The Representation of Otherness

Anindita Mukhopadhyay

in Behind The Mask

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780195680836
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080700 | DOI:
The Representation of Otherness

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This chapter sets out the colonial discourse on criminality and the manner in which it helped the educated section of the Bengali society free itself from the taint of criminality. Here the question of who speaks is crucial to the manner of representation. It examines eighteenth and nineteenth century folk stories, poems, and other writings such as ‘Maniktara’, ‘Mahua’, ‘Sekaler Darogar Kahini’, and confessions of prisoners. While the eighteenth century sources handle the question of dacoity and young men turning into robbers with dexterity; the nineteenth-century writings adopt discursive strategies, where a lower-caste/class identity came packaged with assumptions of a lack of morals, designed for slippages into criminal behaviour. This implied, in effect, the bhadralok's belief in their own noncriminal identity, which was a curious fusion of the sense of superiority in status, with moral uprightness and equanimity. The trials of dacoits helped etch on the minds of the educated and propertied of Bengal the benefits of the rule of law.

Keywords: criminality; Maniktara; Mahua; Sekaler Darogar Kahini; colonial discourse; Bengali society; bhadralok; dacoity

Chapter.  19988 words. 

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