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The woke battle for cultural imperialism The use of language to impose a worldview can easily become violent

The empire fights back (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The empire fights back (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)


March 4, 2021   6 mins

By the time I was ten years old, I had been to school in three European countries and was more or less trilingual — thanks to my dad’s job. As a result, I learned from an early age that different languages often have very different ways of conveying ideas. Switching language, to an extent, means thinking differently. It’s why we end up borrowing terms such as schadenfreude where we don’t have a direct equivalent.

But if this is true, how could we ever translate anything without hopelessly mangling it? If a translation risks twisting or ruining the original, stripping it of nuance or even misrepresenting an idea, then it must be done only with the greatest sensitivity and skill.

This isn’t a problem that concerns only dilettantes and art mavens; ideas, even in translation, can be revolutionary. The dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei describes how his father sought to evade accusations of being anti-communist during the Cultural Revolution by burning the family’s books, including poetry by Pablo Neruda and Rabindranath Tagore. Likewise, just as translated works can be subversive, so they can be evangelical: the world’s most translated text today is the Bible. Whether encouraged in order to spread ideas, or forbidden in order to suppress them, translation is difficult to separate from power.

Predictably, then, the politics of translation have become a culture-war battleground today, with reports that the Dutch writer and poet Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has pulled out of translating Amanda Gorman’s poem for the Biden inauguration. Translation rights to Gorman’s work were hotly contested, and Meulenhof, the publisher that secured them, described Rijneveld, an International Booker Prize winner, as the “dream translator”.

But Rijneveld’s selection was quickly seized upon by self-styled “cultural activist” Janice Deul, who wrote that Meulenhof should instead “choose a writer who is — just like Gorman — a spoken-word artist, young, female and unapologetically Black”. The implication was that Rijneveld, who is white, would have less insight into Gorman’s life than a Dutch writer who is black. In response, critics of Rijneveld’s decision to step down have objected to this firewalling of cultural artefacts on the basis of skin colour. But such well-trodden culture war arguments can easily obscure the complex power dynamics of translation.

Rabindranath Tagore, whose work Ai Weiwei remembers reading before his father burned the family library, was the first non-white person to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Gitanjali (or Song Offerings) was Tagore’s own translation of 103 of his Bengali verses into English prose, and was described by William Butler Yeats as “the work of a supreme culture”.

Tagore’s Nobel Prize in 1913 certainly widened the previously Eurocentric focus of such awards. Yet despite Tagore’s prolific artistic output and status as giant of the Bengali Renaissance, Gitanjali remains his best-known work outside the subcontinent, the subject of Pinterest pins and YouTube content, precisely because Tagore translated it to English. For, in no small thanks to the political legacy of two successive Anglophone empires, English remains the dominant global language.

This fact sits uncomfortably with the post-imperial and (officially at least) anti-imperialist perspective of modern Britain. Today it is common to feel, somewhat queasily, that the English language has been an irreversible and sometimes harmful imposition on the world: this sentiment even appears in the GCSE English syllabus, in the form of Brian Friel’s 1980 play Translations.

Translations depicts the exercise of English colonial power in 1833 rural Ireland, as represented by a group of military surveyors who anglicise Irish place names while making a new map. It directly addresses the fundamentally violent process of using military force to impose a foreign language, and translating the cultural (and physical) terrain of an occupied people into that language.

Although we decry Britain’s former imperial aggression today, the process Translations describes didn’t come to an end with the dissolution of the British Empire. In Hong Kong, the anglicisation described in Translations has been taking place in reverse since the return of the island to Chinese rule in 1997. As Beijing has tightened its hold, street names and signage have undergone a slow but sure shift from English to Chinese, which is framed explicitly as a process of erasing the British colonial legacy.

The cultural inroads made by empire — and the violence this often entails — are more visible yet when it comes to “translating” people from their native culture to the imperial one. This dates back to ancient Egypt and Rome, when hostages were routinely taken among the children of conquered aristocracies and educated in their conquerors’ culture. The Ottoman Empire turned such translation into a fine art, with the devshirme or “child-levy” system, which took children from subject nations and raised them as the empire’s elite governing class.

