed persons, one can safely conclude that the



power to deny residence to those possessed of “dangerous character” provided a useful loophole for authorities to manipulate this system of policing. Burnley attempted to sell this particular package to the committee by once again resorting to a moral argument, claiming that mobility inhibits the development of “settled habits.” When Lord Stanley suggested that a better way to encourage “settled habits” might be to give ex-slaves security and interest in the soil by making land more accessible in the form of leases, Burnley responded feebly by arguing that Negroes were too ignorant to understand the intricacies pertaining to leases, and that their generally distrustful nature would prevent them from signing any document that would legalize such transactions (Stanley Committee 1842: 71–72). The glaring inconsistency of arguing both for the implementation of labor contracts for “ignorant immigrants,” on the one hand, and for the futility of lease contracts for “ignorant Negroes” on the other was not an issue for Burnley. “Ignorance” conveyed quite specific images of each group—the immigrants’ “ignorance” boiled down to their vulnerability as cultural aliens, while the “ignorance” of the Negro alluded to an imputed mental deficiency. Such representations prefigured future descriptions and debates concerning the “shrewd” yet “vulnerable” East Indian and the “western-oriented” yet “child-like” Creole. On numerous occasions planters used their alleged knowledge of the “negro mentality” to derail any economic alternatives that proved beneficial to the laborers. Hall (1978) provides a fitting example. In colonies such as St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada, better labor relations were said to prevail because of the system of sharecropping. When such an alternative was suggested for Jamaica, Mr. McCook, an attorney, replied, The negroes of this country are too independent to wait for remuneration of their labour by any interest in the proceeds of the soil, and their minds are by no means yet settled down. So long as they have the waste lands to cultivate, they will only work for the estates when they please. (Hall 1978: 22–23)

Similarly, when sharecropping was suggested to Burnley as a possible alternative for Trinidad, he immediately rejected it on the grounds that planter interests would be compromised because the laborers would want to cut their own cane and not the planter’s during the most profitable

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


portion of the season. More interesting, however, is his “McCook” type of explanation: bur nl ey: The experiment was tried by one gentlemen, with the best intentions, and in a persevering way. The land was taken by a company of Americans, the best working people we have in the island, but it was found that they were enticed away to work at daily wages by the adjoining estates. They alleged, “We cannot work for you, because we have got our own canes and our own crop to attend to.” That was met by the reply, “You can weed your own canes to-morrow; here are a few dollars, this is a little job, do come and do it.” There was a distant profit in perspective, and an offer of cash in hand, and the result was that they neglected their canes so much that they did not ripen in time. (Stanley Committee 1842: 49; emphasis added)

Once again, the planters’ alleged authority on the natural disposition of the Negroes was used to curtail the realization of those practices that ex-slaves found “truly liberating.” This type of maneuvering, so typical during the post-emancipation period, is particularly revealing as an example of the hindrances that served to prevent the realization of what Mintz (1992: 253) has called the “slaves’ vision of the meaning of freedom.” According to Hall, “it was the McCooks of the post-emancipation period whose attitudes led to the exodus from the plantations” (Hall 1978: 23). In Trinidad, as in many other colonies, the behavior of ex-slaves was troublesome not only to planters, but also to others who had less selfish motives, such as the abolitionists and the missionaries. Their fear of the ex-slaves’ possible lapse back into “their natural state” provided an ideal point of attack for those desiring bonded labor. In Trinidad, characterizations of ex-slaves along the lines described by Thomas Carlyle—the slave gorging himself idly on ripe pumpkins (Mintz 1992: 246)— abound. While Burnley and those of his ilk blamed the prevalent high wage rates for this purported “idle and immoral” behavior, Mintz (1992) is careful to remind us that the disappointments of freedom must be constantly assessed against the fact that “all of the work that freed people did, they had to do within systems that only grudgingly took account of the fact of freedom” (Mintz 1992: 249). High wages, planters argued, not only encouraged mobility, but also inhibited hard work. Economic power did enable the Trinidadian



“wage laborers,” as opposed to those in other colonies, to enjoy a greater degree of mobility and independence. According to Burnley, the laborers had only to accomplish two tasks (roughly one day’s labor) per week in order to maintain the standard of living that they endured during slavery. v iscou n t how ick : The labourer lives in much more comfort than he did during slavery, does he not? mr . bur nl ey: There can be no comparison. The labourer is in a better state as to comfort, and luxuries of every description, than in any other part of the world, or than ever existed in any part of the world; for it can only arise from such an artificial state of things, as had been produced by emancipation. v iscou n t how ick : By how many hours’ labour in the week do you conceive that a labourer can now obtain the same command of the necessaries and comforts of life which he possessed as a slave? mr . bur nl ey: I should suppose one day a week . . . mr . howa r d: Is there a great desire on the part of the negroes to obtain foreign luxuries? mr . bur nl ey: A very great desire, indeed; I do not know any race of people who possess it more. mr . h aw e s: What is the average day of labour that the labourers now give? mr . bur nl ey: I do not think myself, upon the average of the whole number residing upon the estates, that it can be more than three or four tasks a week, which cannot be calculated at more than two days of labour. (Stanley Committee 1842: 49)

While one can disagree with Burnley’s explanation that laborers worked just enough to secure their natural thirst for luxuries, it is possible that laborers exercised their option not to work regularly. But contrary to what Burnley implies, the ex-slaves did not so much idle but found employment in more satisfying ventures instead. In his July 1841 letter to Lord Russell, Lieutenant-Governor Macleod wrote: “And it is most satisfactory to observe that, although leaving one employment, they have not remained in idleness, but have assumed another, that they most likely have found more profitable” (Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [House of Commons], Papers Relative to the West Indies, 1841–1842 [379] XXIX, 54). Similar sentiments were expressed by Sewell:

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


This falling off in the native and natural laboring force has been attributed here, as in other islands— and, I must add, without very much reflection— to the effect of abolition, to the indolence of the negro, and his refusal to work except under compulsion. I am unable to arrive at any such conclusion. I have taken some pains to trace the Creole laborers of Trinidad from the time of emancipation . . . to the present day, and the great majority of them can, I think, be followed step by step, not downward in the path of idleness and poverty, but upward in the scale of civilization to positions of greater independence. (Sewell 1968: 108)

The laborers’ reluctance to meet the demands of estate labor is hardly puzzling. As Mintz (1992: 249) puts it, “that free people preferred not to do it [work] for those Carlyle calls the ‘real proprietors of the said land’, [planters] but on holdings of their own, is hardly mysterious” given the system’s grudging acceptance of freedom. Mintz’s assumption that ex-slaves would logically be more inclined to work harder on their own grounds, however, is somewhat problematic in the case of Trinidad. During slavery, Trinidad gave considerable importance to the cultivation of provisions. This was largely encouraged by the masters to ease their short-term obligations to the slaves (Mintz 1979). The substantial increase in the production of sugar between the years 1808 and 1832 was matched only by the increase in the cultivation of provisions; the acreage leapt from 7,897 in 1808 to 16,004 in 1832. Logically, one might expect such a tendency to prevail after emancipation, given the amount of unexploited Crown land available and the desire of former slaves to be independent from labor obligations. This was not the case in Trinidad in 1841, at least according to Burnley. l or d sta nl ey: In those cases in which they [Negroes] have become possessed of lands themselves, in what way do they cultivate them? mr . bur nl ey: Very little indeed. I know of none who have bought a large extent of ground; in general they seem to buy small allotments, for the mere purpose of building a house on, and having some independent location for themselves; but it appears distinctly that they do not cultivate to any extent, for provisions are scarcer now in the colony than they were before, when our labouring population was much smaller. (Stanley Committee 1842: 70)

Data from less biased sources corroborate planter testimony on this intriguing phenomenon. Trinidad seemed to be following a trajectory in



direct contrast to its neighbors, with respect to provision ground cultivation. For example, while 16,004 acres were cultivating provisions in 1832, the Commissary of Population and Surveyor General of Trinidad, Martin Sorsana, claimed that only 6,313 acres were cultivating provisions in 1841 and that a great quantity of ground provisions were imported from the Spanish Main (Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [House of Commons], Papers Relative to the West Indies, Minutes of Evidence Taken by the SubCommittee of the Agricultural and Immigration Society:1841–1842 [379] XXIX, 94). General insecurity regarding rights to land may have inhibited cultivation. The system of “labor-rent” gave the owner of the estate the right to evict any resident who did not comply with the necessary conditions. Lacking a guarantee of remuneration for their labor, it is likely that residents would have then been less inclined to toil on their provision grounds than during the period of slavery. Although Trinidad was renowned for ex-slaves squatting on Crown land, similar insecurities would have prevented extensive cultivation of these lands. The existing state of affairs also prevented the purchase of small allotments of Crown land. As such, the only alternatives for cultivation that afforded security were those instances where some ex-slaves were able to purchase small allotments from planters at exorbitant prices (a practice rapidly on the rise), or when laborers were willing to fulfill the conditions of tenancy imposed by the proprietors of estates—namely, the fulfillment of at least two days’ labor weekly in exchange for rent. Another explanation for this phenomenon is indirectly offered by Church, who mentions that garden farming still prevailed, but goods were not taken to markets to be sold as in slavery; instead, the “market was brought to the door” (Stanley Committee 1842: 103). He too, however, acknowledges stagnation in the cultivation of subsistence crops. This question leads us to consider a third possibility to explain the decline in provision ground cultivation. In contrast to the pattern observed in other islands during the immediate post-emancipation period, in Trinidad high wages seemed to have discouraged provision ground cultivation, with the laboring classes exercising their option to purchase imported essentials as well as luxuries largely from the Spanish Main. The massive increase in colonial revenue from import duties seems to support this hypothesis. Between the years 1832 and 1840, import duties increased

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


from 4,096 to 11,443 (Stanley Committee 1842: 78). Even though taxes probably accounted for a substantial portion of this revenue, Burnley claims that trade with the mainland increased tremendously in those crops previously cultivated by the slaves. bur nl ey: But the fact is, that the island cultivation of provisions, such as the negroes carried on formerly, is reduced to such an insufficient amount, that the trade with the Spanish Main, in those articles, has doubled or trebled in consequence of the demand, so that the island is now fed by plantains, poultry, pigs, and other provisions brought from the Spanish continent, to a great degree. (Stanley Committee 1842: 70)

The Harbor Master, Rowley Hill Stewart, who is directly responsible for checking the cargo from Spanish launches, confirms Burnley’s testimony: com mit tee: Has the trade with the Spanish Main increased at all since 1834? mr . stewa rt: So far as appears by my books, the trade has generally increased since that period. com mit tee: You think the amount of the trade is increasing generally; but has there been any great variation in any particular branch of it? mr . stewa rt: In one branch, that of imported vegetables and provisions, the increase has been great within the last few years, and particularly so from the end of 1838 until the present period [1841]. For instance the quantity of plantains imported in 1825 . . . amounted only to 159,700; in 1835 it increased to 2,026,700; and in 1840 to [approximately 4,100,000]. Hogs during the same period have increased from 1095 to 4,913. Fowls from 86 dozens to 860 dozens. Turkeys from 87 to 1,081 pair. The import of dried peas, goats, eggs and other minor articles, have all increased in about the same proportion; and the number of horned cattle which was only 734 in 1835 amounted in 1840 to 4,320. com mit tee: To what do you ascribe this immense increase of imported provisions? mr . stewa rt: Partly to the increase in population, but chiefly to the circumstance of the cultivation of provisions being latterly less attended to by the labouring population, who, from the high wages given, find it easier to buy than to raise them. Port of Spain, which was formerly supplied from estates in the island is now in a great degree fed by imported provisions; and I know as a fact that the town of San Fernando which


Munasinghe formerly received its supplies of vegetables and provisions from the neighbouring districts, is now not only furnished from abroad, but the labourers from the estates in the interior come into town to supply themselves. (Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [House of Commons], Papers Relative to the West Indies, Minutes of Evidence Taken by the SubCommittee of the Agricultural and Immigration Society: 1841–1842 [379] XXIX: 101; emphases added)

This apparently incongruous practice on the part of the Trinidadian labor force vis-à-vis the rest of the region needs to be seriously considered, even if it defies our dominant assumption regarding freed people’s commitment to land and cultivation. High wages gave the laboring population of Trinidad the choice, not readily available in other colonies, of working or not working within systems that still circumscribed their freedoms. To regain control over labor, planters had either to decrease wages, directly or indirectly, so that the laborers would be forced to work longer hours to maintain previous standards of living, or add a new labor supply to force wages down. In the process of convincing the British government that immigration was indeed the most obvious solution, the planters also created a particular discourse. From the perspective of the planters, factors such as the mobility of the laboring population, the decrease in the cultivation of provisions, and the increase in the revenue on import duties were integral building blocks of such a discourse. Consequently, all these alleged “ills” were blamed by Burnley on the “artificially high wage rates.” To argue otherwise for any one component would have undermined the overall logic of the case they were building. For example, the alleged aversion to cultivation and the incessant desire of the ex-slaves for luxury goods not only supported the planters’ claim regarding the ex-slaves’ excessive mobility and the over-high wage rates, but also constituted a moral statement—a negative judgment about “Negro” character. If the pursuit of economic profit, pure and simple, was an inappropriate rationale for convincing the Stanley Committee, who had to accommodate to the “humanitarian” mood of the times, then planters had to veil their case in a moral discourse. Their strategy blamed the new freedoms for the alleged moral degeneracy of the “Negro” and absurdly promised an improvement in “Negro” character if measures were implemented to curtail these hardwon freedoms.

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


The propositions contained in the Stanley Committee papers reveal the germination of several strategies to be employed later in combating the newly acquired independence of the former slaves. Trinidad, still governed by planter and metropolitan interests, was not prepared to emancipate the majority of its laboring population. As Sebastien argues, what Trinidad lacked was the emergence of an industrial reserve army, “the creation of [which] . . . is an objective aspect of the dynamic of capitalist expansion” (Sebastien 1978: 210). The function of this reserve army essentially is to minimize wages and thus to facilitate capital accumulation. The importance of the industrial reserve army to the capitalist is the role it plays in weighing the scale of supply and demand for labor in favor of capital. It is the mechanism whereby capital implements and maintains its minimum wage schedule; the industrial reserve army is what nails the deal between capital and labor in favor of the capitalist. If one did not exist, then he would have to invent it. This was precisely the path resorted to by capital after emancipation. (Sebastien 1978: 213; emphasis added)

The planters’ interests finally triumphed when on July 25, 1842, a Committee of the House of Commons on the West Indian Colonies arrived at the resolution that “one obvious and most desirable mode of endeavoring to compensate for this diminished supply of labor, is to promote the immigration of a fresh laboring population, to such an extent as to create competition for employment” (Williams 1982: 93, 94).34 Alternative sources of labor came from North America, the Portuguese islands of Azores and Madeira, and China; liberated Africans from foreign slave ships also contributed to this supply (Ching 1985: 207; Williams 1982: 97; Look Lai 1993). Yet, none of these experiments proved to be a success; the immigrants abandoned agriculture and joined the service sector at the first opportunity. The planters’ wishes were ultimately fulfilled only with the arrival of indentured labor from India. Not only did the East Indians’ entry signal the victory of the big sugar planters’ solution to their problem, but it also privileged the planters’ voice over all others in setting the tone for future relations between Afro-Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians. The economic, political, and social situation in the island prior to East Indians’ arrival has been described and analyzed at length to illustrate how the position they were destined to occupy would be inherently



antagonistic to that of the Black laboring population. Indeed, it was stated explicitly that the role of the new immigrants was to induce labor competition. The stage for conflict between the Black and East Indian populations was set; the rules of the game promised a no-win situation for both parties. The mechanical increase of the labor supply through East Indian indenture crushed the hopes of the ex-slaves and ended the privileges they had enjoyed at the end of apprenticeship—agricultural wages, for example, dropped to 30 cents (from 50 cents) during 1846 alone. The discourses created by sugar interests, in turn, set the ideological frame for structural antagonisms between the two ethnic groups by casting them as essentially two different types of human beings. The planters’ grounds for legitimizing contract labor rested on a character assault on “the Negro.” Interestingly, those very traits of “Negro mentality,” selected by planters such as Burnley, served to forge a stereotype of “the Negro” or of “Creoles” in Trinidad, as “free spending, luxury loving, improvident,” in contrast to the “industrious, diligent, selfsacrificing” East Indian. Even more powerful were the planters’ assertions regarding “Negro” aversions to cultivation. The testimony offered by the planters constituted not so much objective assessments of the labor situation in Trinidad as much as powerful ideological statements, which created a climate of hostility for the two major groups assigned to the bottom rungs of the social, political, and economic hierarchy of colonial Trinidad. Thus, when East Indians entered Trinidad, a discourse deriding the moral, mental, and physical attributes of the Negro was already in place, for Indians to learn, and later to use, for their own ends. Of all the alternatives presented, the entry of Indian indentured laborers into Trinidad in 1845 was clearly the most detrimental to the independent Black labor force. Little was done by the Colonial Office to improve the condition of the emancipated slaves. Although the colonial authorities and some foreign commentators noted the general “improvement” in the “character” of the Negro with emancipation, others more sympathetic to the predicament of the emancipated slaves feared the deleterious consequences of their neglect by the society. Yet, their anxieties rested on stereotypes fostered by the planters: “The important matter of immigration is beginning to be settled. The solution seems to have been found, on condition that no account is taken of the former slaves and their descendants, who, left to

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


themselves, without the paternal solicitude of their former masters, are relapsing into barbarism” (Jules Duval 1859 in Williams 1982: 95; emphasis added). The coming of migrants affected the ex-slave population more adversely than their mere abandonment. It not only deflated wages, it also diminished job opportunities for Black laborers. The subsequent expansion in sugar production also served to dislodge the former labor force from the land on which they squatted. Hence, the Black labor force came to see the Indians as “scab” labor who had significantly reduced their bargaining power with the planters. The financing of the indenture system constituted another major point of contention. Two-thirds of the costs were borne by an export duty on commodities, including those like cocoa that did not depend on indentured labor. Taxpayers in the form of public revenue financed the remaining third. This was justified on the grounds that Indian immigration benefited the whole community and not just the planters (Brereton 1985: 22). Yet, the rest of the community did not see these benefits, obvious only to the merchant and planter oligarchy, and this caused unremitting bitter protest from Colored and Black leaders (Look Lai 1993), who argued that “the black worker was in fact subsidizing an influx of laborers who were being deliberately brought in to depress wages thereby forcing the African to accept the artificially low wage rate or migrate to other places” (Samaroo 1985: 79; emphasis added). According to Samaroo, the Black population vented its frustration not so much on the creators of the scheme “but on the visible symbol—the East Indians. The result was a festering antagonism which manifested itself in bitter mutual condemnation between blacks and East Indians” (Samaroo 1985: 79). Look Lai (1993) also notes the complicity of Black and Colored leaders in the production of negative caricatures of East Indians. Though the plight of the indentured laborers resembled that of the Black masses under slavery, at least in terms of the harshness of the system and its dehumanizing effects, it kindled little sympathy among the Creoles (Blacks and Coloreds). The fact that these “heathen coolies” voluntarily chose to engage in work that slaves had performed under coercion only served to foster the contempt of the Creole masses for the East Indians. The Indian was considered a different being by Whites and Creoles



alike—a being satisfied with living conditions that other humans found deplorable. Kelvin Singh writes: The fact that they [East Indians] entered the society as unskilled laborers, bound to the plantations during their indentureship, caused them to be regarded as semi-slaves, people nearest the condition that Negroes had recently emerged from and heartily despised. This contempt was reinforced by the picture often painted by planters and officials of Indians being contented with their working and living conditions. (Singh 1985: 36)

The Protector of Immigrants argued against introducing immigrants from Tenerife on the following basis: It must be remembered they are very different to the East Indian, who is generally accustomed to greater heat in his own country, where he is only too pleased to work all day (not the seven or eight hours he works here) for eight to ten cents a day . . . the East Indian requires little of the former [clothes], and . . . [is] known to do a hard day’s work on a pound of cold boiled rice. Could the Tenerife people live like this? Again I think not. (quoted in Singh 1985: 36)

This stereotype of the Indian as an inferior human type who would accept conditions of life that other “races” would reject prompted the Mirror to observe in July 1901 “that agricultural labor in Trinidad was not attractive to those people who have got beyond the stage of civilization that is satisfied with a loin cloth and a pot of rice” (Singh 1985: 36; emphasis added). The “bonded” status of East Indian immigrants fostered an image of the East Indian as both docile and industrious. Their cultural alienness made them more vulnerable to the dictates of the planters. Here at last was a docile, industrious labor force bound by contract, and with little recourse to flight. As Haraksingh comments: As immigrant workers, the Indians belonged to a category of labor which is generally easier to control than local labor, for it is less secure, less confident of itself and in instances of confrontation easily finds itself facing the weight, if not the wrath, of other social groups. . . . The less pronounced the [cultural] similarity [between the immigrants and the host population] the more effective is the physical uprooting itself as a weapon in the arsenal of control. In the case of immigrant Indians in the Caribbean, the degree of similarity was minimal. (Haraksingh 1985: 156)

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


Thus, East Indian dispositions that were largely determined by the institutional basis of indenture rapidly became translated into innate “Indian characteristics” of docility and subservience. Many of the stereotypes of Creoles and East Indians that were propagated primarily by the plantocracy, which emerged during the immediate aftermath of slavery, were selectively internalized and utilized later by both Creoles and East Indians for their own purposes. Yet, as Curlie’s thinking on the difference between “Negroes” and “Indians” conveys, the productive contexts of such differences rarely if ever unsettle the lay cognitive map. The power of ethnicity lies precisely in the “commonsensical” premise that a group will tend to recognize its own kind when faced with one that is different—the fact of difference being largely determined by a cultural trait inventory that is naturalized. By focusing primarily on the period prior to the arrival of Indians in Trinidad, I have argued for the production of cultural difference independent of direct social interaction that anticipated future ethnic relations between Indoand Afro-Trinidadians. As such, I have underscored a cardinal point made by other theorists of ethnicity—that culture is not a first cause. But I also go beyond by suggesting that a shared physical space is not always a requisite for ethnicity in situations where those who stand to profit by creating and attributing significance to cultural difference wield sufficient power to create cultural boundaries independent of the social interaction itself. This colonial narrative also suggests that certain configurations of identity attributed to the postmodern era may not be that postmodern after all.

Notes 1. Tobago was joined administratively to Trinidad in 1889. Since this chapter focuses on events prior to this time and conditions unique to the island of Trinidad, my analysis is limited to Trinidad within the contemporary nationstate of Trinidad and Tobago. 2. In 1990 Indo-Trinidadians constituted 40.03 percent of the total population of Trinidad and Tobago, and Afro-Trinidadians, 39.6 percent (Central Statistical Office, Trinidad and Tobago 1996). Trinidad is much more ethnically heterogeneous than Tobago, which is largely populated by people claiming African descent. I use the terms Indo-Trinidadian and Afro-Trinidadian as present-day ethnic categories and also as analytic terms to refer to the projected dichotomy



between Trinidadians claiming Indian and African descent. Yet, for much of the discussion I use the terms Indian and East Indian, and Negro, African, Black, and Creole, to refer to the two groups, respectively, since these were the historically appropriate categories for the period analyzed here. 3. An analysis of the media through which this elite colonial discourse filtered into the consciousness of the general population, a fascinating topic in its own right, is beyond the scope of this chapter. 4. Spain’s attitude toward Trinidad was governed not only by the particular interests of the Spanish Crown, but by wider metropolitan rivalries as well. From 1492 to the early seventeenth century, the Spaniards were the only Europeans occupying lands in the Americas. However, the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) weakened Spain. At this juncture Britain, France, and Holland made their decisive entry into the Ca ribbean as major challengers to the established Spanish hegemony. Spain’s rivals caught her in her weakest moment. These new contenders, especially England and France, pursued a different kind of colonization based on plantation production and commerce (Dunn 1972: 16). 5. The 1783 cédula was a result of the 1761 “Family Compact” between Spain and France, which had established a special relationship between the two powers (Millette 1985: 3). 6. After the Seven Years’ War between France and Britain, Grenada was ceded to Britain. As a result, the French, who were Catholics, were increasingly discriminated against, and, with the cédula of 1783, many fled to Trinidad (Millette 1985: 9). 7. Discounting the sections dealing with trade and commerce, the five clauses regulating immigration consisted of the following: (1) Foreigners wishing to immigrate must be Roman Catholics and subjects of nations in friendly relations with Spain; (2) An oath of fidelity to Spain must be taken; (3) Every White settler was entitled to roughly thirty acres for each member of his family and half as much for each of his slaves; (4) Blacks and People of Color, being free men and proprietors, received half of the proportion allotted to Whites, the allotment to be increased if they brought slaves with them; and (5) After five years’ residence, all settlers and their dependents undertaking to remain permanently in the island assumed the rights and privileges of Spanish citizens and could be admitted to civil and military offices according to their talents and circumstances (Millette 1985: 16). 8. One of the requisites of the cédula was that the migrants had to be Catholic. French immigrants outnumbered the English, who were mostly Protestant. 9. According to Trollope (1985: 141), writing in 1859, a hogshead equaled one ton. 10. I am grateful to Nigel Bolland for this observation.

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


11. Under Chacon, the last Spanish governor of Trinidad (1783–1797), twentysix Free Colored persons received roughly 1,726 carreaux (a carreau = 3.2 acres) between 1783 and 1797, which amounted to 4.1 percent of the total land distributed. Campbell (1992), however, estimates the real percentage to be higher than 4.1 due to inconsistencies in recording. After the British takeover in 1796, the land distribution scheme was interrupted and resumed again, under Governors Hislop and Monro, in 1805 and continued until 1812. 12. Campbell does not account for the remaining 7 estates. Nevertheless, in an earlier paper, Campbell (1976) identifies only 34 estates owned by Coloreds in the Naparimas and in these earlier figures sugar estates account for 18 (and not the later 17) estates and those combining coffee and provisions number at two instead of the one quoted later. 13. As Campbell notes, however, the Colored population’s slaveholdings greatly exceeded the 2,202 quoted in Table 6.2 because it does not reflect the number of slaves in units of less than five. In 1813, plantations that engaged less than five slaves accounted for one-third of the total plantations in the island. These plantations concentrated on coffee, provisions, cocoa, and cotton— crops that Free Coloreds favored. 14. Despite falling sugar prices in the 1820s, the steady increase of sugar production in Trinidad from 18.5 million pounds in 1813 to 37.7 million pounds in 1833 attests to the importance of slavery (Brereton 1981: 69). 15. Hereafter, I use the terms planters or plantocracy specifically to denote the dominant faction made up mainly of sugar planters of English origin. 16. Eric Williams sought to explain abolition of the slave system from an economic rather than a humanitarian viewpoint by arguing “the abolition of the slave system was basically the result of the fact that the system had lost its former importance, in the nineteenth century, to the metropolitan economy” (Williams 1984: 281). 17. Caribbean sugar planters enjoyed a period of prosperity after the collapse of the Continental System when sugar prices rose from 40s. per cwt. for Caribbean muscovado in 1811 to 72s. in 1814. However, prices again declined after the Napoleonic wars, and by 1831 the wholesale price was below 24s., a rate that did not even cover the cost of bringing it to market (Green 1976: 39). 18. The Stanley Committee was a commission of inquiry appointed in 1842 under the chairmanship of Lord Stanley “to inquire into the state of the different West India colonies, in reference to the existing relations between employers and labourers, the rate of wages, the supply of labour, the system and expense of cultivation, and the general state of their rural and agricultural economy” (Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [House of Commons], Report of the Select Committee on West India Colonies, 1842 [479] XIII). In this chapter the document will be referred to as the Stanley Committee of 1842.



19. A common way of circumventing the labor problem after the Abolition Act of 1807, which ended the trade, was interinsular slave movement. However, the British government banned slave owners from the older colonies from settling in Trinidad with their slaves after 1825 (Brereton 1981: 69). This increase in the slave population during 1825 could be attributed to an intensification in interinsular slave movement in light of the impending ban. 20. The Emancipation Act of 1833 stipulated a period of six years of apprenticeship (later reduced to four) where the ex-slaves remained bound to plantations in order to “ease” the transition, for planters and ex-slaves alike, to freedom. 21. In the immediate aftermath of abolition, however, even those who had been optimistic about the labor situation, such as Lieutenant-Governor Hill and the smaller proprietors, soon altered their opinion. In a December 18 letter to Lord Glenelg, Lieutenant-Governor Hill wrote: The experience of the planters in this colony having indisputably ascertained that a sufficient force of labour was not to be expected from the negroes to take off the ensuing crop, notwithstanding the high rate of wages paid to them (which was not on any estate less than three bitts a day, with salt fish, houses, grounds, and medical attendance), the Council of Government, therefore took this straightened situation of planters [and passed the following resolution]. 1st . . . in this colony the quantity of labour available for the purpose of raising and manufacturing the staple articles of produce is not sufficient to maintain the cultivation already established, and to give employment to the fixed capital already invested in buildings and machinery, and that therefore unless effective measures for procuring an addition to our agricultural population are immediately adopted and promptly executed, a large amount of existing capital will be lost, and the prosperity of the colony materially and permanently injured. (Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [House of Commons], Papers Relative to the West Indies, 1839 [107] XXXVII: 253)

22. See also Kale (1995: 77). 23. See Munasinghe (2001). 24. Kale (1998) makes the persuasive argument that historians’ reliance on primary sources (official documents) invariably reproduces planter and other colonial elite discourses as historical facts. As she says: “The conventions and standards of evidence that govern historians’ constructions of arguments and narratives have contributed to enhancing the authority and value of these official sources. These methodological biases have also contributed to naturalizing the labor shortage that allegedly threatened British Caribbean sugar industries and the economies and societies that allegedly depended on them” (Kale 1998: 7). 25. See Campbell (1992) for details on the position and struggles of Free Coloreds in Trinidad between 1783 and 1838. 26. See also Look Lai (1993: chapter 6) for a discussion on Colored and Black elites’ resistance to indenture.

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


27. Immigrants from the eastern Caribbean had been flooding into Trinidad because of the relatively high wages and abundance of land. This practice was actively encouraged by the planters, even though authorities of other islands objected, and in November 1838 the planters introduced a resolution that rewarded appointed recruiting agents with a bounty for every immigrant they introduced. Between 1839 and 1849, approximately 10,278 West Indians came to Trinidad, and according to Brereton (1981: 96), “Trinidad was the Mecca for smallislanders.” See also Look Lai 1993: 13–18. 28. The estimated number of 8,000 immigrants for the period between 1840 and 1842 appears high. In contrast, Brereton’s data show that between 1841 and 1861 only 3,383 immigrants came from Sierra Leone, while another 3,198 came from St. Helena (Brereton 1981: 98). Look Lai (1993: 15) cites 8,854 immigrants from Africa between 1834 and 1867. 29. Despite the absence of concrete data, the general opinion of the surveyor general around 1841 was that of the approximately 20,000 efficient working slaves at the time of emancipation, one-third may have retired from estate labor, but this loss was readjusted by the influx of 8,000–10,000 immigrants (Stanley Committee 1842: 74). 30. Burnley is referring here to the Stephen Code, which annulled existing contracts as soon as migrants arrived in Trinidad. 31. Trouillot justifies the appropriateness of the term preventive for the case of Dominica on the basis that these measures were intended to prevent the spread of the peasant labor process on and off the estates. In the case of Trinidad, however, evidence for a burgeoning peasantry during this time is somewhat scarce, and planter characterizations in fact point to the contrary—that is, a retardation of provision ground cultivation. Despite this inconsistency between the two case studies, Trouillot’s framework is still applicable if we understand the struggle over the containment of the peasant labor process as an instance of the larger struggle over the control over labor power. See also Bolland 1981 and 1984 for an analysis of planter strategies for control over labor after emancipation in the British West Indies. Of course, planter strategies to control the labor of slaves and ex-slaves were always in anticipation of or a reaction to the resistance of these subordinate groups. There is abundant literature on this topic. See especially Mintz 1978 and 1979. 32. In 1838 the London Merchants’ Association argued for immigration from India by claiming that it would help abolish slavery throughout the world: “The promoting and encouraging of free emigration to the British West India colonies, would tend materially to the successful working of the free labour system; and would in time render Great Britain independent of foreign slave countries for all tropical productions, and ultimately be the means of putting down the slave trade, and abolishing slavery throughout the world” (quoted in Kale 1998: 54).



33. See also Kale’s analyses of Governor Light’s refutation of such planter representations in the case of British Guiana (1998: chapter 3) and the arguments put forward by anti-slavery groups in Britain, which also sought to undermine negative portrayals of the newly freed population (1998: chapter 4). 34. As Parliament itself was full of members who owned estates in the West Indies, the Committee’s decision to support the planters is hardly surprising.

Bibliography Barth, Fredrik. 1969. Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Diff erence. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Beachey, R. W. 1978. The British West Indies Sugar Industry in the Late 19th Century. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Bolland, Nigel. 1981. “Systems of Domination After Slavery: The Control of Land and Labour in the British West Indies After 1838.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 23(4): 591– 619. ———. 1984. “Reply to William A. Green’s ‘The Perils of Comparative History.’ ” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26(1): 120–125. ———. 1992. “Creolization and Creole Societies: A Cultural Nationalist View of Caribbean Social History.” In Alistair Hennessy, ed., Intellectuals in the Twentieth- Century Caribbean, vol. 1: Spectre of the New Class: The Commonwealth Caribbean. London: Macmillan, 51– 79. Brereton, Bridget. 1979. Race Relations in Colonial Trinidad, 1870–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1981. A History of Modern Trinidad, 1783–1962. Kingston, Jamaica: Heinemann. ———. 1985. “The Experience of Indentureship: 1845–1917.” In John Gaffar La Guerre, ed., Calcutta to Caroni: The East Indians of Trinidad. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: Extra Mural Studies Unit, University of the West Indies, 21–32. ———. 1993. “Social Organisation and Class, Racial and Cultural Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Trinidad.” In Kevin Yelvington, ed., Trinidad Ethnicity. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 33–55. Campbell, Carl C. 1976. “The Wealth of Mulatto Men.” Unpublished manuscript. ———. 1992. Cedulants and Capitulants. Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: Paria Publishing Company. Central Statistical Office, Government of Trinidad and Tobago. 1997. Statistics at a Glance 1996. Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: Central Statistical Office.

