A perverse empire: Victorian sexuality and the Indian colony

Anjali Ramakant Arondekar, University of Pennsylvania


In mid- to late-nineteenth-century literature, the narratives of empire surrender to their own sexual pathologies. This dissertation traces the historical and conceptual links between Victorian sexuality and the colonial ethos in India, focusing on representations of sexual perversions in four diverse sets of Victorian texts: the traditional canon of Rudyard Kipling's Anglo-Indian fiction; the best-selling pornography of the time; the popular penny-back romances set in India and the scientifically acclaimed sexology tracts of Havelock Ellis. I contend that a mutually generative relationship binds Victorian categories of the sexually perverse to systems of colonial rule in India and that this relationship paradoxically undermines both the notion of the sexually perverse and the internal coherence of the colonial project. By rerouting the history of Victorian sexuality through the history of empire, I unveil a constitutive agon in male imperial discourse: a simultaneous fear of the loss of racial superiority through miscegenation, and a fantasy of incorporation through sexual contact with the colonial other. ^

Subject Area

Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Arondekar, Anjali Ramakant, "A perverse empire: Victorian sexuality and the Indian colony" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9965435.