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Civilizing Missions in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia

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Highlights the complexities and contradictions of British and Indian civilizing missions in South Asia.


‘Civilizing Missions in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia’ demonstrates how the civilizing mission can serve as an analytical rubric with relevance to many themes in the colonial and postcolonial eras: economic development, state building, pacification, nationalism, cultural improvement, gender and generational relations, caste and untouchability, religion and missionaries, class relations, urbanization, NGOs, and civil society.


While some chapters investigate civilizing initiatives that were driven by the British Raj or Indian postcolonial state, the book also considers many examples of nongovernmental undertakings. For example, examining the role of missionary educational endeavours shows how missionary bodies could operate in an ambivalent space between Indians and the colonial state. Moreover, analysis of Indian civilizing efforts carried out by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the nationalist movement or postcolonial Indian states gives us interesting opportunities to scrutinize how the civilizing mission could be internalized as a form of 'self-civilizing' by Indians. Some papers also show the global linkages of civilizing efforts in the British Empire, while others examine long-term continuities through broad comparative analyses covering the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This takes us into the postcolonial era (beyond 1947, into the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries), and such 'transgressions' across the colonial divide give this volume added appeal.


Introduction: The Relevance and Complexity of Civilizing Missions c. 1800-2010; Part One. The Raj’s Reforms and Improvements: Aspects of the British Civilizing Mission; 1. Conjecturing Rudeness: James Mill’s Utilitarian Philosophy of History and the British Civilizing Mission; 2. Art, Artefacts and Architecture: Lord Curzon, the Delhi Arts Exhibition of 1902-03 and the Improvement of India’s Aesthetics; Part Two. Colonialism, Indians and Nongovernmental Associations: The Ambiguity and Complexity of ‘Improvement’; 3. Incorporation and Differentiation: Popular Education and the Imperial Civilizing Mission in Early Nineteenth Century India; 4. Reclaiming Savages in ‘Darkest England’ and ‘Darkest India’: The Salvation Army as Transnational Agent of the Civilizing Mission; 5. Mediating Modernity: Colonial State, Indian Nationalism and the Renegotiation of the ‘Civilizing Mission’ in the Indian Child Marriage Debate of 1927-1932; Part Three. Indian ‘Self-Civilizing’ Efforts c. 1900-1930; 6. ‘Civilizing Sisters’: Writings on How to Save Women, Men, Society and the Nation in Late Colonial India; 7. From ‘Social Reform’ to ‘Social Service’: Indian Civic Activism and the Civilizing Mission in Colonial Bombay c. 1900-20; Part Four. Transcending 1947: Colonial and Postcolonial Continuities; 8. Female Infanticide and the Civilizing Mission in Postcolonial India: A Case Study from Tamil Nadu c. 1980-2006; 9. Philanthropy and Civilizing Missions in India c. 1820-1960: States, NGOs and Development; Afterword: Improvement, Progress and Development; List of Contributors; Index

