Version classiqueVersion mobile

L’Inde des Lumières

 | 
Marie Fourcade
, 
Ines G. Županov

L’Inde dans les savoirs / Les savoirs dans l’Inde // Knowledge of India/Knowledge in India

Global Encounters, Earthly Knowledges, Worldly Selves

Rencontres autour du globe, les savoirs terrestres et le « soi » mondial

Sumathi Ramaswamy

Résumé

Centrée sur l’école coloniale dans l’Inde britannique comme le principal lieu de rencontres disciplinées entre l’enfant qui apprend et le globe terrestre comme instrument scientifique, cette étude considère la part de la géographie dans la transformation de jeunes Indiens en sujets colonisés mais éclairés au cours du xixe siècle, même si elle joue un rôle dans le déclenchement de la « Terre moderne » en tant qu’objet d’étude. En suivant de près les voyages pédagogiques du globe à travers le sous-continent, on se demande pourquoi la toute première question ou presque à laquelle l’enfant natif a été confronté au commencement de cette nouvelle entreprise d’un enseignement de la géographie était la forme de la terre. Pourquoi les enseignants coloniaux de tout acabit se sentent obligés de continuer à convaincre l’enfant indien que la terre est ronde ? Et contre quoi ce savoir de la sphéricité de la Terre est-il dirigé ? Enfin et surtout, on examine trois histoires de vie marquées par d’importantes rencontres « autour du globe » pour montrer qu’il n’y a pas qu’une seule voie pour former une conscience planétaire axée sur une terre moderne donnée à voir à travers une rencontre éclairée avec sa projection en miniature.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Thomas Babington Macaulay, Letter of March 25, 1835 in Woodrow 1862: 72.

The importance of geography is very great indeed. I am not sure that it is not of all studies that which is most likely to open the mind of a native of India.
Thomas Babington Macaulay,
Letter of March 25, 1835.1

  • 2 Capel (1994: 72). See References.

The earth will belong to he who knows it best.
Horacio Capel, “The Imperial Dream: Geography and the Spanish Empire in the Nineteenth Century”, 1994, p. 72.
2

1In the European Enlightenment, Charles Withers argues in his study of its geographical discourse, the earth “was the subject of scientific study as never before.” The “ardor” of the age was to discover everything there was to know about it: its shape and size, its antiquity, its features, its place in the universe, even the role of God, if any, in its creation and maintenance. “The task was huge, the object seemingly without order.” Nevertheless, it was a project pursued diligently and with enthusiasm by the greatest minds of the age across western and central Europe, for “geographical knowledge was central to how the world came to understand itself in the Enlightenment—to how, indeed, the earth came to be known as a world…” (Withers 2007: 111-112).

2Fortified thus by this Enlightenment ardor, the novel knowledge formation called Geography ( “Earth writing”) traveled to distant India as that subcontinent progressively came under British colonial rule from the closing decades of the eighteenth century. From the early years of the nineteenth century, but especially from the 1830s, Geography came to be entrusted with the mission of rescuing young Indians from “darkness” and bringing them into the brilliance of (European) “light” (Basu 2010; Goswami 2004). In Thomas Macaulay’s estimation—as registered in one of the epigraphs of this essay—it had the pre-eminent capacity to drive out “error” by “opening” the native mind. New and noteworthy were also the instruments deployed in Geography’s labors across the subcontinent—the printed map, the bound atlas, the terraqueous globe, the school book—as was the primary spatial context for the operation of these labors: the free-standing class room.

3This essay tracks Geography’s work in transforming the people of India, especially the young amongst them, into “enlightened but colonized” subjects with the help of these novel artifacts of imperial pedagogy and in the setting of the colonial schoolroom (Prakash 1999: 39). Building upon the small but important body of work that considers Geography’s complicity in colonial empire building (Godlewska 1994; Thongchai 1994), I focus on one artifact— the terraqueous globe—that was introduced (albeit in fits and starts) into the colonial schoolroom as the pre-eminent pedagogic instrument for the transmission of the new and “useful” knowledge of our spherical planet. As I follow the pedagogic travels of the globe across the subcontinent, I ask why almost the very first issue with which the native child was confronted when beginning on this novel enterprise of a geographical education was the shape of the earth. Why did the colonial teacher of any ilk feel compelled to convince the Indian child, again and repeatedly, about terrestrial sphericity? And what is this knowledge of Earth’s sphericity pitched against?

  • 3 For a similar argument for nineteenth-century Siam, see Thongchai (1994: 60).

4I propose in this essay that the seemingly innocuous query— “What is the shape of the earth?”—posed in different parts of India in as many languages— is in effect an influential gate-keeper deployed to determine the capacity of Indians to pass into the hallowed realm of scientific modernity.3 This query assumed its gate-keeping significance only in the nineteenth century as Europe’s Enlightenment project was enlisted into the British project of colonizing and settling India. In following the fortunes of Earth’s sphericity as it was debated and disseminated around the figure of the terrestrial globe, I attempt to understand how school lessons regarding the form of our planet shape the formation of the self. Helen Wallis (1978: 107) has suggested that the Enlightenment in England was “the age of the globe.” Was the nineteenth century commensurately the age when the globe became an object of intensified intellectual work and investment in Britain’s most important colony? If so, what then can we say about the relationship between sphericity and (post) colonial modernity, as this relationship was forged and played out in the colonial schoolroom?

Global Encounters

  • 4 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4640). My ongoing research suggests that this photograph was (...)

5To begin with, I consider some contexts in which the Indian child in the nineteenth century materially encountered the physical form of the globe, and came to perceive the inhabited world as a round object. My anchor image is a photograph, circa 1873, titled “Class in the Alexandra Native Girls’ Institution, Bombay” (Fig. 1),4 which shows a group of young women of varying ages seated in chairs around a large standing globe; hanging on the back wall is a map of India. Other artifacts in the staged schoolroom include a blackboard with words scrawled across it in Gujarati and English, while the desk at the center shows a stack of texts (schoolbooks?). Most saliently for my purpose is the anonymous young woman seated on a chair right next to the large globe, her fingers pointing towards and touching it, as she stares intently at the object while the others in the photograph look at her studying it.

Fig. 1. Class in the Alexandra Native Girls’ Institution, Bombay, circa 1873. Albumen Print. British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4640).

Fig. 1. Class in the Alexandra Native Girls’ Institution, Bombay, circa 1873. Albumen Print. British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4640).
  • 5 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46. I thank John Falconer for his comments on several of the imag (...)
  • 6 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4650).
  • 7 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4709). This is one of the few photographs in the album with t (...)
  • 8 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4694)

6Several photographs in the same British Library album show other schoolrooms across India from the same period with smaller globes placed more discreetly on benches or desks to the side in a schoolroom setting.5 As in the the photograph of the Alexandra Native Girls’ Institution, a photograph attributed to Michie & Co. of a Karachi schoolroom (most likely from the Anglo-Vernacular School in that city) shows two young men standing next to a pair of large standing globes, and looking at these (without touching them) while other students seated on a bench look on; the room in which they are seated shows a barometer, a book case, and a science wall chart.6 Another photograph in this collection is captioned, “Taken by a Photographer in the Service of H. Highness the Maharaja of Benares. Benares Queen’s College. Pandit Bapudeva Sastri Professor of Astronomy teaching his pupils with [sic] Armillary Sphere in his hand.”7 Although the caption does not mention it, also prominently displayed in the photograph is a globe on its stand. Pandit Bapudeva Sastri was the co-author of an 1855-textbook on geography in Hindi, so the globe on display might well have been a terrestrial one. In a photograph of the Wards School, Oudh, the teacher stands next to a table on which rests a stack of books and a large terrestrial globe, its meridian and horizon ring clearly visible: one hand rests on the globe, as he looks towards a line-up of well-dressed young men sitting in a row chairs and looking at him—and the globe.8

7By the early 1870s when these photographs were commissioned in India and then exhibited in European cities as a sign of the progress of “native education” under the benevolent mantle of the British, the calculated display of young bodies, male and female, in the company of globes, orreries, maps, and atlases in academic or quasi-pedagogical settings, had become something of a visual fashion in Europe and the United States (Brückner 2006; Withers 2007). Indeed, there are some remarkable resonances between the unknown photographer’s framing of young women of the Alexandra Native Girls’ Institution in Bombay, and Jean-François Antoine Claudet’s stereoscope daguerreotype dated to 1851, which has been frequently reproduced as The Geography Lesson (Fig. 2). As in the photograph of the Bombay schoolroom, in Claudet’s image as well, two girls stare intently at the large globe, one of them also pointing to and touching it. The female teacher (?) of the Bombay classroom, however, has been replaced by a male tutor, pointing possibly to the different gender dynamics of (geographic) education in colony and metropole. As Joan Schwartz (1996: 17) suggests in her analysis of Claudet’s photograph, “The Geography Lesson served up the world for ‘attentive looking’. In it, reality is reduced to written and visual representations, the world is ordered and presented as an object for the modernist gaze.”

Fig. 2. Antoine F. J. Claudet, The Geography Lesson, 1851. Stereoscopic daguerreotype. Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Fig. 2. Antoine F. J. Claudet, The Geography Lesson, 1851. Stereoscopic daguerreotype. Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

8Given its date, Claudet’s might well be the first photograph in the world of the terrestrial globe in the company of children who are being taught to learn from it not just the shape of the earth, but also other details on its surface. Prior to the 1850s, however, oil and watercolor paintings, engravings, and pen-and-ink illustrations from both western Europe and the early United States point to the emergence of “the new child,” a product of an age that began with John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) and peaked with Rousseau’s writings in the 1760s (Steward 1995). In such images in which school learning came to be aestheticized, the new child is shown—sometimes with parents, more often with tutors, but frequently also as a solitary individual—in the company of books and scientific apparatus, including maps and globes. The classroom in the school and the living room in the home emerged as sites for the popularization of science, as the latter was opened up to ordinary people “its roughness softened, its charm enhanced, its instruments domesticated” (Heilbron 2000: 5). At the same time, such images also mark a new moment in Euro-American art when all manner of (male) grandees— navigators, explorers, sea captains, astronomers, geographers, philosophers, nobles, statesmen and ambassadors, and the monarch, of course—make way for the learning child in the company of the terrestrial globe, hitherto an object visually deployed to display adult mastery and worldliness.

