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Policing native pleasures: a colonial history

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(Corresponding author email: njbg24935@blueyonder.co.uk)

Abstract

The moral modality of colonial power is still with us when it comes to the recreation of sexual norms of traditional or feudal society. We can examine the emergent properties of colonial knowledge anew by exploring how the colonial regime's strategic attention of regulating brothels in India differed from the analytic of power Foucault described for sexuality in European society. It turns out that amongst other things, public anxieties about the failure of adaptation by South Asians are incapable of leaving sexuality aside as a key interpretive device for their culture. The British preoccupation with reproducing the dynamics of the bourgeois matrimonial market on foreign soil in the mid-nineteenth century similarly necessitated a sociological pretext for racial purity. However, the kind of knowledge a typical traveller and employee of the East India Company brought to the Victorian public from his own researches in the brothels and streets of colonial India, which revealed how popular prostitution was as a vice amongst the officer class, was also more than a welcome imaginary relief from Christian morality; it was an alternative vision of modernity.

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