Britishness, respectability, and imperial citizenship
Charles V. Reed
Chapter four explores how a modern politics and mass culture were mobilised by Western-educated respectables of colour in southern Africa and the British Raj to make claim on Britishness and imperial citizenship. In particular, it explores how historical actors such as Francis Z.S. Peregrino, Viswanath Narayan Mandalik, John Tengo Jabavu, and Mohandas Gandhi, participated in the networks of a British imperial world and in the making of a British imperial culture. Through the circuits of empire, respectables of colour came to identify themselves as members of a global community of ‘natives’ and Britishers and invested their notions of respectability in the promises of an imperial citizenship. Using the rich resources of independent African and South Asian newspapers, which covered and editorialised the royal tours with enthusiasm and at length, the chapter examines how South African and South Asian respectables claimed a more genuine understanding of British constitutionalism than the governments in Cape Town or Calcutta and through this understanding advocated a non-racial respectable status and an imperial citizenship.
The final chapter examines the royal tour through the lens of the 1911 coronation durbar and its aftermath. It argues that the durbar represented both the political and cultural pinnacle of the ritual apparatus developed during the second half of the nineteenth century, but also the ways in which it was unravelling in the years before the First World War. It also demonstrated how imperial culture was made by complex modes of reception and appropriation, how ideas about empire, citizenship, and identity were forged in encounters and experiences ‘on the ground’, as it were, and how colonial knowledge was always imperfect and partial.
Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World, 1860-1911 examines the ritual space of nineteenth-century royal tours of empire and the diverse array of historical actors who participated in them. The book is a tale of royals who were ambivalent and bored partners in the project of empire; colonial administrators who used royal ceremonies to pursue a multiplicity of projects and interests or to imagine themselves as African chiefs or heirs to the Mughal emperors; local princes and chiefs who were bullied and bruised by the politics of the royal tour, even as some of them used the tour to symbolically appropriate or resist British cultural power; and settlers of European descent and people of colour in the empire who made claims on the rights and responsibilities of imperial citizenship and as co-owners of Britain’s global empire. Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World suggests that the diverse responses to the royal tours of the nineteenth century demonstrate how a multi-centred British-imperial culture was forged in the empire and was constantly made and remade, appropriated and contested. In this context, subjects of empire provincialized the British Isles, centring the colonies in their political and cultural constructions of empire, Britishness, citizenship, and loyalty.