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


Ching, Annette. 1985. “Ethnicity Reconsidered with Reference to Sugar and Society in Trinidad.” PhD diss., University of Sussex. Collens, J. H. 1888. A Guide to Trinidad. London: Elliot Stock. Comins, D. W. D. 1893. Note on Emigration from India to Trinidad. Calcutta, Bengal: Secretariat Press. de Verteuil, Anthony. 1989. Eight East Indian Immigrants. Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: Paria Publishing Company. Drescher, Seymour. 1977. Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Dunn, Richard. 1972. Sugar and Slaves. New York: Norton and Company. Engerman, Stanley. 1986. “Slavery and Emancipation in Comparative Perspective: A Look at Some Recent Debates.” Journal of Economic History 46: 317–339. ———. 1992. “The Economic Response to Emancipation and Some Economic Aspects of the Meaning of Freedom.” In Seymour Drescher and Frank McGlynn, eds., The Meaning of Freedom. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 49– 68. Erickson, Edgar. 1934. “The Introduction of East Indian Coolies into the British West Indies.” The Journal of Modern History 6(2): 127–146. Great Britain. Parliamentary Papers (House of Commons). Papers Relative to the West Indies, 1839 (107) XXXVI. ———. Papers Relative to the West Indies, 1839 (107) XXXVII. ———. Papers Relative to the West Indies, 1841–1842 (379) XXIX. (The 1842 Minutes of Evidence Taken by the Sub- Committee of the Agricultural and Immigration Society are included here.) Green, William. 1976. British Slave Emancipation: The Sugar Colonies and the Great Experiment 1830–1865. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 1984. “The Perils of Comparative History: Belize and the British Sugar Colonies After Slavery.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26(1): 112–119. Gupta, Akhil, and James Ferguson. 1997. “Beyond “Culture”: Space, Identity and the Politics of Difference.” In Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson, eds., Culture, Power, Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 33–51. Hall, Douglas. 1978. “The Flight from the Estates Reconsidered: The British West Indies.” Journal of Caribbean History 10–11: 7–24. Haraksingh, Kusha. 1981. “Control and Resistance Among Overseas Indian Workers: A Study of Labour on the Sugar Plantations of Trinidad, 1875–1917.” Journal of Caribbean History 14: 1–17. ———. 1985. “Aspects of the Indian Experience in the Caribbean.” In John Gaffar La Guerre, ed., Calcutta to Caroni: The East Indians of Trinidad.



St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: Extra Mural Studies Unit, University of the West Indies, 155–172. Heuman, Gad. 1981. Between Black and White: Race, Politics, and the Free Coloreds in Jamaica, 1792–1865. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Higman, Barry. 1984. Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807–1834. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Holt, Thomas C. 1992. The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832–1938. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Kale, Madhavi. 1995. “Projecting Identities: Empire and Indentured Labor Migration from India to Trinidad and British Guiana, 1836–1885.” In Peter van der Veer, ed., Nation and Migration: The Politics of Space in the South Asian Diaspora. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 73– 92. ———. 1998. Fragments of Empire: Capital, Slavery, and Indian Indentured Labor in the British Caribbean. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Leach, Edmund. 1954. Political Systems of Highland Burma: A Study of Kachin Social Structure. Boston: Beacon Press. Look Lai, Walton. 1993. Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar: Chinese and Indian Migrants to the British West Indies, 1838–1918. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. MacDonald, Scott. 1986. Trinidad and Tobago: Democracy and Development in the Caribbean. New York: Praeger. Mandle, Jay R. 1982. Patterns of Caribbean Development: An Interpretive Essay on Economic Change. New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers. Marshall, Woodville K. 1991. “The Post-Slavery Labour Problem Revisited.” The 1990 Elsa Goveia Memorial Lecture. Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies. Merivale, Herman. 1967. Lectures on Colonization and Colonies. New York: A. M. Kelley. Millette, James. 1985. Society and Politics in Colonial Trinidad. Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: Zed Books. Mintz, Sidney W. 1977. “North American Anthropological Contributions to Caribbean Studies.” Boletin de Estudios Latino Americanos y del Caribe 22: 68–82. ———. 1978. “Was the Plantation Slave a Proletarian?” Review 2(1): 81– 98. ———. 1979. “Slavery and the Rise of the Peasantries.” Historical Reflection 6(1): 213–242. ———. 1984. “Africa of Latin America: An Unguarded Reflection.” In Manuel Moreno Fraginals, ed., Africa in Latin America: Essays on History, Culture, and Socialization. New York: Holmes and Meier, 286–305.

Foretelling Ethnicity in Trinidad


———. 1992. “Panglosses and Pollyannas.” In Frank McGlynn and Seymour Drescher, eds., The Meaning of Freedom: Economics, Politics, and Culture After Slavery. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 245–256. Munasinghe, Viranjini. 2001. Callaloo or Tossed Salad? East Indians and the Cultural Politics of Identity in Trinidad. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Newson, L. 1976. Aboriginal and Spanish Colonial Trinidad. London: Academic Press. Niebhor, H. J. 1971. Slavery as an Industrial System. New York: B. Franklin. Ragatz, L. 1971. The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean, 1763–1833. New York: Octagon Books. Samaroo, B. 1985. “Politics and Afro-Indian Relations in Trinidad.” In John Gaffar La Guerre, ed., Calcutta to Caroni: The East Indians of Trinidad. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: Extra Mural Studies Unit, University of the West Indies, 77– 94. Sebastien, Raphael. 1978. “The Development of Capitalism in Trinidad: 1845– 1917.” PhD diss., Howard University. Sewell, W. G. 1968. The Ordeal of Free Labour in the British West Indies. London: Frank Cass and Co. Ltd. Singh, K. 1985. “Indians and the Larger Society.” In John Gaffar La Guerre, ed., Calcutta to Caroni: The East Indians of Trinidad. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: Extra Mural Studies Unit, University of the West Indies, 33– 62. Stanley Committee. 1842. Report of the Select Committee on West India Colonies, 1842 (479) XIII. Tinker, Hugh. 1974. A New System of Slavery. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Trollope, Anthony. 1985. The West Indies and The Spanish Main. Gloucester: Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1984. “Labour and Emancipation in Dominica: Contribution to a Debate.” Caribbean Quarterly 30: 73–84. ———. 1988. Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the World Economy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ———. 1989. “Discourses of Rule and the Acknowledgment of the Peasantry in Dominica, W.I., 1838–1928.” American Ethnologist 16(4): 704– 718. ———. 1996. “Beyond and Below the Merivale Paradigm: Dominica’s First 100 Days of Freedom.” In Robert L. Paquette and Stanley Engerman, eds., The Lesser Antilles in the Age of European Expansion. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 305–323. Williams, Eric. 1976. The Negro in the Caribbean. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.



———. 1982. History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago. London: Andre Deutsch. ———. 1984. From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean. New York: Vintage Books. Wood, Donald. 1968. Trinidad in Transition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

§ 7 The Nationalization of Anthropology: Japan and China in Manchuria Prasenjit Duara

In this chapter I explore the process whereby anthropology, with the aid of historical knowledge, was transformed into a national project and mobilized for state- and identity-building purposes in twentieth-century East Asia. Whereas the study of anthropology as a discipline with imperialist roots is well known, its adaptation to new nation-state formations in the twentieth century is less studied. The new anthropology distanced itself from the representational principle of old-style colonialism based on the difference between “primitive” and “civilized,” but in many parts of the world it became engaged in the sovereignty claims of modern states. In consonance with the ideas of nationalism, multinationalism, and multiculturalism, and through such techniques discussed here as the “anthropogenetic nation” or the “theory of mixed origins,” anthropology sought to transform the old colonial difference into a commonality of co-nationals. I consider anthropology as a form of scientific knowledge as well as its role as creator of the new subjectivity of the citizens of the nation. During the interwar years, history and anthropology became intertwined in Chinese and Japanese projects to make contesting claims on a frontier region known then by much of the world as Manchuria and referred to today as northeast China, or dongbei. My inquiry centers on the puppet state of Manchukuo established in this region by the Japanese military between 1932 until 1945. Manchukuo had a population of 40 million and Portions of this chapter appeared in Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchuko and the East Asian Modern (2003). Reprinted by permission of Rowman and Littlefield.




was three times larger than Japan.1 Beyond the involvement of anthropology in the political contest between China and Japan, I want to show how the discipline was informed by globally circulatory ideas and practices and, specifically, how the historical encounter between China and Japan mediated these global ideas in a regional matrix that influenced their understandings of peripheral peoples. While it was the modern European imperialist state that began the transformation of frontier zones of historical empires in Africa and Asia, the nationalist state has intensified the massive penetration into these older borderlands that were usually characterized by informal arrangements, multiple sovereignties, and the images and taboos of barbarian wildernesses. Modern nation-states have tended to incorporate these contiguous but alien territories and peoples wherever possible, thereby blurring the practical distinction between imperialism and nationalism in these areas. The modern state produced a new type of domination of the periphery by the center, or, frequently, peripheralized once-autonomous regions.

The Conception of Minzoku, or Nationality Japanese ideas of ethnography in the late nineteenth century were influenced by German and Russian conceptions related to the eastern expansion of the Tsarist empire into Siberia. The notion of a “people” or “nationality” that would later feed into the political discourse of minzoku emerged in the academic field of ethnology under the circumstances of state-building (Vermeulen 1999: 22). The founders of Japanese ethnography, such as Tsuboi Shōgorō and Torii Ryūzō, were influenced by Russian ethnographers who tended to view the different Siberian groups as “ethnic groups” (Volker in German; narody or natsional’nosti in Russian) bound together by ties of blood, language, and custom. The multiply connected and incompletely determinate ties (or soft boundaries) of various Siberian groups were conceived in the new categories of linguistics and culture, redrawn, homogenized, and reproduced as ethnological wholes (MorrisSuzuki 2000: 14–15). The evolution of anthropology in Japan at the turn of the nineteenth century reflected these trends and developed some novel paths from them. Originally, jinruigaku (study of humankind) for Tsuboi was the study of a fundamentally indivisible humanity, even if it was evolutionist.

The Nationalization of Anthropology


Backward customs existed both outside the nation and within it— among the Ainu, Okinawans, the burakumin, and different regions and levels of Japanese society as much as elsewhere— and, fundamentally, this backwardness could be overcome. Tsuboi was critical of Western anthropologists’ identification of whole peoples and races ( jinshū and minzoku) as destined to be forever different and backward; it reflected an effort to impose their superiority over the people they colonized (Sakano 2000: 907). However, with the surge of nationalist pride after the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars, Tsuboi became more favorably disposed to jinshūgaku and minzokugaku as the study of peoples and nationalities. A refiguration of anthropology began to take place toward the end of the Meiji period (1868–1912). Tsuboi’s successor, Torii Ryūzō, declared the separation of (anthropology) jinruigaku from (ethnology) jinshūgaku or minzokugaku and proposed the field of tōyō jinshūgaku or tōyō minzokugaku, referring to the ethnology of the Eastern or Oriental races. While anthropology was the study of the human species in its natural or biological dimension, ethnology was the study of both the genealogy of a race ( jinshū no keizu) and the history of a nationality (minzoku no rekishi). Torii’s concern with the wider roots of a people or race is clarified by his warning that by neglecting ethnology his compatriots would leave the field of East Asia (tōyō) to the Europeans at their peril. Thus, for instance, the European archaeological discoveries in Chinese Turkestan, which suggested that the early peoples there may have been of Persian stock, would encourage Europeans to extend their research of the Indo-German race to East Asia. It would be a short step for them to move into regions such as Tibet, Mongolia, and Manchuria. Torii therefore urges his fellow ethnologists to study the regions surrounding Japan under a single system of East Asian ethnology and archaeology (Torii 1975: 480–483). The interest in East Asian nationalities was closely tied to the spread of the theory of “the mixed origins of the Japanese people,” tied in turn to the growth of the Japanese empire. According to this theory, the superiority of the Japanese race derived not from its purity and singular origins within the archipelago, but from its history of assimilating and mixing of different racial groups. Following the Russo-Japanese war, Tsuboi famously declared that the superiority of the Japanese race over the Russian race was founded, not on the purity of the Japanese race, but on its mixed character (Oguma 2002: 13, 53, 63).



At the same time, as ethnology became increasingly concerned with the wider roots of the Japanese, Tsuboi, Torii, and others also began to support the distinction between a native ethnography (minzoku, kyōdo kenkyū) identified with the study of Japanese folklore and rural studies and the study of non-Japanese peoples as ethnology (minzokugaku and jinshūgaku). The development of native ethnography is of course most prominently identified with Yangita Kunio’s native place and folklore movement in which Tsuboi, Shiratori, and Torii all participated. Thus, as the distinction between a native ethnography (minzoku) and the study of outsiders congealed, anthropology as the study of an indivisible humanity finally fell away (Sakano 2000: 169–172). A third, new conception of minzoku emerged globally toward the end of World War I. With the Soviet revolution, Woodrow Wilson’s call for national self-determination, and the emergence of the League of Nations and other multinational organizations, the idea of “nationality” began to shed some of its racist baggage. The idea took hold that the entire globe was divisible into different nationalities and the nation’s people were the agents of their history. Histories of nationalities came to symbolize the growing selfawareness of an originary or holistic people and the realization of their destiny in a modern future. The national narrative of a self-aware subject or agent of history laid claims to rights that derived from a discourse of nationality rights in the French Revolution. Soviet ideas of nationality further sought to de-racialize it and give it a radical anti-imperialist and emancipatory character with claims, if not to outright sovereignty, at least to selfgovernance. Professional anthropologists were more circumspect than other sectors of society about adopting the new Japanese discourse of minzoku as nationality rights, but as we see below, they too deployed it by the time of the Chinese occupation. Radicals, reformers, colonial bureaucrats, South Manchurian Railway Company researchers, and spokesmen of the popular discourse of pan-Asianism were much quicker to adopt it into their political vision and strategies. We see an early version of this conception in the little-known and never-realized vision of a utopian state of Koryo in the Manchurian-Korean border region around 1920. Conceived as an alliance with disaffected Korean elites, Japanese Asianists such as Uchida Ryōhei formed the Isshinkai to create a polity combining ancient Confucian ideals with contemporary ideas of equality of citizenship among Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and Asian Russians. Given the strong nationalism

The Nationalization of Anthropology


of the Japanese groups, one cannot but also see it as an expression of Japanese expansion. But in several ways it prefigured some of the theoretically radical ideas of Manchukuo (1932–1945), such as the Concordia (Hasegawa 1982: 95). Moreover, even the concept of minzoku as nationality rights continued to retain the holistic and exclusionary dimension that it had earlier developed. According to Michael Weiner, while the term minzoku tended to replace jinshū from the 1920s, the concept of minzoku itself had a significant physiological component through the early postwar era, expressed in the triumvirate of common culture, common history, and common blood (Weiner 1997: 98– 99). Thus, Japanese minzoku discourse developed a complex structure, which came to distinguish three levels that were separate but mutually dependent. One of these was native ethnology of the Yamato minzoku or folklore; the second was tōyō minzokugaku, including Koreans and the groups in northeast and southeast Asia. The third was the later notion of minzoku as nationality rights. While the first level became significantly appropriated by the imperial ideology of the family-state and formed a hard core of racist nationalism, the other two became tied to the Japanese empire, adapting to its different and changing needs. Oguma Eiji has shown that the mixed origins doctrine— closely affiliated with the second level—had an imperialist goal, but this ethnology of empire was based on a rhetorical or theoretical identification with the colonized. This peculiarity had to do with the historical ties with the very East Asian peoples that the Japanese sought to colonize and with the Japanese selfimage as victims of Western imperialism. While those who advocated the mixed origins doctrine were frequently opposed to the ancestral purity argument of the Yamato race, it was the institutionalized separation of nativist ethnology from tōyō minzokugaku that sustained the imperialist character of the discourse. Just as the construction of the Yamato minzoku was significant for mobilization of Japanese nationalism, the other two conceptions of minzoku were also deployed—much more ambivalently—to develop some measure of identity and mobilization within the Japanese empire. The rhetoric of Japanese imperial formation increasingly emphasized similarities rather than differences between the imperial power and the ruled because mobilization of the empire’s population and resources became a vital part of the arsenal and strategy of global competition. Precisely what kinds of formal relations among nationalities would prevail in the



colonies and in the puppet states of the wartime empire would be debated till the end. But all the different projects would be undermined by the hardening militarism of the racialist Yamato nationalism.

Asian Nationalities and the Nation-State in Manchukuo Manchuria was the homeland of the Manchu rulers of China. Although the rulers had tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to keep Manchuria off limits to Chinese settlers, they reversed this policy when Russian imperialists began to extend their claims to the region in the late nineteenth century. After the Russo-Japanese war in 1905, the Japanese dominated the region economically and militarily and, particularly, through the South Manchurian Railway Company, an enormous state-owned conglomerate that also represented one of the largest research organizations in the contemporary world. However, demographically, the Chinese already far exceeded the native tribes and other settlers in the region and constituted 90 percent of the population. The Japanese military controlled the region through an unstable alliance with the apex Chinese warlord Zhang Zuolin, but when his son Zhang Xueliang was no longer amenable to Japanese interests, they replaced him with the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1931. The puppet state had a design very different from the old idea of a colonial state. It emphasized similarity of purpose, if not culture, between the different constituent groups based on an alliance of nationalities underpinned by pan-Asian ideals. Although the politics behind this design were complex, I have argued that Manchukuo also represented a new imperialism whereby domination took place through extending the principles of nationality or common belonging. The imperial region of the post–World War I era displayed a novel type of formation in which military dependencies and client states took the form of nominally sovereign and even modernizing nation-states. The competitive urge for global dominance among latecomer imperialist nation-states like Japan necessitated the reorganization of their empires as organic entities in which the periphery has to be motivated to participate in the competitive game by integrating interest and identity with violence and its threat. Such formations also appeared in German, Soviet, and, with qualifications, U.S. imperialism (Duara 2007: 217–218, 231–234). One of the principal means whereby the Japanese military and the puppet Chinese government controlled Manchukuo was through the

The Nationalization of Anthropology


mass organization called the Concordia Association. The Concordia Association closely resembled contemporary “totalitarian parties” in Europe. The leaders refrained from calling it a party precisely because such an appellation smacked of too much partisanship. It enrolled all officials and government functionaries, including teachers, as well as important figures in society. All youths between the ages of sixteen and nineteen were compulsorily enrolled from 1937, and by 1943 it counted about 10 percent of the population (compared to 5 percent for the Chinese Communist Party). Members often wore uniforms and served as propaganda agents whether through film, youth training, or meetings while also undertaking lower-level administrative functions, such as surveillance and even labor mobilization during the Pacific theater of World War II (McCormack 1991: 105–124). The association deployed the theory of nationality for purposes of the new state. Like its fascist counterparts, the Concordia Association was corporatist, anticommunist, and anticapitalist and sought to overcome class divisions by organizing people through ethnic nationalities as well as occupational communities, while promoting a dirigiste economy. But the association was distinctive in representing Asian nationalities—Mongols, Manchus, Hui Muslims, Koreans (who, together with the Japanese and white Russians, accounted for about 10 percent of the population), as well as the majority Chinese—and their traditions. Many ethnographic and historical studies of these nationalities were conducted through the research wing of the Association and various government ministries and bureaus, as well as the flagship Jianguo University. The commitment to nationality often meant supporting the religious leadership among these peoples: Mongol lamas, Manchu and Daur shamans, Muslim ahongs, Buddhist monks, and Confucian moralists. The regime’s control of local society was enhanced by the work of association units established within, for example, Manchu villages, Hui mosques, and the Chinese community self-surveillance system (baojia). Thus the nationality policy came to play an important role in maintaining both the corporatist, fascistic character of the regime and its claim to legitimacy based on adherence to the “kingly way.” At the same time, the Concordia Association had been founded to realize the modern goals of nation-building ( jianguo), and there was a powerful constituency within it composed of intellectuals and technocrats among Chinese and the settler Japanese community as well as the



younger generation from the ethnic communities. In practice the very different programs and interests pursued by the two different groups led to many tensions and conflicts that leave us with a view of Manchukuo as a schizophrenic society polarized rather than harmonized by the twin imperatives to modernize and proclaim its essential Asianism. Mongol youth demanded modern education and the elimination of the power of the lamas; Chinese supporters were fiercely divided between those who wanted the restoration of the emperor and those who opposed it. Wartime propaganda activists in the Association were frustrated by their inability to mobilize redemptive societies for wartime work. The contradiction reflected in particular the tensions of an artificial nation-state dominated by an imperial power. The inability to construct a truly independent nationstate led it to cling to constituencies that would have to be gradually overcome in the process of national modernization. Encouraging the nationalities in Manchukuo, moreover, could provoke irredentism and lead to anti-Japanese nationalism. Tominaga Tadashi, author of Manshūkoku no minzoku mondai and deeply influenced by the Soviet theory of nationalities, was most concerned about Chinese and Korean nationalism. He pointed in particular to the contradiction toward Koreans between Japanese colonial policy, which advocated assimilation, and the Manchukuo policy of independent nationality. Regarding the Chinese, he was particularly attentive to how the pro-traditional dimension of Chinese nationalism among intellectuals was quite weak (unlike, for instance, Indian or Arab nationalism). He was concerned that the strategy of appealing to traditionalists would not work. Writing in 1943, Tominaga asserted repeatedly that alienating nationalist movements in Asia would doom the Japanese project (Tominaga 1943: 27–32). Both problems— of traditionalism and irredentism— suggested that nationality policy created as many difficulties as it solved for the state, and those difficulties led, inevitably, to the growing power of the state over the nationalities. The problem was discussed philosophically by anonymous Hegelian dialecticians at Jianguo University who grappled with this relationship in discussing the relevance of the Soviet model of nationalities to Manchukuo: All nationalities in their life-worlds (seken seikatsu) must progress from the simple to the complex, from the unenlightened to the enlightened. The organizations, institutions, and culture of the various people express the spirit of universal citizenship (read state) in form; but it is the special national

The Nationalization of Anthropology


character that determines the content. The objective existence of spirit is not exhausted (by this content); but it is external and moves from the outside to the inside. In the process, the institutions, organizations, and culture accept spirit, and national culture becomes the basis for the realization of spirit. (Soren no minzoku seisaku 1940: 1–2)

The Manchukuo experiment with nationality certainly influenced the Japanese wartime ideas of the East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, but the latter were not identical to those of Manchukuo theorists generally. Ethnologists such as Takata Yasuma and Oka Masao subscribed to ideas of nationality in the Sphere influenced by Nazi ideas of ethnic nationality and organic totality, but ethnological theorists of Concordia like Tominaga were much more committed to the Soviet principle of national selfdetermination. They believed that the principle of nationality was indispensable to the idea (however degraded in reality) of alliance between the Japanese and other nationalities (Doak 2001: 27–28; Nakao 1994: 135–143).

The Imbrication of Race and Culture in Minzoku To be sure, cultural nationalisms—under a strong state leadership— were not the only expression of minzoku in Manchukuo either. The older theory of mixed origins of the Japanese had a specific function in the puppet state. The Soviet-influenced nationality rights policies of the state were designed, in part, to neutralize the Han Chinese. Negatively, they gave minority nationalities a theoretically equivalent status to the Han majority; positively, by showcasing Chinese moral and spiritual traditions such as Confucianism and redemptive religions as the emblems of this state, they were designed to incorporate the Han Chinese as a junior partner in a multinational state. There was also a concurrent— or supplementary— tendency to deny or preempt Chinese sovereignty claims to the region and indirectly lay the Japanese claim to it. Ethnological discourse played a major role in the development of this narrative: the hypothesis of UralAltaic peoples. The Ural-Altaic hypothesis, popular first in Europe and Russia in the nineteenth century and in Japan by the turn of the century, became paradigmatic of Japanese ethnological discourse in the early twentieth century. Fragments of language and religious practices were systematized



into a theory of common racial origins of a vast group of peoples, including the Turks, the Mongols, and the Tungus. Torii and Shiratori appealed to the Ural-Altaic hypothesis in the 1890s to demonstrate Japan’s roots in northeast Asia even while constructing Japan’s superiority over other members of this family (Ōtsuka 1996; Kawamura 1996; Pai 1999: 366; Tanaka 1993: 84– 93).2 In Manchukuo, the Ural-Altaic hypothesis led to the notion of a Tungusic or pan-North Asian people as a great Asiatic people constructed in the mirror image of the Indo-European people. The notion of a common or closely related family and social structures among the Tungusic peoples was frequently invoked to suggest a unified cultural foundation for Manchukuo. Writer after writer— and not only those writing in an official or semi-official capacity— stressed the commonality of the Tungusic race and the place of Manchuria as the original homeland of the Tungusic peoples (Tominaga 1943: 60– 65). In the Japanese ethnic classifications prevalent in Manchuria, the Japanese and Koreans represented the Southern Tungus; the original Shandong peoples, the Yellow River Tungus and the Daurs and Solons, represented the Mongol Tungus; the Manchus, the Goldi (the Fishskin Tartars), the Manchurian Tungus, and the Oroqen represented the Siberian Tungus (Nagata 1939: 4). Given that the Japanese regarded themselves as the southern branch of the Tungusic peoples, the obvious effect of this argument was, by means of a racial logic, to give Japanese rule an anthropogenetic claim in Manchuria. The discursive landscape in which Japanese ethnographers elaborated their depictions of peoples in Manchuria called for the imbrication of race and culture. Where the racial principle could not be stretched adequately to frame the community, an allegedly common culture was invoked as a supplement to race. The various non-Han peoples were classified as Tungusic, and their cultural practices—particularly shamanism—were compared not only with each other, showing various degrees of relationship, but also with the Japanese themselves. Thus, for instance, the Koreans were said to be linguistically and culturally very close to the Japanese, especially to the “ancient Japanese culture,” and although the Chinese influence on the elite was very strong, the ordinary people had strong Tungusic traditions in their family structure and traditions (Tominaga 1943: 58–60). Thus, even as the radical minzoku narrative was being promoted as the basis of an alliance among the peoples of East Asia, the Ural-Altaic/Tungus thesis of common origins generated an ethnological claim for Japanese

The Nationalization of Anthropology


imperialism that excluded Chinese sovereignty. The ethnological thesis became embedded in a spatial narrative of the distinctiveness and autonomy of the Manchurian region. This narrative portrayed a land with 3,000 years of history developing outside (Chinese) agricultural civilization and around grasslands and primeval forests and mountains. In the Japanese popular imagination, Manchuria in this period emerged as a romance of “the endless sky canopying a land inhabited by bandits, horse thieves, rebels and mysterious heroes,” a land of danger and opportunity like the Wild West. The primeval forests and its dwellers, as we see below, had a special role in this imagination (Kleeman 1999: 2). In Manchukuo, Japanese visual or literary depictions of the land and people tend to erase or marginalize the role of agriculture and the Han agricultural population. The vigorous film industry (Man’ei), the hundreds of picture books, and other propaganda materials that its many institutions churned out in several languages portrayed the grasslands and herdsmen; aboriginals and the forest; the variety of ethnic communities, including Japanese agricultural settlers; traditions and religions; modern cities; and industrial power. But the innocent observer might hardly be aware that more than 80 percent of the population consisted of Chinese agriculturists.3 As an institutional condensation of the historical and spatial nation, the National Manchukuo Central Museum (Manshūkoku kokuritsu chuo hakubustukan) revealed a vision consistent with the marginalization of the Chinese. Established in 1938, the museum coordinated the activities of all museums in the country and housed a major collection. It was recognized as the pioneer of the “new museum” and subsequently became the model for postwar Japanese museums. Designed not simply for viewing, it engaged in research and extension activities, including teaching, performances, film viewing, special exhibitions, friendship societies of science education, and so on. The museum reflected a split vision of the nation and the world: on the one hand, the collections, publications, and programs of the museum and its branches were concerned with the natural resources, indigenous peoples, and historical kingdoms of Manchuria; on the other, the artifacts and materials linked Manchukuo to a pan-Asian civilization, deriving particularly from non-Han sources of Chinese empires, such as the Mongols, or Turfan in the Tang Dynasty (Nagoyashi hakubustkan 1995: 63–67, 90–91, 114–115). As a new type of museum, it sought to integrate this vision with the public and society to a much



greater degree than previously. Thus, the museum was not only a simulacrum of civilization guiding recognition and self-location, but it sought to be an active force in the remaking of society according to a wartime vision of pan-Asianism.

Oroqen The special role of the Tungus and the culture of the forest come together in the study of the Oroqen, a tiny hunting tribe that lived in the Xing’an mountains and whose numbers had declined to about 3,000 in the 1930s. Despite their small numbers, the known Japanese studies of the Oroqen numbered more than twenty by the 1940s. This testifies to the central role the Oroqen played in the ethnological discourse of the Tungus in Manchuria. Turning specifically to the Oroqen, the most frequently cited and wellrespected scholarly work was S. M. Shirokogoroff ’s Social Organization of the Northern Tungus (1966), first published in 1929 and translated into Japanese. It was the major inspiration for the ethnographic work of Akamatsu Chijō and Akiba Takashi known as Manmo no minzoku to shūkyō (The peoples and religion of Manchuria and Mongolia). Akamatsu and Akiba were at Seoul Imperial University and had been active in the research of folk religion and shamanism in Korea (Shimizu 1999: 136–137). In turn, the work of these two ethnographers became the most important reference work for writers in Manchukuo. The actual fieldwork on the Oroqen was done by Akiba Takashi in 1935, and it is instructive to pause for a moment on the narrative structure through which he presents his materials. The diary form of Akiba’s account dramatizes his travel to the Oroqen camps. It is a dangerous and awe-filled journey into a different timespace—the depths of the primeval Xing’an forests—in search of the primitive, indeed, primeval, Oroqen, the living ancestors of the Tungus peoples. The first vision of the Oroqen appears as in a dream when he sees their campfire in the dim light of dawn. The mixture of awe and terror remains with the narrative as he describes the bloodstained clothes and the game of a hunter who was reputed to have also killed seven men. Everywhere he is attentive to the exotic details of Oroqen mythology, customs, and personality. The romance of a journey of discovery highlights the exotic quality of primitivity.

The Nationalization of Anthropology


But, in additon to the exotic, Akiba also presents us with a complex account of their contemporary situation, their material life, and relations with outsiders. As he himself declares, While we may think of the Xing’an mountains as an enchanted fairyland, cut off from the human world, it is a place where many peoples have come into contact and a composite culture has emerged. Now the Oroqen are in the process of losing their primitivity. What will be the shape of their nonprimitivity in the future is a major question facing all of the peoples of Manmo. (Akamatsu and Akiba 1939: 126)

Thus, in addition to the exotic quality of Oroqen primitivism, Akiba is particularly attentive to the question of this composite culture—to the way in which details of Oroqen culture, especially shamanism, are related to a wider culture of various Tungus communities. The names and functions of the gods are related to the Mongol’s and especially to the Korean’s gods; the clothes of the shaman (mukunda) are like the Daur’s, his drums and bells like the Manchu’s, the presence of the community deity in the house of the shaman is as in the house of the Korean madang; the structure of the tent with the divinity in it is like the Japanese jinja, and the great shamanic ceremony to the Protector of Horses every three to five years resembles the Japanese communal fox prayer (Akamatsu and Akiba 1939: 103–111). To be sure, Akamatsu and Akiba’s preoccupation with shamanism signaled something wider than the political, and they engaged the topic in scholarly terms which were too wide to accommodate an overt political agenda. For instance, in their view, shamanism was also prevalent among the Han peoples in the northeast and thus it transcended the purely racial. But on closer reading it is apparent that Han shamanism was considered to be a Manchu influence on the Han that appeared first among the Han bannermen or Hanjun (Akamatsu and Akiba 1939: 367). The authors were torn between two separate conclusions: to the extent that they were influenced by Japanese imperialist discourse, they concluded that shamanism was distinctive to the race and culture of northeast Asia; attending to global, especially Russian, scholarship, they were forced to conclude that shamanism could hardly be so confined by race or area. They resolved their dilemma thus: “Shamanism has both a specific, local meaning among the North Asian peoples, but also a wider



scientific meaning that incorporates the cultures of other Asian and non-Asian peoples” (Akamatsu and Akiba 1939: 22–29). Another influential ethnography of the Oroqen was, however, much more clearly subordinated to the political imperatives of the state. As chief investigator of the Security Bureau of the Manchukuo General Staff, Nagata’s research of the Oroqen, conducted from 1937 to 1938, dealt, of course, with administrative and security issues. But they also went far beyond these topics to include a full-fledged ethnography that was embedded within the ethnological discourse we have alluded to above. In addition to the administrative history and current social and medical problems, the ethnography includes detailed analysis of physical type, psychological nature, social structure, customs and ceremonies, and, not least, shamanism. Shamanism reflects their primitivity but is also among their most distinctive Tungusic feature (Nagata 1939: 61–65). Further, Nagata repeatedly draws attention to the practices among the Oroqen that resemble those of the Japanese: the role of the women in the management of the home where the division of labor is very strict, their family structure, respect for elders, the absolute power of the family head, and a strong sense of individual honor combined with a spirit of community cooperation (kyōdōtaii) (Nagata 1939: 44, 54, 64– 66). And yet, of course, this urge to see the self in the primitive Other is countered and contained by the dominant narrative of evolutionism in which Oroqen family life is regarded to have been frozen for more than 2,000 years (this despite considerable discussion of historical change). He writes, “we can see the true form of the life of the Tungus race only among the Oroqen and we can imagine the lives of the ancestors of the Japanese from this” (Nagata 1939: 53). Japanese evolutionist discourse had mastered the trope whereby one could be advanced but still claim the privilege of primordiality. Nagata’s ethnology is closely tied to the Japanese state program for the Oroqen. He justifies the state policy of separating and isolating the Oroqen as a special people, the ban on their practice of agriculture, the prohibition of opium, and the rejection of a “life of dependence” (on commercialized Han society) in favor of a “self-sufficient, independent life” (Nagata 1939: 39). In addition to recounting the history of their exploitation by outsiders, he invokes the incompatibility of modern laws with their customs and ways. He cites the case of a quarrel between two Oroqen youth over a mere mantou (steamed bread roll), which led to a brawl

The Nationalization of Anthropology


in which one youth killed the other. The surviving youth casually returned home and the families and lineage concluded the matter among themselves. But the police, exercising the law of the state, arrested the youth and charged him with murder. According to Nagata, this law of civilized society, which left the family of the killer without its breadwinner, was viewed as terrifying by the Oroqen. Isolating the Oroqen was a means of protecting them from the ravages of modernity. Nagata also urges isolation and the return to self-sufficiency as a way to reverse the decline in the numbers of the Oroqen. As the forest disappeared and they came increasingly into contact with others, opium and new, civilized (bunmeiteki) diseases, particularly eye and venereal infections, afflicted the entire population: “Earlier the Oroqen were proud of their health and boasted that they lived in heaven. They hated the city and complained of headaches and nausea whenever they went there. Now the civilized and cultured diseases are attacking their virgin lands (shojochidai) with its germs” and they had few alternatives (Nagata 1939: 57–58). Finally, Nagata reports a decline in school attendance since the establishment of Manchukuo. Before 1931, there were 80 students enrolled in primary school and 20 in high school. Now there were only 27 students. But Nagata does not apologize for this decline. He believes that the schools were ineffective and the youth learned much more from their homes in the forest environment, where the elders taught the youth under a very strict regimen (Nagata 1939: 78). Nagata’s strategy for returning the Oroqen to the forest—their virgin lands— evokes the discourse of the sacred forest among Japanese scholars and administrators in Manchukuo. According to Fujiyama Kazuo, the prolific deputy director of the National Museum, the Japanese had a duty to preserve the forest. The historical kingdoms and empires of Manchuria, such as the Koguryo, Jurchen, and Manchu, ruled communities for whom the forest was their cradle, grave, and soul. But the agricultural Chinese population had, in a short period, torched the primeval forests and violently forced the aboriginal peoples off their lands (Fujiyama 1937: 32–33). Fujiyama derived his logic of the deep physical and spiritual influence of forests on a nation from German romanticism and claimed to be able to identify similar attitudes among indigenous and aboriginal people and the forest in Manchuria. Manchu shrines and gravesites are surrounded by pine groves; Lamaist temples are enveloped by thick forests. He attributes the Manchu interdiction on the felling of trees to a spiritual



basis (ignoring the economic and political dimensions of this ban) (Fujiyama 1937: 88–89). Among his practical projects, he advocated reforestation, botanical research, and tree planting festivals to take place during regular memorial ser vices to the war dead around monuments, shrines, and graves of loyal soldiers and heroes. In this way, Fujiyama sought to develop a cult of the forest with the state as guardian of its true spirit. The representation of the sacred forest and the ethnological discourse of a common Tungusic race and culture come together in the life of the Oroqen. The Oroqen represented a useful reference point in the mixed nation theory that allowed the Japanese in Manchuria to stake a claim in the land and culture. But to put it in such stark terms is to ignore both the way in which Oroqen life was ravaged as well as the symbolic process through which this ideology became something like identity for the Japanese. The Oroqen came to embody a “primitive authenticity” in which the colonizer yearned to see his true self in the primitive through a glass darkly. As such, “primitive authenticity” was a technique of the self that linked the self to the primitive, even while it distanced itself in the security of civilized status. This technique is different from the detached gaze of the nineteenthcentury colonialist and grants the colonizer a different kind of right, a right to make a claim on the basis of shared race and culture. This technique of the self was consistent with the decline of imperialist justifications of alien rule and with the new technologies to encapsulate alien territories and communities. The Oroqen were no longer the primitive as anachronism to be done away with; rather, they represented a valued part of our lost selves to be protected and preserved. The technique grants us the charge to protect and preserve in reservations. As Nakao Katsumi and others have shown, this administrative device did little to alleviate the exploitation of the Oroqen during Manchukuo (Nakao 1993: 234–236). Indeed, their status as authentic primitives forced a radical reorganization of their society and a forced uprooting of the people. Moreover, the reservation policy also enabled the settlement of Japanese agriculturists on nearby lands, restricted activity on mineral-rich territories, and facilitated Japanese military activities on the northern borders with the Soviet Union. Ethnological discourse in the era of nationalism enabled the state to make claims on alien peoples and territories by producing the latter as primordial objects of caretaking, even while it utilized them for the instrumental purposes of the state.