Nor was the practice of coercive assimilation abandoned in more modern empires: America in the 19th century saw the creation of boarding schools for Native American children, who were separated from their parents and compelled to study “the habits and arts of civilisation”. And a similar process is underway in China today, with reports emerging of boarding schools in Xinjiang where Uighur children are taught to forget their heritage and embrace loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.

The mixed feelings such assimilationist cultural policies produced among those who experienced them can be seen in the writing of Nirad C. Chaudhuri, a Bengali contemporary of Tagore. Born in 1897, Chaudhuri’s boyhood coincided with the burgeoning Indian independence movement, which by then was trickling into schoolbooks.

But far from cheering this process on, in Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (1951) Chaudhuri describes envying the excerpts of English poetry in his older brother’s textbooks, which he found far more interesting than his own “Indianised” study material. And in The Continent of Circe (1965), Chaudhuri is even more explicit, claiming that “English is not a mere instrument for us but a force shaping and moulding personality”. That is, to argue for a language is to argue for a worldview.

Having learned to translate my own worldview twice as a child, I never felt entirely “English” even after our return. Indeed, as the ebb and flow of translations follows that of politics, those who have been translated (voluntarily or otherwise) into a hybrid culture can be left radically adrift when the currents change. Chaudhuri was one such: he left India altogether in 1970 for England, explaining: “England is decadent, the young people are savages, but here I can still live according to the lights I have always known.”

The landscape of cultural and imperial power thus flows across places and cultures via literal and figurative processes of translation. And when we think of translation in these terms, it becomes clear that the quarrel over who translates Gorman’s poem isn’t a matter of race or marginalisation at all, so much as of imperial court politics.

Amanda Gorman’s work has been broadcast around the world from the nation that remains — in however battered a condition — the world’s pre-eminent superpower. She is not marginalised. In terms of pure cultural clout, she’s a heavy hitter, in the world’s top nation, writing in the world’s dominant language. Rijneveld, on the other hand, is a relatively obscure writer and poet, working in a language spoken by a mere 23 million people.

Being a trendy figure in Dutch literature has nothing on being America’s premier court poet. And so winning the job of translating Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem is less white appropriation than the scoring of an immense honour — one that was, in fact, conferred by Gorman herself, who personally selected Rijneveld for the job.

Deul’s intervention was not a move to amplify marginalised people so much as the use of a fashionable argument to redirect a desirable opportunity toward her own social network. (Her article names several of her personal friends whom she thinks would be more suitable than Rijneveld.) That is, it was less a fightback against imperial power than an intra-class skirmish for perks and status.

Much of the currently fashionable “decolonisation” agenda that excites so much conservative commentary can be understood in a similar framework; as a process of imperial translation, with a new order reorganising the ideas and artefacts of alien cultures to suit its own priorities.

The lesson to draw from this isn’t that all empires are evil by definition, but that all of them exercise power literally, via coercive means, and also culturally via the spread and translation of ideas and ways of life. We may bridle at the new woke American anti-imperialist imperialism, gasp at the ruthlessness of the Chinese drive to assimilate its minorities, or recoil at the atrocities committed by the British empire. But the uncomfortable fact is that such forces are also the deep drumbeat of the most long-lasting achievements in human history.

The only way to avoid this drumbeat, in all its brutality, would be to end imperialism full stop, which history suggests isn’t going to happen. And even if it did, it would likely mean the end of art and culture. Is that a price worth paying? The intense competition for the right to cling to Amanda Gorman’s coattails suggests not even today’s self-styled woke anti-imperialists really want to give up the imperial power of literature. They’re just fighting over who gets to wield it.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago

[translation] must be done only with the greatest sensitivity and skill.

Absolutely so.
I was rotten spoilt from early childhood in that respect, as luckily my mothertongue (Hungarian) had brilliant translators – from Mother Goose to Joyce, pretty much everything. After reading (some of) the originals as a grown-up, i can appreciate the translations even more. And now i wonder how much we “think differently” when switching between broadly similarly structured languages (indoeuropean), or when from indo- to non indo-? (English is still a novel concept to me, and i’m well aware doing of the “thinking differently” thing – i quite like it.)

