Abstract and Keywords
Empire studies has largely overcome tendencies to view metropole and periphery as oppositional. Nevertheless, critics’ focus on sexual and racial forms of reciprocal cultural constitution has eclipsed analysis of how competing conceptions of social order interrogated each another at sites of cross-cultural exchange. What has chiefly escaped revision is the notion that the empire was based on an organic social model that remained fundamentally conservative despite cross-cultural contacts. In nineteenth-century Britain, organicism acquired elasticity as new forms of social mobility and inclusiveness pervaded domestic life. In the colonial context, these progressive conceptions of organicism were sometimes transformed by encounters with indigenous societies. The central argument of this essay is that nineteenth-century organic imperialism was increasingly liberalized, and was further modified by fictional representations of non-Western social order. It focuses on sea adventure fiction and two colonial novels: Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim (1899) and Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1901).
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