The social history of empire was constructed of all five human senses. This lecture considered the role of sight in the formation of British India the American Philippines.
By the early twentieth century, Britons and Americans believed that sight was pre-eminent among the senses, and thus made it their first priority to reveal their subjects and make legible their social, political, and economic organization. As James Scott has argued, the state must "see" its constituents before it can rule them effectively. British and American governance relied on finding, counting, photographing, and making visually respectable their Indian and Filipino subjects. The builders of empire thus created in their colonies administrative units that were visible to them as rulers.
This lecture was based on Professor Andrew Rotter's latest book, Empires of the Senses: Bodily Encounters in Imperial India and the Philippines (Oxford University Press, 2019).
Andrew Rotter is Charles A. Dana Professor of History at Colgate University, USA. He teaches and writes on the history of US foreign relations, especially its cultural sources, and on the history of empire.
Matthew Jones is Professor of International History and Head of Department of International History at LSE.
The Department of International History (@lsehistory) teaches and conducts research on the international history of Britain, Europe and the world from the early modern era up to the present day. Sponsored by the department's Modern World History research cluster.