Manu Samriti Chandler

Nineteenth-century British Guiana witnessed the rise of multiple, conflicting reading audiences, who collided over matters political and aesthetic. The colonial situation was complicated: Afro-creole Guianese periodical culture was defined directly in opposition to the oral cultures of native Blacks and Indians, who were understood to be objects of discussion but never serious participants within the public sphere. Discussing the representation of oral traditions across a range of missionary texts and Guianese journals, this chapter demonstrates the ways in which the ‘reading nation’ is constructed against the speaking tribe, grounding ideas of humanity in the capacity to read and thereby participate fully in the social life of the colony. Focusing on the poetry of Egbert Martin (1861–90), the chapter argues that the Guianese literati capitalised on assumptions about Black and Indian natives’ illiteracy to signal to European audiences the relative value of Guianese readers and writers, and to substantiate claims of ‘Creole indigeneity’ at the expense of Indigenous peoples. By way of conclusion, the chapter suggests that decolonising cultural recognition not only involves the refusal of recognition from the Global North but also offering recognition to Amerindian communities.

in Worlding the south
The island as collective in the works of Louis Becke
Jennifer Fuller

This chapter repositions the overlooked short stories of Australian-born author Louis Becke as a colonial experiment in archipelagic writing. By examining the stories as a collective, readers are able to view the South Seas of the colonial imagination as a networked vision defined by circulation and exchange. To this end, this chapter offers a reading of each of the stories of Becke’s first collection, By Reef and Palm (1894), allowing readers to construct a literary world. By shifting between story and anthology, the singular tale and the collective experience, Becke attempts to narrate the process of globalisation. By refusing to allow a single narrative or viewpoint to dominate the collection, Becke moves readers into a network of literature than can only be fully understood in an interdependent, transoceanic context.

in Worlding the south
Literary appreciation, comparatism, and universalism in the Straits Chinese Magazine
Porscha Fermanis

This chapter considers the ways in which the Straits Chinese Magazine (est. 1897) negotiates the dual commitment to comparatism and universalism that underpinned late-nineteenth-century justifications of empire. Focusing on cultural forms of knowledge such as linguistic standardisation, vernacular education, literary appreciation, and canonicity, it argues that the idea of a ‘universal subject’ is mobilised by the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia to minimise the fetishisation of Chinese difference, to situate Chinese culture within European comparative frameworks, and to produce an equivalence of cultural judgement and taste. Yet despite its apparent investment in the logic and rhetoric of imperial liberalism, the magazine’s intense engagement with the asymmetries of liberal thought turns European comparatism on its head, encouraging a reversal of the comparative gaze and an exposition of the defective use of empirical methodologies by European comparatists. The magazine’s desire to establish commensurability between Chinese and European worlds is therefore ultimately read as part of an anticolonial project, one that exposes the Eurocentric grounds on which comparisons are made at a time when the increasingly racialised regulation of imperial citizenship undermined the possibility of self-determination for Asian subjects within the British Empire.

in Worlding the south
Open Access (free)
Elleke Boehmer

Centring its insights in the border-traversing, world-opening capacities of imaginative southern writing and reading, this chapter offers a closing meditation on some of the more elusive meanings and heuristics of the south that the collection calls up. Inspired by the same critical orientations that the collection explores, it questions the extent to which the conceptual and historical remoteness of the south can ever be fully perceived and understood in geo-epistemological terms, arguing that southness will perhaps always elude northern analysis to some degree, its local and indigenous detail always slipping just beyond the frame. Efforts to re-territorialise global intellectual production therefore face a significant philosophical challenge that cannot be solved by a critical theory predicated on dominant northern constructs. To see the ‘south in the world’ means not just contemplating the world from the various perspectives and orientations of its different southerly regions and their histories, but also looking to the side, beyond ‘centres in modernity’, towards ‘composite and overlapping’ Black and Indigenous realities. The south thus both invites and makes possible archipelagic readings and heuristics, encouraging us to think connectively and fluidly through and across its spaces. Resistance emerges out of the structural flaws, gaps, broken links, and ellipses that are endemic to any colonial-type assertion of planetary consciousness.

in Worlding the south
Open Access (free)
Antipodean life as a comparative exercise
Sarah Comyn

This chapter explores one of the most potent of the European fictions or myths surrounding the south: the Antipodes. The north’s construction of the south as upside down or back-to-front with ‘feet’ facing the ‘wrong’ direction, the Antipodes proved a powerful metaphor through which settlers in Australia could critique both the colonial political establishment and the British metropole. Examining the poetry, fiction, letters, and illustrated articles in a range of newspapers from nineteenth-century Australia, this chapter demonstrates the extent to which the cartographic, corporeal, and metaphoric inversion associated with the Antipodes not only shaped what Paul Giles identifies as a ‘heightened form of comparative consciousness’ in the southern colonies, but was also re-inscribed in newspaper depictions of settler life, moving from the map to the routines and domesticities, as well as the culture and politics, of settlers’ day-to-day experiences. A practice of antipodean reorientation could be used by people living in and writing from the south as a way of writing back to the north, challenging both the cultural hierarchies and hegemonies of the metropolitan north, and the north’s preconception of the south as topsy-turvy and belated.

