Memory, Identity and Productive Nostalgia: Anglo-Indian Home-Making at Mc Cluskieganj - Dr Alison Blunt Department of Geography Queen Mary College, University of London Mile End Road London E1 4NS
McCluskieganj was founded by the Colonization Society of India in 1933 as an independent homeland and nation for Anglo-Indians and was home to 400 Anglo-Indian families within ten years. Its founder described Anglo-Indians as 'the only community in the world who are homeless wanderers in their own country' (1935). Settlers sought to create an independent nation located within, but distinct from, British India. McCluskieganj was equated with an Indian 'mooluk' (home/land) but in racially exclusive terms, and loyal to British India even as it sought independence from British patronage. Although settlement was thought to liberate Anglo-Indian men from the emasculation of British patronage, it was legitimated in terms of British colonization. By likening McCluskieganj to British settler colonies in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the CSI promoted a model for India gaining Dominion status. Indian maternal descent was disembodied at McCluskieganj in two main ways: first, by erasing it in favour of maternal images of India itself, and then seeking to control Mother India and Mother Earth through colonization and domestication; and, second, by identifying Anglo-Indian women as pioneering homemakers within European traditions of colonization.
This paper examines the foundation, promotion, and legacy of McCluskieganj by focusing on the monthly journal The Colonization Observer, brochures produced to promote settlement, and interviews with past and present Anglo-Indian residents. I explore domestic and national home-making at McCluskieganj in relation to ideas about identity, memory and productive nostalgia. Key questions include: how did settlement at McCluskieganj enact and embody a collective identity and memory for Anglo-Indians? To what extent did a desire for home and homeland represent a productive nostalgia in relation to British imperialism and decolonization? How does residence at McCluskieganj in the past and present challenge Raj nostalgia and the stereotypical portrayal of Anglo-Indians within it? The paper has three main parts. First, I explore the dynamics of home, homeland and nation for Anglo-Indians and the extent to which McCluskieganj represented a paradoxical space of belonging in relation to British and Indian homes and identities. Second, I investigate how and why Anglo-Indian settlement was represented in terms of colonization and its embodiment through images of Anglo-Indian men as imperial subjects. Finally, turning to images of Anglo-Indian women as pioneers and homemakers, I explore racialized images of femininity and domesticity that helped to erase a maternal line of Indian ancestry at the same time as India was depicted as the motherland.
Dr. Alison Blunt is Lecturer in Geography at Queen Mary, University of London. Her current research focuses on geographies of home and identity for Anglo-Indian women in India, Australia and Britain in the fifty years before and after Independence. She is writing a book entitled Domicile and Diaspora: Anglo-Indian women and the spatial politics of home (Blackwell) based on this research. Her other research interests include imperial travel and domesticity (including a book entitled Travel, Gender and Imperialism: Mary Kingsley and West Africa, Guilford, 1994, and papers on British women in India during and after the 'mutiny') and feminist and postcolonial critiques of geographical knowledge (including a co-edited forthcoming book, Postcolonial Geographies, Continuum, 2002). Please contact Alison if you would like copies of working papers from her research on Anglo-Indian women and the spatial politics of home.