Colonial masculinity

The ‘Manly Englishman’ and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the Late Nineteenth Century

This book is about the processes and practices through which two differently positioned elites, among the colonisers and the colonised, were constituted respectively as the 'manly Englishman' and the 'effeminate Bengali'. It argues that the emerging dynamics between colonial and nationalist politics in the 1880s and 1890s in India is best captured in the logic of colonial masculinity. The figures of the 'manly Englishman' and the 'effeminate Bengali' were thus constituted in relation to colonial Indian society as well as to some aspects of late nineteenth-century British society. These aspects of late nineteenth-century British society are the emergence of the 'New Woman', the 'remaking of the working class', the legacy of 'internal colonialism', and the anti-feminist backlash of the 1880s and 1890s. A sustained focus on the imperial constitution of colonial masculinity, therefore, serves also to refine the standard historical scholarship on nineteenth-century British masculinity. The book traces the impact of colonial masculinity in four specific controversies: the 'white mutiny' against the Ilbert Bill in 1883, the official government response to the Native Volunteer movement in 1885, the recommendations of the Public Service Commission of 1886, and the Indian opposition to the Age of Consent Bill in 1891. In this book, the author situates the analysis very specifically in the context of an imperial social formation. In doing so, the author examines colonial masculinity not only in the context of social forces within India, but also as framed by and framing political, economic, and ideological shifts in Britain.

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