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The “faithful” ayah in colonial households: gender, caste, and race of South Asian domestic labors

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Title
The “faithful” ayah in colonial households: gender, caste, and race of South Asian domestic labors
Name (type = personal)
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Chakraborty
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Satyasikha
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1988-
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Satyasikha Chakraborty
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author
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Seth
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Seth Koven
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chair
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Bonnie
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Bonnie Smith
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
Name (type = personal)
NamePart (type = family)
Ikeya
NamePart (type = given)
Chie
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Chie Ikeya
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
Name (type = personal)
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Stephens
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Julia
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Julia Stephens
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
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Sen
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Samita
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Samita Sen
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Advisory Committee
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outside member
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Rutgers University
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degree grantor
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School of Graduate Studies
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school
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Text
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theses
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2019
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2019-05
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2019
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English
Abstract (type = abstract)
This dissertation analyzes domestic labors, exploitation, and intimacies in a range of colonial households from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries through a social and cultural history of a South Asian maidservant, the ayah. I argue that the gendered labors of the racialized ayah were crucial for the production and reproduction of the racial purity of the British imperial family, and the upper-caste upper-class Western modernity of the South Asian elite family. Excavating the stories of individual ayahs from legal, cultural, and medical archives, my dissertation provides an intimate domestic history of British mimicry of Mughal culture, British liberal imperialism, free-market colonial capitalist circulation of labor, anti-colonial Indian nationalism, and postcolonial South Asian modernity. In the process, it brings together British imperial and South Asian historiographies and weaves together the intersecting histories of gender, caste, race, sexuality, and labor. Race and caste are rarely analyzed together in the field of South Asian history, which this dissertation does through the critical lenses of gender, sexuality, and labor. I trace the two-way flow of colonial hierarchies by showing how caste entered British imperial households and how race entered South Asian elite households to shape the relationship between employers and maidservants. Theoretically and methodologically, this dissertation draws upon postcolonial subaltern studies as well as black feminist intersectionality. Although I argue that domestic hierarchies of caste and race did not always neatly intersect in South Asia, paying attention to the (non)intersecting gendered histories of race and caste adds an intersectional perspective to the study of subaltern and domestic histories in South Asia.
While the existing literature on colonial domestic labor primarily focuses on employers’ perspectives and state regulation, this dissertation foregrounds the experiences, struggles, and anxieties of ayahs themselves as they worked for colonial employers, both British and South Asian. Ayahs not only negotiated with employers and the colonial bureaucracy, but also internalized South Asian socio-religious and patriarchal injunctions to preserve their caste-purity, morality, and gendered respectability. The enduring cultural sentimentalization of ayahs, this dissertation argues, invisibilized the precarious everyday realities of colonial maidservants.
Subject (authority = RUETD)
Topic
History
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Women household employees -- Social aspects -- South Asia -- History
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Rutgers University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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ETD_9803
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application/pdf
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1 online resource (x, 379 pages) : illustrations
Note (type = degree)
Ph.D.
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Includes bibliographical references
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School of Graduate Studies Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore10001600001
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Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/t3-nt10-qq55
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ETD doctoral
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The author owns the copyright to this work.
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Name
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Chakraborty
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Satyasikha
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Permission or license
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2019-04-11 16:32:57
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Satyasikha Chakraborty
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Rutgers University. School of Graduate Studies
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Author Agreement License
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I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
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2021-01-15
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2023-05-30
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Access to this PDF has been restricted at the author's request.
Copyright
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Copyright protected
Availability
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Open
Reason
Permission or license
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