Empire in the Air: Speed, Perception, and Airline Travel in the Atlantic World.
Bhimull, Chandra D.
AbstractThe dissertation is an historical ethnography of air. Specifically, it concerns the relationship between airspace, airline travel, and empire. By examining how airline travel transformed motion and movement, it argues that empire and imperial encounters became three-dimensional in the twentieth century. It analyzes airspace as imperial space and suggests that empire, as an idea and a practice, is in the air. Simultaneously, it makes a case for thinking about air as a domain, airspace as a place, and airborne technologies and habits as textures of the Atlantic world. The dissertation focuses on Imperial Airways. Founded in 1924, the airline was the chosen instrument of the British state. The so-called national carrier of the country, the company underwent two major name changes. In 1939, Imperial Airways became the British Overseas Airways Corporation. In 1971, the British Overseas Airways Corporation became British Airways. xi The dissertation attempts to integrate national and colonial histories. It concentrates on the pivotal role Imperial Airways played in shaping how people perceived empire and experienced colonies between the First and Second World Wars. It also thinks about how colonized people and places shaped Imperial Airways. Chapter One advocates for a history of speed. Questioning how ideas about speed lost their sense of slowness but retained fastness, it explores the transformation of speed into speed up. In Britain, this transformation was linked to ideas about order and the geography of empire. Chapter Two is about perception. It examines how the opening-up of the third dimension and the transition from horizontal to vertical travel changed perspective. Consideration of aboveness reveals the first generation of airline passengers experiencing flights over colonized grounds as remarkable and extraordinary; flights over water as mundane and ordinary. Chapter Three concerns an air route. It sheds light on the West Indian origins of the first transatlantic airline route between Britain and the United States. Chapter Four shows how those origins made metropolitan officials question the meaning of British prestige. Together, navigations through speed, perception, a route, and prestige make visible profound and prevailing relations between airline travel and empire.
AirspaceEmpireAtlantic WorldBritish West IndiesAirline TravelSpeed
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