A huge international controversy followed the 1927 publication of Mother India, an expose written by American journalist Katherine Mayo. Mother India provided graphic details of a variety of social ills in India, especially those related to the status of women and to the particular plight of the country's child wive's. The book was translated into more than a dozen languages, and it was reviewed in virtually every major publication on five continents. Mrinalini Sinha traces the controversy surrounding Mother India, explaining how the uproar became a catalyst for far-reaching changes, including a reconfiguration of the relationship between the political and social spheres in colonial India.
It is rarely that one can say of an academic book that it is unputdownable, but Specters of Mother India is just that. Not only is it written with a narrative skill not always to be found in historical studies, but it offers a fresh and compelling argument about a short but crucial period (1925-1935) in pre-Independence India, as a historical turning point. Mrinalini Sinha’s reading of Katherine Mayo’s Mother India as symptom and catalyst of the radical shifts that occurred in this period will impact on a number of fields well beyond South Asian History. The monumental scholarship and stupendous historical reach of this book are breathtaking.
-Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, author of The Scandal of the State: Women, Law, and Citizenship in Postcolonial India
This is one of the most important books I’ve read in a long time, a brilliant and unusual accomplishment. It’s full of insights backed by new evidence-from archives around the world-that will change the way we think about colonialism and decolonization, the role of women in global and national politics, and the theories that can be mobilized to help rethink issues in twentieth-century global history.
-Bonnie G Smith, author of The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice
This is no ordinary history of a text; with impressive scholarship and historical imagination. Mrinalini Sinha reads the controversy surrounding the publication of Katherine Mayo’s book as a fascinating chapter in the interwar history of colonialism. Questions of the empire and imperial legitimacy, the nation and its others, and feminism and citizenship emerge as issues thrown open by the historical location and reception of Mother India. This is a work of vital importance to the study of the colonial genealogy of the modern world.
-Gyan Prakash, author of Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India