Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat


Photo of Hossain

Image by Ragib/Public Domain

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was born into a Bengali Muslim upper-class family in the small village of Pairaband in the district of Rangpur, north of present day Bangladesh, then a part of the colonial British province of Bengal Presidency. Her date of birth is not known. However, a nephew of hers posits Dec. 9, 1880.

Her mother was Rahatunnessa Sabera Chowdhurani, the first of four wives. Not much is known of her except that she strictly followed purdah as Rokeya mentioned in dedicating to her The Secluded Ones, some humorous essays that expose some ridiculous consequences of the practice of Purdah. Her father was Zahiruddin Mohammad Abu Ali Saber, a well-educated, influential landowner whose massive estate was a stronghold for the traditional way of life. Rokeya had two brothers (Abul Asad Ibrahim Saber and Khalilur Rahman Abu Jaigam Saber) and two sisters (Karimunessa and Humaira). Being boys, her brothers were first educated at home (as was the tradition) then sent to St. Xavier’s, one of Calcutta’s most prestigious colleges. Rokeya and her sisters only received traditional education at home. As it was the tradition in high-class Muslim families, girls learned to read Arabic (so as to be able to read the Koran) and Urdu (in order to read the popular books on “feminine” conduct). They were kept from learning Bengali and English precisely because they were spoken by non-Muslims as well. This was one way of keeping these women from being “contaminated” by the radical ideas from outside their religio-economic group. Going against the grain, Rokeya’s oldest brother, who was exposed to Western education, was in favor of educating women. He secretly taught Rokeya English and Bengali at home.

In 1896, Ibrahim was instrumental in the family marrying off Rokeya at age 16 to a widower in his late 30′s, Syed Sakhawat Hossain, who was then a district magistrate in the Bihar region of Bengal Presidency. Ibrahim was impressed with Syed’s open-mindedness. Syed was educated both locally and in London. Rokeya and her husband settled in Bhagalpur, Bihar. None of her children lived. Syed, who was convinced that the education of women was the best way to cure the ills of his society, encouraged his all-too-willing wife to write, and set aside 10,000 rupees to start a school for Muslim women. In 1909, 11 years after they had been married, Syed died and Rokeya immediately started the school in Bhagalpur in his memory.

In 1910, a feud over family property with her step-daughter’s husband caused her to close down the school in Bhagalpur, abandon her house, and move to Calcutta where she re-opened the Sakhawat Memorial Girls’ School on March 16, 1911. The number of students went from 8 in 1911 to 84 in 1915. In 1917, the school was inspected by Lady Chelmsford, wife of the Governor General and Vicerory of India. After that, prominent people supported the school. By 1930, the school had evolved into a high school (10 grades) where Bengali and English were regular courses. In Calcutta, she became very involved in civil affairs. In 1916, she founded the Anjuman-e-Khawatin-e-Islam, Bangla (Bengali Muslim Women’s Association). In 1926, Rokeya presided over the Bengal Women’s Education Conference held in Calcutta. She was active in debates and conferences concerning the advancement of women until her death in December 9, 1932, shortly after presiding over a session during the Indian Women’s Conference in Aligarh. Her death was grieved by many male and female Hindu and Muslim activists, including educators as well as liberal leaders of her country. In December of 1932, Rokeya was working on an essay entitled Narir Adhikar (The Rights of Women) which remained unfinished.

Her legacy is that of a Muslim woman who was born and raised in purdah. Yet, she was able to rise beyond the limitations that her society placed upon her. With the help of her “liberal” brother and husband, she was not only able to write (in Bengali and English) but took significant steps to educate the women in her country.


  • Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat. Avarodhbasini (“The Secluded Ones”). Calcutta: Mohammadi Book Agency. Dedicated to Ammajan Rahatunnessa Sabera Chowdhurani. Also appeared as a series of columns in the Monthly Mohammadi, 1928-30.
  • —. Motichur, Part 1. Calcutta: Gurudas Chattopadhyaya & Sons. A collection of articles published from 1903-4 in various journals.
  • —. Motichur, Part 2. Calcutta: Mrs. Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. Dedicated to Apajan Karimunessa Khanam.
  • —. Oborodhbashini (“The woman in captivity”)
  • —. Paddorag (“Essence of the Lotus”)
  • —. Rokeya Racanavali (“Collected Works of Rokeya”). Ed. Abdul Quadir. Dhaka: Bangla Academy.
  • —. Sultana’s Dream. Calcutta: S. K. Lahiri & Co. Originally published in The Indian Ladies’ Magazine, Madras, 1905. Originally written in English and translated by the author into Bengali. Perhaps the first piece of utopian literature to be written in that country.
  • —. Sultana’s Dream and Selections from The Secluded Ones. Ed. and trans. by Roushan Jahan. Afterword by Hanna Papanek. New York: The Feminist Press.
  • “Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain.” in Women Writing In India. Vol. I: 600 B.C. to the Early 20th Century. Eds. Susie Tharu and K. Lalita. New York: The Feminist Press.


1. Feminism is indigenous in roots as opposed to foreign influence. Although male support of indigenous feminist sentiments seems to be more common among the formally-educated (locally and abroad). Rokeya herself says that if she had not had her brother and husband’s support, she would not have been able to write and contribute to the advancement of Muslim women in her country.

2. In the personal life of Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, writing and activism were intertwined. The connection between these has however increasingly become difficult in the world of academia.

3. Rokeya did not reject veiling altogether as she herself wore a veil. She advocated modesty and said that veiling should not be in a manner that would hinder education for women. Her primary concern was formal education for women. For Rokeya, women (veiled or unveiled) need to be self-sufficient. And in order to get support from men in her country, she argued that women become better “home-managers” when educated. However, her ultimate goal was that women, and particularly Muslim women in her country, would reach their fullest potentials as human beings, would be able to pursue their own interests rather than relying on the men in their lives for their well-being.

As it is often the case, feminist literature is used many times by male leaders not to advance women’s causes but to unite both sexes against colonial and imperialistic powers. Unfortunately for women, when their country gains independence and the society reinstates its traditions, their interests once again get relegated to the background. Subsequently, gender oppression, already present in customs, is reinforced. No doubt, this sort of process was taking place during the partitioning of India in 1947, when Pakistan gained its independence, and in 1971, when Bengladesh declared its autonomy.

Author: Dolores Yilibuw, Fall 1996
Last edited: June 2012

Gandhi’s Salt March to Dandi

The Salt Tax

Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930/ public domain

Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930/public domain

After proclaiming the Declaration of Independence of India on January 26, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi came to an impasse in his political career focused on freeing India from British rule. A new anti-government campaign was imperative for achieving the secularization of India for its people; it remained unclear, however, to Gandhi what form was most appropriate for this campaign to take (Sheean 152; 156-7). During the period that followed in which he could find “no light at the end of the tunnel,”; it became apparent to Gandhi that non-violent civil disobedience would form the basis for any ensuing protest (Sheean 152; 156-7).

Beginning in February 1930, Gandhi’s thoughts swayed towards the British salt tax, one of many economic improprieties used to generate revenue to support British rule, as the focal point of non-violent political protest (Ashe 301). The British monopoly on the salt tax in India dictated that the sale or production of salt by anyone but the British government was a criminal offense punishable by law (Ashe 301). More so than in more temperate climates, salt was invaluable to the people of India, many of whom were agricultural laborers and required the mineral for metabolism in an environment of immense heat and humidity where sweating was profuse. Occurring  throughout low-lying coastal zones of India, salt was readily accessible to laborers who were instead forced to pay money for a mineral which they could easily collect themselves for free (Jack 235). Moreover, Gandhi’s choice met the important criterion of appealing across regional, class, and ethnic boundaries. Everyone needed salt, and the British taxes on it had an impact on all of India.

Led by an “inner voice” during this period of strategic uncertainty, Gandhi used the British Government’s salt tax monopoly as a catalyst for a major “Satyagraha” campaign (Copley 46-8). One of Gandhi’s principal concepts,”satyagraha” goes beyond mere “passive resistance”; by adding the Sanskrit word “Agraha” (resolution) to “Satya” (Truth). For him, it was crucial that Satyagrahis found strength in their non-violent methods:

“Truth (Satya) implies Love, and Firmness (Agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force … that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or Non-violence… [If] we are Satyagrahis and offer Satyagraha, believing ourselves to be strong … we grow stronger and stronger everyday.With our increase in strength, our Stayagraha too becomes more effective, and we would never be casting about for an opportunity to give it up” (Gandhi 87).

Judith Brown (1977) considers the choice of the salt tax as an strategic protest point ingenious because every peasant and every aristocrat understood the necessity of salt in everyday life (Copley46-8).  The choice also did not alienate Congress moderates and was simultaneously an issue of enough importance to mobilize a mass following (Copley 46-8).

The March

In an effort to amend the salt tax without breaking the law, on March 2, 1930, Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin:

“If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of this month I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the Salt Laws.  I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the Independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil.”

On March 12, 1930, Gandhi and approximately 78 male satyagrahis set out, on foot, for the coastal village of Dandi some 240 miles from their starting point in Sabarmati, a journey which was to last 23 days (Jack 237).  Virtually every resident of each city along this journey watched the great procession, which was at least two miles in length (Jack 237). On April 6th he picked up a lump of mud and salt (some say just a pinch, some say just a grain) and boiled it in seawater to make the commodity which no Indian could legally produce — salt (Jack 240).

Still from original footage of Salt March, Gujarat, 1930/ public domain

Still from original footage of Salt March, Gujarat, 1930/public domain

Upon arriving at the seashore he spoke to a reporter:

God be thanked for what may be termed the happy ending of the first stage in this, for me at least, the final struggle of freedom.  I cannot withhold my compliments from the government for the policy of complete non interference adopted by them throughout the march … I wish I could believe this non-interference was due to any real change of heart or policy. The wanton disregard shown by them to popular feeling in the Legislative Assembly and their high-handed action leave no room for doubt that the policy of heartless exploitation of India is to be persisted in at any cost, and so the only interpretation I can put upon this non-interference is that the British Government, powerful though it is, is sensitive to world opinion which will not tolerate repression of extreme political agitation which civil disobedience undoubtedly is, so long as disobedience remains civil and therefore necessarily non-violent … It remains to be seen whether the Government will tolerate as they have tolerated the march, the actual breach of the salt laws by countless people from tomorrow. I expect extensive popular response to the resolution of the Working Committee (of the Indian National Congress). (qtd in Jack 238-239)

He implored his thousands of followers to begin to make salt wherever, along the seashore, “was most convenient and comfortable” to them. A “war” on the salt tax was to be continued during the National Week, that is, up to the thirteenth of April. There was also simultaneous boycotts of cloth and khaddar. Salt was sold, illegally, all over the seacoast of India. A pinch of salt from Gandhi himself sold for 1,600 rupees, perhaps $750 dollars at the time. In reaction to this, the British government had incarcerated over sixty thousand people at the end of the month (Jack 240-3; all of last paragraph).

On the night of May, 4 Gandhi was sleeping in a cot under a mango tree, at a village near Dandi. Several ashramites slept near him. Soon after midnight the District Magistrate of Surat drove up with two Indian officers and thirty heavily-armed constables.  He woke Gandhi by shining a torch in his face, and arrested him under a regulation of 1827.


The effects of the salt march were felt across India. Thousands of people made salt, or bought illegal salt. This period is to be considered the apex of Gandhi’s political appeal, as the march mobilized many new followers from all of Indian society and the march came to the world’s attention. After Gandhi’s release from prison he continued to work towards Indian independence, which was achieved in August, 1947. Dandi was a key turning point in that struggle.

Works Cited

  • Ashe, Geoffrey. Gandhi: A Study In Revolution. London: Heineman Ltd., 1968.
  • Copley, Anthony. Gandhi: Against the Tide. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1987.
  • Gandhi, Mohandas K. “Victory in South Africa.” The Essential Gandhi. Ed. Louis Fischer. New York: Vintage, 1962. 84-111.
  • Jack, Homer A. The Gandhi Reader: A Source Book of His Life and Writings. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1956.
  • Sheean, Vincent. Mahatma Gandhi: A Great Life In Brief. New York: A. Knopf, Inc., 1955.


  • Adams, Jad. Gandhi: The True Man Behind India. New York: Pegasus Books, 2011.
  • Dāsa, Ratana. The Global Vision of Mahatma Gandhi. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2005.
  • Gandhi, Rajmohan. Gandhi: the man, his people, and the empire. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
  • Kuhn, Betsy. The Force Born of Truth: Mohandas Gandhi and the Salt March, India, 1930. Chicago: Twenty-First Centyr Books, 2011.
  • Webster, Thomas. On the Salt March: the historiography of Gandhi’s march to Dandi. New Dehli: Harper Collins Publisher India, 1997.

