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Empires of PanicEpidemics and Colonial Anxieties$
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Robert Peckham

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9789888208449

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888208449.001.0001

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Empire and the Place of Panic

Empire and the Place of Panic

(p.23) 1 Empire and the Place of Panic
Empires of Panic

Alan Lester

Hong Kong University Press

Alan Lester opens the book with an overview of different species of panic produced in different colonial settings of the British Empire. In particular, his interest in “Empire and the Place of Panic” (Chapter 1) is in panics affecting settler societies and how the panicked reactions of frontier communities to tales of isolated indigenous attacks often called forth more organized, violent, and “blanket” responses from colonial states or militia-type bodies of settlers. The chapter also considers white “moral panics,” where isolated instances of interracial sex—and especially rumors of the black rape of white women—spurred hugely disproportionate state and civil responses. Although these panics are less overtly to do with disease, Lester’s examples suggest how colonial panics were often both the triggers for and product of crises. Or, expressed somewhat differently, how one panic produced another in a self-perpetuating and reinforcing coproductive looping effect. The chapter concludes by considering the interplay between scales of panic—from micro-level instantiations to the transnational and global—arguing that the study of panic may help to reframe ongoing debates in imperial and global history about the extent and importance of transnational interactions in shaping colonial and imperial identities.

Keywords:   Panics, Diseases, Fire, Colonies, Policies, Government, History, Empires, Technology

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