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Chowdhury Sengupta, Indira (1993) Colonialism and cultural identity : The making of a Hindu discourse, Bengal 1867-1905. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis studies the construction of a Hindu cultural identity in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries in Bengal. The aim is to examine how this identity was formed by rationalising and valorising an available repertoire of images and myths in the face of official and missionary denigration of Hindu tradition. This phenomenon is investigated in terms of a discourse (or a conglomeration of discursive forms) produced by a middle-class operating within the constraints of colonialism. The thesis begins with the Hindu Mela founded in 1867 and the way in which this organisation illustrated the attempt of the Western educated middle-class at self-assertion. In constructing a homogeneous Hindu identity, this social group hegemonically appropriated the distinct traditions of subordinated groups. Crucial to this project was another related one - that of history-writing. History, it was felt, contained the essence of civilisation and culture. A refutation of colonial notions about Hindus and Bengalis had to be achieved through the fusion of the historical and the mythological which sought to displace colonial history-writing. The anxiety about an ineffectual male identity ascribed to the Bengali male by colonial discourse prompted the imaging of meaningful icons of resistance in the form of heroic womanhood. The links between the figures, i.e., of the motherland, the mother and the ideal wife, are therefore especially significant. No less important is the reformulation of an alternative heroic male identity out of the conventional Hindu institution of Sannyas or asceticism by Vivekananda. He forwarded a notion of spiritual conquest by addressing the universalist dimensions of Hinduism. The political implications of this constructed identity was clearly revealed in the cultural events that preceded the partition of Bengal as well as those that formed and directed the Swadeshi movement.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

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