SACF & University of Roehampton Book Launch ‘Selective Inclusion? By Kusum Pant Joshi

COVID Creative Events, Projects / Jan 26, 2022

The Centre for Equality, Justice and Social Change, University of Roehampton & South Asian Cinema Foundation, London organised the Book Launch, “Selective Inclusion? African & Asian Celebrities in London’s ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine (1868-1914) on zoom. The programme was anchored by the Director, Mark McCormack with inputs and presentations from Chair SACF John Eade, filmmaker Lalit Mohan Joshi, author Kusum Pant Joshi, Prof Lyn Innes and Ian Haywood. About the Book: Selective Inclusion? African & Asian Celebrities in London’s ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine (1868-1914) by Kusum Pant Joshi with a Foreword by Lyn Innes This book focuses on 28 celebrities from Africa and Asia featured in one of London’s upper class magazine’s Vanity Fair in the Victorian and early Edwardian era. This was the Age of Empire when Britain’s power began to be felt by people in vast swathes of the world from China and Japan in the Far East to India, to the Malay Peninsula and Thailand in South East Asia and in various countries in North and South Africa. The dignitaries included in this book reflect major parts of the globe over which imperial Britain cast its shadow. Among those who figure in the book are 13 celebrities from India (mainly statesmen, some rulers, two prominent rulers cum sportsmen and one barrister), 7 from various parts of Africa, 5 from China and Japan in the Far East and 2 from Siam (now Thailand) and 1 from Johore in Malaysia. This book is an outcome of a 24-month long Heritage project funded by UK’s Heritage Lottery Fund in December 2019. The Foreword is by Lyn Innes, Emeritus Professor of Postcolonial Literatures, Canterbury University. Lyn is the great granddaughter of the first Indian featured in Vanity Fair in April 1870 – Nawab Mansur Ali Khan of Bihar, Bengal and Orissa and has very recently authored a book on him and her family: The Last Nawab of Bengal. The book has a chapter on each of the 28 celebrities who appeared in Vanity Fair. Whenever anyone was featured in the magazine, it would publish a colour lithograph along with a biography written mostly by its founder-editor, Thomas Gibson Bowles. To throw light on every African and Asian who was included in the magazine, the book has a well-researched biography of each of the 28 celebrities from Africa and Asian and also includes his Vanity Fair caricature with critical comments on it and on the magazine’s biographical notes. While doing so, the book exposes the plunder, loot and negative impact of imperialist incursions, interference and domination over parts of Africa and Asia. The book talks not only of those included in this elite magazine, but also mentions many celebrities who could have been included but weren’t. Questioning the rationale of the magazine’s selection process, the book tries to point out that it seems to have followed a process of selective inclusion by excluding many eminent men from diverse fields as well as completely keeping out all women from Africa and India from being featured within its covers. A very attractive feature of the book is that it is very richly illustrated with numerous photographs. It has a detailed Index. It also has a complete list of all the caricatures of African and Asian celebrities featured in Vanity Fair in the exact order of their appearance in the magazine, their names, the details of the date of their appearance as well as the names of the artist who had contributed each of the caricatures. The book should make fascinating reading for anyone interested in understanding the goings on in various parts of the world during the heyday of the Imperial era and wishes to understand its impact on colonised people. At a time when colonial history still hardly or even does not figure in the school curriculum in British schools, this novel book could prove an in valuable source of interesting information and insights.

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