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Lecture on Kalimpong

Jun 07, 2014

"Borderland Intimacies and Hybrid Identities: Hidden Histories of Kalimpong and Empire" was the title of a lecture by Jayeeta Sharma from the University of Toronto. The event took place at the Karl Jaspers Centre on June 10.

In this lecture, a study of children with mixed Asian and European ancestry located at a missionary institution in Kalimpong becomes inseparable from reading circulating bodies and commodities across Himalayan borderlands, and the larger trans-imperial, trans-national meanings that movements across time, space, borders, and histories bestowed upon this region. It excavates and interrogates archival, ethnographic, oral, autobiographical and semi-fictional testimonies of ‘illicit’ intimacies that generated ‘tense and tender ties’ between ‘native’ women, white men, and their offspring. In exploring what Ann Stoler calls ‘tense and tender ties’ between white planters and the Nepali, Lepcha, and Khasi labouring women who became their ‘wives’, the talk argues that these encounters were framed by and via the borderlands milieu they inhabited, as were the mobile identities of their children. A Himalayan spatial perspective on such gendered and raced histories of empire allows us to pose a new set of questions for imperial and post-colonial issues around memory and belonging.

Jayeeta Sharma (Ph.D. Cambridge) is Assistant Professor at the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, University of Toronto. Her research and teaching interests encompass South Asian and British Empire cultural history with particular attention to issues of migration, labour, environment, food, and diaspora culture. Her book Empire's Garden: Assam and the Making of India (Duke 2011) connects the study of plantation coolie labour and migration to that of imperial commodities, cultural nationalism, and the politics of race, gender, language, and ethnicity. Her current research examines constructions of imperial childhood, gendered labour, racial mixing, Anglo-Indian, Nepali, and Tibetan diasporic networks in a trans-imperial and trans-national study that extends from the Eastern Himalayan region to Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand.

The lecture was organised by research project D19 Kalimpong (Prof. Birgit Kellner, Dr. Markus Viehbeck).


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