Visions of America: Public Representations of the United States Circulating in India from 1870-1900

Tags and Trends

Preliminary Discoveries

America the Consumer

In several articles, we noticed an interest in American consumer patterns especially emerging commodities such as tea and coffee. While the current database only offers a few examples of these articles, in our research we frequently came across many other references including trade agreements and a number of these products being consumed. These focus on these two commodities, in particular, is revealing because they are both colonial goods which demonstrate connections to and reliance on different imperial practices. One debate we saw was whether Americans are coffee drinkers or tea drinkers. The difference signifies which colonies they are dependent on (i.e. coffee from Brazil or tea from India).

America the Strange

Evident from our findings is that Americans are perceived as oddities. From their smoking habits to their attire and behavior when visiting England, Americans make for beautifully written journalism. Because what the Americans are doing is so different from what is done in mainland Britain and India the news demonstrates the way that these odd practices work or do not work. Interestingly enough, Ramabai writes in a letter to England that the American practices are not as strange as Europeans and Indians think that they are.

America the Morally Loose

Another major trend involves a more evaluative project criticizing the moral character of the United States as a nation. For example, in “American Revisited: The Millionaires” the author suggests that Americans’ actions are too readily controlled by avarice. Similarly, “American Nerves” describes the prominent work culture in the U.S. pushes American workers to extreme cases of nervousness, and in some cases, suicide.

The Amrita Bazar Patrika

The Amrita Bazar Patrika, because it is Indian owned and runs, writes about America in relation to the people in India. In the other newspapers discussion of the United States tends to be less directly related to Indian life and is sometimes only connected to the British homeland. For example, Censorship and Free Speech: Britain, America, and India directly discusses the freedom of speech in each of the three places and how the press is controlled in India.

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