chapter  4
34 Pages

Domesticity and Dominion

In his denunciation o f the Bengalis written in 1840, Thomas Babington Macaulay, found Eastern India to be populated by a class of subjects who were “enervated by a soft climate and accustomed to peaceful employments,

[and] bore the same relation to other Asiatics which the Asiatics generally bear to the bold and energetic children of Europe.”1 He observed further that:

Many decades later, in 1899, G. W. St evens, one time special correspondent o f the Daily Mail, expressed the same opinion:

These two observations, though egregious at first sight, would not have been considered novel or insidious during the advent o f British rule in India. The discursive twists through which the Bengalis became the prototype of enfeebled, enslaved, and engendered imperial subjects were much more than products o f overt racism or simply of the need for an assertive, self-validating, masculine identity for Englishmen in India. From its very inception, the colonial political economy was burdened with the ideological work of sorting out its relations to various unequal colonial subjects in accordance with dominant ideas o f sexuality, gender, domesticity, and the division of labor.