  • 9 Light for India: A Quarterly Record of the Christian Vernacular Education Society, Vol. 14 (1875), (...)

9In the colonial Indian context, photographs such as those in the British Library album showing the tangible presence of the terrestrial globe in the classroom, were meant to draw attention to the material transformation of the physical contexts of learning that the colonial state and its proxies and allies in the mission of educating the native child were engaged in from early in the century, albeit with limited financial resources and under the shadow of debates over who to teach, what to teach, and through whose agency. The modern school was to be a place of discipline, as Timothy Mitchell (1988: 63-94) has noted in his important discussion of colonial Egypt, but also a site where an “object-centered pedagogy” would wean (Hindu) children away from their attachment to those dangerous other things—native idols— and inculcate in their place empirical observation and rational thinking (Sengupta 2003). Thus, the material absence of pedagogical aids frequently spelled the difference between the disorderly and random learning pursued in the “wretched” indigenous school, and the enlightened education offered up in modern classrooms, where “printed books, maps, slates, etc. have taken the place of the former want of school apparatus, and the boys are now really taught to read and write, and also get some knowledge of geography etc. It is a real pleasure to [now] visit these village schools. The report that the Sahib [white man] is coming brings together all the children who can come… As we enter we are saluted by all the boys, standing, and then the examination commences. Reading, writing, geography, etc. are gone through, the eagerness to answer being most marked… ”9

  • 10 It is possible that these globes were destroyed in the subsequent decades, for the Tranquebar missi (...)

10Such comments notwithstanding, official records from across the subcontinent well into the twentieth century complained of the lack of even the most basic of classroom supplies, let alone globes (although as luxury or display objects, they were available for purchase in places like Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras from the closing years of the 18th century). The earliest evidence I have seen of the possible use of globes for pedagogical purposes is from 1711 when the East India Company provided free freight to the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) to ship over a number of articles, including a pair of globes, for the latter’s collaborators in the Danish mission in Tranquebar run by German Lutherans from Halle (Stern 2010: 118).10 The natural sciences were central to the Halle Pietist curriculum with its emphasis on experiential learning and physico-theology, but archival traces are scant indeed for the presence of the globe as a material object that would have precipitated embodied encounters with its spherical form in the Tranquebar classroom well into the later eighteenth century (Liebau 2003; Peterson 2003).

  • 11 To cite just one example, the 1857 annual report of the Calcutta School Book Society shows only one (...)

11Starting though from the early years of the nineteenth century, in a context in which Geography was often the only “useful” science to which the Indian child was introduced, globes began to appear—sometimes in the form of gifts of “enlightened” individuals and associations—in scattered schoolroom environments across India: in Tanjore in 1802, thanks to the Raja there; in Serampore before 1812 courtesy of Baptist missionaries; at the Hindu College in Calcutta, where in 1828, “pocket globes” were given away as annual prizes; in Benaras, Kanpur, Agra, Karnal, Bombay, and so on by the 1830s, an inter-office memo written by Macaulay in May 1835 even proposing that schools under the jurisdiction of the General Committee of Instruction should be each supplied with one twelve-inch globe and “a few small globes for prizes” (Woodrow 1862: 75). By mid-century at least one report noted, “Globes have hitherto been generally constructed in too expensive a style to be available for village schools,” and urged instead local manufacture “in the plainest and cheapest manner, yet sufficient to answer the more important purposes for which they are designed” (India School-Book Society 1845: 5). After 1855 the new grants-in-aid program put in place across British India further facilitated the acquisition of such “instruments of education,” a specific line item set aside for maps and school apparatus. Nonetheless, even with such measures, the globe as a material object was not a ubiquitous presence in colonial classrooms, despite its display at various international exhibitions.11 Instead, teachers were frequently asked to make do with alternate objects that could substitute for the terraqueous globe, which itself is a surrogate for the spherical earth. The orange, the lemon, the wood-apple, the kadamba fruit, the earthen pot, even the coconut, were analogously deployed in the classroom to provide tangible demonstrations of the rotundity of the planet whose surface the (colonial) child inhabited.

  • 12 That such images did not go without contestation even well into the later 19th century is apparent (...)
  • 13 I thank Richard Fox Young for this reference.

12Although the vast majority of children in colonial India may well have not seen the terraqueous globe as a tangible thing with their very own eyes, let alone touch it as the young girl appears to be doing in the 1873 photograph from Bombay, in its absence the school-going child would have received ocular demonstrations of the sphericity of the earth in two other ways: in illustrations that progressively appear in textbooks that conveyed geographical knowledge; and in maps of the hemispheres that were printed in their books, as loose sheets or as wall hangings (Fig. 3). These pictorial forms are yet to be systematically documented for the subcontinent, but surviving evidence suggests that the earliest example of the former might well be a 1821-map of the hemispheres titled in Bengali Bhūgol ( “earth ball”), followed soon after in 1823 by the Calcutta School Book Society’s illustration of a spherical earth in a Bengali book that was taught in Serampore College (Pearce 1822).12 A few years later, a Tamil primer published by the American Mission in Manepy in 1835 introduced the young reader to the sphericity of earth by means of diagrams titled pūkōḷam ( “earth ball”). A 1836 bilingual school book in English and Hindustani included roughly-drawn diagrams of a circle with ships placed along the edges, as illustrations to accompany a chapter titled “The World is Proved to Be Round by Meeting of Ships at Sea, and by Ships Sailing Completely Round it” (Anon. 1836: 60-65).13 A finer rendering of the same point (by mid-century a de rigueur proof for earth’s sphericity in all schoolbooks) appeared in 1864 when an English primer Fourth Book, began with an illustration of a gridded globe (with the continental masses shaded in) on which are perched a couple ships as they recede over the horizon (Fig. 4). The accompanying lesson informed the young child:

If we stand upon a hill in the midst of a level country, we look down upon a plain, stretching out far in all directions and bounded by the sky; and we might, perhaps, at first be surprised if we were told that we were, in fact, standing upon a great ball; but this is in truth the shape of the earth. It was a long time before this was found out, but now we know it with certainty. If we watch a ship sailing away from the sea-shore into the far distance, its hull will first disappear and then the masts will gradually sink below the boundary line of the sea… As the earth is round, there is some part exactly opposite to that on which we stand, and the people, who live there, must be standing with their feet towards our feet. At first this might seem strange, and we may fancy that these people are standing head downwards; but we must remember that the world is round, and no part is really more up or down than another, but all the people in the world stand with their feet towards its centre, and with their head raised towards the sky. This earth, then, is a large globe, with the heavens all around it; and in all parts of the heavens are shining stars. Many people in India believe that the earth is supported by a great serpent with a thousand heads. Such persons may be asked, on what does the serpent rest? To say that it is ananta, or without termination, is a mere assertion without proof… (Christian Vernacular Education Society 1864: 108-109).

Fig. 3. Schoolroom wall chart printed by Chitrashala Press, Pune, circa 1920. Image courtesy Christopher Pinney.

Fig. 3. Schoolroom wall chart printed by Chitrashala Press, Pune, circa 1920. Image courtesy Christopher Pinney.
  • 14 For anxieties about two-dimensional maps of the hemispheres being misread by naïve students as illu (...)

13By the 1830s, wall maps showing the hemispheres begin to appear sporadically so as to “give children correct ideas of the surface of the earth” (India School-Book Society 1845?: 3). Such “correct” ideas included ocular demonstrations of Earth’s sphericity, if only through two-dimensional representations of circles on a flat surface that by definition occluded the globular nature of our planet.14

14Regardless of the means used, native teachers were enjoined to do their best to demonstrate Earth’s rotundity, missionary John Murdoch providing the following instruction in his widely-disseminated Indian Teacher’s Manual from 1885:

Endeavour to give clear ideas of the shape of the earth: Every school should be supplied with a globe. If one cannot be purchased, the teacher should endeavor to make one himself… “It is a great achievement,” says Mosley, “to present vividly to the mind of a child the isolation of the earth in space, to disabuse it of the impression that its surface is an infinitely extended plain or an island floating in the abysses of space, or the summit of a mountain whose base reposes in some fathomless region unknown to us—to convince the child that the world rests upon no pedestal, hangs upon nothing, floats in space, not being buoyed up and not being supported, does not fall”… (Murdoch 1885: 155).

And the native teacher and student did appear to have learned this valuable lesson. At the very same International Exhibition of 1871-72 in London where the photographs of Indian school children posing with beautifully fabricated globes were on display, also on show were the following humbler offerings, testimony to the colonial education system’s material investment across British India in Earth’s sphericity:

Fig. 4. “Shape of the Earth.” Illustration in Fourth Book. London: Madras Branch of the Christian Vernacular Education Society, p. 107.

Fig. 4. “Shape of the Earth.” Illustration in Fourth Book. London: Madras Branch of the Christian Vernacular Education Society, p. 107.
  • 15 London International Exhibition 1871-1872: 154-55.

Large terrestrial globe, in Marathee. Made by Wanum Trimbuk, Head Master of the Vernacular School at Akola, Berar. Bombay Committee.
Small globe in Bengalee. Made of cow dung, and costing 1s 6d. Used in the Circle School of Shologur, Dacca. Bengal Committee.
Small globe. Made of cocoa nut, and costing 1s 6d. Rev. J. Long.
Small globe in Hindustanee. Made of wood. By the son of a carpenter… Government of Oude.
Small globe, in Hindee. Made of pasteboard. By schoolboy of Alyghur… N.W. Provinces Committee.
Small globe. On stand. By student of Normal School, Meerut. N.W. Provinces Committee.
Globe. Made of paper.
15

15Edward Said (1994: 7) has rightly noted, “The struggle over geography… is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings”. Inspired by this observation, I have provided evidence—scattered and episodic though it might be—for the manner in which the tangible image and form of a rotund earth progressively entered the colonial classroom over the course of the nineteenth century to provide ocular and material proof of its sphericity. Although the terraqueous globe— as object and as image—was not as ubiquitous and sustained a presence in school rooms across colonial India as the sponsors of Enlightened knowledge might desire, nonetheless it became the focus of pedagogic efforts to encourage attentive reflection on Earth’s sphericity, and also of efforts to produce a certain kind of intimacy with its rotund form, encouraged through acts of seeing, touching, and learning as we see in Figure 1. Why were the state and its pedagogic allies so invested in producing such intent scrutiny of the earth’s spherical form? And what transformations in subjectivity were unleashed by such intimate encounters with terrestrial sphericity? I turn to now consider these questions.

