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Title: Passages through India : Indian gurus, western disciples and the politics of Indophilia, 1890-1940
Author: Biswas, Somak
ISNI:       0000 0004 9353 6938
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis analyses the phenomenon of Indophilia, a romanticised affection and engagement by westerners for an idealised (largely Hindu) India. Three major mentor figures – Vivekananda, Gandhi and Tagore – and their close western disciples are taken up in this study to show the complex mobilisations made possible by the negotiation of personal intimacies and public political projects. It foregrounds a study of the spatial, material and affective aspects that surround the experience of discipleship. I argue that these discipleships, produced through a series of complex affective practices between themselves and the guru, were inevitably inflected by the upper caste/middle class presumptions that informed them. I suggest how epistolary practices, ashrams and spiritual domesticity were interbraided in a language of intimate discipleship that produced the forms and fantasy of Indophilia. I study the excess produced through the experience of relating to the world of the guru. Being and becoming came together through a wide set of practices, politics and performances. The five decades between 1890 and 1940 provide the chronological context – of high imperialism, fin-de-siècle heterodoxy, an expansive Indian nationalist discourse and an increased mobility and migration from the subcontinent – that made the presence of Indophiles a seemingly transgressive phenomenon. Bringing themes such as intimacy, discipleship and migration together, this thesis argues that Indophile deployments around transnational projects were in itself not emancipatory. Rooted in a politics of respectability, they insistently sought to produce and normalise an idea of India that was often itself hegemonic in its formation. I argue that these Indophile intimacies were instrumentalised for a set of ‘worlding’ projects that sought to settle an idea of India and Indians for a largely western set of audiences and geographies. In this, they often reproduced the very hierarchies of race, class and caste that they were supposedly seeking to transgress. It is this profoundly ambivalent politics of intimacy that this thesis seeks to problematise.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DS Asia