Children and colonial (con)texts of power in India 
Sudipa Topdar (Illinois State University)
Start time:
27 July, 2012 at 16:15 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This panel explores the discrete conceptions of childhood and 'the child' produced in colonial India. It examines prescriptive discourses on child-rearing, female education, medico-legal discourses on child-rape laws and the centrality of masculinity and a virile male body in children's magazines.

Long Abstract

This panel seeks to contribute to the emerging scholarship on the history of colonial childhoods which remains a largely marginalized subject within South Asian historiography. The papers in the panel focus on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in India, a period marked by a new socio-cultural emphasis on the management, protection and improvement of children through ideas on child-rearing, education, gender, law and medicine. By focusing on these themes the panel will interrogate the related but discrete understandings of childhood produced during this period.

Nupur Chaudhuri's paper explores the prescriptive discourses on child rearing written by female Bengali authors particularly on the issue of female education and their rebellion against the traditional norms of raising girl children. Using an early twentieth century Marathi women's magazine, Stree, as an archive Aswini Tambe explores the literary and visual representations of unmarried adolescent girls and how transitions from childhood to womanhood were framed. Ishita Pande scrutinizes textbooks on medical jurisprudence that focused on sexual violence against native children to explore the medical discourses that produced new definitions of 'the child' and shaped colonial rape laws. Sudipa Topdar examines the interplay between the dissemination of formal education through colonial school textbooks and its critique within the space of Bengali children's magazine. Topdar explores how the magazines played upon the anxieties surrounding bhadralok masculinity to represent the native male child's body as a metaphor of the nation and undertake projects of remasculinizing the youth through a revival of indigenous martial sports.

Accepted papers: