Manchester Studies in Imperialism

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The tense of citizenship
Ben Silverstein

This final chapter examines the settler colonial futurity of the Aboriginal New Deal, with its end in an Aboriginal citizenship that was to mark, for the Australian state, the erasure of Aboriginality. It focuses on the ways this future was confounded not just by contradictions internal to the practice of Aboriginal administration but also by Aboriginal insistence on the continued practice of sovereignty and jurisdiction over, and in relation to, land. At a time (in 2018) when the constitutional recognition of Indigenous people in Australia has produced a new crisis, these questions of futurity are both pressing and unresolved. This chapter suggests that rather than turning to governmental strategies of containment, a decolonising practice might instead sit uneasily with this lack of resolution, opening up possible futures that cannot yet be imagined.

in Governing natives
Transforming indirect rule
Ben Silverstein

This chapter traces a textual genealogy of indirect rule as an art of government, beginning in the mid-nineteenth-century moment of imperial crisis and tracing its development through the work and writing of Arthur Gordon in Fiji and Frederick Lugard in Nigeria. It describes indirect rule as emerging from a conception of ‘native society’ that characterised a specific political rationality, working to articulate those landholding ‘native societies’ with either settler-owned plantations or British mercantile capital. The chapter emphasises the role of administrators’ writing, particularly that of Lugard, in popularising indirect rule as a mobile art of government which could be abstracted from the specificities of the colonial formation and deemed applicable as a functional and benevolent approach to distinct articulations.

in Governing natives
Conflict and crisis, 1918–45
Ben Silverstein

This chapter examines the contradictions inherent in the pastoralism that was so critical to the Northern Territory. Pastoral production was, in its interwar iteration, heavily dependent on cheap Aboriginal labour. At the same time, it depended for its profitability on a rate of exploitation that eroded the capacity of Aboriginal workers to stay alive. This was a material contradiction in which the relations of production mitigated against the reproduction of labour and, therefore, the reproduction of pastoral production itself. Pastoralism was destroying its condition of possibility, a contradiction registered in the Payne–Fletcher Inquiry, which reported in 1937 on the failing production of the Northern Territory. This crisis demanded a reconsideration of the relationship between settler societies and Aboriginal peoples, a new mode of managing the articulation of communities and of modes of production, a reconfigured colonial social formation in the north. And this revision was effected through a turn to understand the Northern Territory differently, to contextualise it within the British Empire as much as it was situated within a White Australia, and therefore to bring Australia into that transcolonial discussion on native administration and frame its governing practice within that conversation.

in Governing natives
Colonial transformations and a governmental event
Ben Silverstein

The 1930s was a time of crisis in Australia’s Northern Territory. This chapter approaches that crisis first through the problem of jurisdictional ordering faced by patrol officers like Ted Strehlow, who encountered Indigenous laws and sovereignties that were beyond their control. The chapter describes indirect rule as an art of government to which Australian administrators turned to resolve some of these crises, in the interests of a developing northern settler colonialism.

in Governing natives
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Anthropologising Aborigines
Ben Silverstein

This chapter examines Donald Thomson’s Australian discovery of ‘native society’ in Arnhem Land, representing the recognition of Indigenous difference in the north. In 1933, Aboriginal people at Woodah Island in eastern Arnhem Land killed a policeman who was ostensibly in the area to investigate previous killings of Japanese men who had intruded into Yolngu country. Aboriginal legal responses, including violence, disabused settlers of the notion that their governing capacity was possessed of an omnipotent sovereignty. This was an administrative crisis, in which public power lacked the capacity to govern effectively in its own terms. While a range of responses to Yolngu action were considered, including another police party, an ultimately abandoned punitive mission, and a successful missionary peace party, this chapter examines Donald Thomson’s deployment to investigate and report on Yolngu law and custom. His narration of the discovery of ‘native society’ in Australia populated the terrain of northern government in the official mind of Australian settler colonialism. Identifying the anthropological ‘native society’ in the north was the governing correlate of the recognition of the Northern Territory’s colonial difference traced in Chapter 3. It established Aboriginal presence, inciting a turn to indirect rule as the art of governing native society without pushing it to disorder.

in Governing natives
Decolonisation, Globalisation, and International Responsibility

