introduction
[Resistance to Imperialism] cannot occur without the willingness of men and women
to resist the pressures of colonial rule, to take up arms, to project ideas of liberation,
and to imagine (as Benedict Anderson has it) a new national community . . . Nor can
they occur unless either economic or political exhaustion with empire and the cost of
colonial rule are challenged publicly, unless the representations of imperialism begin
to lose their justification and legitimacy, and, finally, unless the rebellious ‘natives’
impress upon the metropolitan culture the independence and integrity of their own
culture, free from colonial encroachment.—Edward Said
Organizing Empire: Individualism, Collective Agency, and India seeks to demon-
strate the complexity and (in)commensurability of the multiple narra-
tives which constitute our access to British colonial history. It insists that
dominant and widely circulated Raj histories and memoirs can be read
against the more obscured practices and narratives of nationalist and
popular anticolonial activists and
organizations.∞ Such an investigation
raises questions regarding the nature of dominance, hegemony, and
resistance, particularly concerning the subjects who make history—in
every sense of the phrase—and the ways in which the agents of struggle
can or cannot be recognized within elite-imperial narratives. I explore
these questions historically through archival materials including par-
liamentary debates, popular colonial histories, newsletters of organiza-
tions, biographies, and novels. The chapters of this book share a the-
matic and theoretical treatment of individualism and collective agency. I
argue that the figure of the individual provides both the means by which
repressive colonial and neocolonial power works to displace its own
recognition of its constitutive violence and also ways to theorize feminist
and nationalist resistance.
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