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Published 15 March 2011
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Civilizing Missions in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia
Civilizing Missions in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia
From Improvement to Development
Edited by Carey A. Watt and Michael Mann
Anthem Press An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company www.anthempress.com
This edition rst published in UK and USA 2011 by ANTHEM PRESS 75-76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK and 244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
© 2011 Carey A. Watt and Michael Mann editorial matter and selection; individual chapters © individual contributors
The moral right of the authors has been asserted.
Cover image: A full-page advertisement for Pears soap, taken from the 1929 edition ofIndia Annual.The Times of The illustration depicts an Indian woman, seated inside an open lotus flower holding a baby and a sceptre. India, 1929. © Images of Empire, British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, UK
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Civilizing missions in colonial and postcolonial South Asia : from improvement to development / edited by Carey A. Watt and Michael Mann. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-1-84331-864-4 (hardcover : alk. paper) ISBN-10: 1-84331-864-4 (hardback) 1. IndiaHistoryBritish occupation, 1765-1947. 2. Great BritainColoniesAsiaSocial policy. 3. IndiaCivilizationBritish influences. 4. IndiaColonial influence. I. Watt, Carey Anthony. II. Mann, Michael, 1959-DS463.C553 2011 954.03dc22  2011003908
ISBN-13: 978 1 84331 864 4 (Hbk) ISBN-10: 1 84331 864 4 (Hbk)
This title is also available as an eBook.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction: The Relevance and Complexity of Missions c. 18002010 Carey A. Watt
Civilizing
Part One. The Raj’s Reforms and Improvements: Aspects of the British Civilizing Mission 1. Conjecturing Rudeness: James Mills Utilitarian Philosophy of History and the British Civilizing Mission  Adam Knowles 2. Art, Artefacts and Architecture: Lord Curzon, the Delhi Arts Exhibition of 190203 and the Improvement of Indias Aesthetics  Michael Mann
Part Two. Colonialism, Indians and Nongovernmental Associations: The Ambiguity and Complexity of ‘Improvement’ 3. Incorporation and Differentiation: Popular Education and the Imperial Civilizing Mission in Early Nineteenth Century India  Jana Tschurenev 4. Reclaiming Savages in Darkest England and Darkest India: The Salvation Army as Transnational Agent of the Civilizing Mission  Harald FischerTiné 5. Mediating Modernity: Colonial State, Indian Nationalism and the Renegotiation of the Civilizing Mission in the Indian Child Marriage Debate of 19271932  Andrea Major
1
35
37
65
91
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125
165
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CIVILIZING MISSIONS IN COLONIAL AND POSTCOLONIAL SOUTH ASIA
Part Three. Indian ‘SelfCivilizing’ Efforts c. 1900–1930 6. Civilizing Sisters: Writings on How to Save Women, Men, Society and the Nation in Late Colonial India  Shobna Nijhawan 7. From Social Reform to Social Service: Indian Civic Activism and the Civilizing Mission in Colonial Bombay c. 190020  Prashant Kidambi
Part Four. Transcending 1947: Colonial and Postcolonial Continuities 8. Female Infanticide and the Civilizing Mission in Postcolonial India: A Case Study from Tamil Nadu c. 19802006  Shahid Perwez 9. Philanthropy and Civilizing Missions in India c. 18201960: States, NGOs and Development  Carey A. Watt Afterword: Improvement, Progress and Development Michael Mann
List of Contributors Index
191
193
217
241
243
271
317
329 331
Introduction
THE RELEVANCE AND COMPLEXITY 1 OF CIVILIZING MISSIONSC. 1800–2010
Carey A. Watt
Hearing the phrase ‘civilizing mission’ usually conjures up the idea of European colonialism, so it seems to be a rather dated nineteenth-century expression. In the nineteenth- and twentieth-century era of imperialism the civilizing mission was an ever-shifting set of ideas and practices that was used to justify and legitimize the establishment and continuation of overseas colonies, both to subject peoples and to citizens or subjects in the homeland. For the British Raj in India the civilizing mission meant many things, including bringing the benefits of British culture to the subcontinent in the form of free trade and capitalism as well as law, order and good government. British rule was supposed to bring an end to a supposed condition of chronic warfare, violence, disorder and despotic rule in India, and it would institute peace and order in the form of Pax Britannica. At its core, the civilizing mission was about morally and materially ‘uplifting’, ‘improving’ and later ‘developing’ the supposedly ‘backward’ or ‘rude’ people of India to make them more civilized and more modern. A fundamentaldifferencebetween colonial subjects in India and their British overlords was posited, with Indians and other subject peoples placed at lower or ‘inferior’ positions in new ‘scales of civilization’, 2 and the British (and Europeans generally) at the top. Indians were thereby condemned to continually try to catch up to their British rulers and ‘European civilization’, which claimed to be – and was widely accepted as – the universal 3 or ‘silent referent’.
Civilizing Missions Today?
Since 2003, h owever, the civilizing mission phrase has gained traction once again. The Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq has encouraged a renewed, twenty-first-century consideration of civilizing missions. Though
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there has been much speculation that British and American motives were primarily about ensuring access to oil, and thus related to strategic and economic interests, justifications of the March 2003 attack rested on depictions of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as an Oriental despot. He was allegedly a cruel, barbaric, inhumane and fanatical or irrational dictator who was preparing to use ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD) against civilized members of ‘the international community’. Attempts were also made to link the Iraqi leader to the nefarious Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and thereby to the ‘fanatical’ and ‘barbaric’ forces of Islamic terrorism that became the focus of the American ‘War on Terror’ after 9/11 (the terrorist attacks on the 4 United States of 11 September 2001). Self-proclaimed civilized peoples in states such as Britain and America declared that they needed to be protected while the people of Iraq and neighbouring states needed to be liberated from a dictatorial and dangerously uncivilized regime. Americans and Britons were to be welcomed with open arms as liberators, according to former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and America and Britain (and the ‘Coalition of the Willing’) would bring peace, good government, democracy and capitalist modernity to Iraqis. The invasion and occupation was also supposed to ‘remake the Middle East’ by spreading democracy and modernity to other allegedly 5 backward Arab or Muslim states and peoples in the region. