Winner of the Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities, awarded by the Council of Graduate Schools
Honorable Mention for the 2019 Sonya Rudikoff Prize, awarded by the Northeast Victorian Studies Association
Civilizing War traces the historical transformation of civil war from a civil affair into an uncivil crisis. Civil war is today synonymous with the global refugee crisis, often serving as grounds for liberal-humanitarian intervention and nationalist protectionism.
In Civilizing War, Nasser Mufti situates this contemporary conjuncture in the long history of British imperialism, demonstrating how civil war has been and continues to be integral to the politics of empire. Through comparative readings of literature, criticism, historiography, and social analysis, Civilizing War shows how writers and intellectuals of Britain’s Anglophone empire articulated a “poetics of national rupture” that defined the metropolitan nation and its colonial others.
Mufti’s tour de force marshals a wealth of examples as diverse as Thomas Carlyle, Benjamin Disraeli, Friedrich Engels, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, V. S. Naipaul, Nadine Gordimer, and Michael Ondaatje to examine the variety of forms this poetics takes—metaphors, figures, tropes, puns, and plot—all of which have played a central role in Britain’s civilizing mission and its afterlife. In doing so, Civilizing War shifts the terms of Edward Said’s influential Orientalism to suggest that imperialism was not only organized around the norms of civility but also around narratives of civil war.