Social Scientist. v 29, no. 328-329 (Sept-Oct 2000) p. 12.


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INDRANI SEN*

Gendering (Anglo) India: Rudyard Kipling and the Construction of Women

There is of course little doubt that Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was the foremost writer of the British Raj in the last few decades of the 19th century. In many ways his early literary productions published in the 19th century mark a culmination of the ideological trends of the time, with Kipling's role seemingly that of a consolidator, as he voices most effectively many notions of the age. A number of themes and assumptions articulated in contemporary discursive writings can be recognised in his early texts, published in the 1880s and 1890s and especially in his first collection of short stories. Plain Tales From the Hills (1888) with which he shot into fame. If we look upon literary texts as cultural products then Kipling's gender-ideologies need to be scrutinised in order to comprehend better the cultural dynamics of colonialism and its interfaces with gender. Although an enormous amount has been written on his literary and other texts the fact is that there has been little attempt to see his works against the web of contemporary gender-attitudes prevailing in the colonial discursive writings of that time - or even to locate him within the broader framework of contemporary Anglo-Indian literary discourse, as this paper seeks to do.1 As a matter of fact, most of his contemporary fiction-writers have been all but forgotten - so it is all the more significant that we draw upon these discourses to contextualise and better understand Kipling's gender-constructions.2

Indeed, as we shall see, at first glance Kipling's early writings, which seem to voice contemporary colonial ideologies appear to situate him very much at the hub of Anglo-Indian race and gender perceptions. But do his literary productions actually offer seamless replications of Anglo-Indian stereotypes? Or are these apparent



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