Two images of India that are recognisable to people today in both Britain and the USA are those of poverty and mystery. What ‘sells’ a country like India to the West, as seen in tourism advertisements for example, is its ‘exotic culture’ in the context of its economic poverty. In her exoticism and her misery, the ‘Indian woman’ has embodied the subcontinent itself: attracting and repelling at the same time, she is as absent in the construction of her image as India has been. As Said says: “in discussions of the orient, the orient is all absence, whereas one feels the orientalist and what he [sic] says as presence”. Said’s quote is significant because, as Billie Melman has shown, although he uses examples of the construction of women in literature as descriptive illustrations of orientalist discourses, he does not incorporate an analysis of gender into his conceptual approach. Liddle and Joshi, for example, show how gender formed one of the pillars on which imperialism was built, and that the divisions of gender mediated the structure of imperialism; and Sangari and Vaid demonstrate that both the coloniser and the colonised used the image of Indian women and the notion of Indian tradition in relation to gender to contain political and cultural change in both Britain and India. Although this orientalist discourse was largely constructed by men, Western women also contributed to it.-
Feminism, Imperialism and Orientalism: The Challenge of the ‘Indian Woman’
Ramusack identifies the approach of most Western feminists of the time as “maternal imperialists”, including those who supported Indian nationalism but still believed that the colonial government improved the condition of women. As Jayawardena makes clear, they saw Indian women as their special burden, and saw themselves as the agents of progress and civilisation. The subject Indian woman in a decaying colonised society was the model of everything they were struggling against and was thus the measure of Western feminists’ own progress. British feminists saw Britain as the centre of both democracy and feminism, and when they claimed political rights they also claimed the right to participate in the empire, seeing female influence as crucial for the empire’s preservation. They sought power for themselves in the imperial project, and used the opportunities and privileges of empire as a means of resisting patriarchal constraints and creating their own independence.
Historian William Blum recently documented that, since 1945, the US has attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, has grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries and has dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 others.-
Passage to Ecuador: Chomsky, Assange, sham justice, sham democracies. (via London Progressive Journal)
Iraq has been torn to pieces by sectarianism since the US invasion and occupation, Libya is in turmoil in the aftermath of NATO intervention, Pakistan is being destabilised and a proxy war is being stoked by the US and its allies in Syria.
Filed under: Not surprised.(via mehreenkasana)
afraid-to-run asked: can you please recommend good books to recommend to ignorant english folk about the british empire in all it’s disgusting glory?
Good question. I can speak from the South Asian experience of it; the Subcontinent - present day India, Pakistan, and to an extent Afghanistan. Before getting in the books I’d recommend, you should tell those who support British imperialism that life back then wasn’t as glorious as historians make it look like. With the basics:
- Indian economy was the second largest economy in the world until the British came. During British rule (1857 to 1947) Indian economy grew at zero percent. That India did not grow for 90 years (when Industrial revolution was rewarding Europe and the US) is a tragic outcome of colonial rule’s lack of interest and incompetence. Credit goes to laissez faire capitalism pursued by India after 1992 and American capital market’s confidence and investments in India for India’s emergence as the second fastest growing economy in the world today.
- The subcontinent suffered too many famines during the British rule mostly attributable to mismanagement by the Empire.
- The British Empire encouraged biased stratification in the subcontinental societies based on caste, color and creed. This continues to exist in modern day South Asia where social markers like these control the fates of many.
- Many pro-Empire theorists argue that the British built modern cities with modern conveniences but it should be noted that these were exclusive zones not intended for the “natives” to enjoy.
- There is another popular belief about British rule: ‘The British modernized Indian agriculture by building canals.’ But the actual record reveals a completely different story. “The roads and tanks and canals,” noted an observer in G. Thompson’s “India and the Colonies”, ”which Hindu or Mussulman (Muslim) governments constructed for the service of the nations and the good of the country have been suffered to fall into dilapidation; and now the want of the means of irrigation causes famines.” Montgomery Martin, in his standard work “The Indian Empire”, in 1858, noted that the old East India Company “omitted not only to initiate improvements, but even to keep in repair the old works upon which the revenue depended.” They screwed the natives over again.
- In the early 1800s imports of Indian cotton and silk goods faced duties of 70-80%. British imports faced duties of 2-4%! As a result, British imports of cotton manufactures into India increased by a factor of 50, and Indian exports dropped to one-fourth. A similiar trend was noted in silk goods, woollens, iron, pottery, glassware and paper. As a result, millions of ruined artisans and craftsmen, spinners, weavers, potters, smelters and smiths were rendered jobless and had to become landless agricultural workers. They screwed us over again.
- Reactionary borders.
- And many other reasons why you should logic-slap those who support Empire(s).
The books I would suggest are: M. M. Ahluwalia’s Freedom Struggle in India. Shah, Khambata’s The Wealth and Taxable Capacity of India. G. Emerson’s Voiceless India.Brooks Adams’s The Law of Civilization and Decline. J. R. Seeley’s, Expansion of England. H. H. Wilson, History of British India. D. H Buchanan’s Development of Capitalist Enterprise in India.
Slightly unrelated but you should Gender and Community Under British Colonialism: Emotion, Struggle and Politics in a Chinese Village by Siu Keung Cheung as well. Hope this helps.
- Malaysia/British Malaysia
- North Borneo
- Kingdom of Sarawak
- Western Samoa
- The Phoenix Islands of Kiribati
- Hong Kong, China
- Aden Protectorate
- South Arabia
- Trucial Coast (United Arab Emirates)
- Burma (Myanmar)
- Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
- British India: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh