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Keywords:

  • Reclus;
  • universal geography;
  • colonialism;
  • anarchism;
  • postcolonial studies

Abstract: The anarchist and geographer Élisée Reclus (1830–1905) argued for the idea of universal brotherhood for all the peoples of the world in his encyclopaedic work the Nouvelle Géographie Universelle (NGU) (1876–1894). The nature of Reclus' argument and its representations of Europe, otherness and colonialism, however, are contested today, and it is unclear what insights it might offer to contemporary students of colonialism and post-colonialism. In this paper I engage with two emblematic cases—British rule over India and French occupation of Algeria—as they are presented in the NGU, considering Reclus' analysis of imperialism and his novel critique of colonial power. In doing so I wish to demonstrate that far from being conventional, the NGU is a radical and interesting resource for those struggling to construct a critical discourse on Europe, otherness and colonialism.