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28-Jul-2020 19:36

Disseminating the imperial idea of the much needed Memsahib identity, the English women along with their male counterparts were conscious of producing the imperial knowledge of India.

Examining both select Anglo-Indian men as well as women’s advice manuals, the essay demonstrates how the Anglo-Indian writers-irrespective of gender differences- reiterated the “politically correct Memsahib” identity to arrest the unstable identities of the English women living in India.

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Promoting gender and class differences in her household manual, Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management defines the ideal Victorian woman thus: AS WITH THE COMMANDER OF THE ARMY, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house….(Steel 18) The above epigraph appearing in Flora Annie Steel’s The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook demonstrates how the governance of the British Empire is defined as the extension of the management of the Anglo-Indian domestic space.An investigation of Anglo-Indian advice manuals written after the Indian Mutiny in 1857 for the consumption of the English women in India show how the onus of strengthening the British empire was placed on these women residing with their men as wives, sisters, mothers and relatives.This process was informed by the participation of the English middle and upper-middle class men in the British Raj service leading to a paranoid obsession with the practice of social rituals and elaborate etiquettes.

The English women settlers in India tried to transplant the Victorian domesticity that constituted the imagined separation of the gendered spheres of the private and the public.

Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter provide useful insights to study the performance of the “politically correct Memsahib” identity and its attendant relation to the imagining of the homogenous British Raj.