The Nationalization of Anthropology


The Ethnology and History of the Chinese Geo-body The Japanese conquest of Manchuria and the mode of incorporating peripheral spaces and indigenous peoples discussed above fundamentally reshaped Chinese ideas and policies regarding the formation of national space. Older conceptions of unwelcoming, barbarian frontier regions, whether in the northeast, west, or southwest— and covering more than half of the Qing Empire—were transformed and the regions produced anew as vital national territories. Anthropology, history, and geography, as academic disciplines and as popular discourse, became engaged in the production of these places and people within the national narrative. In the remainder of this chapter, I fold the discussion of Manchuria within that of the Chinese response to imperialist, particularly Japanese, penetration of the Qing imperial peripheries more generally.4 Scholars and administrators became preoccupied with transforming the empire into the national geo-body soon after the ascendancy of the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1927, but the process became more urgent after the Japanese invasion of 1937. While the idea that the territory of the modern nation would be co-extensive with the limits of the Qing Empire was taken for granted by the nationalists, the problems of dealing with the peoples, loyalties, and powers in the vast regions of the empire turned out to be much more complex. As Fang Qiuwei put it, “historical change— the changing of space with time (shijian tong kongjian de bianhua)— demonstrates the mistake of disregarding the border regions, an enormous mistake that cannot be erased from history” (Fang 1937–1938: 2). Nation builders enumerated and lamented the causes behind the neglect of the frontier regions that had permitted imperialists to encroach upon the territory from all sides: there was no Chinese military presence in these regions and officials used to be sent there as a kind of banishment. There was no awareness or studies of the peoples, customs, languages, geography, and economies of these areas. Indeed, to travel from China to Yunnan, it was best to take a boat to Vietnam and cross back into Yunnan on the French railroad; to travel to Xinjiang, one best take the Trans-Siberian railroad and go through Soviet territory; to travel to Tibet, one best go via India, and so on (Fang 1937–1938: 2). The establishment of the KMT regime led to the institutionalization of the new forms of knowledge-production. In 1927, a group of prestigious



scholars closely associated with Chiang Kai-shek and influenced by the French educational model established Academia Sinica as the premier research institution of the nation-state (Chen Shiwei 1997: 36–38). Designed as much to legitimate state power as to institutionalize scholarship, the institution contributed much to the production of modern knowledge for the nation. Chiang himself became acutely aware of the teaching of “Chinese History” and “Chinese Geography” as a means to produce “a citizen who loves his country more than his own life” (quoted in Wilson 1970: 276). Unlike Japan, where anthropology had had a history of several decades by the 1930s, anthropology in China had barely made an appearance. But by the mid-1930s, responding in great part to the Japanese military and discursive thrust, anthropology burgeoned and rallied to the national cause, both in the academic and political establishments. The study of the primitive peoples of the world suddenly became relevant in order to understand and reclaim the primitive peoples on China’s peripheries who were being lured by Japanese propaganda. The founding of anthropology in China was most closely associated with the name of Cai Yuanpei, president of Beijing University and director of Academia Sinica (He 1962: 2). Cai himself headed the ethnology section of Academia Sinica from its founding in 1928 and clearly associated anthropology with nation-building. He followed Japa nese usage, assigning renleixue ( jinruigaku) for anthropology of the human species and minzuxue (minzokugaku) for cultural anthropology (Cai 1962b: 1). As noted above, minzu was also the term for nation or nationality, and the association of culture with nationality was unavoidable and telling. Cai’s conception of anthropology also emerged from his discussion of its relation to sociology. Sociology was the study of contemporary society, but it was clear that contemporary society could not be understood apart from its evolution, and the historiography of civilized society yielded a very poor understanding of its prehistorical past. What was needed was anthropology in all its branches. Naturally, archaeology was important, but so was the study of contemporary uncivilized societies. Cai furnished several examples to show how the study of primitive cultures both in and out of China could deepen the understanding of ancient Chinese practices such as totemism or matriarchy (Cai 1962a: 12–13). At the same time, the study of primitive cultures could also help distinguish the signs

The Nationalization of Anthropology


of evolved civilization among the Europeans and Chinese peoples (Cai 1962a: 22; Huang 1936: 1). Cai’s anthropology, still firmly in the grip of an evolutionism, was classically allochronic with regard to its object of study: the primitive as a survival from another time (Fabian 1983). As such, in the 1920s, the novel dimension of nationalist ethnology, namely the desire to produce a sense of national oneness, had not yet emerged with clarity. The goal was to study the non-Han peoples in order to reflect on the Han. With the onset of the Sino-Japanese war in the mid-1930s, anthropology in China took on a new urgency and the study of primitive peoples within China was undertaken increasingly in order to make a claim on the frontier territories that these peoples had historically occupied. In 1934, academic anthropologists formed the Chinese Ethnological Association (Zhongguo minzuxuehui), and in 1936 they launched their professional journal, Ethnological Research (Minzuxue Yanjiu jikan) (He 1951: 108–109). The political concerns of this professional journal were evident in the first issue. Huang Wenshan, its first editor, perceived a nationalist role for anthropology that went beyond Cai’s vision. To be sure, for Huang, minzuxue was the science of the natural presence of the lives of the people outside the civilized areas of Europe and Asia; it was the study of nonliterate cultures (Huang 1936: 2). But it was a colonial discipline for a national project.5 Citing Sun Yat-sen’s “Three People’s Principles,” Huang identifies the national problem of the peripheral peoples, who, having been beguiled by Western influences and (Japanese) imperialism, have continuously pushed for separatist movements (Huang 1936: 22). Reviewing the extensive research of the South Manchurian Railway Company, he concluded that Japanese intentions in China were long-term and sinister (Huang 1936: 14). Huang, who was trained in the United States as a Boasian and sought to adapt ideas of cultural and historical particularism, believed that it was up to anthropologists, using the theory and practice of ethnology, to renew the belief of these peoples in the idea of zhonghua minzu or a China of different nationalities (Huang 1936: 22–23; Guldin 1994: 61). But the extent to which academic ethnology, such as represented by Huang, participated in the ethnological discourse emanating from the political center is quite remarkable. The journal Xinyaxiya, or New Asia, perhaps best exemplified such a center of discursive production. Begun in 1930 by Dai Jitao, a KMT leader and theorist, the journal advocated a



pan-Asianism that supported the rising anti-imperialist movement in Asia while at the same time fostering the anti-imperialism of the minority peoples of the Chinese borderlands. It declared in its mission statement, “In order to reconstruct China it is necessary to develop China’s border areas; in order to liberate the nationalities (minzu) of Zhonghua (China), it is necessary to liberate the nationalities of the East in the same stroke” (“Xinyaxiyazhi shiming” 1930: preface). Whereas early Chinese nationalism—especially before 1911—was built on global social Darwinist ideas of a racially cohesive nation, by the 1920s it drew on the new global discourse of national cultures and liberation. Yet as in the Japanese case, there were limits to the autonomy of these peripheral peoples or “nationalities” and the Chinese pan-Asianism of New Asia also furnished a framework to incorporate the nationalities of the borderlands into the territorial nation-state. Chinese nationalism, then, ironically needed—more than ever—a wider transnational redemptive and antiimperialist model to ground its authority (Duara 1997). At the same time, however, the nation-state could deploy incorporative notions of shared history and culture (avoiding overt reference to race) among the “primitive peoples” without abandoning the premise of assimilation to create the cohesive nation. An imbrication of different ideas of nationality, similar to the Japanese (second type) of mixed origins and pan-Asianism, together with national autonomy (third) and assimilationism, fed an ethnological discourse that functioned to produce the “border areas” and “frontier peoples” as a marked but inalienable part of the nation. By supplementing—or even displacing— race with culture, nationalists could more easily justify the incorporation of these peoples and territories. Not only did such a discourse undergird the ideas of professional anthropologists like Huang Wenshan, but it informed the various journals about the border regions that proliferated in the 1930s, such as Bianzheng gonglun (Frontier Affairs), Yu gong (Tribute to Yu), and the more popularly oriented Bianjiang tongxun (Borders Newsletter) or Zhibian Yuekan (Frontier Settlement Monthly). These writings were rife with the tension between extending a measure of respect for the cultures of fellow Asiatics within China’s boundaries, on the one hand, and assimilation on the other. A prolific reporter of the northwest, Ma Hongtian, tended toward the aggressively assimilationist strategy. Ma saw the northwest as a land of “desolation and wilderness” that would have to be colonized by the Han people who could bring

The Nationalization of Anthropology


progress to the area and also relieve the problem of overpopulation in the hinterland of China. For Ma, the Tibetans, Mongols, and other primitive peoples had “not been able to escape a life from antiquity and the middle ages; they are so backward that they shame us Chinese” (Ma Hongtian 1930: 37). He believed that the policy of improving their lives had not been successful in the past because only vagrants, soldiers, and bandits had been sent to these peripheries. He urged that solid, honest working families and enterprising people be sent to plan for progress. Up until now, only bad types have gone over there and have cheated and exploited the border peoples who have resisted them. If we send good people to these regions and educate the border peoples, we can reform their old customs and restore their basic nature. We love the people of the northwest and want to benefit them. We also want to solve our internal and external problems; we hope our brothers (tongbao) will understand. (Ma Hongtian 1930: 38–39)

Indeed, the contradictions were apparent at the very top of the KMT regime. Although the Republic of 1912 was founded on the unity of China as a Republic of Five Peoples, the KMT abandoned the commitment to the autonomy of the “five nationalities” soon after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war. In 1939, a KMT ordinance asserted that “in our country, the racial, cultural and blood fusion (hunhe) among different groups has long been completed and should not be arbitrarily analyzed” (see Liu 1999: 38). In 1947, Chiang Kai-shek declared in China’s Destiny that “the Chunghua nation . . . has grown by gradual amalgamation of various stocks into a harmonious and organic whole” (Chiang 1947 4). Certainly, KMT military administration in these regions tried to assimilate (tonghua) the “frontier peoples” by Sinicizing language, customs, and even clothing and hairstyles (Fang 1937–1938: 63–74; Cheung 1996: 108– 120). However, even in the southwest, where the KMT was headquartered during the war, the practical policies of nation-building and assimilation did not succeed in Sinicization, but rather in forcing the people back into the poorer lands (Deal 1979: 34). Owen Lattimore, who served as personal advisor to Chiang for more than a year from 1941, was severely critical of the “frontier policy,” but his advice was roundly ignored (Liu 1999: 173–174). The fuller integration of these vast peripheries would have to wait until the People’s Republic of China, although here too the process is hardly without tensions.



Inevitably, the tension came to divide professional anthropologists as well. Associate Editor of Ethnological Research Wei Huilin recommended revising the assimilationist tonghua policy to a more multicultural ronghe one for the postwar period. He advocated regional autonomy and self-government, a dual language policy, respect for the culture or region’s original nature, and the pursuit of industrial and immigration policies in the area for the benefit of the region, among other measures (Wei 1944: 1– 6). By and large, however, such policy prescriptions did not appear frequently in the journal; many resembled those of Ma Zhangshou, whose position contrasts in almost every respect with Wei Huilin’s. He recommends the deployment of the military capacities of the border areas for the sake of national defense; the rapid assimilation of the minorities (who, he believes, welcome assimilation); the implementation of only the Chinese national language in education and government; and a rational, uniform bureaucratic structure, or in other words, a strong state presence (Ma Zhangshou 1948: 20–21). Huang Wenshan, too, backed the policy of “assimilating the backward peoples with the relatively advanced Han peoples,” but, aware of the sensitivities in this regard, he called for assimilation to be such that each culture would absorb Han elements at its own level (Huang 1936: 22). We need to grasp the importance of both the theory and practice of frontier incorporation. Given the imperialist connotations of the idea of race, there was a transition—however complex—to the “culture” idea in the understanding of the national community. This transition should not be dismissed as mere rhetorical change since it would produce changes in assumptions and expectations of citizenship rights over the long term. But in more immediate terms, the Chinese national project (like the Japanese imperial project) would have to diminish the difference between the Han and the indigenous or ethnic populations so that they could all be seen to belong to the same national community. Thus the transition did not alter the practical efforts to produce a homogenized nation by military-administrative and other nonvoluntary means of incorporation. Where Japanese expansionism had used both cultural panAsianism and common origins/race ideas of the Ural-Altaic theory to incorporate the lesser Others, a Chinese theory of incorporation was still at an experimental stage before the war. When it did emerge more fully, the narrative was put together from the vast storehouse of Chinese

The Nationalization of Anthropology


historiography, and anthropologists and other social scientists came to locate their understandings of culture within this historical narrative. The only major Chinese ethnographic study of Manchuria before 1945 dealt with a Tungusic people along the rivers of northern Manchuria called the Goldi, known in China since the end of the nineteenth century as the Hezhezu and by Westerners as the Fishskin Tartars. The study was conducted by Ling Chunsheng, who had been trained at the University of Paris and served as the head of the Ethnology section of Academia Sinica’s History and Philology Institute (Guldin 1994: 31). Undertaken in 1930 but published in 1934, the study represented a model for ethnographic research and writing in the profession. Although Shirokogoroff had reported in 1915 that there were 10,000 Hezhezu in Siberia and 8,000 in Manchuria, and that their numbers had declined by 25 percent since 1897, Ling could only find about 1,200 Hezhe individuals scattered along the Sungari river in the 1930s. Ling’s analysis of the decline does not sound the note of pretentious paternalism that we found in Nagata with regard to the Oroqen. Nor does he sound particularly sympathetic. He declares that the Hezhezu have no discipline and are promiscuous and unhygienic. They squander their money on drink and opium (in which even the women and children indulge). They have a high death rate among their children, and since many of their women are married to the Han, the procreative level of the people has presumably declined (Ling 1934: 60– 62, 281). The most striking aspect of the study is the extensive historical analysis that frames the ethnography. The history draws from classical Chinese texts but also refers to contemporary historical research and controversies. Ling denies the claim that anthropology is the study of a people without history. A people, he argues, do not live apart from neighbors and if the culture of the neighbor is high and literate, then the scholar can find some fragments of their history in that of the neighbor’s history. Ling seeks to understand the Hezhezu in the context of Chinese and Tungus historical relations, and his ethnological conclusions will be significantly driven by the historical narrative he constructs. In brief, Ling criticizes Western and Japanese scholars for misidentifying the Tungus with the ancient Donghu, who were autochthonous peoples of the northeast. Arguing from evidence as flimsy as those of his Japanese and other antagonists, he seeks to demonstrate (1) that the Tungus



are not autochthonous and (2) that the Shang and their predecessors— ancestors of the Han Chinese—were falsely ascribed by the Jesuits to have come from the West. They actually lived in the East along with other ancient Asians (guyazhouren) and were the true ancestors of the Han. In this way, Ling excludes the Tungus and connects the origins of Chinese culture to the northeastern region just as Shiratori tried, by identifying the Donghu with the Tungus, to show that the Tungus were the continuous dominant group in the northeast.6 Ling’s ultimate argument depended not on an overt notion of racial unity or commonality among the peoples in China but, rather, on one— like the mixed origins theory of the Japanese—based on an evolving historical culture that was compatible with anti-imperialism and panAsianism as much as with Anglo-American assimilative ideals. It presented nationalists with the alternative of the history of China as a cultural unity. The most articulate statement of this perspective that I have found was presented by Yao Congwu, a historian renowned for his work on the Chinese northeast. Yao, who had studied in Germany, presented his views in a series of lectures to the Society of the Friends of the United Nations in Taipei in 1947 (lianheguo tongzhihui), even though the idea appeared to have been around for a couple of decades (Yao 1959: 26). Thus, his ideas are also significant as a justification of the principle underlying Chinese nationhood in the late republic and are consistent with the new principle of nationhood attending the rise of the United States and the defeat of racist nationalism in World War II. Indeed, Yao’s presentation of the evolving history of China as a cultural unity is reminiscent of the American melting pot, an expression explicitly used by Chiang Kai-shek in China’s Destiny (1947: 6). According to Yao, the modern Chinese nation (zhonghua minzu) should not be thought of as a racial nation or the territory of a single nationality. Rather, it was the cultural unity of various tributary cultures of the minorities that could be subsumed under the rubric of “The Central Plains Confucian Culture of the Great Unity” (zhongyuan rujiao datong wenhua), or Great Unity for short. Confucianism had the ability to civilize and induce the voluntary absorption of peripheral peoples because of its universal acceptance of outsiders. Indeed, according to Yao, even such stalwart Chinese dynasties as the Ming and the Southern Song could not be considered to be representative of the culture of Great Unity precisely because they emphasized Han nationalism. The Qin-Han, the Mongols,

The Nationalization of Anthropology


and the Manchus were purer expressions of this unity since their own traditions were absorbed by the evolving culture. Yao’s narrative was premised on a core territorial space shaping this culture.7 The principal physiographical factor shaping the Chinese nationality (zhongguo minzu), according to professional geographers of the time, was the central plain (zhongyuan), the birthplace of the Han. The Chinese nationality— or even its principal constituent, the Han— ought not to be seen as a blood group, but as a cultural formation that had been historically assimilating a variety of other races such as the Tungus, the Mongols, and Tibetans. The shaping force behind this continuing formation was the environment of the great plain and its rivers that nourished a peace-loving agricultural people forced by political and economic circumstances to spread outward—to the south, northwest, and northeast—thus either absorbing other people or pushing them to the mountains (Zhang 1947: 1–4). It was from this perspective that Zhang Qiyun declared that Manchuria had long represented the natural (tianliu) granaries and lifeline (shengmingxian) of north China, an argument that was, remarkably, parallel to the Japanese “lifeline” argument (Zhang 1947: 2). Moreover, just as Japanese ideologues denied the Chinese a sense of territorial nationhood, geographer Wu Shangquan believed that the indigenous inhabitants had no sense of territorial belonging since they were nomadic, lacked a literate culture, and identified only with a “banner.” The Tungus, he states, started to become a nation only after contact with the Han. But by that time, they had already become Sinicized and the region thoroughly integrated with China. The true national subject is presented as a spatial formation, but it nonetheless completes Yao’s theory of a cultural nation by sanctioning assimilation as the historical destiny of the people surrounding it (Wu 1944: 25–26). Yao’s historical narrative also drew from the ideas of his German mentor, Sinologist Otto Franke, and his son Wolfgang Franke. But his ingenuity is evident when the narrative is placed in the context of the extant historiography of China’s general history (tongshi). Yao was able to resolve the narratological problems faced by such writers as Fu Sinian and Lei Haizong in one fell stroke (Yao 1959: 16–17; Duara 1995: chapter 1). Fu and Lei had developed their histories of China as the history of the Han race (even as late as till 1937); when faced with the glories of the non-Han dynasties, they were often forced to elaborate textual strategies that would



allow them to smooth over the narrative impediment (Duara 1995: 36–42). Instead, Yao was able to constitute the history of China as a seeded geobody, an expanding, absorbing subject that could still acknowledge contributions of other people. While this cultural narrative was compatible with Chiang Kai-shek’s formulation of an “enduring and all-embracing culture,” by 1947 Chiang had added that a common ancestry “can be traced as far back as to Huang-ti” (Chiang Kai-shek 1947: 13). Perhaps race was still a supplement to culture. For anthropologists like Ling, the narrative of Central Plains Confucian Culture of Great Unity addresses the dilemma outlined above: it permits the idea of contributions from various different historical sources, but at the same time directs these contributions into the overarching Greater Confucian Unity. Thus one could have incorporation at the same time as show respect for different peoples’ histories in China. The important device enabling this strategy is the notion of “historical assimilation.” What Confucianism did was engage in a civilizing project; because it offered a higher ideal, it historically attracted lesser peoples to assimilate voluntarily. The task of the anthropologist in this regard was to show how, despite their wholeness as peoples, these groups had historically assimilated various Chinese practices and traits (Cheung 1996: 78–83). In the ethnography itself, the anthropologist took great care to show the assimilation of Chinese practices among the neighboring peoples. In the folktales of the Hezhezu, for instance, the storytelling methods were like those in north and south China, where they both sing and speak without accompaniment. Ling writes that “since they live within China’s borders their relations with the Chinese are close . . . and they have mostly absorbed Chinese culture through the Manchus” (Ling 1934: 288). Ling also speculates that since some of the stories and practices that show a commonality with Chinese stories (such as those among fox fairies) may be found in Chinese histories as well as among the Chinese people (minjian) (Ling 1934: 289), it is possible that their stories emerged from the “womb” (tai) of Chinese culture. The fox fairy stories were also precisely those stories that Japanese ethnographers used to draw links to the Tungus. Indeed, the procedure of exposing connections between the cultural practices of different peoples was, as we have seen, a common Japanese practice. Whereas in the Japanese case it revealed an allegedly primordial connection, in the Chinese case the alleged linkage revealed a process of voluntary absorption of Chinese culture since ancient times.

The Nationalization of Anthropology


Whence the importance of culture? Culture, expressed in cultural nationality, introduced an element of porosity, voluntarism, and volition that gained importance because it was tied to a global discourse of nationality rights (see also Lomnitz, Chapter 5 in this volume). Yao’s formulation, made in the context of the United Nations, ensured the compatibility of his narrative with it. Many of the scholars, especially the anthropologists we have considered, were educated in the metropolitan centers of the West and accepted the premise that the object of their study was culturally bounded communities. What distinguished these anthropologists from a Boas or a Radcliffe Brown was their perception that the ultimate “culture area” that shaped these communities happened to be co-extensive with the national geo-body. This discourse presumed two levels of culture: one at the level of the individual nationality, whether these are small, such as the Goldi or the Yi, or numerous, such as Tibetans or Mongols; the other, a wider umbrella, even civilizational, conception covering the nation-state and expressed in the nomenclature of zhonghua minzu. In a way, the historians had reconstructed an old Confucian civilizing discourse, again not without interactions with global, especially Germanic Sinology, for the purposes of the modern territorial nation-state. The parallel between this civilizing strategy and ones used by the Japanese like kyōka, like the parallel between Japanese and Chinese pan-Asianism—of New Asia, for instance— suggests a repertoire of strategies that may be classified in the East Asian modern. Finally, the granting of a measure of rhetorical autonomy to national cultures was necessitated by the reality of many antigovernment movements with nationalistic aspirations produced, at least in part, by the spreading ideology of nationality rights. Soon after the Republic, the Mongols had claimed independence based on the idea that their relation with the last Manchu empire—the pure embodiment of the Great Unity—had been a relationship of ritual suzerainty within a Central Asian empire and not a submission to the sovereignty of China (Nakami 1984: 146–147). So too did the Dalai Lama in 1912. During the Republic, wars, uprisings, movements, or incidents occurred in virtually every part of what was Qing central Asia and the southwest (Liu 1999: 41; Cheung 1996: 119). From the perspective of the peripheries, the narrative of the Great Confucian Unity must have still sounded a great deal like subjugation since the practical problem of assimilation and what the “frontier peoples” actually felt and wanted remained.



Thus, while it was important to educate the indigenous peoples in the ways of the Chinese nation, meanwhile nationalists had to develop technologies of territorial incorporation that could bypass the will of the peoples in these territories. One such means was evident in the strategy of journals like New Asia to give new meaning to the peripheries. The goal was to invest these territories with a certain cultural and psychic density in the landscape of the national imaginary and thus produce the geo-body within the subjectivity of the citizen within China proper (neidi) (Fang 1937–1938: 73). To be sure, these modes of incorporation did not involve construing the local peoples as embodying authenticity, at least not at this time. Rather, they represented an institutional effort by nationalists to create the cultural infrastructure for such an imaginative cathexis. The building of this infrastructure could be divided, according to Fang Qiuwei, into two parts: first, the development of scholarly and research enterprises—particularly by agencies like Academia Sinica—to enhance knowledge of the history, people, and resources of the regions. Second, Fang calls for a wider, more popular mode of dissemination designed to pique interest and feelings for these spaces. Textbooks at every level of the school system were required to contain materials about the problems of the border regions, and he encourages the development of popular media, such as the cinema and slide shows, where the customs and conditions of the local people become the subject matter of their stories (Fang 1937–1938: 70–74). In the third volume of New Asia, the editorial commentary called on readers to transform their view of the peripheries from the clichéd imagery of desolation to an appreciation of their “limitless mysteries” and “inexhaustible treasures.” It called for photographs of landscapes and peoples of those regions so that readers could become more familiar with them (“Xinyaxiyazhi shiming” 1930: 15). Apart from the many ethnographic and descriptive essays that already filled the pages, it called for a special type of fiction writing not found elsewhere concerned with recording the customs of the peripheries or travels to Asian lands. “What we need is the ‘travelog-ization of fiction’ (youjihuade xiaoshuo) or ‘the fictionalization of travel writing’(xiaoshuohuade youji)” (“Xinyaxiyazhi shiming” 1930: 16). Although some readers were mystified by this new genre, there was no shortage of the kind of writing and photography that the editors desired (Chen Yin 1931: 151–152). This was perhaps the kind of

The Nationalization of Anthropology


personal investment in the production of the new nation that the editors desired. Fast forward to China’s northeast in the 1980s: whereas Chinese fiction from Manchukuo or the earlier Republican period ignored tribal life and culture in the region, now the landscape and native tribes have become a significant part of the Chinese identity of the region. Among the most celebrated and widely published xungen or “searching for roots” writers of the 1980s, Zheng Wanlong hails from Heilongjiang and writes about the Oroqen. In Strange Tales from Strange Lands (Yixiang yiwen), Zheng, a Han who left the Northeast at the age of eight, utilizes the practices and rituals of the Oroqen and the landscape of the region to discuss themes of alienation centered on the masculinist ethos of rugged loners in the wilderness. The dominant representational structure of Zheng’s stories emphasizes the landscape and the individuals who live and die by it. The physical features of the region are massively foregrounded and the stories of individuals gain meaning from the precarious life that they fashion within this environment. Deep ancient forests, mighty rivers (alternately frozen and torrential), and volcanic mountains (both icy and fiery) produce a space that overwhelms the time of history. We can only guess from stray references that the stories are set sometime in the first half of the twentieth century. From this perspective, the stories are not principally about tribals or Han, but about the meaning of a landscape. No one knows whether the terrifying Three Kick Chen, who drapes a large leopard skin around his shoulders, is a Han Chinese or a Daur. He returns to die in Xiaosu Gully, where the snow will seal him in for the long winter. On his way, however, he passes on his dog-faced ring to a steely-eyed village boy who vows to honor his debts (Louie 1993: 35–44). Vengeful shamans, tribal victimization of women, and exploitative merchants all occupy the canvas, but the landscape and the individuals who are locked in it—fugitives and exiles, bandits and adventurers, miners and woodsmen—have a special place in these stories. In “The Gorge,” a certain Shenken has been banished from the Oroqen tribe because he insulted a shaman during a ritual performance. When he encounters a couple of city-struck Oroqen youth in the mountain, he refuses to let them use their guns to kill a pregnant bear. Suddenly attacked by the bear, he dies in her embrace as he kills her with a knife. When the youths carrying the stretcher bearing Shenken and parts of the bear emerge



from the mountain, they feel an incredible lightness and recognize that the souls of Shenken and the bear—totem of the Oroqen—have been left behind on the mountain (Louie 1993: 45–58). Significantly, Zheng’s stories incorporate shamanism, totemism, and animism from an embedded ethnological and social scientific understanding of them. On the referential level, the preeminent theme in the stories concerns nature’s challenge to culture—a composite culture of Han and non-Han—in which culture fails miserably. However, in the process of depicting this challenge—where loyalty, brotherhood, righteousness, and animism yield to nature (dying heroically in the embrace of the bear, or passing on one’s honor before being swallowed by the snow)—nature itself is made meaningful by a set of cultural categories that continue the project of nation-making recommended by the editors of New Asia.

Conclusion The shift in the East Asian languages from renleixue to minzuxue signals a changing conception of anthropology not captured in the Englishlanguage terms anthropology and ethnology. The overlap of minzuxue (study of nationalities) with the liberatory— or rights-bearing—conception of nationality revealed a new role for anthropology in East Asia and probably many other parts of the world. Certainly, Boasian notions of holistic “culture” and cultural relativism in the interwar-years United States were related phenomena, although the critical dimensions of the two were by no means identical. Yet while the conception of minzoku and minzu signaled autonomy and respect, if not rights, they also generated symbolic and instrumental values that states frequently manipulated to enhance ownership, control, and resource mobilization. In the case of Japanese ethnology, the three approaches to minzoku— as racially exclusive, assimilative or mixed origins, and alliance-based— combined to achieve the two goals of the Japanese nation-state: to develop nationalism and to create an imperialistic regional sphere to enable it to achieve global supremacy. The imperial region of the post–World War I era, conceived first in Manchukuo, displayed a novel type of political economic formation in which military dependencies and client states took the form of nominally sovereign and even modernizing nation-states. Such formations also appeared in German, Soviet, and, with qualifications, U.S. imperialism.

The Nationalization of Anthropology


Of the three approaches, the mixed origins thesis straddled both goals: it was part of Japanese nationalism but also a means of creating an imperial region through a preemptive narrative of assimilation. While in Manchuria, this thesis served to create the basis of alliance between Japan, Korea, and Manchuria; by the time of the war in Asia, it was expressed in the policy of kominka in the colonies, where it worked toward assimilation into a rights-less, but duty-filled, conception of Japanese nationality (Oguma 2002: 257, 325). The idea of the Concord of Nationalities (alliance) in Manchuria, however imperialistic, was the most radical formulation. The imperial region might have eventuated into a kind of federated nation that distributes the costs and benefits of development unevenly through the system as a whole. From the start, however, such a scenario was much too optimistic. Once Japanese, and in particular Yamato, nationalism had been created and intensified, it became the much more powerful force and negated the “federation” in both obvious and subtle ways. Indeed, we can find a similar three-leveled approach in Chinese ethnological discourses toward these minorities: the idea of the autonomy of nationalities, the exclusive theory of a Han race or culture, and a theory, not so much of mixed origins but the historical destiny of voluntary assimilation of the minorities. Pursuing the genealogy of multinationalism, we can see how the Soviet ideal of nationality came to inform the older Chinese republican idea under the People’s Republic of China. To be sure, the People’s Republic did not grant the right of secession that the Soviets once gave the nationalities. In the context of the history of minzuxue, it is not surprising that discipline of anthropology during the entire Maoist period was confined to the study of these minority nationalities. But if this theory of minzuxue led to affirmative action, it was also the wider ethnological ideas of Han culture, voluntary assimilation, and the imaginative incorporation of the frontier that established and secured the nation’s claim to the region.