in Worlding the south
Open Access (free)
Settler emigration, the voyage out, and shipboard literary production
Fariha Shaikh

This chapter explores the spatialising methodologies of shipboard periodicals produced on three ships as they voyaged between Britain and Australia across the oceanic expanses of the southern hemisphere in the mid-nineteenth century: the Sobraon, the Somersetshire, and the True Briton. By the 1860s, newspapers produced on board the ship by passengers between Britain and the Antipodes were a regular affair: fair copies of newspapers were produced by hand and distributed around the ship, or, if the ship carried a printing press, newspapers were produced at sea. This chapter embeds maritime literary culture, and the production of shipboard periodicals, within some of the key ideological frameworks of settler colonial discourse. It argues that if the production of shipboard periodicals produced sociability at sea, then this sociability was also embedded in settler discourses of race and power.

in Worlding the south
Wordlists, songs, and knowledge production on the colonial Australian frontier
Anna Johnston

Colonial linguistic studies are fascinating textual sources that reveal much about everyday life and knowledge production under frontier conditions. Gender also influenced the conditions of language learning and cultural exchange. This chapter uses the archival traces left by two women in colonial Australia to explore the relationship between language study and knowledge production, paying particular attention to linguistic texts that reveal traces of cross-cultural relationships and the Indigenous intermediaries who engaged in knowledge-making practices. Eliza Hamilton Dunlop learnt languages in New South Wales in the 1840s, and published poetry that included Indigenous vocabulary. Harriott Barlow lived on the Queensland frontier in the late 1860s, and she worked with local Indigenous people to make one of the first language studies of the region, published in one of Britain’s leading anthropological journals. These intimate exchanges on colonial frontiers reveal the imbrication of language collection, knowledge production, Indigenous engagement, and settler advocacy, and determined in what forms these issues emerged from the colonial south to influence imperial print culture.

in Worlding the south
Reading Robinson Crusoe in colonial New Zealand
Jane Stafford

This chapter examines the influence of British literary models on colonial and Indigenous readings practices. Robinson Crusoe was widely read in colonial New Zealand, and widely cited as a model for successful settlement. It was translated into te reo Māori (the Māori language) in 1852 in the hope that Crusoe’s qualities of industriousness and self-reliance might be influential. As far as can be gauged, Māori readers were cautious in their response. The colonist Henry Weekes hoped to emulate Crusoe when in 1845 he bought an island, Puketutu, in the Manakau Harbour, near Auckland. But, as he records in his journal, despite patronage and support from the local Māori of Ihumātao and the assistance of his ‘Friday’, a Pākehā (European) servant, his efforts were unsuccessful.

in Worlding the south
Louisa Atkinson’s recasting of the Australian landscape
Grace Moore

In 1857 Louisa Atkinson became the first Australian-born woman to publish a novel, Gertrude the Emigrant. Atkinson was already an accomplished nature writer and illustrator whose botanical columns appeared regularly in the Sydney press. Her novels are notable for their detailed attention to Australian plant life, while her bushscapes are remarkably vivid, and several of her works feature dramatic accounts of bushfires. As a naturalist, Atkinson was particularly attuned to outback ecology, and fire scenes are much more than fleeting plot devices designed to bring about dramatic rescues. She resists the settler propensity to contain the landscape by representing it through a lens of the sublime, revelling in its difference, rather than attempting to understand it on European terms. Drawing on Atkinson’s nature writing as well as her fiction, this chapter will examine her depictions of bushfire and land clearances to critique settler understandings of the Australian natural world. Focusing particularly on her fire stories, it will consider how her depictions of fire are distinct from those of her contemporaries and how her writings promote respect for the bush, and critique what Rob Nixon has termed the ‘slow violence’ of settler culture.

in Worlding the south
Rachael Weaver

This chapter traces the development of the colonial kangaroo hunt as a transnational narrative genre. John Hunter’s First Fleet journal (1793) presented the generic conventions that came to define the colonial kangaroo hunt narrative: casting the kangaroo as fitting quarry and giving an exciting account of the chase and the kill. The chapter goes on to map the subsequent transnationalisation of the kangaroo as scientific details and live specimens were shipped back to Europe. Zoological gardens and acclimatisation societies in Europe contributed to the development of the kangaroo hunt as a recognised recreational activity outside Australia. The kangaroo hunt was absorbed into a global narrative to do with travel and adventure, which also informed readers about species biodiversity in the Global South. These themes were explored in novels by Sarah Bowdich Lee and Emilia Marryat Norris, which are analysed alongside narratives and artworks by Europeans who visited Australia to take part in kangaroo hunts. The chapter concludes that –whether encountered when exploring, wandering, bivouacking, settling, or hunting professionally – the kangaroo hunt is represented as an essential experience both in colonial Australia and abroad, one that unfolds in the contexts of imperialism and empire, military occupation, exploration and settlement, developments in the natural sciences, and transnational narratives of adventure.

in Worlding the south