Smells Like Empire (to an Elephant)

About a year ago I wrote a blog post about British colonizers’ sense of smell in Burma. I suggested that what they thought smelt bad revealed their prejudices about Burmese society. In addition, I wrote that they believed their nasal experience of Empire led them to have more refined sensibilities than their compatriots back home….

Smells Like Empire

Historians who have studied the senses have written about the racist claims, often made in colonial and slave societies, that people of colour smelt unpleasant. I have certainly come across such statements in the writings of some British imperialists regarding the Burmese. In addition to being a way of distancing themselves from colonised populations, describing…