Notes 1. A more complete history of Manchukuo may be found in Duara (2003). 2. For details of the Ural-Altaic hypothesis in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and a devastating critique of its assumed relationships between linguistic and racial origins, see Shirokogoroff (1931). Shirokogoroff makes the



telling suggestion that it is remarkable how the centrality of this whole discussion in Japan diverted attention from another source of the Japanese lexic complex, the Chinese language (1931: 389). It is evident that Japanese researchers in Manchuria who so admired Shirokogoroff were ignorant of, or chose to ignore, this piece. Unconnected to these exposures, Shiratori himself renounced the Ural-Altaic and Tungus theory of the mixed nation soon after the annexation of Korea. After the Manchurian Incident, he opposed the idea that the unity of Japan, Korea, and Manchuria lay in this theory of common origins (Oguma 2002: 241, 257). 3. The representation was consistent with the active policy of the Manchukuo government to discourage Chinese rural immigration (Jones 1949: 167–169). 4. Given that the Chinese state and professionals could not directly control or access the region, their efforts were largely discursive and are best understood in a comparative context. 5. A 1944 bibliography of hundreds of items of ethnographic research in Chinese since the beginning of the war with Japan listed only about twelve entries on the Han peoples, most of which had to do with “folk customs” (minsu) or language (Gu Jinshi 1944: 129–169). 6. Curiously, Ling even chooses to draw evidence from Huangdi and Yu, figures that his contemporary Gu Jiegang had established were mythical figures (Ling 1934, vol. 1: 9–11). 7. History became closely intertwined with geography as the new authority of spatial knowledge. Chiang Kai-shek (1947: 8– 9) held the view that the physical configuration of mountains and rivers, including the Pamir Plateau and the Amur River valley, formed one integral and inseparable system.

Bibliography Akamatsu Chijō and Akiba Takashi. 1939. Manmo no minzoku to shyūkyō (Peoples and religions of Manchuria and Mongolia). Tokyo: n.p. Cai Yuanpei. 1962a. “Shehuixue yu minzuxue” (Sociology and ethnology). In Zhongguo Minzu Xuehui, ed., Cai Yuanpei minzuxue lunzhu (Cai Yuanpei discourses on ethnology). Taipei: Zhonghua Shuju, 12–16. ———. 1962b. “Shuo minzuxue” (On ethnology). In Zhongguo Minzu Xuehui, ed., Cai Yuanpei minzuxue lunzhu (Cai Yuanpei discourses on ethnology). Taipei: Zhonghua Shuju, 1–11. Chen Shiwei. 1997. “Legitimizing the State: Politics and the Founding of Academica Sinica in 1927.” Papers on Chinese History 6: 23–41. Chen Yin. 1931. “ ‘Xiaoshuo youjihua’ de jieshi” (Explanation of “the conversion of fiction into travel writing”). Xinyaxiya 1(6): 151–152.

The Nationalization of Anthropology


Cheung, Siu-woo. 1996. “Subject and Representation: Identity Politics in Southeast Guizhou.” PhD diss., University of Washington, Seattle. Chiang Kai-shek. 1947. China’s Destiny, authorized trans. by Wang Chung-hui. New York: The Macmillan Company. Deal, David M. 1979. “Policy Towards Ethnic Minorities in Southwest China, 1927–1965.” In Tai S. Kang, ed., Nationalism and the Crises of Ethnic Minorities in Asia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 33–40. Doak, Kevin M. 2001. “Building National Identity Through Ethnicity: Ethnology in Wartime Japan and After.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 27(1) (Winter): 1–39. Duara, Prasenjit. 1995. Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 1997. “Transnationalism and the Predicament of Sovereignty, China 1900–1945.” American Historical Review 102(4) (October): 1030–1051. ———. 2003. Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern. Boulder, CO: Rowman and Littlefield. ———. 2007. “The Imperialism of ‘Free Nations’: Japan, Manchukuo and the History of the Present.” In Ann Stoler and Carole McGranahan, eds., Imperial Formations and Their Discontents. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 211–240. Fabian, Johannes. 1983. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press. Fang Qiuwei. 1937–1938. Feichang shiqizhi bianwu (Frontier affairs during the emergency period). Hong Kong: Zhonghua shuju. Fujiyama Kazuo. 1937. Manshū no shi-rin to bunka (Culture and the forest in Manchuria). Shinkyo: Tōhō Kokumin Bunshō. Gu Jinshi. 1944. “Kangzhanyilai woguo minzuxue xuanmu” (Selected index of our nation’s nationalities since the war of resistance). Minzuxue Yanjiu jikan 4: 129–169. Guldin, Gregory E. 1994. The Saga of Anthropology in China: From Malinowski to Moscow to Mao. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe. Hasegawa Yūichi. 1982. “Taishō chūki tairiku kokka e no imeiji—‘Daikōraikoku’ (Dagaoli, Koryo) kōsō to sono shūhen” (The image of a mainland nation in the mid-Taishō era—The conception of the “Great Koryo nation” and the area around it). Kokusai Seiji 7: 93–108. He Liankai. 1951. “Jieshao Zhongguo minzuxuede wenxian yu gongzuo” (Introduction to materials and works in Chinese ethnology). In Minzuwenhua yanjiu. N.p., n.d. ———. 1962. “Cai Jiemin xiansheng duiyu minzuxuezhi gongxian” (The contributions of Mr. Cai Yuanpei to ethnology) (Introduction). In Zhongguo



Minzu Xuehui, ed., Cai Yuanpei minzuxue lunzhu (Cai Yuanpei discourses on ethnology). Taipei: Zhonghua Shuju, 1–19. Huang Wenshan. 1936. “Minzuxue yu Zhongguo minzu yanjiu” (Ethnology and the study of China’s peoples). Minzuxue Yanjiu jikan 1: 1–26. Jones, F. C. 1949. Manchuria Since 1931. New York: Oxford University Press. Kawamura Minato. 1996. “Daitoa minzokugaku” no kyojitsu (The truths and falsehoods of “Great East Asian folklore”). Tokyo: Kodansha. Kleeman, Faye Yuan. 1999. “Mysticism and Corporeality: Re-envisioning Manchuria in a Postcolonial Japan.” Paper presented at the conference on Contemporary Japanese Popular and Mass Culture, Montreal. Ling Chunsheng. 1934. Sonhuajiang xiayoude Hezhezu (The Hezhe people downstream on the Sunghua River). 3 vols. Nanjing: Guoli zhongyang yanjiuyuan lishi yuyan yanjiusuo. Liu Xiaoyuan. 1999. “The Chinese Communist Party and the ‘Nationality Question,’ 1921–1945.” Unpublished paper. Louie, Kam, ed. 1993. Strange Tales from Strange Lands: Stories by Zheng Wanlong. Cornell East Asia Series, No. 66. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications. Ma Hongtian. 1930.“Kaifa xibei shi jiejue Zhongguo shehui minsheng wentide genben fangfa” (Opening up the Northwest is a basic means of solving the problem of livelihood in Chinese society). Xinyaxiya 1(1): 37–40. Ma Zhangshou. 1948. “Shaoshu minzu wenti” (The problem of minorities). Minzuxue Yanjiu jikan 6: 8–23. McCormack, Gavan. 1991. “Manchukuo: Constructing the Past.” East Asian History 2 (December): 105–124. Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. 2000. “Through Ethnographic Eyes.” Unpublished manuscript. Nagata Uzumaro. 1939. Manshu ni okeru Oronjun no kenkyu (Studies of the Elunchun in Manchuria), vol. 1. Xinjing: Zhianbu sanmousi tiaochake (Investigative Division of the Security Bureau of the General Staff ). Nagoyashi hakubustkan, ed. 1995. Shin Hakubutsukan Taisei: Manshūkoku no hakubutsukan ga sengō Nihon ni tsutaeteiru koto (The shape of the new museum: What Manchukuo’s museum had to say to postwar Japan). Nagoya: Nagoyashi hakubustkan. Nakami, Tatsuo. 1984. “A Protest Against the Concept of the ‘Middle Kingdom’: The Mongols and the 1911 Revolution.” In Eto Shinkichi and Harold Z. Schiffrin, eds., The 1911 Revolution in China. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 129–149. Nakao Katsumi. 1993. “Shokuminchishugi to Nihon minzokugaku” (Colonialism and Japa nese ethnology). Chūgoku shakai to bunka 8 (June): 231– 242.

The Nationalization of Anthropology


———. 1994. “Shokuminchi no minzokugaku—Manshu minzokugakkai no katsudo” (Colonial ethnology—The activities of the Ethnological Association of Manchuria). Heremesu 12(52): 135–143. Oguma, Eiji. 2002. A Genealogy of “Japanese” Self-Images (translation of Tan’ itsu Minzoku Shinwa no Kigen). David Askew, trans. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press. Ōtsuka Kazuyoshi. 1996. “Shiberia—Nihon ni okeru minzoku kenkyu” (Siberia: Anthropological research in Japan). In Joseph Kriner, ed., Nihon minzokugaku no genzai (Contemporary Japanese anthropology). Tokyo: Shin’yosha, 317–326. Pai, Hyung-il. 1999. “Japanese Anthropology and the Discovery of Pre-historic ‘Korea’.” Journal of East Asian Archaeology (Essays in Honor of K. C. Chang) 1: 354–382. Sakano Toru. 2000. “Kojikano seijigaku—Tsuboi Shogoro to Meiji jinruigaku no kiseki” (Amateur politics—Traces of Tsuboi Shogoro and Meiji anthropology). Shisō 907: 162–185. Shimizu Akitoshi. 1999. “Colonialism and the Development of Modern Anthropology in Japan.” In Jan van Bremen and Akitoshi Shimizu, eds., Anthropology and Colonialism in Asia and Oceania. Richmond, Surrey, U.K.: Curzon Press, 115–171. Shirokogoroff, S. M. 1931. “Ethnological and Linguistic Aspects of the UralAltaic Hypothesis.” Qinghua Xuebao 6: 199–396. ———. 1966 [1929]. Social Organization of the Northern Tungus. Oosterhout, The Netherlands: Anthropological Publications. Soren no minzoku seisaku (Soviet nationality policy). 1940. Publication of the Research Institute of the National Foundation University. Shinkyō: Kenkoku Daigaku kenkyūin kan. Tanaka, Stefan. 1993. Japan’s Orient: Rendering Pasts into History. Berkeley: University of California Press. Tominaga Tadashi. 1943. Manshūkoku no minzoku mondai (The nationalities problem in Manchukuo). Shinkyō: Manshū Fukuyamabo. Torii Ryūzō. 1975. “Jinruigaku to jinshūgaku (aruiwa minzokugaku) o bunri subeshi” (Anthropology and ethnology should be separate). In Torii Ryūzō Zenshū (Collected works of Torii Ryūzō), vol. 1. Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 480–483. Vermeulen, Han F. 1999. “Anthropology in Colonial Contexts: The Second Kamchatka Expedition (1733–1743) and the Danish-German Arabia Expedition (1761–1767).” In Jan van Bremen and Akitoshi Shimizu, eds., Anthropology and Colonialism in Asia and Oceania. Richmond, Surrey, U.K.: Curzon Press, 13–39. Wei Huilin. 1944. “Zhanhou Zhongguo minzu zhengce yu bianjiang jianshe” (Postwar China’s nationality policy and the construction of the border). Minzuxue Yanjiu jikan 4: 1– 6.



Weiner, Michael. 1997. “The Invention of Identity: Race and Nation in Pre-war Japan.” In Frank Dikotter, ed., The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 96–117. Wilson, Richard. 1970. Learning to Be Chinese: The Political Socialization of Children in Taiwan. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Wu Shangquan. 1944. Dongbei dili yu minzu shengcunzhi guanxi (The relationship of the geography of the northeast and the survival of the nation). Chongqing: Duli chubanshe. “Xinyaxiyazhi shiming” (The mission of New Asia). 1930. Xinyaxiya 1(1): preface. Yao Congwu. 1959. Dongbeishi luncon, vols. 1 and 2. Taipei: Zhengzhong shuju. Zhang Qiyun. 1947. Zhongguo rendi guanxi gailun (An introduction to relations between humans and land in China). Shanghai: Dadong shuju.

§ 8 The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia Andrew Willford

As many scholars of Malaysia have observed, a present awakening of ethnic sentiments in Malaysia can be attributed to a response to the state’s pro-Islamic and pro-Malay policies, the communalization of national development, and both the symbolic and demographic Malayanization of urban spaces (Ackerman and Lee 1988; Muzaffar 1987; Loh Kok Wah and Khan 1992; Nagarajan 2004; Willford 2006; Peletz 2002; Kahn 2006). But in this chapter I argue that taking the case of the Tamil minority community, and examining the specific historical conditions of their arrival, political status, and class position under colonial rule vis-à-vis other so-called races, sheds necessary light on a recent resurgence of ethnic consciousness. The politicization of ethnicity in the service of a cultural division of labor during and after colonialism has contributed to the economic, political, and cultural marginalization of Tamils in Malaysia, and this process has fomented divisiveness within the Malaysian Indian communities. Through analysis of a socioeconomic history, I will address the following questions: Why, in the midst of economic expansion, have the Tamils languished behind other ethnic groups in Malaysia? Why, given their political weakness, are Tamils in Malaysia plagued by internal divisions? Last, why do many Tamils express their collective identity and search for individual empowerment through religion? I argue that while historical political economic analysis sheds necessary light on the contours of ethnic politics in Malaysia, the ostensible obsession with ethnic identity in Malaysia reveals, paradoxically, the unstable, contingent, and, indeed, empty reality of the ethnic signifier in 223



nationalist politics.1 This semantic instability, as Derrida (1995) argues, produces a veritable “archive fever” to signify ethnic difference in Malaysia, which, in turn, I will argue, acts as technique built on repetition, serving as the “prosthesis” of memory and experience, which, indeed, is more fluid and permeable. The archiving of absolute difference, as linked to notions of ethnonationalist hierarchy, and the arbitrary orderings of privilege that are bestowed through the inscription of law, are inherently unstable and produce desire or “fever” for a characteristically rigid and /or fetishistic presentation of types through stereotypical or racialized presentations. Therefore, interrogating historiographic desire, and the collective force of the archive through both the commentary on the archive and / or the ethnographic voices of the present that supplement or complicate the archive, is a key aim of this chapter. I begin this chapter with an analysis of the conditions surrounding the recruitment of Tamil laborers in colonial Malaya. I trace the two tiers— working class and elite— of Tamils2 (“Indians”) who were utilized in the development of Malaya’s plantation industry and civil ser vices and explore the roles of both in the making of the modern nation of Malaysia. The impact of World War II and communist insurgency in the 1950s is analyzed in order to better understand why Malaysia’s political structure became rigidly defined in ethnic terms. I then discuss the continuance of poverty among working-class Tamils and the ineffectual remedies offered by elites and politicians. Finally, I explore how Tamil revivalism is mediated by differentials of class and status, and I address how TamilHindu revivalism is situated within the larger discourses of ethnic politics and Malaysian nationalism. Throughout the chapter, the tension between the historiographic naturalization of difference and the apparently compelled ethnographic elaboration, iterability, or reiteration of this purported Tamil or “Indian” difference is brought into relief. This is done not to suggest that the present is the natural consequence of the past, but to demonstrate a spectral presence in the archive, which haunts the living, and a desire to both stabilize the “lithic” (Derrida 1995) or symbolic order and / or to surmount and annihilate it.

Capital and Historiographic Desire While Malaysian Indians are, as a whole, understudied, even less attention has been paid to what might be called the intra-Indian dialectic

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


of identity, produced by the historically and socially constituted divisions of class and status. This intra-Indian dialectic, the production of social distance between the elites and the working class, and the anxieties that haunt it, is my focus. The first half of this study comprises a historical analysis of Tamil social conditions in Malaysia throughout the twentieth century. The phenomenon of social distancing is unraveled, in part, through this genealogical approach to the present. But, if this history is read solely as the determinative power of capital, the present is historicized as the natural outcome of a specific series of events that, in turn, are structured by the universal history of capital. Against, yet in partial collusion with, this determinative political economic reading, I aim to analyze the uncertainty and malleability of identity, which in turn produces an effect, paradoxically, of certainty. This certainty, I suggest, is still plagued by doubt, like the contingent mastery of Hegel’s famous “master” vis-à-vis the contingent source of his being (Hegel 1999; see also Rutherford, Chapter 3 in this volume). An analytic explanation of this caution is inspired by Marx and by Dipesh Chakrabarty’s (2000) phenomenological, and specifically Heideggerian, dialogue with him. Therefore, prior to the presentation of historical material, a brief explanation of my use of Marx will, I hope, frame the contingency of my truth claims about the historicity of contemporary Indian identities in Malaysia. I argue that in the historiographic desire to objectify the past, we discover productive ground for theorizing ethnic fetishism, or an exacerbated certainty belying great uncertainties, at the interface of Marxian, phenomenological, and psychoanalytic understandings of the subject. This, to employ Derrida’s terms, allows us to detect an “archive fever” (1995) that erupts at moments of and in oscillation with anarchic or order-negating impulses, that, in turn, are driven by an awareness of the “prosthetic” or contingent nature of the symbolic order (i.e., its historicized nature). In this sense, too, my strategy of reading deploys and borrows from this conceptual premise. That is, I will suggest that analogous to the lithic order, or symbolic order, as it takes shape as Law, in the Lacanian sense, but also in the Marxian symbolic excess of the ideological fetish, the disciplinary truth established by the identificatory gaze of history, in this instance, is unsettled, troubled, and yet resignified by the ethnographic reading of history that is offered by contemporary subjects. I argue that while we see the trace of the past in current reflections, “pastness” is also a function of metonymy, condensation, and, indeed, of archiving difference



from the now in terms of the futural aspirations, specters, hopes, and fears of subjects. In the march of what Chakrabarty (2000) describes as “History one” (that is, the history of capital’s expanding logic), attempts to surmount the appropriation of “alien will” are never wholly successful. As Marx argues, the value that is the product of abstract labor is always haunted by its resistance, which is “life” or “living labor” itself. Chakrabarty, following Marx, calls this “History two.” Abstract value, like the false mastery of Hegel’s master, is shadowed by its phantom, the specter of contingency. In this sense, Hegel’s voice within Marx in The Grundrisse is unmistakable: “With the recognition [Erkennung] of the products as its own . . . the slave’s awareness that he cannot be the property of another, with his consciousness of himself as a person, the existence of slavery becomes a merely artificial, vegetative existence” (1978: 254). The historicizing impulse attempts, from the master’s (“History one”) perspective, then, to excise the past, which is its contingent source, through the role of “anachronism”—putting the past in the past. This leaves, however, its perpetual specter of “not yet,” which plagues both postcolonial and neoliberal political critiques of “failed modernities.” In this sense, to locate the source of ethnic value (as we will see in Malaysia’s case), or consciousness itself, by tracing only the march of “History one,” as an objectifying (“vulgar”) Marxian historiography would, strangely aligns critique with the neoliberal fantasy of capital’s triumphant becoming. More in the dialectical spirit of Marx, I am suggesting that the traumatic Real of colonialism and capitalism in the neocolonial nation-state did not produce a discourse, which, in turn, produced the postcolonial subject within regimes of Truth, to invoke well-worn Foucauldian terms; rather, the dialectical forces of recognition and misrecognition produced symptoms and displacements that became alienated and abstracted “truths” (or spirit) in which the subject identified. This, as Hegel’s alienated spirit of the slave demonstrates is, too, an “unhappy” and contingent truth—the dialectical oscillation never overcome. In other words, the negation, or displaced figures of crises in “History one,” like the anachronistic fantasy of surmounted pasts, can never be put to rest (Freud 1997) or removed entirely from psychic circulation. They are the quilting points of ideology, the “lie” in which a truth can continue to go unrecognized. As Chakrabarty notes, following Heidegger (1996), who, in turn, simply reiterates the Hegelian dialectic, all orientations to the past are futural

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


(ensnared in-the-world). By the same logic, all futures are already “having been” in that aspirations of “will be,” like “not yet,” are, as the logic of dialectic dictates, alienated abstractions of the now. That is, the ensnared nature of Being (Dasein) subjects human consciousness to the ontic (or as Lacan argues, adding a linguistic twist to Hegel, the Spirit is not only a “bone” [i.e., material contingency], but requires “the letter” [i.e., the contingency of signification] [1977: 158]). There is nothing pathological in this in and of itself. Rather, Chakrabarty warns of the fetish eff ects of nationalist imaginaries of becoming, or the objectifying fantasies that cluster around disavowed pasts, and their displacements in moments of crises: “A problem arises when the demand is made that the objectifying relationship to the past be our only relationship, for then any return to other relationships seem like a ‘nightmare of the dead,’ as Marx put it. For those who give themselves over completely to objectifying models of thought, the past retains a power to haunt and deliver the shock of the uncanny” (Chakrabarty 2000: 252). Therefore, in reading the political economy of ethnic value in Malaysia’s history, we must attend to the instability (Mandal 2004), not the inevitability, of their phantasmic power to subjectify. In this sense, we can read the production of the ethnic subject as a symptom that silences the partial recognition of its contingent source. That, as Marx argues, the slave’s recognition of its “vegetative existence,” as also recognized by the Master, produces the transcendental negation of labor that is Capital’s contingent source and drives the fantasy of autonomy and universality, the specter of contingency lurking behind it, and the “guilty conscience” and compulsive apologetics of the bourgeoisie. As Marx once again suggests in The Grundrisse, “capital therefore appears as the predominant subject and owner of alien labour, and its relation is itself as complete a contradiction as is that of wage labour” (1978: 261). My argument, however, is not that “History two,” or that the slave’s partial recognition leads to the freedom of the spirit, a retrievable subaltern agency and authenticity, but that, as Hegel has argued, the freedom of the spirit that is born out of the suffering of hierarchy remains subject to a corporeal cage— submission unto the ethnic body3 — or put more simply and in loose paraphrasing of Marxian axiom, a freedom that is not of one’s own choosing or in one’s own interest. I now trace the constitution of a Tamil political and cultural subject in twentieth-century Malaysia. This is followed by a discussion of



contemporary developments and, ultimately, an analysis of the anxiety that haunts the ethnic stereotype that saturates public discourse in Malaysia. I conclude by addressing the compulsive and archiving dimension of the resistance of “History two.”

The “Docile” Tamil and Colonial Labor So-called “untouchables” in nineteenth-century Tamil Nadu were by most accounts an oppressed people. Forced to live separately from socalled clean castes and often sold into slavery, they have been described as a “cringing servile group of lepers” (Sandhu, quoted in Rajakrishnan 1987: 19). Aside from the cultural disdain experienced by untouchables, they also experienced inhumane economic hardships. Many were forced to survive eating carrion and other carcasses, even animals that had died of diseases (Rajakrishnan 1987). Moreover, they were forced to wear ragged clothing, limited to a coarse cloth around the waist. These conditions led one nineteenth-century British ethnographer to describe them as the “most abject, hopeless and unpromising specimens of humanity” (E. Thurston, quoted in Rajakrishnan 1987: 35). But, while hardships certainly were faced by the Tamil poor, it is important not to take these descriptions at face value. The importation of Tamils to Malaysia served as a counterpoint to the so-called more militant and better-organized Chinese community. The cultural stereotype of abject “docility” served to justify their selection for the tedious and repetitive work required in the burgeoning rubber industry (Jain 1970). Using government documents, Rajakrishnan clarifies the colonial administration’s position: The lower caste Madrasi was considered “almost the ideal laboring material for the furtherance of capitalist endeavours in Malaya.” They were invariably described as satisfactory for light, simple, repetitive work; malleable, worked well under supervision and easily manageable; not ambitious like the Chinese or other Indians from other parts of India, had no self reliance or the capacity of the Chinese . . . had neither the skill or enterprise to rise above the level of manual labour; and accustomed to British rule, well behaved, docile and adjusted to low standards of living and as such willing to accept low fixed wages thus enabling employers to keep wages depressed. Thus the British planters came to firmly believe that the low caste Madrasi “must always be the mainstay of planters.” (Rajakrishnan 1987: 37–38)4

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


Many analysts have shown how racial discourses were manipulated by the colonial administrators and their collaborators (INSAN 1989; Ramasamy 1993; Stenson 1980). For example, Malays were often characterized as “lazy” and unwilling to engage in hard or tedious labor. Similarly, the Chinese were seen as hard-working but also “cunning” and harder to manage. The image of the “docile” Tamil, however, served to justify the recruitment policies and the nature of plantation life. Stereotypes perpetuated a cultural division of labor premised on and ultimately also generating essentialized and codified markers of ethnic difference (Hirschman 1986). The Tamil laborers arrived in Malaya in a wretched state, according to many accounts. Caste oppression, coupled with economic hardship, motivated many to seek brighter fortunes in Malaya. But the new opportunities did not eradicate their suffering because of dehumanizing conditions in the plantations. While plantations were extremely profitable at the turn of the century, with annual dividends as high as 300 percent (INSAN 1989: 28), the Tamils earned very low wages. They were forced to live in crowded and “filthy labor lines,” and tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases were common among the workers. In 1908, the mortality rate among laborers was an incredible 84.8 per thousand due to the poor health conditions on the plantations. In comparison, Indian laborers in Fiji and Mauritius had rates of 16.4 and 37.6, respectively (Selvakumaran 1994: 56). In addition to the Adi dravida (“untouchable”) laborers, other South Indians and Ceylonese5 Tamils of “higher caste” were recruited as foremen and managers to oversee and recruit workers. Labor recruits were promised a “caste-free” utopia of wealth and leisure. Some bonded laborers were sold to the recruiters as a way to liquidate unwanted or unneeded labor.6 The administration, in order to fill the growing labor needs in the rubber industry, also paid for the passage of the immigrants (INSAN 1989; Rajakrishnan 1987; Jomo 1993).7 Once in the plantations, many of the same recruiters were also hired as Kanganis (foremen). Also, Kranis (conductors) were hired mainly from the Vellalar community of Jaffna, Ceylon.8 They, knowing Tamil, served as middlemen between English management and the laborers. Housing on the estates reflected the caste status of the workers. As “clean castes,” the Kanganis and Kranis were housed separately, had their own dining facilities, and prayed in separate shrines. They were entrusted with overseeing many aspects of production, including the division of labor and



discipline. Kranis and Kanganis were often harsh and cruel to the laborers, utilizing corporal punishment as an effective means to enforce discipline. Floggings were common, sometimes resulting in serious injury or even death. As mentioned, caste distinctions were enforced. Kanganis were known to punish workers who failed to dismount from their bicycles in the presence of higher-caste staff, and Tamil “coolies” were not to wear shoes and were forced to wear their hair in “the traditional style” for an untouchable. Amusements were also provided in each estate by the management. Prostitutes from India were sometimes recruited to serve the estate laborers (Arasaratnam 1979);9 temples for village deities were constructed; festivals were organized, partly with management funds; and toddy shops were encouraged as places to relax with family and friends after the long day’s labor. Toddy consumption became a major source of escape for many estate Tamil males, as alcoholism and the wasting of meager wages further impoverished laborer families. Some have suggested that toddy drinking facilities were encouraged by the management (INSAN 1989; Rajakrishnan 1987; Arasaratnam 1979; Stenson 1980; Supernor 1983) as a means for ensuring servility. In the sphere of religion, traditional practices were encouraged. Shrines, temples, and festivals were organized. Caste distinctions were reproduced through the social organization of the festivals. The estates became “miniIndias” in which the codification and manipulation of rights and privileges for different groups was negotiated (Mearns 1995; Jain 1970). The reformed Hinduism, which at the time was gaining currency in India with the blossoming of Indian nationalism, was not encouraged on the estates. Rather, orthodox practices and the “folk traditions” were observed by estate workers, depending on caste status. Also, as many of the Kanganis and Kranis expected to return to India or Ceylon, they wished to preserve their “clean-caste” status, thus prompting them to observe laws of purity and pollution meticulously. This, as manifested through the spatial distribution of housing, authority, and ritual practices, recreated hierarchies and thwarted the emergence of common identities between Tamil-speaking immigrants. Education was another area in which status distinctions were (and continue to be) reproduced in the estate society. Tamil schools were established in the estates for the laborers. English education, on the other hand, was often provided for the Kangany and Krani families. Within the

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


socioeconomic structure of colonial Malaya, Tamil education served to reproduce a laboring class for the plantations. Tamil had little utility, in an economic sense, outside the closed social system of the estates. Invariably, these schools were poorly subsidized and sometimes run by teachers who were not well qualified. Dropout rates were high, and very few students from estate schools pursued higher education. Some have argued that Tamil schools had a “hidden curriculum”—the reproduction of an underclass (Colletta 1975; Jeyakumar 1993).10 In sum, the discourse of the “docile Tamil” reflected and produced a social structure in which working-class and middle-class Indians were often antagonistic to each other, thus contributing to their marginalization in the colonial state. In Muzaffar’s words: “It was the Tamil laborers, compelled by circumstances to cringe and crawl before the others, who became the objects of contempt and ridicule . . . few other groups in the country had experienced such a total annihilation of human integrity and social dignity” (Muzzaffar 1993: 215). Taking Muzaffar’s suggestion further, I suggest that the fantasy, too, of the “docile Tamil,” while having an instrumental purpose and effect in the plantation economy, became a sadistic “annihilation” (negation) of the Other out of the specter that their “vegetative existence” conjured— the very Real of capitalist exploitation itself. Discourses do not merely produce subjects ala “History one,” but rather, following Chakrabarty, they are attempted ideological silencings of the incomplete appropriation of “alien will.” Thus the phantasms they generate produce compulsive denials (“History two”). That is, the “annihilation” of the Other that is initially instigated by class domination itself, a recognizably contingent and historical process, produces an even more “fever”-like (Derrida 1995) ideological Othering effect, which, in turn, dehumanizes the Other to the point that their annihilation becomes preemptive and spectral—the hatred of the loathed and now wholly other Other. Here, the archiving of difference through racial types is built on the shaky bed of class privileges. However, the memory and experience of said types contradicts their compulsive iteration in ner vous public discourse, which explains why “alien will” can never be completely appropriated or devoid of the phantasms of guilt. By 1940, the socioeconomic situation had deteriorated further in the estates. Workers were paid the same wage rate as they had been in 1928; and in the early years of World War II, the estates were pressed to maximize



production in order to help in the war effort. The outbreak of war also was detrimental to the economic well-being of Tamil laborers. Japanese occupation meant different things to the three main communities remaining in Malaya. The Chinese suffered outright persecution, as thousands were simply executed or enslaved. To some extent, Indians and Malays were courted by the Japanese through their “support” of Indian nationalism and Islamic causes. Between 1942 and 1943, about 80,000 Indian males either volunteered or were coerced into joining Japanese organized labor gangs, the most infamous being the “death” railroad from Thailand to Burma. Only half of these workers survived the ordeal. It seems that Tamils were tricked by the Japanese, who lured them to “Thai nadu” (“motherland” in Tamil). Many left for Thailand under the illusion that they were going to India (Sandhu 1969: 184). Those 200,000 workers who remained on the estates endured more hardship. The Japanese occupation also brought about a certain degree of unification between Indians in Malaya for the first time. The Indian National Army (INA) and Indian Independence League (IIL) were organized under Japanese supervision. With promises of a free India, many were attracted to these movements. In 1942, the IIL was formed and received support from the elite Indians who had close ties with the Indian freedom fighters. The INA was formed in 1943 and, after the arrival of the charismatic Subhas Chandra Bose, gained many members. Under Bose’s leadership, estate Indians were elevated in status and sense of purpose. Together with urban, middle-class Indians, the laboring classes worked together for what they believed to be the liberation of the motherland (Bayly and Harper 2005). At the same time, many joined simply to escape Japanese persecution. Indians “were suddenly elevated from being the pariahs of British Malaya to a most favoured community status under the Japanese” (Stenson 1980: 92). But the INA was not a democratic institution by any means. Privileged positions were monopolized by the professional Indians in the towns and cities. The poor laborers, while suddenly elevated to the role of “freedom fighters,” were made use of by the Japanese and, some would say, by Bose and the INA. The Tamils, especially in the estates, were “squeezed dry” by the INA. Still, enthusiasm ran high until the INA suffered a crushing defeat after their first campaign at Imphal on the India-Burma border. After this, interest waned, suspicion of the Japanese motives increased,

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


and news of Allied successes began to trickle through to the Indian community in Malaya. While the INA episode may have aroused some semblance of Indian unity for the first time, it also exacerbated dissension between Tamil laborers and professional-class Indians who assumed leadership positions in the INA.11 The coercive way in which it gained volunteers was also resented by the economically desperate laborers. While the privileged positions of middle-class Indians in the IIL and INA were protected by the Japanese, the laborers were often tricked or forced to work on Japanese projects such as the Thai-Burma railway. Therefore, INA and IIL officers became increasingly associated with Japanese interests.12 After the war, those who had resisted the Japanese and the INA were ambivalent about the return of the British. During this period, there was considerable mistrust and accusation leveled against those who had colluded with fascists; and, as mentioned, this reflected communal fragmentation within the Indian community. But, as the occupation experience had radicalized Tamil laborers, they now seemed ready for union mobilization. To restore estate profitability, management resumed the practice of paying low wages. Jawaharlal Nehru visited Malaya in 1946 and spoke of the need for Indians there to fight for independence in their adopted homeland. At the same time, he secured the release of all INA prisoners of war from the British. A former high-ranking officer, John Thivy, was inspired by Nehru to inaugurate the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC), which was modeled after and remained affiliated with the Indian National Congress (Brown 1981). In its early days the MIC, following Nehru, was associated with socialist causes. After the war, for a brief period, and mostly under Indian leadership, radical union activity and a series of crippling strikes erupted throughout the peninsula. These, however, were violently suppressed by estate managers working in collusion with colonial officers. The political left was effectively destroyed after a brief postwar period of activity. Economic marginalization was to continue in the estates, as it became clear that “the purpose of unions, especially in the plantation and tin-mining industries, was to ensure that the interests of capitalism would be protected and perpetuated even after British colonial rule gave way to an independent government” (Muzaffar 1993: 219). Indian estate laborers were not allowed to change employment, so searching for higher wages was futile.



As they were regrouped into centralized labor lines, the “restrictive paternalism of pre-war times” was restored, to the delight of estate managers (Stenson 1980: 168).

