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A Post-colonial History of Colonialism

This book contributes to the post-colonial endeavour to make parochial a Eurocentric understanding of colonial history and its legacies.27 We do so, however, not from the stance of post-colonial subjects. As scholars we are each positioned within post-empire constructions of whiteness and Western identity, albeit complicated through those very mobilities of empire that shape many of our historical subjects lives.28 However, we each bring to this volume a deep engagement with colonial pasts as historians of gender, race and colonialism. This pre-figured our growing awareness that in the cracks and crevices of the colonial contact zone bordered by imperial Christianity, faith-based cross-cultural networks of affect and agency were shaping new patterns of civility and co-existence. These networks, as the case studies considered here reveal, not only straddle the colonial divides of race and creed, but also challenge some of the assumptions built into our own historical understanding of what it meant to be ‘anti-colonial’ or ‘cosmopolitan’ during this period. Such understandings are often derived either from the records and activities of states, great leaders and large international organisations or from evidence of subaltern mobilities and engagements. Here, we trace the lives of people neither plebeian nor famous; conservative or radical. Some fit the ‘colonised subject’ tag, and others, the ‘coloniser’. But all were active in webs of connection, voluntary associations and activism that helped open up new ways of talking and thinking about cosmopolitan co-existence and showed these dual categories to be not only interrelated but interpersonally experienced as well.29

As we show in this book, race assumes myriad forms in interpersonal dialogues and exchanges across racial divides. Our focus on the diverse cosmopolitanisms articulated within liberal transnational networks of faith is not intended to reduce or ignore the centrality of race and especially hegemonic whiteness, underpinning the spaces and subjectivities these networks formed within and through. Rather, we seek to explore how new forms of cosmopolitanism could be articulated despite the awkward complicities and liminalities individuals and cosmopolitan thought zones inhabited. It is exactly this complexity between authentic otherness and universal sameness that energises the individuals and networks described in the following pages, and, we hope, our writing of them.

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