Dr Arunima Bhattacharya: Disciplining the aberrant body in Colonial Calcutta: Calcutta handbooks as regulating devices

Event date: 
Wednesday 1 July
Time: 
13:00
Location: 
Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, 2 Hope Park Square

Dr Arunima Bhattacharya: Disciplining the aberrant body in Colonial Calcutta: Calcutta handbooks as regulating devices

Arunima Bhattacharya (A.Bhattacharya@leeds.ac.uk )

In this talk I will focus on the concept of whiteness and its competing definitions as revealed in the colonial handbooks printed in Calcutta post the shift of the British colonial capital from Calcutta, to Delhi in 1912. The ‘Calcutta handbook’, a term that I use to identify this sub-genre of peripheral urban literature, was foremost a regulating device, designed to counter the gap between the expectations generated by the official narrative of British imperial domination and the corporeal reality of life in the tropics that induced an anxiety of alienation. In the ‘Calcutta handbooks’ the body of an Indian subject is an absent presence, drastically underestimating the interracial interaction that underpinned the lived experience of reality for Europeans and Indians alike. The idea of Whiteness as a race and class-based privilege deployed politically, socially and culturally, is carefully constructed through the creation of contrasting negative stereotypes of Indians and other non-European migrants in the city. It is in this context that aberrant bodies, of mixed-race ‘Eurasians’, Domiciled Europeans and other elements of the white population that Harold Fischer Tiné described as ‘low and licentious Europeans’, become contentious. I argue that the boundaries of white privilege were constructed through the discourse of hygiene that had both moral and physical implications. In this talk I will dwell on the embodied experience of the colonial metropolis as narrated through the Calcutta handbook. Particularly focusing on the makings of the discourse of hygiene that counteracted the perceived physical and moral corruption of the native body through ‘corrective’ governmental measures of disciplining aberrant bodies and space.

Please click HERE to go to the online talk