This book is about the impact of decolonisation on British society in the 1960s. It moves away from the traditional focus on cultural, media, and governmental archives to analyse public agency and civic forms of engagement with the declining empire. Through a close examination of middle-class associational life it broadens our understanding of who had a stake in decolonisation while also revealing the optimism and enthusiasm with which members of the British public developed visions for a post-imperial global role. By studying a wide range of associational organisations this book shows that globalisation and decolonisation opened up new opportunities for international engagement for middle-aged members of middle-class society. In the 1960s for many participants in associational life it became a civic duty to engage, understand, and intervene to help the shrinking world in which they lived. This book uncovers how associations and organisations acted on this sense of duty, developing projects that promoted friendship and hospitality as the foundations of world peace, visions for secular and religious forms of humanitarianism that encouraged relationships of both sympathy and solidarity with those in the global South, and plans to increase international understanding through educative activities. This book will be useful to scholars of modern British history, particularly those with interests in empire, internationalism, and civil society. The book is also designed to be accessible to undergraduates studying these areas.

Anna Bocking-Welch

Chapter 5 uses the work of Christian Aid to address the neglect of religious institutions in histories of the domestic impact of decolonisation. It shows how the complex interplay between domestic and international contexts determined the everyday experiences of religious humanitarian action. Christian Aid was shaped by post-war European reconstruction, by changing attitudes towards overseas missionary work, by the increasingly multiracial makeup of the World Council of Churches, by debates about the meaning of Christianity in modern Britain, and by long-standing rhythms of religious associational life. Its work reveals how religious organisations adapted in the face of decolonisation and capitalised on humanitarianism as a way of encouraging greater participation in religious activities. Christian Aid played certain dimensions of their imperial connections to their advantage, while simultaneously distancing themselves from those dimensions that were losing public support.

in British civic society at the end of empire
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Anna Bocking-Welch

For most of the people discussed in this book decolonisation did not represent a crisis. This conclusion explains that for participants in middle-class associational life, the literal shrinking of Britain’s empire was not inherently more important than the figurative shrinking of a world brought together by the forces of globalisation. The geopolitical interconnectedness that followed the Second World War, in conjunction with the expansion of international mobility in the 1950s and 1960s, produced a sense of global closeness that was at least as important as decolonisation in determining associational forms of international engagement. These two processes were interrelated and interacting; each contributed to a dynamic of anxiety and optimism that shaped ideas about civic responsibility in this period. Participants in associational life called upon experiences from the recent imperial past to mitigate anxieties about the globalising present while simultaneously using the increased opportunities for international communication and collaboration represented by the globalising present to mitigate anxieties about the loss of empire. At the heart of this dynamic was the idea of a benevolent global role.

in British civic society at the end of empire
Anna Bocking-Welch

Chapter 3 addresses the emotional history of international engagement, focusing on projects designed to develop familiarity and intimacy across international boundaries. It uses the international activities of the Women’s Institute and the Rotary Club to explore these issues. The projects discussed fall into two categories: providing hospitality to foreign visitors (particularly overseas students) and building friendships with people living overseas. It illustrates how imperial legacies determined not only the geographies of these connections but also the hierarchical structures through which they were conceived. Put simply, the possibility of equal or reciprocal friendship was determined to a considerable degree by the colour of one’s skin. The hospitality work of the Rotary Club and Women’s Institute also illustrates how affective relationships were shaped by local and state priorities. Through their interaction with the British Council, Rotary and the Women’s Institute became agents in state projects of soft diplomacy that sought to improve relations with the Commonwealth.

in British civic society at the end of empire
Anna Bocking-Welch

Chapter 1 is about the promotion of the Commonwealth as a model for international cooperation. Using the activities of the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), it assesses the afterlife of empire as it was lived by those who had been the most involved. Negotiating the transition from Empire to Commonwealth was a complex process and this chapter is about the difficulty of adaptation. This is not a story of triumphant success – the membership of the RCS was an ageing cohort, often more interested in sociability than public engagement. But neither is it a story of outright failure. Many found scope for optimism by reflecting on the possibilities of the new modern Commonwealth. This chapter shows that the Commonwealth was not merely an ‘imperial hangover’ – the preservation of tradition to soothe those who had been invested in the imperial project – but that it also provided the foundation for new forms of cooperative partnership that informed many of the international engagement activities discussed in the later chapters.

in British civic society at the end of empire