This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
UNRAVELING THE FAMILY STORY: CHILDREN AND CHILDHOOD IN COLONIAL BENGAL My project examines the history of children and childhood in colonial Bengal, India. Bengal, with Calcutta as the imperial capital until 1911, was the major cultural, commercial, and educational center in British India. Recent scholarship on South Asian history, particularly on Bengal, pays considerable attention to the history of family and domesticity by unfolding the changing roles and expectations of Bengali middle-class women in the course of the nineteenth century (Borthwick 1984; Chakrabarty 1994; Forbes 1996; Sarkar 1994). It has addressed the themes of rearing and socialization of children in the context of the role of the “ideal” mother and the “good” wife. But the question of children and childhood constituting the crux of domestic life has not been taken up adequately by the current historiography. My project intends to fill that gap by exploring the history of children and childhood in the socio-cultural, economic, and ideological setting of family life in colonial Bengal. Nineteenth-century Bengal witnessed the emergence of the “respectable middle class” (the bhadralok)—a heterogeneous body of upwardly mobile cultural community of professionals, bureaucrats, and servicemen acting as intermediaries between the British rulers and the Indian populace. Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, middle class ideologues, reformers, and nationalists produced a rich body of diverse literature that often acted as repositories of the “new” vision of a reformed family, an ideal woman, and a “perfect” child. The child occupied the center stage in colonial Bengali literature both as the future citizen subject if males, and as the would-be “good” mother and housewife if females, responsible for bringing up the “ideal” citizen. The
I write this proposal as a senior applicant requesting to support the initiation of this new project in the academic year 2002–03. Currently. and help launch this new project by allowing me to research in the different archives and libraries in India. Banerjee 2 “landscape for a good woman” thus came to be dotted with numerous instructions and advice from the ideologues on how to raise a family properly (Banerjee 2001). I will particularly look into the history of growing up of the girl child who captured a substantial space in the “emerging middle class consciousness of Bengal” (Bagchi 1997) and her representations in different literary productions. While “childhood” represents a “shifting set of ideas” developed over a period of time. Women. By probing into the history of children and childhood in colonial times my study will add another level of complexity and a hitherto missing dimension to the history of Indian families and the domestic domain. based on the suggestions of the reviewers I am revising my first book manuscript Men.Swapna M. ethnic. the primary research for which has been sponsored by the AIIS junior fellowship. and Domestics: Articulating Middle-Class Identity in Colonial Bengal. gender. experiences of children as real human beings allow us to restore the “child” as an important actor in its own right. Gainesville. children as a social category is hardly homogeneous or monolithic. This fellowship will release me from my teaching and service responsibilities at the department of History. I attempt to explore both the history of childhood and the lives of children through a close reading of different genres of the available literature. Taking into consideration the caste. University of Florida. Just like the Indian middle class. and religious background of the child. . class.
This normative discourse professing deep emotional ties between parents and children almost always focused on the son at the virtual exclusion of the girl- . I propose to develop this project by retrieving information from a variety of sources. Wishy 1968). But unlike the Western historical literature (Aries 1962. Hendrick 1997. 1996) “passages to modernity” through the day-care movement in Japan (Uno 1999). on rearing of sons and the discourse of the “new” family (Bose 1995). have begun to address the issues of childhood from different aspects. The first part will constitute an ideological vision of childhood as professed by nationalist reformers and ideologues and its changing character with the passage of time. I will particularly pay attention to the ideological trope of “constituting the character of the child” (santanér charitra gathan) that helped shape the discourse on the “new” family and “new” woman. Of late literary critics and historians have produced important works on children’s literature and colonialism (Bandyopadhyay 1991). however. as well as on socialization and bringing up of the girl child (Bagchi 1993. Banerjee 3 Project Design The existing literature on children and childhood in India has focused either on issues of child labor and state policies (Burra 1995. 1995. 1995. narrativized. Cunningham 1995. Sommerville 1982. De Mause 1974. or has left detailed psychoanalytic study of the history of growing up as a child (Kakar 1981). I will attempt to study the history of children and childhood through an analysis of how childhood was conceptualized. By drawing upon the existing literature on both South Asia and abroad. Galbraith 1997.Swapna M. starting from “domestic subversions” in colonial east Indies to (Stoler 1995. Steedman 1985. Bagchi et al. South Asia still does not have a social or cultural history of family life with children as its primary focus. 1997). Weiner 1991). and lived through in colonial Bengal. Recent scholars on other parts of Asia.
