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Debates on Domesticity and the Position of Women in Late Colonial India



Tracing the genealogy of domesticity from India’s precolonial past, this essay problematizes the recent emphasis on the link between women and domesticity in late colonial India. Based on a review of the growing literature in the field, it considers the newly evolved notions of colonial domesticity as a moment of [re]consideration rather than a break with the past. The discursive formation of the new ideas of domesticity under colonial regime transcended the private-public and often national boundaries, indicating an overlap where the most intimate details of the ‘private’, personal life were not only discussed and debated for public consumption but were also articulated in response to imperial and international concerns. This paper argues that domesticity as a new cultural logic became the motor of change for both the British and the colonized subjects and it particularly empowered women by giving them agency in the late colonial period. In conclusion, this paper signals the importance of children, childhood, fatherhood, and masculinity as critical components of domesticity, which are yet to be broached by South Asian historians.