The View From Abroad
Section Two - Representing Britishness: Culture and Identity -113
Section Two Representing Britishness: Culture and Identity Meenakshi Sharma 6 The Empire of English and Its Legacy: A Citizenship of the Mind No attempt at defining or understanding English/British identity and culture can really be considered complete if it is limited to the viewpoint of the residents of the British Isles. Representations by ‘others’ and from outside the framework of the national culture have not been given much attention in existing debates around English/British identity and culture. The view from outside, and especially of those who were part of the Brit- ish empire as colonial subjects, provides an important perspective to these definitions. In Englishness: Politics and Culture, 1880–1920, Robert Colls and Philip Dodd admit that an account of ‘what the Empire or a part of it, thought of the English’ would have made their treatment of the idea of Englishness more complete.1 The centuries of imperial expansion had great significance in the cultural self-constitution and self-representation for the British; in Robert Young’s words, ‘colonialism, in the British example, was not simply a marginal activity on the edges of English civilisation, but fundamental in its own cultural self-representation’.2 Dodd regards the ‘ability to represent both itself to others and those others to themselves’ as characteristic of ‘the dominant version of Englishness’ that was author- ized during the emergence of the idea towards the end of the nineteenth century and in the early years of the twentieth century.3 At the same time, colonialism and imperialism brought other peoples around the...
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