I am familiar with this body of nationalistic and didactic literature from my 4 previous research into the field of domestic-employer relationships in colonial Bengal and will now probe further into the question of children and childhood. I intend to do an extensive research in this field starting from Dakshinaranjan Mitra-Majumdar’s classic fairy tales of Thakurmar Jhuli (1906) to Upendrakishore Ray Chaudhuri and Sukumar Ray’s fantasy world and nonsense verse (1920s). Given the nature of its sources. Kishore Bharati. I will examine the children’s literature produced by Rabindranath Tagore and Abanindranath Tagore (1930s-40s). Since my ongoing research on the history of Bengali domesticity culls evidence from this rich body of autobiographical literature. I will address the politics of representing childhood in personal narratives by both men and women through which middle-class identities were articulated. and will also explore the world of children’s magazines such as Sandesh. An examination of these two sources will help me “reconstruct” both the idealized version of childhood and the gender-specific lived experiences of children. While the different varieties of literature capture the rapidly changing mental. social. the history of childhood and children is mediated in essence. cultural. In the second section. I have some expertise and experience in dealing with this source as well. The most important part of this new project will consist of a close reading of children’s literature that emerged as a distinct literary genre in colonial Bengal from the first decade of the twentieth century. and economic dynamics of the day and time.Swapna M. We rarely hear the “real” voice of the child because “the child” always . they will help me write a multi-layered history of children and childhood in colonial Bengal. Banerjee child. and Ramdhanu that started appearing in the late colonial period and continued to be produced in the postcolonial era.
Banerjee 5 appears through the memory or the writings of the adult. children. Sen & Sen Gupta 1983) but also through the different literary productions. how do the discursive practices of childhood. and children’s literature tie up with the question of national character and the “new” nation? Why and how was the new emphasis placed on children. What were the different kinds of socialization involved? This process can be demonstrated not only through demographic studies (Bardhan 1974. such as advice manuals for girls. and how did that reflect the Bengali intelligentsia's concern with modernity and progress? Finally. I will address the questions of discipline and punishment. semi-urban. of hierarchy and control within the spatial limit of the domestic space. or rural households? How far did this literature represent the “idealized” and “real” childhood? Most importantly. How do we disentangle this memory from nostalgia and mediated representations? Identifying the class-caste and gendered character of the discourse. and books on instructions to raise male children. What were the themes addressed by the new genre of children’s literature? Who were the writers and their directed audience? What was the nature of their consumption in urban. Were their different and dominant tropes used by men and by women writers? How did men’s writings differ from that of women’s? They almost always represented different stages of life: men reflected as boys. my attempt is to capture the changing intonations of “childhood” in colonial Bengali literature. By situating my work within the broader field of comparable .Swapna M. women recounted their memories as young adults or brides. what role did the colonial state play in the formation of the character and identity of the child and the idea of childhood? In my study of children and childhood through these varied sources.
. the Bangiya Sahitya Parishat library. Different collections of Central libraries of Calcutta and Jadavpur Universities are also major repositories of colonial and postcolonial Bengali literature. Moreover. I may go to the National Archives of India and other research centers in Bombay and New Delhi. I will demonstrate that the processes were not just unique to colonial Bengal or India but have parallels in Western and non-Western histories. all located in Calcutta.Swapna M. and the State Archives of West Bengal. Banerjee 6 studies. the Secretariat library. I intend to interview older generation of people to bring in their lived experiences into my research on children and childhood. Sources and Schedule My primary sources are mainly located in the National Library of India. Depending on the location of other primary documents such as oral interviews and photographs. consultation and feedback from my colleagues and cohorts in India will enable me to define my project more sharply. Finally.
