Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Week 2: Gender and Empire

Social roles of and power dynamics between men and women, sexuality and the family, imperial masculinities, and gendered representations of imperial "Others" 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 gender in the Mughal, Ottoman, 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?

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. Link.

Anjali Arondekar, For the Record: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009), 'Introduction: Without a Trace', pp. 1-25. Link.

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

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.

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

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

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. Link.

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

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

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). Link.

Hall, Catherine, and Sonia O. Rose, At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Link.

Hathaway, Jane, The Chief Eunuch of the Ottoman Harem: From African Slave to Power-Broker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). Link.

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. Link.

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. Link.

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. Link.

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). Link.

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.

Scott, Joan Wallach, 'Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis', The American Historical Review, 91, 5 (December 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).

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

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).