Earthly Knowledges

  • 16 “Geographical” knowledge was not just transmitted through books and class hours dedicated to the su (...)
  • 17 As is true of many such texts authored especially by missionaries, Pūmicāstiram goes on also to tak (...)
  • 18 American Ceylon Mission 1842: 1-2. Although there are no illustrations in the book, and although I (...)

16Even when encounters with the terrestrial globe as a palpable object were not a ubiquitous part of the pedagogic experience of the colonial child, the earth’s sphericity was discursively insisted upon in schools across British India from at least the 1820s when the communication of some form of geographical knowledge became a regular part of the curriculum, albeit in fits and starts, as colonial rule began to progressively extend into the interiors from the coastal cities.16 Thus one of the earliest geography textbooks in Tamil, the Reverend C. T. E. Rhenius’s Pūmicāstiram devoted its very first chapter to “the nature of the earth” (1832: 1-19). The Tamil reader of the book is provided with a definition of Geography as a branch of learning that “describes the Nature of this Earth and Its Continents and Oceans, the Countries and Islands in them, the People who Inhabit them, their Varieties and So on, the Histories of these Peoples” (ibid.: 1). The opening line of the first chapter informs the reader, “The earth (pūmi) is one among the many round planets (grakam) in the sky created by God” (ibid.).17 No illustrations accompany this description of the earth’s form or show the scoring of its surface by the mathematized lines of the new science. Indeed, it is clear that Rhenius assumes that the reader of his book would not have seen maps and globes, for he introduces them as novel artifacts and has to describe them discursively in the absence of ocular demonstrations. Thus, the pūmiyuṇtai, “earth ball,” has been created to show the rotundity of the earth, and the map (pūmippaṭam, “earth picture”), to show the lay of the land, water bodies, etc. “To show various features [of the earth], these maps and globes use various kinds of lines” (ibid.: 7). Similarly, in an 1842 book published in Ceylon, the narrative about the earth (puvaṉam) takes the form of questions and responses. The third question of the opening chapter—after the opening questions, “What is geography? (puvaṉacāttiram), and “What is the earth?” (pūmi)—is, “What is Earth’s form (vaṭivam?)” The answer suggests that the author assumes that the teacher in the classroom might not have had a terraqueous globe in his possession to provide ocular demonstration: “It is more-or-less spherical, like a lemon.” After another response on the earth’s dimensions, the author then provides 5 answers to the question, “How do we know that the earth is a sphere?”18 About two decades earlier, “the First Scientific Copy Book” in use in Serampore College in Bengal around 1820 similarly began with the following questions, and the accompanying responses (that students were expected to write out, three times):

  • 19 Serampore Mission 1821: 40. In the event the young student had missed getting the point, the copy b (...)

Q. How long is it since the earth was created?
A. Nearly six thousand years.
Q. Out of what was the earth created?
A. God created the earth and all things out of nothing.
Q. What is the form or figure of the earth?
A. The earth is in form like a ball.
19

  • 20 Wesleyan Mission Press 1842: 50-51.
  • 21 Catechism is translated into Tamil as viṇāviṭai but semantically does not carry the same charge, fo (...)

17The question-answer format of such texts echoed the format of a new Enlightenment genre for the teaching of the natural and physical sciences through a reworking of the older Christian pedagogical genre of the catechism. Its Christian roots (and even biases) notwithstanding, Pinnock’s Catechisms were part of the Raja of Tanjore’s personal library in the early years of the 19th century (and might well have been used in schools that received his patronage), and were also available from 1827 through the Bombay Native Education Society’s depository, and even translated into Marathi by 1832. In 1815, the Serampore missionaries advocated for use in their schools the Bengali translation of Martinet’s Catechism of Nature (originally translated into English in 1790) with its physico-theological account of the Copernican solar system. The Wesleyan Mission Press published in 1842 a bi-lingual Catechism of Geography and Astronomy, in English and Kannada, which began with the question, “What is the form of the earth?” leading to the response, “The earth is round like an orange.” In the absence of the terraqueous globe as a tangible artifact, the book resorts, as many of these texts do, to the common analogy of another rotund object, with a discursive discussion of the proofs of its sphericity.20 Other similar titles in circulation in the later 19th century include A Catechism of Physical Facts by the SPCK, Catechism of Geography by the CVES, and T. Simeon’s Pūmicāstira Viṉāviṭai in Tamil (1872).21

18With its roots in the eighteenth century, the Geographical Catechism was a genre that developed as primary education slowly expanded in the English-speaking world. In his discussion of the genre in early nineteenth century United States, Martin Brückner (2006: 149-151) notes that the catechism’s question-and-answer format rehearsed a long-established formal method of knowledge acquisition in which the interrogatory form was preferred for the young. Further, even though science and religion were not as yet divorced from each other in the early nineteenth century, the geographical catechism encouraged the pursuit of worldly knowledge, literally, by substituting biblical history with terrestrial lessons (although in many missionary publications in India, the Christian God was frequently reinserted back seamlessly). Most importantly, Brückner argues that the catechism’s exhortation to commit geographical lessons to memory was used at a time when visual aids, such as globes, maps, and pictures, were not readily available even in the American classroom. Instead, the catechism produces what he calls an “inherently antivisual memory,” as geographical truths and names were learned through acts of verbal repetition. Indeed, an early Serampore Mission report (1821: 26) cautions that the student ought not to just repeat and memorize, but also write out three times assertions such as “the earth is shaped like a ball,” for “his writing them thrice could scarcely fail to leave strong traces of them on his mind.” Thus the very structure of the geographical catechism mandated repetition and memorization of the necessary facts of this “enlightened” science, even while the colonial knowledge system that promoted the new learning disparaged earlier forms of pedagogy based on the arts of memory as “rote-learning” that produced mindless “parrots” (Raman 2010). Repetition, it seems, when performed under the firm hand of the “enlightened” schoolmaster, would “lead the minds of youth to truths of the first importance:

Those [ideas] which express the unity, the power, the omniscience, the goodness, the purity and justice of God, may one day lead them to reflect on the sin and folly of idolatry; —the account given of mankind’s being created all of one blood, and descended from one stock, may by degrees rectify their ideas respecting cast [e];—the age of the world, the size of the globe, and the number of its inhabitants, naturally militate against their monstrous ideas of chronology and geography; even the exact height of the highest mountains on earth laid up in mind [sic] may enable them to judge accurately respecting the existence of Mount Kylas, and Mount Soomeroo, with its fourteen heavens in succession… (Serampore Mission 1821: 27).

19Discursive assertions of Earth’s sphericity were also produced in the colonial classroom through another genre called “the Use of the Globes,” whose importance for the school curriculum was apparently recognized from the time of Milton. In England, books bearing the title “the Use of the Globes” (or a variation) were meant as a discursive aid to the actual artifact that was presumed to be in the classroom, giving guidance to the teacher (and the pupil) on how to study the object. While the very appearance of the term “globe” in the title of such works confirmed that our planet was indeed rotund, and this fact was often reaffirmed by illustrations, the text as well generally made it a point to discursively assert the spherical nature of not just our planet but of others that make up the solar system. Thus an early example of this genre authored by Thomas Wright (1740: 39) defines the terrestrial globe as “an artificial, spherical Body… made to represent the Disposition of Land and Water upon the Earth we inhabit.” Students were expected to hold the globe in their hands, as well as move its various parts—the brazen meridian, the hour circle, the quadrant and the horizon—in order to solve astronomical and geographical “problems” posited in the text.

  • 22 The British Library, IOR/F/4/1170/30639.

20In British India, while the Use of the Globes as a subject of study was offered in Anglo-Indian schools in cities like Calcutta and Madras from the 1790s, its incorporation into the curriculum for the colonial child is apparent from only the 1820s. In particular, mathematician and geographer Thomas Keith’s work was popular across early nineteenth century colonial classrooms, a student in the Hindu College in Calcutta even receiving a copy as a prize in 1828.22 First published in 1805 in London (and going into multiple editions until 1826), the title page of Keith’s book gives us a sense of the range of topics that books in this genre typically covered: “A New Treatise on the Use of the Globes, or a Philosophical View of the Earth and Heavens, etc., comprehending an account of the figure, magnitude, and motion of the earth; the natural changes of its surface, by floods, earthquakes, etc., together with the elementary principles of meteorology, and astronomy, the theory of the tides, etc., Preceded by an extensive selection of astronomical, and other definitions; and illustrated by a great variety of problems, questions for the examination of the student, etc. etc. Designed for the instruction of youth.” The book begins by noting, “Amongst the various branches of science studied in our academies and places of public education, there are few of greater importance than that of the Use of the Globes…” (Keith 1805: iii). Keith was not a professional missionary: indeed, he explicitly identifies himself in the preface to his work as “a man of science.” However, like many scientists in the metropole and not unlike missionaries of the early nineteenth century who made similar claims in India, he too suggested that without knowledge of our earth and other celestial bodies, “our ideas of the power and wisdom of the Creator would be greatly circumscribed and confined” (ibid.).

21There were also purely pragmatic reasons for the study of the Use of the Globes, for “Without some acquaintance with the different tracts of land, the oceans, seas, etc. on the surfaces of the terrestrial globe, no intercourse could be carried on with the inhabitants of distant regions, and consequently, their manners, customs, etc. would be totally unknown to us” (ibid.). The genre thus facilitated the development of what Mary Louise Pratt (2008: 15-36) has characterized as “planetary consciousness.” Indeed, it exemplifies most systematically the ideological work of Geography as the paradigmatic Enlightenment knowledge formation that concerned itself with Earth as a wholly knowable object. As the range of topics referred to in the very title page of Keith’s treatise exemplifies, the Use of the Globes ordered the earth, “with a place for everything, and everything in its place” (Stoddart 1986: 37). Many of the exercises and problems enumerated in the work to be performed on the terrestrial globe—64 of them in Keith’s 1805 edition—were designed precisely to enable the student to locate places on the spherical surface of Earth, especially in relationship to the learning subject. “Merely twirling the globe around,” was not sufficient in Keith’s opinion, without understanding the principles and problems that the bulk of his book incorporated “to make a lasting impression on the student’s memory” (Keith 1805: vi). These problems ranged from relatively simple ones—such as locating the latitude and longitude of any given place, and the distance between places—to complex questions such as the determination of future eclipses.