As for the “Amanda Gorman inauguration poem” – i had to google it, frankly it is utter unadulterated rubbish. Screechy protest slogans mixed with Momentum manifesto soundbites, rendered in a vertical ‘shopping list’ format so it looks like a *poem* if you squint your eyes, tilt your head and step a yard or two away. Why does it need a translator rather than just a quick push through google translate is beyond me – probably for decorum.

Last edited 3 years ago by Allons Enfants
lllama258
lllama258
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

Regarding the poem, I’m reminded of the idea that demonstrating the ability to publicly get away with rubbish and lies is often the actual message.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  lllama258

‘…demonstrating the ability to publicly get away with rubbish and lies is often the actual message.’

A neat formulation. A kind of Emperor’s New Clothes where the emperor knows he’s naked, and the crowd knows he’s naked, and the crowd knows he knows they know … but they still dare not do other than praise those wonderful robes, gorgeous as they so clearly are.

The power is in the humiliation of the crowd knowing it is all a falsehood, but not being able to say so.

And that’s the essence of the woke tyranny, right there.

Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Yes yes yes, very much this!
It’s like watching an elaborate ritual of an exotic obscure cult.

The power is in the humiliation of the crowd knowing it is all a falsehood, but not being able to say so.

The ‘crowd’ in this case is often the elected politicians on TV, humiliated into conforming to the ritual so much that my skin crawls on their behalves while watching them speak.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

Thank you for the enthusiasm of your response (although I think the credit goes to lllama258 for the idea in the first place).

I still can’t quite work out whether the humiliation results from the successful exercise of power; or the power results from successfully achieving the humiliation.

The horrible twist is that it doesn’t work unless the crowd does it to itself. And the realisation of that makes it even more humiliating!

And on the topic of your reaction to politicians humiliated on tv, I think Germans have a word for it (as they sometimes do for slightly disreputable concepts): FremdschÀmen.

Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

They would. German is the language of exacting clarity (that’s i guess why the Germans can come across as rude for the rest of us). There’s this German word i made up all by myself ‘GötterfĂ€rkenung‘ to describe the current state of public affairs.

I still can’t quite work out whether the humiliation results from the successful exercise of power; or the power results from successfully achieving the humiliation.

Personally, i think it’s a pseudo-religious function. With religion in decline in the “West”, people have all this pent-up yearning for voluntary self-humiliation, communal rituals, liturgic language, whathaveyou – all the kneeling and mantra-chanting seems to fill a void, the deity of wokery being an abstract mythical “Lowest Common Denominator” aka the “Ultimate Underdog”.
Once the dogmas, tenets and principles are well-established enough for the cult being mainstream rather than a ‘loony fringe’ (media / education system come handy for that), then the heresy / blasphemy trials can commence – the götterfarkenung intensifies.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

Yup, it’s a religion, all right.

There’s a religion-shaped hole in the human psyche. Hence our current situation: When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.

(Apologies for sinful use of noun ‘man’ and pronoun ‘he’, of course.)

Last edited 3 years ago by Wilfred Davis
Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.

Too true.
That’s why i have a particular distaste for humanism. God (an abstract entity, abstract and infallible like a mathematical constant) being replaced by ‘people’. Why not by parsley or golden cows or algae then.

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

I think Parsley the Lion would make an excellent deity….
Ok, I’ll go and stand in the corner….

Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago
Reply to  Red Reynard

I think Parsley the Lion would make an excellent deity
.

Fully agree.

Geoff H
Geoff H
3 years ago
Reply to  Red Reynard

Indeed, for as he rightly says he is a friendly, and not very brave, lion.

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

I wonder about that quotation. Since ceasing to believe in a god, I certainly don’t believe in “anything”; I am sceptical about everything!

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  lllama258

Very good point.

Otto Christensen
Otto Christensen
3 years ago
Reply to  lllama258

In Canada we have a Prime Minister who fits this notion exactly. He fired his Justice Minister for telling the truth, wears “blackface”, takes family vacations to Caribbean Islands owned by his fortunate friends at public expense, bails out corrupt hometown industrialists, has mismanaged the delivery of Covid vaccines, deludes himself into thinking he is a world leader saving us all from the evils of global warming, etc. I apologize for being off topic but Illama258’s notion fit Justin Trudeau, our greatest embarrassment, so perfectly.
A strange duo, Gorman and Biden, telltales of what to expect for eight long years?

