This article describes the manner in which the English language took root in modern India. It does so by using gender as the unit of analysis. Building a feminist analysis on the symbolic role of culture, the author traces the history of English education in Bombay and Poona. The rise of English as the language of power in the nineteenth century was actively enabled—and further legitimated—by the patriarchal interests of Indian class and caste formation. The author analyzes English- and Marathi-language memoirs, school reports, debates in the “native” press on the content of the English education curriculum, and other cultural productions by men and women detailing their experiences and opinions of English education. Based on those sources, the author demonstrates that upper-caste masculine authority came to be yoked to the charisma of colonial English and, with that, subtly coded the English language as masculine. Consequently, the power of Indian English emerged from its ability to evade charges of cultural mimicry for certain classes, to organize native gender difference, and to express and orient (hetero)sexual desire.

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