Author: Scott Graham, Spring 1998.
Last edited: June 2012

Kureishi, Hanif

“From the start I tried to deny my Pakistani self . . . it was a curse
and I wanted to be rid of it. I wanted to be like everyone else.”
- Kureishi, “The Rainbow Sign”


Kureishi speaking

Image by Brett Weinstein/CC Licensed

Born December 5, 1954 in Bromley, England, to an Indian father and an English mother, Hanif Kureishi grew up experiencing first-hand the racial and cultural clashes that he addresses in most of his work. The inspiration for his work has been drawn from his own life’s trials and tribulations as a culturally hybrid individual of two different races and cultures. Kureishi decided that he wanted to be a writer from a young age, and began writing novels that were considered for publication while he was still a teenager.

He studied philosophy at King’s College, University of London, and then supported himself by writing pornography under the pseudonym Antonia French. After a humble beginning as an usher for the Royal Theater, Kureishi later became the theater’s writer in residence. His first play, Soaking Up the Heat, was produced in 1976 at London’s Theater Upstairs. His second play, The Mother Country, won the Thames Television Playwright Award in 1980. His breakthrough came with his first play for the Royal Court Theater, Borderline, about immigrants living in London. This led him to have his work, Outskirts, performed by London’s Royal Shakespeare Company.

Kureishi’s first efforts with film were successful and gained him a larger audience, especially in America. His screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette was written in 1985, and tells the story of a young Pakistani immigrant who opens a laundromat with his gay, white lover. Critics from both sides of the Atlantic praised Kureishi; one reviewer, Ian Jack, said, “Here at last is a story about immigrants which shows them neither as victims nor tradition-bound aliens. They’re comprehensible, modern people with an eye to the main chance, no better or worse than the rest of us.” Despite the rave reviews, some Pakistani organizations felt that they were being portrayed in a negative manner as homosexuals and drug dealers. To them, a character of Pakistani origin represented the entire Pakistani community, and should display a positive stereotype to American and British audiences. Kureishi rejects the politics of representation; he does not assume this role of an ambassador representing his minority, preferring to depict the harsher realities of racism and class divisions.

After My Beautiful Laundrette won several awards, including the Best Screenplay award from the New York Film Critics Circle, Kureishi scripted his next film with the controversial title Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. Exploring the world of a racially mixed couple living in London during the race riots, it received less critical acclaim than his previous film. Kureishi made a triumphal return in 1990 with his first semi-autobiographical novel, The Buddha of Suburbia. It is about the life of a young bisexual man, who is half-Indian and half-English, growing up in London. It won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award for the first novel category of the Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Ireland.

In 1991, Kureishi made his directorial debut with London Kills Me, which he also wrote. In this film, he expanded on his interest in street life by focusing on the world of drugs and gangs. He also returns to one of his recurring themes by addressing homelessness. As the son of an immigrant, Kureishi has written a great deal on the concept of home, describing the complexities involved in finding a place to belong. In another novel, The Black Album, he delves into the painful, lonely, and confused world of a young man of Pakistani origin, who finds himself having to choose between his white lover and his Muslim friends. The novel makes many references to pop culture, especially music and drugs, which feature in a great deal of Kureishi’s writings.

Selected Works by Hanif Kureishi


  • Kureishi, Hanif. Birds of Passage. Hampstead Theatre, London. September 1983. Performance.
  • —. Cinders. Adapted. Janusz Glowacki. Royal Court Theatre, London. Winter 1981. Performance.
  • —. The King and Me. Soho Poly Theater, London. January 1979. Performance.
  • —. The Mother Country. Riverside Studios, London, 1980.
  • —. Mother Courage (1984) Adapted. Bertolt Brecht. Royal Shakespeare Company, London. Winter 1984. Performance.
  • —. Soaking the Heat. Royal Theatre Company Upstairs, London. 1976. Performance.
  • —. Tomorrow-Today!  Soho Poly Theatre, London. 1981. Performance.


  • Kureishi, Hanif. London Kills Me: Three Screenplays and Four Essays. London: Faber, 1991.
  • —. My Beautiful Laundrette. Contained in My Beautiful Laundrette and The Rainbow Sign, London: Faber, 1986.
  • — Sammy and Rosie Get Laid : The Script and the Diary, London: Penguin, 1988.
  • — My Son The Fanatic. London: Faber and Faber, 1997.
  • — Hanif Kureishi Plays One. London: Faber and Faber, 1999.
  • — Sleep With Me. London: Faber and Faber, 1999.
  • — Collected Screenplays Volume I. London: Faber and Faber, 2002.
  • — The Mother. London: Faber and Faber, 2003.
  • — Venus. London: Faber and Faber, 2007.
  • — The Black Album (adapted from the novel). London: Faber and Faber, 2009.

Radio Plays

  • Kureishi, Hanif. “The Trial”. Adapted. Franz Kafka. BBC. London. October 1982. Radio.
  • —. “You Can’t Go Home” BBC. London. 1984. Radio.


  • Kureishi, Hanif. The Buddha of Suburbia. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1990.
  • —. The Black Album. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1995.
  • —. Love in a Blue Time. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1997.
  • —. Intimacy. New York: Scribner, 1999.
  • —. Midnight All Day. London: Faber and Faber, 2000.
  • —. Gabriel’s Gift. New York: Scribner, 2001.
  • —. The Body. New York: Scribner, 2004.
  • —. Something To Tell You. New York: Scribner, 2008.


  • Kureishi, Hanif.  The Buddha of Suburbia. Dir. Roger Michell. British Broadcasting Corporation, 1993. Film.
  • —. Intimacy. Dir. Patrice Chéreau. Téléma, 2001. Film.
  • —. London Kills Me. Dir. Hanif Kureishi. Channel Four Films, 1991. Film.
  • —. The Mother. Dir. Roger Michell. BBC Films, 2003. Film.
  • —. My Beautiful Laundrette. Dir. Stephen Frears. Channel Four Films, 1985. Film.
  • —. My Son the Fanatic. Dir. Udayan Prasad. BBC Films, 1997. Film.
  • —. Sammy and Rosy Get Laid. Dir. Stephen Frears. Channel Four Films, 1987. Film.
  • —. Venus. Dir. Roger Michell. Miramax Films, 2006. Film.

Essays and Non-Fiction

  • Kureishi, Hanif. “Bradford”. Granta. 20: 1986.
  • —. My Ear at His Heart. London: Scribner, 2004.
  • —. The Word and the Bomb. London: Faber and Faber, 2005.

Selected Criticism on Hanif Kureishi

  • Buchanan, Bradley. Hanif Kureishi (New British Fiction). New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 64, Gale, 1991, 245 – 255.
  • Chicago Tribune Book World, April 6, 1986, 26.
  • Driscoll, Lawrence Victor. Evading class in contemporary British literature. New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
  • Economist, July 21, 1990, 92.
  • Hunter, Jefferson. English filming, English writing. Bloomington, IN : Indiana University Press, 2010.
  • Interview, July, 1987, 94.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 3, 1990, 10.
  • MacPhee, Graham and Prem Poddar. Empire and after : Englishness in postcolonial perspective. New York : Berghahn Books, 2007.
  • Moore-Gilbert, Bart. Hanif Kureishi (Contemporary World Writers). Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001.
  • New Yorker, November 16, 1987, 140 – 141.
  • New York Times Book Review, May 6, 1990, 6.
  • Pesso-Miquel, Catherine and Klaus Stierstorfer. Fundamentalism and literature. New York :Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  • Ranasinha, Ruvani. Hanif Kureishi (Writers and Their Work). Devon: Northcote House Publishers Ltd, 2002.
  • Reichl, Susanne and Mark Stein. Cheeky fictions: laughter and the postcolonial. Amsterdam ; New York : Rodopi, 2005.
  • Thomas, Susie (ed). Hanif Kureishi (Readers’ Guides to Essential Criticism). Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
  • Time, March 17, 1986, 78.
  • Times Literary Supplement, January 22, 1988, 87.
  • Times Literary Supplement, May 2, 1986, 470
  • Washington Post Book Review, May 27, 1990, 7.

Author: Surbhi Sharma, Fall 1997
Last edited: July 2012

Bahri, Deepika

Deepika Bahri is a scholar, editor, and associate professor in the English department at Emory University. Her research and teaching focus on postcolonial literature and theory. She has secondary interests in rhetoric and composition as well as global health, particularly HIV/AIDS in developing countries. She received her early education in Calcutta, India, and earned her Ph.D from Bowling Green State University in 1992. She taught at the Georgia Institute of Technology before joining the English department faculty at Emory University in 1995.


Bahri has a particular interest in aesthetics, and has worked to develop this area in postcolonial studies. In Native Intelligence: Aesthetics, Politics, and Postcolonial Literature (2003), she writes about the “aesthetic dimension” of postcolonial literature, borrowing a phrase from the Frankfurt School theorist, Herbert Marcuse.  This book argues that postcolonial literature needs to be read not only as postcolonial, but also as literature. How, Bahri asks, do aesthetic considerations contest the social function of postcolonial literature? In answering, her book takes on two tasks: First, it identifies the burden of representation borne by postcolonial literature through its progressive politicization. Second, it draws on Frankfurt School critical theory to reclaim a place for aesthetics in literary representation by closely engaging the works of Rohinton Mistry, Salman Rushdie, and Arundhati Roy. Throughout, Bahri shows how attention to the aesthetic innovations and utopian impulses of postcolonial works uncovers their complex and uneven relationship to ideology, reanimating their potential to make novel contributions to the larger project of social liberation.

Bahri has edited two collections of essays. Co-edited with Mary Vasudeva, Between the Lines: South Asians and Postcoloniality (1996) is a collection of new interviews, critical essays, and commentary exploring South Asian identity and culture. Sensitive to the false homogeneity implied by categories such as “South Asian,” “diaspora,” “postcolonial,” and “Asian American,” the contributors attempt to unpack these terms. By examining the social, economic, and historical particularities of people who live “between the lines,” on and between borders, they reinstate questions of power and privilege, agency and resistance. As South Asians living in the United States and Canada, each to some degree must reflect on the interaction of the personal “I,” the collective “we,” and the world beyond. The South Asian scholars gathered together in this volume speak from a variety of theoretical perspectives; in the essays and interviews that cross the boundaries of conventional academic disciplines, they engage in intense, sometimes contentious, debate.  Included in the roster of participants: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Gauri Viswanathan, Meena Alexander, M. G. Vassanji, Amritjit Singh, Sukeshi Kamra, Amitava Kumar and others.

Realms of Rhetoric: Inquiries into the Prospects of Rhetoric Education (2003), co-edited with Joseph Petraglia, explores the challenges and opportunities faced in building a curricular space in the academy for rhetoric. Although rhetoric education has its roots in ancient times, the modern era has seen it fragmented into composition and public speaking, obscuring concepts, theories, and skills. With a foreword by Wayne Booth, the collection considers the prospects for rhetoric education outside narrow disciplinary constraints and, together with leading scholars, examine opportunities that can propel and revitalize rhetoric education at the beginning of the millennium.  Contributors include leading thinkers in the field such as David Bleich, Walter Jost, Carolyn Miller, and others.

In 2006, Bahri edited Empire and Racial Hybridity, a special issue of the journal, South Asian Review.  In the area of global health, she has written a report entitled AIDS Prevention and Control in Tamil Nadu for USAID (APAC-VHS Publications, 2002).

Other Contributions

In 2010, Bahri curated the exhibition, A World Mapped by Stories, for the opening of the Salman Rushdie archive at Emory University.  She participated in a panel with Salman Rushdie, Christopher Hitchens, and Deepa Mehta on a symposium titled,  “The Only Subject is Love.” The conversation is available on you tube here.  Also available on you tube, is a talk by Deepa Mehta, followed by a panel discussion with Deepa Mehta and Salman Rushdie on the making of the film version of the novel, Midnight’s Children“Approaching Midnight.”


Editor.  “Empire and Racial Hybridity.” Special Issue of South Asian Review. 2006.
Native Intelligence: Aesthetics, Politics, and Postcolonial Literature. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003.
Editor, with Joseph Petraglia. Realms of Rhetoric: Inquiries into the Prospects for Rhetoric Education.  Albany, NY: SUNY P, 2003.
Partners in Prevention: AIDS Prevention and Control in Tamil Nadu. USAID/CDC, 2002. .pdf format. Published as AIDS Prevention: It Works. Chennai: APAC/USAID, 2002.
Editor, with Mary Vasudeva.  Between the Lines: South Asians and Postcoloniality.  Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1996.

Selected Articles

*“Key Journals and Institutions in Postcolonial Studies.” The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature. Ed. Ato Quayson. Cambridge UP, 2011.

