Tiger files : textual and visual representations of tigers in South Asian contexts

Ghosh, Monica Gwendoline
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2013]
This dissertation explores a robust history of verbal, visual, and material images of tigers that has circulated in literary and popular culture from the pre-colonial through the postcolonial periods, particularly in texts from or about the South Asian subcontinent. I read representations of tigers as indexes of a series of relationships: between humans and the natural world, between colonizers and colonized, and between diasporic or displaced subjects and imagined homelands. I argue that to track representations of tigers over time and across man-made borders is to measure the material relations of humans both to the natural world and to each other; the impulse to control tigers is duplicated and advanced by colonialism. British accounts of "man-eating tigers" in tiger hunts in particular reveal the dynamics of the process. The authors register both attempts at colonial selffashioning, and anxieties about nation and gender; recurrently, an over-asserted masculinity in word or image opens itself to queer readings. In showing how the British take up images from the Moguls, and how in turn anti or postcolonial Indian writers reference, appropriate, or redirect aspects of colonial texts, I explore how ideas about India and Indians move within and between Indian and British cultures, and later within global culture. Through readings of a range of texts (hunting narratives, children's literature, poems, contemporary novels, tourist advertisements), artworks (mogul art, illustrations in books or magazines, European classics, carvings, and artifacts), songs and films created by natives (such as, Rabindranth Tagore, Satyatjit Ray, and Amitav Ghosh) and non-natives (such as, Helen Bannerman, Rudyard Kipling, Yann Martel, Ang Lee and Téa Obreht), I show how images of tigers are generated, return, and evoke or overwrite other texts in colonized locations. Drawing from postcolonial, queer/gender, diasporic, ecological, visual culture, and folklore theory, among others, I assess as well how representations of tigers render visible complicity, resistance, or the residual difficulty of taming meaning. My project discovers in the end that for all the ways that they are caged, trafficked, or kept "wild" through conservation efforts, the tiger lives on as a magnificent, endangered, threatening, and often elusive figure.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
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