Translating the Hijra: The Symbolic Reconstruction of the British Empire in India

  • Author / Creator
    Gannon, Shane
  • This dissertation examines the relationships between citizenship and sexuality and gender in imperial formations, through an archaeology/genealogy of the subject position of those classified as the hijra. Combining Lacan's symbolic order with Foucault's historic a priori in order to understand empire, this project examines two main questions: how were sexuality and gender -- notably manifest in the subject position of the hijra -- used as forms of political control in colonial India; and how transformations in empire were produced through changing representations of the hijra. Consequently, the hijra represent a key point -- or, in the words of Lacan, le point de capiton -- in the anchoring of a field of meaning that enabled colonial governance in both a diachronic and synchronic fashion; in other words, the figure of the hijra was translated by the colonial writers in such a way as to facilitate the creation of an ideology that privileged British understandings of sexuality and masculinity, not to mention civility, modernity, and, to a degree, religiosity, establishing British authority in the region. This project consists of a textual analysis of nineteenth-century British documents and writings, especially historical records, such as ethnographies, translations, census information, official reports, intra-government communications, and legal documents from the late eighteenth through early twentieth centuries, with a focus on the nineteenth. Through an examination of these sources, this dissertation explores how this group was translated by the colonial authorities; that is, it queries the conditions under which they were represented as a group that was constituted by those who were defined by sexual and gendered characteristics -- eunuchs, hermaphrodites, and impotent men.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2009
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.