Empire, Race, and the Debate over the Indian Marriage Market in Elizabeth Hamilton’s Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800)

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2014-03-31 17:49Z by Steven

Empire, Race, and the Debate over the Indian Marriage Market in Elizabeth Hamilton’s Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800)

Eighteenth-Century Fiction
Volume 26, Number 3, Spring 2014
pages 427-454
DOI: 10.1353/ecf.2014.0004

John C. Leffel, Assistant Professor of English
State University of New York, Cortland

In the late eighteenth century, East India Company stations were characterized as marriage “bazaars” in which Englishwomen were traded like any other merchandise. Women at the centre of such trafficking were depicted as complicit in their own commodification. In the face of such pervasive negative stereotyping, women returning to Britain after time spent on the subcontinent often found themselves ridiculed and shunned. In this article, I explore how author Elizabeth Hamilton (1758–1816) responded to this potent imperial stigma. She absorbed and perpetuated popular negative stereotypes regarding these matrimonial “speculators” in her own writing, but in her second novel, Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800), she subtly recalibrated her stance, in ways that illuminate the changing tenor of Anglo-Indian social, political, and sexual relations. By the turn of the nineteenth century, burgeoning discourses of racial difference and the perceived threat of sexual “miscegenation” in the empire became thoroughly entwined with debates regarding the “Indian marriage market” and female emigration.

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Representing Mixed Race in Jamaica and England from the Abolition Era to the Present by Sara Salih (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2013-08-19 19:31Z by Steven

Representing Mixed Race in Jamaica and England from the Abolition Era to the Present by Sara Salih (review)

Eighteenth-Century Fiction
Volume 25, Number 4, Summer 2013
pages 777-780
DOI: 10.1353/ecf.2013.0025

Nicole N. Aljoe, Assistant Professor of English
Northeastern University

Sarah Salih, Representing Mixed Race in Jamaica and England from the Abolition Era to the Present (London, New York: Routledge, 2010)

Sara Salih offers a welcome and rigorous analysis of the relationships among the development of the law, notions of subjectivity, and discourses of race and sexuality in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in England and Jamaica. This book makes a productive contribution to ongoing critical conversations about the complexity and nuance of race in the British past by responding explicitly to David Scott’s suggestion that we consider more carefully the stories we assume we know, particularly about slavery. One such story concerns the mulatto and his/her tragic outsiderness as exemplified in the trope of “tragic mulatto.” Numerous scholars, including Werner Sollors and Eve Raimon, have explored this trope within the context of the United States, and Salih’s study builds on this work and extends it by considering representations of mixed-race individuals in the British-Jamaican context. In addition, by making clear the different ways in which the mulatto was treated and represented outside of the US context—for example, noting that neither interracial sex nor marriage were ever outlawed in Jamaica or England, unlike in the United States—Salih’s study offers a corrective to uncritical conflation of the distinct cultures of enslavement. Most specifically, her study reveals the ways in which, in the British-West Indian context, although mulattos were frequently figured as being inside particular aspects of national and subject-constituting discourses—mulattos could “pass” for white, and in the eighteenth century they could legally petition to be designated as white—they were simultaneously and persistently represented as isolated and “firmly outside the heterorepronormative narrative paradigm” (125).

This book is invested in illustrating the “processes of normalization and the consolidation of norms” about the legal status, nature, and character of mixed race individuals in Jamaica and England from the eighteenth century through the twentieth century by considering cultural representations alongside juridical and colonial documents. Salih argues that all of these texts—the fiction, nonfiction, legal writings, and judicial statutes—contribute dialogically to creating and sustaining societal norms and subjects. The study traces the ways in which these texts inform the legal identity “mulatto” that eventually comes to be defined and understood as a cultural/political identity. In tracing this movement, she is “less interested in ‘race’ as interiority and affect than in the specific ways in which it is produced and enacted legally and performatively” (123–24). And although the study scrupulously sets itself against those studies of race in the eighteenth century that deal with questions and issues of identity, it is best seen as a complement to these other studies. In particular, by attending to the ways in which discussions of the mulatto were also discussions of interracial sex, Salih illuminates the impact of sexuality on notions of race.

Salih begins her close readings with Marly, an 1828 novel about a Jamaican slave plantation. After providing an intriguing reading of the relationship between fiction, the law, and power grounded in the novel’s initial image of a slave driver exchanging his whip for a pen (56), Salih outlines how the novel, by offering fiction as well as history in its description of life on the plantation, contributes to the creation of societal norms. In so doing, according to Salih, novels can reveal “narrative investment in the disciplining of subjects” (57). For example, society wants mixedrace women to disappear, and hence they are novelistically relegated to the background. However, the novel Marly also reveals the complicated positioning of mixed-race individuals. Although women are relegated to the background, a mixed-race man is foregrounded in a chapter in which he offers a long harangue on how similar brown or mixed-race people are to whites and therefore should be allowed more freedoms in Jamaica (68–70). Although the brown man gets to proclaim his proximity to whiteness, at the end of the novel he too is isolated like the brown women, Salih argues, and is placed in a non-reproductive category.

The study then moves to a reading of The Woman of Colour (1808), edited by Lyndon Dominique for Broadview Press (2007). Salih addresses how in the novel, despite a positive representation of Olivia (its interracial character), she too is isolated and unmarried…

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The Silence of Miss Lambe: Sanditon and Fictions of ‘Race’ in the Abolition Era

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom, Women on 2010-08-31 02:52Z by Steven

The Silence of Miss Lambe: Sanditon and Fictions of ‘Race’ in the Abolition Era

Eighteenth-Century Fiction
Volume 18, Issue 3 (Spring 2006)
pages 329-353

Sarah Salih, Professor of English
University of Toronto

Although it would be difficult to argue that Sanditon (1817) is “historical” in any immediately obvious sense, it is nonetheless clear that the social history of England is central to Jane Austen’s last, unfinished text. Critics appear to agree that the novel, which, as Warren Roberts points out, was written during a period of social turbulence in England, reflects anxieties about the shift from one socio-economic structure to another. Once a fishing village and agricultural community, Sanditon has been “perverted” into a resort, a “sandy town,” where the sea is an exploitable resource and invalidism is a social activity engaged in by characters who are “urban, rootless, irresponsible and self-indulgent.” As Tony Tanner puts it, “[Sanditon is] a little parable of change—supersession, supplanting, and substitution.” These are certainly accurate characterizations, and yet the majority of the novel’s commentators overlook what Edward Said would call its “geographical problematic,” the fact that the seaside resort is dependent on economic resources from outside—from other areas of England, and, it seems, from England’s Caribbean colonies. I am referring to Miss Lambe, Austen’s only “brown” character—so briefly invoked and so tantalizingly incomplete. Certainly, Miss Lambe does not take up much of Sanditon’s eleven and a half chapters, and as my title suggests, she never utters a word. All the same, the characters’ allusions to the “West India” contingent, along with Miss Lambe’s presence in the text, certainly warrant closer critical attention than they have hitherto received.

Read the entire article here.

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