Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - Lineages of Change: Gender and Power Relations in Late Colonial India

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Amaltas, Lower Ground Floor

At the advent of Britishers in north and east India the trajectory of power was no doubt inclined towards men, but the stakeholders of power were different from those of the colonial period. There had been jamindars, nawabs, local rulers who enjoyed power but after the British came, scrutiny of their lineages reveals that power relations changed dramatically. Western education, modern law, socio-religious reform movements, socio-economic changes, nationalist movements, and uprisings brought many changes in the private and public spheres of society, hence the emergence of new structures of power. 


Genealogies of the modernization of Indian society have been multi-layered and multi-dimensional. Changes occurred during the British period under the shadows of colonial interests and varied nationalist strands. The reform process rarely challenged patriarchal structures in spite of broadening them. Thus the existing and changing patterns of power relations during the colonial period must be investigated considering the fact that women's emancipation movements had limitations, for the role of women in freedom movements was, with a handful of exceptions, defined within patriarchal boundaries by male leaders. These actors of reform movements were the newly emerged bourgeois classes rather than the jamindars, nawabs and local rulers. Regional, class-caste and religion-based variations existed in reform and nationalist movements. Thus power conflicts can be seen not only as confrontations between colonisers and nationalists but also as confrontations between the colonial state and some English individuals (both men and women), nationalist leaders, and female recipients and agents of the outcomes of the movements.

Rohit Kumar

Banaras Hindu University, India

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