22The genre thus transformed Earth as such into a mathematically knowable place, and attempted to convince both the metropolitan student and his colonial counterpart that such knowledge was infinitely superior to other forms of knowing the inhabited world and dwelling on/in it. Listen to missionary-educator John Murdoch in 1885 praising the virtues of the new knowledge over the ancient one that it sought to displace:

The different modes adopted by Hindus and Europeans in framing systems of geography are well worthy of notice. A Hindu, without any investigation, sat down and wrote that the centre of our universe consisted of an immense rock, surrounded by concentric oceans of ghee, milk, and other fluids. To induce men to believe his account, he then pretended that it was inspired. Europeans, on the other hand, visited countries, measured distances, and after very careful investigation, wrote descriptions of the earth. Which is the more worthy of credit? (Murdoch 1885: 153).

  • 23 “How can a Native youth acquire a knowledge of even the most common facts of Geography and believe (...)

23Genres such as the Geographical Catechism and the Use of the Globes marked “the advent of the modern Earth” in colonies such as India in the nineteenth century (Thongchai 1994: 37-61). At the core of the conception of modern Earth is the conviction that it is spherical, that it does not rest upon supports and instead floats in space, and not least, that it is not a stationary body but moves around the sun rather than the other way around. The spherical “figure” or “form” of Earth is at the heart of this knowledge that all of Geography was concerned to deploy to counter “the monstrous system of cosmography” on which the Hindu religious system was deemed based.23 In that “monstrous cosmography,” as both seemingly secular liberals such as Thomas Macaulay and Christian missionaries alike concurred:

  • 24 Serampore Mission 1828: 72-73.

The earth, say they, is circular and flat, like the flower of the water lily in which the petals project beyond each other. Some affirm that it floats in the air, by its own power, without any supporter; others, that it is eternal, and that it is in vain to seek for the birth of creation. Lanka, they say, S.W. of Ceylon, is the centre of the earth, to the south of which is the sea separating the territories of the God and Giants, and in a continued southern direction there is, first, the salt Sea, and then, an island interposing—there is, in regular succession, the sea of milk, the sea of curds, etc.24

24The goal was to “enlarge the mind of a Hindoo youth,” for as Rhenius noted in his Pūmicāstiram, “there are those in this country who do not realize that their land is part of a large earth, and assume [instead] that their country is the world…” Among the tasks of his “science of the earth” was to demonstrate to his readers that “your country is only a small one among many others” (Rhenius 1832: preface). So, the advent of modern Earth also meant cultivating a relational perspective in which individuals who had been rescued through the light of Geography from the lives to which their “ancient errors” had hitherto confined them, were now able to locate themselves vis-à-vis each other on the surface of the spherical planet that they inhabited: to remind them of their place, a task that had multiple meanings in colonial India, including their place as subjects of an expanding global empire increasingly colored pink in their maps, atlases, and globes.

25Not least, the advent of modern Earth meant the superiority of Europe and its “enlightened” knowledges. As Rhenius informed his reader:

If you want to know how is it that we acquired so much knowledge to show so much about so many different countries, several people of Europe who went to different parts of the world to trade wrote down everything they saw and heard, and synthesized all this material, and cultivated the field of geography. They have great wisdom and abilities and this is apparent in the field of learning. They are not like those who have little knowledge of this earth, living there like those who languish in a remote corner of their home (ibid.).

26The advent of Geography thus meant that as Earth becomes the subject of calculated attention in a manner never before, it would come to “belong to he who knows it best” (Capel 1994: 72). In such circumstances, what is the fate of the self that inhabits such an Earth in the wake of exposure to such a knowledge formation?

Worldly Selves

27I answer this question by introducing you to three young individuals—one fictional, two historical, all male, all upper caste—who are brought in contact with modern Earth through the mediation of its proxy, the terrestrial globe. Rather than consider these young men’s life experiences as emblematic of all possible transformations enabled by exposure to the new science of Geography, I read them as suggestive of the novel selves that were seemingly (re) fashioned within the context of new environments of learning in which modern Earth is a foundational subject of study.

  • 25 I adapt the complex notion of “worlding” from Gayatri Spivak (1985).

28My first example is Apu, the protagonist of the famous trilogy by master filmmaker Satyajit Ray (1921-1992). The trilogy (Pather Panchali, 1955; Aparajito, 1956; and Apu Sansar, 1959), based on two Bengali novels by Bibhutib-hushan Bandopadhyay (1929; 1932), follows the story of Apu from his birth in an impoverished family in rural Bengal to his passage into adulthood, marriage, and parenthood in Calcutta. Of particular import for my argument are two early scenes in Aparajito when Apu first goes to school and comes to the attention of an enlightened Christian headmaster who lends him numerous books in which science is “made simple,” and then six years later when he is a teenager, secures him a scholarship to study in the colonial metropolis, Calcutta. The principal protagonists of these two scenes—which oscillate between modern school and native home—are the un-named Christian principal, Apu’s widowed mother (Sarbojaya), and Apu himself (as he transits from wide-eyed young boy to gangly and “worlded” teenager).25

  • 26 While this scene is original to the film, there is precedent for it in Bandopadhyay’s Pather Pancha (...)

29In addition to these three human beings, a single object—the terrestrial globe— plays a critical role in these scenes. We first get a glimpse of it when Apu walks into the office of the school principal whose desk is occupied by a large globe that moves in and out of the camera’s vision as the enlightened teacher talks to the young child about the importance of books, especially those dealing with science (Ray 1985: 83).26 The following scene shows Apu as a new and excited convert to science trying out various experiments, including one in which he shows Sarbojaya—poor, uneducated, widowed, and quite disinterested—why and how eclipses happen. He does so by using round fruits—much in the manner advocated by colonial educators in the nineteenth century, faced with the dilemma of not having being able to provide globes and orreries for all their schools—as surrogates for the spherical earth and moon, with a lantern for the sun.

30A few years later, a much more grown-up Apu is shown shyly entering the principal’s office—the large globe still the only adornment on his desk—as that enlightened Christian teacher tells him that he had secured a scholarship for him to study in Calcutta. “Arts or science?” asks the headmaster. Without a doubt, young Apu responds in English, “Science.” In the next scene, we see an excited Apu return home to Sarbojaya clutching a portable globe (on its stand) in his hand, to announce that he was going to Calcutta to study. Anxiety fills the mother’s face at the thought of losing Apu.

She looks away from Apu, hurt and upset. Apu: Can you tell me what this is, Mother? He holds the globe up, near her face. But Sarbojaya does not answer… Apu suddenly looks lost and uncomfortable (ibid.: 86).

31A few minutes later into the film, though, she assents to his wishes.

Surprised and delighted, Apu jumps off the bed and comes out on the veranda.
He leaps into the courtyard, shouting “Hurrah”, then turns and runs up the steps of the veranda, picks up his globe and rushes into the room once more…
Apu comes and squats in front of [Sarbojaya]
Apu: The headmaster gave it to me.
Sarbojaya: What is it?
Apu: It’s called a globe [using the English word]. It is the earth. It is our earth.
And you can see these marks? These are the countries. And this blue, all this is the sea. Do you know where Calcutta is, Mother? Here.
Sarbojaya does not really look at the globe… (
ibid.: 88).

  • 27 In Bibhutibhusan’s Pather Panchali (1929), a similar estrangement provoked by geography as a new kn (...)

32Indeed, this introduction of the terrestrial globe to the uneducated mother ends with a shot in which the camera focuses on the object lying on the floor lit by the light of the lantern, and Sarbojaya standing in the doorway gazing at it, a look of utter loss on her face. The science delivered to young Apu through the intervention of the enlightened Christian teacher has not only imbued the young man with modern planetary consciousness about the spherical earth and its constituent elements, but has also produced an uncrossable new divide between mother and son.27 So much so that in the next scene when his mother lovingly packs his little suitcase with all manner of domestic things—little bits of herself?— she wants to send along with Apu to the big city, all her son appears to care about is his globe:

Apu: My globe [in English]?
(He goes into the room)
Sarbojaya: You can carry that in your hand. It won’t fit into this [the suitcase] (
ibid.: 89).

  • 28 Moinak Biswas suggests that even while “using one of the most sentimentalized themes in Indian cine (...)

33Suitcase and bedding in hand, and clutching his tiny globe, Apu is shown walking away from his mother’s home—without turning back even to look at her.28 In the very next scene, he is riding a train, and amidst the chaos and noise of a typical Indian rail journey, the camera shows him peering intently at his globe, twirling it gently on its axis. It is held tightly in his hand when he steps down at the crowded station in Calcutta, and he is still holding it at the end of this particular scene as he enters his new home. At the very beginning of the next scene, we see him lying on the floor writing a letter to his mother. “His globe is placed neatly on the window sill” (Ray 1985: 91).

  • 29 I thank Kenneth George for this understanding. See also George (2012).

34Modern and scientific education comes to metonymically reside in young Apu’s life in the very form of this spherical object that he clings to it as he transits from one life stage to another. It is however not merely an object of science or pedagogy as young Apu leaves behind his childhood home and his poor uneducated widowed mother in her village: it is transformed into a companion that guides himon his journey into urban modernity, orienting him and providing comfort and solace.29

35Science and school—and the Christian headmaster and the terrestrial globe—do not merely sever Apu from his village life and his uneducated mother, but equally critically, they also move him away from his hereditary profession, namely, Hindu priesthood. In fact, at the height of the angry exchange between mother and son when she tells him he could not leave her behind and go off to Calcutta, he says, “Does that mean that I can’t study? I must carry on being just a priest?

Sarbojaya: What’s wrong with that? You are the son of a priest. If you won’t be a priest, what do you think you’ll be? A governor?
Apu (defiant): Yes, That’s what I’ll be.
Sarbojaya: Shut up! (
ibid.: 86-87).

36And she slaps him! On the one hand, armed with his globe—and the new knowledge that its study has bestowed upon him—the enlightened Apu, colonized native though he might be, aspires to become a lordly Governor. On the other hand, this aspiration comes at a price: his alienation from the profession of his ancestors, and of his father. Both mother and father stand now outside the circle occupied by the colonized but enlightened native as he makes his way to the imperial capital, armed with his portable globe.

