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Title: The Poetics of Space and Sensation in Scotland and Kenya
Authors: Kumar, Matthew Mahavir
Advisors: Gikandi, Simon
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Aisthesis
Internal Colonialism
Subjects: Literature
World history
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Poetics of Space and Sensation in Scotland and Kenya seeks to outline and explain the isomorphism in the landscapes of Britain’s north and its empire’s East African territory. Reading the elaboration of the Scottish Highlands in the eighteenth century alongside the reconfiguration of Kikuyu as “White Highlands” in the nineteenth and twentieth, the project argues that the continuity of appearance across the two spaces reveals analogies in the material history of each. Beginning with Samuel Johnson’s 1775 observation that the appearance of the Scottish Highlands “is that of matter incapable of form or usefulness,” Part I traces the development of new conventions of landscape aesthetics that shaped the Highlands’ undistinguished mass into recognizable forms, arguing that the imperative to verisimilitude in anglophone traditions of landscape derives from the exigencies of the “internal colonization” of Scotland. Part II argues that the imposition of Highland forms onto the landscape of the Gikuyu’s ancestral homeland crucially prepared the area for settlement by white colonists, carving out a “healthy” area for white habitation within Africa’s interior. The project as a whole foregrounds the dynamic exchange between material reality and the forms in which it becomes legible to critical inquiry in the materials considered. In the context of Scotland, its readings highlight the “polyvocality” of materialist concerns that emerge around descriptions of Highland landscape. The dissertation’s initial chapters track the dependence of materialist explanation on aesthetic forms in cartography (Chapter One), in the discourse of picturesque tourism (Chapter Two), and in the formation of modern political economic inquiry in the work of Adam Smith (Chapter Three). Shifting to consider how conventions of Highland landscape facilitated Britain’s imperium over Kenya, later chapters consider the spatial history of colonial rule in Kenya (Chapter Four), as well as the central role representations of space played in generating resistance to imperial domination (Chapter Five). Each of these case studies in the body of the dissertation contributes to the project’s concluding coda, which leverages their insights to begin formulating a “poetics of primitive accumulation” that opens up lines of flight for future study of spaces beyond Scotland and Kenya.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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