Spatial practices and imaginaries: Experiences of colonial officers and development professionals

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Abstract:

This paper explores the spatiality of colonial and postcolonial power and discourse as produced, performed and imagined by former British colonial service officers and contemporary UK international development professionals. It focuses on two key aspects of spatial practices. The first addresses the spaces inhabited by these colonial officers and development professionals overseas and how their locatedness, embedded or enclavic, shapes relationships to others. The second explores this distinctive social and spatial distancing through their relationship to, and imagined geographies of, home and away and how these are embodied in their institutional and cultural capital. The paper examines the regularities and consistencies that stand out from numerous individual practices through which both former colonial officers and development professionals negotiate the situations in which they live and work. It also specifies how authoritative management, privilege and distance informs their spatial practices despite changing global contexts and a more diverse composition of those who articulate contemporary relationships between ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds. Finally, the paper suggests that the cultures which travelled over colonial space through being performed by colonial officers have been reworked throughout the postcolonial period, belying epochal historical periodizations that conjure up a clear disjuncture between colonial and development eras.

Keywords: Englishness; colonialism; development; postcolonialism; spatial practices

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9493.2006.00260.x

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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