India at the United Nations: a postcolonial nation-state on the global stage, 1945-1955

by Julianne Rose Laut

Institution: University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign
Year: 2016
Keywords: India; United Nations; gender; Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit; postcolonial; diplomacy; race; UN Conference on International Organization (UNCIO); Custodian Force (India); peacekeeping; Hyderabad; Partition; masculinity; Cold War
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2071377
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/90545


Prior to Indian independence, the Indian National Congress made savvy use of the United Nations as a global stage upon which to establish a sense of inevitability around postcolonial Congress leadership despite the uncertainty of post-independence power sharing in New Delhi. The aspirational postcolonial state staked its claim to moral leadership through anticolonial propaganda, the prominent UN delegate Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit's self-representation of modern Indian womanhood, and highly gendered emotional discourses over the issue of racial oppression. Once faced with the realpolitik of a fragmented and bloody independence, however, nationalist idealism had to be balanced against the pragmatics of state building. The Indian state, focused on the consolidation of power at home and maintaining legitimacy in the international arena, at times placed domestic concerns above the ideals of the United Nations, becoming complicit in the reinforcement of the nation-state system. The extent of the postcolonial state’s affiliation with inherited imperialist aggression was minimized through evasive diplomatic maneuvers and the suppression of information. And as Cold War ideologies clashed at the UN after the Korean War broke out, Pandit and India became caught up in the masculine competition between nation-states. This evolving relationship between the postcolonial Indian state and the emergent United Nations produced the foundations of UN postcolonialism – a gendered cultural construct that emerged in the early years of the UN through both the emotional high of the postcolonial moment and the contradictions of decolonization at the start of the Cold War. This cultural approach argues for a shift away from the more mechanistic organizational histories of the United Nations that fail to consider fully how and where power is produced. Advisors/Committee Members: Burton, Anoinette (advisor), Burton, Anoinette (Committee Chair), Hoganson, Kristin (committee member), Bhattcharya Mehta, Rini (committee member), Sinha, Mrinalini (committee member).