Debasree Ghosh

PhD Student in English Literature

The Ambiguity Towards the Colonial Project in British and Indian Children's Writing

Supervisors: Dr Anna Jackson & Dr Charles Ferrall


Literature, while appearing to reflect reality, might actually be creating and re-shaping it. The child’s mind being impressionable and more easily ‘colonisable,’ may be conditioned by the momentum provided by the literary arts. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s  poem titled ‘Foreign Children,’ a British child wistfully asks his Indian counterpart: ‘O! Don’t you wish that you were me?’ almost urging an indigenous child to feel wistful about his/her inherited identity. For my doctoral research, I hope to trace the trajectory of children’s writing from the era of the British Raj to the postcolonial period and examine the varying levels of ambiguity towards the colonial project. I wish to examine how children’s literature provides a platform for conversations between British and native writers but is not always a simplistic colonial versus anticolonial struggle-sometimes books for children take on more meditative and reflective views on colonialism. I wish to make a comparative analysis between colonial and postcolonial writers, both British and Indian, whose books show varying attitudes towards British rule. Two writers I would particularly like to focus on are Ruskin Bond and Rudyard Kipling. The notion of colonialism has long been liberated from mere territorial conquest-it becomes a negotiation between things much less tangible than land: of language, ideas, principles and beliefs. Finally, I wish to assess whether postcolonial writers have evolved from sympathising with the subaltern to recreating the more complex struggles of neo-colonialism and have reinterpreted the conflict between the ‘outsider,’ and ‘the other,’ in more nuanced terms.


Debasree has completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in English Literature from the Jadavpur University Department of English, in Calcutta, India. Subsequently, she attended the National Institute of Education, Singapore, where she completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Education. She has taught Singapore-Cambridge General Paper at Anglo-Chinese Junior College, and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in English Language and Literature in New Delhi, prior to joining Victoria University of Wellington.