*“Postcolonial Aesthetics in the Culture Industry.” Renewing Cultural Studies. Ed. Paul Smith. NY: Temple UP, 2011. Pp-pp [look up]
* Feminism and Postcolonialism in a Global and Local Frame.” [in press] Vents d’est, Vents d’ouest: Mouvements de Femmes et Féminismes Anti-coloniaux. U of Geneva Press (with UNESCO), 2009.
*“The Digital Diaspora: South Asia in the New Pax Electronica.In Diaspora: Theories, Histories, Texts. Ed. Makarand Paranjape. Delhi: Indialog, 2001. 222-34.

*“Once more with Feeling: What is Postcolonialism?” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 26.1 (Jan. 1995): 51-82.

*“Disembodying the Corpus: Postcolonial Pathology in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions.” Postmodern Culture: An Electronic Journal of Interdisciplinary Criticism 5.1 (1994): 1-59.

Her current book project focuses on the representation of racial and cultural difference in literature. Current research projects include the PostcolonialStudies Websiteand a book-length project on the representation of racial and cultural difference in literature.

Articles in Refereed Journals

*”A World of Difference.”  College English 70.5 (May 2008): 514-20.

*”The Namesake.” Review Essay. Film Quarterly 61.1 (2007): 10-15.

*”What Difference Does Difference Make?: Hybridity Reconsidered.” South Asian Review 27.4 (Dec. 2006): 6-30.

*”The World, the Text, and the Postcolonial Critic.” [in press] Philosophy Today

*”Arguments to Die (and Kill for): Colonial Fantasy, Postcolonial Masculinity, and the Rhetoric of Hindu Fundamentalism.” South Asian Review 25.2 (Dec. 2004): 23-42.

*”Predicting the Past.” Modern Language Quarterly  65.3 (2004): 481-503.

*“Telling Tales: Women and the Trauma of Partition in Sidhwa’s Cracking India.”  Interventions: The International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 1.2 (1999): 217-34.

*“Terms of Engagement: Postcolonialism, Transnationalism, and Composition Studies.” Exploring Borderlands: Postcolonial and Composition Studies.  Spec. issue of JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory  18.1 (1998): 29-44.

*with Mary Vasudeva. “Swallowing for Twenty Years / the American Mind and Body”: An Interview with G. S. Sharat Chandra.”  Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies  5.1 (Fall 1997): 9-17.

*“Marginally Off-Center: Postcolonialism in the Teaching Machine.”  College English 59.3 (Mar. 1997): 277-98.

*“Once  more with Feeling: What is Postcolonialism?” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature  26.1 (Jan. 1995): 51-82.

*“Disembodying the Corpus: Postcolonial Pathology in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions.”  Postmodern Culture: An Electronic Journal of Interdisciplinary Criticism 5.1 (1994): 1-59.

*“Boethius and Sir Thomas Browne: The Common Ground.”  Mythes, Croyances et Religion dans le monde  Anglo-Saxon 10 (1992): 43-53.

*“The Reader’s Guide to P.G. Wodehouse’s America.”  Studies in American Humor ns 7 (1989): 32-44.

Chapters in Collections

 *“Key Journals and Institutions in Postcolonial Studies.” The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature. Ed. Ato Quayson.  Cambridge UP, 2011.

*“Postcolonial Aesthetics in the Culture Industry.” Renewing Cultural Studies.  Ed. Paul Smith.  NY: Temple UP, 2011. Pp-pp [look up]

* Feminism and Postcolonialism in a Global and Local Frame.” [in press] Vents d’est, Vents d’ouest: Mouvements de Femmes et Féminismes Anti-coloniaux. U of Geneva Press (with UNESCO), 2009.

*with Jennifer Yusin.  “Writing Partition: Trauma and Testimony in Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India.” Partition and Migration.  New Delhi: Pearson Education, 2007.  82-98.

“Salman Rushdie’s Shorter Fiction.”  The Cambridge Companion to Salman Rushdie.  Ed. Abdulrazak Gurnah.  Cambridge UP, 2007.  139-52.

* “The Economy of Postcolonial Literature: Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey.” Rohinton Mistry: An Anthology of Recent Criticism.  Ed. Anjali Gera Roy and Meena T. Pillai.  Delhi: Pencraft International, 2007.  99-133. (Rpt. from Native Intelligence).

*”Introduction.” “Empire and Racial Hybridity.” Special Issue of South Asian Review. 2006

*””South Asian Diaspora in the Global Digital Divide.” A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures.  Ed. Prem Poddar. Edinburgh University Press, 2005.  123-28.

*”Feminism in/and Postcolonialism.” The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies.  Ed. Neil Lazarus.  Cambridge UP, 2004.  199-220. Rpt. Penser le Postcolonial: Une Introduction Critique. Transl. Marianne Groulez, Christophe Jaquet et Hélène Quiniou.  Editions Amsterdam, 2006.

*With Joseph Petraglia. “Introduction.” Realms of Rhetoric.  1-10.

*“The Digital Diaspora: South Asia in the New Pax Electronica.In Diaspora: Theories, Histories, Texts. Ed. Makarand Paranjape.  Delhi:  Indialog, 2001.  222-34.

*“What We Teach when We Teach the Postcolonial.” Coming of Age: The Advanced Writing Curriculum. Ed. Linda K. Shamoon, Rebecca Moore Howard, Sandra Jamieson, & Robert A. Schwegler. Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 2000.  (Print-linked publication on paper and CD-ROM).

*“With Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Potential (Dangers) of Identitarian Coalitions.” A Part, Yet Apart: South Asian Americans in Asian America.  Ed. Lavina Dhingra Shanker & Rajini Srikanth.  Temple UP, 1998. 25-48.

*“Always Becoming: Narratives of Nation and Self in Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine.”  Women, America, and Movement: Narratives of Relocation.  Ed. Susan Roberson.  Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1998.  137-54.

*“Coming to Terms with the Postcolonial.”  Between the Lines: South Asians on Postcolonial Identity and Culture.  Temple UP, 1996.  137-64.

*with Mary Vasudeva. “Introduction.”  Between the Lines: South Asians on Postcolonial Identity and Culture.  1-32.

*with Mary Vasudeva. “Observing Ourselves among Others: Interview with Meena Alexander.”  Between the Lines: South Asians on Postcolonial Identity and Culture.  35-53.

*with Mary Vasudeva. “Pedagogical Alternatives: Issues in Postcolonial Studies: Interview with Gauri Viswanathan.”    Between the Lines: South Asians on Postcolonial Identity and Culture.  54-63.

*with Mary Vasudeva. “Transnationality and Multiculturalist Ideology: Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.”  Between the Lines: South Asians on Postcolonial Identity and Culture.  64-89.

Review Essays and Book Reviews

*The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future by Martha Nussbaum. Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 13.1 (2006): 108-110.

*In the Beginning IS Desire: Tracing Kali’s Footprints in Indian Literature  by Neela Bhattacharya        Saxena. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East  25.3 (2005): 697-99.

*A Geopolitics of Academic Writing by A. Suresh Canagarajah. South Atlantic Review (Winter 2005): 148-51.

*Calibrations by Ato Quayson. Modern Fiction Studies 51.1 (Spring 2005): 222-226.

*Lives in Translation: Sikh Youth as British Citizens by Kathleen D. Hall.  Anthropology and Education Quarterly  34.2 (June 2003).  www.aaanet.org/cae/aeq/br/index.htm.

*Postcolonial, Queer: Theoretical Intersections, ed. John C. Hawley.  JAC  22.1 (Winter 2002): 225-29.

*Rev. essay. “States of Knowledge: The Politics of Everyday Culture.”  Rev. of Empire of Knowledge and States of Exception. Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies  9.2 (Fall 2002): 145-49.

*Rev. essay.”Roses in December: Cultural Memory in the Present.”  Rev. The Practice of Cultural Analysis Tropicopolitans, and Race-ing RepresentationCollege English 63.2 (Sept. 2000): 95-101.

*Our Feet Walk the Sky.  Committee on South Asian Women Bulletin 9:1-4 (1994): 51-53.

Web & Print-Linked Publications

*“What We Teach when We Teach the Postcolonial.” Coming of Age: The Advanced Writing Curriculum. Integrated publication in print and CD-ROM (see above)

*“Introduction.”  Postcolonial Studies at Emory Web site.  On-Line.  Internet.  1996.  Available World Wide Web: http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/Intro.html.  5 pages.

e-mail address: deepika.bahri@emory.edu

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Ghosh, Amitav


Amitav Ghosh signing books

Image by Frederick Noronha/CC Licensed

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He grew up in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), Sri Lanka, Iran and India. After graduating from the University of Delhi, he went to Oxford to study Social Anthropology and received a Master of Philosophy and a Ph. D in 1982. In 1980, he went to Egypt to do field work in the fellaheen village of Lataifa. The work he did there resulted in the novel In an Antique Land (IAAL 1993). Ghosh has been a journalist and a novelist. He published his first novel, The Circle of Reason in 1986, and his second, The Shadow Lines, in 1988. Since then, he has published IAAL, The Calcutta Chromosome, and The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, done field work in Cambodia, lived in Delhi and written for a number of publications. The Hungry Tide won the Crossword Book Prize and his novel, Sea of Poppies, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2007 he was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest honors by the Indian president. He was also the joint winner of the Dan David Award in 2010 along with Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale. He currently lives in New York and teaches at Columbia University.

Selected Publications

A. Books by Ghosh:

  •  The Circle of Reason. New York: Viking, 1986. 423 pp.

Ghosh’s first novel opens with the arrival of a child “Alu” (“potato”–for the shape of his head) in a small village and is divided into three sections: “Satwa: Reason,” “Rajas: Passion,” and “Tamas: Death.”

  • The Shadow Lines. New York: Penguin, 1990. (First published in England by Bloomsbury Press, 1988) 246 pp.

His second novel focuses on the narrator’s family in Calcutta and Dhaka and their connection with an English family in London.

  • In an Antique Land. New York: Vintage, 1994. (First published in England by Granta Books, 1992) 393 pp.

The cover proclaims IAAL: a “History in the guise of a traveller’s tale”. The multi-generic book moves back and forth between Ghosh’s experience living in small villages and towns in the Nile Delta and his reconstruction of a Jewish trader and his slave’s lives in the eleventh century from documents from the Cairo Geniza.

The Calcutta Chromosome, 1996.

The Calcutta Chromosome, 1996.The Calcutta Chromosome (Picador, 1996)

  • The Calcutta Chromosome.  New York: Picador, 1996.

This novel has been described as “a kind of mystery thriller” (India Today). It brings together three searches: the first is that of an Egyptian clerk, Antar, working alone in a New York apartment in the early years of the twenty-first century and tracing the adventures of L. Murugan, who disappeared in Calcutta in 1995; the second pertains to Murugan’s obsession with the missing links in the history of malaria research; the third search is that of Urmila Roy, a journalist in Calcutta in 1995 who is researching the works of Phulboni, a writer who produced a strange cycle of “Lakhan stories” that he wrote in the 1930s but suppressed thereafter.

  • The Glass Palace. New York: Random, 2000.

In a review in The New York Times, Pankaj Mishra describes Ghosh as one of few postcolonial writers “to have  expressed in his work a developing awareness of the aspirations, defeats and disappointments of colonized peoples as they figure out their place in the world.” The novel is set primarily in Burma and India and catalogs the evolving history of those regions before and during the fraught years of the second world war and India’s independence struggle.

  • The Hungry Tide. New York: Harper Collins, 2005.
This novel tells the story of the convergence of Piyali Roy, of Indian parentage but stubbornly American, and Kanai Dutt, a sophisticated Delhi businessman in the mysterious and closed Sundarbans, a remote archipelago of islands. It explores the notion of the uncharted landscape through both a geographic lens as it considers the Sundarbans and also a psychological one focusing on the uncharted nature of the human heart.
  • Sea of Poppies. London: MacMillion, 2008.
Ghosh tells the story of the Ibis and its crew as they travel around the Indian Ocean. The novel considers the politics of the opium trade in South Asia through it motley collection of travelers, crew members and trading posts. As characters collide they begin to see each other as jahaj-bhais or  “ship-brothers,” forming an unlikely alliance that supplants more conventional bonds of family and nation.
  • River of Smoke. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
The follow up to Sea of Poppies, this novel incorporates characters from the previous novel while adding new ones to the mix.  Again interested in the opium trade, this novel explores notions of hybridity and draws parallels between 19th century trade routes and contemporary trade relationships between so called “first world” and “third world” countries.

B. Selected Articles by  Ghosh

  • “The Global Reservation: Notes Toward an Ethnography of International Peacekeeping.” Cultural Anthropology 9.3 (1994): 412-422.

This essay describes Ghosh’s encounters with UN workers in Cambodia and their broader implications towards what he calls “an anthropology of the future.”

