This essay re-evaluates the place of Laura Brown and Felicity Nussbaum’s The New Eighteenth Century (1987) in our historiography of our own field, arguing that its reception and ensuing debates about theory and politics in eighteenth-century studies enabled the misrecognition of the true challenge that postcolonial eighteenth-century scholarship posed to the field in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The central terms of these initial debates primed eighteenth-century scholarship to understand race and empire primarily as topics that politicized theoretical inquiry might pursue, rather than as foundational material structures that implicate us and our work in our objects of study. This narrative of field-formation, by taking the reception of The New Eighteenth Century as the template for methodological revision more generally, continues to characterize race and empire as topics that were successfully “included” decades ago rather than attend to the ongoing structural coloniality and whiteness of the field itself.


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pp. 233-248
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