Ethnic Politics and Unions By the time of the Emergency period (1948–1960), in which the Communist Party and its allies were forced underground and violently eradicated, class-based union consciousness had been largely neutralized. Before turning to the contemporary situation, it is worth noting how “docile” unions were encouraged and how a communal-based political system emerged in Malaya. Many have noted how the ethnic composition of Malaya has been manipulated in order to prevent the emergence of class-based solidarities. By design, labor was ethnically organized, and as such, unions were organized around ethnicities. In the plantation labor sector, the radical stirrings heard prior to and after the war were replaced by more accommodating unions. The National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) emerged as the leading union allowed to represent Indian labor interests. Formed in 1954 by the staunch anticommunist P. P. Narayanan, the union achieved modest reforms in wages and work conditions. Widely perceived as pro-management, this union became a huge bureaucratic structure with a highly centralized leadership that benefited urban elites more than Tamil laborers. Of course, the economic benefits produced by the plantation industry were enjoyed by the elites from all three ethnic groups, in addition to the great profits that fell directly into the hands of foreign capitalists. After Malaysia achieved independence in 1957, two developments further hurt the already marginal Tamil laboring classes. First, the subdivision of estates left many homeless and jobless, thus creating a massive squatter problem in the urban areas. Second, the imposition of stricter citizenship laws after the riots of 1969 forced thousands of Indian laborers to repatriate to India. These events were worsened by the communal status of the MIC and by the meekness of unions in national politics. The MIC, as mentioned above, was founded under John Thivy, an ardent Indian nationalist. Soon thereafter, however, it was active in the struggle for Malayan independence, being the first major political party in Malaysia to demand independence. Early in its history the MIC

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


associated itself with Indian and pan-Malayan nationalism. Then in 1953, the MIC changed its direction in response to larger political trends in the nationalist movement. Proposals regarding citizenship and special rights were under negotiation with the British. The United Malay National Organization (UMNO) was growing in popularity, and its counterpart, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) was equally dedicated to communal politics. The MIC, in turn, joined the alliance toward the end of 1953. Abandoning its goals of forging a noncommunal political system, the MIC realized that political representation would only be ensured through the Alliance. But the Alliance did not need MIC support to rule, given the small size of the Indian community. On the other hand, the MIC saw it as their only viable option. The communal identity of the party actually helped it win some support. An active local Tamil press under the MIC’s influence has and continues to play a large role in the production of Tamil consciousness and communal identity. The party has capitalized on this sentiment throughout its history. After the Emergency, “Dravidianism,” though earlier linked to leftwing union activities, was left as the only “form of Tamil politics that was acceptable to the government” (Stenson 1980: 176). But the MIC is hardly an ardent Tamil nationalist party, as they survive only through accommodation to UMNO interests. Thinly disguised bourgeois interests have often masqueraded under the banners of ethnicity. While the MIC has been able to inject Tamil support from laborers, the working-class identity of the party has prompted many of the top Indian intellectuals to abandon the party in favor of the ostensibly noncommunal Democratic Action Party (DAP). Factionalism within the party had an enervating effect on the Indian community which, because of its minority status, was already compromised. The MIC, many believed, represented the interests of the Indian petit bourgeoisie, the class that gained much through cordial relations with UMNO. While the MIC may have been the “submissive junior partner” (Muzaffar 1993; Jomo 1986; Nagarajan 2004; Selvakumaran 1994), it was in a difficult position to help the most marginalized parts of the Indian community due to the structure of Malaysia’s economy in the first phase of independence. Malaysia’s economy remained centered on the production of raw materials for Western markets after independence. Tin and rubber were still the main export products, and both remained largely under European management at first. In the case of the rubber estates, Malaysia



became the largest producer of rubber, but to the Indian tapper, this had little meaning. Wages were kept low in order to maintain foreign interest in the market, and while some improvements in conditions were seen in wealthier estates, poverty remained a serious problem (Muzaffar 1993). The “neo-colonial” economy led to a great imbalance in postindependence development up until 1969. Agriculture, and predominantly rubber, remained the mainstay of the economy. While educated elites in urban areas, including Indians, benefited from the expanding economy and industrialization of the cities, the rural populations—particularly Malays, squatters, and plantation laborers—suffered. The first ten years of the Alliance proved to be a boom period for middle-class Indians. The Indian community was further polarized between the well-to-do urban elites and the exploited and maligned estate Tamils. Alliance politics were inherently middle-class biased, with Indian interests coming last. The laboring Tamils were fast becoming what the Central Indian Association of Malaya (CIAM) activist K. A. Neelakandha Aiyer had predicted back in 1938: They will form a floating population in the towns occupying lowly positions. . . . This is the general fate of an indigent wage-earning class— a landless proletariat. . . . The stragglers who remain behind in Malaya become the tragic orphans— of whom India has well-nigh forgotten and Malaya looks down upon with contempt— as worthless dregs in a prosperous society. (quoted in Stenson 1980: 207)

This state of affairs was worsened by the subdivision of many estates. When local capital expanded during the early independence years, some Malaysian tycoons began to buy plantations from European owners. But these same businessmen were unable to maintain estates of the same size as were the larger European firms; rather, it became a speculative real estate market wherein estates were bought and sold, usually subdivided in the process. This led to a decline in living standards for the laborers. In terms of the national economy, however, the situation did not present a crisis as rubber production actually increased due to technical advances in production and higher-yielding hybrid trees. Tamil labor was also displaced by Malays, and, later, by Indonesians as government placed increasing pressure on private companies to hire Malays. By 1971, only 79,800 Tamil laborers remained on the estates, a fall of 46.2 percent from 1950 (Stenson 1980: 204). Also, Indian representation in the labor force

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


fell from 62 percent in 1940 to 40 percent in 1971. Of the three communities, unemployment among Indians became the worst, and those who migrated to urban areas faced obstacles because of their exclusively Tamil educations. The laborers were dealt another blow after the race riots of 1969, when citizenship laws were tightened. About 60,000 Indian estate workers were affected. Though most (80 percent, according to the NUPW) were eligible for citizenship, they had failed to apply for a variety of reasons, such as remoteness of the estate, illiteracy, lost birth and marriage certificates, or failure to understand the importance of citizenship (Stenson 1980). About 60,000 Indians returned to India as a result. Those “illegals” that remained were forced to do odd jobs in urban areas or to take on non-contract work on estates at very poor wages. That the MIC and NUPW were able to do very little about the subdivision of estates and repatriation of Indians who were eligible for citizenship raised the level of exasperation within the Indian community. Some were bitter that their representatives were unwilling to press the government or properly advise the laborers. Others felt that the impotence of the Indian community— economically and politically—was inevitable given the communal nature of the Alliance and the increasingly assertive Malay ethnic politics (Nagarajan 2004). In sum, Malaysian Indians were weakened and divided by historical and cultural factors. Colonial racial discourses, in the ser vice of a plantation economy, coupled with the different socioeconomic backgrounds of the Tamil communities, produced antagonisms and factionalisms that greatly marginalized the laboring Tamils. The MIC and NUPW have proven to be too weak to represent laborer interests. Rather, their compliance within the communal political system has served the interests of maintaining profitability for expanding bourgeois capital. Moreover, the MIC, though carrying the banner of Tamil language and culture—that is, playing the communal card—has produced few tangible social or economic gains for the laboring classes. Furthermore, the “Tamil” identity of the MIC has alienated professionals and non-Tamil Indians. This leads us to the events of the last twenty-five years, and ultimately, I think, to a better understanding of increased Tamil ritual and neo-Hindu activities. At the very least, it puts the phenomenon of religious revival and diasporic displacement into a political and economic context, which, in turn, brings psychoanalysis and phenomenological reading into dialogue with



Marxian theory. The traumatic Real of globalization, even in this earlier phase under colonial movements of labor, correlates directly to the fixation on ethnic identity, which acts as both mask and symptom. That is, the arbitrary orderings of ethnic value, the nation, and state hierarchies as determined by capitalism arouse anxieties that are silenced by re-inscribing the very categories that are partially recognized as contingent (Žižek 1989; Hansen 2001). By the mid-1990s, the Indian community in Malaysia found itself owning only 1 percent of the share equity in Malaysia. This was the same percentage it held in 1970. While the classification of national equity is broken down into two categories, bumiputra (Malays) and non-bumiputra, the Indians’ share of the nation’s wealth does not reflect their percentage of the population. As a category, non-bumiputras (Indians and Chinese) have fared well, owning more than 46 percent of share capital; however, this gives a false picture as the Chinese have performed much better in the Malaysian economy than the Indians.13 Estate poverty, exacerbated by industrialization, subdivisions, and foreign labor, has generated a squatter problem and an urban underclass; this has perpetuated social problems, which have hurt Tamil women the most. One of the most common stereotypes I heard about estate Tamils concerned their “backwardness” and how women bore the brunt of the brutality of estate life. Tamil males are often described in racialized stereotypes as alcoholic wife-beaters with low self-esteem who take out their frustrations on their families. Stories of spousal and child abuse are often seen in the English and Tamil newspapers. Tamil papers sometimes feature fictional short stories about the injustices faced by the Tamil woman, trapped in violent marriages, yet caught in a patriarchal culture that is unsympathetic to their plight. The image of the working-class, abusive Tamil male is upheld in media forums as part of an inward-directed criticism of the Indian community. This contributes to a discourse about Tamils as the community to be “feared” and despised. Whether true or not, I was told on numerous occasions by Tamils that the national media has created a “monster” out of the Tamils by highlighting crimes committed by Indians, especially when it involves violence—particularly sexual violence. The growing concern about Indian “gangsterism” and domestic violence is perpetuated by well-meaning reformist (many being Indian) organizations. Tamil-Muslim television shows14 and TamilChristian missionaries give prominent attention to the “backwardness”

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


of Tamil culture, especially the Hindu practices that are supposed to signify or contribute to it. The alleged over-reporting of Indian crimes and the perhaps well-intentioned, inward-directed critique (i.e., “the subculture of poverty”: alcoholic and wife-abusing, dishonest, uncooperative, apathetic, etc.) strengthens a dominant discourse, while at the same time distancing the would-be reformer from the “embarrassment” of association: Many middle-class Indians often feel impatient and angry with the Indian poor who are caught in this subculture of poverty. Many feel indignant that these people are always whining, begging and quarrelling, instead of taking steps to improve themselves. Some even feel ashamed of them and blame them for bringing disrepute to the Indian community, and for “making Indians the laughing stock of this country.” (INSAN 1989: 26–27; emphasis added)

This sentiment was indeed demonstrated to me many times by middleclass Indians. Some saw a parallel between poor Tamils and the African American community and argued that steps must be taken to prevent Indians from “falling to that level.”15 On the other hand, some felt (and feel) that the inward-directed criticism was (is) just another form of “blaming the victim,” which also reified notions of Indian “backwardness,” in contrast with Malay-Islamic progressiveness. Persisting and perhaps worsening estate poverty and squatter “gangsterism” have ensured that the poor Tamil is an object of fear and ridicule. The “docile” Tamil has become transformed into the “despised” Tamil, and present discourse often addresses the growing “Indian problem.” I have been told by some activists that elite Indians tend to speak of a “subculture of poverty” from a social distance, not knowing firsthand how the Indian poor actually live. That is, they are accused of tacitly accepting the racist discourse that surrounds the working class.16 In one sense, one could read these ethnographic moments as working against the archive in that the insistent quality of the disavowals of the Tamil poor appear to be compulsive, belying a relationship with this figure of difference that is less wholly Other than the stereotypes seem to suggest.

The New Economic Policy and the Indian Middle Class While lower-class Indians appear to have been most oppressed, middleclass Indians have increased anxieties about the security of their socioeconomic position after the implementation of the New Economic Policy



(NEP) in 1971. The NEP was designed to eradicate poverty, particularly among Malays. But along with the NEP came many cultural and linguistic policies that reflected the growing presence of a Malay bourgeoisie. Among the Indian elites, the changing policies were greatly felt. Among the Indian poor, in contrast, the language and cultural policies were not that deeply felt, as most were not proficient in English. Rather, they were and continued to be Tamil educated. The Indian middle class has been affected by the pro-bumiputra policies enacted by the NEP in two key areas. First, the quota system enacted to promote the hiring of Malays in all levels of the state bureaucray has led to an erosion of elite Indian influence in the public sector. National health, engineering, surveying, banking, and other areas have largely been taken over by bumiputras. The promotion of Malays over similarly qualified Indians and Chinese has led to a gradual erosion of executive representation in the public and private spheres. In the private sector, government contracts were rewarded to bumiputra businesses. Also, in education, a quota system ensured that many talented and eligible Indians and Chinese were not granted admission, while some mediocre Malay students were. One consequence of the NEP has been a “brain drain” of many of the most talented Indians to Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This has occurred because parents often send their children to universities outside of Malaysia due to the quota policies. While studying or after finishing their degrees, many are able to find lucrative employment in the host country. I was often told that some of the Indian community’s best minds had “given up hope” of finding suitable employment in Malaysia with its bumiputra-first policies. Many educated Indians feel condescension for the NEP and for Malays in general. Numerous times, I was told by elite Indians who resented the NEP that Malays were “slow,” “lazy,” or even “intellectually challenged.” I found that English-educated Chinese also speak disparagingly of Malays. Despite the NEP policies, middle-class Indians have succeeded in the private sphere. The NEP did not interfere all that much with private capital. Under the NEP, non-Malays as a whole have actually increased their equity ownership of Malaysian capital, although this mostly represents Chinese success in the private sector (Brown 1994: 248). But the NEP has not really addressed the problem of Malay poverty, focusing rather on the creation of a Malay middle class. A Malay-dominated state bourgeoisie

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


emerged throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but inequality continued, and may have worsened, under the NEP (Brown 1994; Jomo 1986; Gomez and Jomo 1997; Scott 1985). While the ideology was expressed in proMalay terms, the Chinese and Indian bourgeoisie flourished where conflict was expected. Thus the old alliance between elites within the colonial infrastructure was transformed under the NEP into an instrument of a new dominant “bureaucratic capitalist” class (Brown 1994). Wealthy Indians and Chinese were still free to pursue capitalist enterprises. On the other hand, poverty among Malays (and poor Tamils, and to a lesser extent Chinese) has persisted, fueling the growth of opposition parties, such as PAS (Scott 1985; Muzaffar 1987; Brown 1994). UMNO has, in turn, had to foster a myth of Malay ethnic unity and cultural superiority (Brown 1994; Muzaffar 1993). Championing the “Malay cause” camouflages class interests as ethnic ones. The MCA and MIC are all the beneficiaries of the ethnic “divide and rule” strategy. Just as the British were able to curtail radical class consciousness through their patronage of elite ethnic-based parties, UMNO’s championing of the Malays provides justification for MCA and MIC representation in the government. Noncommunal parties have actually declined in influence during the tenure of the NEP17 (Brown 1994). Still, as urbanization, education, and job quotas produce a growing Malay bourgeoisie, competition arises between the emergent and more entrenched middle classes. As Malays were entering the university and urban workforce in greater numbers as a direct consequence of the NEP, they were competing directly against non-Malays, who often spoke better English. As was mentioned earlier, alienation18 was commonly experienced by the upwardly (or not so upwardly) mobile young Malays. In an effort to instill pride as well as a competitive edge over non-Malays, the language of government, the judiciary, and education was switched to Malay. This single policy change transformed the competitive field. Thereafter, promotions were not simply given to Malays at will; rather, the non-Malays could not function in Malay well enough to get promoted. Certainly, the NEP has made it harder for non-Malays of the middle class to maintain their elite status in contemporary Malaysia. At the same time, many middle-class Indians I spoke with were managing to educate their children while holding well-paying jobs. Furthermore, unemployment rates among educated classes were greatly reduced as the Malaysian economy grew during the 1990s.19 But



there was some anxiety about the future, particularly as savings were being used for educating children overseas. Moreover, most were concerned about the prospects of an economic downturn, coupled with decreasing opportunities, given the climate of ethnic discrimination and affirmative action in Malaysia. Perhaps cultural and political marginalization are more keenly felt by the urban middle-class Indians than by their working-class counterparts, with the latter having more pressing matters at hand. As has been suggested earlier, the promotion of Islam by the government has been, together with the language policy, a way of consolidating Muslim-Malay identity and answering to a grassroots Islamic movement among the Malay peasantry and alienated urbanites, particularly those in the universities. While antigovernment Islamic movements were able to gain much momentum in the 1970s, UMNO countered with its own Islamic program, including the establishment of an Islamic university, Pusat Islam (a national, government-controlled organization promoting and monitoring Islam), and an Islamic bank. These were designed to “take the steam out of the more radical Islamic movements”—that is, the ones offering different social and economic models from the pro-capitalist UMNO plans (Brown 1994: 255). Brown argues further, following an argument by Muzaffar (1987), that the bumiputra / non-bumiputra dichotomy was reinforced through the rhetoric of Islam, in the interests of the bumiputra middle and upper classes, knowing full well that non-Muslims would take offense to the Islamization program. Muzaffar (1993) isolated two spheres of marginalization that will affect Indians. They are worth citing as they clearly represent the views of many middle-class Hindu Indians: With the increase in radio and television programmes devoted to Islam, the introduction of Islamic phraseology in greetings, the observation of Islamic rules in social intercourse, the adherence to Islamic norm in the mixing of the sexes, the rapid spread of what is regarded as Islamic attire among women and, to some extent, men, and the strict enforcement of halal food signs in public eating-places, one can expect an Islamic milieu of sorts reflected in Muslim rituals and symbols to emerge before long. Since this cultural milieu is bound to dominate national life, given the sacred significance of everything presented in the name of Islam . . . it will be a reality that they will not be able to participate in. . . . It is this alienation that will make

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


non-Muslims feel that they are completely marginal to the dominant cultural ethos. In politics, the effect could be even more serious . . . in a society whose world view is conditioned and coloured by ethnic dichotomies, it is quite likely that an Islamic polity would be seen as an opportunity to establish exclusive Muslim political power. At the psychological level, this may even be equated with exclusive Malay or bumiputra political power. (Muzaffar 1993: 232–233; emphases added)

Indeed, it was Islam’s growing presence and Malay cultural dominance that was resented by middle-class Indians. At the same time, we see in the account above the idea of the “introduction” of Islamization being authored from above, something that might also be alienating to many Malays. An Indian professor at a university offered this observation of the Malay-Islamization of academic life: Nowadays an academic function at the university will always be catered to Malay tastes and cultural practices. So even an important function, where a lot of Indian leaders attend, the main course very often will be beef, and no substitute meal is arranged for Hindus. I am embarrassed to only be able to drink water at these dinner banquets. But the Malays find it amusing. Cultural sensitivity is on the decline. . . . Since the 1969 riots, there is more segregation in schools20 and in the organization of ethnic enclaves. . . . Nowadays Malays hesitate to visit Indian homes for “open house” on Deepavali, because they are afraid to eat non-halal food.21 What could be non-halal about Indian vegetarian dishes? Malays do not want to socialize that much with non-Muslims anymore. Before, it wasn’t like this. In terms of education, the language policy has affected the quality of books we select for teaching. Only a small fraction of important books have been translated into Malay. So the standard of education is also declining in the university.

The hurt experienced by Hindu-Indians as Malays distance themselves from non-Islamic culture leads many to reassert their ethnic identity through increased involvement in religious and cultural associations. Some Indians, who themselves are doing well as professionals, volunteer on behalf of the victimized Tamil community. Organizations have been formed, such as the Education Welfare Research Foundation, staffed by successful Indian professionals who see their volunteerism as one way to mitigate



against the discrimination faced by Tamils in all social spheres. One Indian professional, who is involved with a large Indian-based charitable organization, expressed his disgust at the economic and social claims made by the present political leadership, as well as his fears for the future of the Tamils: The Tamils cleared the land and made Malaysia rich—It cannot help but be rich. The Malays and Dr. Mahathir [the former prime minister] have nothing to claim credit for . . . they are the inheritors of a land that produced a lot of wealth through its agro-industries. The jet-set super-rich Malays emerge in contrast to the dirt-poor urban slum Tamil. These Tamils see the T.V. and the conspicuous consumption all around them, they want their share of the national wealth. These same fellows will become tomorrow’s troublemakers if their needs are not looked at. They will become the “negroes of Malaysia” and urban crime will skyrocket—it is already happening in places like Klang. Then, when the recession hits, what will happen to Malaysia? Her moral fiber is lost to base capitalism and greed. Mahathir just appeals to the basest values in people. Though lip-service is paid to values and ethics, his society has abandoned humane growth for unrestrained capitalism and development. Thus, he has made a small fortune for his own family. Mahathir is a tradesman, Tunku and Sambanthan were statesmen. . . . The Malays under him have hijacked the whole country and there has been a breach of trust. The Tunku [Tunku Abdul Rahman] understood that all Malaysians were to share power, though Malay needs needed to be addressed first. This was understood tacitly by the other races. But, the current crop of leaders since ’69 have taken over the whole government, education, transportation, banking, etc. . . . Now, they do not want to see to the needs of the lowly Tamils who initially made it possible for the country to develop in the first place. The Malays are emerging as a rich and yet lazy race who reaps the benefits of others’ labor and does [sic] not pay heed now to them. When recession hits, what will happen? They may be too soft to hold onto what they have gained. Malaysia runs like the mouse-deer, communalism could destroy the country, whereas India is like the elephant and can absorb all sorts of problems and keep moving slowly along. . . . The problem is magnified by the Indians themselves and their poor political leadership with their greed and complacency. So many rich Indians are content to enjoy the good life and also forget about the Tamils in the estates. Out of ignorance or perhaps trying to forget their responsibilities they will blame the estate Tamils as being backward, crude, and addicted to drink, and inherently rowdy. This is due to ignorance. . . . Though the distrust is still there, professional and academic Indian leaders decided the MIC was failing

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


to do anything meaningful for the Tamils, hence they formed private organizations to address the problems. (emphasis added)

A number of points can be observed within this statement. First of all, the contrast is drawn between the “super-rich” Malay and the “dirt poor Tamil.” The claim is that these same Tamils have been exploited by the Malay bourgeoisie and have received none of the credit they deserve by expanding Malaysia’s economy. Educated Indians with the financial means must “address the problems” facing the Indian poor. Professional Indians stand as “protectors” of the Tamils, patronizing them through a variety of charitable projects. The past leaders were “statesmen,” in spite of their association with elite interests. But the present UMNO leadership has betrayed the spirit of the power-sharing agreement formulated by the likes of Tunku and Sambanthan. This sense of betrayal, or “highjacking,” however, is felt more keenly by the educated Indian elites than by the laboring Tamils, as I have argued throughout this chapter. The laborer-class Tamils have never been part of the “power sharing” structure. Here we see an example of the patronizing voice of the Indian elite, although an undoubtedly sincere one.22 The lowly Tamil must be uplifted lest he succumb to urban crime and become like the “negroes.” The patronizing attitude extends to the Malays, who remain a “lazy race,” reiterating colonialist stereotypes. Furthermore, as capitalism eats at the “moral fiber” of the nation, the spiritually and morally advanced ones (presumably elite Indians) must make their wisdom known. That Indians—the “professional and academic” ones, that is— can see who “reaps the benefits of others’ labor,” is, perhaps, also symptomatic of a displacement of guilt over their own class privilege, vis-à-vis the Tamil laborer. Yet, in the same breath, we see too that “rich Indians are content to enjoy the good life.” Demonstrating profound ambivalence, this individual emphasizes the cause of this malaise being “due to” and “out of ignorance.” The idea of ignorance is emphasized in order to point toward the “academic” and “professional” Indians who can surmount their ignorance, despite the ignorance in the government, the lazy yet rich Malays, and the “failing” of the MIC. Indeed, the present MIC leadership, with its petit bourgeois leadership, he suggests, is self-interested and shortsighted, offering “poor political leadership with their greed and complacency”:



Samy Vellu [the president of the MIC] delivers the goods to UMNO. But, if necessary, he [the prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad] could squash him at a moment’s notice. Hence, Samy never criticizes him on any issue. He is a crude and dirty politician with a dimwit for a wife who projects larger than life images of himself to the uneducated and partially educated, yet profoundly ignorant Indians in the country. (emphasis added)

This echoes the views of many educated Indians, who feel the present party leadership is unrefined, crude, and “profoundly ignorant.” I was told that the MIC is a “party of thugs” or a “party of samsu dealers.”23 Such views were common among the English-educated urban elites. Even if the present stereotype is unfair to the MIC, this perception of the party indicates a deep division within the already politically weak Indian community; and, as we have seen, the communal politics of the MIC, whether it be under the patronage of earlier elite leadership or the “championing of Tamil language and Thaipusam” under the present petit bourgeois leadership, has done little to overcome the economic marginality and political impotence of the Tamil laborers. Moreover, an ambivalence of identity and a sense of guilt over the laborers’ plight is demonstrated through the concern shown by volunteer organizations who chastise their own, for as they “forget their responsibilities they will blame the Tamils in the estates.” But the “ignorance” of certain elite Indians who “blame” the estate Tamils for their woes is apparently contradicted by the assessment of the “profoundly ignorant” mass of “Indians in the country.” While the stereotypes may or may not escape their consciousness (or unconsciousness), some struggle to address injustice, giving their energies to a variety of causes on behalf of the poor Tamils. But, as my informant notes, the “ignorance” and “distrust” are still ever present. Moreover, there is a tendency to locate the plight of the Tamils against the tide of bumiputraism and the policies of the NEP. Certainly, NEP politics did little to uplift the Tamil laborers in Malaysia, and “disgust” of present policies, born out of a loss of status, is commonly heard by the Englisheducated Indians. Caring for the poor through the format of social welfare organizations, however, can serve one’s own status-enhancing ends.24 Again, this may or may not be conscious intent. Elitism seems to be largely unintentional. Rather, we might view such attitudes as masks of status and power. But, turning to a psychoanalytic reading, we cannot read this mask instrumentally as conscious ideological production. Rather, in the negation of “ignorance” and “greed,” we see a fantasy of moral tran-

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


scendence and certitude that belies the ambivalent source of its compulsion. Here we can see that capitalist development in Malaysia has not produced the ethnic category without resistance; but, at the same time, the resistance and ambivalence generated by class privilege produces the uncanny shadow of retrograde ignorance (i.e., the phantom of the backward Other) and the fixation on the fetish of ethnic types. The figure of the working-class Tamil becomes a site of ambivalent displacement by elites and, perhaps, by Malays and Chinese as well. Here the stereotypes— their compulsive ubiquity— complicates the image of the “docile” Tamil in the archive by revealing the excess or “fever” (Derrida 1995) that marks this signification.

Contemporary Stereotypes “Indians” (Tamils) are often stereotyped as hot-tempered and dishonest people. The men are sometimes said to be drunkards, wife-beaters, and braggarts who care little for their fellow Indians. On numerous occasions, while riding in a taxi to Brickfields, an “Indian” enclave, the non-Indian drivers would warn me about “Indians.” I heard many patently racist stereotypes similar to the ones mentioned above. One Malay driver told me that he would not even drive in an Indian area after a certain point in the evening because of the alleged dangers of intoxicated men fighting in the streets! The same driver tried to convince me, with all sincerity, to move to a Malay neighborhood for my own safety. I was told by one Chinese student that Malaysian Chinese teach their children obedience by telling them that if they are naughty, the “Indian man”25 would take them away. A Chinese college student explained to me the origins of the anti-Indian bias: Personally, in my Chinese upbringing, I have been taught from childhood to distrust members of the Indian race. Indians are commonly believed to most Chinese families to be thieves and cheats. Logically, this does not make very much sense. This belief probably came into existence when some past ancestor got cheated by an Indian, and that distrust has been carried forward . . . as with many origins of prejudice. . . . However unfair this kind of judgment may be, it is still in practice and does affect the upbringing of many children.

Discrimination against Indians is common in Malaysia. This may occur in housing rental preferences, small business practices, government



allocation of low-cost housing, and street market transactions. It was something everyone, including the Indians, expected and accepted without much protest.26 On the other side of the coin, Indians commonly stereotype the Chinese as “greedy” racists. They also make fun of their diet, language, and alleged uncouth public manners. Malay stereotypes of the overly assertive and discourteous Chinese are also appropriated by Tamils. Even among educated Tamils, there is a tendency to stereotype the Chinese as greedy and ethnocentric.27 Though racism has adversely affected the Tamils of Malaysia, they themselves often succumb to racial stereotyping. Even non-Indian college students expressed negative ethnic stereotypes about Indians. In carrying out an open-ended survey with more than fifty college students, the majority being Chinese, I found that Indians were characterized almost without exception as being the “poor estate workers.” Some were sympathetic to historic injustices; however, most simply stated that Tamils were a “poor race.” Moreover, the understanding of Tamil religion and culture by non-Tamil students was clearly influenced by the stereotypes popularized by images of Tamil ritual selfmortification and, to some extent, Tamil movies.28 The discourse surrounding “Indians” as an ascribed ethnic group is also evidenced in national politics. Malays, as has been discussed, are sensitive about the high degree of ancient Indian influence in their culture and language. This sensitivity is heightened due to the stigma attached to things “Indian” in Malaysia. In fact, the father of the former prime minister (Dr. Mahathir) came from Kerala, India. Yet, Dr. Mahathir was careful never to discuss his paternal Indian lineage. This denial of his paternal lineage was necessary in order to legitimate his status as a Malay nationalist. At the same time, the negative stereotypes of Indians in Malaysia could have also played a role in his concealed ancestry. Khoo Kay Kim,29 a prominent historian of the Malays, explains antiIndian sentiments: Politics apart, Malay attitudes towards the Indians have been shaped by a number of other factors which are largely related to the general behavior of the Indians, their occupations, their economic status, ethos, and even the colour of their skin. . . . The larger proportion of the Indians in this country were employed to do menial jobs; they were gardeners, school caretakers, road sweepers, garbage collectors, and grass cutters. Because of their poverty and the colour of their skin, there has long prevailed the opinion that socially

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


the Indians belong to the lowest strata of the Malaysian society. (Khoo 1993: 278–279)

The stereotypes are not simply residual from earlier discourses, but are also based on stereotypical interpretations of contemporary Tamil cultural and social practices. These practices are most visible in urban ethnic enclaves. These “little Indias” are where the marks of “Indian-ness” are reproduced. Affluent Tamils tend to live in areas removed (if only slightly) from urban Indian enclaves. Their ambivalence over being labeled “Indian” also motivates them to distance themselves from the working class through a variety of strategies involving the cultivation of symbolic and material capital. In contrast, community space and frequent social interactions within it are important in the reproduction of social and cultural identities for working-class Tamils. Being inhibited by structural and cultural factors from other avenues of social status, affiliation, and personal identification, the working-class Tamil enclave creates and is created by certain tastes and dispositions. The “Indian” community space produces an ethnic haven— that is, a social space for marginalized Indians within the dominant power structures of Malaysian society—which assures and asserts “boundary maintenance” (Barth 1969) against the dominant nationalist ideologies. But at the same time, this “bounded” space has become the locus for the production of stereotypes about Indians. Thus I am not suggesting a functionalist or pluralist account of the ethnic enclave within a multiethnic society. Rather, the very notion of “boundaries” suggests an oppositional production of ethnic identities. This in turn suggests the dialogic construction of all ethnic discourses. Spatial distancing and the production of an ethnic topography within the city codifies and objectifies boundaries of ethnic difference, ultimately generating ambivalence for these sites among those who have distanced themselves. On the one hand, the Indian enclave has become a site of embarrassment for elite Indians, who see in working-class Tamil cultural practices and social problems an almost demonic presence. On the other hand, many well-intentioned reformers—as witnessed above—seek the moral, spiritual, and material “uplift” of the community. In particular, a few of the ashram-based Hindu reform organizations have made efforts to provide material and, more commonly, “spiritual” instruction to the Tamils practicing “lower” forms of Hinduism. For their part, working-class



Indians are often suspicious of the motives of these would-be reformers, having inherited decades of distrust generated by more than a century of caste oppression and exploitation. Moreover, in spite of the rhetoric of charity and “uplift” being increasingly produced by the Indian elite, lowerstatus Tamils routinely experience acts of discrimination and disdain directed at them by higher-status Indians. Though many elite Indians are unaware of it, I found that working-class Tamils harbor both distrust and disgust for their supposed moral and philosophical superiors. As one spirit medium I knew well put it: “When I see their greedy faces, I want to kill them.”30 The tangible insecurities31 faced by the Indian poor over status, finances, security, and keeping pace with others are magnified by the negative stereotypes of Indians. The anxieties, in turn, contribute to an increasing popularity of Tamil spirit mediums. While this tradition originated in the villages of Tamil Nadu and was commonly seen in the Malaysian estate villages, the urban areas are now witnessing a rise in mediumship activity. This is probably due to two main reasons: the arrival of mediums looking for work in urban areas after the closures of many estates left them without clients, and the insecurities associated with marital, financial, health, and other worries are leading many to spiritual assistance. Spirit mediums provide a sense of agency that may be lacking in the lives of their clients, given the clients’ socioeconomic insecurities. In observing mediums and their clients closely (Willford 2006), it became clear that, aside from the firm belief that material benefits are obtained through spiritual intervention, some mediums also served as confidants, and even as therapists. Some mediums specialize in giving lottery numbers to their clients. Others give advice on personal problems including, but not limited to, health, marital abuse and infidelity, missing persons, and mental illness. Still others help those who are possessed by evil spirits. Those who become spirit mediums are usually of low social status, with little or no formal education, and generally are poor. Through their spiritual activity they are able to gain some respect from others. Additionally, the mediums receive payment through gifts received or, in some cases, through nominal fees charged for their ser vices. Those believed to be “powerful”— beliefs spread by word of mouth— are able to survive through their practice.32 There is an analogous relationship between the growing popularity of spirit mediums and increasing acts of ritual penance. They are similar

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


in that both primarily involve the working class; perhaps most importantly, both the penitents and the clients of spirit mediums are seeking some tangible empowerment and autonomous cultural space through divine intervention. They differ in that public rituals represent a collective as well as a private expression, whereas spirit mediums attend to personal needs.