37Apu is not the only individual in colonial India who is rescued from Hindu idolatry through the mediation of the terrestrial globe and the enlightened Christian teacher. My next example takes you almost a century before Apu’s time to the dusty plains of northern India and the town of Meerut around 1814. A small “enlightened” outpost under the aegis of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) opened there under the patronage of one Captain Sherwood and his wife, Martha (1775-1851) when they arrived there in late 1812. As in other places she had passed through in her capacity as military wife, Martha started a school in Meerut soon after in her own home that offered religious teaching to the children of her “heathen servants” and other natives (Kelly 1857: 418ff). All so far par for the course in terms of the manner in which missionary schooling practices were initiated in the hinterlands of colonial India. What is unusual, however, about the Meerut outpost is Martha’s encounter with a “tall, handsome” native named Parmanand, circa 1815 (ibid.: 445-447). We are introduced to him thus by the famous missionary James Long:

He was a Brahman, and gained much money by officiating as a priest. He had inquired into the nature of Mohammadenism, but had felt dissatisfied with it; he then proceeded on a pilgrimage to Nagrakote, where, for seven months, he was exposed to the burning glare of the sun by day, and the pinching cold at night; he then visited an idol covered half the year with snow, which was said by its touch to transmute metals into gold; but he found no satisfaction to his mind. Subsequently, while translating the Bible from Urdu into the Braj Basha, light flashed on his mind (Long 1848: 216-217).

  • 30 In another recollection, for “want of a better globe,” Martha “covered one of the children’s balls (...)
  • 31 For some other versions of this conversion experience, see Eden 1867: 108; Long 1848: 228-229n and (...)

38It was soon after that he went to Meerut where he met Martha who, along with providing further religious instruction to him, also fashioned a “globe of silk to refute his own fabulous notions of geography” (ibid.).30 The young Brahmin’s encounter with this makeshift spherical object cemented the drift away from his ancestral religion that had already set in. “The same has been the experience of several other Hindus, for when the false geography and false history of the Paranas [sic] are pointed out, it is but a step to a conviction of the falsity of their religion” (ibid.).31

  • 32 Indeed, she was already en route to becoming a best-selling author of children’s stories imbued wit (...)

39Martha clearly is no Sarbojaya: she is educated, well traveled, and fervently Christian.32 She is not however just an enlightened mother in this narrative, she also plays the role performed by the male Christian principal in Aparajito, for it is she who introduces Parmanand to Earth’s sphericity, an introduction that apparently strengthens his conversion from monstrous idolater to enlightened Christian. Unlike Apu’s transformation, which likely happened over the course of a few years, Parmanand’s was apparently epiphanic. Like Apu however, Parmanand as well turned his back on priesthood and idolatry. He went even further, and had himself baptized in 1816, taking on the new name of Anand Masih, and proceeding to serve the Church as catechist and itinerant proselytizer, occasionally taking along with him “his balls of silk, to impart some of that knowledge of the heavenly bodies which he had lately acquired concerning the form of the earth; which knowledge he asserted was a powerful instrument in throwing down the whole fabric of old and monstrous superstitions that had so inflamed his own mind” (Kelly 1857: 465-66). Subsequently, he also became a teacher.

  • 33 Proceedings of the Church Missionary Society, for Africa and the East, 1830-1831, 29.
  • 34 Digdurshan was a publication of the Serampore missionaries, containing a miscellaneous collection o (...)

40We encounter him in that latter guise a decade later in Kurnal, a military cantonment north of Delhi where the CMS opened a school around 1828. When the Reverend W. Parish visited it in 1830, he witnessed Anand’s students—nine young men from local landlord families—learning “with avidity the catechisms of geography, arithmetic, etc., etc.”33 Three years later, when Parish once again inspected Anand’s school, he found thirty scholars “who read the Scriptures, catechisms, geography, Digdurshan, etc., and really understand a great deal, astonishingly well.”34 Parish writes:

  • 35 CMS Archives, University of Birmingham Special Collections, CMS/B/OMS/C I1/ O195/8.

Anand’s method of Teaching is very simple, but appears to succeed in no small degree… The ages of his scholars are from 5 to 18 and 20 years. In giving them some idea of Geography, Anand illustrates his Lessons by using a small globe which I made for him, and a Book of Maps with which I have furnished him—this is a most interesting subject to the Boys, they look at and examine with open mouths and eyes, the division of the surface of the world into land and water, so irregularly depicted, so strange, compared with the seven countries, and the seven seas of milk, honey, ghi, etc. which they had heard of from their philosophical pandits.35

41Parrish then goes on to reflect thus about the transformative role of that epiphanic global encounter between Anand and Mrs. Sherwood:

  • 36 Ibid. This statement was later reprinted in CMS Annual published report for 1833-34, with a crucial (...)

In noticing Anand’s endeavours to instruct his scholars rightly on this head [, ] I cannot help observing, that he has often told me with real pleasure of Mrs. Sherwood’s kindness (which has proved a lasting one to him) at the time his mind was becoming gradually illumined on Heavenly and Earthly things, in making for him a globe of silk stuffed with cotton to correct his own fabulous notions of geography—This simplest thing he acknowledges had a wonderful effect in biasing his mind to receive the religious instruction of that Lady (now some 16 years ago) whose object it was to lead him to become, not only almost but altogether a Christian. His present life now evinces how much her honest endeavours have been blessed !36

  • 37 His career with the CMS, however, ended tragically, when he was dismissed in 1843 from his missiona (...)

42Anand Masih was ordained in 1836 by Bishop Wilson after serving over two decades as a catechist.37 And it appears that he never did forget Martha, as she later recalled, referring “most affectionately to me and my balls of silk” (Kelly 1857: 458). As for her, on her return to England in 1816, she set up a boarding school for girls where among other subjects they were taught geography and astronomy. She also continued to flourish as a writer, India serving “as a rich resource throughout her long career” (Demers 2004-2012). Indeed, almost as noteworthy as Anand Masih’s conversion to Christianity is Martha’s role as an early female message bearer of the new science and useful learning in the colony (although unlike her near contemporary Mary Somerville who authored books on geography and Earth’s sphericity which were subsequently prescribed in colonial schools, she confined herself to writing works of fiction). As such, she anticipated many an Englishwoman who showed up in the colonies as the nineteenth century progressed, teaching the truth of modern Earth and the globe form, the most celebrated of whom was Anna Leonewens (possibly of mixed Indian origin) in Siam in the 1860s.

  • 38 Tamilnadu State Archives [TNSA], Tanjore District Records [TDR], 4448, July 31, 1794, 17. I have no (...)

43My final story of a life seemingly affected by a “global” encounter takes me to colonial Madras in July 1794 where the future Serfoji II (1777-1832), a young Maratha prince (and heir presumptive) in exile from his native Tanjavur, was receiving an education under the supervision of German missionaries associated with the SPCK and the Halle mission’s outpost in Tranquebar, indeed, the same place to which in 1711 an East India Company ship carried a pair of globes to which I referred earlier in the essay. At long last, Serfoji has recently become the subject of some stellar studies that have (re) cast him as an Enlightened scholar-king (Nair 2012; Peterson 1999; 2003; 2012). My concern here is with considering what sort of planetary consciousness followed from a schooling in European, especially Halle-inflected, geographic knowledge. The journey toward such a consciousness likely crystallized with the gift of a terrestrial globe to the teenage prince by Colonel John Brathwaite, a man of some stature as the President of the Military Board and Officer Commanding the Army on the Coast. The young prince wrote of this gift to his German mentor, the Reverend Christian Friedrich Schwartz, on July 31, 1794,38 and received in turn a response within a few days in which Schwartz advised his ward:

  • 39 TNSA, TDR, 4448, August 6, 1794, pp. 87-88. Schwartz’s emphasis on a geographical education is not (...)

As Colonel Braithwaite [sic] has given you a Globe you ought to learn something of Geography, as you live in the world you ought to know something of the world which God has created that you may get some Idea of the great God, the creator of the heaven and earth. It is ignorance of the work of God that incline us to value the Creature more than God. A good prince is obliged to imitate God. But how can he imitate him if he does not know him, and his goodness wisdom, power & justice.
God complains that the heathen have not worshipped worthily, though they might have known it by the works of Creation and Providence. A great king therefore prayed to God, saying “Open thou mine eyes, that I may see the wonders of works and words.”
39

  • 40 Email communication, June 18, 2012. I am grateful to Indira Peterson for this reference, which she (...)
  • 41 TNSA, TDR, 4448, December 16, 1795, p. 27.

44The surviving records do not show whether or how Serfoji specifically responded to his mentor’s admonition, but the young prince could well have noted to the missionary that from earlier in the year he had indeed been studying Geography with his colleague Christian Wilhelm Gericke of the Vepery mission, although the exact contents of that education are not clear (Nair 2012: 5). Indira Peterson also notes that the Tranquebar missionary C.S. John visited Serfoji in 1795 and discussed Cook’s circumnavigation of the earth, and “explained to him the solar system, the zodiac, and European cosmology by enacting the movement of the earth and planets around the sun in the large hall of Serfoji’s Madras residence employing himself, the king, and his minister as stand-ins for the earth and the celestial bodies.”40 And in late 1795, Serfoji wrote to Schwartz of his intention of visiting the new Observatory in Madras “to see the Stars and some other curious things.”41

  • 42 Across the title page of the volume, as preserved in the Saraswati Mahal Library in Tanjavur, is th (...)

45While these scattered observations from his Madras days gives us some sense of the young prince’s emergent modern planetary consciousness, it is the library of European scientific books that he began to amass soon after he returned to Tanjore and assumed power, albeit of the hollow kind, in 1798 that is perhaps more indicative of the sustained interest he developed in this regard. A large number of surviving books on geography and astronomy, and atlases carry Serfoji’s name on the title page: these include works that were pretty much the standard for an Enlightened geographic education in the metropole, such as Guthrie’s A System of Modern Geography and Brooke’s The General Gazetteer: Or Compendious Geographical Dictionary, and would have confirmed the truths of terrestrial sphericity and heliocentrism imparted to him in Madras by his missionary and European teachers. For example, the Raja owned a personal copy of Ouiseau’s Practical Geography, with the Description and Use of the Terrestrial and Celestial Globes (Sixth edition, carefully revised) with its concluding statement, “The Earth’s figure is spherical; and the assent to this truth is not determined by speculative reasoning, but it is founded on facts, and actual observation” (Ouiseau [1794] 1814: 300-01).42 Many of the atlases in his possession with their beautifully illustrated frontispieces and plates with diagrams of the terrestrial globe would have also visually confirmed Earth’s sphericity.

