Travellers’ Bodies and Pregnant Things: Victorian Women in Imperial Conflict Zones

  • Muireann O’Cinneide
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


This chapter examines the colonial workings of the body as thing, and the body among things, in the writing of women travellers in the mid-Victorian imperial conflict zones of Afghanistan and India. Colonial bodies (of colonizers and colonized) figure in imperial disaster narratives as uneasy sites of racial and ethnic ‘thingness’, in particular female bodies with their problematic capacities for sexuality, pregnancy, and maternity. Poised between vessels for animate subjectivities, and things whose literal weights are often most present in their textual absence, colonial bodies intersect with colonial things in these writings through complex patterns of absence, substitution, and/or transformation. Such intersections suggest the need for a more fluid and more phenomenological approach to the textual experience of Victorian material culture, one that incorporates experiencing subjects’ self-conscious narrative relationships with materiality. Given postcolonial studies’ recent emphasis on thing theory in relation to the objects of empire, this chapter develops the theoretical implications of considering colonial bodies as and among things, and, ultimately, of considering the traveller’s text itself as thing.


Female Body Postcolonial Study Travel Writing Pregnant Body Linen Industry 
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© Muireann O’Cinneide 2012

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  • Muireann O’Cinneide

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