  • “The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi.” The New Yorker 17 July 1995: 35-41.

An essay on writing and politics, this account focuses on “sectarian violence” in Delhi in 1984 after which Ghosh sat down to write The Shadow Lines.

  • “The Fundamentalist Challenge.” Wilson Quarterly 19 (Spring 1995):19-31.

Examines the contradiction between “religious extremism['s]” reliance on scripture and its attack on artistic production in the late twentieth century.

  • “Holiday in Cambodia,” “Petrofiction,” and “The Human Comedy in Cairo.” The New Republic 208 (28 June 1993): 21-25l; 206 (2 Mar. 1992): 29-34; 202 (7 May 1990): 32-36.

The first of these three articles is a shorter version of his “The Global Reservation” (above). The second looks at the novels of Abdelrahman Munif and their connection to oil trade, and the third looks at the life and work of Naghib Mahfouz the year after the Egyptian writer won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

C. Further Articles to Consult

  • Aldama, Frederick Luis. 2002. An Interview with Amitav Ghosh. World Literature Today: A Literary Quarterly of the University of Oklahoma 76 (76:2): 84-90.
  • Almond, Ian. 2004. Post-Colonial Melancholy: An Examination of Sadness in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesOrbis Litterarum: International Review of Literary Studies 59 (2):90-99.
  • Alter, Alexandra. 2009. How to Write a Great Novel. The Wall Street Journal (Digital Network), November 13.
  • Anand, Divya. 2008. Words on Water: Nature and Agency in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide.Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 34 (1):21-44.
  • Bagchi, Nivedita. 1993. The Process of Validation in Relation to Materiality and Historical Reconstruction in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesMFS: Modern Fiction Studies 39 (1):187-202.
  • Balee, S. 2006. The Hungry TideHudson Review 58 (4):689-699.
  • Banerjee, Suparno. 2010. The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Silence, Slippage and Subversion, in  Hoagland, Ericka; and Sarwal, Reema, eds. Science Fiction, Imperialism and the Third World: Essays on Postcolonial Literature and Film. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2010. p. 50-64.
  • Bannerjee, Dhrubajyoti. 2006. Violent Cartography/Cartography of Violence: A Study of The Shadow LinesJournal of the Department of English 33 (1-2):234-246.
  • Barat, Urbashi. 2004. Exile and Memory: Re-Membering Home after the Partition of Bengal. InCreativity in Exile. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Bassi, Shaul. 2005. In terre antiche. La ‘premodernità liquida’ di Amitav Ghosh. In An Academic and Friendly Masala: Miscellanea di omaggi per Alberta Fabiis Grube., edited by S. Mathé. Venice, Italy: Cafoscarina.
  • Batra, Kanika. 2001. Geographical and Generic Traversings in the Writings of Amitav Ghosh. InConvergences and Interferences: Newness in Intercultural Practices/Ecritures d’une nouvelle ère/aire.Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Belliappa, K. C. 1994. Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land: An Excursion into Time Past and Time Present. Literary Criterion 29 (4):15-24.
  • Bhatt, Indira Nittayandam, Indira. 2001. The Fiction of Amitav Ghosh. New Delhi: Creative Fictions.
  • Bhattacharya, Nandini. 2006. The Partitioned Tiger: Animal Icons and the Imagined Nation in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideJournal of the Department of English 33 (1-2):224-233.
  • Black, S. 2006. Cosmopolitanism at Home: Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Line’Journal of Commonwealth Literature 41 (3):45-65.
  • Boehmer, Elleke, and Anshuman A. Mondal. 2012. Networks and Traces. An Interview with Amitav Ghosh. Wasafiri 27 (2):30-35.
  • Bruschi, Isabella. 2006. The Calcutta Chromosome. An Attempt at Disrupting Western Cultural Egemony. In English Studies 2006, edited by R. A. Henderson. Torino: Università degli Studi di Torino.
  • Butt, Nadia. 2008. Inventing or Recalling the Contact Zones? Transcultural Spaces in Amitav Ghosh’sThe Shadow LinesPostcolonial Text, Vol 4, No 3 (2008) 4 (3):1-16.
  • Cabaret, Florence. 2010. Qui est le subalterne de l’histoire indienne? Ou comment le personnage participe d’une relecture historiographique dans The Glass Palace (2000) d’Amitav Ghosh. L’atelier 2 (1).
  • Chambers, Claire. 2003. Postcolonial Science Fiction: Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome.Journal of Commonwealth Literature 38 (1):57-72.
  • Chambers, Claire. 2005. ‘The Absolute Essentialness of Conversations’: A Discussion with Amitav Ghosh.Journal of Postcolonial Writing 41 (1):26-39.
  • Chambers, Claire. 2006. Anthropology as Cultural Translation: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land.Postcolonial Text 2 (3):[19 pages].
  • Chambers, Claire. 2006. Representations of the oil encounter in Amitav Ghosh’s The ‘Circle of Reason’.Journal of Commonwealth Literature 41 (1):33-50.
  • Chandra, Vinita. 2003. Suppressed Memory and Forgetting: History and Nationalism in The Shadow Lines. In Amitav Ghosh Critical Perspectives, edited by B. Bose. Delhi: Pencraft International.
  • Chaudhuri, Supriya. 2009. Translating loss: place and language in Amitav Ghosh and Salman Rushdie.Études anglaises:266.
  • Cheuse, A. 2006. The Hungry Tide. World Literature Today 80 (2):22-22.
  • Chew, Shirley. 2001. Texts and Worlds in Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. In Bell, Maureen (ed. and introd.); Chew, Shirley (ed.); Eliot, Simon (ed.); Hunter, Lynette (ed.); West, James L. W., III (ed.), Re-Constructing the Book: Literary Texts in Transmission.Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2001. xi, 231 pp..edited by M. Bell, S. Chew, S. Eliot, L. Hunter and J. L. W. West, III. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.
  • Cohn, Bernard S. 1996. Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge: The British in IndiaPrinceton studies in culture/power/history. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  • Davis, Rocío G. 2002. To Dwell in Travel: Historical Ironies in Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. InMissions of Interdependence: A Literary Directory. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Dayal, Samir. 1998. The Emergence of the Fragile Subject: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. InHybridity and Postcolonialism: Twentieth-Century Indian Literature. Tübingen, Germany: Stauffenburg.
  • Dedebas, Eda. 2007. Hybrid Nations and Narratives: The Intermingling of Multinationalism and Multiple Narratives in The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh. Cuadernos de Literatura Inglesa y Norteamericana 10 (1-2):83-91.
  • Desai, G. 2004. Old world orders: Amitav Ghosh and the writing of nostalgia (‘In an Antique Land’).Representations (85):125-148.
  • D’Haen, T. 2007. Antique lands, new worlds? Comparative literature, intertextuality, translation. Forum for Modern Language Studies 43 (2):107-120.
  • Dixon, Robert. 1996. ‘Travelling in the West’: The Writing of Amitav Ghosh. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 31 (1):3-24.
  • Docker, John. 1998. His Slave, My Tattoo: Romancing a Lost World. In Unfinished Journeys: India File from Canberra. Adelaide, Australia: CRNLE.
  • Fletcher, Lisa. 2011. Reading the Postcolonial Island in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideIsland Studies Journal 6 (1):3-1.
  • Florence, Cabaret. 2010. Qui est le subalterne de l ‘histoire indienne? Ou comment le personnage participe d’une relecture historiographique dans the Glass Palace (2000) d’Amitav Ghosh. L’Atelier 2 (1):1-19.
  • Foucault, Michel, Donald Fernand Bouchard, and Sherry Simon. 1977. Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Fraser, Bashabi. 2011. ‘Our Little Life Is Rounded with a Sleep’: The Scottish Presence in Andrew Greig’sIn Another Light and Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide
  • Freedman, Ariela. 2005. On the Ganges Side of Modernism: Raghubir Singh, Amitav Ghosh, and the Postcolonial Modern. In Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP.
  • Gabriel, Sharmani Patricia. 2005. The Heteroglossia of Home: Re-’Routing’ the Boundaries of National Identity in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesJournal of Postcolonial Writing 41 (1):40-53.
  • Galuzzi, Fausto. 2009. The Theme of Translation in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide. In Perspectives on English Studies, edited by R. A. Henderson. Torino: Trauben.
  • Gandhi, Leela. 2003. ‘A Choice of Histories’: Ghosh vs. Hegel in an Antique Land. New Literatures Review 40:17-32.
  • F. Gambarotta. 1991. Per una scrittura non violenta. In Un linguaggio universale, Milano: Linea d’ombra.
  • Ghosh, Bishnupriya. 2004. On Grafting the Vernacular: The Consequences of Postcolonial Spectrology.Boundary 2: An International Journal of Literature and Culture 31 (2):197-218.
  • Ghosh-Schellhorn, Martina. 2006. Chromosoming Utopia: A Virtual World in Anglophone Indian Fiction In Mediating Indian Writing in English: German Responses, edited by B.-P. Lange and M. Pandurang. Berlin.
  • Glabazna, Radek. 2010. The Medieval Middle East as a Space of Cultural Hybridity in Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. In Space in Cultural and Literary Studies.. edited by A. Ciuk and K. Molek-Kozakowska. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars.
  • Glabazna, Radek. 2005. Palimpsest and Seduction: The Glass Palace and White TeethKunapipi: Journal of Postcolonial Writing 27 (1):75-87.
  • Gopal, Priyamvada. 2004. Amitav Ghosh (1956- ). In World Writers in English, Volume I: Chinua Achebe to V. S. Naipaul. New York, NY: Scribner’s.
  • Gorlier, Claudio. 1996. Il cromosoma Calcutta. L’indice dei libri del mese (6).
  • Grewal, Inderpal. 2005. Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, NeoliberalismsDurham, NC: Duke UP, 2005. xi, 280 pp.. (Durham, NC: Next Wave: New Directions in Women’s Studies). Durham, NC: Duke UP.
  • Grewal, Inderpal. 2008. Amitav Ghosh: Cosmopolitanisms, Literature, Transnationalisms  In The Postcolonial and the Global. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P.
  • Grimal, C. 2006. The ‘Hungry tide’. Quinzaine Litteraire (923):14-16.
  • Guilhamon, Lise. 2011. La traduction dans The Hungry Tide (2004) d’Amitav Ghosh comme site de resistance, de decentrement et de negociation culturelle. Paper read at 4ème Congrès du Réseau Asie & Pacifique, at Paris, France.
  • Gunning, Dave. 2009. History, Anthropology, Necromancy – Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land InPostcolonial Ghosts/Fantômes post-coloniaux. edited by M. Joseph-Vilain and J. Misrahi-Barak. Montpellier, France: Universitaires de la Méditerranée.
  • Gupta, R. K. 1994. Trends in modern Indian fiction. World Literature Today: a literary quarterly of the University of Oklahoma (Norman) 68 (2).
  • Gupta, R. K. 2006. ‘That Which a Man Takes for Himself No One Can Deny Him’: Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace and the Colonial Experience. International Fiction Review 33 (1-2):18-26.
  • Gurnah, A. 2004. The ‘Hungry Tide’. Tls-the Times Literary Supplement (5285):21-21.
  • Gurr, Jens Martin. 2010. Emplotting an Ecosystem: Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide and the Question of Form in Ecocriticism In Local Natures, Global Responsibilities: Ecocritical Perspectives on the New English Literatures, edited by L. Volkmann, N. Grimm, I. Detmers and K. Thomson. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Guttman, Anna. 2010. The Jew in the Archive: Textualizations of (Jewish?) History in Contemporary South Asian Literature. Contemporary Literature 51 (3):503-531.
  • Hanquart-Turner, Evelyne. 2011. The Search for Paradise: Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide. InProjections of Paradise: Ideal Elsewheres in Postcolonial Migrant Literature, edited by H. Ramsey-Kurz and G. Ganapathy-Doré. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Haque, Md Rezaul. 2012. The Precursory Dialectic in The Circle of Reason. In The Shadow of the Precursor. Edited by D. Glenn, M. R. Haque, B. Kooyman and N. Bierbaum. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars.
  • Harrington, Louise. 2011. An-Other Space: Diasporic Responses to Partition in Bengal. In India and the Diasporic Imagination/L’Inde et l’imagination diasporique, edited by R. Christian and J. Misrahi-Barak. Montpellier, France: PU de la Méditerranée.
  • Hawley, John C. 2005. Amitav Ghosh. New Delhi, India: Foundation Books.
  • Hicks, K. 2006. The Hungry Tide. Society & Animals 14 (3):312-315.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2000. Narration and Silence in the Works of Amitav Ghosh. World Literature Written in English 38 (2):28-43.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas.  2004. Representation of London in The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh. Literary London: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Representation of London 2 (1):18 paragraphs.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2008. The Calcutta Chromosome: The Ethics of Silence and Knowledge. In Seeking the Self-Encountering the Other: Diasporic Narrative and the Ethics of Representation, edited by T. I.
  • Huttunen, Kaisa; Korkka, Janne; Valovirta, Elina. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2008. Representation of Riots in The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh. In Riots in Literature, edited by D. P. Bell, Gerald; Tiusanen, Jukka. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2009. Ethics, Language, and the Writing of Amitav Ghosh. In A Sea for Encounters: Essays towards a Postcolonial Commonwealth, edited by S. B. Barthet. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2012. Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of Reason—Dismantling the Idea of Purity. Nordic Journal of English Studies 11 (1).
