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Defining Prostitution and Redefining Women’s Roles: The Colonial State and Society in Early 19th Century India

Wald, Erica. 2009. Defining Prostitution and Redefining Women’s Roles: The Colonial State and Society in Early 19th Century India. History Compass, 7(6), pp. 1470-1483. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The seismic shifts in Indian society which took place over the course of the 19th century have been the focus of a number of studies in recent years. These changes permanently altered the lives and livelihoods of many groups across the socioeconomic spectrum. Among the most dramatically affected were those women who would come to be categorised as ‘prostitutes’. Prior to their inclusion in the category of ‘prostitute’, the women ranged from temple dancers, erudite courtesans and (monogamous) concubines to those women who come closest to our contemporary understanding of ‘prostitute’– working as they did in bazaars or cantonments as sex workers. Yet, in the century before, very few of these groups of women would have considered themselves to be of ‘ill-repute’. These ideas about ‘morality’ and ‘prostitution’ in India were not simply adopted from Europe. Instead, they were born out of a complex process of contestation and negotiation across the subcontinent, involving various parties, from army surgeons to pandits. As this article will argue, analysing the conditions which prompted these changed categories is as important as understanding the political and social implications of the practice of prostitution in India and the empire.

Item Type:

Article

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1478-0542.2009.00647.x

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

History

Dates:

DateEvent
2009Published

Item ID:

9053

Date Deposited:

10 Oct 2013 11:32

Last Modified:

10 Jul 2018 14:44

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/9053

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