  • 43 TNSA, TDR, 3487, January 22, 1806, p. 19; March 9, 1806, p. 71.
  • 44 The Raja’s agent in London, the former Tanjore Resident Benjamin Torin who made the purchase, also (...)
  • 45 TNSA, TDR, 3429, 10 April 1821 and 11 April 1821, pp. 91-95.
  • 46 Indira Peterson discusses these in her forthcoming monograph, and I thank her for a preview of thes (...)

46Serfoji supplemented such “bookish” acquisitions with scientific objects such as a telescope and a tellurium or orrery to show “the motion of the Earth, and of the inferior planets about the sun.”43 It is hard to know if Brathwaite’s gift survived as a tangible object in Serfoji’s palace, but the Raja did acquire in April 1802 globes from England for the use of John Kohloff’s mission school, although evidence for the use of globes in schools he himself established is scarce.44 Years later in 1821 when Serfoji was away on pilgrimage, a pair of globes (celestial and terrestrial) were lent by his son to the English Resident in Tanjavur on his request.45 Surviving photographs from later in that century show a pair of celestial and terrestrial globes in the palace’s durbar hall that likely belonged to Serfoji.46 Even with such objects in his possession, we do not have a surviving portrait in which he had himself painted with the globe—as did the Mughal emperors in the seventeenth century (Ramaswamy 2007)— which probably is a reflection of the hollowness of the Raja’s crown at a time of the East India Company’s growing dominion over his shrinking domain.

  • 47 TNSA, TDR, 3419, June 13, 1806, pp. 70-71.

47It is also hard to conclude whether modern Earth—as exemplified by several books on Geography and Astronomy as school subjects in the royal library—was an object of study in the educational institutions that the Raja set up, notwithstanding his re-naming of the curriculum offered as navavidya, “new learning.” Nor have I seen any surviving examples of geography books, especially for children, produced by the Raja’s printing press in Tanjore, despite his interest in “the encouragement of all the arts and sciences” (Nair 2011: 511-517; Peterson 2012).47 Could this be because Serfoji was more interested in natural history, experimental philosophy, and medicine, rather than in the study of Earth as such (Nair 2012: 137)?

48All the same, in contrast to many other contemporary royals (including the young Peshwa Sawai Madhav Rao who too in late 1792 received a pair of globes gifted to him by the Company’s directors), Serfoji is possibly the only one to either directly pen himself or at least commission a literary work that takes stock of the new sciences that he was schooled in: a Marathi work titled Devendra Kuravanji, “The Fortune-teller Play of the King of Gods.” Dated to around 1806 by Indira Peterson who describes it as a “modern cosmology-geography,” the text provided “a geography of the world in songs,” and well might have been intended for use in Serfoji’s navavidya institutions (Peterson 2012: 28-29). If this is indeed the case, it is an instance when the modern science came to be disseminated not through the agency of prose, as was typical in the metropole, but poetry and song.

49Peterson’s analysis shows us that readers (and listeners and viewers, for this was a text that was meant to be narrated and performed in its time) are introduced to the Copernican world-system built around a spherical Earth turning on its own axis and revolving around the sun. One of the two protagonists asks of the other, “I want to know all about the world’s mountains, rivers, and countries. I want to learn the geography of the world. Tell me, does the earth revolve around the sun, or does the sun revolve round the earth? Tell me, what is the moon’s orbit, and what planets revolve around the sun? What is the diameter of the Earth sphere?” And in response, she is treated to a disquisition by the fortune-teller that is congruent with the Enlightenment’s vision of the terrestrial world, “a verifiable, European-style, modern terrestrial geography, [but] shorn of its Christian cosmographic connotations”

Like a flaming torch whirled round and round, the sun rotates in place on its own, and not around anything else… But the earth revolves around the sun in a year’s time. The sun is a bright star. Many planets revolve around it, earth among them.

50The four known continents, various countries and their capitals are all then enumerated with a precision that suggests that the composer had indeed scrutinized globes, maps and atlases, and geography books, presumably the very same that were available in Serfoji’s library and palace (Peterson 2003: 117-119).

  • 48 British Library, Mss. Eur.D.122, folio 43. The allusion to Cornelius here might be to the Roman cen (...)

51If we follow Peterson in proposing that the Devendra Kuravanji was if not authored by Serfoji himself, at least reflective of the world view that he had acquired through an Enlightened education in the new sciences, possibly the most striking aspect is that there is no value judgment passed on the inherited world view of the Sanskritic Purānas which most missionaries scorned. “You know the cosmology of the Purānas. Listen! I shall now tell you a cosmography and geography different from that one!,” says the fortune-teller (ibid.: 118). The new geography is presented without necessarily displacing the old cosmology, even as it chooses not to take on board a Christian or even physico-theological conception of the known world. Indeed, Schwartz’s sustained efforts to confront him with the grand truths of Christianity notwithstanding, Serfoji neither changed his religious faith nor even became agnostic; instead he remained a devout Shaivite for the rest of his life, following the codes of ritual performance, patronage, and pilgrimage (armed albeit with modern maps of the places he traversed through and visited!) that “tradition” had enjoined upon him as an earthly sovereign So much so that when the Reverend Claudius Buchanan visited Tanjavur in 1806—indeed around the same time of the composition of the Devendra Kuravanji—he observed that the Raja was constructing “a brass Orrery to represent the Tychonic system, which he wishes to believe rather than the Copernican, as it is the System of the Bramins. He is still a Heathen, but Dr. J [ohn] says he is a Cornelius [sic].”48

52Thus, where Paramanand’s entanglement with Mrs. Sherwood’s “balls of silk” led him “to become, not only almost, but altogether a Christian,” and Apu’s portable school globe sparked off in him a rebellion against his father’s priestly vocation and propelled him on his journey into urban secular modernity, Serfoji’s interactions with the object did not necessarily pit the ancestral against the new planetary consciousness ushered in by the modern; on the contrary, he learned to co-exist with multiple knowledge systems, even flourish and innovate as a result. These three life stories in turn suggest that there is no single track to the formation of a planetary consciousness centered on a modern Earth brought into view through an Enlightened encounter with its miniaturized proxy. For some—like Serfoji—being worlded in the modern way meant continued coexistence with the ancestral, juggling several balls in the air at the same time; for others—like Apu—it meant walking away, sometimes resolutely, from the inherited without burning one’s bridges (back) to it. And then there were others—like Parmamand/Anand Masih—for whom the break is complete to the point of not only irrevocably abandoning the ancestral but also turning against it—and proselytizing for the new.

Earth As Such

53I conclude by taking us to where I started with the young women of the Alexandra Native Girls’Institution posing with a large terrestrial globe in the early 1870s. The surprising thing about this photograph is perhaps not the presence of women. Indeed, as Suryanandini Sinha among others have recently reminded us, Indian women were subjects of studio photography from the very arrival of the new technology into India from the 1850s on. They occupied “a space of scrutiny and classification, but beyond the documentary function, they also came to be photographed for voyeuristic interests” (Sinha 2010: 45). The surprising thing instead is the large terrestrial globe that occupies the center of these photographs. Seemingly a prop, it has become the subject of the photographic exercise by virtue of the manner in which it is placed in the photograph and by virtue of the fact that it is the subject of the young women’s attentive looking. Christopher Pinney (1997) has identified two emergent idioms in nineteenth-century colonial photography, what he calls “the detective” modality, in which all manner of natives, especially those deemed “criminal” and “lawless,” were photographed for surveillance purposes, and the “salvage” mode in which the vanishing and disappearing native subject was captured on film. In contrast, the photograph of the Alexandra Native Girls—and other similar photographs featuring a modern school room, replete with globes, maps and other pedagogic aids—is exemplary of another productive colonial modality that we might call “ameliorative” in which the focus is on the improving subject. Here the goal is to demonstrate the emergence of an Enlightened modern individual, liberated from a world-view in which the governing assumption was that the earth was flat and rested on a tortoise’s back, and subscribing instead to a view of our planet as a sphere, floating in the universe and moving silently through space and around the sun. The giant globe as a prop in such photographs enables the demonstration of this goal, even while as an object that comes to occupy center-stage, it threatens, almost, to displace the viewers’ gaze from what should be the focus of their attention, namely, the emergent modern individual seemingly transformed by the close and intent attention paid to the spherical object. It is a reminder as well of the sham of the entire exercise, given that the globe as a pedagogic instrument, let alone a magnificent one like that which appears in this photograph, was very much a novelty item well into the twentieth century in most colonial classrooms. Even though its absence prevented the colonial teacher from providing tangible demonstrations of Earth’s sphericity with its aid, Geography as a body of knowledge presented discursive assertions, over and again, about the correct and right shape of the earth. One needed to get this fact down before moving on to study other subjects and other sciences, such was the foundational gate-keeping capacity of the key question, “What is the shape of the earth?” The correct—and only—answer to that question has come to mark the colonized but enlightened native living in nineteenth century India, and since.

Bibliographie

References

American Ceylon Mission (1842), Puvaṉa Cāttiram, Jaffna, American Ceylon Mission.

Anon. (1836), A Brief Account of the Solar System in English; with the Translation into Hindustani; Arranged as Reading Lessons for the Use of Schools, Calcutta, Baptist Mission Press.

Bandopadhyay, B. (1968), Pather Panchali (Song of the Road), New Delhi, HarperCollins.

Bandopadhyay, B. (1999), Aparajito (The Unvanquished), New Delhi, HarperCollins.

Basu, S. (2010), “The Dialectics of Resistance: Colonial Geography, Bengali Literati and the Racial Mapping of Indian Identity”, Modern Asian Studies, 44 (1), pp. 52-79.

Biswas, M. (2005), “Early Films: The Novel and Other Horizons”, in Apu and After: Revisiting Ray’s Cinema, Calcutta, Seagull, pp. 37-79.

Brückner, M. (2006), The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Maps, Literacy and National Identity, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press.

Capel, H. (1994), “The Imperial Dream: Geography and the Spanish Empire in the Nineteenth Century”, in A. Godlewska & N. Smith, eds., Geography and Empire, Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 58-73.