  • James, Louis. 1991. Shadow Lines: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in the Fiction of Amitav Ghosh.Commonwealth Essays and Studies 14 (1):28-32.
  • Jones, Stephanie. 2003. A Novel Genre: Polylingualism and Magical Realism in Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of ReasonBulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 66 (3):431-41.
  • Kadam, Mansi G. 2006. Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace: A Post-Colonial Novel. In Indian Writing in English, edited by B. Mishra and S. Kumar. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers.
  • Kamath, Rekha. 1998. Memory and Discourse: On Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. In The Poetics of Memory. Tübingen, Germany: Stauffenburg.
  • Kapadia, Novy. 1990. Imagination and Politics in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines. In The New Indian Novel in English: A Study of the 1980s. New Delhi: Allied Publishers Ltd.
  • Kapadia, Novy. 1990. Imagination and Politics in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.
    In The New Indian Novel in English: A Study of the 1980s. New Delhi: Allied Publishers Ltd.
  • Kaul, Suvir. 1994. Separation Anxiety: Growing Up Inter/National in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.Oxford Literary Review 16 (1-2):125-45.
  • Khair, Tabish. 2001. Babu Fictions: Alienation in Contemporary Indian English Novels. Delhi and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Khair, Tabish. 2003. Amitav Ghosh: A Critical Companion. Delhi: Permanent Black.
  • Khatri, C. L. 2001. The Narrative Technique of Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesZenith: A Literary Magazine 7:50-55.
  • Kich, Martin. 2000. Mosquito Bites and Computer Bytes: Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome.Notes on Contemporary Literature 30 (4):9-12.
  • Kumar, T. Vijay. 2007. ‘Postcolonial’ Describes You as a Negative: An Interview with Amitav Ghosh.Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 9 (1):99-105.
  • Maharaj, Neelam A. 2006. Amitav Ghosh and The Forgotten Army. Postcolonial Text 2 (2).
  • Maher, Moustaga. 1995. Eine Reise durch Kulturen und Zeiten: Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land(1992): ‘Essai’ eines interkulturellen Interpretations. In Der Gebrauch der Sprache. Münster, Germany: Lit.
  • Majeed, Javed. 1995. Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land: The Ethnographer-Historian and the Limits of Irony. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 30 (2):45-55.
  • Majumdar, N. 2003. Shadows of the Nation: Amitav Ghosh and the Critique of Nationalism. Ariel-a Review of International English Literature 34 (2-3):237-258.
  • Mallot, J. Edward. 2007. ‘A Land Outside Space, an Expanse without Distances’: Amitav Ghosh, Kamila Shamsie, and the Maps of Memory. Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory 18 (3):261-84.
  • Marx, John. 2011. The Historical Novel After Lukács. In Georg Lukács: The Fundamental Dissonance of Existence: Aesthetics, Politics, Literature., edited by T. Bewes and T. Hall. New York, NY: Continuum.
  • Mathur, Suchitra. 2004. Caught between the Goddess and the Cyborg: Third-World Women and the Politics of Science in Three Works of Indian Science Fiction. Journal of Commonwealth Literature 39 (3):119-38.
  • Mee, Jon. 2003. The Burthen of the Mystery. Imagination and Difference in The Shadow Lines. InAmitav Ghosh. A Critical Companion, edited by T. Kair. Delhi: Permanent Black.
  • Mehta, P. B. 2000. Cosmopolitanism and the Circle of ReasonPolitical Theory 28 (5):619.
  • Merrill, Christi Ann. 2007. Laughing out of Place: Humour Alliances and Other Postcolonial Translations in In an Antique LandInterventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 9 (1):106-123.
  • Mondal, Anshuman A.  2003. Allegories of Identity: ‘Postmodern’ Anxiety and ‘Postcolonial’ Ambivalence in Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land and The Shadow LinesJournal of Commonwealth Literature 38 (3):19-36.
  • Mondal, Anshuman. 2007. Amitav Ghosh. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.
  • Mongia, Padmini. 1992. Postcolonial Identity and Gender Boundaries in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesCollege Literature 19-20 (3-1 [Double issue]):225-28.
  • Mongia, Padmini. 2005. Between Men: Conrad in the Fiction of Two Contemporary Indian Writers. InConrad in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Approaches and Perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Mukherjee, Pablo. 2006. Surfing the Second Waves: Amitav Ghosh’s Tide Country. New Formations: A Journal of Culture/Theory/Politics 59:144-157.
  • Nayar, Pramod K. 2010. The Postcolonial Uncanny: The Politics of Dispossession in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideCollege Literature 37 (4):88-119.
  • Nelson, Diane M. 2003. A Social Science Fiction of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery: The Calcutta Chromosome, the Colonial Laboratory, and the Postcolonial New Human. Science Fiction Studies 30 (2 [90]):246-66.
  • Neluka, Silva, and Alex Tickell. 2003. An Interview with Amitav Ghosh. In Amitav Ghosh Critical Perspectives, edited by B. Bose. Delhi: Pencraft International.
  • Prasad, Murari. 2007. Transcending the Postcolonial: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique LandLiterary Criterion 42 (2):51-61.
  • Prusse, Michael C. 2009. Imaginary Pasts: Colonisation, Migration and Loss in J. G. Farrell’s The Singapore Grip and in Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass PalaceTransnational Literature 2 (1).
  • Pulugurtha, Nishi. 2010. Refugees, Settlers and Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide.In Local Natures, Global Responsibilities: Ecocritical Perspectives on the New English Literatures, edited by L. Volkmann, N. Grimm, I. Detmers and K. Thomson. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Radhakrishnan, R. 2001. Globalization, desire, and the politics of representation. Comparative Literature (Univ. of Oregon, Eugene) 53 (4):315.
  • Radhakrishnan, R. 2002. Derivative Discourses and the Problem of Signification. European Legacy: Toward New Paradigm 7 (6):783-95.
  • Rao, Nagesh. 2003. Cosmopolitanism, Class and Gender in The Shadow LinesSouth Asian Review 24 (1):95-115.
  • Rath, Arnapurna, and Milind Malshe. 2011. Chronotopes of “Places” and “Non-places”: Ecopoetics of Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideAsiatic 4 (2):14-33.
  • Reddy, Sheela. 2008. Interview with Amitav Ghosh. “The Ghazipur and Patna Opium Factories Together Produced the Wealth of Britain”. Outlook, 26 May.
  • Rollason, Christopher. 2005. “In Our Translated World”. Transcultural Communication in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideAtlantic Review 6 (1):86-107.
  • Rollason, Christopher. 2009. Empire, Sense of Place and Cultures in Contact – George Orwell’s ‘Burmese Days’ and Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Glass Palace’. Indian Journal of Postcolonial Literatures 9 (June).
  • Romanik, B. 2005. Transforming the Colonial City: Science and the Practice of Dwelling in The Calcutta ChromosomeMosaic-a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 38 (3):41-57.
  • Roy, Anjali. 2000. Microstoria: Indian Nationalism’s ‘Little Stories’ in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesJournal of Commonwealth Literature 35 (2):35-49.
  • Roy, Rituparna. 2010. South Asian Partition Fiction in English : From Khushwant Singh to Amitav Ghosh. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
  • Schulze-Engler, Frank. 2000. Literature in the Global Ecumene of Modernity: Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of Reason and In an Antique Land. In English Literatures in International Contexts.. Heidelberg, Germany: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag.
  • Sen, Asha. 1997. Crossing Boundaries in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesJournal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 5 (1):46-58.
  • Sen, Asha. 1998. Child Narrators in The Shadow LinesCracking India, and Meatless DaysWorld Literature Written in English 37 (1-2):190-206.
  • Sen, Biswarup. 2001. Interview with Amitav Ghosh. Persimmon: Asian Literature, Arts, and Culture 2 (2):62-65.
  • Sen, Krishna. 2006. Amitav Ghosh. In South Asian Writers in English. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale.
  • Shikha, Kumari. 2011. Ecocriticism in Indian Fiction. IRWLE.  7 (1).
  • Shinn, Christopher A. 2008. On Machines and Mosquitoes: Neuroscience, Bodies, and Cyborgs in Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta ChromosomeMELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 33 (4):145-166.
  • Siddiqi, Yumna. 2002. Police and Postcolonial Rationality in Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of Reason.Cultural Critique 50:175-211.
  • Simon, S. 1998. Frontiers of memory: The partition of India in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.Etudes Francaises 34 (1):29-43.
  • Singh, Jaspal Kaur. 2010. The Indian Diaspora in Burma and the Politics of Globalization in Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace and Mira Kamdar’s Motiba’s Tattoos. In Indian Writers: Transnationalisms and Diasporas , edited by J. K. Singh and R. Chetty. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
  • Singh, Sushila. 1992. Double Self in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesLanguage Forum: A Half-Yearly Journal of Language and Literature 18 (1-2):135-42.
  • Singh, Sujala. 2004. Who Can Save the Subaltern? Knowledge and Power in Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of ReasonCritical Survey 16 (2):45-58.
  • Singh, Sujala. 2005. The Routes of National Identity in Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Shadow Lines’. InAlternative Indias: Writing, Nation and Communalism. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Sircar, Arjya. 1992. The Stranger Within: Amitav Ghosh’s Quest for Identity. Language Forum: A Half-Yearly Journal of Language and Literature 18 (1-2):143-47.
  • Skinner, John. 2002. Embodying Voices: Language and representation in Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass PalaceBELL: Belgian Essays on Language and Literature:137-149.
  • Smith, Eric D. 2007. ‘Caught Straddling a Border’: A Novelistic Reading of Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique LandJournal of Narrative Theory 37 (37:3):447-472,498.
  • Spyra, A. 2006. Is cosmopolitanism not for women? Migration in Qurratulain Hyder’s Sita Betrayed and Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesFrontiers-a Journal of Women Studies 27 (2):1-26.
  • Srivastava, Neelam. 2001. Amitav Ghosh’s Ethnographic Fictions: Intertextual Links between In an Antique Land and His Doctoral Thesis. Journal of Commonwealth Literature 36 (2):45-64.
  • Su, John J. 2011. Amitav Ghosh and the Aesthetic Turn in Postcolonial Studies. Journal of Modern Literature 34 (3):65-86.
  • Tadie, A. 2002. Amitav Ghosh: the Nuances of History. Esprit (1):62-73.
  • Thieme, John. 1994. Passages to England. In Liminal Postmodernisms: The Postmodern, the (Post-)Colonial, and the (Post-)Feminist. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  • Thieme, John. 2003. The Discoverer Discovered. In Amitav Ghosh. A Critical Companion, edited by T. Khair. Delhi: Permanent Black.
  • Thieme, John. 2007. Amitav Ghosh: The Hungry Tide. In Literary Encyclopedia.
  • Thompson, Hilary. 2009. The Colonial City as Inverted Laboratory in Baumgartner’s Bombay and The Calcutta ChromosomeJournal of Narrative Theory 39 ((39:3)):347-368,417-418.
  • Thrall, James H. 2009. Postcolonial Science Fiction?: Science, Religion and the Transformation of Genre in Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta ChromosomeLiterature & Theology: An International Journal of Religion, Theory, and Culture 23 (3):289-302.
  • Tomsky, Terri. 2009. Amitav Ghosh’s Anxious Witnessing and the Ethics of Action in The Hungry Tide.Journal of Commonwealth Literature 44 (1):53-65.
  • Urry, John, and Inc NetLibrary. 1990. The tourist gaze: leisure and travel in contemporary societies. London ; Newbury Park: Sage Publications.
  • Vescovi, Alessandro. 2007. Storia e conoscenza storica in Midnight’s Children e The Shadow Lines. In Le trame della conoscenza, edited by M. Bignami, Milano: Unicopli.
  • Vescovi, Alessandro. 2009. Amitav Ghosh in Conversation. ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 40 (4):129-141.
  • Vescovi, Alessandro. 2011. Amitav Ghosh. Firenze: Le Lettere.
  • Vescovi, Alessandro. 2011. Voicing Unspoken Histories: Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies as Research Novel. In History and Narration: Looking Back from the Twentieth Century, edited by M. Bignami, F. Orestano and A. Vescovi. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholar Press.
  • Vinay, Lal. 2012. The politics of culture and knowledge after postcolonialism: Nine theses (and a prologue). Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 27 (2):191-205.
  • Viswanathan, Gauri. 1995. Beyond Orientalism: Syncretism and the Politics of Knowledge. Stanford Humanities Review 5 (1):19-34.
  • Wassef, Hind. 1998. Beyond the Divide: History and National Boundaries in the Work of Amitav Ghosh.Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 18:75-95 (English section), 212-13 (Arabic section).
  • Weik, Alexa. 2006. The Home, the Tide, and the World: Eco-Cosmopolitan Encounters in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideJournal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 13-14 (2-1):120-141.
  • Whitrow, Magda. 1993. Julius Wagner-Jauregg (1857-1940). London: Smith Gordon.
  • Zanganeh, Lila Azam. 2011. Excavation: Lila Azam Zanganeh interviews Amitav Ghosh. Guernica, http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/2674/ghosh_5_15_11/.
  • Zullo, Federica. 2009. Il cerchio della storia. Conflitti e paure nell’opera di Amitav Ghosh. Padova: il Poligrafo.

