The decolonial killjoy: the British Raj as a space of political utopia

Ahmed, Ibtisam (2022) The decolonial killjoy: the British Raj as a space of political utopia. MPhil thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Utopianism and colonialism have an intrinsically linked history. Thomas More’s eponymous Utopia (1516) was a settler colony after all, and the global spread of colonialism carried an ideological justification that had an implicit utopian explanation. The historiography of the British Raj is no exception to this – the Raj represented an ideal society that the colonial powers were trying to create. Whether or not the word was explicitly used when discussing the Raj and the wider British colonial project, there is strong evidence to support the utopian impulse in its implementation, as well as in its rejection.

What is lacking is an exploration of the dynamics of this political utopianism, especially using Utopian Studies scholarship as opposed to a more generic (and often misrepresented) understanding of utopia as a perfect society. In this thesis, I embed the history of the Raj (1857-1947) within this scholarship to interrogate and deconstruct these dynamics. Broadly spread over the three themes of Language, Gender and Sexuality, and Cultural Artefacts, I consider both sides of the struggle – the blueprint that was being imposed to create a colonial utopia and the grassroots responses that aimed to create an anti-colonial utopia.

In particular, I am keen to highlight voices that are silenced in these conversations, such as religious and caste minorities, women, queer communities, and indigenous communities. I argue that their inclusion is vital if the anti-colonial utopia is to be a truly emancipatory space. In doing so, I not only interrogate the past of the Raj, but also embed decolonisation at the heart of Utopian Studies, hoping to create a killjoy moment that disrupts the status quo.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (MPhil)
Supervisors: Sargisson, Lucy
Fielding, Steven
Keywords: Utopias; Utopianism; Decolonial; Decolonization; India, History, British occupation, 1765-1947
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DS Asia
J Political science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Politics and International Relations
Item ID: 69234
Depositing User: Ahmed, Ibtisam
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2022 04:40
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2022 04:40

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