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Hating Empire Properly

The Two Indies and the Limits of Enlightenment Anticolonialism

Sunil M. Agnani

Publication Year: 2013

In Hating Empire Properly, Sunil Agnani produces a novel attempt to think the eighteenth-century imagination of the West and East Indies together, arguing that this is how contemporary thinkers Edmund Burke and Denis Diderot actually viewed them. This concern with multiple geographical spaces is revealed to be a largely unacknowledged part of the matrix of Enlightenment thought in which eighteenth-century European and American self-conceptions evolved. By focusing on colonial spaces of the Enlightenment, especially India and Haiti, he demonstrates how Burke's fearful view of the French Revolution-the defining event of modernity-was shaped by prior reflection on these other domains. Exploring with sympathy the angry outbursts against injustice in the writings of Diderot, he nonetheless challenges recent understandings of him as a univocal critic of empire by showing the persistence of a fantasy of consensual colonialism in his thought. By looking at the impasses and limits in the thought of both radical and conservative writers, Agnani asks what it means to critique empire "properly." Drawing his method from Theodor Adorno's quip that "one must have tradition in oneself, in order to hate it properly," he proposes a critical inhabiting of dominant forms of reason as a way forward for the critique of both empire and Enlightenment.Thus, this volume makes important contributions to political theory, history, literary studies, American studies, and postcolonial studies.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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Prologue: Enlightenment, Colonialism, Modernity

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pp. xv-xxiv

Enlightenment, les lumières, Aufklärung: What does it mean to invoke this term, with its evident and often-examined root metaphor of light? Does placing it alongside colonialism immediately mark a turn to its inversion, a shift in metaphors from light to dark (for example, the “dark side” of the Enlightenment and similar variations on this ...

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Introduction: Companies, Colonies, and Their Critics

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pp. 1-20

Little could be further from the rage of an angry French philosophe or the moral gravitas of a British parliamentarian with a view to the judgment of history than the comic narcissism of Shakespeare’s Falstaff. In his efforts to woo two mistresses at once—a cheater to them both—he loses both. And yet, unlike Falstaff, many European countries did indeed trade at once, and very effectively, with two Indies, east and west. The...

Part I Denis Diderot: The Two Indies of the French Enlightenment

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1 / Doux Commerce, Douce Colonisation: Consensual Colonialism in Diderot’s Thought

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pp. 23-45

First the traveler, then the philosophe: this couplet is as important to the story of eighteenth-century intellectual history as is the revolutionary and the philosopher or the soldier and the statesman.1 As a variation on this I would also add the administrator and the philosophe as another vital pair of complementarities and antagonisms. This chapter considers...

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2 /On the Use and Abuse of Anger for Life: Ressentiment and Revenge in the Histoire des deux Indes

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pp. 46-66

Anger, hatred, revenge, ressentiment: this chapter begins a preliminary consideration of this set of closely related if distinct terms.1 Not, perhaps, a happy collation, but one important layer that recurs frequently in the thick and varied strata of the Histoire des deux Indes under the covered earth to which Diderot refers. To some it must serve as a bilious...

Part II Edmund Burke: Political Analogy and Enlightenment Critique

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3 /Between France and India in 1790: Custom and Arithmetic Reason in a Country of Conquest

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pp. 69-108

Let us cross over the English Channel and follow the current of popularity of the Histoire des deux Indes as it spread from France to one particular reader in Britain. This reader, already a noted member of Parliament and in the midst of his engagement with American affairs, found much to admire in that work. Indeed it may have aided him only...

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4 /Jacobinism in India, Indianism in English Parliament: Fearing the Enlightenment and Colonial Modernity

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pp. 109-132

Just what did Edmund Burke fear in the Jacobins of France, and what might that tell us about concurrent events taking place far off in colonial Bengal? Perhaps the question is better answered if we reverse it: Just what can colonial Bengal—or more broadly, events occurring at Britain’s mercantile colonial frontier—tell us about Burke’s fear of the emergence of...

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5 /Atlantic Revolutions and Their Indian Echoes: The Place of the Americas in Burke’s Asia Writings

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pp. 133-176

Of the two Atlantic revolutions that occurred between 1770 and 1800 in the New World, one is granted a large place by historical memory and is hailed by many in the period and after as possessing a world-historical significance: the American Revolution. The other, in the French sugar colony of St. Domingue, has until recently been pushed aside or actively ...

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Epilogue. Hating Empire Properly: European Anticolonialism at Its Limit

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pp. 177-190

What might C. L. R. James have meant by this passage, which makes the case—following a Hegelian model of consciousness, where it is the slave whose ability to grasp the concept of freedom exceeds that of his master—that the slogans of the revolution meant far more to the insurgent blacks of St. Domingue than to any Frenchman?1 If for Kant it was a...


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pp. 191-248


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pp. 249-266


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pp. 267-280

E-ISBN-13: 9780823251810
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823251803
Print-ISBN-10: 0823251802

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 7 b/w
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth