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'Young India: A Bengal Eclogue': Or Meat-eating, Race, and Reform in a Colonial Poem

Title:'Young India: A Bengal Eclogue': Or Meat-eating, Race, and Reform in a Colonial Poem
Author:Chaudhuri R.
Publication:Interventions: international journal of postcolonial studies / Routledge
Enumeration:vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 424-441, Nov. 2000
Abstract:This essay uses a poem written by an Englishman in early nineteenth-century Calcutta, 'Young India: A Bengal Eclogue', to examine the contexts of reform, revision, and writing in Bengal in the 1820s and 1830s. The reform movement known as Young Bengal has been strangely bypassed in postcolonial narratives; yet this was a historical and epistemological moment that defined the shape of modern India. Radical and yet imitative, the movement incorporated paradoxes that continue to inhabit Indian public life. Certainly its main impulses found a continuum in the nationalist movement; Gandhi, typically, subverted one of its principles of heresy, the consumption of beef in order to overthrow the hefty English, into a mantra of vegetarianism. Its imitative element was instantly material for satire; Bengalis themselves lampooned the follies of Young Bengal mercilessly in various media, as did Parker in his poem. Also implicated in the politics of meat-eating in the nineteenth century was the construction of the manly Englishman in contrast to the Indian male whose effeminacy was invariably linked to his education, as demonstrated in many of Kipling's works. The essay therefore also explores the deterioration in race relations from the time of one Anglo-Indian poet, Henry Meredith Parker, to another, Rudyard Kipling, showing how an acquired intimacy with the colonized gave way to a deliberate new imperialism permeated with a prejudice and ignorance that served to exclude Europeans from many areas of Indian life.

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