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Title: India in London : performing India on the exhibition stage, 1851-1914
Author: Jensen, Rosie
ISNI:       0000 0004 7427 2930
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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In India in London I explore the numerous ways that Indian identity was being corporeally represented in Victorian London. Unlike other colonial identities who were also exhibited throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the exhibition of India in London routinely included a range of ‘authentic’ performers and entertainments, including native artisans, ethnological models of tribal and caste groups, snake charmers, conjurers, contortionists, nautch girls (Indian dancers), and theatrical spectacles. By exploring the presentations and interpretations of these embodied forms of display, I attend to the exhibition of a colonised culture that although broadly branded ‘premodern’ was also being acknowledged as an ancient and artistic civilisation and therefore could not be fully situated into an inferior category. By paying attention to contradictions such as these, I urge that, in the context of exhibiting peoples, white imperial power manifested not only through ‘savages’ but also through cultures that were more ambivalently comprehended. Therefore, while detailed evaluations of these entertainments join to and expand the scholarship that deals with the exhibition of peoples, I also show that the exhibition of India importantly accounts for the tenacious and creative strategies of the imperial ethos. Furthermore, by understanding exhibitions during this period as theatrical sites, which involved the participation of a British audience, I argue that Indian identity was partly being produced in, by and for the public imagination. In this thesis I largely explore the relationship between display and imperialism and consider how this relationship ensued through embodied, varied and performative ways of viewing, knowing, racialising, historicising and gendering India in the urban metropolis. However, by responding to the contentions and contradictions of performance, I also show that exhibited India in its assorted forms resided in numerous, often conflating, sometimes competing powers, including imperialism, entertainment, science, capitalism and nationalism in the Indian context. India as exhibition is consequently significant not only for its contribution to imperial discourse-making, but also for its disobediences to the hegemonic script. An argument thus develops in the pages to follow that although the exhibition of Indian bodies reflected, produced and promoted an image of India that the British Empire relied upon in order to succeed, they also rebounded within discourses that critiqued. Most interestingly, it is through these ambiguities that the making of imperial ideology in popular culture, the instability of British-Indian relations and the eventual downfall of the Raj can be charted. It is here that my most significant contribution lies.
Supervisor: Newey, Katherine ; Carol, Upadhya Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: India ; London ; Exhibitions ; People ; Exhibits