Calcutta

OpenCalais Metadata: Latitude: 

22.5697

OpenCalais Metadata: Longitude: 

88.3697

OpenCalais Metadata: ContainedByState: 

West Bengal

O'Quinn, "Of Extension and Durability: Romanticism’s Imperial Re-Memberings"

William Hodges’s Travels in India During the Years 1780, 1781, 1782 and 1783 (1793) is a text literally structured by war. Hodges’s travels and his narrative are repeatedly interrupted by armed conflict between the forces of the East India Company and resistant native powers across the subcontinent. The particular conflicts in question did not go well for the British and the humiliating loss at Pollilur not only raised questions regarding Warren Hastings’s bellicosity, but also haunted representations of British rule in India until the final defeat of Tipu Sultan in 1799. In spite of the fact that the Travels appears to be a pro-Hastings document, published in London at the turning point in the impeachment proceedings against the former Governor-General of Bengal, the narrative disjunctions instantiated by these conflicts destabilize Hodges’s explicit argument that British governance in the region is not only benevolent, but also far superior to prior examples of Moslem rule. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate how the text’s figural economy–both textual and visual–attempts to ameliorate the narrative disjunctions which everywhere threaten to disclose the Company’s precarious claim to sovereignty. Through a close analysis of Hodges’s figuration of good and bad governance in the region, the argument will isolate precisely how his–and by extension, the Company’s--historical predicament erupts into the text and call in to question the very models of governmentality figured forth in his remarkable rendering of the banyan tree. Michel Foucault, in his essay “Governmentality”, defined “Government as the right disposition of things”. From the period immediately prior to the passing of the Regulating Act to the East India Company Charter Act, the hybridity of the East India Company generated significant controversy regarding the appropriate form and quality of colonial rule. Hodges’s text engages with this problematic by presenting figures of the right disposition of men and things. The most important of these, the banyan tree, is the subject of an extensive textual description and also one of the volumes most accomplished engravings. In the text, the tree offers shade and sustenance to all who come under its canopy and it is metaphorically linked to Hastings’s management of Indian affairs. Its vitality and above all its naturalness accrue to the governmentality of the Company and thus it ostensibly stands as a figure of prosperity, hope and stability in a time of war and economic uncertainty. It also stands in marked contrast to Hodges similarly iconic description of the ruins of Agra and especially of Acbar’s tomb later in the text. As ruins architectural traces of a similarly ruined Mughal empire, these descriptions ostensibly testify to the fundamental inability despotic powers to rule effectively. Akbar’s tomb is especially important in this regard because it is Akbar’s name itself, as rendered on the mausoleum that operates as the ultimate contrast to the banyan tree. In other words, a dead name, an almost Wordsworthian epitaph, figures forth the disappearance and obsolescence of entire period in Indian history and in its place, Hodges offers a living thing. What interests me about this contrast is that in both cases the historical obfuscations depend upon key slippages in the distinction between word and image, between living and dead, between name and metaphor. My essay’s concluding gesture demonstrates how the visual renderings of the banyan tree and of architectural ruins attempt to contain or regulate what amounts to a crisis in figuration. Of particular importance is the way Hodges’s image engages with prior images, most notably in Picart, which link the tree to suspect forms of sexuality. At the heart of Hodges engraving is a resonant act of visual surrogation which figures forth a remarkable fantasy of phallic Company rule well before the East India Company fully consolidated its power in the region. In other words, one can discern within the relationship between textual figuration and the visual strategies of the engravings the kind of “wishful thinking” or self-delusion that C. A. Bayly has identified as a crucial element of British governance prior to and during the imposition of the Permanent Settlement.
September 2011

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Teltscher, "Colonial Correspondence: The Letters of George Bogle from Bengal, Bhutan and Tibet, 1770-81"

George Bogle was the first British envoy (and first British traveller) from India to Bhutan and Tibet in 1774-5. His letters home provide an exceptional account of British life in Calcutta of the 1770s and a fascinating record of the first mission to Bhutan and Tibet. He is best known for the narrative of his friendship with the third Panchen Lama of Tibet, apparently a relationship of mutual respect and affection which developed during Bogle's five-month stay. This essay explores the multiple, often incompatible, personae which Bogle adopts in his letters home. Writing to his father and brothers, Bogle represents himself as an ambitious, politically astute careerist; to his sisters, as a charming, self-denigrating dilettante. His letters to his sisters are filled with nostalgic invocations of childhood, but this domestic space must also accommodate unfamiliar cultures. In what guise is the Orient admitted to the home? By asking such questions, by tracing Bogle's various epistolary identities, we may catch the process of textual, social and colonial self-fashioning at work.
November 2000

