The missionary ‘gaze’ and the ‘civilising mission’
Zenana encounters in nineteenth-century Bengal
in Gendered transactions
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Among white women in colonial India, it was the female missionaries who undoubtedly participated most closely in the colonial 'civilising mission'. This chapter examines the role of European female evangelicals in their zenana encounters in colonial Bengal. It looks at representations of zenana visitation in missionary writings as a cross-cultural encounter, examining the type of female education and proselytising that was adopted. In pursuit of their 'civilising mission', missionaries entered the zenanas and turned a critical 'colonial gaze' upon their inhabitants, representing them in their prolific writings as abject and oppressed, and reinforcing negative colonial constructions about them. The chapter focuses on two 'missionary novels': Hannah Catherine Mullens' Faith and Victory: A Story of the Progress of Christianity in Bengal and Mary Leslie's The Dawn of Light: A Story of the Zenana Mission.

Gendered transactions

The white woman in colonial India, c. 1820–1930


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