Thaipusam The most significant Tamil ritual-pilgrimage is Thaipusam. It is a celebration honoring Lord Murugan, an ancient Tamil deity who later became associated with Siva’s son.33 The celebration of this festival in Malaysia is noted for the extravagant forms of penance and possession trance that are displayed. The most popular practice involves the carrying of a kavadi.34 Today the kavadi is an elaborately decorated palanquin carrying the image of Murugan riding on the peacock. The larger kavadis also are hooked to the flesh with small hooks, or more dramatically, with long and sharp spikes. Vels usually pierce the tongue and cheeks of the devotees. By carrying the kavadi in fulfillment of a vow, the pilgrim comes to feel the power of the deity directly, regardless of caste or orthodox convention. The devotee who offers bhakti in this fashion is spiritually empowered. Murugan worship thus became a salient symbol for the downtrodden at times in Tamil history, and significantly, in the Tamil non-Brahmin movement in India earlier this century.35 Thaipusam is certainly the most visible expression of collective Indian identity (Lee 1989; Collins 1997; Willford 2006). When I asked one man if he would be going, he answered: “Of course, I am an Indian.” The 1995 and 1996 Thaipusam festivals reportedly drew around 1 million people each, the overwhelming majority being working-class Tamils (New Straits Times, January 18, 1995 and February 6, 1996). This compares with a crowds of 800,000 in 1987 (Lee 1989) and around 200,000 in the mid1960s (Arasaratnam 1966).36 Besides the massive turnout in Batu Caves, both Penang and Ipoh reported crowds of 400,000 in their respective festivities. That means that close to 2 million Indians participate in or observe the festival. This represents almost all of the 2.2 million Indians living in Malaysia. Vow takers at Thaipusam testify as to the efficacy of their vows, claiming that their prayers are “miraculously” answered after performing acts



of penance. While not reducible to a search for “power” by the powerless and marginal, the rise in Thaipusam’s popularity among the Tamil working class clearly corresponds with increased insecurities experienced by this community. Those carrying kavadi at the Thaipusam ritual must first spiritually cleanse themselves for a period of time. During the pilgrimage-ritual itself, the devotee must fall into a trance, possessed either by Murugan or Shakti, in order to perform the Herculean feat of carrying the kavadi along a path that culminates in a steep, 272-step climb into the sanctuary within Batu Caves. At that point, the devotee will make various ritual offerings before the image of Lord Murugan, assisted by priests who perform ritual ser vices. After completing their difficult vows, the devotees remove their kavadis and return to normal— albeit a spiritually transformed— consciousness. During the kavadi ritual itself, devotees in a state of possession appear to be blissful. I was often told that this ecstatic transcendence of pain itself demonstrates the power and “truth” of their religion (see Figure 8.1). In that sense, something truly miraculous does occur—if only briefly—for the poor Tamils of Malaysia. In this collective moment of transcendence, a moment of spiritual autonomy is experienced. This, in turn, is proudly remembered throughout the rest of the year and is reenacted in various smaller rituals and festivals that are also experiencing revival in Malaysia (Willford 2003). There is also something provocative about some of the extreme forms of self-mortification displayed at Thaipusam. It is possible that the forms of penance exhibit an ironic consciousness. Certainly the ancient Murugan bhakti literature is rich in this regard. But I do not wish to romanticize the element of protest or resistance articulated through acts of selfmortification. Indeed, the festival has been appropriated by the MIC, which goes to great lengths to champion the “Indian festival.” In so doing, the party wears the mantle of guardian for Tamil-Hindu culture. Even the prime minister offers “Thaipusam greetings,” which are read by the MIC president to the attending crowds. These are featured on the front page of the national newspapers the following day. The MIC similarly lobbies on behalf of Tamil schools.37 For its part, the UMNO-led government benefits from continued Indian support of the MIC, and the government often makes it clear that religious freedoms for minorities

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia

figure 8.1:


The kavadi ritual. Photograph by the author.

would be threatened if the Islamic opposition party were to come to power. The spectacle of Thaipusam also generates interest (and perhaps revival) through the media attraction it attracts. In addition to the vivid headline coverage given to acts of self-mortification in the principal



newspapers— a kind of voyeurism of the grotesque—the festival has been marketed through postcards, T-shirts, and tourist literature. “Post card Indians”— as one Indian intellectual put it— are essentializing and racializing. The growing popularity of the festival has also inspired further social distancing by many elite Indians. Some say the festival, with its unorthodox practices, is offensive and denigrating to the Indian community. They experience embarrassment (Willford 2006) because it has increasingly come to signify Indian culture and Hinduism in Malaysia. Many complained to me that the festival only reinforces negative stereotypes of the Indian community. In their minds, the “docile” Tamil has been transformed into the “irrational,” “superstitious,” and even “culturally backward” Tamil through the increasing revival and subsequent media spectacle of Thaipusam. It is this stigma, in turn, that has inspired a revival of ecumenical Hindu reform organizations among the urban Indian elite (Willford 2006; Kent 2004). These neo-Hindu organizations have close links to organizations in India (e.g., the Ramakrishna Mission, Sai Baba, and the Divine Life Organization, and their offshoots) and simultaneously attempt to resurrect a “pure” and uncorrupted rational and unabashedly modernist Hinduism in Malaysia while distancing themselves from the Tamil popular religion discussed above. Moreover, participants in these organizations often involve themselves in charitable activities aimed at the spiritual and material “uplift” of the Tamil poor. In so doing, status is enhanced, cultural and moral leadership is asserted, and internal ambivalence (and even disdain) over “Indian” identity is channeled into activities that are oftentimes beneficial—at least on the surface—to the Tamil poor. In some instances, the modernist, ecumenical rhetoric of neo-Hinduism is also strategically used to subtly critique the Islamic modernism being crafted by UMNO elites. That is, the cultural hurt and loss of status experienced by Indian elites as a result of Malay-Islamic nationalism that I described earlier is assuaged by a Hindu discourse of tolerance and spiritual evolution in which they, the philosophically inclined Hindus, standing at the apex of spiritual understanding and providing a proverbial “banyan tree” of culture for Southeast Asian societies, provide the blueprints for interethnic and religious harmony.

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


Conclusion This chapter has aimed at revealing the dialectic of structural and cultural conditions that has generated class and status divisions among Malaysian Tamils. I have shown how socioeconomic marginalization must be understood in light of colonial racial discourses and their rebirth within the politics of ethnicity in independent Malaysia. Moreover, it has been argued that the maintenance of ethnic categories has facilitated the market for labor and commodities in global capitalism. It has also been argued that a resurgence of Tamil-Hindu revivalism is directly related to socioeconomic marginalization and Islamization. Another aim has been to demonstrate how working-class Tamils, though victimized in this history, played an essential role in the development of Malaysia’s economy through their participation in the plantation sector. Their pivotal role in the civil sector (e.g., in law, education, and transportation) has also been alluded to, but not explored, here. To conclude, I wish to shift the narrative to the national briefly in order to speculate on an increase in ethnic consciousness in contemporary Malaysia. Though political leaders in Malaysia often speak of forging one nation, or Bangsa Malaysia, ethnicity, if anything, is more bounded, codified, and reified through a public discourse on multiculturalism. Just as racial discourses, census taking, and ethnographic descriptions established racial “types” or hierarchies tied to colonial economic projects, the contemporary revival and celebration of ethnicity and multiculturalism in Malaysia must be understood both instrumentally and culturally—if I may dichotomize the two. Instrumentally speaking, the headlong rush toward modernization spearheaded by the government has benefited a growing bourgeoisie. At the same time, as pointed out, championing Malay and Islamic interests has served to deflect Malay defections to the Islamic opposition, which has consistently been critical of the polarization of wealth under present economic policies. UMNO has offered its own official Islamization program and ideology, which I have alluded to as “Islamic modernism”— an exploration of which goes beyond the scope of this chapter. The wheels of the mass media have fused modernity and Islam through its use of patriotic and religious imagery combined with images of science, architecture, and development. State-sponsored Islamic revival has also generated a revival of Chinese and Indian cultural expressions, due in part to the efforts



of communal political parties. In that sense, as suggested, an increasingly communal political landscape ultimately served the bourgeois modernist nation-building project well. Nevertheless, an iconography of the new nation— a progressive and prosperous Malay-Islamic nation sensitive to the cultural needs of its minorities—is literally being constructed through the impressive eruption of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline, not to mention the new administrative and political capital, Putrajaya (see Figure 8.2). Impressive skyscrapers not only serve as images of modernity and economic prowess, they also are icons of power. These grandiose monuments feature Islamic motifs and artisanry. Malays are urged to embrace science and Islam in order to generate a rational and prosperous, culturally authentic, and powerful Malaysian nation. Pre-Islamic aspects of Malay culture—the so-called Hinduized and animistic elements— are to be purged. Part of this rhetoric, as mentioned, occurs in response to the growth of the Islamic opposition. But in another sense, urging Malays to embrace Malay-Islamic modernism, coupled with a purging from the culture of all that is “soft” or “irrational” (Peletz 2002), represents the emergence of a state patriarchy that relies on a fetish with both modernity and notions of timeless cultural authenticity. Mahathir himself wrote: “Hinduism and animism . . . had shaped and controlled the Malay psyche before the coming of Islam. . . . If the Malays were to become Muslims, these old beliefs must be erased and replaced with a strong and clear Islamic faith” (emphasis added).38 He added, “There is evidence that if these areas in the teaching of Islam were neglected, the old animistic beliefs would again take control of the Malay mind” (emphasis added).39 This orientalist inclusion within the nation’s multicultural discourse leaves Malays perhaps ambivalent about their own culture and its obvious points of historical, linguistic, and religious contact with India. Modernity has thus produced a dual alienation for Malays: a rupture with the past within the lifestyles of the urban landscape, which has led to the rise of transcendent and unifying ideologies of Malay-Islamic inclusiveness and progressiveness; and a recognition, perhaps not consciously, of the “invented” artifice of this ideology—leaving a specter of past memories, or that which must be compulsively repeated so that the past beliefs do not “again take control.” As mentioned at the outset, what haunts the (Hegelian) master most is the specter of his own contingency (Zizek 1989), which, when displaced or negated, in this case, takes the form of the ethnic Other, who, while plotted in the past, threatens to again “take

figure 8.2:

Putrajaya, the new administrative capital for Malaysia. Photograph by the author.



control,” revealing an intimacy that is partially recognized. To return to Chakrabarty’s words, disavowed pasts, and the ethnic face they can take, can “deliver the shock of the uncanny” (2000: 252). In his frame, “History one,” capital’s history, cannot encompass “History two” entirely, and any attempt to do so is bound to produce the “nightmare of the dead” (2000: 252). In this sense, one cannot understand the phenomenal force of ethnic stereotyping through an analysis of “History one” or political economy alone. Rather, one must attend to the surmounted pasts and the “uncanny” effects of recognition these produce.40 In this case, I am suggesting that the stereotype of the “Indian” is a figure of displacement among both elite Indians (who see them as backward but redeemable) and certain Malays (who see them as a medieval past of Malay identity). To say, as a vulgar Marxist might, that capital has made the poor Tamils what they are misses this important point: that the iterability of the Tamil figure addresses anxieties that haunt those who have benefited from capitalism’s march. A further and related point argued here has been that the figure of the “docile” and, later, “dangerous” or “backward” Tamil (or Indian) in contemporary discourses is not to be taken at face value. The ethnography here strongly suggests the opposite. Rather, an excess exists in the identity assertions of Malaysian ethnic types that belie not only more permeable multiethnic histories, memories, and desires, but also an “archive madness” that, as Derrida argues, works against itself, revealing a desire to escape or surmount the present, through the signification of the past, with an aspiration to the future. As Derrida argues, The archive augments itself, engrosses itself, it gains in auctoritas. But in the same stroke it loses the absolute and meta-textual authority it might claim to have. . . . The archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens out to the future . . . it is the future that is at issue here, and the archive as an irreducible experience of the future. (Derrida 1995: 68)

Reading in this sense, not only does ethnography complicate the archive, but the archive itself is an ever-expanding ethnographic web of futural aspiration, marked by desire. This is not to deny the quotidian and factual, but to tune our antenna to this fevered quality of knowledge-production, particularly in contexts of contingent social hierarchy, which, as is often the case, appears as its instigating symptom.

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


The narrative of the nation, with its ethnic stereotypes, simultaneously makes lucid rapid social changes for the Malay elite, while also mystifying the actual forces that give rise to it—that is, both the material and psychological aspects of this alienation. The specter of class discontent and of suppressed— some would say violently repressed—Malay cultural memories are objectified and vicariously addressed through the discourse of the “Indian.” The kavadi-carrying Indian who occupies “backward” parts of the urban landscape increasingly serves as the antithesis of science and Islam. This is what is objectified through the signification of Indian-ness in public discourse. The specter of the Indian is perhaps also witnessed in this popular joke told to me by both Chinese and Indians: “If you are trapped in a snake-pit with a cobra and a terrible man, and you have a pistol with only one bullet in it, who do you shoot? The man, because he is an Indian.” Even if this diagnosis of Malay dislocation and displacement proves too non-variegated41—indeed, stereotypical—the Indian elite, as we have seen in this chapter, recognize themselves in the perceived negation of Indian-ness by Malays. We might, following Freud, call this the countertransference of Malay desire (as recognized by elite Indians). I conclude with appraisals of current trends by two Tamil educators in Malaysia, both of whom underscore the general malaise felt by educated Indians looking ahead at tomorrow. The first comes from a now-retired Tamil schoolteacher: It is very difficult for Tamils now as the whole national culture has been planned by Malay think tanks. Tamil schools are decrepit, often not even having a decent toilet. Social problems among Indians are influenced by Malay school education and lack of spiritual values in government schools. The “bohsia”42 problem is spreading from Malays to Indians. Tamil schoolteachers are often very poor in training and have no knowledge of literate Tamil. Very dark times are ahead for Malaysian Indians. The Barisan National does nothing for Indian culture. The national culture is carefully planned and altogether Malay. Even history books are re-written; for instance, the founder of Kuala Lumpur is now said to be a Malay, whereas earlier history recorded that a Chinese man founded the city. On T.V., the Muslim shows still argue that non-Muslim views are inferior and untrue— even the basic commandments or ethics are not true unless they are stated through Islam. After Samy Vellu, there is no one capable to lead the Indian community. But, Malays will pay the price karmicly [sic]— what



goes around comes around. Tamil revival may bloom from a spiritual revival. (emphases added)

These views came from a Tamil teacher still in his thirties: The so-called ten percent, which represents the Indian population, is now actually closer to seven percent, due to out-migration, conversions to Islam and Malay culture through marriage, and the 1.2 million Indonesians who now come close to outnumbering the Tamils. National culture equals Malay culture in spite of the recent political rhetoric.43 Indians are adopting Malay language, food, and clothes. Women prefer to wear the Malay baju now over the saree. Soon the distinctiveness of Tamil identity will be gone. The government will let Tamils dwindle in number, and by 2020, their numbers will only be around 5 percent, and politically insignificant. The educated Tamils get out or refuse to speak out because they want their paychecks . . . however, due to the strict quota policy, many University of Malaya Indian grads do not find work in appropriate fields. Indian cultural forms like music and food are being claimed by the Malays as their own. Tamil revival is low-caste village culture. In Sungai Petani, in Kedah, the Thaipusam is full of extreme self-torture. The aim is to show off by the size of the Vel or how many hooks one can bear. Decently conducted religion is hard to find. (emphases added)

In both statements we see educated Tamils’ pessimism regarding the recent state-sponsored cultural policies. The “Malay think tank” (read: inauthentic or derivative) national culture is represented as simultaneously hostile to Indian culture and yet appropriates it in order to claim it “as their own.” Here, again, we see a desire for recognition, born out of a loss of status, and the perceived negation of Malays of their more authentic selves in favor of the “planned” national identity that is devoid of “spiritual values.” The preservation of Tamil identity, and even its “revival,” are of paramount concern in their views, as well as in those of many others I met. Still, there is a pervasive sentiment that “decent” Tamil culture is lost in a sea of government-supported “Western materialism” and the exhibitionism of “low-caste” Tamil ritualism. A degree of social distance is still detectable within the concerned voices over the loss of Tamil identity, language, and culture. As we have seen throughout the chapter, this distance has hindered attempts to construct an inclusive Tamil identity. Yet it is precisely within this ambivalence, and

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


the fissures it generates, that the fetish of ethnicity is “petrified” at “the signifying chain where the memory-screen is immobilized,” as Lacan says (1977: 167). The figure of the Malay, the “low-caste” Tamil, and the transcendental or spiritual surmounting of the Other function in the elite Indian imaginary to provide points of identification negating memory and individual experience. It is in the negation or resistance to the ethnic signifier, or in its transgressive desire for recognition (revealing its contingency through the Other), and the silencing of the contingent and corporeal (the resistance of “History two” to “History one,” in Chakrabarty’s sense), that we begin to begin to fathom the phenomenological force behind what I have called social distancing. This distancing is really a symptom, once again, of the ethnic fetish. To appreciate that force allows us to recognize the millenarian sentiment, indicative of the ethnic fantasy, that “Malays will pay the price karmicly.” While “dark times” may lay ahead, “Tamil revival may bloom from spiritual revival.” In an almost Augustinian dialectical form, the spirit is reborn through death. I have argued earlier that what Chakrabarty calls “History two” remains profoundly alienated through a fantasy of transcendence through anterior futures (i.e., the spiritual), projecting a site of authenticity that silences a contingent material reality. Read in the Freudian sense, the “dark times” and the “slow death” of Tamil are simultaneously feared and desired. While the fantasy of annihilation is terrifying, and thus is displaced onto the working-class Tamils and Malays, who will face karmic retribution for their transgressions, it is also exhilarating as it affords a glimpse upon the Real and an undifferentiated surmounting of selfconsciousness with all its intolerable ambivalent contradictions, as Freud (1961) argues through his concept of thanatos, the so-called death drive. Elite Indians, grappling with the stigma attached to their identity as “Indians,” simultaneously distance themselves from this signification, and what it metonymizes socially, and attempt to recuperate another kind of “Indian-ness”—one that negates the ethno-symbolic ordering of Malaysia through a teleology of surmounted “ignorance.” Yet transgressive desires and guilts persist, are displaced, and resurface in uncanny fantasies of death and decline. Thanatos, like Hegel’s “unhappy consciousness,” is a fantasy of spiritual transcendence driven by the repeated transgressions of corporeal existence. In that sense, “decently conducted religion” is haunted



by the specters of the alien Other within. The spectral voices grow louder as social distancing increases, as does “archive fever,” as Derrida (1995) has argued. In that sense, all masters, through their fantasies of recognition, fear the “vegetative existence,” as Marx suggests, of their social subordinates. The historiographic desire to objectify the Other through ethnic stereotypes is an attempt to provide distance from that which is uncannily familiar. In sum, this chapter has explored how the colonial racial discourses were precursors to and influences upon the social and economic divisions within Malaysian Indian communities. Throughout the colonial period, under Japanese occupation, the communist Emergency, and into the formation of independent Malaysia, the polarization of working-class and middle-class Tamils has weakened the political position of Indians as a whole, as it economically hurt laboring estate-dwelling and, later, squatter-dwelling Tamils. The political structure of the Alliance and later Barisan National, with its communal formula for power-sharing, further weakened labor unions and class-based associations. Moreover, as working-class Tamils languish over time, they are directly or indirectly blamed, despised, or feared for their “backward culture.” The figure of the Tamil or “Indian” has displaced, condensed, and / or sutured ideological holes within the whole that comprises the arbitrary orderings of Malaysia’s ethnonationalist renderings of power and history. This has been accomplished through the repetitive and stereotypical renderings of difference, or what I have called a historiographic desire, or, following Derrida, an “archive fever” produced in the knowledge that these archivable differences work against actual experiences and memory, which is what produces their paradoxical and pernicious ideological force.

Notes 1. Following Zizek’s (1989) Marxian reading of Lacan (1977), and vice versa, I am suggesting that the “Real” of arbitrary value and contingency—upon which the symbolic and imaginary necessarily cover for identity and self-consciousness to exist—under certain conditions of capitalist exploitation and the social hierarchies it engenders, produces the partial recognition of the emptiness of symbolic forms, which, in turn, also produces resistance in the force of excessive

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


identification with the symbol. This is what Lacan refers to when he speaks of the desire for “metonymy”—a fixation point that allows for a simultaneous displacement and silencing of the Real. Lacan’s insight, of course, is inspired by Hegel’s analysis of the master’s partial recognition of his contingency and, hence, the specter of the slave’s autonomy and source of his self-recognition. Silencing this recognition, in turn, in Hegel, produces violent assertions of value and hierarchy that ultimately sow the seeds of their own destruction. 2. A small minority of Malayalees were also recruited into the civil ser vice and management tiers. 3. Or in Hegel’s analysis, the inevitable corporeal reality of the slave’s body, which drives the “mindless oscillation” of the spirit in impossible negation of the body (Hegel 1999). 4. Rajakrishnan cites the following sources in this order: Emigration Proceedings of the Government of India, January 1884, 7–14; D. W. Figart, The Plantation Rubber Industry in the Middle East (Washington, DC, 1925), 174; C. A. Vlieland, British Malaya: A Report on the 1931 Census (London, 1932), 67; Straits Settlements Factory Records, Vol. 94, 1824. 15.4.1824; K. S. Sandhu, Indians in Malaya (London: Cambridge University Press, 1969, 57); Report of the Commission Appointed to Enquire into the State of Labour in the Straits Settlements and Protected Native States (Singapore, 1890, 57; 1896, 237–238). 5. These Tamils prefer the designation “Ceylonese” to Sri Lankan, reflecting, in part, their lack of recognition for the Singhalese-led nation-state of today. 6. More disturbing is Arasaratnam’s citation of a concerned British official in Nagapatnam, who reported that kidnapping of laborers was common, and that sickly peasants were stuffed onto ships just to meet invoice requirements (1979: 13). That many who arrived in Malaya were already afflicted by a variety of illnesses might explain why the mortality rate was highest there among all the plantation-based colonial enterprises in other countries. 7. In the earliest phases of immigration, indentured contracts stipulated that the laborer must repay the payment of the voyage with five years of labor on the plantation. Later, when the demand for labor grew as the rubber market expanded, the estate managers agreed to pay full passage without expectation of repayment (Jomo 1993). 8. A smaller percentage of Kranis were recruited from the English-educated Malayalee elite from Kerala. 9. During the early phase of immigration, the vast majority of laborers were males. Later, females were encouraged to immigrate in order to provide a more stable, family-based social structure in estate villages. As the need for a constant supply of labor grew in the first three decades of this century and repatriation after short-term contracts was deemed uneconomical, a more sedentary population of



estate Tamils arose with a greater percentage of women (Oorjitham, in INSAN 1989). 10. Some critics argue that this pattern of underachievement in Tamil schools continues to this day. Tamil education activists, in turn, argue that this is an elite misperception of Tamil schools authored by those with English-medium educations. 11. Those who refused to join Bose’s INA or to support it financially were subject to arrest. When K. P. K. Menon, a prominent Indian leader, called Bose a “fascist dictator” for his coercive methods, he was arrested by the Japanese and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. While Bose did not order the arrest, he also did nothing on behalf of the community leader (Stenson 1980: 99). 12. I recently interviewed an INA veteran of the Imphal battle who had only positive memories of the INA and Subhas Chandra Bose, though she lost a close friend in battle. 13. The NEP only calculated wealth based on the bumiputra-non-bumiputra distinction. By default, the Indians share a category with the more economically advanced Chinese. This has prompted many Indian leaders to call for a more specific categorization. Left-oriented Indians, however, feel that further classification is only going to help the petit-bourgeois Indians, leaving the working class behind. For example, the MIC’s recent call for a “national uplift program” for Indians was met with derision by some of the leftist Indians I spoke with. 14. During the 1990s, each Tamil movie was immediately followed by a show hosted by Tamil Muslims who preach about overcoming social vices through Islam. The emphasis was usually placed on Islam’s social message of equality and respect. These shows were careful not to directly attack Hinduism, but indirect criticism is understood by most Tamil-Hindus. 15. I found that, on the whole, stereotypes about “Blacks” as perpetuated by the Western media were hardly questioned in Malaysia. 16. My recent fieldwork among working-class Indians in Malaysia, conducted between July 2003 and July 2004, has led me to believe that the stereotypes are, indeed, greatly exaggerated. 17. The last noncommunal party of any significance is Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), under the leadership of Dr. Syed Husin Ali, a former professor of sociology at the University of Malaya and former prisoner under the Internal Security Act. The party fared poorly in the national elections in 1994. The DAP, while purporting to represent a noncommunal ideology, has always been seen as a working-class Chinese party. This perception has been manipulated by the DAP to secure heavily Chinese populated areas. The DAP’s pro-Chinese image has helped it gain more support than the more multiracial PRM.

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


18. I am using the word liberally in this context. Culturally, the newly urbanized Malays, as we saw earlier, found the non-Malay atmosphere of Kuala Lumpur alien. Those Malays engaged in industrial production were experiencing alienation in the classic Marxist sense, as Muzaffar argues (1987), and hence turned to Islamic movements; and the unfair advantage English-educated Chinese and Indians had at the university made Malays (those non-elites accepted under new NEP quota policies) uneasy. 19. The media reported GNP growth rates of 8 percent for eight years in a row. 20. I found this to be true after observing student socializing at the university and in the racially mixed schools. During recess, students of the same ethnic group would cluster together. When I raised this point with several people, they all agreed that this was the case and, moreover, that it worsened after the Islamic movements began to take hold in the late 1970s. 21. During Deepavali in 1996, one man expressed the same sentiment to me. After a Malay family visited during his open house and tentatively sampled some Indian curry, he told me that they asked him many times if he had ever cooked pork in the house. They, he said, “were not happy at all to eat our food in spite of my assurances that we never eat pork in the house.” 22. Many Tamil laborers remember that the Kanganis, CIAM, INA, and NUPW all claimed to “protect” the Tamils. 23. There are rumors that the MIC gets “coffee money” from illegal samsu dealers in the estates and squatter areas in exchange for protection against police raids. The implication that the MIC is involved in a samsu-syndicate was later confirmed when some branch leaders were expelled from the party after their alleged activities were made public. Samy Vellu has not been directly implicated in such activities. Rather, he often speaks out against samsu use and promises to punish any MIC members involved in alcohol production. In a populist voice, he even threatened to “smell the breath of all MIC party leaders” to see if they drink. 24. Muzaffar (1993) suggests that the political weakening of the Indian elites after the NEP and Islamization programs took effect have prompted many to work in the name of the Tamil community through non-governmental organizations. These social-service organizations, however, “buttress” the position of the middle-class Indians rather than helping to change the structure that marginalizes the laboring Tamils. 25. It is perhaps ironic that in making Indians into “bogey men,” they ignore the fact that the Bugis, said to be the original feared pirates in the region, are well represented among the Malay population. 26. This is somewhat of an overstatement, as some Indian activists work very hard to politicize working-class Tamils and to educate them about their legal rights with regards to housing, compensation, police abuse, and so on.



27. Some Indians said they were glad that Malays were in political control of Malaysia, adding that Chinese rule of the nation would mean certain expulsion for the Indians. As one informant put it bluntly, “if the Chinese take over, we Indians are finished.” 28. Some wrote about how Tamils believe in spirit possession and many gods and were generally superstitious. Among non-Indian survey participants, none were sympathetic to Hinduism. Particularly strong anti-Hindu sentiments were common among Christians, both Chinese and Indian. 29. Khoo Kay Kim, a Malaysian Chinese, is an expert on Malay history and is married to a Ceylonese Tamil. Thus his perspective on Malaysian ethnic stereotypes is historically grounded, as well as being based, no doubt, on personal experiences. 30. Fear and loathing of Tamil working-class spaces was often expressed to me by middle-class Indians over the course of my fieldwork. One university student, active in Hindu reform organizations, put it rather bluntly when referring to cultural and religious practices: “A lot of evil goes on down there.” Another elite Indian offered this observation: “The Tamils are the worst race . . . I mean the Klings. You have chosen the worst of all people to study.” Naturally such attitudes refer to both the obvious socioeconomic problems plaguing the Tamil poor and to notions of cultural and spiritual superiority that generate spatial, cultural, material, and self-identity distinctions. It also goes without saying that the prevalence of such attitudes only contributes to the neglect of these spaces. A sense of crisis, in turn, permeates the atmosphere, adding to unhealthy competition and envy and increasing collective low self-esteem. See Willford (2004). 31. That Tamil enclaves are in crisis is perhaps indicated by an alarming suicide rate. Between 1990 and 1993, 1,700 Indians were reported to have committed suicide. In comparison, during the same period, suicides among Malays and Chinese were only 343 and 568, respectively (The Sun Megazine, July 16, 1995). While this is not to say that Malaysian Indians are a community with a death wish, there is a sense of crisis and fear among the working class and poor. This statistic is all the more frightening when one considers that the total Indian population is significantly lower than that of the Malays and Chinese. 32. Sometimes higher-status Indians spoke disparagingly about mediums, labeling them as frauds and / or demonic. Still, many believed that the mediums were indeed “powerful,” even if they themselves would be unlikely to turn to one for assistance. Occasionally, higher-status Indians sought the services of mediums, but for the most part their clientele came from the working class.

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


33. He is also known as Skanda, Subramanian, and Karthigai. His brother Ganesha or Vinayagar, the elephant-headed god, is more famous among the North Indians. However, Murugan, the Lord of the Hill, or the “tree-God,” was an indigenous Tamil deity later amalgamated into Sanskritic Hinduism (Hart 1975; Clothey 1978). 34. This is a practice also linked to a popu lar myth in which a demondevotee named Itumpan carried mountains on a pole resting on his shoulders until being struck down by a disguised Murugan whom he had unwittingly insulted. In mercy, the Lord restored Itumpan to life and bestowed upon him miraculous powers. Itumpan became Murugan’s faithful devotee and requested that whoever offers vows to the Lord will receive his blessings. Thus, just as Itumban was given miraculous powers, devotees who perform the kavadi offering to Murugan will also receive spiritual powers (Babb 1978: 280). 35. See Clothey (1978). 36. Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life Society and a resident of Malaya in the early twentieth century, describes the festival as attracting around 70,000 devotees to Batu Caves (“Thaipusam,” undated leaflet issued by the Divine Life Society, Batu Caves ashram). 37. Some critics maintain, however, that the party gains political support through its promotion of the Tamil language and religion while simultaneously neglecting the economic and social problems plaguing poor Tamils. Ethnicity, the critics argue, is politicized in a manner that is acceptable and even useful for the government’s ideology of multicultural accommodation. 38. Mahathir (1986: 19), quoted in Khoo (1995: 52). While not isomorphic with a general Malay sentiment or subjectivity, Mahathir, being the principal architect of Malay-Islamic modernism, has had a profound influence on everything, ranging from the semiotics of the capital city’s skyline (and more recently, the design of Putrajaya, the new seat of Parliament) to the media campaigns to represent the utopian vision of a culturally authentic, yet totally modern, Malaysia. 39. Mahathir (1986: 19). 40. Or what Freud (1997) calls the “already surmounted” but “secretly familiar.” 41. For excellent studies of Malay dislocation, subjectivity, and variegation in the midst of social change, see Michael Peletz, Islamic Modern: Religious Courts and Cultural Politics in Malaysia (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002) and Reason and Passion: Representations of Gender in a Malay Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Virginia Hooker and Norani Othman, eds., Malaysia: Islam, Society, and Politics (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian



Studies, 2003); and Joel S. Kahn, Other Malays: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Modern Malay World (Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2006). 42. “Bohsia” refers to an increase in promiscuity seen among Malay teenagers who congregate at shopping malls, rock concerts, and other “Westernized” spaces. Functionalist-minded analysts in Malaysia tend to blame “anomie” for this behavior, brought about by the rapid social and economic changes during the 1980s and 1990s. Malays, it is argued, were affected most as they have been the fastest-changing community since the inception of the NEP. 43. The general election of 1994 had just concluded. Barisan National, through its members’ speeches and advertisements, had promoted itself as multicultural, and Malaysia was seen to exhibit more of a syncretic identity through the media campaign.

Bibliography Ackerman, Susan, and Raymond Lee. 1988. Heaven in Transition: Non-Muslim Religious Innovation and Ethnic Identity in Malaysia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Aiyer, K. A. Neelakandha. 2004. Indian Problems in Malaya: A Brief Survey in Relation to Emigration, 1900–1938. Mauritius: Gopio International. Arasaratnam, Sinnapah. 1966. Indian Festivals in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press. ———. 1979. Indians in Malaysia and Singapore. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. Babb, Lawrence. 1978. “Thaipusam in Singapore: Religious Individualism in a Hierarchical Culture.” In Peter S. J. Chen and Hans-Dieter Evers, eds., Studies in ASEAN Sociology: Urban Society and Social Change. Singapore: Chapman Enterprises, 277–296. Barth, Fredrik. 1969. “Introduction.” In Fredrik Barth, ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. Oslo: Scandinavia University Press, 9–38. Bayly, Christopher, and Tim Harper. 2005. Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941–1945. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Brown, David. 1994. The State and Ethnic Politics in Southeast Asia. London: Routledge. Brown, Rajeswary Ampalavanar. 1981. The Indian Minority and Political Change in Malaya, 1945–1957. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. ———. 1993. “The Contemporary Indian Political Elite in Malaysia.” In K. S. Sandhu and A. Mani, eds., Indian Communities in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Times Academic Press and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 237–265.

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2000. Provincializing Europe. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Clothey, Fred W. 1978. The Many Faces of Murugan: The History and Meaning of a South Indian God. The Hague: Mouton. Colletta, N. J. 1975. “Malaysia’s Forgotten People: Education, Cultural Identity and Socio-Economic Mobility Among South Indian Plantation Workers.” Contributions to Asian Studies 7: 87–112. Collins, Elizabeth. 1997. Pierced by Murugan’s Lance: Ritual, Power, and Moral Redemption Among Malaysian Hindus. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press. Crouch, Harold. 1996. Government and Society in Malaysia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Derrida, Jacques. 1995. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Eric Prenowitz, trans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Evers, Hans-Deiter, and Rudiger Korff. 2000. Southeast Asian Urbanism: The Meaning and Power of Social Space. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Freud, Sigmund. 1961. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. New York: Norton. ———. 1997. “The Uncanny.” In Writings on Art and Literature. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 193–229. Gomez, Edmund Terence, and Jomo K. S. 1997. Malaysia’s Political Economy: Politics, Patronage, and Profits. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hansen, Thomas. 2001. Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Hart, George L. 1975. The Poems of Ancient Tamil: Their Milieu and Their Sanskrit Counterparts. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. 1999. Phenomenology of Self-Consciousness: Text and Commentary. Commentary by Leo Rauch and David Sherman. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Being and Time. Joan Stambaugh, trans. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Hirschman, Charles. 1986. “The Making of Race in Colonial Malaya: Political Economy and Racial Ideology.” Sociological Forum 1(2): 339–361. Hua Wu Yin. 1983. Class and Communalism in Malaysia: Politics in a Dependent Capitalist State. London: Zed Books. INSAN. 1989. Sucked Oranges: The Indian Poor in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: INSAN. Jain, Ravindra K. 1970. South Indians on the Plantation Frontier in Malaya. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press. Jeyakumar, D. 1993. “The Indian Poor in Malaysia: Problems and Solutions.” In K. S. Sandhu and A. Mani, eds., Indian Communities in Southeast Asia.