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
3 years ago
Reply to  lllama258

Very astute! I hadn’t quite thought of it that way myself, but now I always will.

Geoff H
Geoff H
3 years ago
Reply to  lllama258

An excellent point, and one which I shall ponder on and extend.

Miro Mitov
Miro Mitov
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

You should also look at Gorman’s ‘Super Bowl’ poem ‘Chorus of the Captains‘. That thing is bad, bad, bad… Whoever deluded that poor girl she was a great poet should be ashamed of themselves

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  Miro Mitov

Give Amanda Gorman a good anthology of English verse, a complete Shakespeare and a few other classics, tell her to spend a year studying them and perhaps something will come of it.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Platzer
William Hickey
William Hickey
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Yes. She will label you a white supremacist.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  William Hickey

Quite correct. The Whites have won, triumphant everywhere. ‘Tough’, as the Chinese would say, but an an incontrovertible fact.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Wishful thinking I’m afraid.

Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Brings to mind the “Infinite monkey theorem“, even though the typewriter was missing from the proposal.

William Hickey
William Hickey
3 years ago
Reply to  Miro Mitov

Your failure to demonstrate the required all-encompassing reverence for black people has been noted.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

Anyone who calls Amanda Gorman’s bilge poetry cannot have any sense of what poetry is. Perhaps the Dutch translator can do something worthwhile with it.

Geoff H
Geoff H
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

A round cheese, perhaps?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

My uptick is most especially for your concluding paragraph. Amanda Gorman’s poem really is utter crap, isn’t.

Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Absolutely, Richard.
(Upticked likewise.)

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Did you forget the final ‘it’?

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

That is common in U.S. poetry these days.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
3 years ago
Reply to  Allons Enfants

I have only just read it (due to this article) and as noted it is pathetic. Clearly what mattered with this poem was that the authoress is a young black woman with the ‘right’ worldview.

Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
3 years ago

Another rich, and brilliantly argued piece.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

“…Switching language, to an extent, means thinking differently…”

Sounds very Sapir-Whorf. I bought into this for a while, but now I’m less convinced. As someone who routinely flips language multiple times mid-sentence with the right audience (when speaking with my parents for example), I tried to pin down if my thoughts change with the language I am using. I can’t say I noticed any difference. A different language has a different cadence but not convinced that changes anything. I have thoughts which I have no words for in any language but only when I’m not actively trying to think of them – they melt away the instant I try and focus on them. I’m sure others will have experienced this. I’m nowadays more inclined to think thought is independent of language.

Super essay btw.

Last edited 3 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I’m also trilingual and have noticed that my personality changes depending upon which language I’m speaking in.

Last edited 3 years ago by Brian Dorsley
William Hickey
William Hickey
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

You should see a doctor about that.

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  William Hickey

A comment only an ignoramus could make.
Of course different languages call forth different attitudes, talents, facial expressions, use of hands, use of whole body. Everyday language is on a spectrum with poetry. You can recognize the differences in attitude if watchingn films with the audio turned off. One reason people combine languages (when speaking to those equally fluent in both languages) is precisely because some expressions or words in one language come closer to the intended sense—or have a different “feel” as a result of, say, their use in idioms—than the supposed equivalents in another. Then add to that the private meanings that a group of friends, or family members, may have imbued certain words or expressions with.
Each language has aspects that cannot be translated easily; a good translator must also have considerable poetic sensibilities and chops.That said, I reckon Gorman’s poem could basically be put through Google translate. I see no creative use of language—nothing “poetic” about it. Just adolescent apercus.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

That’s interesting. Does your mood change if you flip to a different language?

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

When I went for therapy some years ago I asked my therapist if we would use French or English. He replied English ‘because you are free in French, anxious in Engish’….

