Indian club swinging in nineteenth and twentieth-century India and England
University of Cambridge
Faculty of History
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
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Heffernan, C. (2016). Indian club swinging in nineteenth and twentieth-century India and England (Masters thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.7166
Indian clubs are bottle-shaped weighted clubs swung in the hand for gymnastic exercise. Despite their obscure status in modern culture, the clubs were one of the most recognizable items of fitness equipment in nineteenth and early-twentieth century India and England. Originating in India, the clubs’ nineteenth and early twentieth-century history is one of remarkable complexity. Adopted by civil and military colonisers in India in the early nineteenth-century, club swinging became a means of maintaining England’s project in India, a means of subjugating Indian men as well as means of challenging negative colonial stereotypes. Likewise in England, Indian clubs were used to challenge, create and reinvigorate ideas about embodied gender identities. Indian clubs can thus be viewed as a historical vessel containing converging colonial, gender and political histories. Adopted by soldiers, nationalists, exercisers and even suffragists, the clubs’ continuity and varied use demonstrate the fluidity of gender identities in India and England during this period. Utilising the conceptual framework of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the current study seeks to answer how English colonisers and the wider English public rationalised adopting an Indian form of exercise, especially that of a Hindu race often considered as effeminate. Similarly the work is interested in understanding how the adoption of Indian club swinging in Indian and English exercise regimens reinforced or challenged prevailing gender stereotypes. Finally, the work examines the extent to which Indian clubs became a politicised form of exercise with regards to the Hindu physical culture and English suffragist movements. In answering these questions, the thesis argues that Indian club swinging was a method of masculine and feminine identity formation for numerous exercisers in both India and England. Demonstrating how club swinging was used to negotiate masculine and feminine identities during this period, the dissertation thus presents an original contribution to the literature on Indian clubs as well as impacting upon histories of the Hindu physical culture movement, nineteenth-century English exercise and the English suffragist movement.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.7166