Beyond "Cotton Mary": Anglo-Indian Categories and Reclaiming the Diverse Past

Adrian Carton


The recent interest in Anglo-Indian studies, not as an inherent appendage of the British imperial experience and the story of white identity in India, but as an evolving paradigm of historical research concerning mixed-race people who identified as mixed-race, has evolved in tandem with postcolonial investigations into the relationship between "hybridity" and colonial identity formation per se. However, although the contemporary quest to collapse simple colonial dichotomies between the European ruling élites and indigenous ‘subalterns’ in the Indian context, heralded in the late 1970s with Arnold’s work on Eurasians and poor Europeans in Calcutta (Arnold 1979), has unearthed a diverse and complicated set of social identities who have straddled the neat boundaries of traditional colonial categories (Stoler 1995), commentators such as Edwards anticipated this fashion by almost a century with his poignant depictions of both class and racial hybridities (Edwards 1881). Furthermore, along with other silenced communities whose origins were from outside India, such as the Armenians, Jews and Parsis, the Anglo-Indians have carved an historiographical niche for themselves as a contemporary Indian minority.

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