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Representations of Power Shifts Between Great Britain and India in The Jewel in the Crown (ITV, 1984)

Abstract : Focusing on the last years of the British presence in India, this 14-episode TV serial is itself the embodiment of a first form of transfer since it is the adaptation of Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet, i.e. four English novels published between 1966 and 1975 telling the stories of British and Indian characters living through the last days of the Raj. Yet this paper chooses to study how this shift of power between Great Britain and emerging India is staged in a serial which is now regarded as one of the best examples of the 1980s “heritage films”, in which the necessary departure of the British from India is constantly backgrounded by a nostalgic view of the British colonial enterprise. However, since The Jewel in the Crown is also described as one of the most critical representations of the presence of Great Britain in India in the 1940s, I will also focus on the ways the serial refers to Great Britain as a privileged vantage point but also as a locus of ambivalent attitudes, particularly so as it is seen by characters living in India but appearing on television screens at a moment when British television was trying to represent the British colonial past through various kinds of programs (documentaries, fiction, serials). Several key examples are discussed along those lines: the role of the opening and end credits, the use of excerpts from British newsreels in a work of fiction, the predominance of the British gaze and the way it is visually staged in the shots, some disturbing visual intrusions and conflagrations of unexpected shots. It thus leads me to show that if the year 1947 was generally constructed as a moment of reasonable “transfer of power” from Great Britain to India, such a TV serial unsettles some of the assumptions underlying the historiographical myth which depicted India’s independence as “a gentleman’s agreement”.
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Contributor : Florence Cabaret <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, November 20, 2019 - 11:50:48 PM
Last modification on : Monday, April 20, 2020 - 4:25:05 PM

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Florence Cabaret. Representations of Power Shifts Between Great Britain and India in The Jewel in the Crown (ITV, 1984). TV/Series, GRIC - Groupe de recherche Identités et Cultures, 2012, pp.110-127. ⟨10.4000/tvseries.1403⟩. ⟨hal-02373402⟩

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