stephen howe on zobritish worlds, settler worlds, world systems, killing fields, and zooids.


Stephen Howe, ‘Review Essay: British Worlds, Settler Worlds, World Systems, and Killing Fields’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 40, 4 (2012). 

a bit of the conclusion in lieu of abstract:

It was suggested at the outset here that the study of British imperialism has in recent years, and in an almost unprecedented way, spawned a series of new or revived con- cepts, presented as alternatives, supplements or correctives to the ideas of the British Empire. I have sought to track a number of these, from Belich’s ‘Anglo- world’, through Darwin’s ‘British world system’ and ‘unfinished empire’ or Stern’s ‘company state’, to Mantena’s refigured and broadened notion of ‘indirect rule’. One could, naturally, extend the inventory considerably further yet, with multiple concep- tual (re)coinages which have been suggested or elaborated in recent work on the British and other imperial systems. Let me, however, instead finish, tongue again slightly in cheek, with (as they used to say on the children’s TV programme Blue Peter) one I just made earlier. Literally just the day before beginning work on this essay, I came across the concept of the zooid—from biology, though actually I found it via one of the great jazz composers, Henry Threadgill. A ‘zooid’ is a living cell or organism that is within another organism, but which has independent freedom of movement: zooids are often part of biological ‘colonies’—conglomerations of organisms that function collectively: a near-perfect description, I think, as a term for many bits of and actors within what we can, maybe, just about still call the British Empire.

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