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

I’m guessing Quebec. Did you notice this yourself, if one language induces more anxiety over another; is it related to fluency?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

R.G. Collingwood (‘The Principles of Art’) noted that in Kipling, when a white Westerner in imperial India takes his everyday clothes off and puts on a loincloth, he immediately starts to think in the manner of an Indian ‘native’ (cf. ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ or many of the other numerous Brits of the Imperial class who adopted ‘native’ habits e.g. Richard Burton (the 19gth C. one).
Much as I noted that when anyone who is lower-rank-in-authority British puts on a uniform (policeman, traffic warden, museum guard, park ranger) he immediately becomes a ‘little Hitler’. I’ve seen this happen. And it’s a good thing, otherwise policemen might have got into the habit of genuflecting towards law-breakers.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

Do you get more to abusive when speaking German?

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

this woke thing is speeding past caricature and toward self-parody. Unfortunately, it lacks any self awareness.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I think many of the individuals may lack self-awareness, and may even be motivated by a wish to do good (as they perceive it).

But the movement as a whole is on – how can I put this? – an imperialist mission.

Last edited 3 years ago by Wilfred Davis
William Hickey
William Hickey
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Hey Alex, remember all those people who confidently predicted that because the word “racist” was so over-used as an accusation that it would soon lose all its power?

I think I first heard that in 1968. What about you?

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
3 years ago
Reply to  William Hickey

Yeah, I think it has, finally.
Now you’re White Privileged – and if you don’t believe you are it’s because you have White Fragility – and if you are and have, but don’t care it’s because you are a White Supremacist
Yeah, I think ‘racist’ is pretty much dead.
All the best.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

When I taught my son at home we began to translate the first Harry Potter book from French into English. I hadn’t read the English version, being suspicious of anything popular. We didn’t get much beyond the first page, but the English we translated it into was so beautiful and 19th century sounding, I decided to peak at the original and see how we were getting on (I only got a B in my French O level). I think it is fair to say it was one of the most disappointing but also revealing moments of my life. The original was so dumb and simplistic and slangy. After that we just gave up.

But translations into English are always more beautiful than actual English. Perhaps if Gorman’s poem was translated well into Dutch then back into English from the Dutch it would actually be poetry at the end of the process.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

In some sense, Proust is more finely written translated into English than the original French tho’ the keen perceptions are Proust’s rather than his translators’ . Of course, Proust had no time before his premature death to polish and edit his work. He knew he was dying and wanted to get as much done as he could. Perhaps you and your son could make Harry Potter. Henri Pauter, an elegant French classic.

LJ Vefis
LJ Vefis
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

To be fair to the author of the original (and the French translator) – the difference between the written and spoken word is bigger in France than it is in the UK. French writing is quite formal and flowery, English writing much plainer, more conversational. (In my very limited experience – happy to be corrected!)

mark96
mark96
3 years ago
Reply to  LJ Vefis

Flowery, overwritten English always sounds pompous. A bit Alan Partridge.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
3 years ago

Oh, the American culture! What I have learned over the years is that this culture has refined and mastered the marketing art of crowning mediocrity to the level of universal truth.

Angus J
Angus J
3 years ago

The cultural imperialism that the Normans imposed on the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 should definitely be reversed.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Angus J

Agreed. We should put a reparations figure on that.
Let’s say ÂŁ1000 in compensation, which I think is fair for all the pillaging and especially the ocular injuries. This should have been paid by the Normans to the Anglo-Saxons at the time but of course wasn’t. Assuming 3% per annum interest, compounded over the 955 years since 1066, I make that out to be: ÂŁ1,817,814,626,157,348 and 50 pence, that France owes the UK as of now.
I’ll leave you to send the demand to Pres. Macron. You can knock off the 50 pence if you are feeling generous.

Last edited 3 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Angus J

Don’t forget the Angevins, yet another bunch of French thugs who ‘took over’ in 1154.

8rdxzrpnvw
8rdxzrpnvw
3 years ago

The essence and intent of the speaker or writer is the essential matter at hand and society, given due time and freedom is best able to resolve this and deal with its own biases. Any committee that seeks to control (rather than influence) who we are and what we mean is evil. It takes away from us our most essential and hard won protection against entrenched power, in all its guises.

