Mobilizing   India
 Chapter 2
East Indian beauty

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The aim of this chapter is to investigate a Trinidadian conjuncture of modernity, "Indianness" and woman that is radically different from the one in India, in the hope that it will de-familiarize that formation as well as throw some new light on the elements that led to its consolidation. When we analyze the formation of "woman" in India, we often use almost as though by default the implicit comparisons with western or metropolitan situations. In keeping with the larger argument of the book, I want to ask whether our frameworks might look different when the points of reference include other non-metropolitan contexts, in particular those that are historically imbricated with our own, even if in ways that are obscured by later developments. My investigation proceeds through an analysis of the early 20th century campaign against indentureship in the tropical colonies by nationalists in India. I have chosen this moment for its foregrounding of the question of female sexuality, an issue increasingly being seen as central to the formation of gendered citizenship and to dominant narratives of modernity and nationhood. Historically, the moment is also one of "Indian" political assertion as well as of the availability of new possibilities for "Indian" women.

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