[Book Review] : Jessica Hinchy 'Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India: the Hijra, c.1850-1900'

Ellis, Catriona (2020) [Book Review] : Jessica Hinchy 'Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India: the Hijra, c.1850-1900'. [Review] (https://doi.org/10.1353/cch.2020.0009)

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Jessica Hinchy’s book Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India considers the relationship between the colonial state and the transgender Hijra community. Since 2014 Hijras have been officially recognised as the third gender in India but in the nineteenth century were known to the British as a small community of eunuchs primarily identified by wearing female clothing and associated with public performance and blessings of fertility at weddings and births. Providing a history of this understudied group and its interactions with colonial officials in the North West Province in the late nineteenth century, Hinchy convincingly argues that the interest in Hijras was more than an eccentric colonial obsession with a group associated with deviant sexual behaviour. Rather a detailed study of the colonial “panic” surrounding Hijras provides a glimpse into the underlying fragility of colonial power (27), the ambiguities inherent in colonial attempts to classify and monitor Indian subjects, the ways in which “gender expression, sexual behaviours, domestic arrangements and intimate relationships were central to colonial governance” (20) and how this was played out in individual lives.