Soli Sorabjee Lecture with Dr. Inderpal Grewal, Yale University
Thursday Feb. 28th at 5:00PM
Shapiro Admissions Center, Presentation Room
The Spring 2013 Soli Sorabjee lecture, entitled Bureaucracy and Masculinity in India after Independence will feature Prof. Inderpal Grewal from the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department at Yale University. This talk will analyze four memoirs written by administrative officials in India who moved from the British Indian Civil Service into the Indian Administrative Service after Independence.
Dr. Grewal’s research interests include transnational feminist theory; gender and globalization, human rights; NGO’s and theories of civil society; theories of travel and mobility; South Asian cultural studies, and postcolonial feminism. She is the author of Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire and the Cultures of Travel (Duke University Press, 1996) and Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms (Duke University Press, 2005). Currently she is working on a book length project on the relation between feminist practices and security discourses.
This event is sponsored by the South Asian Studies Program and the Brandeis-India Initiative. Refreshments will be served.
13 Replies to “SOLI SORABJEE LECTURE: BUREAUCRACY AND MASCULINITY IN INDIA AFTER INDEPENDENCE”
Although the word ‘masculinity’ was used in the title of the talk and often throughout the talk, I don’t recall Dr Grewal discussing a definition of the word. She seemed to assume that her audience had a common understanding of ‘masculinity.’ I think that she was saying that masculinity for the four government officials whose memoirs she is analyzing included a great deal of ambition and drive for advancement in the political arena. The reading and class discussion on Tuesday showed that the definition of masculinity varies depending on cultural context.
The lecture “Bureaucracy and Masculinity in India After Independence” was a lecture about masculinity in post-colonial India. The lecture revolved around the masculinity found written in the memoirs of bureaucrats. The lecturer, Dr. Grewal said that we need to pay attention to the ways that memoirs are written and look at the different sub-genres involved. The questions of how a patriarchy is formed and how masculinities are formed and networked together were brought up during this lecture. Many of these memoirs were published recently, with 3 of the four that we went over during the lecture being published posthumously. The question of why they were being published when they were came up during the lecture.
Dr. Grewal is also doing a parallel paper on photography, and thus the lecture included analysis of patriarchy in photographs. The photos included in memoirs are sometimes picked by the person whom the memoir was for, but since most were published posthumously the editor got to decide which pictures were included. We discussed how and why the editors chose the pictures they did. In general, it was because it would show the bureaucrats as compassionate, family men.
Memoirs generally begin with childhood education yet focus on the bureaucrat himself instead of his upbringing. The memoir will generally include difficulties that the bureaucrat had to overcome, while showing the childhood as the beginning of the bureaucrat’s career. Most details of private life were omitted. Very little of the privileges of bureaucracy were included. Only a single memoir had images of the father with his children. Family portraits are very important to understand how forms of power and authority are portrayed in the photograph.
By joining the presentation, I know a lot more about India after independence. The photographs on the slides show are very impressive while Dr. Inderpal Grewal contextualizes the photographs within the history. There are several ideas appearing to be very interesting to me in the following. The whole upper class in India was in effect a small village. Everyone knew each other. These elites include upper class-males from government services, law, and teaching… How colonialism requires social classification that came from intimate relation within colonial group…How colonized people themselves produce one part of certain kind of intimacy and form of power that connected realm of bureaucracy to realm of … In early part of centuries, people from India have to travel to England and go to British universities in order to take exam and be part of British civil services. So only people who are very elite were able to do that. By 1920s, they start the exam in India. By 1942s, British civil services want Indians because Western education is important. By receiving British education, Indians learn how to do management services and do something more than what British have mentored them. Under British rule, we have enforcement of law and order and collection of taxes. The demands of nation states allow new form of power-producing masculinity. (As we have seen in the slides show—the photographs of J.M Srinagesh)
Also, I found a little more about the epochal event between China and India. (http://archive.deccanherald.com/Deccanherald/may232004/ac7.asp)
In Soli Sorabjee’s lecture, she points out that people support a democracy because they believe that it will reduce corruption in the nation-state. However, Sorabjee argues that it is actually the production of democracy that leads to corruption. In India, a small group of people account for about half of the wealth of the country. Some people get elected to their positions by using their wealth to carry out expensive political campaigns and by indirectly buying the votes of the people. Additionally, once these wealthy politicians are elected, those who have supported them tend to be compensated for their work. This is an interesting contradiction that applies to India and to many other countries who are under democratic rule. Sorabjee argues that Nehru’s idea of abolishing India’s caste system and turning towards a democracy is flawed. When the British ruled India, India experienced a great deal of corruption and now that India is a democratic country, it is experiencing corruption in a different way. I do not know if there is a way that we can avoid corruption in democracy but I believe that Professor Sorabjee makes an interesting argument about the future of India. In general, Professor Sorabjee’s lecture was engaging and the pictures she showed added to the narrative of her lecture.
The Indian Civil Service (ICS) consists of upper class, educated males. The elite became educated under the British rule, however the Indians learned through education how to gain their independence and to use the new skills to overthrow the British. Professor Inderpal Grewal discussed how civil service is a discourse towards masculinity. Professor Grewal also explained the memoirs of the bureaucratic photograph. The group photographs of government officials and family members shown throughout the presentation represents the state and family coming together. The photographs also showed the evidence of authority and power with famous figures depending on the setting, attire,and number of people within the photos. Additionally, Professor Grewal explained that memoirs are often reference as oligarchy and begins with childhood and adulthood education.
Dr. Grewal’s lecture about bureaucracy and masculinity in India was facinating. There was one point she mentioned about impressed me. She said that corruption of the bureaucracy and masculinity was written in those narrations and the corruption was led by two reasons. One is actually the democracy established after independence brings corruption since it raised the power of believe in authority. The other one is because of the rule of economy was controlled by the state. This idea remind me of the history of China, After the civilization in 1911, the power was no longer belong to the ruler, it did actually brought corruption of bureaucracy. When Dr. Grewal showed the slide of the Indian governors started to meet with the famous figure in the world wide especially the picture of meeting Chou-en-lai who was a political leader of China, I again connected the history of India with that of China. Just like India, China had the same kind of period when finally the communist started to open to world and meet with political figures in the worldwide. It seems that the revolution went on in many countries in Asia in the post-colony period went through a very similar pattern of history.
Dr. Grewal’s lecture on “Bureaucracy and Masculinity in India After Independence” was fascinating. Professor Grewal’s lecture analyzed four memoirs written by officials in India who moved from the British Indian Civil Service into the Indian Administrative Service after Independence. Grewal’s discussion of the journey from the British Indian Civil Service into the Indian Administrative service was intriguing. She discussed how these men lived in a world of men from the very beginning— many of them attending all boys’ schools throughout childhood. She argued that this played a large role in shaping the personalities of these men and of India as a whole in the future. She discussed how democracy has actually only led to more inequality and corruption in India. This reminded me of Fukuyama’s work. Some argue that a democratic and liberalized society is best, and eventually all nation states will have this sort of structure, though we can see with India, this is not necessarily the case.
Dr. Grewal had some very interesting comments to make on the sociology of the bureaucracy in India and the conception of the proper masculine role of a bureaucrat. The talk focused on the memoirs of four Indian bureaucrats. Each one of the memoirs contributed a different piece of the picture that Dr. Grewal painted of the post-independence bureaucrat. Most had wives and children and were surrounded by family, but their accounts almost completely ignore their families and focus exclusively on their work. Almost all interactions recounted are with their superiors: politicians, ministers, and higher-up bureaucrats, all of whom are men. Dr. Grewal pulled one quote from one of the memoirs that really struck me: “Just as the father knows best what to do with his children, the bureaucrat knows best what to do with the country.” It reflects a culture where male values dominate the government. Young bureaucrats would marry the daughters of more senior bureaucrats, creating family ties that reinforced the insularity of the bureaucratic world and mindset. In the Q&A session at the end, we talked a little bit about how the masculinity this culture has since been broken down as the wives and daughters of prominent bureaucrats enter the service. One of the interesting take-aways was the question of whether these wives and daughters still carry on the highly masculine bureaucratic tradition as it was passed down from the previous generation. Overall, it was a very thought provoking talk! I’d love to see more like it.
