|Friday, December 6, 2019||4:00PM - 6:00PM||208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place|
The B.N. Pandey Memorial Lecture in the History of India
Kunti, a dalit (“untouchable” caste) woman, became the poster child for the nation-wide movement in India against the abolition of the system of indentured labor in 1917. The system, managed by the colonial government in India, had supplied approximately 1.3 million workers from India to plantations overseas in the aftermath of the abolition of Atlantic slavery in the 1830s. This paper explores how a woman at the very bottom of the caste hierarchy in India became the face for an empire-wide change. It will argue that Kunti’s role in the movement illustrates an important dimension of the abolitionist movement: the construction of the “people” (or the demos) as the subject of a new kind of politics in late colonial India.
Mrinalini Sinha is Alice Freeman Palmer Professor in the Department of History and Professor (by courtesy) in the Departments of English Language and Literature and of Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has written on various aspects of the political history of colonial India, with a focus on anti-colonialism, gender, and transregional approaches. She is the author of Colonial Masculinity: The ‘manly Englishman’ and the ‘effeminate Bengali’ in the late nineteenth century (1995) and of Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire (2006), winner of the Joan Kelley Memorial Prize from the American Historical Association and the Albion Book Prize from the North American Conference of British Studies. She is currently working on a book project with the working title, “Complete Political Independence: The Curious History of a Nationalist Indian Demand,” for which she received the 2012 John Simon Memorial Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Sinha is also a past President of the Association of Asian Studies (2015).
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