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"I mean to win": the nautch girl and imperial feminism at the fin de siècle Open Access

Descriptions

Other title
Subject/Keyword
India
feminism
fin-de-siècle
nautch
Anglo-Indian
Type of item
Thesis
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Jagpal, Charn Kamal Kaur
Supervisor and department
Slemon, Stephen (English and Film Studies)
Wallace, Jo-Ann (English and Film Studies; Women's Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Devereux, Cecily (English and Film Studies)
Brantlinger, Patrick (English)
Qureshi, Regula (Music)
Sinnema, Peter (English and Film Studies)
Department
Department of English and Film Studies
Specialization

Date accepted
2011-01-28T22:48:47Z
Graduation date
2011-06
Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Doctoral
Abstract
Grounded in the methodologies of New Historicism, New Criticism, Subaltern Studies, and Colonial Discourse Analysis, this dissertation explores Englishwomen’s fictions of the nautch girl (or Indian dancing girl) at the turn of the century. Writing between 1880 to 1920, and within the context of the women’s movement, a cluster of British female writers—such as Flora Annie Steel, Bithia Mary Croker, Alice Perrin, Fanny Emily Penny and Ida Alexa Ross Wylie—communicate both a fear of and an attraction towards two interconnected, long-enduring communities of Indian female performers: the tawaifs (Muslim courtesans of Northern India) and the devadasis (Hindu temple dancers of Southern India). More specifically, the authors grapple with the recognition that these anomalous Indian women have liberties (political, financial, social, and sexual) that British women do not. This recognition significantly undermines the imperial feminist rhetoric circulating at the time that positioned British women as the most emancipated females in the world and as the natural leaders of the international women’s movement. The body chapters explore the various ways in which these fictional devadasis or tawaifs test imperial feminism, starting with their threat to the Memsahib’s imperial role in the Anglo-Indian home in the first chapter, their seduction of burdened Anglo-Indian domestic women in the second chapter, their terrorization of the British female adventuress in the third chapter, and ending with their appeal to fin-de-siècle dancers searching for a modern femininity in the final chapter. My project is urgent at a time when imperial feminism is becoming the dominant narrative by which we are being trained to read encounters between British and Indian women, at the expense of uncovering alternative readings. I conclude the dissertation by suggesting that the recovery of these alternative readings can be the starting point for rethinking the hierarchies and the boundaries separating First World from Third World feminisms today.
Language
English
DOI
doi:10.7939/R3NG6V
Rights
License granted by Charn Jagpal (cjagpal@ualberta.ca) on 2011-01-27T14:07:07Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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File title: CHAPTER 1
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