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The white woman in colonial India, c. 1820–1930
Author: Indrani Sen

This book explores colonial gendered interactions, with a special focus on the white woman in colonial India. It examines missionary and memsahibs' colonial writings, probing their construction of Indian women of different classes and regions, such as zenana women, peasants, ayahs and wet-nurses. The three groups of white women focused upon are memsahibs, missionaries and, to a certain extent, ordinary soldiers' wives. Among white women in colonial India, it was the female missionaries who undoubtedly participated most closely in the colonial 'civilising mission'. The book addresses through a scrutiny of the literary works written by 'New Indian Women', such as Flora Annie Steel. Cross-racial gendered interactions were inflected by regional diversities, and the complexity of the category of the 'native woman'. The colonial household was a site of tension, and 'the anxieties of colonial rule manifest themselves most clearly in the home'. The dynamics of the memsahib-ayah relationship were rooted in race/class hierarchies, domestic power structures and predicated on the superiority of the colonising memsahib. The book also examines colonial medical texts, scrutinising how they wielded authoritative power over vulnerable young European women through the power/knowledge of their medical directives. Colonial discourse sought to project the white woman's vulnerability to specific mental health problems, as well as the problem of addiction of 'barrack wives'. Giving voice to the Indian woman, the book scrutinises the fiction of the first generation of western-educated Indian women who wrote in English, exploring their construction of white women and their negotiations with colonial modernities.

European women’s mental health and addiction in the late nineteenth century
Indrani Sen

We saw in the last chapter how colonial medical discourse tended to either marginalise European women in the colony or to focus on their general unfitness for colonial motherhood. In this chapter we shall turn our attention to the mental health of white women in colonial India, both middle-class memsahibs and lower-class barrack wives. 1 Colonial discourse

in Gendered transactions
Abstract only
Indrani Sen

irresponsible, while medical journals and textbooks underscored female vulnerability to chronic mental health problems among middle-class memsahibs and lower-class barrack wives – thereby helping to propagate the age-old adage of the colonies being ‘no place for a woman’. By thus uncovering the gendered hostility embedded in this medical discourse, this book further demonstrated how the

in Gendered transactions
Abstract only
Indrani Sen

-class memsahibs (which is of course the category of European women most widely discussed in studies on the subject), but also include other categories of white women in the colony, such as female evangelicals and barrack wives. In fact, one of my efforts in this study is to bring out the heterogeneity of the ‘white woman in India’ in terms of class contradictions, and also probe the internal divisions and

in Gendered transactions