The Privilege and Fragility in Melania Trump’s Colonial Cosplay – 特朗普殖民地剧中的特权与脆弱

E. M. Forster’s 1924 novel A Passage to India hinges on a dramatic scene that takes place deep in the fictitious Marabar Caves. The young Englishwoman, Adela Quested, escorted to the caves on an excursion led by the Muslim physician, Dr. Aziz, experiences an attack, panics, and flees. When the distraught Quested is found among the hills, she’s described as ‘practically done for – her helmet off.’ While Forster leaves the truth of what happened in the caves intentionally vague, the rest of the novel reckons with the accusation leveled at Dr. Aziz that he attempted to assault her. A trial ensues, laying bare the fragile ties holding the English and the natives together.

The helmet in question, which makes no subsequent appearance in the novel, is almost certainly a pith helmet, a symbol of colonial rule that has, owing to Melania Trump donning one on a Kenyan safari on Friday, added to the heaps of censure leveled against her. It should surprise no one that the First Lady’s sartorial choice, no doubt inspired by a Ralph Lauren ad campaign (crisp shirt, jodhpurs, riding boots), conjures up a troubling history.

The optics of Melania Trump’s look continues her commitment to dressing the part. In her mind, she plays the role of a sophisticated Westerner enjoying a leisurely safari expedition. It was for centuries – and continues to be, after all – the privilege of Westerners to land in a wilderness elsewhere, survey the landscape, and leave. Melania Trump, on tour to meet heads of state, deliver aid, and enhance America’s humanitarian reputation worldwide, knows appearances matter. Or does she?

T.E. Lawrence and Herbert Samuel, Amman, 1921. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Privilege and Fragility in Melania Trump’s Colonial Cosplay - 特朗普殖民地剧中的特权与脆弱

T.E. Lawrence and Herbert Samuel, Amman, 1921. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

On the wide grasslands of Kenya, her gleaming pith helmet, once considered de rigueur for European colonialists embarking on expeditions in tropical colonies, may have seemed unnatural in its environs at the same time that it was entirely befitting on her.

Generally white or khaki – the lighter the better, for reflecting the sun’s oppressive rays – the pith helmet is constructed of shola pith, derived from the spongy inner matter of a plant indigenous to the marshy regions of the Indian subcontinent. British colonial officers, impressed by the version native soldiers wore to fight during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, adopted a military style that was, by 1870, in full use among European armies stationed across the tropical colonies. The military style featured a raised peak for keeping the head cool and ventilated, as well as a cloth covering often decorated with medals and insignia.

On the other hand, Melania Trump’s – and probably Quested’s, too – was in the civilian style. Commonly referred to as a topi (Hindi for ‘hat’), her pith helmet features a lower dome and a wider brim for shielding the face. Cleaner and lacking military badges, it was commonly donned for both formal and casual occasions, until it fell out of favour with the fall of the British Raj in 1947.

Spanish officers, North Africa, 1912. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Privilege and Fragility in Melania Trump’s Colonial Cosplay - 特朗普殖民地剧中的特权与脆弱

Spanish officers, North Africa, 1912. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Between 1943 and 1947, George Orwell wrote a series of essays for the British newspaper Tribune, entitled ‘As I Please.’ One, from 1944, a riff on the pith helmet, uses the accessory as an opportunity to poke holes in the European superstition about sunstroke. The pith, for Orwell, takes on ‘considerable social significance’ in elucidating the fraught relationship between colonizer and colonized. As Orwell sees it, imperialism is predicated on stressing a difference between self and other. ‘You can only rule over a subject race, especially when you are in a small minority, if you honestly believe yourself to be racially superior, and it helps towards this if you can believe that the subject race is biologically different.’ Melania Trump doesn’t believe she has authority over the African nations. But she might surely believe she’s in some way superior. As Orwell puts it, ‘The thin skull was the mark of racial superiority.’

But perhaps even more insidiously, Melania Trump’s ignorant privilege allows her to believe she’s somehow more delicate, more vulnerable than the Kenyan natives escorting her on safari. For Orwell, ‘‘natives’, their skulls being thicker, had no need of these helmets.’ Melania Trump’s pith helmet allows her to not only look the part, but also to somehow believe that she’s more in danger of suffering from sun exposure. Such thinking stems from centuries of Western physiognomy and lazy anthropological research designed to ground racist claims about the other. It’s as if her body requires a different kind of treatment: simultaneously more valuable and more fragile. (In reality, owing to our understanding of the dangers of skin cancers and overheating, modern medicine since the 1950s has proven that people of all races should wear protective headgear while out in the sun.)