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997–2007) initially justified the Iraq war on the basis of the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein using his hidden arsenal of WMD, but by 2006 he reframed his justification for war with new assertions that the invasion was part of a struggle between ‘democracy and 6 violence’, and a battle about ‘modernity’ and ‘civilization’. The irony is that the benefits of enlightened Western civilization and liberal democracy were ‘given’ to Iraq and Iraqis through violence and coercion, by means of a ‘shock and awe’ military campaign. As Michael Adas has noted, however, technological superiority in military affairs has also been deployed as a prominent marker of civilizational supremacy and a justification for colonial 7 civilizing initiatives. Similar civilizing mission arguments have been used to justify and legitimize the war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan became the epicentre of the global ‘War on Terror’ immediately after 9/11, because it was ruled by the Taliban – a group of ‘fundamentalist Muslims’ that was hosting Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Over forty countries currently have troops in Afghanistan and operations have been sanctioned by the United Nations (UN), but the International Security Assistance Force – Afghanistan (ISAF) is led and dominated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in conjunction with the United States and its efforts to fight terrorism through Operation Enduring Freedom.
THE RELEVANCE AND COMPLEXITY OF CIVILIZING MISSIONS
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Americans have the largest number of troops in the country and the British hold the number two spot. The fundamental goals of ISAF are threefold: increasingsecurity(creating ‘a secure and stable environment’), supportingreconstruction and developmentwith government, international and nongovernmental (NGO) partners, and ‘building capacity’ forgovernanceamong Afghans (‘strengthen the institutions required to fully establish good governance and rule of law and 8 to promote human rights’). These objectives may sound familiar to anyone knowledgeable about European colonial civilizing missions in the nineteenth century, with NGOs as twenty-first-century missionaries – bringing modern attitudes, institutions and practices to the world’s underdeveloped peoples – despite the existence of tensions between NGOs and military or government 9 officials. Though there is more emphasis on newer terms or concepts such as ‘security’, ‘human rights’, ‘governance’ and ‘building capacity’, an apparent need to develop and civilize a chaotic and ‘backward’ Afghanistan is clear. Afghanistan’s difference, in the sense of its inferiority, is implicit too. Moreover, one might also note the self-imposed responsibility of a more advanced or ‘civilized’ power to pacify Afghanistan, and to morally and materially improve, uplift and modernize an unstable or ‘failed’ state. According to ISAF and the United States, Afghanistan must be uplifted to a universal standard of civilization that is based on European or Western standards (the ‘silent referent’). ISAF and American military forces quickly deposed the Taliban government and dispersed Al Qaeda operatives in late 2001, but a so-called counterinsurgency is still being waged against the Taliban nearly a decade later. In fact, Taliban ‘insurgents’ have gained strength in recent years and ISAF and American success in Afghanistan is far from certain, h owever ‘success’ is defined. The nature of the Afghan threat has shifted too. The original goal of the war was to oust the Taliban and deny Al Qaeda a base from which it could support anti-Western terrorism and directly threaten the security and ‘way of life’ of American or other Western citizens. More recently the objective has morphed into preventing Pakistan and the rest of South Asia from sliding into a state of anarchy that would be dangerous for the West. Pakistan has been destabilized by American pressure to support the ‘War on Terror’, especially in the nebulous border areas of the ‘northwestern frontier’ that were such a concern to the Raj in the nineteenth century. US and ISAF operations in southern and southeastern Afghanistan – and in Pakistan itself – have only aggravated Pakistan’s problems by pushing Taliban fighters across the porous border and enraging the local populace, which has long resisted modern state-building projects. Many Western leaders fear that if Pakistan collapses its nuclear weapons
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CIVILIZING MISSIONS IN COLONIAL AND POSTCOLONIAL SOUTH ASIA
could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists or ‘Islamists’ who might threaten India, Pakistan’s rival and former foe, and this would have dire consequences for the entire subcontinent. Evidently, it is considered imperative to establish a Pax ISAF or Pax Americana in Afghanistan, which would allow it to grow into a ‘civilized’ liberal democracy and member of the ‘international community’. As one of the twenty-six member countries of NATO Canada is part of ISAF and has had troops in Afghanistan since 2001 though the scope of its mission increased dramatically in 2006. In 2007, as the war dragged on and ‘security’ in Afghanistan began to deteriorate, public support began to wane and the Canadian government sponsored a study that was published in early 2008 10 as theIndependent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistandocument. This repeatedly makes the point that Afghanistan is different, yet once again in the sense of being inferior. It does not explicitly say that it is ‘uncivilized’, but it states that Afghanistan is a ‘divided tribal society’ and ‘developing country’ that is ‘shockingly poor and dangerous’. Moreover, Afghanistan is characterized by ‘corruption’, ‘criminality’ and a lack of ‘discipline’ in its police and military forces, as well as by ‘insecurity’ and ‘violence’ – all in a 11 ‘region of violent instability’. Such images of ‘backwardness’ have received further support from media descriptions of Afghans ‘living in the Stone Ages’ or, more generously, living in ‘medieval conditions’. Afghan society is therefore apparently timeless and static. The solution is ‘improvement’, ‘development’ or ‘capacity building’. In fact, the report of Canada’s independent panel mentions ‘building capacity’, which is the newest addition to the lexicon of development, twenty-eight times. Old habits die hard, however, and ‘improvement’ is discussed onmore than thirty occasions while the need for ‘development’ is stressed 142 times – an average of 1.6 times per page, in spite of the fact that between 2002 and 2006 over 90 per cent of the international funds committed to Afghanistan were spent on military 12 affairs rather than development. Development encompasses both ‘moral and material’ dimensions, with comments regarding the need to improve the capacity of Afghans for ‘accountable, honest and effective governance’ and the obligation ‘to enhance roads, bridges and electrification so that ordinary 13 Afghans can see progress’. The Canadian panel describes the Taliban as a monolithic group that ruled as ‘a radical Islamist regime of exceptional violence’ and ‘coercive repression’. The Taliban-led ‘insurgency’, meanwhile, is characterized by its 14 ‘proven brutality’. Conversely, the American and ISAF counterinsurgency is led by progressive forces, ‘including most of the great democracies’, that seek to support Afghans in their quest for ‘the democratic rule of law and the full 15 exercise of human rights’.