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ERIC Number: ED525015
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 276
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1095-7589-7
"That Indefinable Something Besides": Southern Africa, British Identity, and the Authorial Informant, 1883-1924
Free, Melissa
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This project examines the role of southern Africa (from the Cape to the Zambezi) in the constitution of British identity from the rise of the systematic exploitation of the region's mineral deposits through the close of World War One. Reading a wide variety of print culture produced by South Africa's "authorial informants"--British authors who spent time there and wrote about it as insiders--this dissertation argues that the territory's emergence from the sidelines to the foreground of imperial consciousness was at once a material and a discursive event. As constructed by Olive Schreiner, Rider Haggard, Gertrude Page, Rudyard Kipling, and John Buchan, South Africa has little in common with either the undiscovered Africa of the early- and mid-Victorian imagination or the Belgian Congo of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," the default text of Victorian, modernist, and postcolonial studies for interpreting British perceptions of Africa in this period. Exaggerating the region's differences from the rest of Africa and its similarities to England, these self-styled experts characterize South Africa not by darkness but by light; not by regression but by progression; not by danger but by opportunity; not by exoticism, blackness, or indigeneity, but by sameness, whiteness, and Britishness. They generate, thus, a mythology of an elsewhere England, elusively enhanced, like its British residents, by "that indefinable something besides." While postcolonial scholars of cultural hybridity have revised the notion of hermetic English- and Britishness, they have neglected to interrogate the persistent power of this lingering mythology. Seeking to rectify this oversight, my project suggests that South African Britishness, cast as a model of British integrity, is at once augmentation and inversion: a reaction to both the domestic diversity that it rejects and the indigenous influence to which it claims to be impervious. Symbolically supplemental to a metropolitan Britishness that it ostensibly replicates yet implicitly critiques, South African Britishness is unconstrained, not only by the limits of the past but also by the pressures of the future. Generic innovation from Schreiner to Buchan reflects the mediation of tradition and modernity in South African space. Eschewing conventional gender roles in their interactions with Africans, British women in South Africa simultaneously bolster the Empire and liberate themselves. Confronting unfamiliar challenges to longstanding racial hierarchies, British men affirm the soundness of personal value systems correlated to Empire. The assertion of authority for the South African colonial, thus, is predicated not simply on Britishness, but on the situated negotiation of gender and race. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Africa