In her lecture, Dr. Grewal spoke about the forms of masculinity apparent in the memoirs of members of the Indian bureaucracy after independence. She argued that these memoirs reveal their author’s and compiler’s patriarchal attitudes. The memoirs begin with a brief description of the subject’s childhood but very little focus is ever given to the subject’s mother and their childhood as a whole is seen as preliminary to “the making of a great man’s career.” Accounts of childhood are only included to show how early hardships or education shaped the men as leaders, setting the men apart from their families and demonstrating their role as a patriarch. Dr. Grewal argued that the memoirs also show the role of patriarchal masculinity in the civil service itself. Patel’s memoir demonstrates that he viewed the Indian people as his family and himself as their father, furthering this ideal of masculinity as India transitioned into independence. Dr. Grewal made several interesting points, however she did not offer a very broad account of the role of masculinity in the Indian bureaucracy, choosing instead to focus on a few examples and memoirs. She also did not define or explain her idea of patriarchal masculinity. Had she given a broader, more historical account and better explained her terminology, her lecture might have been more engaging and informative.
I thought that Dr. Grewal’s talk on “Bureaucracy and Masculinity in India After Independence” was extremely fascinating. In the talk she analyzed four memoirs written by officials in India who moved from the British Indian Civil Service into the Indian Administrative Service after Independence. The journey from the British Indian Civil Service into the Indian Administrative service was a key part of the talk which was inspiring to me. She discussed how these men lived in a world of men from the start. Also, many of the boys attended all boys’ schools throughout childhood. She pointed out that this played a large role in shaping the personalities of these men and of India as a whole in terms of masculinity in the future. She talked about how democracy has ironically led to more inequality and corruption in the Indian bureaucratic country. I made the connection to Fukuyama’s work here because some argue that a democratic and liberalized society is best, and eventually all nation states will have this type of system in place in their countries. With this example of India, it is clear that this is not necessarily the case for a successful for all countries.
I attended this lecture as part of my Global, Transnational, and Diasporic Communities class. While listening to Dr. Grewal, I was paying close attention to the ways in which India’s colonial history and relations with Western culture affected its modern bureaucracy. I was particularly interested to learn that in order to be a part of the bureaucracy in India, a very powerful position within the social hierarchy, it was necessary to get a Western Education. Most powerful members prior to independence had gone to school in England. Even once Indian schools meant to train future members of the bureaucracy were set up, they were modeled almost entirely off of the British system of education. These “western” institutions continue to turn out some of the most powerful leaders of the Indian Civil Service showing the lasting effect of colonization on India. Dr. Grewal did not speak in depth about the ways this “western” education has transformed Indian bureaucratic culture but it would interesting to study the ways in which typical “western” bureaucratic practices have been applied in Indian society. No doubt there is deviation from the British system and the bureaucratic methods employed must have been transformed in their application to Indian society.
Dr. Grewal’s lecture mainly focused on the four memoirs of men who were members of the Indian bureaucracy after independence, as she described that the memoirs were the “narrative history of the nation.” The expressed that these narratives address corruption as it emerges in India against elite authority through masculinity and patriarchy. She did not go too in depth on these subjects, however, and threw the terms around often without really defining their meanings. I appreciated Dr. Grewal’s references to Nehru’s thoughts that bureaucracy is a luxury, and her explanation of a Nehruvian economy in which everything is controlled by the state, as we have discussed Nehru in depth in class. She expressed that after British rule, the world of work conspired of men, referencing the role of masculinity, but the explanation pretty much stopped there. While her points were interesting and she gave a great lecture, had she been more detailed about her theories and claims, the lecture would have been easier to follow.
I found Dr. Grewal’s lecture on masculinity and bureaucracy in post-colonial India to be interesting yet extremely fragmented. Her lecture, for the most part focused on the memoirs of several different men who worked in the government before and after Indian independence. Her assessment of the publishing of the memoirs was the most fascinating parts of the lecture, in my opinion. She pointed out that who did the publishing and when it was done, whether it was by the men themselves during their lifetimes or posthumously by their family members, had a huge impact on the content and style of the memoir. She also explained how the choice of accompanying photographs, and the composition of subjects within the photographs gave insights into the complex power structure and social hierarchy within Indian bureaucracy. However, I found her actual descriptions of masculinity and the bureaucratic system to be quite confusing for someone with little background knowledge in Gender Studies and South Asian Studies. Had she explained terminology a little more thoroughly, or if I had a better understanding of the topic going into the lecture, I think I could have gotten much more out of it.