Modern empire was not an aberrant supplement to the history of modernity but rather its constituent part (Partha Chatterjee, 2012)

“Modern empire was not an aberrant supplement to the history of modernity but rather its constituent part.”

These words are from the preface of The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power (2012) by Partha Chatterjee.

What conceptual framework drove the British to establish themselves in Long Branch?

The above-noted book is of interest as it helps a person to understand, and comprehend, the historical frame of reference that prompted Europeans to settle in Long Branch (Toronto not New Jersey) starting in the late 1700s. By coincidence, that was about the time that Norway rats first arrived in North America from Europe.

The blurb at the Toronto Public Library for the above-noted book reads:

  • When Siraj, the ruler of Bengal, overran the British settlement of Calcutta in 1756, he allegedly jailed 146 European prisoners overnight in a cramped prison. Of the group, 123 died of suffocation. While this episode was never independently confirmed, the story of “the black hole of Calcutta” was widely circulated and seen by the British public as an atrocity committed by savage colonial subjects. The Black Hole of Empire follows the ever-changing representations of this historical event and founding myth of the British Empire in India, from the eighteenth century to the present. Partha Chatterjee explores how a supposed tragedy paved the ideological foundations for the “civilizing” force of British imperial rule and territorial control in India.
  • Chatterjee takes a close look at the justifications of modern empire by liberal thinkers, international lawyers, and conservative traditionalists, and examines the intellectual and political responses of the colonized, including those of Bengali nationalists. The two sides of empire’s entwined history are brought together in the story of the Black Hole memorial: set up in Calcutta in 1760, demolished in 1821, restored by Lord Curzon in 1902, and removed in 1940 to a neglected churchyard. Challenging conventional truisms of imperial history, nationalist scholarship, and liberal visions of globalization, Chatterjee argues that empire is a necessary and continuing part of the history of the modern state.

[End of text]

Modernity and the ‘perpetually alluring’ film noir genre

The topics of modernity and postmodernity, which are concerned with the application of instrumental reason, cover a lot of ground.

The history of the genre of filmmaking known as film noir can be approached from many frames of reference. Film Noir: Hard-Boiled Modernity and the Cultures of Globalization (2010) by Jennifer Fay and Justus Nieland speaks in this context of modernity and a related term, namely “disembodying.”

I was pleased to encounter a discussion of Sin City (2005) in the above-noted book, a film that I first encountered in a film and sound editing course I recently completed at Ryerson University. The book also mentions Raymond Chandler and William Faulkner, both of whom have a connection to Canadian military history.

Blurbs are a great way to get up to speed on any book or topic. The blurb at the Toronto Public Library for Film Noir (2010) reads:

  • The term “film noir” still conjures images of a uniquely American malaise: hard-boiled detectives, fatal women, and the shadowy hells of urban life. But from its beginnings, film noir has been an international phenomenon, and its stylistic icons have migrated across the complex geo-political terrain of world cinema. This book traces film noir’s emergent connection to European cinema, its movement within a cosmopolitan culture of literary and cinematic translation, and its postwar consolidation in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.
  • The authors examine how film noir crosses national boundaries, speaks to diverse international audiences, and dramatizes local crimes and the crises of local spaces in the face of global phenomena like world-wide depression, war, political occupation, economic and cultural modernization, decolonization, and migration. This fresh study of film noir and global culture also discusses film noir’s heterogeneous style and revises important scholarly debates about this perpetually alluring genre.


A Nov. 29, 2013 Independent article is entitled: “Revealed: How British Empire’s dirty secrets went up in smoke in the colonies: Thousands of confidential papers were destroyed as British rule neared its end in many colonies.”

A Feb. 24, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Privately educated elite continues to take top jobs, finds survey: Privately schooled people still dominate law, politics, medicine and journalism despite signs of progress, says Sutton Trust.”

A Sept. 26, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: The racist ideas of slave owners are still with us today: The surge in hate crime since the Brexit vote is one legacy of an overlooked period of British history.”

A Sept. 27, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Prince William gets lesson in colonialism, cultural genocide at Black Rod ceremony: ‘The current Crown approach of deny and delay cannot continue,’ Grand Chief Ed John tells Prince William.”

An Oct. 7, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Britain’s view of its history ‘dangerous’, says former museum director: Neil MacGregor, once of British Museum, says Britain has focus on ‘sunny side’ rather than German-like appraisal of past.”


1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    An Oct. 18, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Racial identity is a biological nonsense, says Reith lecturer: Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah says race and nationality are social inventions being used to cause deadly divisions.”


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