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Title: Contesting Respectability : Sexuality, Corporeality and NonBhadra Cultures in Colonial Bengal
Author: Ray, Bidisha
ISNI:       0000 0004 2678 7489
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis exam.ines sexual and corporeal elements of cultural discourses and practices in Bengali society in the wake of a supposed 'Bengal Renaissance'. In Victorian Bengal the project of constructing a 'respectable', modern Bengali self under seemingly all-pervasive white imperialist tutelage set in motion fraught rearrangements of traditional Bengali cosmologies of selfhood, class, aesthetics, politics, and moral ideals. This thesis explores the content and politics of the combative dynamics of colonial Bengali 'respectability' along the deeply embedded, frequently disruptive, but historiographically shadowed register of sexuality. If being 'respectable' in a bhadra/ok idiom meant the marginalisation of all matters sexual, this thesis questions how far this was possible. Focusing on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this study recovers the noticeable presence, subjectivities and impact of a number of hitherto neglected social actors, such as prostitutes, stage actresses, practitioners of certain popular religious cults and dissonant elite gentlemanly groups, among others, in an environment known otherwise to be dominated by abstemious intellectual refinements. Through its use of a number of little-discussed historical sources, this study demonstrates various ways in which such groups represented not merely demographic addenda but were active and influential figures within the colonial Bengali landscape. By unlocking a range of powerful yet historically neglected voices and by problematising aspects of available historiography, this thesis contributes to knowledge about the networks of social relations, contradictions and contingencies prevalent in colonial Bengal during these years.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Not available Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available