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Personifying Colonial Governance: George Arthur and the Transition from Humanitarian to Development Discourse

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During the early nineteenth century, a number of seemingly antithetical developments shaped the British Empire and the wider world, among them evangelical humanism, antislavery and emancipation, the invasion of indigenous peoples’ lands by waves of British settlers, the rapid expansion of the settler colonies, and the consolidation of British rule and designs for the redevelopment of India. Against this backdrop, this article draws attention to significant shifts in the nature of humane governance and opens up a theoretical intersection among life geography, colonial discourse analysis, and assemblage theory. It focuses on the career in British colonial governance of George Arthur, successively Aide de Camp in Jersey, Quarter Master General in Jamaica, Superintendent of Honduras, Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, and Governor of the Bombay Presidency. Situating Arthur as an individual component within emergent colonial governmental assemblages, I examine the ways in which an individual like Arthur could effect and be affected by shifts in humanitarian and governmental discourse and practice. The geographies of Arthur's entanglements in colonial discourses were paramount in affecting the nature and extent of his capacity to effect reformulation of those discourses. Arthur's personal performances and expressions of colonial government in different sites of empire and through specific episodes of contestation assisted in the deterritorialization of certain kinds of colonial governmentality and the reterritorialization of others. As Arthur moved from the West Indies to Van Diemen's Land to Upper Canada to India, so his person discernibly effected shifts from ameliorative through conservative humanitarian to developmental forms of imperial governance.
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Keywords: desarrollo; development; discourse; discurso; geografĂ­a de vida; gobernanza; governance; humanitarianism; humanitarismo; life geography

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography,University of Sussex,

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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