[These materials on the case of Lt. Kennedy have been adapted, with the permission of the author, from his course website. The author may be contacted at Rob.VanCraenenburg@rug.ac.be. GPL]

Under the orders of the Secretary of State for India, your name has been removed from the rolls of this Army and it would therefore be impossible to bring you before a Court Martial seeing that you no longer belong to the service and are beyond the control of the Commander-in-Chief and Articles of War.

* * * * *

I am not aware I have done anything derogatory or unbecoming the conduct of an Officer and a Gentleman.

Instead of reading Lieutenant Kennedy's story in terms of literary notions and concepts, which is one way to read it, we might also read this tale as a story which exemplifies the inaptness of a military apparatus to confront cultural conflict.

It is especially in the interrogation that culturally biased opinions between Lieutenant Kennedy and his interrogators are foregrounded. It is worth looking into in more detail.

There are two instances in the examination conducted by Major Taylor in Camp Neemuch on the 17th of May, 1860, where Lieutenant Kennedy shows a sense of covert defiance of culturally biased opinions which are taken to be "natural". Both instances occur when he is asked a question regarding the status of culturally defined categories; marriage and religion:

It is very clear that the marital status of an Englishman with a native woman is not approved of. Lieutenant Kennedy foregrounds the derogatory note in the term 'woman' when it is used for a married woman by his objection to the term and his use of the word 'wife'.

The second instant occurs when he is questioned about his dressing in native costume and his religious beliefs and practices:

This is his second objection to a term, although he frames his objection in an informative question: What do you call Heathen? Well, that doesn't seem to pose much of problem: anything contrary to "Christianity". Lieutenant Kennedy doesn't really answer the question, he sort of evades it by saying that he passed as a Mahomedan, something which is not uncommon for British Officers :

As to my having embraced the Mahomedan faith it is not true, and my chief object when residing at Damascus being to perfect myself in the native language, I adopted the costume of the country and gave out, I was a Mussulman, thereby enabling me the more easily to be admitted into the society of the inhabitants, that I believe has been done before by others in Her Majesty's Service without remark or censure.

It is the last question, however, that is the most important and potentially the most damaging. That was, after all, how the story began, did Lieutenant Kennedy speak out against the British rule in India and did he criticise the British military regime? He firmly answers: Never. And there is no objective information to prove the contrary, there is only hearsay. Kennedy knows this and would he have asked for a Military court-martial if he had not spoken the truth?

The fact is that he has placed himself in a judicial and cultural no man's land by his integration into the subordinate, dominated culture. The military apparatus has no adequate means of dealing with his actions because that would imply a formal denunciation of the Muslim and Indian culture, a step they will not take in order to leave the illusion of a more or less balanced relationship between the colonizer and the colonized intact. So instead of risking a cultural debate in a military judicial court, as there is no evidence that Lieutenant Kennedy has committed treason or espionage or has spread dissent among the ranks, they choose the easy way out and have the civilian authorities in the guise of the Secretary of State deal with this anomaly:

Under the orders of the Secretary of State for India, your name has been removed from the rolls of this Army and it would therefore be impossible to bring you before a Court Martial seeing that you no longer belong to the service and are beyond the control of the Commander-in-Chief and Articles of War.


Victorianism: An Overview History British Empire Next contents

Last modified 1998