Singapore: Times Academic Press and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 405–437. Jomo K. S. 1986. A Question of Class: Capital, the State and Uneven Development in Malaya. Singapore: Oxford University Press. ———. 1993. “Plantation Capital and Indian Labour in Colonial Malaya.” In K. S. Sandhu and A. Mani, eds., Indian Communities in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Times Academic Press and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 288–313. Kahn, Joel S. 2006. Other Malays: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Modern Malay World. Singapore: Singapore University Press. Kent, Alexandra. 2004. Divinity and Diversity: A Hindu Revitalization Movement in Malaysia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies / NIAS Press. Kessler, Clive. 1991. “Archaism and Modernity: Contemporary Malay Political Culture.” In Francis Loh Wok Wah and Joel Kahn, eds., Fragmented Vision: Culture and Politics in Contemporary Malaysia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 133–157. Khoo Boo Teik. 1995. Paradoxes of Mahathirism: An Intellectual Biography of Mahathir Mohamad. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. Khoo Kay Kim. 1993. “Malay Attitudes Towards Indians.” In K. S. Sandhu and A. Mani, eds., Indian Communities in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Times Academic Press and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 266–287. Kua Kia Soong. 1993. Reforming Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Oriengroup. Lacan, Jacques. 1977. Ecrits. New York: Norton. Lanka Sundaram. 1933. Indians Overseas. Madras: G. A. Natesan and Co. Lee, Raymond. 1989. “Taipucam in Malaysia: Ecstasy and Identity in a Tamil Hindu Festival.” Contributions to Indian Sociology 23(2): 317–337. Loh Kok Wah, Francis, and Joel S. Kahn. 1992. “Introduction: Fragmented Vision.” In Francis Loh Kok Wah and Joel S. Kahn, eds., Fragmented Vision: Culture and Politics in Contemporary Malaysia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1–17. Mahathir Mohamad. 1986. The Challenge. Kuala Lumpur: Pelanduk Publications. Mandal, Sumit. 2004. “Transethnic Solidarities, Racialisation and Social Equality.” In Edmund Terence Gomez, ed., The State of Malaysia: Ethnicity Equity and Reform. London: Routledge Curzon, 49–78. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1978. The Marx / Engels Reader. Robert Tucker, ed. New York: Norton. Mearns, David Dean. 1995. Shiva’s Other Children: Religion and Social Identity Amongst Overseas Indians. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

The Figure of the Tamil in Modern Malaysia


Muzaffar, Chandra. 1987. Islamic Resurgence in Malaysia. Petaling Jaya: Penerbit Fajar Bakti Sendirian Berhad (Incorporated). ———. 1993. “Political Marginalization in Malaysia.” In K. S. Sandhu and A. Mani, eds., Indian Communities in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Times Academic Press and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 211–236. Nagarajan, S. 2004. “A Community in Transition: Tamil Displacements in Malaysia.” PhD diss., University of Malaya. Oorjitham, K. S. Susan. 1989. “Indian Women Plantation Workers.” In INSAN, ed., Sucked Oranges: The Indian Poor in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 61–75. ———. 1993. “Urban Working-Class Indians in Malaysia.” In K. S. Sandhu and A. Mani, eds., Indian Communities in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Times Academic Press and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 504–512. Peletz, Michael. 2002. Islamic Modern: Religious Courts and Cultural Politics in Malaysia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Rajakrishnan, Ramasamy. 1984. Caste Consciousness Among Indian Tamils in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Pelanduk Press. ———. 1987. A Subculture of Poverty Among Indians in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya. Ramasamy, P. 1993. “Socio-economic Transformation of Malaysian Indian Plantation Workers.” In K. S. Sandhu and A. Mani, eds., Indian Communities in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Times Academic Press. Sandhu, Kernial Singh. 1969. Indians in Malaya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1993. “The Coming of the Indians to Malaysia.” In K. S. Sandhu and A. Mani, eds., Indian Communities in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Times Academic Press and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 151–189. Scott, James. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Selvakumaran, Ramachandran. 1994. Indian Plantation Labour in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: S. Abdul Majeed & Co. Stenson, Michael. 1980. Class, Race, and Colonialism in West Malaysia: The Indian Case. St. Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press. Supernor, Dennis E. 1983. “Problems in Socio-economic Development for an Immigrant Minority Group.” PhD diss., Rice University. Willford, Andrew. 2003. “Possession and Displacement in Kuala Lumpur’s Ethnic Landscape.” International Social Science Journal 55(175): 99–109. ———. 2004. “The Modernist Vision from Below: Malaysian Hinduism and the Way of Prayers.” In Kenneth George and Andrew Willford, eds., Spirited



Politics: Religion and Public Life in Contemporary Southeast Asia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 45– 68. ———. 2006. Cage of Freedom: Tamil Identity and the Ethnic Fetish in Malaysia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Zizek, Slavok. 1989. The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso.

§ 9 Unsettled Stories and Inadequate Metaphors: The Movement to Historical Anthropology David William Cohen

In 1962, virtually simultaneously if not also coincidentally, anthropologists E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Isaac Schapera, and M. G. Smith published ruminations on the place of history within the programs of cultural and social anthropology (Evans-Pritchard 1962; Schapera 1962; Smith 1962).1 Such reflective, critical, and programmatic writing, not only by anthropologists but also by historians, has proceeded to this day, moving through calls to enhance work within each discipline via conversations with the other to inspired rationales for more active and even institutionalized intersections of the two disciplines.2 Discussions of the promise of an anthropology informed by history and a history informed by anthropology found supportive settings in universities promoting interdisciplinarity as a general good. Indeed, the dynamic romance of anthropology and history, history and anthropology, historical anthropology has for the most part been understood within a discourse of the interdisciplinary. But beyond the disciplines, what about the broader contexts within which emerged some of the important lines of work ascribed as, or claiming the status of, historical anthropology? This chapter seeks to challenge the uncontested privilege of the disciplines—and of the interdisciplinary—in explaining and addressing the move to historical anthropology. It suggests some of the ways that important questions and approaches within the scholarly practice of historical anthropology are signaled and supported by intellectual and political currents beyond the academy.




Metaphors Three metaphors represent the most prominent modes of thinking about the processes through which anthropology and history, as disciplines, found value in the mediation of difference: 1. Smuggling, as in the image of taking goods across borders and boundaries, whether national or disciplinary. “Smuggling” speaks to the strength or, better, the pretensions to strength and surveillance, of the disciplines as well as to the resourcefulness of the individuals transgressing the policed boundaries. Smugglers are conscious and intent, reflecting no interest in the dissolution of boundaries and no interest in the deconstruction of the fictions in the notions of discipline and boundary. It is the border— actual, constructed, or mythic—that gives value to the transgression.3 2. Backing into, as in a kind of game in which collective relations and processes are constituted by actors and organizations neither observant nor cognizant of the topographies of ideas, interests, and action on the other side of the disciplinary boundary. In the early 1970s, anthropologists and historians at Johns Hopkins University were discovering common ground in the pushing of research into the analysis and reconstruction of colonial and slave societies. They were finding— as they 4 defined the new program in various manifestos and proposals—that, without specific direction, the two disciplines were backing into one another. This “backing into” was institutionally constituted in the pioneering, long-running, and very productive Program in Atlantic History, Culture, and Society. The presentments and conversations marking the “backing into” were substantially opportunistic, bracketing some of the ways in which anthropologists and historians had long been plucking ideas and approaches from each other’s discipline. 3. Blurring, as in the unmarking or destabilization of boundaries of difference, with the effect of facilitating or seeming to facilitate the organization of production across notional differences. Here, new relations of production (of scholarship) were not necessarily constituted in the production of new work or insight, but rather in the softening or unsettling of boundaries. Here, there is the powerful metaphor of “blurred genres” offered up in the early 1980s by Clifford

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


Geertz (Geertz 1983).5 “Blurred genres” implied an “already accomplished interdisciplinarity,” a “before” before the seen or experienced effect. To continue the reference to the Hopkins example, with years of participation in interdisciplinary anthropology and history seminars at Hopkins, which were organized under the Atlantic Program rubric, it became increasingly difficult to demarcate the blurred boundaries of the two disciplines within and among the work of visitors, colleagues, and students actively involved in the seminars. Between 1972 and 1990, perhaps 400 scholars presented work in the Atlantic Seminar or at conferences organized by the Program.6 The older disciplinary distinctions seemed very much beside the point, and occasional remarks about “thinking historically” or “speaking as an anthropologist” seemed empty of meaning, even bizarre. If there was anything remarkable, it was in the original scholarly work itself rather than in any transgression of disciplinary boundaries. There seemed a way of proceeding without pronouncing the end or claiming the beginning of discipline. In this, the metaphor of blurring seemed almost too modest to represent the quite remarkable disappearance of difference. In respect to blurring, ultimately the smuggler is defeated not by the border police, but rather by the disappearance of the border. There is clearly loss in this blurring of identification and association with the realities or fantasies of “discipline.” But all this suggests that the fields of work defined as, or claiming the status of, historical anthropology have arisen from the work of disciplines or from the work of actors in ser vice to disciplines. The model of blurring of disciplines hardly attends to, nor moreover explains, the extraordinary range and richness of the work7 and of the conversations generated in the conjunctures of these two well-established and influential disciplines. The blurring model evades epistemological reflection. These three metaphors have some heuristic value. They purport to represent the processes of interrelations of disciplines (or perhaps any two entities). The triad offers a means to speak about the unfolding of a genre out of the interactions of the two disciplines, to define a logic for the interactions of the practitioners thereof. While these metaphors have had some utility in the historicization of relations between the two disciplines, their



triangulation and sequencing are grossly inadequate to an understanding of the unfolding of work and the unfolding of an intellectual field constituting historical anthropology. As historical anthropologists have sought “other stories” to produce more nuanced, more complex, and more substantial views of the past, we may need other, different stories (and other metaphors) to narrate the unfolding of work of historical anthropology. The end of World War II serves as a marker. Indeed, it was the moment—at least for North America—that saw the triumph of the power and expertise organized through disciplines in the service of a national cause on a global scale. These strong, self-confident, and thoroughly professionalized disciplines set the stage for the furtive smuggling activities that were the stuff of the first writings on the unfolding relations of anthropology and history. Those first writings hardly suggest an already emergent blurring of boundaries in the first two decades after the war, but they do bring to light the scrambling for approaches to questions and issues that were new and demanding in the postwar period, especially in regard to decolonization and the end of empire, and later in the self-critical and regenerative work within the disciplines (and in the academy more generally) with the unfolding of civil rights, anti–Vietnam War, Third World, and feminist movements, as well as with the tumults of 1968. For some, there was a sense that disciplines by themselves could not offer answers to pressing questions. What to do? There were two general currents within the academy: first, the critique of the discipline, with a search for common ground with other disciplines—that is, toward the interdisciplinary 8 —and in some ways toward the constructions of new disciplines;9 and second, against discipline. In 1996, in the journal Focaal, Don Kalb, Hans Marks, and Herman Tak brought together some twenty historians’ and anthropologists’ reflections on the definition of historical anthropology. Most of the contributors accepted the values of “the interdisciplinary” both as enabling new work and as providing a space for critique of the disciplines. Some went further and suggested or implied that “a new discipline” was emergent or should be encouraged. My own contribution to Focaal was contrarian and eccentric, suggesting that historical anthropology reflected much more the unfolding of an intellectual and social movement than the progress of a new discipline (Cohen 1996: 65– 67). This argument runs that historical anthropology is and has been unsettled in its constitution; many and varied threads of work are drawn into

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


the category; historical anthropology barely reflects the characteristics of an academic discipline; there is no inclusive or exclusive professional culture; “schools” are largely undeveloped or at least very transient; there is no methodological or epistemological essentialism; and the sets of practices, discursive frames, and sense of distinctiveness of work defined as, or claiming the status of, historical anthropology have resisted embedding into a master narrative of the unfolding of a discipline or field. Is this because the practices and programs ascribed as historical anthropology have developed substantially, though not necessarily exclusively, against discipline, even as a discourse of “interdisciplinarity” has won the work a special place in the academy? Is this because the practices and programs of historical anthropology have been deeply engaged in experience, critical work, debate, and politics beyond the academy—1968, Vietnam, women’s liberation, civil rights, north-south relations, Palestine, globalization— even as selfprivileging discourses of scholarship have virtually sidelined these conditions and contingencies? The sediments of these engagements beyond the academy are thick enough to suggest the value of further analysis, further reflection. How would one examine the development of historical anthropology if one moved beyond or excavated beneath the considered scholarly representations of that development produced by practitioners in the field? How might some of the analytical, interpretative, and representational moves common or reflected within the work of historical anthropology themselves bring views of the development of the field?

An Emergent Grammar “Historical anthropology” has no center, no professional organization, and yet there is some level of recognition of common approaches, a kind of emergent grammar. For one, important works associated with historical anthropology have represented the processes of constitution of rules of practice that develop among sets of individuals or cohorts outside the operations of formal institutions of governance. As well, there has been a strong interest in unveiling the ways that concepts of the “collective” emerge across differences of practice, the ways so-called discursive communities emerge. Here, many of the writings about the unfolding associations of anthropology and history, and their programmatic futures,



imply a sense of the collective and may draw on extant narratives regarding the emergence of specific new communities out of the reworking of difference. In another vein, there has been an interest in how the “participants” in a collective experience may both bring and take away different, distinctive, and conflictual understandings of experience. Here, within work cast as historical anthropology, the prominent rethinking of broad collectivities and categories, including race, class, gender, caste, nation, community, and household, are salutary, but this work of historical disaggregation and deconstruction may also be used productively to recognize some of the most important nuanced differences among approaches seemingly characterizing historical anthropology. Perhaps still more significant, some of the important work cast as historical anthropology marked the constructed nature of the position of the observer, source, and author, animating histories that comprehend multiple accounts, perspectives, and readings. Here, the challenge is to look at “historical anthropology” in a different way: rather than seeking a master account or master accounts through the definition of preeminent genealogies and schools, there is opportunity in keeping open the broadest range of takes on the unfolding of the field, including not only the ego-documents of lead practitioners but also the views of students, editors, and audiences, including figures outside the disciplines of anthropology and history, outside the academy. Further, it would seem to be incumbent to address the complexity and multivalence of interest and motive in action. These are strong moves or inclinations within some of the best work cast as historical anthropology. The question arises as to what are the concurrent and simultaneous, and often weakly articulated, interests and meanings in the work as anthropologists, historians, and their audiences mark value in certain practices of analysis, interpretation, and representation. Again, some of the important work represented as historical anthropology makes a major contribution through subtly identifying and questioning notions or presumptions of linear process and progress, as well as other paradigmatic constructs that may influence or shape scholarship on the past, including critical work on the emergence of the nuclear family, the origins of industrialization, the emergence of the modern, and the course of globalization. Can reflections on the move to historical anthropology likewise introduce subtlety, if not also doubt, into the overdetermining and teleological narratives of “unfolding” and “progress”? And,

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


further, what new possibilities might emerge were we able to grasp more fully the unsettled and uncertain situation of this spread of practices and approaches, of this tendentious intellectual terrain?

Against Discipline In presenting these approaches to the study of an intellectual movement—to direct light on “historical anthropology” itself in all its complexity—I am denoting exquisite practices within the scholarship ascribed as or claiming the status or genre of historical anthropology. The intention is to open a discussion of the second current in the performance of scholarship over the past half century, and this is “against discipline.” Among the writings on the relations of anthropology and history and the unfolding of literatures taking on the label of historical anthropology, this second current seems poorly attended and weakly articulated, at least relative to the reflections on interdisciplinarity. To be frank, how far could conversations “against discipline” develop in an academy thoroughly and increasingly supportive of a discourse of interdisciplinarity? I seek here to open a passageway toward an engagement with the motif, the movement, “against discipline.” To do so, I turn to four figures, each pushing us to think “against discipline” in different ways: Italo Calvino, Menocchio (a discovery of Carlo Ginzburg), Odette (a creation of Jean-Luc Godard), and Jean de Coras (a key source for Natalie Zemon Davis). The eccentric juxtapositions of sixteenth- and twentieth-century figures, intellectuals and craftspeople, are intentional and whimsical. They each suggest a way of thinking of historical anthropology finding its ground, its language, its critical apparatus, along a different verge, not so much in the notional ground between disciplines—whether via smuggling, backing into, or blurring—but rather in frames of intellectual and political engagement beyond the academy.

Calvino In his last writings in 1985, a set of lectures being prepared for Harvard, Italo Calvino took up the challenges that he saw facing the world with the oncoming of a new millennium. The great structures had been built,



they may have done their essential work, they may have surpassed their greatest utility, they may have exhausted their possibilities (Calvino 1988: 3–29). Calvino reflected on the importance of lightness for the new millennium. For Calvino, lightness was the flexible, the weightless, the mobile, the connective—vectors as distinct from structures. The great structures have been built, argued Calvino; the great vectors have hardly been imagined. Calvino may as well have been reflecting on the fates of empires, nations, disciplines, older models of corporate structuring, orga nized religion, and the professional guilds. In “lightness,” Calvino surely sensed the opportunities and powers lying in new arrangements of art, craft, faith, finance, fate, knowledge-production, and politics that transcend existing discipline, power, corporation, and center or core, arrangements that moved beyond existing capabilities, not only beyond discipline, but also beyond existing capabilities to observe and analyze. From Calvino, it is the lightness of our stance, not the fixed position of observation and interpretation, not the clearly defined discipline, the socalled solid ground (or the deck of the ship precisely located by the artifices of latitude and longitude), but rather the uncertain and unstable perch— a perch that we find, a perch that we make, or a perch that “finds us”—that may yield fresh and transformative possibilities in the business of finding, knowing, and understanding. Calvino’s vectors suggest values in the identification of connections among quite distinct projects and opportunities constituted in the sustenance of multiple and not necessarily congruent representations and narratives.

Menocchio Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms (1980) is a reconstruction of the complex of ideas, languages, and histories conveyed by the miller Menocchio in Friuli in the face of the Inquisition. In Cheese, Ginzburg worked two core tropes of historical anthropology as they were unfolding in the 1960s and 1970s. First, he attended to the intersubjective situation of observed and observer (in this case Menocchio and the Inquisition authorities as well as Ginzburg and Menocchio). And, Ginzburg attended to the hidden arenas of production of, in this case, Menocchio’s ideas. To suggest that this world of Menocchio could be comprehended by those institutions and practices of the Inquisition is to suggest that

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


there could be no other languages, no other paradigms, and no other epistemes. What Ginzburg came to understand, and to convey to his audiences, was that the world of Menocchio was not constituted out of the contradictions of existing and overt structures, nor was that world simply dialogical or oppositional. To understand Menocchio’s world, Ginzburg read the sources with a different imagination. He reflected on the possibility that the origins of Menocchio’s thinking and words went beyond the frames of reference of the Inquisition. As he offers a complicated reading of Menocchio’s testimony before the courts of the Inquisition, Ginzburg conveys his own readers into a space that is substantially free from the program, the logic, the grammar, and the vocabulary of the Inquisition. With Cheese, Ginzburg produced an extraordinarily teasing placeholder for a process of educing an historical anthropology: the broad and unmapped and weakly articulated search for a new standpoint, an intellectual logic, standing outside (while reflecting light back on) the built and powerful intellectual structures, the disciplines (or the Inquisition). To suggest that historical anthropology has been constituted out of the absences or tendencies or weaknesses of the disciplines or that it can be understood by reference to the biographies of disciplines is likewise to suggest that there are no other languages, paradigms, or epistemes other than those emergent within the disciplines. Intended or unintended, this intersubjective prospecting for a different episteme within the world of Menocchio (or was it the world of post-1968 Italy?) was in 1976 the toy of Carlo Ginzburg, to play with the tendencies of historical reconstruction while implicating and indicting the privileges, propensities, and conceits of disciplines and authorities.

Odette Odette is the powerful voice of radical deconstructionism in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1976 film Comment ça va? In the film, Godard creates a setting, a Communist Party publishing group in Paris. The story revolves around the work and conversation of an Editor, a middle-aged man whose name is never given, and Odette, a younger woman who is working with the Editor to produce a videotape on how the press operation works—how, according to the narrator, information is manufactured by communists



in a modern publishing house in which men and women are struggling for an advanced democracy. The video is intended to take audiences backstage to see how Party journalists, editors, and printers produce their publications, how production is organized, how work is conducted. But there is a second backstage, and this is the site of production of the video itself as Odette and the Editor struggle after hours over its production. The two characters are supposed to be working as a team; however, the two are at odds over just about everything and their disputes produce sharp takes on work, representation, authority, domination, and gender. (An aside: These are topics that have gathered anthropologists and historians into common labors.) Their conflict begins with Odette’s observation that the Editor had cut footage from the piece without consulting her. Odette forces this “silenced” piece of the video back into view, back into discussion. As they begin to work on the editing, Godard goes back and forth between two sites— a typewriter and a folio of photographs—within the backstage of producing the video. The Editor sits at a table dictating proposed narration to Odette. She types on the electric typewriter but stops to intervene in the dictation, to ask hard questions, to press the Editor to rethink practically everything he is saying. Odette forces the Editor to think about the differences between the work of dictation and the work of typing. She accuses the Editor of not even knowing how a typewriter works. She shows the effect of the noise of the typewriter and hands moving on the videotape rough cuts. Twice during the film, Odette draws a theory of work, power, and control out of the metaphor of her fingers on the keyboard.10 She makes the Editor think about the alienation of work and about the emptiness and fiction of the idea of the nobility of work as the Editor and the Party hoped to represent it in the video. Godard moves his audience deftly from the question of work to the question of representation. Odette severely questions the Editor over his handling of a photograph of a strike in Portugal. We are teased with the image-idea that “Portugal enters the machine of the typewriter . . . but how does it exit the machine?” The Editor produces a caption to explain the story of this photograph. Odette challenges the Editor to reconsider the text. She points out that there are actually two photographs of the strike scene, both with the same figure in the foreground but in each photograph the figure’s face bears a different expression. Juxtaposing the

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


two photographs, Odette questions how the Editor inscribed meaning onto the face of this one individual in the crowd. By flipping back and forth, by juxtaposition, Godard, via Odette, brings the viewer to recognize that the Editor has imposed a reading of the photograph, where at least another quite different reading may have been possible. For Odette, the point is to understand uncertainty, indeterminacy. She remarks that “objectivity” has become a crime. For Odette, the Editor’s desire, through the speed of his work, through its economy, has replaced the desire of another, the subject of the photograph. Odette presses the Editor to think about the areas of silence inside and outside this publishing world and about the differences between the seen and the said; the Editor eventually acknowledges that “With pencils we erased more than we thought we were writing.” Leafing through a pile of news photographs reflecting common gestures—leaders signaling the V sign, leaders with the arms up, leaders in uniforms— Godard encourages his audience to see, with Odette, how the Editor’s interpretative practices are not, after all, grounded in an objective reading of gesture, but rather in the Editor’s desire to plant his own political sensibility onto the images and acts of others. The question is raised as to whether the interpreter or critic, the historian or anthropologist, can or should be representing the meaning of an image without knowing or understanding the moment of the image’s production, the intent of the photographer, or the intent of the Editor— or, in other words, without going backstage. Odette’s work on the video, her work on the photographs, her work on the Editor, together bring him to realize that he is pathetically the “king of true things” rather than “telling how things really are,” how he himself as Editor was part of history, part of the text. Playing with the title of the film, Godard and the Editor come to question “how does one go (Comment ça va?) from one place to another: from Renault to Palestine, from night to day, from love to work?” Under Odette’s questioning, the video is remade to mark the corruption and corruptibility of the press. The very techniques that the videographers captured in the publishing process—that the Party sought to celebrate— are revealed to be brutal eruptions into the communication of knowledge. Odette pronounces that “Technique is the violent activity of knowledge.” The video is completed but the Party Central Committee cancels the project.



Within a film of only eighty-five minutes, Godard takes his audience through moves that now seem familiar in some of the most remarkable work labeled as “historical anthropology,” moves that in the 1970s would have been conceived as significant breakthroughs in scholarship: 1. Getting at the meaning of work and machines—the close, almost intimate workings of gender and power within work 2. Elucidating of “production and reproduction” running between work and private spheres 3. Foregrounding the construction and work of silences 4. Problematizing representation through underlining the indeterminacies of texts and images as they pass among producers and consumers 5. Marking the the pretentiousness and violence involved in the claims to speak for others 6. Searching out the more open ranges of sources of theory (ranging from Party apparatus to the working of fingers on the typewriter keyboard) More substantially, in Comment ça va? Odette makes central the responsibility running between author and subject and author and audience. She is able to connect multiple sites and layers of production, with a sense of the simultaneities as well as the indeterminacies of production and representation, finding the complexity of experience, and the complexities in the reconstruction and narration of experience, challenges that have brought historians and anthropologists to seek out experimental possibilities outside the conventions of their disciplines. More so, the film situates the Party, in its attempt to convey the work of “men and women struggling for an advanced democracy,” as imposing a discipline that does not allow for comprehension of the actual experience of work, of work relations, and of the production of images and texts. The film— Odette and Godard— draw attention to “technique,” celebrated as central to the practice of professionals, as something that does violence to knowledge. In these moves beyond discipline, against technique, Godard constructs an alternative space, and an alternative radical politics, of representation, interpretation, theorization, and narration, one that seems continuous with the alternative space, and the alternative radical

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


politics, of the work of historical anthropology as it unfolded in the 1970s.

Jean de Coras In the case of The Return of Martin Guerre, presented in our time in the 1982 film directed by Daniel Vigne and in the book that followed by Natalie Zemon Davis (Davis 1983), we are introduced to Jean de Coras, scholar and jurist, who produced the key record of the judicial process investigating the alleged theft of the identity of Martin Guerre by Arnaud du Tilh in the village of Artigat in southwest France in the 1550s. After eight years of marriage to Bertrande de Rols, Martin left Bertrande and left Artigat. Some seven years later, the figure Arnaud arrived in Artigat and was arguably accepted as the returning Martin. Bertrande took this figure into her home and into her bed. They had a child together. After a few years, relatives of Martin brought charges against the man they now had come to see as a counterfeit. Arnaud / Martin was drawn through three inquisitional processes and was nearly acquitted and reunited with Bertrande when Martin Guerre returned and established that Arnaud was a fraud. The published account of the case by Jean de Coras, Arrest Memorable, was widely read in its time and for decades after; it became a key document for Vigne in the development of the film and for Natalie Zemon Davis in her close reading of the text, while de Coras is an important and complicated character within the film’s treatment of the story.11 A core question within the case, and within its subsequent literary, historical, and cinematic treatment, was whether Martin’s young bride Bertrande de Rols was an accomplice to the deception. This question of complicity—in our terms, what did Bertrande know and when did she know it?—mattered for the courts that tried Arnaud, as it presumably mattered to people of the village of Artigat who were witnesses on both sides of the case. It mattered for Bertrande, for whom a judgment of complicity would have brought the penalty of death. It mattered for the young daughter of Bertrande and Arnaud, who would have lost both her mother and her legitimacy. And it mattered for Natalie Davis, who sought to present Bertrande as a strong woman navigating the difficult trajectories of her marriage, her relationship with Arnaud, and the legal proceedings as well. In Davis’s reading of the case, Bertrande is saturated with subjectivity.12 For Davis, Bertrande was, and had to be, a full accomplice to the fraud.



As to Arnaud’s deception, there could be no uncertainty in Davis’s text. But with de Coras, played in the film by Roger Planchon, there appears to be a well-contemplated uncertainty, as if he wishes to remain open13 to the possibility that Arnaud is authentic. But this is not only an issue of weighing the objective details, discovering facts or truths among allegations. At certain points, de Coras seems to have had an interest in sustaining the legality, the authority, of the relationship of Arnaud and Bertande, and, in particular, De Coras appears to have wanted to sustain, or affirm, the legitimacy of the infant daughter of Bertrande.14 To do this, de Coras situated his account around the possibility of Arnaud, and of his authenticity. He took Bertrande as a steady given, almost an object; her subjectivity has presence but de Coras can control for that. He can do so in part by managing and shifting the details regarding the authenticity toward Arnaud. The brilliance and authenticity of Arnaud—that he could pass for Martin—would mean that de Coras could save Bertrande. But, for Davis, there is no question about Arnaud. She projects onto Bertrande the certainty that she would know that Arnaud was not Martin but could nevertheless adeptly play the role of partner to Arnaud. In de Coras’s hands, the facts of Bertrande’s behavior and ideas are potentially deadly: a focus on Bertrande’s agency would doom her, while in Davis’s hands, Bertrande is full of subjectivity and beyond further judgment, beyond danger. These, then, are the two projects of Davis and de Coras: to sustain the centrality of Bertrande’s agency, to give human subjectivity to Bertrande, Davis located de Coras’s reasoning toward Arnaud’s authenticity, toward the values of his relationship with Bertrande, as part of a larger project of freeing marriage from the control and intermediation of the official church. For his part, De Coras foregrounded uncertainty to sustain an important argument, a life cause so to speak, the cause of preserving Bertrande and her daughter, whereas Davis, in pursuit of her larger objectives, removes this ground for uncertainty. For Davis, the uncertainty of de Coras works against both her contemporary historicist project and her contemporary feminist project. The positions of de Coras and Davis on Bertrande’s complicity seem irreconcilable, but the larger point here is that de Coras has found not only the poetics but also the powers of uncertainty.15 Much like the judges who convicted Arnaud du Tilh, Natalie Davis has recognized and mobilized the powers of certainty in the animation of respective programs.16

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


Now, where do we intervene in this tension between sixteenth- and twentieth-century projects? We are given the opportunity to recognize de Coras’s sustenance of uncertainty, that the uncertainty of the subject position is no hermeneutical disability or limitation. It opens to a fuller and more complex understanding of historical experience, permitting us to see more rather than less, including seeing the disciplinary acts of Natalie Zemon Davis in a different way.

Conclusion Calvino, Menocchio, Odette, and de Coras help us to recognize some of the inadequacies of the three preeminent metaphors of smuggling, backing into, and blurring in the discussion of the unfolding of relations between anthropology and history. With Calvino there is the story of a larger anxiety regarding the values, the adequacy, of the disciplines, the great structures. He suggests the possibilities and values of architectures of lightness for this new millennium. His concept of vectors displacing structures gives support to our experimenting with the juxtaposition of distinct texts. With Menocchio, we are drawn into the unmapped and weakly articulated search for a new standpoint, a different logic, standing outside (while reflecting light back on) the built and powerful intellectual structures, the disciplines (or the Inquisition). For Odette, there is—beyond the critique of the great structures embodied in the Party and in media—a call for an alternative space, and an alternative radical politics, of representation, interpretation, theorization, and narration, one in which there is a strong sense of responsibility located in the relationships of observer and observed as well as in the relationships between author and audience. With Jean de Coras, responsibility is not only to be found in the practices of observation, analysis, representation, and narration. Responsibility is indelibly hinged to the very materials with which scholars work, binding the fates of scholar and subject. As with Calvino, de Coras finds value in the sustenance of multiple and contradictory vectors. In all these areas, the reflective and programmatic literatures that have sought to inscribe order to the emergent relationships of the disciplines have, to appropriate Godard, “erased more than we thought we were writing.” Those programmatic literatures attending most prominently to the relations between disciplines are full of silences and fictions, like the deconstructed work of Godard’s Editor. Strikingly, this body, this genre of



reflective and programmatic writings, is almost devoid of any reference to fiction, the arts, or, especially, film—albeit a scholarly generation of European, North American, and South Asian anthropologists and historians formed at the movies; albeit the importance of film and literature in the mapping of other places, everyday life, violence, trauma, pain, race and racism, worlds of emotion, the force of gender; albeit the critical roles of artists and writers in critiques of empire, nation, and state. All these topics have been major ambitions of those seeing a future for the engagements between the two disciplines, yet few have ventured beyond the scholarly terrain to recognize the formative work of critique, interpretation, and theory produced beyond the academy, including the unreflective foundational position of the small novel of Janet Lewis (1941) that sought to tell the story of an event, of a historical figure, in a lively and accessible way, one so important to the trajectory of Vigne’s film and Davis’s Martin, yet wholly outside the scholarly reckoning of the respective authenticities of Martin / Arnaud and Bertrande. I have wondered about these elisions and silences, whether they are not in some ways powerfully constructed silences, now worthy of attention, perhaps an attention such as Odette directs toward the Editor and his project. By “worthy,” I don’t simply mean interesting, but rather that such inquiry may contribute to an understanding of the processes of emergence of historical anthropology as a field, as a movement. I think here of Karen Sacks’s work in the Medick and Sabean volume Interest and Emotion (Sacks 1984: 279–299) in which some of the essential elements of production of the Duke Memorial health system were being produced through social and kin networks extending outside the hospital and outside the gaze of doctors and medical administrators who had no apparatus themselves for comprehending how the hospital was actually running, other than their own professional and administrative grammars, their formed and practiced discipline. One can extend this sense of “silence” in the reflections on the sources and ambits of historical anthropology to the spheres of theatre work, photography, art, music, and literature in which artists, writers, and players have been acting in and on the same world as those who have been practicing or have been seeming to be producing work of the nature of historical anthropology. I think of the museum re-installations of Fred Wilson and such work as Graham Swift’s Waterland, both rooted in the early 1980s, showing how alternative narratives were always there amid the

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


privileged constructions of the past. I think of the larger body of Godard’s film work, testing the forms of narrativity, subverting moral certainties, producing complex moral worlds that do not lend themselves to straightforward narrative conventions (Scott 2008). In this, I search for a word, an idea, that might capture what crosses, in a critical and generative way, multiple fields of scholarly and artistic practice. I think of the word ethic, saluting some deep underlying logic, as well as some purpose or value, while perhaps appropriately, and also frustratingly, evading explication. Certain matters are stipulated and at moments debated, suggesting a politics, but at other moments such matters seem beyond speech, outside reflection. I am prepared to say that the apparatus I bring to this exercise in surveillance may not be at all adequate to the challenge of understanding these underlying logics and connections, these elements that draw from, or reach beyond, the practices of work in any one setting. Yet I would push our attention toward understanding the emergence of powerful vectors, Calvino’s lightness; the promise of experimentation in the constitution of new standpoints and fresh logics, including the exploration of the pluriversal, and other frames of knowledge standing outside the built structures that have actively privileged the “universal” values descending from the Enlightenment; a growing attention to and understanding of the powers and poetics of uncertainty; the continuing development of alternative radical politics, embodying a strong sense of responsibility to the subjects and audiences of anthropological and historical investigation; and a renewed sense of the particular responsibilities that bind our fates with those of our subjects. With this sense of an ethic, we can acknowledge that out of all this a story can be constructed or narrated while still reflecting on the powers and virtuosities available to us consequent of the unsettled nature of the big story of historical anthropology. This is to say that the inadequate metaphors have been exceedingly productive. Indeed, the potential power of historical anthropology may lie in the absence of disciplinary configuration and in the absence of an encompassing and controlling account of itself.

