Adom Getachew, 21 May 2020
Priyamvada Gopal’s focus isn’t on the ways colonial subjects negotiated, resisted and reclaimed the empire, so much as on the ways in which imperial crisis awakened dissent at the metropolitan centre. She mounts a powerful challenge to the notion that anticolonial resistance was born of an education in British notions of liberty. The ‘well-worn “Caliban” model’, as she puts it, in which the slave denounces slavery in the master’s language, reinforces a Whig history in which the British Empire can claim credit for its own dissolution. This myth ‘choked and stifled’ British politics, C.L.R. James argued. The possibility of remaking imperial relations was constantly thwarted by the inability of the colonial class to imagine that anything that happened in the colonies could ‘instruct or inspire the peoples of the advanced countries in their own management of their own affairs’.