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On 'Hilda at Darjeeling' - Vron Ware

Venue: Birkbeck Main Building, Malet Street

Professor Ware will discuss the film 'Hilda at Darjeeling'. 

In 1988-9 I made a TV documentary for C4 in collaboration with director Mandy Rose. Entitled ‘Hilda at Darjeeling,’ the film was partly a feminist investigation into the workings of colonial power. Five women who had lived in India during the closing years of the British Raj were asked to reflect on their lives and to identify the constraints and frustrations that they felt as white women, trapped within a rigid hierarchy organised along lines of race, class and gender. 

The film was also intended to unsettle the mood of imperialist nostalgia sustained by the production of big budget films like Heat and Dust (1983) A Passage to India (1984) Out of Africa (1985) White Mischief (1987), and the BBC TV series Jewel in the Crown (1984). The figure of the white woman featured in all these plots and narratives in ways that were rarely discussed at the time. Yet as film analyst Richard Dyer noted: ‘'White’ women take the blame, and provide the spectacle of moral suffering, for the loss of empire’.

In this session I will talk about the political context for making the film before discussing what the value of this kind of (now) historical work might be today. 


Vron Ware is professor of sociology and gender studies at Kingston University. She has written about race, gender and the social construction of whiteness over several decades. Her first book, Beyond the Pale: white women, racism and history (1992), was reissued in 2015.

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