 Web Resources

Amitav Ghosh’s Personal Website

Amitav Ghosh’s Twitter Feed

Author: Peter Nowakoski, Spring 1996
Last edited: June 2012

Spice Trade in India


Spices in Mapusa Market, Goa, India/CC Licensed

Spices in Mapusa Market, Goa, India/CC Licensed

Buying black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and other spices  is so inexpensive now that it seems hard to believe that once,  they were valued as highly as gold and silver.

Archaeologists estimate that from as far back as 50,000 B.C. humans had used the special qualities of aromatic plants to help flavor their food. The primitive human would have utilized the sweet-smelling spices in order to make  food taste better. They would have offered all sorts of aromatic herbs to their primitive gods and used the spices for healing properties. From that moment on, spices played an important role in human existence.

Spice Trade in the Ancient World

Trade in the ancient world included the use of caravans with as many as 4,000 camels carrying  the treasures from the east, namely, spices. We can imagine the caravans trudging along from Calicut, Goa and the Orient to the spice markets in Babylon, Carthage, Alexandria, and Rome. For hundreds of years, traders also used ships which sailed along the Indian coast, past the Persian Gulf, along the coast of South Arabia, and finally through the Red Sea into Egypt. Trade in antiquity was subject to constant robberies, storms and shipwrecks, and piracy. Despite the setbacks, however, spices were in such great demand (especially during the highly developed Greek and Roman eras) that the profits outweighed the risks.

The most lucrative of the spice traders during this time were the Arabians. South Arabia was the great spice emporium in antiquity. In The Story of Spices, there is an anecdote as told by Herodotus about the “method” the Arabians had used to gather cinnamon:

Great birds, they say, bring the sticks which we Greeks call cinnamon, and carry them up into the air to make their nests. The Arabians, to get the cinnamon, use the following artifice. They cut all the oxen and beasts of burden that die in their land into large pieces and place them near the nests: then they withdraw to a distance, and the old birds, swooping down, seize the pieces of meat and fly with them up to their nests; which not being able to support the weight, break off and fall to the ground. Hereupon the Arabians return and collect the cinnamon, which is afterwards carried from Arabia to other countries. (Parry 38)

By taking advantage of the fact that people during this time believed in witchcraft, charms, omens, and magic, the Arabians had convinced the rest of the Ancient world that the only way they could obtain the valuable spices was by trading with the Arabians. The Arabians used mythological stories to hide the true sources of the spices and therefore succeeded in acquiring the first monopoly on the spice trade.

The Portuguese in India

In 1498 during the Age of Discovery, one Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut, India and changed the course of history. da Gama’s discovery of an alternate route to India marked the beginning of the short-lived dominion the Portuguese had on the spice trade. Under the impetus of the spice trade, Portugal expanded territorially and commercially. By the year 1511, the Portuguese were in control of the spice trade of the Malabar coast of India and Ceylon. Until the end of the 16th century, their monopoly on the spice trade to India was exceptionally profitable for the Portuguese.

The main product brought back to Lisbon was black pepper. Pipernigrum was as valuable as gold in the age of discovery. In the 16th century, over half of Portugal’s state revenue came from West African gold and Indian pepper and other spices. The proportion of the spices greatly outweighed the gold.

The Portuguese monopoly on the pepper trade was not a long one, however, because they faced many problems from competition and from the pepper growers. By the 1580s the imports of pepper into Venice had increased, and that into Portugal had declined. Portugal had little to no control over the areas where pepper was grown.  There were many instances of “illegal” trading. Cargoes were hijacked inland and taken to the Red Sea by coolie or bullocks over the mainland. When the 1590s rolled around, the Dutch attacked and successfully put an end to the Portuguese monopoly.

Spice Consumption in Europe during the Renaissance

People in the Renaissance found many uses for spices and the spice trade was basic to the Renaissance economy. Pepper was used to preserve and to flavor spoiled meat. Cloves and cinnamon were used as substitutes for cleanliness and ventilation. They were strewn across the floor to prevent foot odor from permeating the room. People carried around pieces of nutmeg fitted with a tiny grater, ready to season unsavory, unpalatable food. Around many a Renaissance throat there hung spicy pomander to ward off suffocation, illness, and odor. The spice  supplier for most of the countries in Europe was India. Pepper originated out off Cochin and the Malabar Coast, cinnamon and cardamom were native to Ceylon, and cloves were grown in the coast of the Bay of Bengal.

The Dutch and English in India

With the waning power of the Portuguese apparent, the Dutch and the English saw their opportunity to gain power in the spice trade world in India.

The Dutch entered the competition in earnest at the end of the 16th century. Dutch explorers Van Houtman and Van Neck made friends with native sultans and organized trading posts which eventually gave Holland the monopoly in the early 17th century. In 1658, the cinnamon trade in Ceylon was under their control, and in 1663, the best pepper ports on the Malabar Coast were theirs. When prices for cinnamon or other spices fell too low in Amsterdam, they would burn the spices.

England was an immense threat to the Portuguese and later, the Dutch, because they were a power at sea.  In 1600, the British East India Company was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, and its major objective was obtaining spice cargoes.  The British worked slowly in their attempt to gain the power away from the Dutch, and finally in 1780, England and Holland started a war which severely weakened Dutch power in India. By the 1800s everything that once belonged to Portugal and Holland was controlled by the British.

Modern Trade

Spice growers now export their products through their own organizations or through exporting houses. Spices are now distributed by food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. With the advances in technology and science, too, the spices are now able to flourish in other parts of the world with similar climates as India.

See: Salman RushdieJews in India, Geography and Empire


  • Baker, J.N.L. A History of Geographical Discovery and Exploration. London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1931.
  • Boxer, C.R. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire. London: Hutchinson, 1969, 1415-1825
  • Disney, A. R. Twilight of the Pepper Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978.
  • King, Leonard W. Babylonian Magic and Sorcery. London: Luzac & Co., 1896.
  • Parry, John W. The Story of Spices. New York: Chemical Publishing Co., Inc., 1953.
  • Pearson, M.N. The Portuguese in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  • Sykes, Brigadier General Sir Percy. A History of Exploration. London: George Routledge & Sons Ltd., 1934.

Author: Louise Marie M. Cornillez, Spring 1999  Last edited: June 2012

Dabydeen, David


David Dabydeen speaking

Image by GeoffW2007/CC Licensed

David Dabydeen was born on December 9, 1955 to Krishna Prasad and Vera Dabydeen, the parents of a peasant family, in a county in Guyana named Berbice. Until 1966, Guyana was a British colony predominantly inhabited by Indians and some Africans who immigrated to the Caribbean during a massive movement, which transplanted more than half a million indentured Indians between 1838 and 1917. Dabydeen’s family moved several times during his early years to avoid race riots between Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese. When he reached his tenth year, he journeyed to the capital city of Georgetown to further his education in accordance with a full scholarship. There, he met some British teachers whom he would praise as his inspiration for writing throughout his life. Young David spent a few years boarding in generous homes until 1969, when he left for England. His parents had separated, as his father had gone ahead to England in order to raise sufficient funds to send for his family. Each child from eldest to youngest went in turn. Dabydeen earned a Bachelor of Arts with honors from Cambridge University in 1978 and his Ph.D. in eighteenth century literature and art from the University of London in 1981. While at Cambridge, he wrote the poems which were eventually published in his first book, Slave Song, some six years later in 1984. He continued his studies at Oxford and Yale from 1983-87, lecturing on Caribbean Studies. He is a Professor at the Centre for British Comparative Cultural Studies at Warwick University.

Coolie Odyssey

David Dabydeen made his poetic debut with a book titled Slave Song. Most of the poems had been written six years prior to its publication in 1984. The encouragement of friends drove him to seek literary representation. The language found in the poems is accentuated and spelled especially to recreate Guyanese Creole: a mixture of French, Spanish, and tongues African and from the Caribbean. Dabydeen intended for the poetry to be read aloud so as to illuminate the accent, emotion, and spirit of the culture of the language of the cane fields. In 1988, Coolie Odyssey followed Slave Song, receiving less acclaim and no awards. However, the strength and depth of the poetry never diminished. Although Dabydeen chose to write his second collection almost entirely in English, “the rhythm of the line and the sound of the poem are Caribbean” (Binder 171).

The book paints a picture of the relationship between the white colonialists and the indigenous South Americans. Several poems outline one specific character at a time on a Guyanese plantation, presumably where Dabydeen spent his early years. By surveying the scene, the life, and the history through the eyes of so varied a crowd, Dabydeen brilliantly describes the setting of tragedy, rage, sorrow, oppression, and culture which pervade the endless fields of sugar cane.

In revealing the minds of slaves and narrating from an aboriginal perspective, Dabydeen also opens the reader to issues of the land, demonstrates the results of colonialism on the native people, and addresses the intensified bond of the Guyanese to their pasts. The poem “Coolie Mother” touches upon language and education as pertains to identity and cultural mixture. A mother tells her son that he must read books, that he “got to go to school in Georgetown”, so he does not become a drunk cane worker (16). One sad aspect highlighted by the influx of British culture to a previously sheltered land is the discrepancy in technology and its culture. Ultimately, the less developed of the two gravitates toward the other, due to force or choice. The mother in the poem wants her son to learn English and get an education so he can escape the generational cycle of the cane fields.

Conversely, the poem on the facing page is told from the perspective of that son. His language never deviates from Creole. He has not lost his native tongue. All native persons in a colonized environment must struggle with their sense of identity and self-composition. As Dabydeen noted in an interview, “We always felt ashamed (of women wearing saris) and we would talk about that to each other. As boys, we wished women who spoke in Urdu in public would keep quiet” (Binder 161). Certain shame and embarrassment accompany being a part of a foreign culture in England. Foreigners wish they could blend with the domestic people, become more like them.

Another theme which prevails and re-emerges in several of the coolie poems is the sexual tensions and relationships between races. In “Untouchable,” the male slave knows that the white woman should never have any relations with him, but wants her anyway. Two consecutive poems are entitled “Miranda and Caliban.” Caliban is a slave and Miranda a white woman, characters in a classic myth of the Guyanese plantation. They continue to indulge their sexual desire for each other, but must hide the truth from everyone and live in the shame of impurity. This self sustaining trap keeps the two at risk of death.

Works Cited

  • Binder Wolfgang, “Interview with David Dabydeen, 1989.”  The Art of David Dabydeen. Ed. Kevin Grant. Leeds: Peepal Tree, 1997.
  • Dabydeen David. Coolie Odyssey. London: Hansib Publishing Limited and  Dangaroo Press, 1988.


Quiller-Couch Prize from Cambridge University, 1978, for poetry
Resident fellowship from Yale University’s Centre for British Art, 1982
Postdoctoral research fellowship from Oxford University, 1983
Commonwealth Poetry Prize, 1984, for Slave Song
Guyana Prize, 1992, for The Intended

Selected Publications

  • Slave Song (poems). Mundelstrup: Dangaroo Press. 1984.
  • Hogarth’s Blacks: Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art. Mundelstrup: Dangaroo Press.1985, Athens: University of Georgia Press. 1987.
  • (Editor and contributor) The Black Presence in English Literature. Dover: Manchester University Press. 1985.
  •  Caribbean Literature: A Teacher’s Handbook.  London: Heinemann. 1986.
  •  (Editor) India in the Caribbean, University of Warwick.  Coventry: Centre for Caribbean Studies, 1987.
  • Hogarth, Walpole, and Commercial Britain.  London: Hansib Publications,1987.
  • (With Nana Wilson-Tagoe) A Reader’s Guide to West Indian and Black British Literature. Dangaroo Press. 1987.
  • Handbook for Teaching Caribbean Literature. London: Heinemann, 1988.
  • Coolie Odyssey. (Poetry). London: Hansib Publications, 1988.
  • (Editor with Paul Edwards) Black Writers in Britain, 1760-1890.  Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University Press, 1991.
  • The Intended.  (Novel). London: Minerva, 1992.
  • Disappearance. (Novel).  London: Secker & Warburg, 1993.
  • Turner: New and Selected Poems.  London:  J. Cape, 1994.
  • The Counting House. (Novel). London: J. Cape, 1996.
  • (Editor with Brinsley Samaros) Across the Dark Waters: Ethnicity and Indian Identity in the Caribbean. London: Macmillan, 1996.
  • A Harlot’s Progress. London: J. Cape, 1999.
  • Our Lady of Demerara. Chichester: Dido Press, 2004.
  • Molly and the Muslim Stick. Oxford: Macmillan Caribbean, 2008.

