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Tensions of Empire: Colonial Control and Visions of Rule

International Symposium #107

November 5 - 13, 1988
Hotel Mijas, Mijas, Spain

PUBLICATION:    1989, F. Cooper, A.L. Stoler.  “Tensions of Empire:  Colonial Control and Visions of Rule.” American Ethnologist 16(4):609-621.


David Arnold (SOAS, UK)
Talal Asad (University of Hull, UK)
Scott Atran (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France)
John G. Butcher (Griffith University, Australia)
Partha Chatterjee (Center for Studies in Social Sciences, India)
Bernard Cohn (University of Chicago, USA)
John Comaroff (University of Chicago, USA)
Frederick Cooper, organizer (University of Michigan, USA)
Robert J. Gordon (University of Vermont, USA)
Nancy Hunt, rapporteur (University of Wisconsin, USA)
Jacques Marseille (l’Université de Paris VIII, France)
Sidney Mintz (Johns Hopkins University, USA)
Randall Packard (Tufts University, USA)
David Prochaska (University of Illinois, USA)
Sydel Silverman (Wenner-Gren Foundation, USA)
Verena Stolcke (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain)
Ann L. Stoler, organizer (University of Wisconsin, USA)
Michel-Rolph Trouillot (Johns Hopkins University, USA)
Joan Vincent (Barnard College, USA)
Luise White (University of Minnesota, USA)


While anthropologists have been concerned with the consequences of conquest for the colonized and historians have described colonial policies and their implementation, much less understood is the extent to which colonial regimes and ideologies were themselves problematic and contested. The goal of this symposium was to rethink the anthropology of colonialism and develop alternatives to approaches that treat colonial rule as a monolithic form. The focus was on the historical processes by which the categories of colonizer and colonized were created and on the competing agendas of different Europeans in the colonies. The participants, an ap­proximately equal number of anthropologists and historians, drew on their diverse regional expertise in order to look at commonalities and differences in colonial rhetorics and patterns of change in colonial rule.

A summary of this conference and seven papers from it were published as a Special Section of the American Ethnologist, volume 16, number 4, November 1989.