William Hickey
William Hickey
3 years ago

All this over the doggerel of Amanda Gorman? I guess criticism is dead in Europe.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  William Hickey

You are correct. Most of us are just too polite to ‘call a spade a spade ‘ as we used to say.
Gorman’s work is rubbish, to put it mildly.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago

I definitely wouldn’t advise calling anything that nowadays, you’ll get a visit from the fuzz. How about calling it an ” earth moving device savagely oppressed by imperialist people of non-colour.”

Allons Enfants
Allons Enfants
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

i just call it ‘a bame’. Easier on the tongue and almost rhymes with ‘spade’.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Why no mention of the greatest language of Empire ever written, Latin?

The beautiful letter from Claudia Severa to her dear friend Sulpicia Lepidina, wife of the Commanding Officer of the Roman Fort of Vindolanda would have been apposite.

Michael Spooner
Michael Spooner
3 years ago

Thank you so much for this reference. I found Claudia’s heartfelt letter to be quite moving.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Yes along with the epitaph to the beautiful white hound ‘Margarita’ it is one of the most poignant fragments of vernacular Latin left to us.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

“the atrocities committed by the British Empire”.
Which atrocities exactly, are you referring to Ms Harrington?

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago

“On first looking into Chapman’s “Homer”

UnWoke UnBowed
UnWoke UnBowed
3 years ago

Like taking over Judea, killing and dispersing the indigenous population, and renaming it Syria Palestina.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  UnWoke UnBowed

Vae victis!

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

“Deul’s intervention was not a move to amplify marginalised people so much as the use of a fashionable argument to redirect a desirable opportunity toward her own social network”.

Inspired!

……

Horizontal inequalities used to promote vertical inequalities!

Biological difference used to promote cultural power!

Racism used to promote neo-racism!

The Woke Imperialism
White/Black Woke Supremacy
White/Black Woke Fragility
White/Black Woke Bigotry

Last edited 3 years ago by Steve Gwynne
Simon Hannaford
Simon Hannaford
3 years ago

An interesting article but as a 32 year resident of Hong Kong I am both interested and surprised to read that the streets of this city are being renamed, with the link providing evidence for this actually referring to Shanghai not Hong Kong. As far as I am aware not a single street with a name having colonial connotations – such as Possession Street or Hennessy Road – has been changed.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
3 years ago

In execution at least, some translations gain more than they lose. It will be sad then if the long standing colonial era signage of Rednaxala Street, in Hong Kong’s Mid Levels, were to undergo an about face. Nevertheless it’s probably more straightforward to translate “Alexander” into Cantonese characters…

A Woodward
A Woodward
3 years ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

I never bought the story that Rednaxala Street was a ‘mistake’. It’s got deliberate subversion written all over it!

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
3 years ago
Reply to  A Woodward

…agreed. Such a triumph.

Michael Spooner
Michael Spooner
3 years ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

RednaxEla, surely?

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

“The only way to avoid this drumbeat, in all its brutality, would be to end imperialism full stop, which history suggests isn’t going to happen. And even if it did, it would likely mean the end of art and culture.”
This is precisely The Imperialism Fetish”. Imperialism is the Will-to-Power, the strong eating the weak. Art is the antithesis, the questing of the Spirit after transcendence in dialectical relation with Power.

padpowell
padpowell
3 years ago

We are encouraged to feel regret for the cultural suppression of Native American tribes as well as foreign cultures and languages nearly destroyed by imperialism and conquest (including the Irish, Scots and Welsh). Few Americans are aware of the deliberate state suppression of the Creole and Cajun francophone populations of Louisiana. The destruction of the Creoles, especially, is actually presented as a GOOD thing because the Anglophone blacks wanted to destroy any separate Creole identity and lay claim to all Creole achievements. Blacks also wanted a pool of mates with European ancestry and enough “black blood” so they could plead “not guilty” to miscegenation on a technicality. Their aims were in harmony with the segregationist state government that sought to degrade mixed-race status into “Negro” and promote a myth of white racial purity.
Good sources on this topic are: White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana by Virginia Dominguez and Legal History of the Color Line: The Rise and Triumph of the One-Drop Rule by Frank W. Sweet

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago

The Gorman poem is utter crap. Cringe-worthy. Couldn’t finish it. She could have read some Carl Sandburg instead. .