The papers are intended for journal publications before they get incorporated as book chapters. . My research into the gendered history of children and childhood in colonial Bengal. will definitely add a richer dimension to South Asian studies by enabling us to trace the historical roots of this imbalance and shedding light on a hitherto neglected domain of human society. an area known for its continuing sex-bias against girl-child (Miller 1981). Banerjee Expected Results and Possibilities I will develop a deeper understanding of my second book project through a 7 consultation and gathering of the primary documents in India.Swapna M. Based on this research. I will present a few papers in conferences and seminars in course of the fellowship.
Sommerville. Ramdhanu . Durham: 1995. Steedman. “Sons of the Nation: Child Rearing in the New Family” in Partha Chatterjee ed. The Child and the State in India. Princeton: 1984. Childhood. Cunningham. Calcutta: 1991. London: 1974. Reading Lives: Reconstructing Childhood. Gopal-Rakhal Dvandva Samash. Cambridge. Meredith. Born to Work: Child Labor in India. and English Society. 1992. Georgia: 1994.s.” History Workshop # 36 (Autumn) pp. Partha. Tanika. De Mause.A. London: 1977. 2. Jacques. Chakrabarty. Delhi: 1997. Loved and Unloved: the Girl Child in the Family. Uno. Chatterjee. 1880-1990. 1968. Borthwick. Banerjee 8 Selected Bibliography Aries. Children’s Literature in Indian Languages. Gender. 32-34 (August) 1974 : 1293-1308.” in Modern Historical Studies. Bernard. Myron. The Endangered Sex. Texts of Power. Harry. Passages to Modernity. Pranab. The Child and the Republic. Galbraith. Kakar. Amartya & Sunil Sen Gupta. Barbara D. Anne Scott. UK: 1997. Athens. NY: 1995. “Domestic Subversions and Children’s Sexuality” in Race and the Education of Desire. Women in Modern India. New York: 1962. L. The Discovery of Childhood in Puritan England. Sen. March 2001. Jamuna. Neera. The Inner World: A Psycho-analytic Study of Childhood and Society in India. ed. New Delhi: 1982. Delhi: 1991. 1780-1930. The History of Childhood. The Policing of Families . Burra. eds. Sudhir. Miller. Ithaca. Children. “The Difference-Deferral of a Colonial Modernity: Public Debates on Domesticity in British India. 8. n. Philip. Hendrick. Books. Vol 2. Jasodhara. Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. _____. and Schools in Britain. _____. NY: 1981. Carolyn K. Hugh. Cambridge. Banerjee. Rise and Fall of Childhood.” Economic and Politcal Weekly 1983: 863. Ann. Gretchen. Bandyopadhyay. Strange Dislocations: Childhood and the Idea of Human Inferiority.Swapna M. ed. Geraldine. Athens. Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500. Bose. Werner. Kishor Bharati. Primary Sources in Bengali Children’s Magazines: Sandesh. Sarkar. “Malnutrition and Rural Children and Sex Bias. Calcutta: 1998. MacLeod. “Domestic Manuals on Mistress-Servant Relationships: Constructing Bengali Middle Class Identity…. Stoler. GA: 1992. Mass: 1995. Honolulu: 1999. Philadelphia. “Our Modernity” in The Present History of West Bengal. UK: 1997. “On Life and Death Problems”Economic and Political Weekly. Donzelot. London/Boston:1985. Minneapolis: 1995. Suktara. Wishy. California: 1982. “The Hindu Wife and the Hindu Nation: Domesticity and Nationalism in Nineteenth Century Bengal” in Studies in History. Delhi: 1981. Forbes. Language. Changing Role of Women in Bengal 1849-1905. Kathleen. Bardhan. 1-34. Dipesh. American Childhood: Essays on Children’s Literature of the Nineteentha nd Twentieth Centuries. and Childhood. K. Pradip Kumar. Swapna. John. Delhi: 1995. Cathy Urwin et al. Bagchi. UK: 1996. Sibaji.
Swapna M. Banerjee Abanindra Rachanbali. 9 . Ashapurna Devi Rachanasamagra. Rabindra Rachanabali.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.