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Out of Bounds

Anglo-Indian Literature and the Geography of Displacement

Alan Johnson

Publication Year: 2011

Out of Bounds focuses on the crucial role that conceptions of iconic colonial Indian spaces—jungles, cantonments, cities, hill stations, bazaars, clubs—played in the literary and social production of British India. Author Alan Johnson illuminates the geographical, rhetorical, and ideological underpinnings of such depictions and, from this, argues that these spaces operated as powerful motifs in the acculturation of Anglo-India. He shows that the bicultural, intrinsically ambivalent outlook of Anglo-Indian writers is acutely sensitive to spatial motifs that, insofar as these condition the idea of home and homelessness, alternately support and subvert conventional colonial perspectives.

Colonial spatial motifs not only informed European representations of India, but also shaped important aesthetic notions of the period, such as the sublime. This book also explains how and why Europeans’ rhetorical and visual depictions of the Indian subcontinent, whether ostensibly administrative, scientific, or aesthetic, constituted a primary means of memorializing Empire, creating an idiom that postcolonial India continues to use in certain ways. Consequently, Johnson examines specific motifs of Anglo-Indian cultural remembrance, such as the hunting memoir, hill station life, and the Mutiny, all of which facilitated the mythic iconography of the Raj. He bases his work on the premise that spatiality (the physical as well as social conceptualization of space) is a vital component of the mythos of colonial life and that the study of spatiality is too often a subset of a focus on temporality.

Johnson reads canonical and lesser-known fiction, memoirs, and travelogues alongside colonial archival documents to identify shared spatial motifs and idioms that were common to the period. Although he discusses colonial works, he focuses primarily on the writings of Anglo-Indians such as Rudyard Kipling, John Masters, Jim Corbett, and Flora Annie Steel to demonstrate how conventions of spatial identity were rhetorically maintained—and continually compromised. All of these considerations amplify this book’s focus on the porosity of boundaries in literatures of the colony and of the nation.

Out of Bounds will be of interest to not only postcolonial literary scholars, but also scholars and students in interdisciplinary nineteenth-century studies, South Asian cultural history, cultural anthropology, women’s studies, and sociology.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Series: Writing Past Colonialism


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I am indebted to many colleagues, friends, and institutions, and to the patience of my family. I want to begin by thanking Parama Roy who, while at the University of California, Riverside, responded to the first ideas for this project and has since inspired me to apply rigor to the argument. I also thank, for feedback and/or encouragement at various stages, Sukanya Banerjee and Thomas ...

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Introduction Colonial Space, Anglo-Indian Perspectives

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pp. 1-45

In the 1880s, during his wanderings in the north of British India, the young Rudyard Kipling visited the sixteenth-century fort of Amber, in what was then called Rajputana (now Rajasthan), just outside Jaipur. Reporting for the Pioneer newspaper based in Allahabad, Kipling drew intriguing conclusions If based on his observations there: ...

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Chapter 1 “I Want to Send India to England”: The Aesthetics of Landscape and the Colonial Home

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pp. 46-80

As the above epigraphs from the best-selling nineteenth-century writer G. O. Trevelyan and an anonymous 1852 traveler suggest, “home” was a constant companion of the English in India. They were variously homesick and homeward bound, and took pains to appoint their bungalows with...

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Chapter 2 Hills Kinder Than Plains?: Kipling’s Monstrous Hill Station

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pp. 81-111

The Road that is so alluring to Mowgli and Kim, like the road in Corbett’s world that “runs for several miles due west through very beautiful forests,”1 may induce in its travelers a sense of infinite possibility, but owes its existence to cities and military outposts and railway stations ...

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Chapter 3 “Out of Bounds” Clubs, Cantonments, Plains

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pp. 112-137

If the hill station as a whole served as a site for transgressive behavior among Anglo-Indians, it was the station Club more specifically where the community most visibly acted out its ambivalent attitudes and aspirations....

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Chapter 4 Savage City Locating Colonial Modernity

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pp. 138-162

In 1869, the well-known English journalist Walter Bagehot stated, “Savages copy quicker, and they copy better,” a comment that underscores the colonialist view that non-Europeans were masters of mimicry but not much else.1 Homi Bhabha turns this on its head to show that Indians, for example, were able to exert a measure of control over the interplay between themselves and ...

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Chapter 5 Medical Topography in Flora Annie Steel’s On the Face of the Waters

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pp. 163-205

A key feature of imperial Britain’s efforts to manage the topography of the Indian subcontinent was the focus on health and hygiene. If Edwin Chadwick’s and Henry Mayhew’s best-selling Victorian-era studies of London’s sanitary conditions and laboring population indicate the degree to which a growing English middle class was as concerned about moral decay as about disease, the small ...

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Chapter 6 The Engineers’ Revenge, the Age of Kali Kipling’s Bridges and the End of Jungles

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pp. 206-231

Far from the cantonment garden was an India that was just as important to the construction of Kipling’s Anglo-Indian homeliness: the India of immense engineering feats, particularly railway bridges and dams. These edifices were necessarily large in order to span rivers that dwarfed anything in Europe, and they seemed to require a new vocabulary of awe. As we will see in Kipling’s ...

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Chapter 7 Man-Eaters of Kumaon and Jim Corbett’s Jungle Idiom

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pp. 232-281

As powerful as they were, the tropes of the jungle and the garden could exert power only through British India’s idealization of individual labor, whether that labor was the Englishwoman in her bungalow or the Englishman on the hunt. The clearing of trees and animals, the management of domestic space, the mapping of a continent—all required work...

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pp. 282-284

The preceding chapters have shown how various writers expressed their conflicted Anglo-Indian sensibilities by describing equally incompatible colonial spaces. It is important to recall that well before Anglo-Indian writers opened this vein of colonial irony, other writers, including many who had never been outside Europe, had begun to tap into the wellspring of this iconography in ...


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pp. 285-301


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pp. 303-316

E-ISBN-13: 9780824860288
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824834838

Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Writing Past Colonialism
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OCLC Number: 794925359
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Out of Bounds

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Subject Headings

  • Kipling, Rudyard, -- 1865-1936 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Anglo-Indian literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Anglo-Indian literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Literature, Modern ‡x History and criticism.
  • Space in literature.
  • Corbett, Jim, 1875-1955 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Steel, Flora Annie Webster, 1847-1929 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Colonies in literature.
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