Spectacles of dispossession : representations of Indian Muslims in British colonial discourse, 1857-1905
This thesis analyses some of the changing features by which Indian Muslims were identified in British colonialist discourse between the outbreak of revolt in 1857 and the partition of Bengal in 1905. Most of the texts examined emanate out of the relatively circumscribed Anglo-Indian official community, and range from personal correspondence, to 'Mutiny' memoirs, travel guides, and socio-political essays. The argument takes as its starting point David Washbrook's description of the selfconstitution of the Raj as a centralised, secular and neutral state arbitrating the claims of competing ascriptive racial and ethnic communities. Drawing on recent Lacanian analyses of the formation and maintenance of ideologies, as well as on the sociological schema of Zygmant Bauman, the thesis argues that in the post-1857 period the preservation of this official identity became dangerously reliant on a discourse of power centred on representations of Indian Muslims. Chapter One reads the stereotype of the Indian Muslim in 1905 for its most salient features - debased foreign origins, religious incontinence, isolation within Indian society, and secret ambitions towards temporal power. It then traces them back to their first marked appearance in colonial discourse in 1857. Chapter Two begins with a reassessment of the historiography with regard to Muslim 'conspiracy' during the revolt, as well as a reconsideration of official praxis towards Indian Muslims in the half-century before its outbreak. Proceeding to a detailed analysis of' Mutiny' texts, it concludes that the unprecedented, widespread British misperception of 'conspiracy' stemmed in part from an irrational colonialist attempt to re-possess their own fractured secular ideology through tropes of Christian persecution. Chapter Three compares the highly ambivalent post-'Mutiny' representations of Indo-Muslim 'fanaticism' that resulted with a secularised late eighteenth-century discourse on Mughal figures of authority. It argues that the strikingly similar discourses of alienation and lack of self-command structuring both forms of representation derived from crises in the colonialist inability to command their own self-presentation as rulers within the Indian environment. In the later discourse, in particular, these instabilities issued in a disastrous process of representational stigmatisation and segregation.