Related Links

British Council – Literature. “David Dabydeen”

Centre for Caribbean Studies. “David Dabydeen”

Author: William Shepler, Spring 1999
Last edited: May 2012

List of Writers and Filmmakers from the Indian Subcontinent

Contemporary Subcontinental Writers in English and Selected Writings

    • Meena Alexander (Nampally Road, Fault Lines, River and Bridge, The Shock of Arrival, Manhattan Music)
    • Anjana Appachana (Incantations and Other Stories, Listening Now)
    • Shauna Singh Bauldwin (English Lessons and Other Stories)
    • Sujata Bhatt (Brunizem, Monkey Shadows, The Stinking Rose)
    • Vikram Chandra (Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Love and Longing in Bombay)
    • Upamanyu Chatterjee (English August, The Last Burden)
    • Amit Chaudhuri (A Strange and Sublime Address, Afternoon Raag, Freedom Song)
    • Gautama Chopra (Child of the Dawn)
    • Keki Daruwalla (The Minister for Permanent Unrest and Other Stories and collections of poems)
    • Anita Desai (Clear Light of Day, Baumgartner’s Bombay, In Custody, Journey to Ithaca)
    • Kiran Desai (Strange Happenings in the Guava Orchard, The Inheritance of Loss)
    • G. V. Desani (All about H. Hatterr, Hali and Other Stories)
    • Chitra Divakaruni (Black Candle, Arranged Marriage, The Mistress of Spices, Leaving Yuba City)
    • Indira Ganesan (The Journey, The Inheritance)
    • Lalita Gandhbir (poems, stories in the Massachusetts Review, Toronto South Asian Review)
    • Zulfikar Ghose (The Beautiful Empire, Crump’s Terms, A Different World, Don Bueno)
    • Amitav Ghosh (Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In an Antique Land, The Calcutta Chromosome)
    • Sunetra Gupta (Memories of Rain, The Glassblower’s Breath, Moonlight into Marzipan)
    • Githa Hariharan (“The Remains of the Feast”)
    • Ginu Kamani (Junglee Girl)
Junglee Girl, 1995.

Junglee Girl, 1995.

  • Manju Kak (Requiem for an Unsung Revolutionary and Other Stories)
  • Firdaus Kanga (Trying to Grow)
  • M. R. Kohli (Struggle, Hope, and Betrayal)
  • Bhargavi Mandava (Where the Oceans Meet)
  • Manorama Mathai (Mulligatawny Soup)
  • Amina Meer (Bombay Talkie)
  • Gita Mehta (Karma Cola, Raj, A River Sutra, Snakes and Ladders)
  • Ved Mehta (Mahatma Gandhi and his Apostles)
  • Rohinton Mistry (Swimming Lessons, Such a Long Journey, A Fine Balance)
  • Bharati Mukherjee (Wife, The Tiger’s Daughter, Jasmine, The Holder of the World, Leave it to Me)
  • Kiran Nagarkar (Ravan and Eddie, Seven Sixes Are Forty Three, Cuckold)
  • Anita Nair (Satyr of the Subway)
  • Kiran Narayan (Love, Stars, and all That)
  • Uma Parameswaran (Trishanku, Rootless But Green Are the Boulevard Trees)
  • Padma Perera (Coigns of Vantage, Dr. Salaam & other Stories of India)
  • R. Raja Rao (One Day I Locked My Flat in Soul City)
  • Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things and film scripts for In which Annie…, Massey Sahib, Electric Moon)
  • Salman Rushdie (Grimus, Shame, Midnight’s Children, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, East West, The Moor’s Last Sigh)
  • Sealy, Allan. (From Yukon to Yucatan: A Western Journey, The Trotter-nama: A Chronicle)
  • Vikram Seth (Golden Gate, A Suitable Boy -the longest modern English novel)
  • Bapsi Sidhwa (The Crow Eaters, Cracking India, An American Brat)
  • Sivanandan, A. (When Memory Dies)
  • Shashi Tharoor (The Great Indian Novel, Show Business, The Five-dollar Smile and other Stories, India from Midnight to the Millennium)
  • Ardhshir Vakil (Beach Boy)
  • M. G. Vassanji (The Gunny Sack, No New Land, Uhuru Street, The Book of Secrets)
  • Abraham Verghese (My Own Country)
  • Shashi Warrier (Night of the Krait – described as the first Indian thriller)

Contemporary Subcontinental Filmmakers

  • Erika Surat Anderson (None of the Above, Turbans)
  • Dev Benegal (English August, Split Wide Open, Ravan and Eddie)
  • Gurinder Chaddha (Bhaji on the Beach, I’m English but, London, The Mistress of Spices)
  • Tanuja Desai (The Test)
  • Nisha Ganatra (Junky Punky Girlz, Chutney Popcorn, Cosmopolitan)
  • Kaizad Gustad (Lost and Found, Bombay Boys)
  • Waris Hussein (A Child’s Wish, Trying to Grow among others)
  • Srinivas Krishna (Masala, Lulu, Waiting for the Mahatma)
  • Avi Luthra (A Family Business) Deepa Mehta (Fire, Earth)
  • Mira Nair (So Far from India, India Cabaret, Jama Masjid Street Journal, Saalam Bombay, Mississippi Masala, Kama Sutra)
  • Meena Nanji (Voices of the Morning, The Blue Fiction, Nest of Jewels)
  • Pratibha Parmar (Warrior Marks, The Color of Britain, Khush, Jodie)
  • Anand Patwardhan (In the Name of God, Trial by Fire, Hero Pharmacy)
  • Udayan Prasad (My Son the Fanatic)
  • Madhani Ranghadia (Wedding Sarees) Premika Ratnam (Access Denied)
  • Harish Saluja (The Journey)
  • Michelle Taghioff (The Parvati Trilogy, Haveli)
  • Shashwati Talukdar (My Life as a Poster, Please Don’t Beat Me Sir!, Mahasweta Devi: Witness, Advocate, Writer)
  • Nilita Vachani (Eyes of Stone, When Mother comes Home for Christmas)

Last edited: July 2012

Sepoy Mutiny of 1857

The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked. Did they not, in India, to borrow an expression of that great robber, Lord Clive himself, resort to atrocious extortion, when simple corruption could not keep pace with their rapacity? While they prated in Europe about the inviolable sanctity of the national debt, did they not confiscate in India the dividends of the rajahs, who had invested their private savings in the Company’s own funds? While they combated the French revolution under the pretext of defending “our holy religion,” did they not forbid, at the same time, Christianity to be propagated in India, and did they not, in order to make money out of the pilgrims streaming to the temples of Orissa and Bengal, take up the trade in the murder and prostitution perpetrated in the temple of the Juggernaut? These are the men of “Property, Order, Family, and Religion.”

Karl Marx, The New-York Daily Tribune. 22 July, 1853.

The story of the Sepoy War of 1857, (an attempt at a compromise between two more controversial titles, ‘the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857′ and ‘the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857,’ though “insurgency”might also fit) began long before March of 1857. The history of the war delves deep into the colonization and conquest of India and the cultural and religious oppression imposed on Indians by British rule. Furthermore, the telling of the history of the war is, to this day, an ongoing battle between two competing narratives, the history belonging to the British that won the war, and the history claimed by the Indians who were defeated. This article is an attempt to present a history of the Sepoy War that is derived from various points of view, accounting for the context of the histories related, and the points of view of the historians relating them.

Indian states during Revolt of 1857/CC Licensed

Indian states during Revolt of 1857/CC Licensed

The East India Company was a massive export company that was the force behind much of the colonization of India. The power of the East India Company took nearly 150 years to build. As early as 1693, the annual expenditure in political “gifts” to men in power reached nearly 90,000 pounds (Marx 23). In bribing the Government, the East India Company was allowed to operate in overseas markets despite the fact that the cheap imports of South Asian silk, cotton, and other products hurt domestic business. By 1767, the Company was forced into an agreement that is should pay 400,000 pounds into the National Exchequer annually.

By 1848, however, the East India Company’s financial difficulties had reached a point where expanding revenue required the massive expansion of British territories in South Asia. The Government began to set aside adoption rights of native princes and began the process of annexation of more than a dozen independent Rajs between 1848 and 1854 (Marx 51; Kaye 30). In an article published in The New York Daily Tribune on July 28, 1857, Karl Marx notes that “in 1854 the Raj of Berar, which comprises 80,000 square miles of land, a population from four to five million, and enormous treasures, was forcibly seized” (Marx 51).

In order to consolidate and control these new holdings, a well-established army of 200,000 South Asians officered by 40,000 British soldiers dominated India by 1857. The last vestiges of independent Indian states had disappeared and the East India Company exported tons of gold, silk, cotton, and a host of other precious materials back to England every year.


Historians like J.A.B. Palmer and John Kaye trace the origins of the soldiers’ rebellion at Meerut to the Lee-Enfield Rifle. It was developed at the Enfield arsenal by James P. Lee and fired a .303 caliber ammunition that had to manually loaded before firing. Loading involved biting the end of the cartridge, which was greased in pig fat and beef tallow. This presented a problem for native soldiers, as pig fat is a haraam, or forbidden, substance to Muslims, and beef fat is, likewise, deemed inauspicious for certain Hindus. Thus, the revolt occurred as a reaction to this particular intrusion into Hindu and Muslim culture, and then caught on as a national rebellion. Palmer dramatically relates this discovery, according to Captain Wright, commanding the Rifle Instruction Depot:

    Somewhere about the end of the third week in January 1857, a khalasi, that is to say a labourer, accosted a high Brahmin sepoy and asked for a drink of water from his lotah (water-pot). The Brahmin refused on the score of caste. The khalasi then said, “You will soon lose your caste, as ere long you will have to bite cartridges covered with the fat of pigs and cows,” or, it is added, “words to that effect.” (Palmer 15)

Furthermore, historians taking similar positions argue that British legislation that interfered with traditional Hindu or Muslim religious practices were a source of antagonism. Palmer and Kaye also argue throughout their respective work that the prohibition of practices such as saathi (often transliterated “sati”), or the ritual suicide of widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres, became a source of outrage. In other words, the growing intrusion of western culture became an impetus for rebellious soldiers, fearful that their culture was being annihilated.

The long-belabored significance of the Lee-Enfield cartridge is challenged by the work of historians like Marx, Collier, Majumdar, Chaudhuri, and Malleson. These historians argue that the actions of soldiers at Meerut were the “last straw” for South Asians who had been victims of British cultural and class-based oppression and antagonism, and discard the notion that religion played an overwhelmingly vital role in fomenting revolt. For them, the root causes of the insurgency cannot be traced to a single, well-defined set of events and causes, but rather stemmed from an ongoing set of conflicts.

Divide and Conquer

Col. G.B. Malleson argues that forcing Western ideas on an Eastern people fundamentally backfired and the “divide and conquer” tactics employed by the British in India ultimately sowed the seeds of the rebellion. He notes, “action of a different character … so dear to the untravelled Englishman, or forcing the ideas in which he has been nurtured upon the foreign people with whom he has brought into contact, assisted … to loosen the bonds of discipline, which, up to that period, had bound the [Sepoy] to his officer” (Malleson 8). In other words, the Sepoy soldiers found themselves constantly pitted against their countrymen in an army governed by what common soldiers came to feel were outside influences. In a colonial setting, this is the prime breeding ground for a coup (or in this case, a revolt) because any soldier’s allegiance is governed by competition with other soldiers in currying favor and accumulating power, not by discipline or obedience to the orders of superior officers, and he begins to affiliate himself with his own people rather than the military ethics forced on him.