US First Lady Melania Trump on safari at Nairobi National Park, 5 October 2018. Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images; photograph: Saul Loeb

The Privilege and Fragility in Melania Trump’s Colonial Cosplay - 特朗普殖民地剧中的特权与脆弱

US First Lady Melania Trump on safari at Nairobi National Park, 5 October 2018. Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images; photograph: Saul Loeb

But the First Lady’s sartorial obsession with dressing the part should surprise no one. Her years spent modeling in Europe and America during the 1990s have shaped her knowledge of fashion. This kind of training, with a lack of imagination on the part of the dresser, can only model an individual to become a hanger. Here, another essay by Orwell is instructive, purely from the perspective of the roles Westerners take on in the colonies. ‘Shooting an Elephant,’ published in 1936 in the literary magazine New Writing, is a possible first-hand account of Orwell’s time spent in Moulmein, Burma, as a police officer. For the narrator, presumed to be Orwell, the incident of a raging elephant terrorizing the village exposes a hidden dualism within the mind of a colonizer. The locals hoot and jeer at Orwell, affording him no respect. ‘As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear.’ Faced with the responsibility of protecting the natives, Orwell takes up a rifle, the only thing that makes him feel powerful, and in a sense, it’s this costume, this posturing that lends meaning to his job. Ultimately, as Orwell realizes, ‘my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.’

Main image: US First Lady Melania Trump on safari at Nairobi National Park, 5 October 2018. Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images; photograph: Saul Loeb

Rajat Singh

Rajat Singh is a writer living in New York. He is working on a collection of essays on queer melancholy. His writing appears in Lapham’s Quarterly, The Offing and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Opinion /

