Hinchy, Jessica Bridgette
In north India in the 1870s, the 'eunuch' became a criminal type under British colonial law. Colonial officials in this region sought to cause eunuchs to 'die out' by preventing emasculation and aimed to transform the occupations, gendered practices and domestic arrangements of several diverse groups who were classed as 'eunuchs.' This study explains the criminalisation of the 'eunuch' through a history of the multiple indigenous groups that this English-language term described in the...[Show more] eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The English-language colonial category of the 'eunuch'-its various inclusions and exclusions, its historical shifts, and its contradictions and tensions-is the focus of this thesis. The term 'eunuch' was used to label diverse indigenous groups, and was not internally coherent or unified. Some eunuchs, such as khwajasarais, were slaves but were nevertheless socio-economic elites and powerful state officials. In contrast, the hijras were socially marginalised and were variously denoted as 'eunuchs from birth' or as biological males who were subsequently emasculated, and who identified as feminine or 'neither men nor women.' In addition, several groups that were not emasculated were also classified as 'eunuchs' due to their gendered and sexual practices. This dissertation examines the colonial regulation of eunuchs in two contexts: first, in the Indian-ruled state of Awadh from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, when the British sought to regulate the employment of khwajasarais in the Awadh administration; and second, under Part II of the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) in the British-ruled territory of the North-Western Provinces (NWP) from the 1850s until the end of the nineteenth century. The CTA, which primarily targeted the hijra community, aimed to facilitate the surveillance and counting of hijras, discipline their gender and sexuality and prevent emasculation in order to ultimately bring about the passive extermination of this group. Due to the diversity of groups that the colonial category of the 'eunuch' labelled, this thesis adopts multiple analytical frameworks to understand the various colonial projects targeting 'eunuchs' and their effects. This study foregrounds three questions. First: how did the everyday lives of khwajasarais and hijras change over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; how did they resist, subvert and evade colonial projects; and how did colonial modernity impact upon the intimate, domestic domain of these communities? Second: what do projects to govern the disparate groups that were labelled as 'eunuchs' tell us about the modes of colonial power deployed against marginalised groups at the local level? Third: what does the criminalisation of the internally diverse category of the eunuch tell us about the multiple impacts of colonialism on gender and sexuality in India? This study concludes that colonial regulation, and colonial modernity more broadly, had significant long-term impacts upon all the various groups labelled as 'eunuchs.' However, colonial projects were uneven between different geographic and temporal contexts and were internally fissured.
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