Greater still was the influence of British expansionism on the Sepoy Rebellion. Richard Collier explains how rapidly increasing territorial conquest also intensified Indian unrest:

    These annexations were a source of discontent and anxiety to many people besides the sepoys. In eight years, Canning’s predecessor, the despotic Lord Dalhousie, at 35 the youngest Governor-General India had ever known, had annexed over 250,000 square miles — an area three times the size of England and Ireland. The Punjab, Sattara, Nagpur — Dalhousie’s hands had stretched out to embrace them all. ‘An Indian Governor General,’ stormed The Hindu Patriot, ‘is chartered to destroy dynasties with a scratch of his quill.’ Indignities were heaped upon crowned heads: the jewels of the Royal Family of Nagpur were publicly auctioned in Calcutta. (Collier 19)

Participating in the military conquest of local authorities, then, and having first-hand knowledge of the effects of British expansionism would have fomented resistance in the Sepoys.

Torture and Oppression

On August 28, 1857, Marx published an article in The New York Daily Tribune in order to “[show] that the British rulers of India are by no means such mild and spotless benefactors of the Indian people as they would have the world believe” (Marx 72). Marx cites the official Blue Books — entitled “East India (Torture) 1855-57″ — that were laid before the House of Commons during the sessions of 1856 and 1857. The reports revealed that British officers were allowed an extended series of appeals if convicted or accused of brutality or crimes against Indians. Concerning matters of extortion in collecting public revenue, the report indicates that officers had free rein of any methods at their disposal (Marx 73).

Torture became a method for financial exploitation in colonial India, and was challenged by a petition from the Madras Native Association presented in January of 1856. The petition was dismissed on the basis of a lack of evidence, despite the fact that, according to Marx, “there was scarcely any investigation at all, the Commission sitting only in the city of Madras, and for but three months, while it was impossible, except in very few cases, for the natives who had complaints to make to leave their homes” ( 74). Marx also refers to Lord Dalhousie’s statements in the Blue Books that there was “irrefragable proof” that various officers had committed “gross injustice, to arbitrary imprisonment and cruel torture” (76).

In addition to torture, the Company levied extremely large taxes on the Indian people. Collier describes taxes as “a cynical outrage. A man could not travel twenty miles without paying toll at a river ferry, farmed out by the Company to private speculators. Land Tax, often demanded before the crop was raised, was made in quarterly installments … the annual rent for an acre of land was 3 s[hillings], yet the produce of that acre rarely averaged 8 s[hillings] in value” (Collier 20).

Marx’s position, as illustrated by the introductory quote to this page, is that the Indians were victims of both physical and economic forms of class oppression by the British. In Marx’s analysis, the clash between the soldiers and their officers is the inevitable conflict that is the result of capitalism and imperialism.

The Rebellion

The military history of the rebellion is straightforward. Prior to the “mutiny” at Meerut on May 9th, 1857, fires broke out on January 22nd near Calcutta. An incident occurred on February 25th of that year when the 19th regiment mutinied at Berhampore, and the 34th Regiment rebelled at Barrackpore on the 31st of March. At Berhampore, the regiment allowed one of its men to advance with a loaded musket upon the parade-ground in front of a line and open fire on his superior officer; a battle ensued. April saw fires at Allahabad, Agra, an Ambala, but the spark that lit the powder keg went off on May 9th in Meerut.

Members of the 3rd regiment of light cavalry were awaiting sentencing and imprisonment for refusal to obey orders and to put the Lee-Enfield .303 caliber cartridge into their mouths. Once imprisoned, the 11th and 20th cavalry assembled and broke rank and turned on their commanding officers. After liberating the 3rd regiment, chaos ensued in Meerut, and the rebels engaged the remaining British Troops. Meerut was the singlemost evenly balanced station in India in terms of the numbers of British and Indian soldiers. Troops and rebels were on near-even terms with 2,028 European Troops versus 2,357 sepoys, but  the British had 12 field guns and the sepoys had no artillery. Both Collier and Marx indicate that the rebellion would have ended there had Major-General William Hewitt cut off the rebel army at the bridge between Meerut and Delhi, some 40 miles away, with added weapons (Collier 40).

The 38th, 54th, and 74th regiments of infantry and native artillery under Bahkt Khan (c.1797- c.1859) joined the rebel army at Delhi in May. June 1857 marked the battle of Kanpur (Cawnpore). The last Maratha prince, Baji Rao II, decreed his title and 80,000 pound annual pension to his son Nana Sahib (c.1820- c.1859) and was refused twice. Despite Sahib’s attempts to push his claim, Lord Dalhousie refused the Hindu nobleman. Thus, in June 1857, Nana Sahib led the sepoy battalions at Crawnpore against the British. Nana Sahib sent word to Sir Hugh Wheeler, commander of the Britsh forces at Cawnpore warning of the attack, guaranteeing him safe passage. On June 27, Nana Sahib broke the pact and trapped Wheeler in his palace. The events leading up to Wheeler’s surrender and death have been recorded as the Cawnpore Massacre.

The Cawnpore Massacres

In the words of Sir Colin Campbell, leader of the British forces during the war:

    Never was devised a blacker scheme than that which Nena Sahib had planned. Our miserable countrymen were conducted faithfully enough to the boats-officers, men, women, and children. The men and officers were allowed to take their arms and ammunition with them, and were escorted by nearly the whole of the rebel army. It was about eight o’clock a.m. when all reached the riverside — a distance of a mile and a half. Those who embarked first pushed off from the shore; but others found it difficult to get their boats off the banks, as the rebels had placed them as high as possible. At this moment the report of three guns was heard from the Nena’s camp. The mutineers suddenly leveled their muskets, guns opened from the banks, and the massacre commenced. Some of the boats were set on fire, volley upon volley was fired upon the poor fugitives, numbers of whom were killed on the spot … A few boats crossed over to the opposite bank, but there a regiment of native infantry (the 17th), just arrived from Azimghur, was waiting for them; and in their eagerness to slay the “Kaffirs,” rode their horses belly deep into the river to meet the boats, and hack our unhappy country men and women to pieces. (Campbell 112)

Andrew Ward’s historical narrative, Our Bones Are Scattered, also relates an account of the terrible and bloody massacre that followed the rebellion at Cawnpore, as well as Delhi and Meerut. By July, when Nana Sahib had captured Gwalior, he was reinstated as prince.

The Siege of Delhi

The siege of Lucknow lasted roughly from July 1st to August 31st. The commanding British officer, Sir Henry Lawrence, died early on during the siege. By July 25th two-thirds of the British forces had retreated across the river and Delhi had been taken by early September. Bahadur Shah, the last surviving Mogul ruler was installed as ruler and the devastating battle between rebel and British forces for control Delhi ensued. Soldiers faced down the horrific sight of the impregnable walls of Delhi and “more than fifty guns and mortars belching fire at Delhi’s northern walls from the water bastion on the east to the Mori bastion on the west” (Collier 246).

As the siege wore on the Punjabi forces fighting for the British began to weary and there was talk of a retreat. Under General John Nicholas, Delhi had toppled by September 20th, at the cost of 3,835 soldiers, British and Indian, and 378 horses (Collier 264). Rebel forces retreated to Lucknow where the siege was approaching three months in length. There the war lasted until late November, until the rebels were driven to defeat in the Ganges Valley in December and January by Hugh Rose and Colin Campbell. By July 8, 1858, a peace treaty was signed and the war ended. By 1859, Rebel leaders Bahkt Khan and Nana Sahib had been slain in battle.


Though the Sepoy War has been dismissed as a chaotic, disorganized peasant uprising, several facts go undisputed that offer a counterargument. The “unorganized peasants” of India fought one of the most powerful empires in the world to near defeat with limited resources and even more limited training. Nevertheless, the lesson of the Sepoy War is not one of victory or justice, but failure. Though the exact cause of the Sepoy War has yet to be agreed upon, and it is likely that there were many complex causes rather than one, it is clear that British interference governments and the oppression of the Indian people, religious and economic, created a bloody revolution.

Fictional & Narrative Literature on the Sepoy War

  • Alavi, Seema. The Sepoys and the Company: Tradition and Transition 1770-1830. New  York: Oxford U P, 1995.
  • Farrell, J.G. The Siege of Krishnapur. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1985 (orig. 1973; Booker Prize winner).
  • Fenn, Clive Robert. For the Old Flag: A Tale of the Mutiny. London: Sampson Low,  1899.
  • Grant, James. First Love and Last Love: A Tale of the Mutiny. New York: G. Routledge  & Sons, 1869.
  • Kaye, Mary Margaret. Shadow of the Moon. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979.
  • Masters, John. Nightrunners of Bengal. New York: Viking Press, 1951.
  • Raikes, William Stephen. 12 Years of a Soldier’s Life In India. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1860.

Works Cited

  • Campbell, Sir Colin. Narrative of the Indian Revolt. London:George Vickers, 1858.
  • Collier, Richard. The Great Indian Mutiny. New York: Dutton, 1964.
  • “Indian Mutiny.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web. 23 Mar. 1998. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/285821/Indian-Mutiny>.
  • Kaye, John William. A History of the Sepoy War In India. London: W.H. Allen &  Co., 1878.
  • Keene, H. George. British Administration During the Revolt of 1857. New Delhi: Inter- India Publications, 1985.
  • “Lee-Enfield rifle.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web. 23 Mar. 1998. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/334620/Lee-Enfield-rifle>.
  • Malleson, Colonel G.B. The Indian Mutiny of 1857. New York: Scribner & Sons, 1891.
  • Marx, Karl & Freidrich Engels. The First Indian War of Independence 1857-1859.  Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959.
  • Palmer, J.A.B. The Mutiny Outbreak at Meerut In 1857. Cambridge: University Press, 1966.
  • Stokes, Eric. The Peasant Armed: The Indian Revolt of 1857. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.
  • Ward, Andrew. Our Bones Are Scattered. New York: Holt & Co., 1996.

Author: Nilesh Patel, Spring 1998 Last edited: June 2012

Nair, Mira


Picture of Mira Nair

Image by IndiaFM/CC Licensed

The highly acclaimed director and producer from India, Mira Nair leapt into the world’s spotlight with her film Salaam, Bombay! which was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award.

Mira Nair was born in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa to a civil servant in 1957. She went on to attend the University of New Delhi where she studied sociology and theater and transferred to Harvard in 1976 on full scholarship to continue studying sociology. While at Harvard her focus drifted to documentary film. She describes documentary as “a marriage of my interests in the visual arts, theatre, and life as it is lived” (Current Biography 424).

Ultimately, the genre’s standards of objectivity and non-interference prompted Nair’s turn to film. She explained: “While I was working in documentary I was impatient sometimes, many times, with waiting for something to happen and not having it happen like I hoped it would.” She goes on to say that she wanted “a lot more control over gesture and drama and faces” in her work  (Current Biography 424).

Nair currently lives in New York City where she teaches at Columbia University.

Salaam, Bombay!

Nair’s first narrative film details the lives of children who live in the streets of Bombay. The main character Krishna/Chaipau spends his time as a runner for a tea shop in a neighborhood replete with prostitution and the drug trade. It is in the teeming environment of the streets that Krishna must save 500 rupees before he returns to his village. At the same time several episodes serve to demonstrate the hopelessness of everyone’s condition.

Even though the film is interspersed with moments of occasional happiness and camaraderie, the tone of the film is predominately bittersweet and poignant. The strengths of the film lie in its extraordinary realism. All the scenes were shot on location. Also, the realistic performance of the actors might be ascribed to the fact that most of them are actual street urchins. Only a handful of the actors were professional. The film does not offer easy solutions  and the state’s response is critiqued. In the orphanage/reformatory, one individual has been held for four years without a hearing. Furthermore, the encounters Krishna has in the reformatory are in essence no different than the ones he had on the streets. The film ends with Krishna staring dissolutely off screen after having his innocence destroyed.


  • Jama Masjid Street Journal. Dir. Mira Nair. Mirabai Films, 1979.
  • So Far From India. Dir. Mira Nair. Mirabai Films, 1982.
  • India Cabaret. Dir. Mira Nair. Mirabai Films, 1985.
  • Children of a Desired Sex. Dir. Mira Nair. Mirabai Films, 1987.
  • Salaam Bombay. Dir. Mira Nair. Mirabai Films, 1988.
  • Mississippi Masala. Dir. Mira Nair. Mirabai Films, 1991.
  • The Perez Family. Dir. Mira Nair. The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1993.
  • Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love. Dir. Mira Nair. Mirabai Films, 1997.
  • My Own Country. Dir. Mira Nair. Showtime, 1998.
  • Monsoon Wedding. Dir. Mira Nair. Mirabai Films, 2001.
  • Vanity Fair. Dir. Mira Nair. Focus Features, 2004.
  • The Namesake. Dir. Mira Nair. Fox Searchlight, 2006

Works Cited

  • Current Biography Yearbook. 1993. 54th Vol. Ed. Judith Graham. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1993.
  • Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994.

Related Sites

Mirabai Films

Information on Kama Sutra

Author: John Brestan, Fall 1997

Last edited: June 2012