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Purifying Empire
Obscenity and the Politics of Moral Regulation in Britain, India and Australia

$38.00 USD

  • Date Published: May 2010
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9780511730719

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About the Authors
  • Purifying Empire explores the material, cultural and moral fragmentation of the boundaries of imperial and colonial rule in the British Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It charts how a particular bio-political project, namely the drive to regulate the obscene in late nineteenth-century Britain, was transformed from a national into a global and imperial venture and then re-localized in two different colonial contexts, India and Australia, to serve decidedly different ends. While a considerable body of work has demonstrated both the role of empire in shaping moral regulatory projects in Britain and their adaptation, transformation and, at times, rejection in colonial contexts, this book illustrates that it is in fact only through a comparative and transnational framework that it is possible to elucidate both the temporalist nature of colonialism and the political, racial and moral contradictions that sustained imperial and colonial regimes.

    • Demonstrates the limitations of imperial and colonial power by exploring the material, cultural and moral fragmentation of the boundaries of rule in the British Empire
    • Compares two different types of colonies (i.e. exploitation colony (India) and settler colony (Australia)), raising questions regarding the nature of colonialism
    • Situates efforts to regulate obscenity in imperial hygiene concerns rather than in law or discourse, broadening the history of sexuality in imperial history
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'There were always political, racial and moral contradictions in the British Empire and this excellent study demonstrates them with particular clarity. This is an interesting book to read and shows just how heterogeneous Britain's imperial project was.' The Historical Association (

    'Immediately, the combination of approach and object of inquiry is intriguing. Add to this its unconventional geography - Britain, India, and Australia over the long nineteenth century - and we have a book that surprises and puzzles but ultimately energizes the field.' The American Historical Review

    'Heath has written an exceptional book on nineteenth-century British colonial policy and the ways in which [this] came to impact policies in Australia and India and the governing of those nation states.' LIMINA: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2010
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9780511730719
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: books, boundaries and Britishness
    1. Colonialism and governmentality
    2. From sovereignty to governmentality: the emergence of obscenity regulation as a bio-political project in Britain
    3. Globalizing the local: imperial hygiene and the regulation of the obscene
    4. Localizing the global in settler societies: regulating the obscene in Australia
    5. Localizing the global in exploitation colonies: regulating the obscene in India
    Conclusion: retangling empire, nation, colony and globe

  • Author

    Deana Heath, University of Alberta
    Deana Heath completed her PhD in imperial and colonial and South Asian history at the University of California, Berkeley in 2003, following which she taught at Trinity College Dublin for five years. She is currently teaching in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta. Her research on British imperial and colonial and South Asian history focuses on a range of topics, including obscenity and censorship, modernity and governmentality, communalism and violence, globalization and Indian cinema. In addition to this book, she co-edited Communalism and Globalization in South Asia and its Diaspora (2010).

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