Distancing the Proximate Other: Hybridity and Maud Diver’s Candles in the Wind

Distancing the Proximate Other: Hybridity and Maud Diver’s Candles in the Wind

Twentieth Century Literature
Volume 50, Number 2 (Summer, 2004)
pages 107-140

Loretta M. Mijares

The half-caste out here falls between two stools, that’s the truth.
—Maud Diver, Candles in the Wind

Miscegenation has long been recognized as one of the recurrent tropes of colonial discourse, and recent work has convincingly demonstrated that it was often enlisted in efforts to justify more authoritarian colonial rule. Critics such as Nancy Paxton and Jenny Sharpe have drawn attention to the ubiquitous theme of interracial romance and marriage in domestic fiction written by the British in India, a body of literature previously relegated to the genre of romance and dismissed as what Margaret Stieg calls “sub-literature” (3). While critics have begun to recognize that the focus of this large body of fiction on domestic arrangements expresses anxiety about interracial liaisons and miscegenation, few pay adequate attention either to the historical reality of the Eurasian community in existence during the periods they analyze or to the Eurasian characters in these works of fiction and their particular ideological function. The tendency of literary critics discussing miscegenation to categorize Eurasians and “natives” as equal threats in the domestic sphere is itself evidence of the success of this body of fiction’s strategic response to historical Eurasians: the disconcertingly familiar Eurasian is converted in fiction from proximate other to distant other, thereby relocating the anxiety generated by both the uncanniness of the Eurasian and the material threat this population posed to smooth colonial rule…

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