Marginalising the memsahib
The white woman’s health issues in colonial medical writings
in Gendered transactions
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From the second half of the nineteenth century onwards and up till the early years of the twentieth century, there appeared a growing spate of medical handbooks and manuals, authored by India-based colonial physicians. This chapter examines the construction of gender in the colonial medical texts, scrutinising how they wielded authoritative power over vulnerable young European women in the colonies through the power/knowledge of their medical directives. In medical discourse, European memsahibs were subjected by their male compatriots to a gendered, medical gaze that was often critical and disparaging. White women's physical unfitness to live in the tropical colonies was always a subject of avid debate in medical handbooks, and much of the focus was on the impact of climate on their reproductive health. Gender politics was also played out in the sphere of clothing and climate in medical discourse.

Gendered transactions

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


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