I need to step away from Tutuola for a moment—I have 2-3 more posts planned, one on his use of similes—so I thought I’d look at the most protean figure emerging from post-imperial Britain, James Bond. Ian Fleming published the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1953 and the first film, Dr. No, was released in 1962. Translated into Kenyan time, the first novel is published shortly after the emergency is declared in 1952 and the first film released right before independence in 1963 (India 1947, Ghana 1957).
Framing Bond’s emergence and dissemination within Kenyan histories permits us to ask about its historical function in relation to Britain’s imperial decline. Given Kenya’s not great literacy rates at independence (I have no real numbers, but it seems safe to assume it wasn’t great), the Bond films would have reached wider audiences than the books. In fact, Bond’s flashy gizmo, intrigue-filled world thrills whether or not one understands the actual words spoken by characters. This is key.
James Bond is one of the most ubiquitous figures across the commonwealth (to use an old, useless designation). Unlike empire, Bond never dies. And his persistence speaks to a fantasy that the imperial masculinity he embodies never dies. Moreover, as a protean, phoenix-like figure, a model of impossible masculinity, Bond represents an unattainable fantasy that affirms every single claim about the superiority of imperial masculinity.
To understand Bond in this way is to approach a fantasy of post-imperial masculinity as an imperial residue.
In the non-note version of this reflection, to be pursued one day, I am interested in how the figure of Bond mediates the relationship between Britain and its former colonies while also helping to forge bonds among those former colonies.