A “Hindu Mystic” or a “Harrovian realist”? U.S., Australian and Canadian Representations of Jawaharlal Nehru, 1947-1964

Sarah Graham, Alexander Davis

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2 Citations (Scopus)


This article analyzes how officials from the U.S., Australia, and Canada represented Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s psychology in diplomatic contexts between 1947 and 1964. Nehru was the representative of a newly sovereign state, whose people were often stereotyped as mystical, spiritual, and irrational. In this article, we show how Nehru was constructed as “irrational,” “primitive,” “effeminate,” and racially resentful by Western diplomats. He was, conversely, also seen as a “Harrovian realist” or “transplanted Englishman” with an attendant air of “superiority.” Cold War imperatives gave these ambivalent cultural and psychological projections a special salience, particularly as each confronted the implications of Nehru’s non-alignment and his global profile as a proponent of Third World nationalism. The ambivalent representations of Nehru that we trace within U.S., Australian, and Canadian foreign policy-making also reveal a shared belief in the “Anglosphere”—the purported transnational unity of white, English-speaking nations—was sustained beyond the decline of the British Empire. Nehru’s “Britishness” demonstrates how he could be tethered to the English-speaking world while simultaneously being seen as its irrational, non-white Other. This ambivalent connection helped to re-draw the boundaries of the transnational Anglosphere in the era of decolonization and to define Cold War assumptions about race, rationality, and foreign policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-231
Number of pages34
JournalPacific Historical Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


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