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The “Politically Correct Memsahib”: Performing Englishness in Select Anglo-Indian Advice Manuals

S. Vimala, M.G.R. College, Hosur, India

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Abstract

Examining select Anglo-Indian advice manuals written after the Indian Mutiny in 1857and during the ‘high imperialism’ period of the British Raj, the essay proposes that this cultural artefact served the purpose of constructing and naturalizing the English Memsahibs’ gendered racial identity. By reiterating the performance of gender, class and race imperatives to construct a unique identity prerequisite for the Anglo-Indian community as well as the Indian colony, these texts aimed at the crystallization of this identity that will strengthen the idea of the British Raj. Such reiteration- apart from revealing the imperial anxiety of the subversion of the Memsahib identity- were useful to caution the English women new to the colonial environment.  Reading these Anglo-Indian advice manuals produced for the consumption of the Anglo-Indian community, what the essay further proposes is that the performance of gendered-racial identity of the English women in India constituted not only the governance of their bodies and the Anglo-Indian spaces, but also their management of travel and material consumption including food.  Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter provide useful insights to study the performance of the “politically correct Memsahib” identity and its attendant relation to the imagining of the homogenous British Raj.   

Tipu Sultan and the Politics of Representation in Three 19th Century English novels

Ayusman Chakraborty, Jadavpur University, India

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 Abstract

Tipu Sultan was the ruler of the native state of Mysore. His fierce opposition to British rule in India earned him unrivalled notoriety in England. Colonial writings usually portray him as a cruel tyrant who tortured Indians and Englishmen alike. This article studies the representation of Tipu Sultan in three nineteenth century English novels – The Surgeon’s Daughter by Sir Walter Scott, Tippoo Sultaun: A Tale of the Mysore Wars by Captain Meadows Taylor, and The Tiger of Mysore by G. A. Henty . In these works, Tipu is painted in an extremely unfavourable light. Arguing that the politics of imperialism influences such representations, this article tries to show how the depiction of Tipu as a monstrous villain served to justify British rule in India. These novels seem to suggest that the British deserve credit for rescuing Indians from such egregious villain. The article also focuses on politicization of Tipu’s dead body. Colonial art and literature constantly return to the scene where Tipu’s body is discovered by his enemies. This article argues that colonial imagination converts Tipu’s corpse to a ‘grisly trophy’ which becomes a sign of British triumph over Oriental despotism.

“I was not certain where I belonged”: Integration and Alienation in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Avirup Ghosh, Bhairab Ganguly College, Kolkata

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 Abstract

The article will focus on the contrary impulses of alienation and integration in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist that the central character and narrator Changez goes through in America while working as an employee at Underwood Samson, a “valuation” firm and his subsequent return to his native Pakistan where he assumes what appears to be an ultra-nationalistic political stance. This is to argue that Changez’s desperate attempt at assuming this stance has its roots not only in the cultural alienation and racism that he is subjected to in America, especially in a post-9/11 America, but also in his futile effort to naturally integrate with a Pakistani way of life.  By uncovering certain ambiguities in Changez’s ideological rhetoric, the paper tries show how Changez’s critique of American corporate fundamentalism stems from his lack of a sense of belonging and from a feeling of problematized identity.

In the World of Men: Tagore’s Arrival in the Spiritual Domain of Nationalism

Banibrata Goswami, Panchakot Mahavidyalaya, India

Abstract

Rabindranath Tagore was born in a family which, on one hand, inherited a legacy of rich Indian culture, and on the other, did not hesitate to welcome the modernism, freshly arrived from Europe through waves of Enlightenment. He was sent early to England to imbibe the gifts of modern science and rationalism that could lead him to a standard and secured career. But even though the discipline of work, love for liberalism and quest after scientific truth and technological perfection there impressed him much, in its over all effect the West’s efforts of de-humanization disappointed Tagore and disillusioned him as well. This led him finally to the realization and reconstruction of the motherland that is India. He came to meet the common man and his everyday sorrows and tears in rural Bengal, in Silaidaha, Patisar and Sazadpur where he was given the duty to look after the family estate. The raw and rough smell of the soil, the whirl of the waves in river Padma, the play of seasons on the strings of nature lent him a unique insight. He learnt to weave his words offering a perfect slide show of mutual reciprocation of man and nature, accompanied by a hitherto unheard melody of folk tune that glorifies the struggles of that life and thereby consolidating it gradually to a consciousness out of which a nation is born. The present essay intends to seek and understand the secrets of that story, which, though lacking miserably in sound and fury, strives towards a steady self emergence and emancipation paving the way for political freedom.

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