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date: 22 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter concerns the British presence in India, as represented in the form of broken or obsolete technology. It examines three writers—Rudyard Kipling, Flora Annie Steel, and Edmund Candler, with additional reference to Jules Verne and Rabindranath Tagore—and their use of a certain literary trope. All three make use of episodes in which modern inventions are introduced to, and find a tenuous niche within, discrepant Indian settings. They stage the appearance of foreign products as anachronism—the trappings of the European future displaced into the Asian past. This pattern raises two questions: why are the three writers often drawn not to the railway and telegraph, but to everyday manufactures like the bicycle, sewing machine, and gramophone? And why do these objects frequently appear misplaced, discarded, or left to rust? Rather than underlining Britain’s superiority, its residue is used to critique and cast doubt on the imperial project.

Keywords: India, colonial, technology, material culture, obsolescence, rubbish, railway, telegraph, gramophone, Kipling

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