‘The Colonial Other’ as Cultural Phenomenon: Rabindranath Tagore's Reception in London, 1912
Rabindranath Tagore’s arrival in London in June 1912 was the subject of intense interest amongst Britain’s intellectual avant-garde. A year later, his Gitanjali -- a poem in which W. B. Yeats declared that western readers had “met our own image” -- won the Nobel Prize for literature. This paper uses archival research to examine elements of intellectual and cultural exchange under the conditions of colonial modernity. It argues that the reception and interpretation of Tagore was driven by conflicting currents of colonial discourse; some seeking intellectual renewal through a romantic engagement with ‘otherness’, others seeing Tagore’s work as representative of the spread of a liberal humanism that could be used as justification for British imperialism.
Keywords: Cultural history, Intellectual history, Colonialism, Britain, India, Culture, Identity, Power, Postcolonial theory
Dr Michael Collins
PhD candidate, Faculty of Modern History, University of Oxford