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The Male Empire Under the Female Gaze: The British Raj and the Memsahib By Susmita Ro ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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The Male Empire Under the Female Gaze:


(Re)Viewing the Gaze

Susmita Roye and Rajeshwar Mittapalli

Why view and re-view a gaze instead of gazing on a view (in the sense of a scene or spectacle)? Why female gaze in particular? Moreover, given the amount of extant critical literature on the female gaze in the colonial context, why re-view that gaze at all? In the course of this introductory chapter, we hope to address these questions and explain why we felt the need to compile this collection on the white woman as the gazer.

In this volume, we focus on the “male empire” as manifest in British India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The female gaze on this stretch of the empire is that of the white woman who either visited or lived in British India: the memsahib. The source into which we look to detect her gaze is her literature: her novels, short stories, letters, memoirs, and travel writings. In addition to directing attention to the white woman’s literature and revealing the ways she sees and shows the Raj, we also consider the converse perspective of how she in turn is