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Sex, Law, and the Politics of Age
Child Marriage in India, 1891–1937

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  • Date Published: July 2020
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9781108802574

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About the Authors
  • Ishita Pande's innovative study provides a dual biography of India's path-breaking Child Marriage Restraint Act (1929) and of 'age' itself as a key category of identity for upholding the rule of law, and for governing intimate life in late colonial India. Through a reading of legislative assembly debates, legal cases, government reports, propaganda literature, Hindi novels and sexological tracts, Pande tells a wide-ranging story about the importance of debates over child protection to India's coming of age. By tracing the history of age in colonial India she illuminates the role of law in sculpting modern subjects, demonstrating how seemingly natural age-based exclusions and understandings of legal minority became the alibi for other political exclusions and the minoritization of entire communities in colonial India. In doing so, Pande highlights how childhood as a political category was fundamental not just to ideas of sexual norms and domestic life, but also to the conceptualisation of citizenship and India as a nation in this formative period.

    • Provides the first history of 'age' in colonial India
    • Brings theoretical perspectives and methods from the history of childhood, legal history, queer theory and critical secular studies to bear on the history of child marriage
    • Uses the archives of colonial India to engage broader debates on the history of age, childhood, sexuality and legal personhood
    Read more


    • 2021 Grace Abbott Book Prize, The Society for the History of Children and Youth

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘In this theoretically rigorous feminist history, Ishita Pande shows us how and why imperial 'age of consent' controversies should more aptly be read as regimes of reproductive temporality that shape minority and majority political claims in South Asian modernity in all its worldly ambition. Sex, Law and the Politics of Age opens up the terrain of 'juridical childhood' to a whole new set of questions and methods, rethinking girlhood as a prism of colonial and postcolonial ambition and a secularizing epistemic lever in the process.’ Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

    ‘A fascinating read, this book adeptly and sensitively renders the child as a moral-political category, and a socio-cultural construct, of modernity in colonial India. Through a close reading of the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, Pande brilliantly intertwines debates on sexuality, childhood and age with the carving of a Hindu reformist nation.' Charu Gupta, University of Delhi

    ‘Here, finally, is a superbly researched and expansive South Asian/Indian history of the categories of age and consent, and their translations and tribulations within legal and social structures of surveillance and control. An indispensable book for scholars of law, gender and sexuality.’ Anjali Arondekar, University of California, Santa Cruz

    ‘Pande brilliantly deploys the generative power of gender analysis and queer theory to reinterpret one of the most widely-debated topics in colonial South Asian historiography: the question of ‘child marriage’. This rigorous and beautifully written book will be required reading for all historians and scholars of gender and sexuality in the twentieth century.’ Todd Shepard, John Hopkins University

    ‘… an important and much-needed theoretical contribution to a nascent but burgeoning field of childhood history in the Indian subcontinent.’ Soni, H-Soz-Cult

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2020
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9781108802574
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    I. Provincializing childhood
    1. The autoptic child: The Age of Consent Act (1891), law's temporality, and the epistemic contract on age
    2. Juridical childhood: the Child Marriage Restraint Act (1929), global biopolitics, and the “digits of age”
    II. Queering age stratification
    3.The sex/age system: boy-grooms, young rapists, and child protection in hindu liberalism
    4. Reproductive temporality: the staging of childhood and adolescence in global/hindu sexology
    iii. Consent otherwise
    5.Rethinking minority: Rangila Rasul, the “muslim child wife,” and the politics of representation
    6. An age of discretion: querying age and legal subjectivity in the secular shari'a

  • Author

    Ishita Pande, Queen's University, Ontario
    Ishita Pande is Associate Professor of History and Gender Studies at Queen's University, Canada. She is the author of Medicine, Race and Liberalism in British Bengal: Symptoms of Empire (2010).


    • 2021 Grace Abbott Book Prize, The Society for the History of Children and Youth
    • The Wallace K. Ferguson Prize - 2021, Canadian Historical Association

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