Chandra, S. (2012), The Sexual Life of English: Languages of Caste and Desire in Colonial India, Durham, Duke University Press.

Christian Vernacular Education Society (1864), Fourth Book, London, Madras Branch of the Christian Vernacular Education Society.

Demers, P. (2004-2012), “Sherwood [née Butt], Mary Martha, Children’s Writer and Educationist”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Eden, E. (1867), ‘Up the Country’: Letters Written to her Sister from the Upper Provinces of India by the Hon. Emily Eden, London, Richard Bentley.

George, K. (2012), “Lifewriting and the Making of Companionable Objects: Reflections on Sunaryo’s Titik Nadir”, in M. Perkins, ed., Locating Life Stories: Beyond East-West Binaries in (Auto) Biographical Studies, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, pp. 33-54.

Godlewska, A. & Smith, N., eds. (1994), Geography and Empire, Oxford, Blackwell.

Goswami, M. (2004), Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Hall, B. (1858), “On Missionary Education”, Proceedings of the South India Missionary Conference, Held at Ootacamund, April 19th-May 5th, Madras, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, pp. 178-199.

Heilbron, J. L. (2000), “Domesticating Science in the Eighteenth Century”, in W. R. Shea, ed., Science and the Visual Image in the Enlightenment, Canton, MA, Science History Publications, pp. 1-24.

India School-Book Society (1845), Prospectus of the India School-Book Society, n.p.

Keith, T. (1805), A New Treatise on the Use of the Globes, or a Philosophical View of the Earth and Heavens, etc., London, Longman.

Kelly, S., ed. (1857), The Life of Mrs. Sherwood, Chiefly Autobiographical, with Extracts from Mr. Sherwood’s Journal during his Imprisonment in France & Residence in India, Edited by Her Daughter, Sophia Kelly, London, Darton & Co.

Liebau, H. (2003), “Country Priests, Catechists and Schoolmasters as Cultural, Religious and Social Middlemen in the Context of the Tranquebar Mission”, in R.E. Frykenberg, ed., Christians and Missionaries in India: Cross-Cultural Communication since 1500 with Special Reference to Caste, Conversion and Colonialism, London, Routledge Curzon, pp. 70-92.

London International Exhibition (1871-72), Indian Department Catalogue of the Collections Forwarded from India to the International Exhibition of 1871, London, J.M. Johnson & Sons.

Long, J. (1848), Hand-Book of Bengal Missions, in Connexion with The Church of England, together with an Account of General Educational Efforts in North India, London, John Farquhar Shaw.

Mitchell, T. (1988), Colonising Egypt, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Murdoch, J. (1885), The Indian Teacher’s Manual with Hints on the Management of Vernacular Schools, Madras, The Christian Vernacular Education Society.

Nair, S. P. (2011), “‘... Of Real Use to the People’: The Tanjore Printing Press and the Spread of Useful Knowledge”, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 48 (4), pp. 497-529.

Nair, S. P. (2012), Raja Serfoji II: Science, Medicine and Enlightenment in Tanjore, New Delhi, Routledge.

Ouiseau, J. ( [1794] 1814), Practical Geography, with the Description and Use of the Celestial and Terrestrial Globes, London, printed by C. Macrae.

Pearce, W. H. (1822), Bh°ugola brtt°anta...: Geography Interspersed with Information Historical & Miscellaneous, Compiled in Bengalee, for the Use of Schools, Calcutta, Calcutta School Book Society.

Peterson, I. V. (1999), “The Cabinet of King Serfoji of Tanjore: A European Collection in Early 19th Century India”, Journal of the History of Collections, 11, pp. 71-93.

Peterson, I. V. (2003), “Tanjore, Tranquebar and Halle: European Science and German Missionary Education in the Lives of Two Indian Intellectuals in the Early Nineteenth Century”, in R. E. Frykenberg, ed., Christians and Missionaries in India: Cross-Cultural Communication since 1500 with Special Reference to Caste, Conversion and Colonialism, London, Routledge, pp. 93-126.

Peterson, I. V. (2012), “The Schools of Serfoji II of Tanjore: Education and Princely Modernity in Early 19th Century India”, in M. S. Dodson & B. Hatcher, eds., Translocal Modernities in South Asia, London, Routledge, pp. 15-44.

Pinney, C. (1997), Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Prakash, G. (1999), Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Pratt, M. L. (2008), Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, London, Routledge.

Raman, B. (2010), “Disciplining the Senses, Schooling the Mind: Inhabiting Virtue in the Tamil Tiṉṉai School”, in A. Pandian & D. Ali, eds., Ethical Life in South Asia, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, pp. 43-60.

Ramaswamy, S. (2007), “Conceit of the Globe in Mughal Visual Practice”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 49 (4), pp. 751-782.

Ray, S. (1985), The Apu Trilogy: Pather Pānchāli, Aparājito, Apur Sansar (English version based on the Original Films in Bengali by Shampa Banerjee), Calcutta, Seagull.

Rhenius, C. T. E. (1832), Pūmicāstiram, Madras, Church Mission Press.

Robinson, A. (2010), The Apu Trilogy: Satyajit Ray and the Making of an Epic, London, I. B. Tauris.

Said, E. (1994), Culture and Imperialism, New York, Vintage Books.

Schwartz, J. M. (1996), “The Geography Lesson: Photographs and the Construction of Imaginative Geographies”, Journal of Historical Geography, 22, pp. 16-45.

Sengupta, P. (2003), “Object Lesson in Colonial Pedagogy”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 45 (1), pp. 96-121.

Serampore Mission (1821), The Third Report of the Institution for the Support and Encouragement of Native Schools begun at Serampore, November 1816, Serampore, Mission Press.

Serampore Mission (1828), Periodical Accounts Relative to the Serampore Mission, No. I. European Series, From January 1827 to January 1828 inclusive, Serampore, Serampore Mission.

Sinha, S. (2010), “Facing the Lens: Women in Bombay’s Photographic Studios”, in The Artful Pose: Early Studio Photography in Mumbai, c. 1855-1940, Ahmedabad, Mapin, pp. 42-55.

Spivak, G. C. (1985), “Rani of Sirmur: An Essay in the Reading of the Archives”, History and Theory, 24 (3), pp. 247-272.

Stern, P. (2010), The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British Empire in India, New York, Oxford University Press.

Steward, J. C. (1995), The New Child: British Art and the Origins of Modern Childhood, 1730- 1830, Berkeley, University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Stoddart, D. (1986), On Geography and its History, Oxford, Blackwell.

Thongchai Winichakul (1994), Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press.

Velupillai, J. M. (1876), Pālapōta Pūkōḷa Cāstiram: Mutaṟpākam, Chennai, Ki. Ka. A. Caṅkattāratu Accukkūṭam.

Wallis, H. (1978), “The Place of Globes in English Education, 1600-1800”, Der Globusfreund, 25-27, pp. 103-110.

Weitbrecht, M. E. (1858), Missionary Sketches in North India, with References to Recent Events, London, James Nisbet & Co.

Wesleyan Mission Press (1842), A Catechism of Geography and Astronomy, Bangalore, Wesleyan Mission Press.

Withers, C. W. J. (2007), Placing the Enlightenment: Thinking Geographically about the Age of Reason, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Woodrow, H. (1862), Macaulay’s Minutes on Education in India Written in the Years 1835, 1836 and 1837 and Now First Collected from Records in the Department of Public Instruction, Calcutta, Printed by C. B. Lewis at the Baptist Mission Press.

Wright, T. (1740), The Use of the Globes: Or, The General Doctrine of the Sphere, London, John Senex.

Notes

1 Thomas Babington Macaulay, Letter of March 25, 1835 in Woodrow 1862: 72.

2 Capel (1994: 72). See References.

3 For a similar argument for nineteenth-century Siam, see Thongchai (1994: 60).

4 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4640). My ongoing research suggests that this photograph was displayed at the Universal Exhibition, Vienna, 1873, as part of an effort to showcase the Government of India’s commitment to improving native education. Other photographs in the accompanying album were shown as well at the London International Exhibition of 1871. On the Alexandra Native Girls’ Institution, see Chandra (2012).

5 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46. I thank John Falconer for his comments on several of the images in this collection.

6 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4650).

7 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4709). This is one of the few photographs in the album with the name of an identifiable photographer, Brajo Gopal Brahmochary.

8 British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4694)

9 Light for India: A Quarterly Record of the Christian Vernacular Education Society, Vol. 14 (1875), 21-22, 23-24.

10 It is possible that these globes were destroyed in the subsequent decades, for the Tranquebar mission, although provided with a telescope, microscope, thermometer, air pump, and so on, was clearly in need of globes by the 1740s (Peterson 1999: 210). It must have received these by the following decade for Peterson cites reports received by the mission headquarters in Halle by 1756 in which the Tranquebar missionaries write of conversations they had had with “heathen” merchants to whom they showed the terrestrial globe and discussed both mundane and spiritual matters regarding “the (one) true God” (ibid.: 210-211).

11 To cite just one example, the 1857 annual report of the Calcutta School Book Society shows only one globe listed in its catalogue of available apparatus, and its 1874 report notes that in all of 1872, only 4 globes were sold and in 1873, only 12.

12 That such images did not go without contestation even well into the later 19th century is apparent from a text dated to 1872 by “a Bengali Brahmin [who] sought to prove the falsity of the new ideas of the round shape of the earth referring to Puranic notions of cosmography in Brahmanical traditions. Thus Dwarkanath Vidyaratna wrote that the earth originated from the navel of the creator in the shape of a lotus” (Basu 2010: 65).

13 I thank Richard Fox Young for this reference.

14 For anxieties about two-dimensional maps of the hemispheres being misread by naïve students as illustrations of a “flat” earth shaped like “a plate,” see Vellupillai 1876: 1-2.

15 London International Exhibition 1871-1872: 154-55.

16 “Geographical” knowledge was not just transmitted through books and class hours dedicated to the subject, but also found expression from almost the very first year in school in the numerous language “primers” which also invariably included chapters on the shape of the earth.

17 As is true of many such texts authored especially by missionaries, Pūmicāstiram goes on also to take a swipe at Puranic knowledge about Earth that the (Hindu) reader might have inherited from his cultural milieu, dismissing such accounts of our world as supported on the head of a 1000-headed snake or the backs of eight elephants as “myths” (lit. kaṭṭukkatai). Instead, it is God’s will that ensures that the sun and its planets move about in universe. For similar utterances from colonial Bengal, Basu 2010.

