Space New and Old

Benedict Anderson


1. The accumulation reached a frantic zenith in the "international" (i.e. European) search for an accurate measure of longitude, amusingly recounted in Landes, Revolution in Time, chapter 9. In 1776, as the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence, the Gentleman's Magazine included this brief obituary for John Harrison: "He was a most ingenious mechanic, and received the 20,000 pounds reward (from Westminster) for the discovery of the longitude (sic)."

2. The late spreading of this consciousness to Asia is deftly alluded to in the opening pages of Pramoedya Ananta Toer's great historical novel Bumi Manusia (Earth of Mankind). The young nationalist hero muses that he was born on the same date as the future Queen Wilhelmina – 31 August 1880. "But while my island was wrapped in the darkness of night, her country was bathed in sun; and if her country was embraced by night's blackness my island littered in the equatorial noon." p.4.

3. Needless to say, "whiteness" was a legal category which had a distinctly tangential relationship to complex social realities. As the Liberator himself put it, "We are the vile offspring of the predatory Spaniards who came to America to bleed her white and to breed with their victims. Later the illegitimate offspring of these unions joined with the offspring of slaves transported from Africa." Italics added. Lynch, The Spanish-American Revolutions, p. 249. One should beware of assuming anything "eternally European" in this criollismo. Remembering all those devoutly Buddhist-Singhalese Da Souzas, those piously Catholic-Florinese Da Silvas, and those cynically Catholic-Manileno Sorianos who play unproblematic social, economic, and political roles in contemporary Ceylon, Indonesia, and the Philippines, helps one to recognize that, under the right circumstances, Europeans could be gently absorbed into non-European cultures.

4. Compare the fate of the huge African immigrant population. The brutal mechanisms of slavery ensured not merely its political-cultural fragmentation, but also very rapidly removed the possibility of imagining black communities in Venezuela and West Africa moving in parallel trajectory.

5. See O.W. Wolters, The Fall of Srivijaya in Malay History, Appendix C.

6. Cited in G. William Skinner, Chinese Society in Thailand. pp. 15-16.

7. Overseas Chinese communities loomed large enough to stimulate deep European paranoia up to the mid eighteenth century, when vicious anti-Chinese pogroms by Westerners finally ceased. Thereafter, this unlovely tradition was passed on to indigenous populations.

8. See Marshall G. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, Vol. 3, pp. 233-5.

9. It is an astonishing sign of the depth of Eurocentrism that so many European scholars persist, in the face of all the evidence, in regarding nationalism as a European invention.

10. But note the ironic case of Brazil. In 1808, King Joao VI fled to Rio de Janeiro to escape Napoléon's armies. Though Wellington had expelled the French by 1811, the emigrant monarch, fearing republican unrest at home, stayed on in South America until 1822, so that between 1808 and 1822 Rio was the centre of a world empire stretching to Angola, Mozambique, Macao, and East Timor. But this empire was ruled by a European, not an American.

11. Doubtless this was what permitted the Liberator to exclaim atone point that a Negro, i.e. slave, revolt would be "a thousand times worse than a Spanish invasion," (See above, p. 49). A slave jacquerie, if successful, might mean the physical extermination of the creoles.

12. See Masur, Bolívar, p. 131.

13. The French Revolution was in turn paralleled in the New World by the outbreak of Toussaint L'Ouverture's insurrection in 1791, which by 1806 had resulted in Haiti's former slaves creating the second independent republic of the Western hemisphere.

14. The young Wordsworth was in France in 1791-1792, and later, in The Prelude, wrote these famous reminiscent lines: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven! Italics added.

15. Lynch, The Spanish-American Revolutions, pp. 314-15.

16. As cited above in chapter 4.

17. Landes, Revolution in Time, pp. 230-31, 442-43.

18. See above, Chapter 2.

19. See Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe, pp. 135-43, for a sophisticated discussion of this transformation.

20. But it was an A.D. with a difference. Before the rupture it still retained, however fragilely in enlightened quarters, a theological aura glowing from within its medieval Latin. Anno Domini recalled that irruption of eternity into mundane time which took place in Bethlehem. After the rupture, reduced monogrammatically to A.D., it joined an (English) vernacular B.C., Before Christ, that encompassed a serial cosmological history (to which the new science of geology was making signal contributions). We may judge how deep an abyss yawned between Anno Domini and A.D./B.C. by noting that neither the Buddhist nor the Islamic world, even today, imagines any epoch marked as "Before the Gautama Buddha" or "Before the Hegira." Both make uneasy do with the alien monogram B.C.

21. As late as 1951, the intelligent Indonesian socialist Lintong Mulia Sitorus could still write that: "Till the end of the nineteenth century, the coloured peoples still slept soundly, while the whites were busily at work in every field." Sedjarah Pergerakan Kebangsaan Indonesia (History of the Indonesian Nationalist Movement), p. 5.

22. One could perhaps say that these revolutions were, in European eyes, the first really important political events that had ever occurred across the Atlantic.

23. Still, historical depth is not infinite. At some point English vanishes into Norman French and Anglo-Saxon; French into Latin and "German" Frankish; and so on. We shall see below how additional depth of field came to be achieved

24. Metahistory, p. 140. Hegel, born in 1770, was already in his late teens when the Revolution broke out, but his Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der WeItgeschichte were only published in 1837, six years after his death.

25. White, Metahistory, p. 159.

26. Jules Michelet, Oeuvres Complètes, XXI, p. 268, in the preface to volume 2 ("Jusqu'au 18e Brumaire") of his uncompleted Histoire du XIXe Siècle. I owe the reference to Metahistory, but the translation White uses is unsatisfactory,

27. Cited in Roland Barthes, ed., Michelet par lui-meme, p. 92. The volume of the Oeuvres Comptètes containing this quotation has not yet been published.

28. Conversely, in all Mexico there is only one statue of Hernán Cortés. This monument, tucked discreetly away in a niche of Mexico City, was only put up at the end of the 1970s, by the odious regime of José López Portillo.

29. Doutbless because for much of his life he suffered under restored or ersatz legitimacies. His commitment to 1789 and to France is movingly shown by his refusal to swear an oath of loyalty to Louis Napoléon. Abruptly dismissed from his post as National Archivist, he lived in near-poverty till his death in 1874 – long enough, however, to witness the mountebank's fall and the restoration of republican institutions.

30. Renan was born in 1823, a quarter of a century after Michelet, and passed much of his youth under the cynically official-nationalist regime of Michelet's persecutor.

31. I understood them so in 1983, alas.

32. See his Love and Death in the American Novel, p. 192. Fiedler read this relationship psychologically, and ahistorically, as an instance of American fiction's failure to deal with adult heterosexual love and its obsession with death, incest, and innocent homocroticism. Rather than a national eroticism, it is, I suspect, an eroticized nationalism that is at work. Male-male bondings in a Protestant society which from the start rigidly prohibited miscegenation are paralleled by male-female "holy loves" in the nationalist fiction of Latin America, where Catholicism permitted the growth of a large mestizo population. (It is telling that English has had to borrow "mestizo" from Spanish.)

33. Herman Melville, Moby Dick, p. 71. How the author must have savoured the malignant final phrase!

34. It is agreeable to note that the publication of Huckleberry Finn preceded by only 2 few months Renan's evocation of "la Saint-Barthélemy."

35. For such apocalypses the neologism "genocide" was quite recently coined.