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He addresses both the insights and the blind spots of colonial studies in an effort to get beyond the tendency in the field to focus on a generic colonialism located sometime between 1492 and the 1960s and somewhere in the "West." Broad-ranging, cogently argued, and with a historical focus that moves from Africa to South Asia to Europe, these essays, most published here for the first time, propose a fuller engagement in the give-and-take of history, not least in the ways in which concepts usually attributed to Western universalism—including citizenship and equality—were defined and reconfigured by political mobilizations in colonial contexts. COLONIAL STUDIES AND INTERDISCIPLINARY SCHOLARSHIP1. Introduction: Colonial Questions, Historical Trajectories2. The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Colonial Studies, 1951–2001PART II. Earlier, when colonialism was an object of mobilization, scholars and intellectuals were most captivated by the drama of liberation movements and the possibilities of "modernization" and "development" for people whom colonialism and racism had excluded from the march of progress. “Makes essential points about theoretical clarity, and it is worth the price of the book. Drawing on his enormous erudition in colonial history, Cooper brings together an intellectual and a moral-political argument against a series of linked developments that privilege 'taking a stance' and in favor of studying processes of struggle through engaged scholarship."—Jane I. Conclusion: Colonialism, History, Politics Notes Index Frederick Cooper, Professor of History at New York University, is author of Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present (2002) and coeditor, with Ann Laura Stoler, of Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (California, 1997), among other books. Cooper takes on many of the standard beliefs passing as postcolonial theory and breathes fresh air onto them."—Michael Watts, Director of the Institute of International Studies, Berkeley "This is a very much needed book: on Africa, on intellectual artisanship and on engagement in emancipatory projects. Labor, Politics, and the End of Empire in French Africa8. It should be required reading for graduate historiography and seminars in comparative history / comparative empires. This book is a call to reinvigorate the critical way in which history can be written. His intellectual reach and ambition have even taken influence far beyond African studies as such, and he has become one of the major voices contributing to debates over empire, colonialism and their aftermaths. Scholars will be as impressed and enlightened by Cooper’s navigation of substantive and nuanced debates, as they will be inspired to pick up the arguments in his many controversial points.”—“In the ongoing theoretical debate about the West’s impact on the rest of the world, Frederick Cooper brings a fresh and independent perspective in this important collection of essays.” “The result is a refreshingly astringent, analytically rigorous work that should be read by anyone interested in the current state of play in this contentious field of study.”—Dane Kennedy - George Washington University "Probably the most important historian of Africa currently writing in the English language.
Yet a significant part of this body of work has taken colonial studies out of the history whose importance has just been asserted, treating colonialism abstractly, generically, as something to be juxtaposed with an equally flat vision of European "modernity." This side of the field has focused more on stance—on critical examination of the subject position of the scholar and political advocate—than on process, on how the trajectories of a colonizing Europe and a colonized Africa and Asia shaped each other over time.
Yet unbounding colonialism risks leaving us with a colonial project vaguely situated between 1492 and the 1970s, of varying contents and significance, alongside an equally atemporal "post-Enlightenment" Europe, missing the struggles that reconfigured possibilities and constraints across this period.
Part of the impetus behind the recent research and writing on colonial situations has been to ensure that this past is not forgotten.
But the colonial past is also invoked to teach a lesson about the present, serving to reveal the hypocrisy of Europe's claims to provide models of democratic politics, efficient economic systems, and a rational approach to understanding and changing the world, by connecting these very ideas to the history of imperialism.
In this closely integrated collection of essays on colonialism in world history, Frederick Cooper raises crucial questions about concepts relevant to a wide range of issues in the social sciences and humanities, including identity, globalization, and modernity. Guyer, author of Marginal Gains 1 Introduction Colonial Questions, Historical Trajectories The burst of scholarship on colonial studies in the last two decades—crossing the disciplinary boundaries of literature, anthropology, and history—has begun to fill one of the most notable blind spots in the Western world's examination of its history.
Rather than portray the past two centuries as the inevitable movement from empire to nation-state, Cooper places nationalism within a much wider range of imperial and diasporic imaginations, of rulers and ruled alike, well into the twentieth century. Yet there is something strange about the timing: scholarly interest in colonialism arose when colonial empires had already lost their international legitimacy and ceased to be viable forms of political organization.