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O'Quinn, "Through Colonial Spectacles: the Irish Vizier and the Female-Knight in James Cobb's Ramah Droog"

James Cobb's popular comic opera Ramah Droog offers a useful site for examining the ways that representations of colonial space and of sexual deviance come together to generate a phantasm of a heteronormative imperial Britain. The set designs of Cobb's opera are explicitly linked to Thomas and William Daniells illustrations of Indian landscape and the essay demonstrates how key aspects of the visuality of the opera celebrate Cornwallis's victory over Tipu Sultan. This celebration is crucial for the play suggests a parallel between Cornwallis's defeat of Tipu and his later subjugation of Irish rebels in Wexford. These parallels are elaborated through the play's deployment of characters who are both ethnically and sexually cross-dressed. The presentation of a feminized Irish vizier and a masculinized Irish female knight constitutes a rupture in conventional theatrical representation and as such points toward the silent construction of heteronormative British imperial subjects at the opera's close.
November 2000

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A View of Calcutta


Daniel J. O'Quinn, Introduction The Containment and Re-deployment of English India, edited by Daniel J. O'Quinn

"A View of Calcutta, taken from Fort William. Engraved by W. Byrne from a Picture Painted by W. Hodges R.A. in the Collection of Warren Hastings Esq." from William Hodges, Travels in India During the Years of 1780, 1781, 1782, & 1783 (London: J. Edwards, 1793). By permission of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

November 2000

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Findlay, "'[T]hat Liberty of Writing': Incontinent Ordinance in 'Oriental' Jones"

Sir William Jones (1746-1794) remains a key figure in the continuing history of romantic and other orientalisms. At the very mention of the idea of "Containing English India," he leaps to mind not only as part of the contents contained within any envelope or archive so designated, but also as part of the discontent and unruly dissemination of such contents. Jones is both of the Indian sub-continent and in various senses incontinent within it and when writing about it (just as he is both inside and outside the dominant versions of Englishness in the later eighteenth century). In this essay, I revisit this dialectic of positioning or location, containing and incontinence, and the related contradictions that constituted Jones's early libertarianisim in England and his later legal and philological activities in India. My emphasis at every stage is on the Anglo-Indian Jones. Moreover, the echo in my title of that Gulf War euphemism, incontinent ordinance, is a deliberate gesture towards two points I stress in my conclusion: namely, that imperialism did not end with the British in India, and that imperialism's instabilities and illusions are always evident, if we care to look, in the language it uses to describe itself.
November 2000

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Ahmed, "An Unlimited Intercourse": Historical Contradictions and Imperial Romance in the Early Nineteenth Century

With parliament's 1813 decision simultaneously to end the East India Company's monopoly by opening the colonies to British free merchants and to permit British evangelicals to establish missions there, the nature of the empire in India began to change: the British public now had an opportunity to play an economic and spiritual role in the empire. Now, the economic and moral aspects of the empire, superintended by the British nation, separated from the political aspect, which remained in the hands of the EIC. The former staked the claims of "modernity" and the civilizing mission; the latter rationalized its openly despotic politics by insisting that it was concerned to preserve native "traditions." Sydney Owenson's early-nineteenth-century historical novel The Missionary: an Indian Tale was the first novel to represent the problem of colonial India in terms of a conflict between modernity and tradition, rather than between the principles of the nation-state and the politics of empire. In order to produce this new vision of the colonial encounter, The Missionary needed to produce a new narrative form that effaced a fact eighteenth-century writers rarely could: in the colonies, Indian "traditions" were a mask constructed by the colonial regime to conceal its violations of the fundamental principles of civil society.
November 2000

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O'Quinn, "Projection, Patriotism, Surrogation: Handel in Calcutta"

This paper examines the celebrations following the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Third Mysore War. By attending to both the visual projections and to the performance of Handel's Judas Maccabaeus in Calcutta, it argues that much of entertainment was involved in a complex allegorical struggle with France. This essay appears in _Romanticism and Patriotism: Nation, Empire, Bodies, Rhetoric_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (http://www.rc.umd.edu/), University of Maryland.

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