Vampire and Empire: Dracula and the Imperial Gaze


  • Stu Burns Editor, Fine Lines creative writing journal



Dracula (novel), Bram Stoker, Vampires, British Empire, Orientalism


Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula was enmeshed in the discourse of British Imperialism, both in its composition and its reception. Stoker drew on Imperial-era studies to lend his narrative verisimilitude, including material on history, folklore, and geography from all over the world. As the range of Orientalist studies grew going into the twentieth century, Dracula effectively became part of imperial discourse, both in its own portrayal of the exotic,  dangerous East and for its association with the vampire motif that recurred in colonialist texts. This paper will examine the context of Dracula and vampiric tropes in imperialist rhetoric, focusing on the literature and ethnography of regions specifically cited in the novel. These include Britain’s tropical colonies in Malaysia and India, as well as the Empire’s sphere of influence in China. Special attention will be paid to the power relations inherent in the “imperial gaze,” as well as European fears of reverse colonialism and, more acutely, the problems of mimetic desire and “going native.”

Author Biography

Stu Burns, Editor, Fine Lines creative writing journal

Stu Burns is an editor for Fine Lines literary journal. He holds Masters and undergraduate degrees from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and is currently working on a book examining vampire folklore in the context of world history. He lives in Omaha.


Arata, S. (1990). The occidental tourist: Dracula and the anxiety of reverse colonization. Victorian Studies, 33(4), 621-645.

Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (2001). Post-colonial studies: The key concepts. New York, NY: Routledge.

Barber, P. (1989). Vampires, burial, and death. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Belford, B. (1996). Bram Stoker: A biography of the author of Dracula. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Brantlinger, P. (2011). Taming cannibals: Race and the Victorians. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Burton, R. F. (1885-1888). The book of the thousand nights and a night: A plain and literal translation of the Arabian Nights (Vols. 1-17). London: The Burton Club.

Burton, R. F. (1992) Vikram and the vampire: Classic Hindu tales of adventure, magic and romance. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press. (Original work published in 1870).

Bird, I. (2010). The golden chersonese and the way thither. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. (Original work published in 1883).

Cain, J. E., Jr. (2006). Bram Stoker and Russophobia: Evidence of the British fear of Russia in Dracula and The Lady of the Shroud. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Cohen, D. (1989). The encyclopedia of monsters. New York, NY: Dorset Press.

De Groot, J. (1892). The religious system of China (Vols. 1-5). Leiden: E.J. Brill.

Deane, H., & Balderston, J., & Skal, D. (Eds). (1993). Dracula: The ultimate, illustrated edition of the worldfamous vampire play. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Evans-Wentz, W. Y., (Ed.). (2000). The Tibetan book of the dead, or the after-death experiences on the Bardo Plane, according to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup’s English rendering. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. (Original work published in 1927).

Felluga, D. (2011). Introduction to Jacques Lacan: Module on the gaze [web page]. Retrieved from:

Gallagher, C., & Greenblatt, S. (2000). Practicing new historicism. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Hochschild, A. (1998). King Leopold’s ghost: A story of greed, terror, and heroism in colonial Africa. Boston, MA: Mariner Books.

James, L. (1994). The rise and fall of the British empire. London: Abacus.

Kaplan, E. A. (1997). Looking for the other: Feminism, film, and the imperial gaze. New York, NY: Routledge.

Keyworth, D. (2006). Was the vampire of the eighteenth century a unique type of undead-corpse? Folklore,117(3), 241-260.

Klaniczay, G. (1987). Decline of witches and rise of vampires in 18th century Habsburg monarchy. Ethnologia Europaea, 17, 165-180.

Maulod, N. A. (2009). The haunting of Fatimah Rock: History, embodiment and spectral urbanism in Singapore (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from:

McClelland, B. (2006). Slayers and their vampires: A cultural history of killing the dead. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

McDermott, R. F., & Kripal, J.J. (2003). Encountering Kali: In the margins, at the center, in the west. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

McNally, R. & Florescu, R. (1972). In search of Dracula: A true story of Dracula and vampire legends. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society.

Melton, J. G. (2011). The vampire book: The encyclopedia of the undead (3rd ed.). Canton, MI: Visible Ink.

Miller, E. (Ed.). (2009). Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A documentary journey into vampire country and the Dracula phenomenon. New York, NY: Pegasus Books.

Miller, E. (2000). Dracula: Sense and Nonsense. Westcliff-on-Sea: Desert Island Books.

Said, E. (1994). Orientalism: Western conceptions of the Orient. New York, NY: Vintage Books. (Original work published in 1978).

Skeat, W. W. (1900). Malay magic: Being an introduction to the folklore and popular religion of the Malay Peninsula. London: MacMillan and Co.

Spurr, D. (1993). The rhetoric of empire: Colonial discourse in journalism, travel writing, and imperial administration. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Stoker, B. (2008). Bram Stoker’s notes for Dracula: A facsimile edition (R. Eighteen-Bisang, & E. Miller, Eds.). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.

Stoker, B. (1997). Dracula: A Norton critical edition (N. Auerbach, & D.J. Skal, Eds.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Co.

Stoker, B. (1993). The essential Dracula (L. Wolf, Ed.). New York, NY: Plume Books.

Stoker, G. (1878). With “The Unspeakables;” or, two years’ campaigning in European and Asiatic Turkey. London: Chapman and Hall.

Summers, M. (2011). The vampire: His kith and kin: A critical edition (J.E. Browning, Ed.). Berkeley, CA: The Apocryphile Press. (Original work published in 1928).

Summers, M. (2014). The vampire in Europe: A critical edition (J.E. Browning, Ed.). Berkeley, CA: The Apocryphile Press. (Original work published in 1929).

Valente, J. (2001). Dracula’s crypt: Bram Stoker, Irishness, and the question of blood. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.




How to Cite

Burns, S. (2017). Vampire and Empire: Dracula and the Imperial Gaze. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 16(1).