18 American Ceylon Mission 1842: 1-2. Although there are no illustrations in the book, and although I assume that the user of the book would not have had access to a globe, chapter 4 assumes the presence in the classroom of at least a map, for question number 2 in chapter 4 asks point blank where would one stand to locate places on a map (paṭam) (ibid.: 9-12).

19 Serampore Mission 1821: 40. In the event the young student had missed getting the point, the copy book ends with the following two questions, again:
Q. Of what form is the earth?
A. Globular, like the kudumba flower
....
Q. On what is the earth supported?
A. God hath established the earth upon nothing (
ibid.: 43).

20 Wesleyan Mission Press 1842: 50-51.

21 Catechism is translated into Tamil as viṇāviṭai but semantically does not carry the same charge, for the latter term literally only means question-and-answer.

22 The British Library, IOR/F/4/1170/30639.

23 “How can a Native youth acquire a knowledge of even the most common facts of Geography and believe the sacred books his fathers? How can a mind, expanded by knowledge, credit the monstrous fables of the Hindu Mythology?” (Hall 1858: 186).

24 Serampore Mission 1828: 72-73.

25 I adapt the complex notion of “worlding” from Gayatri Spivak (1985).

26 While this scene is original to the film, there is precedent for it in Bandopadhyay’s Pather Panchali whose chapter 26 provides remarkable testimony to how books, news-magazines, geography texts and atlases can “world” a young boy (Bandopadhyay 1968: 300-328). Indeed this remarkable chapter ends, “[Apu] had learned to see visions and dream” (ibid.: 328). Also, in the novel Aparajito, Bandopadhyay describes a village school where, “The geography teacher was having a smoke. The soft gurgles of his hookah ceased abruptly and his voice rose above the general noise in his class: ‘You all know what an orange looks like, don’t you? Our earth is shaped like an orange. Moti, do be quiet. Our earth, boys, is shaped—Haren, stop that at once, —shaped like an orange, and therefore…” (Bandopadhyay 1999: 25).

27 In Bibhutibhusan’s Pather Panchali (1929), a similar estrangement provoked by geography as a new knowledge system is precipitated in an episode that does not make it into Ray’s 1955 film. This happens in chapter 26 after the death of the young Apu’s sister Durga when he meets with a distant cousin Shuresh who had come to the village from Calcutta, and quizzes him. “‘Tell me what the boundaries of India are.’ (He used the English word ‘boundaries’). ‘That geography, you know, ’ he continued, using the English word ‘geography.’ Have you done geography?’” (Bandopadhyay 1968: 303). The young Apu is clueless about “boundaries” and “geography,” but what Bandopadhyay tells us immediately afterward is that his father had indeed introduced him to a Bengali book called Prakritik Bhugol. “[Apu] did not know that bhugol was the Bengali for geography” (ibid.: 303). Here, the estrangement between city-bred modern subject and a village child is caused not so much by the new knowledge system, but by the use of the English term Geography. We learn also from the novel that Shuresh brought along with him an atlas in which the young Apu was able to locate a country called “France” (ibid.: 321). In Bandopadhyay’s Aparajito, the adult Apu, now living in Calcutta and going to college, reminisces about this moment in the following fashion: “When I was a child, ... I had an old, torn book called Geography. It spoke of stars that are so distant that their light has not reached the earth, even today. I used to lie in a boat on the river in the evenings, and wonder about it. Then, before my eyes, the evening star would rise over a tall tree. Looking at it, I used to feel… I can’t quiet describe that feeling to you… it used to give me a sense of upliftment. I was too small then to realise its implications, but even after growing up, whenever I have felt sad or depressed, I have looked at the stars in the sky, and each time, there has been that surge of joy. You know, an almost transcendent feeling…” (Bandopadhyay 1999: 137).

28 Moinak Biswas suggests that even while “using one of the most sentimentalized themes in Indian cinema—the mother-son relationship,” Ray shuns “sentimentality emphatically” (2005: 66). I am not sure I agree: by the end of these two scenes, Sarbojaya emerges as an immensely tragic figure who invites our compassion, as her only child seemingly abandons her, under the tutelage of the patriarchal Christian headmaster, to become an urban modern. “Education divides Apu from his mother,” Andrew Robinson (2010: 121) writes, and I concur.

29 I thank Kenneth George for this understanding. See also George (2012).

30 In another recollection, for “want of a better globe,” Martha “covered one of the children’s balls with silk, marking on it the lines and principal places, a kindness the convert never forgot” (Weitbrecht 1858: 470-71). In a letter to her mother back in England, Martha recalls, “I had found in India, where globes and maps are not to be had, a little way of my own, with larger and less balls, for teaching children the rudiments of astronomy and geography. The grown men I had then to teach were not only as ignorant as children, but were each furnished with innumerable false notions on these subjects; as, for instance, that the world was a vast plain, with the sun on a high mountain in its centre. These notions were to be put away before the others could be understood, or, any rate, removed for a while out of sight; but I found my pupils wonderfully ready to learn” (Kelly 1857: 457).

31 For some other versions of this conversion experience, see Eden 1867: 108; Long 1848: 228-229n and Weitbrecht 1858: 469-76.

32 Indeed, she was already en route to becoming a best-selling author of children’s stories imbued with the spirit of Christian evangelicalism.

33 Proceedings of the Church Missionary Society, for Africa and the East, 1830-1831, 29.

34 Digdurshan was a publication of the Serampore missionaries, containing a miscellaneous collection of essays ranging from Scripture to science.

35 CMS Archives, University of Birmingham Special Collections, CMS/B/OMS/C I1/ O195/8.

36 Ibid. This statement was later reprinted in CMS Annual published report for 1833-34, with a crucial concluding statement left out: “Of what service then might Globes and Maps prove to our friends, the Natives, who require the surface of things to be made clear to them before hidden things can be communicated to them.”

37 His career with the CMS, however, ended tragically, when he was dismissed in 1843 from his missionary duties (CMS Archives, University of Birmingham Special Collections CMS/B/OMS/C I1 O150/275).

38 Tamilnadu State Archives [TNSA], Tanjore District Records [TDR], 4448, July 31, 1794, 17. I have not been able to find so far Brathwaite’s account of this encounter and gift in the colonial archives. It is possible that Brathwaite’s gift was inspired by the presentation a few months earlier of a set of philosophical apparatus, including an orrery and “a machine to describe the figure of the Earth,” to Tipu Sultan’s hostaged sons a few months earlier by Madras Governor Sir Charley Oakely (British Library, IOR/P/253/28; IOR/P/253/29).

39 TNSA, TDR, 4448, August 6, 1794, pp. 87-88. Schwartz’s emphasis on a geographical education is not surprising, given the importance of physico-theology in the Halle curriculum. In the English School that the missionary had established in Tanjore in 1778, Geography was taught as a subject by 1787 (TNSA, Madras Military Consultations, Vol. CXIV, August 3, pp. 414-422).

40 Email communication, June 18, 2012. I am grateful to Indira Peterson for this reference, which she discusses further in a forthcoming essay.

41 TNSA, TDR, 4448, December 16, 1795, p. 27.

42 Across the title page of the volume, as preserved in the Saraswati Mahal Library in Tanjavur, is the inscription in black ink, “Serfojee Rajah 1829.” The book also urged the reader to not merely “turn a Globe about,” but instead understand the principles that govern its work (ibid.: vii-viii). Also in the Library is a copy of the 1821 edition of Keith’s Use of the Globes, but without Serforji’s personal inscription on it, it is hard to tell when it was acquired and by whom.

43 TNSA, TDR, 3487, January 22, 1806, p. 19; March 9, 1806, p. 71.

44 The Raja’s agent in London, the former Tanjore Resident Benjamin Torin who made the purchase, also sent him “a large world map which after you [Serfoji] have studied for a few Hours will give you the best idea of all the places on the Globe, & particularly of the voyage I have lately made from India to England” (TNSA, TDR, 3473/4, April 28, 1802, 211-218).

45 TNSA, TDR, 3429, 10 April 1821 and 11 April 1821, pp. 91-95.

46 Indira Peterson discusses these in her forthcoming monograph, and I thank her for a preview of these. When Claudius Buchanan visited the Tanjore court in 1806, he noted the presence of orreries (but not globes) in the Raja’s apartments (British Library, Mss. Eur.D.122, folio 41).

47 TNSA, TDR, 3419, June 13, 1806, pp. 70-71.

48 British Library, Mss. Eur.D.122, folio 43. The allusion to Cornelius here might be to the Roman centurion who was the first gentile to convert to Christianity according to the Acts of the Apostles. I thank my colleague Seymour Mauskopf for this clarification. Other Britons as well expressed frustration over the Raja’s continued attachment to “Brahmanical doctrines and superstitions”, his other “liberal sentiments” notwithstanding (see, for example, editorial in Calcutta Gazette, March 1, 1821).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Class in the Alexandra Native Girls’ Institution, Bombay, circa 1873. Albumen Print. British Library, APAC, Photo 1000/46 (4640).
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/22727/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 324k
Titre Fig. 2. Antoine F. J. Claudet, The Geography Lesson, 1851. Stereoscopic daguerreotype. Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/22727/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 149k
Titre Fig. 3. Schoolroom wall chart printed by Chitrashala Press, Pune, circa 1920. Image courtesy Christopher Pinney.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/22727/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 165k
Titre Fig. 4. “Shape of the Earth.” Illustration in Fourth Book. London: Madras Branch of the Christian Vernacular Education Society, p. 107.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/22727/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 24k

Auteur

She is a cultural historian of South Asia and the British empire and Professor of History at the Duke University (Durham) since 2007. Her research over the last few years has been largely in the areas of visual studies, the history of cartography, and gender. She is now pursuing a new research agenda on the cultures of learning in colonial and postcolonial India.
Publications
– 1997 Passions of the Tongue : Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970, Berkeley, University of California Press (“Studies on the History of Society and Culture” 29).
– 2004 The Lost Land of Lemuria : Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories, Berkeley, University of California Press, Indian ed., New Delhi, Permanent Black, 2005.
– 2010 The Goddess and the Nation : Mapping Mother India, Durham, Duke University Press.

© Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2013

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search