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  • Author or Editor: Dominic Davies x
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Dominic Davies

Between 1880 and 1930, the British Empire’s vast infrastructural developments facilitated the incorporation of large parts of the globe into not only its imperial rule, but also the capitalist world-system. Throughout this period, colonial literary fiction, in recording this vast expansion, repeatedly cited these imperial infrastructures to make sense of the various colonial landscapes in which they were set. Physical embodiments of empire proliferate in this writing. Railways and trains, telegraph wires and telegrams, roads and bridges, steamships and shipping lines, canals and other forms of irrigation, cantonments, the colonial bungalow, and other kinds of colonial urban infrastructure – all of these infrastructural lines broke up the landscape and gave shape to the literary depiction and production of colonial space.

By developing a methodology called «infrastructural reading», the author shows how a focus on the infrastructural networks that circulate through colonial fiction are almost always related to some form of anti-imperial resistance that manifests spatially within their literary, narrative and formal elements. This subversive reading strategy – which is applied in turn to writers as varied as H. Rider Haggard, Olive Schreiner and John Buchan in South Africa, and Flora Annie Steel, E.M. Forster and Edward Thompson in India – demonstrates that these mostly pro-imperial writings can reveal an array of ideological anxieties, limitations and silences as well as more direct objections to and acts of violent defiance against imperial control and capitalist accumulation.

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Fighting Words

Fifteen Books that Shaped the Postcolonial World

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Edited by Dominic Davies, Erica Lombard and Benjamin Mountford

Can a book change the world? If books were integral to the creation of the imperial global order, what role have they played in resisting that order throughout the twentieth century? To what extent have theories and movements of anti-imperial and anticolonial resistance across the planet been shaped by books as they are read across the world?

This updated edition of Fighting Words responds to these questions by examining how the book as a cultural form has fuelled resistance to empire in the long twentieth century. Through fifteen case studies that bring together literary, historical and book historical perspectives, this collection explores the ways in which books have circulated anti-imperial ideas, as they themselves have circulated as objects and commodities within regional, national and transnational networks. What emerges is a complex portrait of the vital and multifaceted role played by the book in both the formation and the form of anticolonial resistance, and the development of the postcolonial world.