The ‘Other’ Side of Nineteenth Century Bengal:A History of Crises and Anxieties:The evolving societal definitions and re-definitions surrounding ‘effeminacy’ and ‘ideal’ womanhood
Department of Histtory
University of Burdwan
Abstract:: This paper intends to present a rather less-discussed theme of the nineteenth Century in the history of Bengal, which is none other than the societal anxieties and crises, faced by the Bengali babus surrounding the notions of alleged ‘effeminacy’. We find a parallel crisis running amongst the colonized Indians that owing to the rigours of colonial penetration, somewhere or the other; the Bengali babus were lagging behind the necessary virility to challenge the colonial forces. Accordingly, the ‘other’ side of 19th Century Bengal was entrenched with a parallel phenomenon; the issue of anxiety prevalent amongst the society that the Bengali babus were becoming ‘frail’ and lacking in the ‘mainly’ prowess. This paper seeks to understand yet another history of 19th Century Bengal, and in critically examining an alternative history, viz, the history of societal crises surrounding the ‘effeminate’ babus, constructed and built around the politics of gender; and subsequently to trace the trajectory of the growing obsession with associating the womenfolk and their bodies as the very emblems of nationalism and the nation.
Key Words:Bengali babus, British rule, Gender, Nation and Nationalism, 19th Century Bengal