Domesticity in Colonial India: What Women Learned When Men Gave Them Advice

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, May 5, 2004 - Social Science - 256 pages
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Domesticity in Colonial India offers a trenchant analysis of the impact of imperialism on the personal, familial, and daily structures of colonized people's lives. Exploring the 'intimacies of empire,' Judith E. Walsh traces changing Indian gender relations and the social reconstructions of the late nineteenth century. She sets both in the global context of a transnationally defined discourse on domesticity and in the Indian context of changing family relations and redefinitions of daily and domestic life. By the 1880s, Hindu domestic life and its most intimate relationships had become contested ground. For urban, middle-class Indians, the Hindu woman was at the center of a debate over colonial modernity and traditional home and family life. This book sets this debate within the context of a nineteenth-century world where bourgeois, European ideas on the home had become part of a transnational, hegemonic domestic discourse, a 'global domesticity.' But Walsh's interest is more in hybridity than hegemony as she explores what women themselves learned when men sought to teach them through the Indian advice literature of the time. As a younger generation of Indian nationalists and reformers attempted to undercut the authority of family elders and create a 'new patriarchy' of more nuclear and exclusive relations with their wives, elderly women in extended Hindu families learned that their authority in family life (however contingent) was coming to an end. But young women learned a different lesson. The author draws on an important advice manual by a woman poet from Bengal and women's life stories from other regions of India to show us how young women used competing patriarchies to launch their own explorations of agency and self-identity. The practices of family, home, and daily life that resulted would define the Hindu woman of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and the domestic worlds in which she was embedded. The accompanying Rowman & Littlefield webpage includes a full array of the authorOs translations of never-before-studied Bengali-language domestic manuals.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Global Domesticity
11
Domesticity in Colonial Calcutta
31
Rewriting Patriarchy The Companionate Marriage
51
Will the Educated Woman Still Cook and Scour Plates?
63
Whats Love Got to Do with It?
87
The WellOrdered Home
113
What Women Learned Rewriting Patriarchy Writing the Nation and the Self
141
A Husbands Advice to His Wife Strīr prati svāmīr upadeś
177
The Laksmī of the Home Grha laksmī
181
The Duties of Women Ramanīr kartavya
187
Woman s Dharma Nārī dharma
195
A Note on Bengali Domestic Manuals and Their Authors
203
Brief Glossary
205
References
209
Index
223

Epilogue
163
Conversations with the Wife Strīr sahit kathopakathan
167
About the Author
235
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Judith E. Walsh is professor in the humanities and languages department at the State University of New York, the College at Old Westbury.

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