Dwelling in the Archive

Dwelling in the Archive

Product ID: 12702

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Author: Antoinette Burton
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2003
Language: English
Pages: 202
ISBN/UPC (if available): 019566759X


The history of late colonial India has been hitherto written primarily through the biographies of key figures, such as Gandhi and Nehru; through the British imperial lens; and, more recently, in fiction. Rather than focusing on men who made politics, Dwelling in the Archive examines how women wrote about the experience of colonialism, partition, and nation-building in memoirs, fictions, and histories.

Antoinette Burton analyses the writings of three twentieth-century Indian women to interrogate the status of the traditional achieve as counter-narratives to colonial modernity. Janaki Majumdar was the daughter of the first president of the Indian National Congress who chronicled her family’s transnational history. Cornelia Sorabji was a cosmopolitan lawyer who wrote about secluded women in the home to counter the emancipationist claims of Gandhian nationalism, and Attia Hosain was a novelist who wrote about the trauma of partition through a young girl’s understandings of her family home.

Burton argues for the expansion of what is considered archival material, showing how political events in modern India are closely intertwined with women’s experiences of the physical spaces of houses and memories of home. It will interest all those in the fields of South Asian history, British imperial history, feminist historiography on British India, family in literature, and gender studies.


A bold innovator who extends the concept of archive to include the physical space of houses and memories of homes, Burton documents women’s agency in the creation of the Indian nation and articulates their divergent narratives that question dominant constructions of nationhood.
-Barbara N Ramusack, University of Cincinnati

Antoinette Burton’s subtle exploration of the multiple senses of dwelling, as home or national abode and as a meditation upon the objects of history and memory, makes for fascinating and insightful reading.
-Kamala Visweswaran, university of Texas at Austin

Dwelling in the Archive brilliantly showcases late colonial Indian women’s writing not merely an elite, private narrative but as the very material form in which a gendered social memory surfaces through the recollection of homes inhabited in the past. It will productively unsettle the distinctions customarily made between public and private histories and between historical and literary study.
-Rosemary Marangoly George, author of The Politics of Home: Postcolonial Relocations and Twentieth-Century Fiction


Memory Becomes Her: Women, Feminist History, and the Archive

House, Daughter, Nation: Interiority, Architecture, and Historical Imagination in Janaki Majumdar's Family History

tourism in the Archives: colonial Modernity and the Zenana in Cornelia Sorabji's Memoirs

A Girlhood among Ghosts: House, Home, and History in Attia Hosain's Sunlight on a Broken Column

Epilogue: Archive Fever and the Panopticon of History