Thesis ID: CBB679420788

The Nation and Its Deviants: Global Sexology and the Racial Grammar of Sex in Colonial India, 1870-1940 (2022)


Loomba, Ania (Advisor)
Sequeira, Rovel Jerome Alex (Author)

Loomba, Ania
University of Pennsylvania
Publication date: 2022
Language: English

Publication Date: 2022
Physical Details: 383

This dissertation reconfigures the historiography of modern sexology from the vantage point of colonial India. It argues that India’s encounter with the racist scientific and literary infrastructures of sexology engendered taxonomies of Indian sexual life that were grounded not in liberal understandings of subjectivity but in non-liberal grammars of racial excess. Routing the history of sexology and sexuality through the global circulation of literary and scientific forms at the turn-of-the-20th-century, I contend that while the “invention” of sexuality in Europe was enabled by iconic confessional genres like the case history, the autobiography, the novel, and the questionnaire, these genres played an oversized role in defining sexuality because they undergirded individualized liberal personhood. In colonial India, however, even as modern sexology developed from the late 19th century onwards, confessional scientific genres like the case history and the questionnaire, and parallel individualizing literary genres like the autobiography and the novel were perceived as lacking by both colonial and Indian elites because of supposedly collectivist and irrational “native” models of thought, expression, and kinship. I position this orientalist discourse of absence as an enabling fiction, one which allowed the modern Western European deviant to be read as qualitatively different from his Indian counterpart, fulsome in an individuality that was seen to be missing in the latter. Because of this presumed difference, European categories of sexual deviance—whether the homosexual, the couple, the child, or the hysteric—were not mimetically reproduced in India. Nor was an overarching Western binary between the homosexual and heterosexual seen to operate in India. Rather, a more elementary schism emerged between colonial and select bourgeois Indian elites who claimed the authority to recount sexual “truth” within these confessional genres and a litany of subaltern deviants whom they rendered untruthful, reticent, or voiceless. These latter were almost entirely represented in racialized cartographic, ethnographic, corporeal, photographic, and statistical terms, producing a modern sexological grammar that privileged “exteriority” over “interiority” as the hallmark of Indian sexual subjectivity.

Citation URI

This citation is part of the Isis database.

Similar Citations

Chapter Schaffer, Simon; (2010)
Exact Sciences and Colonialism: Southern India in 1900 (/p/isis/citation/CBB001023235/) unapi

Book Anna Greenwood; Harshad Topiwala; (2015)
Indian Doctors in Kenya, 1895-1940: The Forgotten History (/p/isis/citation/CBB796041613/) unapi

Book Sarah Pinto; (2019)
The Doctor and Mrs. A.: Ethics and Counter-Ethics in an Indian Dream Analysis (/p/isis/citation/CBB565114838/) unapi

Book Pande, Ishita; (2010)
Medicine, Race and Liberalism in British Bengal: Symptoms of Empire (/p/isis/citation/CBB001211510/) unapi

Article Sarah Bull; (2021)
More Than a Case of Mistaken Identity: Adult Entertainment and the Making of Early Sexology (/p/isis/citation/CBB616546207/) unapi

Book Heike Bauer; (2015)
Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters across the Modern World (/p/isis/citation/CBB614048749/) unapi

Article Crozier, Ivan; (2008)
Havelock Ellis, Eugenicist (/p/isis/citation/CBB000831698/) unapi

Chapter Ash Kayte Stokoe; Alain Giami; Sharman Levinson; (2021)
Sexological Discourses and the Self in Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus (1884) and Radclyffe Hall’s the Well of Loneliness (1928) (/p/isis/citation/CBB504247383/) unapi

Article Sinha, Nitin; (2014)
Fluvial Landscape and the State: Property and the Gangetic Diaras in Colonial India, 1790s---1890s (/p/isis/citation/CBB001421409/) unapi

Article Wagner, Kim A.; (2010)
Confessions of a Skull: Phrenology and Colonial Knowledge in Early Nineteenth-Century India (/p/isis/citation/CBB001032337/) unapi

Thesis Siva Prashant Kumar; (2021)
Colonizing Time: Caste, Colonial Rule, and the Exact Sciences in India, 1783–1874 (/p/isis/citation/CBB845659840/) unapi

Article Basu, Amit Ranjan; (2004)
A New Knowledge of Madness---Nineteenth Century Asylum Psychiatry in Bengal (/p/isis/citation/CBB000600500/) unapi

Thesis Frederickson, Kathleen; (2008)
The Content of Instinct: Fiction, Liberalism, and the Sciences of Sexuality,1870--1900 (/p/isis/citation/CBB001560658/) unapi

Book Melissa N. Stein; (2015)
Measuring Manhood: Race and the Science of Masculinity, 1830-1934 (/p/isis/citation/CBB729336001/) unapi

Book Jones, Jeannette Eileen; Sharp, Patrick B.; (2010)
Darwin in Atlantic Cultures: Evolutionary Visions of Race, Gender, and Sexuality (/p/isis/citation/CBB001033825/) unapi

Article Durba Mitra; (2015)
Translation as Techné: Female Sexuality and the Science of Social Progress in Colonial India (/p/isis/citation/CBB456488373/) unapi

Article Alison M. Downham Moore; (2023)
Modern European sexological and orientalist assimilations of medieval Islamicate ‘ilm al-bah to erotology (/p/isis/citation/CBB382360614/) unapi

Article Philip Kuhn; (2020)
The Sexual Life of Our Time: Medical Censorship in Early-20th-Century England (/p/isis/citation/CBB677285948/) unapi

Article Rafael Huertas; Enric Novella; (2013)
Sexo y Modernidad en la España de la Segunda República. Los discursos de la ciencia (/p/isis/citation/CBB453039047/) unapi

Book Kirsten Leng; (2018)
Sexual Politics and Feminist Science: Women Sexologists in Germany, 1900–1933 (/p/isis/citation/CBB495950825/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Basu, Amit Ranjan
Bauer, Heike
Crozier, Ivan
Frederickson, Kathleen
Greenwood, Anna
Huertas, Rafael
History of the Human Sciences
Arbor: Ciencia, Pensamiento y Cultura
Environment and History
History and Technology
History of Psychology
History Workshop Journal
University of Chicago
University of Pennsylvania
Cornell University Press
Fordham University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Science and race
Great Britain, colonies
Ellis, Havelock
Hardy, Thomas
Morton, Samuel George
White, Walter
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
Bengal (India)
United States

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment