Panel 1: Hostility: Masculine Violence and Xenophobia
Ankita Das: “War, Travel, and the Turmoiled Self: Narrative of an Odia Soldier”
Abstract: Travel is a highly multi-layered process that is determined by the traveller’s social class/ status and his purpose of travelling. While research has been carried out on Western travel writing, not much is known about travel within Asia. There exist accounts and narratives, though few in number about travel within Asia that involves a dialogical consciousness of the traveller’s gaze in the appropriations of imperialism. Two and a half billion soldiers from undivided India served the British colonisers during the 2nd World War. Their experiences, have remained unremembered for various reasons, neither in the U.K, where a Eurocentric memory of the war dominates, nor in South Asia, where nationalist histories of Independence from the British Empire still prevail. In the colonial era, many from India, especially from the coastal region of Odisha, migrated to Burma (Present day Myanmar) through maritime routes in search of better jobs, but among them a few were taken as part of the British army. Many travel accounts were written in various Indian languages- Hindi, Odia, Bengali, Urdu and Tamil and have been lost in time, all that remains are evocative textual remains- a portal into the soldiers’ world. This paper attempts to study the 2nd World War through the Asian lens- the Asian soldier’s dilemma of killing his own brothers, as part of the colonial enterprise. The study is based on Mayadhar Singh’s autobiography, Mu Military Re Thili (I was a Soldier), written in Odia. He very vividly remarks, “As I passed my days under the shadow of war that loomed large, another battle raged within me. I had not received a letter or any news from my home for a long time” (Mu Military Re Thili, Mayadhar Singh). The account, thus forges a material and emotional connection between the home front and warfront. It poignantly depicts the soldier’s assuaging loneliness, homesickness and a rather fascinating account of the colonial matrix, involving India, Burma and Japan. The image of the soldier penning down his thoughts remain a remarkable testament to the forgotten experiences of the Indian soldier and his experiences during the 2nd World War.
Bio: Ankita Das is a PhD Research Scholar at the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Guwahati, India. Her area of research and interest is British Colonial Travel Narratives in India. She is currently working on the journals of the Eden sisters and Maria Graham. Apart from this, she is also part of the Centre for Archiving and Translation, University of Delhi, India. Her interest in Travel Writing and literature grew after she enrolled for a 10 day course on Travel Writing: Texts, Theories and Framework, offered by Prof. Carl Thompson and Prof. Jatindra Nayak at IIT-Bhubaneswar in December 2016. Her other research interests include exploring travel narratives of lesser known Indian writers written in indigenous languages. She currently teaches Communicative English to students at the undergraduate level at IIIT Guwahati.
Dr. Johnathan Thayer: “Andrew Furuseth, the International Seamen’s Union, and the Political Ideology of Maritime Masculinity”
Abstract: Andrew Furuseth is commonly celebrated as an emancipatory figure in U.S. maritime history. As leader of the International Seamen’s Union and principle advocate for passage of the 1915 Seamen’s Act (the “Magna Carta of seamen’s rights”), the Norwegian-American former sailor was the most visible figure in the origins and early decades of maritime unionism in the U.S. Whereas the 1915 Seamen’s Act granted sailors the right to break contract without fear of imprisonment and codified a litany of regulations regarding working and living conditions at sea, close analysis of the political rhetoric that Furuseth and the ISU launched in advocating for the Act’s passage reveals an underlying ideology that sought to protect an ideal of the skilled maritime worker that conflated manliness with “skilled” labor reserved exclusively for white sailors. This ideal was presented at the turn of the 20th-century as being under siege from unskilled, mostly Asian maritime workers, against which the skilled, white maritime union stood as bulwark against the erosion of the industry’s crafts, and by extension, the livelihood (and manliness) of its members. This presentation will examine this rhetoric in detail, and will challenge the hagiographic legacy of Furuseth and the 1915 Seamen’s Act by focusing on a key ideological conflation of skilled maritime labor protectionism, xenophobia, racism, and manliness. Additionally, this presentation will consider the impacts of this ideology on American histories of maritime labor, immigration law, and collective maritime memory.
Bio: Johnathan Thayer (PhD, MLS) is Assistant Professor of Archival Studies at Queens College, City University of New York. He teaches courses in archival studies, public history, and digital history. He is also Senior Archivist at the Seamen’s Church Institute. Thayer’s research focuses on confrontations between merchant seamen and shoreside individuals, institutions, and the state. He is working on a book manuscript tentatively titled Sailors Ashore: Citizenship, Subversion, and Surveillance in U.S. Sailortowns.
Harry Brennan: “Masculine Violence in the lives of John Cremer (1700-1774) and William Byrd II (1674-1744)”
Abstract: A key facet of ‘toxic’ masculinity is the way in which codes of masculine behaviour often encourage violence and cruelty towards others. This can be an outward demonstration of manliness to others, a way to undermine female status, or an outlet for suppressed feelings of anxiety or shame. In this paper, I argue that this aspect of toxic masculinity can be traced in the early modern Atlantic using a dual case study: John Cremer (1700-1774) and William Byrd II (1674-1744). The two share little in common at first glance, besides the early eighteenth century overlap in their lifespans. However, a comparison of their experiences tells us much about toxic masculinity in the early modern Atlantic world. Cremer was low-born, raised on a range of naval and mercantile ships, and known as ‘Rambling Jack’. Forever getting into fights as a boy and as a sailor in the Mediterranean, he was often censured for his violent indiscretions. Byrd, on the other hand, was an Anglo-Virginian plantation owner, firmly amongst the elite. Traversing the Atlantic several times over his life, Byrd aggressively pursued women in London and unleashed violence on servants, slaves and native people back in Virginia. This paper examines how these men’s wildly differing lives at sea fuelled their violent masculinities, often frustrating their own ambitions in the process. Using Cremer’s journal and comparing it to Byrd’s diaries and written works, this dual case-study serves to illustrate how the violent aspects of toxic masculinity operated in the early modern Atlantic world.
Bio: Harry Brennan is a Brit and first-year PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow, examining how gender and identities developed in the early modern British Atlantic, c.1660-1760. His BA and MA degrees were completed at Cardiff University, where he developed an interest in early modern history, gender, and the study of masculinity. @harryajbrennan