Theses Doctoral

Printed Bodies: Gender Politics of Imagetexts in Colonial India, 1874-1945

Chatterjee, Sourav

My dissertation studies gender and politics in printed imagetexts in colonial Bengal. It covers the period from the publication of the Bengali Punch Magazine, Basantak, in 1874 to the circulation of anti-imperial newspaper gags during WWII. At the core of this project are colonial illustrated periodicals—the quintessential mediums of colonial modernity and pedagogy, and the bearer of anticolonial imagetexts.

The dissertation analyzes printed imagetexts like comics, cartoons, caricatures, newspaper gags, posters, and advertisements in periodicals and their effects on anti-imperial thought and the politicization of colonial popular culture. Imagetexts are synthetic mediums where ‘image’ and ‘text’ compositely create meaning. I argue that the printed imagetexts understood nationalist politics and gender through the stereotypes of English-educated babu, native politician, and the urban clerk. Imagetextual satire, for anticolonial and nationalist politics, framed these three stereotypes as both the oppressor and the oppressed in relationship to which other genders were conceived in colonial Bengal.

These imagetextual stereotypes provided the bases for imagining the self and the other and a set of sensibilities, practices, and modes of sociability that defined late colonial South Asia. The circulation, co-existence, and deployment of these satirical discursive models for decolonial projects in English and vernacular illustrated periodicals stemmed from the nineteenth-century phenomenon of print erotophobia—the national and imperial fear of Indian erotic literature. I examine the imagetextual satire born in the wake of this print erotophobia at the intersections of class, gender, and nationalist politics. This cultural history of imagetexts also draws attention to the fictional properties of the colonial archival documents, which served as mediums of political exclusion and representation, history-recording, storytelling, and articulating nationalist sentiments.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Kaviraj, Sudipta
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 3, 2024