Introduction: Empires and Emotions

  • Harald Fischer-TinéEmail author
  • Christine Whyte
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


This book argues that the history of colonial empires has been shaped to a considerable extent by negative emotions such as anxiety, fear and embarrassment, as well as by the regular occurrence of panics. The studies collected in this volume examine the various ways in which panics and anxieties were generated in imperial situations and how they shook up the dynamics between seemingly all-powerful colonizers and the apparently defenceless colonized. Certain shared themes and features can be discerned. In particular, the pathologization of so-called native populations of colonized people as naturally violent, secretive, ignorant or hyper-emotional by colonial administrators lent itself to a continual state of anxiety over the potential loss of control. This pathologization, of course, was part of an overarching imperial ‘politics of difference’ that played out on various levels. The construction of bodies of scientific knowledge that accompanied the spread of colonial rule was one of them. Imperial knowledge generation sought to explain the difficulties encountered in colonial societies through claiming inherent difference between peoples. Medical expertise, anthropological research and intelligence-gathering played key roles in this respect. As various case studies demonstrate, this stereotyping was reinforced and inflamed through popular press reporting on events, which frequently exaggerated current fears by recycling tropes about colonial peoples to generate easily understood copy. At the same time, small and isolated communities of colonists became a ripe breeding ground for rumours and gossip, bringing the objects of panic into their homes and private lives.


Moral Panic Emotional Community Colonial Setting Colonial Authority Colonial Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities, Social and Pol.Sc.ETH Zurich, Institut für GeschichteZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.School of HistoryUniversity of Kent, Rutherford CollegeWhitstableUK

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