Notes 1. Still earlier, in 1950 in his Marett Lecture, Evans-Pritchard opened for social anthropologists the question of history. A number of other anthropologists



reflected on this question in introductions to monographs and essays, but 1962 seems a more prominent and decisive marker. 2. See, for example, the several important collections drawing together recent work developing at connection points between the disciplines and encompassing important reflections on the new possibilities of the disciplines and on the futures of interdisciplinary approaches: Medick and Sabean (1984); Silverman and Gulliver (1992); Ohnuki-Tierney (1990); O’Brien and Roseberry (1991); Sider and Smith (1997); Lüdtke (1995); Schneider and Rapp (1995); Dirks (1996); Comaroff and Comaroff (1992); and Axel (2002). For a valuable treatment of the “state of play” in the 1970s, see Cohn (1987). For a collection of papers still more closely focused on the present and future nature of the relationship between the disciplines, see Kalb, Mark, and Tak (1996). 3. I frame my own entry to the academy in these terms. Trained both in anthropology and history (but as quite separate exercises), my early career was oriented toward twin goals: testing the usability of anthropological methods and approaches in the reconstruction of the precolonial African past, and testing the possibilities of establishing connections between the two disciplines. My claims to the value of this work rested as much on the novelty of transdisciplinary transgressions as on the original reconstruction of the precolonial past of eastern Africa. 4. As a member of the Hopkins Department of History from 1968 to 1989, I was involved in these plans as they first became moot and later as they came to fruition in a series of seminars and conferences. 5. In 1990, Geertz focused more directly on the unfolding of new work out of the connections among historical and anthropological attentions. See Geertz (1990). See also Rosaldo (1990). 6. The work presented to the seminar tended to be read as interdisciplinary. The membership of the Atlantic Seminar included a dozen faculty from the departments of anthropology and history, along with a few faculty from literature, geography, and sociology, and between twenty and thirty graduate students from anthropology and history. Among the participants and presenters over the years were some eminent scholars who themselves offered reflections on the engagements of the two disciplines, including Barth, Bloch, Cohn, Curtin, Leach, Mintz, Price, Sahlins, Tambiah, Vansina, and Verdery. 7. Founded in the early 1990s, the journal Historisches Anthropologie: Kultur, Gesellschaft, Alltag has published an extraordinary range of work by anthropologists and historians without foregrounding the disciplinary / interdisciplinary problematic. 8. Or “multidisciplinary” or “transdisciplinary”; The Atlantic Program at Hopkins found its footing within this current. 9. One can think of the arguments for American studies, cognitive science, comparative literature, and onward across the last four decades. The North

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


American university over this time certainly privileged a range of such interdisciplinary innovation. One might consider the key journal Historisches Anthropologie: Kultur, Gesellschaft, Alltag as an expression of the moment of a new discipline. Likewise, the University of Michigan’s Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History, founded in 1988, organizes a doctoral training program and doctoral degree separate from the programs and degrees in anthropology and history. 10. Odette also suggests to the Editor that he does not know how “to read between the lines.” 11. The film gives a credit to a remarkable historical novel, The Wife of Martin Guerre (Lewis 1941). More so, the film follows the book closely, almost as if Lewis devised the script for the film. Yet, while in a foreword Lewis acknowledged “Maître Jean Corras” as a key source for her historical novel, de Coras is left indistinct among the “judges,” almost as if Lewis found a particular viewpoint for Bertrande that would not have been privileged to reckon the distinctive positions and interests of the jurists of the courts examining the case. 12. This is the achievement, the historian’s art and historian’s craft, of Davis. For her part, novelist Janet Lewis enters Bertrande’s behavior and mind unproblematically. A few years after the appearance of the film and Davis’s book, European historian Robert Finlay (1988) developed a strong critique of the ways in which Davis drew out a view of Bertrande’s subjectivity from the de Coras source. Indeed, Finlay could not see in the de Coras source any strong evidence that would permit the historian to distinguish among several possible figurations of Bertrande: victim, dupe, accomplice. Finlay’s rereading of the story of Martin Guerre attempts, as does this present discussion, a complicated discussion comparing de Coras and Davis and Martin / Arnaud and Bertrande, with a difference. The present reading, my own, gives more depth and complexity to the project of de Coras in accounting the case, aligning with Davis, while moving toward a somewhat more existential position that marks and compares the critical stakes associated with the de Coras and Davis positions, respectively. Finlay finds as unconvincing and anachronistic Davis’s sense of her sixteenth century actors as self-fashioning, whereas the present discussion positions Davis and de Coras as producing actors. In a companion response, Davis (1988) introduces greater complexity and subtlety to her project in Martin Guerre, as well as in her other work. Indeed, the Davis rejoinder is an invaluable augmentation of the apparatus of Martin Guerre. More broadly, the 1988 Finlay-Davis debate is about the powers of historians, and of historical interpretation, to wrestle objects and meaning from difficult sources from the past. In reconvening her case for Bertrande’s subjectivity, Davis—without explicitly calling on arguments on the potential powers of a history engaged with anthropology—reflects on the prospective powers of historical reflection, in situating the historian, or the judge, or the detective, in the projects of reckoning the past, a contextualization



of production consonant with exemplary projects associated with historical anthropology (Cohen 1994; Trouillot 1995). 13. This is true at least until a later edition of the de Coras volume, revamped after Arnaud was hanged. 14. As we learn from Davis, de Coras, like Bertrande and Arnaud, is taken by the rethinking of the nature of the marriage bond within the first stirrings of the Reformation in this region of France. 15. As somewhat of an aside: I am moved by Natalie Baye’s performance in the film as Bertrande, or, better, Daniel Vigne’s development of that performance, for it seems in the film that her performance accommodates both positions, that of de Coras and that of Davis. 16. And, of course, in doing so Davis has left us uncertain and, perhaps, productively uncertain regarding the knowing, the artifice, and the complicity of those people around Bertrande of Artigat, who may have had different views of Bertrande’s subjectivity, yet whose interested views on this question of Bertrande and Arnaud may have motivated the productions of different histories on both sides of the case.

Bibliography Axel, Brian Keith, ed. 2002. From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and Its Futures. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Calvino, Italo. 1988. Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Cohen, David William. 1994. The Combing of History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ———. 1996. “Historical Anthropology: Discerning the Rules of the Game.” In Don Kalb, Hans Mark, and Herman Tak, eds., “Historical Anthropology: The Unwaged Debate.” Special issue of Focaal: Tijdschrift voor antropologie 26 / 27: 65– 67. Cohn, Bernard S. 1987. An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Comaroff, Jean, and John Comaroff. 1992. Ethnography and the Historical Imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Davis, Natalie Zemon. 1983. The Return of Martin Guerre. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 1988. “On the Lame.” The American Historical Review 93(3) (June): 572– 603. Dirks, Nicholas. 1996. “Is Vice Versa? Historical Anthropologies and Anthropological Histories.” In Terence J. McDonald, ed., The Historic Turn in the Social Sciences. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 17–51.

The Movement to Historical Anthropology


Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1950. “Social Anthropology: Past and Present.” The Marett Lecture. Man 50 (September): 118–124. ———. 1962. “Anthropology and History: A Lecture.” In E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Essays in Social Anthropology. London: Faber and Faber. First published as Anthropology and History: A Lecture. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1961, 46–65. Finlay, Robert. 1988. “The Refashioning of Martin Guerre.” The American Historical Review 93(3) (June): 553–571. Geertz, Clifford. 1983. Local Knowledge. New York: Basic Books. ———. 1990. “History and Anthropology.” New Literary History 21(2): 321–335. Ginzburg, Carlo. 1980. The Cheese and the Worms. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. The original edition, in Italian, was published in 1976 as Il formaggio e I vermi. Godard-Jean Luc, and Anne-Marie Miéville, directors. 1978. Comment ça va? Paris: Bela Productions. Film. Kalb, Don, Hans Mark, and Herman Tak, eds. 1996. “Historical Anthropology: The Unwaged Debate.” Special issue of Focaal: Tijdschrift voor antropologie 26 / 27. Lewis, Janet. 1941. The Wife of Martin Guerre. Athens, OH: Swallow Press. Lüdtke, Alf, ed. 1995. The History of Everyday Life: Reconstructing Historical Experiences and Ways of Life. William Templer, trans. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Medick, Hans, and David Sabean, eds. 1984. Interest and Emotion: Essays on the Study of Family and Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. O’Brien, Jay, and William Roseberry, eds. 1991. Golden Ages, Dark Ages: Imagining the Past in Anthropology and History. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko, ed. 1990. Culture Through Time: Anthropological Approaches. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Rosaldo, Renato. 1990. “Response to Geertz.” New Literary History 21(2): 337– 341. Sacks, Karen Brodkin. 1984. “Kinship and Class Consciousness: Family Values and Work Experience Among Hospital Workers in an American Southern Town.” In Hans Medick and David Sabean, eds., Interest and Emotion: Essays on the Study of Family and Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 279–299. Schapera, Isaac. 1962. “Should Anthropologists Be Historians?” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 92(1): 143–156. Schneider, Jane, and Rayna Rapp, eds. 1995. Articulating Hidden Histories: Exploring the Influence of Eric R. Wolf. Berkeley: University of California Press.



Scott, A. O. 2008. “The Spirit of ’68: What Godard and His Fellow Revolutionaries Still Have to Tell Us.” New York Times, April 27, Arts and Leisure section, 1, 23. Sider, Gerald, and Gavin Smith, eds. 1997. Between History and Histories: The Making of Silences and Commemorations. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Silverman, Marilyn, and Philip H. Gulliver, eds. 1992. Approaching the Past: Historical Anthropology Through Irish Case Studies. New York: Columbia University Press. Smith, M. G. 1962. “History and Social Anthropology.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 92(1): 73–85. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press. Vigne, Daniel, director. 1982. The Return of Martin Guerre. France: Dussault and Société Francaise de Production. Film.


David Arnold is professor of Asian and global history at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, and formerly professor at the University of London / SOAS. A founding member of Subaltern Studies, he has published extensively on the history of modern India, including medical and environmental history and the history of science and technology. Publications include Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India (University of California Press, 1993), Gandhi (Longman, 2001), and The Tropics and the Traveling Gaze: India, Landscape, and Science, 1800–1856 (University of Washington Press, 2006). His current research is on “everyday technology” in Monsoon Asia, 1880–1960. David William Cohen is Lemuel A. Johnson Collegiate Professor of African Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan. He has been working within and studying the intersections of anthropology and history for more than four decades. He has written extensively on both precolonial and recent African history and more generally on the production of history. Among his publications are Womunafu’s Bunafu (Princeton University Press, 1977) and The Combing of History (University of Chicago Press, 1994) and, with coauthor E. S. Atieno Odhiambo, Siaya: The Historical Anthropology of an African Landscape (Ohio University Press, 1989), Burying SM: The Politics of Knowledge and the Sociology of Power in Africa (Heinemann, 1992), and The Risks of Knowledge (Ohio University Press, 2004). He has led several interdisciplinary projects, including the Program in Atlantic History, Culture and Society at Johns 295



Hopkins University; the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University; and the International Institute and the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan. Prasenjit Duara is director of research in humanities and social sciences at the National University of Singapore. He is also emeritus professor of history at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books on Chinese and East Asian history, including Culture, Power and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1942 (Stanford University Press, 1991), which won the Fairbank Prize of the American Historical Association and the Levenson Prize of the Association for Asian Studies; Rescuing History from the Nation (University of Chicago Press, 1995); and Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004). His work has been widely translated into Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Claudio Lomnitz works on culture and politics in Mexico and the Americas. He is William H. Ransford Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, where he is director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, and he is the editor of the journal Public Culture. His books include Evolución de una sociedad rural (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1982); Exits from the Labyrinth: Culture and Ideology in Mexican National Space (University of California Press, 1992); Modernidad Indiana: Nación y mediación en México (Planeta, 1999); Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism (University of Minnesota Press, 2001); and, most recently, Death and the Idea of Mexico (Zone Books, 2005). Viranjini Munasinghe is associate professor of anthropology and director of the Asian American Studies Program at Cornell University. Her previous research focused on the relation between ethnicity and nationalism and the symbolics of moral and cultural orthodoxies governing the politics of exclusion in nation-building projects. Presently, her research attempts to theorize between the specifics of her New World empirical field location and the epistemologies and methodologies governing the discipline of anthropology itself, especially in relation to its master trope, culture and its conventions of evidence. Her book Callaloo or Tossed Salad? East Indians and the Cultural Politics of Identity in Trinidad (Cornell University Press,



2001) won the Association for Asian American Studies Social Science Book Award. Danilyn Rutherford is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on West Papua, a territory that covers the western half of New Guinea. Her essays on Christianity, kinship, dance, and money have appeared in Public Culture, American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology, Ethnos, JRAI, Indonesia, and elsewhere. She is the author of Raiding the Land of the Foreigners: The Limits of the Nation on an Indonesian Frontier (Princeton University Press, 2003). She is currently completing a second book on colonialism, nationalism, and the idea of an audience and beginning a project on sympathy, technology, and state-building. Eric Tagliacozzo is associate professor of history at Cornell University, where he teaches Southeast Asian Studies. He is the author of Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States Along a Southeast Asian Frontier, 1865–1915 (Yale University Press, 2005), which won the Harry J. Benda Prize from the Association of Asian Studies in 2007. He is also the editor or co-editor of three books: Southeast Asia and the Middle East: Islam, Movement, and the Longue Durée (Stanford University Press, 2009); The Indonesia Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University Press, 2009); and Chinese Circulations: Capital, Commodities, and Merchants in Southeast Asia (Duke University Press, forthcoming 2010). His next monograph, The Longest Journey: Southeast Asians and the Pilgrimage to Mecca, will be published by Oxford University Press. Andrew Willford is associate professor of anthropology and Asian studies at Cornell University, where he is also chair of the Anthropology Department. His previous research focused on various forms of Tamil and Hindu displacement, revivalism, and identity politics in Malaysia. He is currently preparing a book manuscript on the subject of Tamil plantation communities facing the uncertainties of retrenchment and relocation in Malaysia. His recent publications include Cage of Freedom: Tamil Identity and the Ethnic Fetish in Malaysia (University of Michigan Press, 2006) and Spirited Politics: Religion and Public Life in Contemporary Southeast Asia, the latter of which he edited with Kenneth George (Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2005).


Abolitionism, Turner’s reporting and, 126–132 Academia Sinica, 204, 209, 214 Aduarte, Diego, 85–86, 87 Africa, repression and colonial states in, 33 Agnew, Jean-Christophe, 78 Aiyer, K. A. Neelakandha, 236 Akamatsu Chijō, 198, 199–200 Akiba Takashi, 198–200 Ali, Syed Husin, 264n17 Alonso, Ana, 111 American Magazine, The, 124 Anthropology, Manchuria and nationalization of, 10, 187–222; Asian nationalities and the nationstate, 192–195; China and ideas of national space, 203–216; Japan and conception of nationality, 188–192; Oroqen and, 198–202; race and culture in, 195–198. See also Historical anthropology “Archive fever / madness,” of Derrida, 17, 224, 225, 258, 262 Arrest Memorable (de Coras), 285–289 “Backing into,” as metaphor, 274 Bakhtin, Mikhail, 103

Barbarous Mexico (Turner), 124, 129, 130 Bartola (Aztec child), 118, 119, 134n27 Bayly, C. A., 30 Benthamite panopticon, 32 Beyer, H. O., 80, 86–87 Bhabha, Homi, 36–37, 59 Black Skin, White Masks (Fanon), 36–37 Blaine, James G., 110 Blondell (diplomat), 53, 55 “Blurring,”as metaphor, 274–275, 276 Bose, Subhas Chandra, 232 Boxer Codex of 1590, 87 Brereton, Bridget, 146, 153 Bride-price customs, Philippine ceramics and, 89–90 Brown, David, 242 Burial practices, Philippine ceramics and, 86–87, 89 Burma, 53–60 Burnley, William H., 148, 151–152, 155, 157–158, 161–169, 171, 172 Bushe, Robert, 157, 158–159 Cabrera, Luis, 123 Cai Yuanpei, 204–205 Calvino, Italo, 279–280, 287 Campbell, Carl C., 147, 148, 155




Cardoso, Fernando Henrique, 104 Carlyle, Thomas, 167, 169 Carney, Judith, 31 Cédula, in Trinidad, 144–145, 147 Celadon. See Ceramics, in Philippine societies Central Plains Confucian Culture of the Great Unity, 210–212, 213 Ceramics, in Philippine societies, 11, 78–94; bride-price customs, 89–90; choices regarding, 92; coastal dwellers versus forest dwellers and, 81–82; conclusions, 93–94; ethnography, 78–79, 87–93; external diplomacy, 82, 84; headhunting, 90–91; historical sources, 81–82, 84–87; histories of movement of trade ceramics, 80–81; hospitality, 84–85; hygiene, 85; map of Philippines, 83; musical instruments, 91–92; religious practices, 88–89; ritual uses, 85–87; stylistic attribute distribution, 93; value-creation and social hierarchy, 88 Chakrabarty, Dipesh, 34–35; “History one” / “History two” of, 225–227, 231, 258, 261 Cheese and the Worms, The (Ginzburg), 280–281, 287 Chiang Kai-shek, 204, 207, 210, 212 China: ceramic trade, 80–82, 93; Japan, Manchuria, and ideas of national space, 203–216; Manchuria and nationalism, 192–197 China’s Destiny (Chiang), 207, 210 Chinese Ethnological Association, 205 Chirino, Pedro, 85–86 Christie, Emerson Brewster, 88 Chronotopes of dependency, in Mexico, 14, 102–138; Creelman-Díaz interview, 113–123; dependency, arc of chronotopes, 104–109; dependency as concept, 104; independence and, 103–104;

Lumholtz border crossing, 109–111, 112–113; Reed border crossing, 112–113; Turner and, 123–132 Church, R. H., 157 Cocoa, in Trinidad, 146, 160 Coffee, in Trinidad, 146, 160 Cohn, Bernard, 28, 29, 42 Cole, Fay-Cooper, 88, 91, 92 Colonialism: anthropology’s new awareness of, 27–28; “docile” Tamil and, 228–231 Colonialism, in Dutch New Guinea, 15–16, 50–77; colonial documents from, 63–69; history of influence in, 60–61; humor of The Fashioning of Leviathan and, 50–60; lack of shared understanding in, 69–71; policy of display in, 61–63 Colonial Policy and Practice (Furnivall), 56, 59 Colonial subject, 10–11, 27–49; Bhabha and, 36–37; colonized versus colonizers issues, 41–42; cultural constitution of subjectivity, 39–40; externally generated subjectivity, 37–39; Foucault and, 32–35; indigenous and cultural sources of subjectivity, 40–41; knowing the subaltern subject issue, 42–44; Said and, 35–36 Comment ça va? (film), 281–285, 287 Communist Emergency, in Malaysia, 234–235 Comparative Physiognomy (Redfield), 118 Concordia Association, 193–194 Confucianism, 210–212 Conklin, Alice, 37–38 Conselheiro, Antonio, 108 Cortés, Hernán, 118 Cotton, in Trinidad, 146 Creel, Enrique, 121 Creelman, James: Díaz’s motivations, 117–118; interview with Díaz,

Index 113–123, 129; physiognomy, 114, 117–118 Criminal Tribes Act, 43 Curlie (Trinidadian cane cutter), 139–140, 177 Dai Jitao, 205 Darnton, Robert, 6 Davis, Natalie Zemon, 285–289 De Bruyn Kops, G. F., 63–64 De Coras, Jean, 285–289 Democratic Action Party (DAP), Malaysia, 235, 264n17 Dependency. See Mexico, chronotopes of dependency Derrida, Jacques, 3, 5; “archive fever / madness,” 17, 224, 225, 258, 262 Díaz, Porfirio: Creelman’s interview, 113–123, 129; Lumholtz and, 110; Mexican chronotopes and, 105–109; Turner’s interview, 129–130 Dirks, Nicholas, 2, 33, 38 Discipline and Punish (Foucault), 32–33, 34, 43 Drescher, Seymour, 150 Duara, Prasenjit, 53 Dutch New Guinea, 15–16, 50–77; colonial documents from, 63–69; history of influence in, 60–61; humor of The Fashioning of Leviathan and, 50–60; lack of shared understanding in, 69–71; policy of display in, 61–63 Editor (Godard character), 281–285, 287 Education, Tamils and, 230–231, 240 Education Welfare Research Foundation, 243–244 Emancipation Act of 1833, 146 Engerman, Stanley, 150 Ethic, historical anthropology and, 287–289 “Ethical imperialism,” 52, 60–61 Ethnographic archives, 1–4


Ethnological Research ( journal), 205 Europe and the People Without History (Wolf ), 7 Evans-Pritchard, E. E., 273 Faletto, Enzo, 104 Fang Qiuwei, 203, 214 Fanon, Frantz, 36–37, 42 Fashioning of Leviathan, The (Furnivall), 50–60, 71 Ferguson, James, 142 Feuilletau de Bruyn, W. K. H., 67–68, 69–70 Finlay, Robert, 291n12 Focaal ( journal), 276 Foucault, Michel, 32–35, 43 Fox, Robert, 87, 91–92 Franke, Otto, 211 Franke, Wolfgang, 211 Freud, Sigmund, 58–59, 261 Frontier incorporation, Chinese nationalism and, 206–214 Fujiyama Kazuo, 201–202 Fuller, Henry, 148 Furnivall, John, 50–60, 71 Fu Sinian, 211 Gandhi, Mohandas, 40–41 Garza, Catarino, 107–108 Geertz, Clifford, 6–7, 79, 274–275 Ginzburg, Carlo, 280–281, 287 Godard, Jean-Luc, 281–285, 287–289 Gordon, Colin, 34 Governmentality, Foucault on, 34 Grant, Charles, 36 Great Cat Massacre, The (Darnton), 6 Green, William, 151 Grundrisse, The (Marx), 226, 227 Guha, Ranajit, 39, 40 Gupta, Akhil, 142 Gutiérrez de Lara, Lázaro, 125 Haga, A., 69 Hall, Douglas, 160, 166, 167



Haraksingh, Kusha, 176 Hartweg, Friedrich, 68–69 Headhunting, Philippine ceramics and, 90–91 Hegel, G. W. F., 225–227 Hill, G. F., 153–154, 180n21 Hinduism, among Tamils, 230, 239, 242–243, 249–250, 254–256 Historical anthropology, 9–10, 273–294; Calvino and, 279–280, 287; de Coras and, 287–289; against discipline, 279; emergent grammar of, 277–279; ethic and, 287–289; Menocchio and, 280–281, 287; metaphors and, 274–277; Odette and, 281–285, 287 History of Sexuality (Foucault), 33–35 “History one” / “History two,” of Chakrabarty, 225–227, 231, 258, 261 Hobbes, Thomas, 50–51 Hongi, 62–63, 66 Hoskins, Janet, 94 How the Other Half Lives (Riis), 130 Huang Wenshan, 205, 206, 208 India: changing study of colonialism, 28–32; colonial subjectivity in, 36, 39–41; consciousness and agency in, 42–44; power in, 32–35. See also Tamil Indian Independence League (IIL), 232, 233 Indian National Army (INA), 232–233 Interdisciplinarity. See Historical anthropology Islam, Tamils and, 239, 242–243, 254, 255–256, 258 Iturbide, Agustín, 103 Janse, Olov, 87 Japan: ceramic trade, 80; evolution of anthropology and nationality in, 188–192; Manchuria and nationalism

in, 192–195; mixed origins theory, 189, 191, 195–196, 217; study of Oroqen and, 198–202; Tamil and Malaysian occupation, 231–233 Jianguo University, 193, 194 Johns Hopkins University, 274–275 Kalb, Don, 276 Kanganis (foremen), in Malaysia, 229–231 Kavadi ritual, of Tamils, 251–253 Khoo Kay Kim, 248–249 Kranis (conductors), in Malaysia, 229–231 Kuala Lumpur, 256 Kuomintang (KMT), 203, 206–207 “Labor problem,” Trinidad and post-emancipation, 13–14, 139–186; Afro-Trinidadian and IndoTrinidadian boundaries, 139–143; character assault on AfroTrinidadians, 153–173; effects of lack of capital and mechanization, 149–156; Indo-Trinidadian immigrants’ image, 173–177; pre-emancipation context, 143–149 Lacan, Jacques, 5, 225, 227, 261, 262n1 Lattimore, Owen, 207 Leach, Edmund, 79 Leduc, Villista Renato, 132 Lei Haizong, 211 Lerdo de Tejada, Sebastían, 105 Leviathan. See Dutch New Guinea Lewis, Janet, 288, 291n12 Lijphart, Arend, 70 Limantour, José Yves, 121 Ling Chunsheng, 209–210, 212 Locher-Scholten, Elsbeth, 51–52, 60–61, 62–63 Logan, Walter, 106 Look Lai, Walton, 175 Lumholtz, Carl, 110–111, 112–113

Index Macaulay, T. B., 36 Macleod (lieutenant-governor of Trinidad), 165, 168 Madero, Francisco I., 130 Magón, Ricardo Flores, 124 Mahathir, Mohamad, 248, 256 Ma Hongtian, 206–207 Maingy (diplomat), The Fashioning of Leviathan and, 53–58 Malayan Indian Congress (MIC), 233, 234–237, 241; NEP and, 245–246; Thaipusam and, 252 Malaysia. See Tamil Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), 235, 241 Manchuria, nationalization of anthropology and, 10, 187–222; Asian nationalities and the nation-state, 192–195; China and ideas of national space, 203–216; Japan and conception of nationality, 188–192; Oroqen and, 198–202; race and culture in, 195–198 Marks, Hans, 276 Marx, Karl, 59, 225–227 Máximo (Aztec child), 118, 119, 134n27 Ma Zhangshou, 208 McCook (attorney), 166–167 Menocchio (Ginzburg character), 280–281, 287 Menon, K. P. K., 264n11 Metaphors, of historical anthropology, 274–277 Mexico, chronotopes of dependency, 14, 102–138; Creelman-Díaz interview, 113–123; dependency, arc of chronotopes, 104–109; dependency as concept, 104; independence and, 103–104; Lumholtz border crossing, 109–111, 112–113; Reed border crossing, 112–113; Turner and, 123–132 Meyer, Eugenia, 130 Mill, James, 36


Mingshih (Ming dynasty records), 84 Mintz, Sidney W., 31, 154, 167, 169 Missionaries, in Dutch New Guinea, 61–62, 65 Murugan (Tamil deity), 251–252, 267nn33, 34 Musical instruments, Philippine ceramics and, 91–92 Muzaffar, Chandra, 231, 242–243 Nagata Uzumaro, 200–201 Nakao Katsumi, 202 Narayanan, P. P., 234 National Manchukuo Central Museum, 197–198 National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW), 234 Nehru, Jawaharlal, 233 Netherlands. See Dutch New Guinea Netherlands India (Furnivall), 56, 59 New Asia journal, 205–206, 214 New Economic Policy (NEP), Tamils and, 239–247 Obeyesekere, Gananath, 8 Obregón, Toribio Ezequiel, 121 Oceania, 94 Odette (Godard character), 281–285, 287 Oguma Eiji, 191 Oka Masao, 195 Orientalism (Said), 35–36, 38 Oroqen, 198–202, 215–216 Partido Liberal Mexicano, 124–125 Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), 264n17 Pearl, Dr. Sharrona, 117 Pearson’s Magazine, 113, 115 Pedro de la Bastida (priest), 86 Philip, Louis, 148 Philippine diplomacy, ceramics and, 82, 84 Philippines, ceramics in, 11, 78–94; bride-price customs, 89–90; choices



Philippines (continued) regarding, 92; coastal dwellers versus forest dwellers, 81–82; conclusions, 93–94; ethnography, 78–79, 87–93; external diplomacy, 82, 84; headhunting, 90–91; historical sources, 81–82, 84–87; histories of movement of trade ceramics, 80–81; hospitality, 84–85; hygiene, 85; map of Philippines, 83; musical instruments, 91–92; religious practices, 88–89; ritual uses, 85–87; stylistic attribute distribution, 93; value-creation and social hierarchy, 88 Physiognomy, in Creelman-Díaz interview, 114, 117–123 Pigafetta, Antonio, 84–85 Porcelain. See Ceramics, in Philippine societies Power, Foucault’s conception of, 32–35 Putrajaya, 256, 257 Racism: in Creelman-Díaz interview, 114, 117–123; Mexican chronotopes and, 107–109; in Turner work, 123–132 Rajakrishnan, Ramasamy, 228 Ramos, Samuel, 132n3 Redfield, James, 118 Reed, John, 112–113, 132 Religious practices: Confucianism and Chinese nationalism, 210–212; missionaries in Dutch New Guinea, 61–62; Philippine ceramics and, 88–89; Shamanism and Oroqen, 199–200; Tamil and Hinduism, 230, 239, 242–243, 249–250, 254–256; Tamil and Islam, 239, 242–243, 254, 255–256, 258 Return of Martin Guerre, The (film and book), 285–289 Reyes, Bernardo, 108 Riis, Jacob, 130 Riquel, Hernando, 84

Risley, H. H., 29 Ritual ceramic usage, in Philippines, 85–87 Romero, Matías, 106 Roosevelt, Theodore, 121 Root, Elihu, 121 Roy, Rammohan, 40 Rutherford, Danilyn, 17 Sacks, Karen, 288 Sacred forest, Manchuria and, 201–202 Sahlins, Marshall, 7–8 Said, Edward, 35–36, 37, 38 Samaroo, B., 175 Santa de Cabora (Teresa Urrea), 108–109 Schapera, Isaac, 273 Schell, William, 121 Schenck, F., 65 Sebastien, Raphael, 173 Sewell, William, 159, 168–169 Shamanism, Oroqen and, 199–200 Shiratori, 190, 196, 210 Shirokogoroff, S. M., 198, 209 Siam, ceramic trade and, 80–81 Silence, historical anthropology and, 282, 288–289 Singh, Kelvin, 176 Sitting Bull, Diaz interview of, 120 Slave labor. See Trinidad, ethnicity and post-emancipation “labor problem” Smeele, Rogier, 61 Smith, M. G., 273 “Smuggling,” as metaphor, 274, 276 Social hierarchy, Philippine ceramics and, 88 Social Organization of the Northern Tungus (Shirokogoroff ), 198 Solheim, W. G., 80, 82, 88, 89, 92 Sorsana, Martin, 170 South Manchurian Railway Company, 190, 192, 205 Spain, colonial policy toward Trinidad, 143–146, 178n4

Index Spirit mediums, Tamil, 250–251 St. Ana society, 88 Stanley Committee of 1842, Trinidad labor and, 151–153, 157–173, 179n18 Stewart, Rowley Hill, 171–172 St. Laurent, Roume de, 144 Stoler, Ann, 41 Strange Tales from Strange Lands (Zheng), 215–216 Subaltern Studies, 2, 11; consciousness and agency in, 42–44; India, 31 Sugar production. See Trinidad, ethnicity and post-emancipation “labor problem” Tagbanuwa: Religion and Society (Fox), 92 Tagliacozzo, Eric, 54 Tak, Herman, 276 Takata Yasuma, 195 Tamil, 14–15, 233–272; capital, historiographic desire, elites, and working classes, 224–228; colonial labor, caste system, and “docile,” 228–234; ethnic politics and unions, 234–239; media image of, 238–239, 247; modernization and ethnic consciousness, 255–262; NEP and middle class, 239–247; stereotypes and contemporary discrimination, 247–251; Thaipusam and, 246, 251–254 Tarahumara, Lumholtz and, 110–111 Tenazas, Rosa C. P., 80 Thaipusam (Tamil ritual pilgrimage), 246, 251–254 Thanatos, 261 Thivy, John, 233, 234 Thompson, David, 121 Thurston, Edgar, 29 Tijdschrift Nieuw Guinea ( journal), 70 Tinguian of Abra, 88, 89–90 Tominaga Tadashi, 194, 195 Torii Ryuzō, 188, 189, 190, 196


Trinidad, ethnicity and postemancipation “labor problem,” 13–14, 139–186; Afro-Trinidadian and Indo-Trinidadian boundaries, 139–143; character assault on Afro-Trinidadians, 153–173; effects of lack of capital and mechanization, 149–156; Indo-Trinidadian immigrants’ image, 173–177; pre-emancipation context, 143–149 Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, 162–163 Tsuboi Shōgorō, 188–189 Tungusic peoples, 196–197, 209–210, 211. See also Oroqen Turner, John Kenneth, 123–125; transnational nature of work, 125–132 Uchida Ryōhei, 190 Unions, Tamils and: ethnic politics and, 234–239; after World War II, 233–234 United Malay National Organization (UMNO), 235–237, 241, 242, 245, 255 Ural-Altaic hypothesis, 195–196 Urrea, Teresa, 108–109 Vaughan, Megan, 33, 38, 39 Vellu, Samy, 246, 265n23 Ven den Berg, G. W. H., 70 Vietnam, 33, 80–81 Villegas, Daniel Cosío, 130, 132 Wei Huilin, 208 Weiner, Michael, 191 Wells, Samuel, 117 Wife of Martin Guerre, The (Lewis), 288, 291n12 Willford, Andrew, 54 Woelders (missionary), 65 Wolf, Eric, 7, 30–32 Wong, Grace, 88 Wu Shanquan, 211

306 Yangita Kunio, 190 Yao Congwu, 210–212, 213 Zhang Qiyun, 211 Zhang Xueliang, 192

Index Zhang Zuolin, 192 Zhao Ru Gua, 81–82 Zheng Wanlong, 215–216 Zhu Fan Zhi (Zhao), 81–82 Zinoman, Peter, 33