Racial Passing and the Raj
Mixed race groups such as Anglo-Indians have been perceived as marginal, despite existing on the fault line of constructed racial difference. In many ways they embody the colonial connection and the transnational most tangibly, and through their mere presence make problematic the binary of ruler and ruled, colonizer and colonized. The British perceived not only those of mixed race but also poor whites of Indian domicile as undermining their racial prestige in the eyes of their Indian subjects, treating the two groups as essentially one class. However the socio-racial and class-based hierarchies which the British sought to erect and to police motivated widespread attempts at transgression, resulting in widespread passing in hopes of upward mobility along the spectrum from Indian Christians to mixed-race Anglo-Indians to supposedly unmixed Domiciled Europeans and even into the ranks of the British population, such as those who came out to take senior positions on the railways. This world of racial mixing and transgression was one which the British found unsettling and which later Indian Hindu nationalists, concerned with concepts of purity, also had reasons to overlook. Exploring racial passing across the boundaries erected by the Raj should yield us far greater insight into the nature of race in late colonial India and the lasting impact of the imperial presence.
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