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Dockside Reading

Hydrocolonialism and the Custom House

Isabel Hofmeyr was a co-winner in the award for the Best Non-fiction Monograph  for Dockside Reading: Hydrocolonialism and the Custom House (first published by Duke University Press) in the HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES 2023 AWARDS. Prof Mosoetsa said, “this book, also digging deep into hidden histories, looks at British dockside customs officials in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how they performed colonial control of the waters by tracking printed matter from ship to shore and dumping what they found morally or politically objectionable.”

2 in stock

2 in stock

In Dockside Reading Isabel Hofmeyr traces the relationships among print culture, colonialism, and the ocean through the institution of the British colonial Custom House. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, dockside customs officials would leaf through publications looking for obscenity, politically objectionable materials, or reprints of British copyrighted works, often dumping these condemned goods into the water. These practices, echoing other colonial imaginaries of the ocean as a space for erasing incriminating evidence of the violence of empire, informed later censorship regimes under apartheid in South Africa. By tracking printed matter from ship to shore, Hofmeyr shows how literary institutions like copyright and censorship were shaped by colonial control of coastal waters. Set in the environmental context of the colonial port city, Dockside Reading explores how imperialism colonizes water. Hofmeyr examines this theme through the concept of hydrocolonialism, which puts together land and sea, empire and environment.