People of mixed European and Indian ancestry were known as Eurasians until 1911 and as Anglo-Indians thereafter. They were seen by the British as ‘other’ than European but treated as ‘other’ than Indian. First legal proscriptions and later social mores acted to maintain a barrier between the British and Eurasians but the separation was never complete. The British administration needed Eurasian labour and European men continued to seek Eurasian wives, pulling Eurasians into the sphere of British influence. At the same time, eager to define and preserve the Britishness of its presence in India, the government and European ‘society’ pushed Eurasians away. Encouraged by the prospect of work to maintain a strong affiliation with British culture moulded through continued interaction and education, Christian and largely Anglophone Eurasians emerged at the end of the century ‘othered’ again. In the minds of many Indians Eurasians, working primarily as government servants, were firmly associated with subjugation and colonial rule.
In colonial India poor or Indianized Eurasians were somewhat of a problem for the British who sought to legitimize their rule with an illusion of European superiority. In late colonial and independent India Anglo-Indians were sometimes perceived as another kind of problem; an unwelcome hang-over from the British Raj. Thus, both their Indian and their European heritage were problematic. A small population with neither political power nor wealth, Eurasians were stuck in a liminal zone between the colonizer and the colonized. As such they were caught up in and buffeted by colonial hegemony, nationalist demands, and the need to put bread or chapattis on their tables. This monograph explores the everyday realities of marriage and family, education and employment, and shows how Eurasian agency in choosing their own lifestyles and affiliations, was gradually eroded by the colonial state.
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