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In the club

In the club: Associational life in colonial South Asia

Benjamin B. Cohen
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    In the club
    Book Description:

    In the club presents a comprehensive examination of social clubs across South Asia arguing for clubs as key contributors to South Asia’s colonial associational life and civil society. Using government records, personal memoirs, private club records, and club histories themselves, In the club explores colonial club life with chapters arranged thematically: the legal underpinnings of clubs; their physical locations and compositions; their financial health; the role of servants and staff as employees of clubs; issues of race and class in clubs; women’s clubs; and finally clubs in their postcolonial milieus. This book will be critical reading for scholars of South Asia, graduate students, and intellectually engaged club members alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-7190-9811-6
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of figures (pp. viii-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. ix-x)
  5. NOTES ON THE TEXT (pp. xi-xi)
  6. List of abbreviations (pp. xii-xii)
  7. Introduction (pp. 1-24)

    On St. Valentine’s Day, 1867, Sir Bartle Frere addressed members of Bombay’s Byculla Club (1833) during a banquet held in his honor. In that year, Frere (1815–84) was concluding his term as governor of Bombay. A graduate of Haileybury, the British school designed to train outbound Indian Civil Service officers, Frere began his long career in India as a writer. He spoke Hindustani, Gujarati, and Marathi – all of which served him well as he advanced, holding positions as resident, member of the viceroy’s Executive Council, and then governor. As the members finished dessert and topped up their wine glasses,...

  8. CHAPTER ONE Club rules (pp. 25-46)

    The rule of law within clubs was critical to their smooth operation from day to day, and made them important components in a larger associational world and emerging civil society. As Ute Frevert notes, ‘civil societies depended utterly on the rule of law.’¹ As associations, clubs were built around a strong internal structure in the form of memorandums of association, rules, and bylaws. Indeed, one meaning of the word ‘association’ points to the foundational document that brings such a group into formal existence. Adopting, adapting, and approving such documents was among the earliest actions taken by individuals wanting to create...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Around the club (pp. 47-75)

    Clubs consisted of multiple spaces, each with its own designated use, and at the same time they were locations where civility and civil behavior were expected and enforced. These spaces took on overlapping and sometimes conflicting meanings. As members made use of club spaces, they imbued them with a variety of meanings underpinned by different ideologies.¹ At one end, there was imperial authority, and members used their clubs at moments of crisis (during the 1857 uprising, for example) as well as to celebrate and fortify their positions vis-á-vis the empire and its interests. In the middle of the spectrum, club...

  10. CHAPTER THREE The business of clubbing (pp. 76-99)

    Clubs in India were private businesses. They depended on income generated by members and services of the club, but also fell victim when members defaulted or the cost of services outstripped the profit they produced. In their everyday operations, clubs had to steer uncomfortably between stimulating income and shaking off the many liabilities that plagued them. This negotiation between income and liability occurred on Indian soil and often involved local Indian businesses and businessmen. Many clubs borrowed money from local wealthy Indians and also employed Indian companies to provide them with a range of goods and services. Thus, the business...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Servants and staff (pp. 100-121)

    Helping to maintain the club, enact and enforce its rule and bylaws, and fit the club smoothly into the greater Indo-British colonial milieu, were large numbers of staff and servants. As private businesses enmeshed in colonial civil society, clubs employed a wide variety of individuals. Some of these employees held titles such as club president, secretary, or chef, while many more were servants or peons. Ideally, these employees participated in the successful operation of the club, providing members with amenities and services for which they paid, and, in return, enjoying steady employment through the club. Yet inherent in the employment...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE Race, class, and the club (pp. 122-146)

    A close examination of India’s clubland reveals what might be expected – that some clubs discriminated along race lines – but also what might be less expected – that a variety of clubs existed where race was actively negotiated. Most surprising is that even the most exclusively British clubs had a variety of Indian participation. Perhaps most (in)famous were the clubs that maintained an exclusively British membership. These clubs and the snubs they dealt Indians seeking to join or even enter their premises dominate the discourse on clubs in South Asia. Yet opinions about them generated multiple and complicated descriptions and defenses.


  13. CHAPTER SIX Women and the club (pp. 147-164)

    Clubs created by Indian and British women together bridged, and quietly disrupted, practices of colonial exclusivity, explicitly forging bonds that spanned both race and the colonizer/colonized divide. Like their male counterparts, clubs served as homes away from home for Indian and British women alike. A home-like space, the club additionally provided opportunities for women to enjoy greater freedoms in each other’s company than might be found as guests at a men’s club, at home, or in the heterosocial public sphere. In this sense, clubs served as a training ground for participation in public life, contributing to a civil society in...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN Postcolonial clubbing (pp. 165-191)

    While mutinies, rebellions, and wars all posed challenges to clubs, perhaps their greatest challenge was sorting out their own position in South Asia’s transition from colonial rule to independence. Those that had maintained largely British memberships faced the decision of whether or not to carry on, and if so, whether to admit Indians. Clubs with mixed memberships also faced contentious debates, in which British members returning home wanted to close their club and pocket the earnings from the club’s sale, while Indian members – now enjoying freedom and independence – wished the club to continue.

    After 1947, regardless of membership criteria, clubs...

  15. GLOSSARY (pp. 192-193)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 194-206)
  17. INDEX (pp. 207-212)