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Week 5: Gender and Empire

The social roles of men and women and the power dynamics between them, sexuality and the family, imperial masculinities, gendered representations of imperial "Others", and imperial spaces such as the harem are just some of the topics studied by historians of gender and empire. This seminar takes a global perspective, considering how historians have used gender perspectives to understand broader themes in the histories of non-European empires as well as in Europe's imperial past. Specifically, we will focus on gendered relations in the Ottoman, Mughal, British, and Dutch empires.

Seminar Questions

  1. How have historians of empire used gender as a tool of analysis?
  2. What are the benefits and challenges of incorporating gender perspectives in histories of empire?
  3. How did gender in imperial contexts intersect with other forms of socially constructed difference, such as race, class, subjecthood, and sexuality?
  4. What is specifically gendered about imperial cultures and practices?
  5. How can we use gender to study empires comparatively?
  6. 'recovering female subjects, indeed subaltern voices, from the archives of colonial history is difficult if not problematic' (Ghosh: 2006, p. 17). Discuss.

Core Reading (pick three)

Philippa Levine, ‘Introduction: Why Gender and Empire?’, in Philippa Levine (ed.), Gender and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 1-13. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Ruby Lal, 'Historicizing the Harem: The Challenge of a Princess's Memoir', Feminist Studies 30.3 (2004), pp. 590-616. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Leslie P. Peirce, 'Beyond Harem Walls: Ottoman Royal Women and the Exercise of Power', in: Dorothy O. Helly and Susan M. Reverby (eds.), Gendered Domains: Rethinking Public and Private in Women's History (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1992), pp. 40-55. Link.Link opens in a new window

Durba Ghosh, Sex and the Family in Colonial India: The Making of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 1-34. LinkLink opens in a new window

Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), pp. 41-78. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Further Reading

Anooshar, Ali, 'The King who would be Man: the Gender Roles of the Warrior King in Early Mughal History', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 18.3 (2008), pp. 327-340. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Arondekar, Anjali, For the Record: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Ballantyne, Tony, and Antoinette Burton, Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Booth, Marilyn, Harem Histories: Envisioning Places and Living Spaces (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010).

Chaudhuri, Nupur, and Margaret Strobel (eds.), Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Cooper, Frederick, and Ann Laura Stoler (eds), Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Finn, Margot, 'The Female World of Love & Empire: Women, Family & East India Company Politics at the End of the Eighteenth Century', Gender and History 31.1 (2019), pp. 7-24. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Fuentes, Marisa J., Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). LinkLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window.

Ghosh, Durba, 'Gender and Colonialism: Expansion or Marginalization?', The Historical Journal 47.3 (2004), pp. 737-755. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Hall, Catherine, and Sonia O. Rose, At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Hathaway, Jane, The Chief Eunuch of the Ottoman Harem: From African Slave to Power-Broker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Hathaway, Jane, 'The Ottoman Chief Harem Eunuch in Ceremonies and Festivals', Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 6.1 (2019), pp. 21-37. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Lal, Ruby, Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Levine, Philippa, 'What's British about Gender and Empire? The Problem of Exceptionalism', Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 27.2 (2007), pp. 273-282. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Lewis, Reina, Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation (London: Routledge, 1996).

Lewis, Reina, Rethinking Orientalism: Women, Travel, and the Ottoman Harem (London: I.B. Tauris, 2004). LinkLink opens in a new window

McClintock, Anne, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York: Routledge, 1995). LinkLink opens in a new window.

O'Hanlon, Rosalind, 'Manliness and Imperial Service in Mughal North India', Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 42.1 (1999), pp. 47-93. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Paton, Diana, “The Flight from the Fields Reconsidered: Gender Ideologies and Women’s Labour after Slavery in Jamaica,” in Gilbert M Joseph (ed.), Reclaiming the Political in Latin America: Essays from the North (Durham: Duke University Press 2001), pp. 175-204.

Peirce, Leslie P., The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Peirce, Leslie P., Empress of the East: How a Slave Girl became Queen of the Ottoman Empire (London: Icon Books, 2018). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Ray, Carina E., ‘Decrying White Peril: Interracial Sex and the Rise of Anticolonial Nationalism in the Gold Coast’, The American Historical Review, 119 (2014), pp. 78-110.

Rothschild, Emma, The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Scott, Joan Wallach, 'Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis', The American Historical Review, 91.5 (1986), pp. 1053-1075.

Scott, Joan Wallach, ‘Gender: Still a Useful Category of Analysis?’, Diogenes, 225 (2010), pp. 7–14.

Sinha, Mrinalini, Colonial Masculinity: The 'Manly Englishman' and the 'Effeminate Bengali' in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995).

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 'Can the Subaltern Speak?', in: Rosalind C. Morris (ed.), Can the Subaltern Speak? Reflections on the History of an Idea (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Stoler, Ann Laura (ed.), Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006). LinkLink opens in a new window.

Thomas, Lynn, Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya (London: University of California Press, 2003), Chapter One: Imperial Populations and ‘Women’s Affairs’, pp. 21-51.

Twinam, Ann, Public Lives, Private Secrets. Gender, Honour, Sexuality and Illegitimacy in Colonial Spanish America (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999).

White, Luise, The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).

Woollacot, Angela, Gender and Empire (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).

Yegenoglu, Meyda, Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). LinkLink opens in a new window.