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Colonial subjectivity: Keshab Chandra Sen in London and Calcutta, 1870-1884

Stevens, J.A.; (2011) Colonial subjectivity: Keshab Chandra Sen in London and Calcutta, 1870-1884. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The thesis investigates the ideas and activities of the Bengali Brahmo religious and social reformer Keshab Chandra Sen, and his interaction with a range of British intellectual, political and cultural figures. Keshab propounded novel and influential ideas regarding the relations between ‘East’ and ‘West’ to audiences in Britain and India (concerning British rule in India, education, religion and spirituality, the position of women, global history, universalism and modernity), ideas that were profoundly shaped by his experiences as a colonial subject in two powerful centres of empire - London and Calcutta. The thesis draws upon approaches from biographical, intellectual, social, cultural and political history in order to locate Keshab within an analysis which relates the construction of identity in public discourses in multiple sites of empire to an analysis of the experience of colonial subjectivity at the level of friendship, family and self. This analysis is grounded in an exploration of the social construction of notions of ‘difference’, with particular reference to ideas of race, gender, class and nation. Through bringing London and Calcutta into a single analytic frame, the thesis demonstrates the ways in which encounters between subjects from metropole and colony, and the representations of these encounters in both the metropole and the colony, shaped identities in an imperial context. The thesis pays particular attention to the sustained inter-cultural dialogue between Keshabite Brahmoism and British Unitarianism. Discourses of universalism in Britain and Bengal are analyzed as they developed in relation to each other, a relation that was limited and reconfigured by inequalities of power immanent in imperialism. The thesis brings Brahmo and Unitarian universalism into a postcolonial focus, and rematerializes Keshab within a genealogy of Bengali intellectual history which is itself tied to universalist discourses in the imperial metropole.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Colonial subjectivity: Keshab Chandra Sen in London and Calcutta, 1870-1884
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > History

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