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Colonizing Children: Dramas of Transformation Melanie Eckford-Prossor Neidier imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act of accumulation and acquisition. Bom are supported and perhaps even impelled by impressive ideological formations mat include notions diat certain territories and people require and beseech domination , as well as forms of knowledge affiliated widi domination: the vocabulary of classic nineteendi-century imperial culture is plentiful widi words and concepts like "inferior" or "subject races," "subordinate peoples," "dependency," "expansion," and "audiority." Out of me imperial experiences, notions about culture were clarified, reinforced, criticized, or rejected. Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism "Tha' shapes well enough at it for a young 'un mat's lived wim heamen." Ben Weadierstaff in Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden Postcolonialism has set itself the task of analyzing the methods and consequences of imperialism and colonialism, which Edward Said distinguishes thusly: "'Imperialism' means the practice, the theory, and me attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory; 'colonialism,' JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 30.2 (Summer 2000): 237-262. Copyright © 2000 by JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory. 238 INT which is almost always a consequence of imperialism, is the implanting of settlements on distant territory"(9). The function and place of these settlements , the consequences of colonial domination of "native" populations, and the changes wrought by the colonial power on the dominated land as well as its own homeland are the sorts of issues investigated by postcolonialism , as is the exploration of constructed subjectivity. This essay begins from the imperialist commonplace that describes colonized peoples as, among other things, children, a description that legitimates and necessitates colonialism. In '"The Child' in Post-Colonial Theory" Jo-Ann Wallace investigates the "investment in the figure of 'the child' . . . [which] makes thinkable both nineteenth-century English colonialist imperialism and many twentieth-century forms of resistance to imperialism" (171). She connects these investments to contradictory discourses that establish the child as "the not yet fully evolved or consequential subject" (176) which exhibits both "innate goodness and... [the] need of strict training in self-discipline" (174). But what happens if we invert this vision of colonized people as children? What happens if we posit childhood itself, and children, as the colonized? For Wallace, the figure of the child was a precondition for Imperialism. What I am suggesting is the opposite: Imperialism is the precondition for this concept of "childhood." By studying depictions of children in literature written for adults as well as that written for children and by examining the discrepancies between such literatures and the disciplinary practices of other fields, such as psychology and psychiatry, we can see how these fields compete as social practices linked by a rhetoric of empire. These social practices result in the colonization of children and a fascination with the mechanism of colonization even in adult authors not often connected to children. Consider, for instance, the figure of men involved in education which occurs in "adult" texts such as Women in Love or Passage to India. These ideological strategies of colonization occur within literature written by and for adults, such as the high modernists Woolf and Joyce and Forster, as well as literature written for children, such as Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and Rudyard Kipling's Kim, arguably two of the most influential pieces of children's literature written during the inception of Modernism and the changing of colonialism. At issue are the multiple ways in which children are colonized by various discourses which purport to understand them. Colonizing Children 239 Although nineteenth century imperialist practices have waned in the twentieth century in the most obvious way—in the abolition of dependent colonies—they remain in one of the dominant languages that helps people conceptualize and discuss childhood. Much as colonizers group the colonized into the physical state of the "Orient," individual children with individual differences are grouped into the temporal state of childhood. Because such a broad classification erases individual and group difference, the space it opens reaffirms the dominance of the colonizers' language and strategies of colonization. We can see tiiis in fiction which Said aligns with the empire's ability to engage in imperialism (Said, Culture 9). Fiction written in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9248
Print ISSN
1549-0815
Pages
pp. 237-262
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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