Fashion
Empire
Colonialism
Melania Trump
Opinion
Pith Helmet
Rajat Singh


E.M.福斯特的1924部小说《印度之行》是一个戏剧性的场景,发生在虚拟的马拉巴尔洞穴深处。年轻的英国妇女阿德拉·奎斯特德在穆斯林医生阿齐兹医生的带领下前往洞穴探险,她经历了一次袭击、恐慌和逃亡。当在山间发现奎斯特德心烦意乱时,她被形容为“几乎完成了——摘掉了头盔”。虽然福斯特故意模糊了洞穴里发生的事情的真相,但小说的其余部分还是根据对阿齐兹博士的指控来推测,他企图袭击阿齐兹。给她打电话。随后,英国人和土著人之间的脆弱关系暴露在一起。这部小说中没有随后出现的头盔,几乎可以肯定是殖民统治的象征。由于梅拉妮娅·特朗普周五在肯尼亚狩猎旅行中戴了一顶头盔,这增加了对她的谴责。毫无疑问,第一夫人在拉尔夫·劳伦的广告宣传活动(清爽的衬衫、轻便的靴子、马靴)中做出的裁缝选择,勾起了一段令人不安的历史。Melania Trump的容貌延续了她对化妆的承诺。在她看来,她扮演一个老练的西方人,享受悠闲的探险旅行。几百年来——毕竟,现在仍然是——西方人到别处荒野登陆、勘察风景、离开的特权。梅拉妮娅·特朗普(Melania Trump)在访问期间会见国家元首、提供援助、以及提高美国在全球的人道主义声誉,她知道外表很重要。或者她呢?T.E. Lawrence和Herbert Samuel,安曼,1921岁。礼貌:WikimdiaCon The Privilege and Fragility in Melania Trump’s Colonial Cosplay - 特朗普殖民地剧中的特权与脆弱 TE E.劳伦斯和赫伯特塞缪尔,安曼,1921。礼貌:在肯尼亚广阔的草原上,她那闪闪发光的头盔,曾经被认为是欧洲殖民者踏上热带殖民地探险的必备装备,在肯尼亚周边地区看起来似乎很不自然,同时它完全适合h。呃。一般来说,白色或卡其色——越轻越好,为了反射太阳的压迫性光线——髓头盔由肖拉髓制成,这种髓来源于印度次大陆沼泽地区原生植物的海绵状内部物质。1857年印第安人起义期间,英国殖民军官对土著士兵打仗的版本印象深刻,采用了一种军事风格,到1870年,这种风格在驻扎在热带殖民地上的欧洲军队中得到了充分的运用。军事风格的特点是提高了顶峰,以保持头部凉爽和通风,以及布覆盖往往装饰有奖章和徽章。另一方面,Melania Trump的——也可能是被问及的——是平民风格的。通常被称为topi(印地语中表示“帽子”),她的核心头盔的特点是较低的圆顶和更宽的边缘,用于保护面部。它更干净,没有军徽,一般在正式场合和休闲场合都佩戴,直到1947年随着英国国王的倒台而失宠。西班牙军官,北非,1912岁。礼貌:维基媒体共享The Privilege and Fragility in Melania Trump’s Colonial Cosplay - 特朗普殖民地剧中的特权与脆弱西班牙军官,北非,1912。礼貌:1943-1947年间,乔治·奥威尔为英国报纸《论坛报》写了一系列文章,题目是“随我便”。其中一篇来自1944年,是一个戴着安全帽的即兴表演,用这个配件来戳穿欧洲迷信的漏洞。中暑。对于奥威尔来说,这个精髓在阐明殖民者和被殖民者之间令人不安的关系方面具有“相当大的社会意义”。正如奥威尔所见,帝国主义的前提是强调自我与他人之间的差异。梅拉妮娅•特朗普说,如果你诚实地认为自己在种族上比别人优越,你就只能统治一个种族,尤其是少数族裔。如果你相信这个种族在生理上与众不同,这有助于实现这一目标。非洲国家。但她可能相信她有某种优越性。正如奥威尔所说,“瘦小的头骨是种族优越的标志。”但是也许更隐秘的是,梅拉妮娅·特朗普的无知特权让她相信自己在某种程度上比护送她去狩猎的肯尼亚原住民更娇嫩,更脆弱。对奥威尔来说,“土著人”的头骨比较厚,不需要这些头盔。“梅拉妮娅·特朗普的精髓头盔不仅让她看这个角色,而且让她不知何故相信自己更容易遭受日晒的伤害。”这种想法源自于几个世纪以来西方的外貌学和懒散的人类学研究,这些研究旨在为种族主义者关于另一个人的主张奠定基础。她的身体需要一种不同的治疗方式:同时更有价值和更脆弱。(事实上,由于我们对皮肤癌和过热的危险性的理解,20世纪50年代以来的现代医学已经证明,所有种族的人在外出晒太阳时都应该戴防护帽。)2018年10月5日,美国第一夫人梅拉妮娅·特朗普在内罗毕国家公园狩猎礼貌:法新社/盖蒂图片社;照片:索尔·洛布·The Privilege and Fragility in Melania Trump’s Colonial Cosplay - 特朗普殖民地剧中的特权与脆弱·美国第一夫人梅拉妮娅·特朗普在内罗毕国家公园狩猎,2018年10月5日。礼貌:法新社/盖蒂图片社;照片:索尔·洛布。但是第一夫人对着装的痴迷应该不会让任何人感到惊讶。她在20世纪90年代在欧洲和美国的模特生涯塑造了她对时尚的认识。这种训练,在梳妆台上缺乏想象力,只能使一个人成为一个衣架。这里,奥威尔的另一篇文章很有启发性,纯粹是从西方人在殖民地中所扮演的角色的角度来看的。《1936》在《文学杂志》新发表的《射猎大象》中,可能是奥威尔作为警官在缅甸毛淡棉度过的第一手记录。对于叙述者,假定是奥威尔,一个凶猛的大象恐吓村庄的事件暴露了一个隐藏的二元论在一个殖民者的头脑。当地人嘲笑奥威尔,不尊重他。至于我所做的工作,我更痛恨它,也许我无法明确。“面对保护土著人的责任,奥威尔拿起一把来福枪,唯一能让他感觉强大的东西,从某种意义上说,正是这种装束赋予了他的工作意义。最终,正如奥威尔所认识到的,“我的一生,每个白人在东方的生活,都是一场不被嘲笑的长期斗争。”主要形象:2018年10月5日,美国国家公园第一次在内罗毕狩猎时,Lady Melania Trump。礼貌:法新社/盖蒂图片社;照片:索尔·勒布·拉贾特·辛格是住在纽约的作家。他正在研究一系列关于奇怪的忧郁的文章。他的作品刊登在《拉彭季刊》、《发售》和《洛杉矶书评》上。观点/时尚帝国殖民主义/媚兰王牌


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