Dangerous Broadway melody

During a stay in Madurai Ross casts himself as a representative of Europe, and finds the Indian people irreducibly foreign.

This otherness is marked racially, but displaced onto religion in Ross’s writing. He argues that the Hindus’ devout religiosity is the key to understanding India. This point is hammered home by a report from a visit to Madurai: Europe’s electric light is swallowed by the cavernous temple spaces.

This text finds Ross at his most lurid and blunt. The hands of a statue of goddess Kali are “besmirched with blood” [p. 24]; a fat man looks down “possessively and with relish” [p. 24] on the child who will be married to him. Ross cautiously stays in the shadows, being as he is “the only white person in the temple, maybe in the whole city.” [p. 24] From the temple, he stumbles into a cinema playing a Hollywood musical. Ross conjures up a hyperbolic image of eastern threat to white femininity: “There on the screen, white women show themselves in front of the excitedly gazing colored men.” [p. 26]

In Ross’s mind, this scene also proves that Anglo-Americans are traitors to their own white race: ”Unscrupulous American business sense spreads such distorted images of white civilization around the world like the plague. The British rulers’ resignation lets it happen.” [p. 26]

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. [Excerpt from] Indische Gedankenwelt und Lebensformen. In: Umstrittenes Indien. Berlin: Reimar Hobbing; 1930 (Die Welt im Bild); 23–9.

Topic: Race
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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