Influence Of Colonization Politics On Modern Field Work…

678 words - 3 pages

Influence of Colonization Politics on Modern Field-work…

Hell-bent on expansion, the British Empire insisted on the exhaustive domination of one people over another, and in doing so, fostered hatred and friction between cultures in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. Cultural friction has presented a large disruption in the anthropological relationship between observer and participant in historical fieldwork, and moreover, “the bulk of social and cultural anthropological field work has been done in colonial settings” (Cohn, 1). The colonization politics of the British Empire instilled severe prejudices among people and frustrated anthropological encounters of this time and still chase after our conceptions of anthropology today.

In its most basic sense, the Empire was a mouth with a home-country belly; the greed of many individuals concentrated in one unrelenting motion to consume. Hyde identifies this insatiable urge as consequence of hoarding in lieu of sharing wealth; “an empire needs its clerks with their ledgers and their clocks saving pennies in time. The problem is that wealth ceases to move freely when all things are counted and priced” (Hyde, 22). ‘Wealth’, comprising the resources, industry and people of a nation, as demonstrated in Cohn’s article detailing the British census of India, is determined to secure power.

Power is a warped motivation for anthropological fieldwork and produces warped observer-participant relationships. The census coolly objectified Indians; statistics replaced names and numbers rudely wrenched social understandings. Indians were angered at the forced classification of their community and how ignorant foreigners ranked them. As the all-consuming hunger of the Empire disrupted conceptions of equality and mutual regard, a social poison began to spread; prejudice erupted between servants of the empire and ‘native’ peoples.

The Empire’s unrelenting appetite for wealth ignored personal experience; it rendered white men biased and broken, even as each man struggled to retain self-integrity. Angry feelings of displacement and violence were “…normal by-products of imperialism…” for Orwell and other envoys of the British Empire in India (Orwell, 2). Forced compromises between a man’s integrity and the Empire’s fabricated realities birthed racism and prejudice. Orwell was “…stuck...

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