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How is ‘gender’ constituted in the archive? What relation does ‘gender’ bear to Empire and to cultures of travel, as well as to projects of education, literacy and self-making? This collaboration engages these questions while asking how digital humanities shape contemporary engagements with ‘gender’ in colonial contexts, particularly that of South Asia.

Painting of Elizabeth Sharaf un-Nisa wearing a European style dress and bonnet, along with ornate pearl jewelry in the Mughal style.

The papers of Elizabeth Sharaf-un-Nisa Khanum (above), which will be held in the University of Pennsylvania’s OPenn database, tell a story of an encounter near the origins of the British Empire’s involvement in the South Asian subcontinent. Elizabeth Sharaf un-Nisa cohabited with an Englishman and traveled with him to Devonshire in 1784. She lived the remainder of her life among the English.


The papers of Dorothy de la Hey (below), an educator who went out to India in 1914 and established the first women’s college in Southern India, record a significant encounter between Indian and British women within the uneven context of colonial rule. Dorothy de la Hey’s papers are still in the process of acquisition and will be held in the Bodleian Digital (Oxford).

Picture of Dorothy de la Hey around the time she founded Queen Mary's College