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Indian Clubs and Colonialism: Hindu Masculinity and Muscular Christianity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2005

Joseph S. Alter
Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh


Following Edward Said's Orientalism (1978), there has been considerable interest in studying gender images and engendered practices that emerged out of colonialism, both during the era of colonialism (Cooper and Stoler 1997; R. Lewis 1996; Stoler 1991; 1995; 2002), and subsequently (Altman 2001; Enloe 1993). Many of these studies have shown how colonized women were subject to the gendered and often sexualized gaze of Western men (Carrier 1998; Doy 1996; Grewal 1996; Yegenoglu 1998), and how colonized men were often regarded as either effeminate or “martial” by virtue of their birth into a particular group. Arguably, the latent ambiguity of regarding all colonized men as effete, and yet categorizing some colonized men as strong and aggressively virile, points to one of the many complex contradictions manifest in the cultural politics of colonialism. A similar point could be made with regard to nationalism, wherein women, and the image men want women to present of themselves, reflects masculine ambivalence about modernity (Chatterjee 1993). In any case, even when colonial discourse essentializes the virile masculinity of various subject groups—in particular the so-called martial castes of South Asia (Hopkins 1889; MacMunn 1977)—the putative masculinity of these groups is ascribed to breeding and latent “savagery,” and is rarely, if ever, conceived of as an achieved status, much less something an individual from some other group might achieve on the basis of training or practice.

Research Article
© 2004 Society for Comparative Study of Society and History

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