Representations of colonial intimacy in Anglo-Indian narratives

Nandini Sengupta, Syracuse University


This dissertation examines nineteenth-century manifestations of colonial intimacy in a range of texts produced by Anglo-Indians, capturing their colonial experience from the 1830s to the 1880s. Through these texts, I examine the ideological implications of interracial intimacy in a range of relationships that were established between the Indians and British in the 'contact zone.' The first two chapters examine the letters of Emily Eden and Fanny Parks to probe British women's experience of India. I argue that the women forge an alternative space of intimacy that defies the notion that Anglo-Indian women remained on the periphery of Indian space as female ethnographers using their pen and pencil to engage in the act of colonial appropriation. Instead, such intimacies and attachments produce an alternative knowledge about India that expand our understanding of colonial interactions. In the third chapter, I read Philip Taylor's novel Seeta (1872), which recuperates the events of the Sepoy Uprising of 1857. Taylor composes a story of interracial love and marriage between an English administrator and a Hindu widow. Probing the manifestations and ideological import of the sexual and emotional affinities for colonial relations in the moment of the Uprising, I argue that the interracial intimacy in the novel ultimately translates itself into an exercise of punishing the recalcitrant Indian man by embracing the compliant, loyal Indian woman. The final chapter continues the examination of interracial heterosexual intimacy through a reading of Rudyard Kipling's short stories contained in the volume Plain Tales from the Hills . In particular, I probe his delineations of interracial heterosexual intimacy between various officers of empire and socially marginalized Indian women belonging to different ethnic communities of India to construct an argument about the operations of class in colonial India.