Kate Imy (Rutgers) Mellon Dissertation Fellow

Spiritual soldiers: masculinity and the body in the British Indian army, 1900–1940

Kate is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Rutgers University, where she studies with Seth Koven, Bonnie Smith and Indrani Chatterjee in the fields of European and Global and Comparative History.  In the summers of 2012 and 2013, Kate completed intensive Hindi and Urdu language training in India, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship Program. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Full Research Grant to India.  Her dissertation analyzes the British Indian Army as a site of exchange and encounter to reveal the linkages and relays between “East” and “West,” spiritual and secular, violent and non-violent. It situates the Army within the international cultures of the body developing during a period of unparalleled warfare, colonial violence, and anti-colonial struggles in the twentieth century.  It reorients nationalist narratives of military history by focusing on the interaction between British and South Asian soldiers and using sources in English, Hindi and Urdu to recapture the multi-linguistic history of empire. By focusing on bodily practices this dissertation explores how the physicality of soldiers’ everyday lives not only undermined the distinctions between “spiritual” and “secular,” but also provides insight into how and why soldiers fought and died for “God” and “country.”