Writing Home: Gender, Domesticity, and Racialized Bodies in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Zenana Narratives

By Jenni Keys.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The nineteenth century and early twentieth century was a period of rapid change for domestic and colonial politics in Britain, and this was particularly evident in discourses surrounding gendered subjectivity. Despite separate spheres ideologies that made clear distinctions between public (male) spaces and private (female) spaces, in literatures written by women, discourses of home and empire often collide. This paper discusses representations of the zenana, the living quarters relegated to women and girls in elite Hindu and Muslim homes in the Indian subcontinent, through the texts of Fanny Parkes, Emily Eden, and Helen Bourchier, whose narratives offer insight into the ways the textual production of the figure of the zenana woman in empire becomes a necessary means to critique gendered politics at home. By framing these narratives within contemporary social movements and political events, a study of these texts demonstrates how discourses surrounding British domesticity and the zenana become integral to gendered subject formation as well as discourses of empire-making.

Keywords: Zenana Narratives, Britain and India, Colonialism, Race and Ethnicity

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp.39-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 555.089KB).

Jenni Keys

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, University of California, Riverside, California, USA

Jenni Keys is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of English at the University of California where she teaches courses in the Department of English and the Department of Women’s Studies at the Riverside campus. She also teaches courses in English literature and gender studies in the Arts and Letters College at California State University, San Bernardino. Her research interests include Victorian studies, travel narratives, colonialism and postcoloniality, and gender studies.

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