This article builds on postcolonial critiques of colonialism's reliance on the figure of the ``native informant.'' In early-nineteenth-century Britain, the emergent discipline of orientalism required the native informant to ratify its claims to knowledge; at the same time, orientalism was a key component of Romantic reimaginings of language as a productive force. While the native informant guarantees the referential truth of colonial discourse, this essay details the simultaneous emergence of a figure termed the ``native performant,'' who dramatizes the performative power of Western language. Examining scenes from Robert Southey's The Curse of Kehama, Lord Byron's Lara, and Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, the author argues that European power is staged by subjecting a figure of the East to a kind of language that functions as a conduit of pure force rather than a tool of communication. These scenes of linguistic triumphalism, the essay contends, highlight the double performativity of orientalist discourse: orientalism both performs and by performing enacts the West's power of command over the East.
Zak Sitter; The Native Performant: Linguistic Authority in the Text of Romantic Orientalism. differences 1 September 2010; 21 (2): 109–141. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2010-005
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