Through literary and historical documents from the early sixteenth to late seventeenth centuries—epic poetry, private correspondence, secular dramas, and colonial legislation—Carmen Nocentelli charts the Western fascination with the eros of "India," as the vast coastal stretch from the Gulf of Aden to the South China Sea was often called. If Asia was thought of as a place of sexual deviance and perversion, she demonstrates, it was also a space where colonial authorities actively encouraged the formation of interracial households, even through the forcible conscription of native brides. In her comparative analysis of Dutch, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish texts, Nocentelli shows how sexual behaviors and erotic desires quickly came to define the limits within which Europeans represented not only Asia but also themselves.
Drawing on a wide range of European sources on polygamy, practices of male genital modification, and the allegedly excessive libido of native women, Empires of Love emphasizes the overlapping and mutually transformative construction of race and sexuality during Europe's early overseas expansion, arguing that the encounter with Asia contributed to the development of Western racial discourse while also shaping European ideals of marriage, erotic reciprocity, and monogamous affection.
Note on Quotations and Translations
Chapter 1. Perverse Implantations
Chapter 2. The Erotic Politics of Os Lusíadas
Chapter 3. Discipline and Love: Linschoten and the Estado da Índia
Chapter 4. Polygamy and the Arts of Reduction
Chapter 5. The Ideology of Interracial Romance
Chapter 6. English Whiteness and the End of Romance
"Compelling and filled with rich textual and historical details, Empires of Love will alter the ways we read the cross-cultural and domestic production of both race and desire."
~Emily Bartels, Rutgers University
"Carmen Nocentelli's book makes important contributions to the multiple fields it embraces, from colonial studies to gender politics to comparative literature. Scholars working in all of the national traditions presented in Empires of Love will find much to think about."
~Josiah Blackmore, University of Toronto
Awarded the 2014 Roland H. Bainton Book Prize in Literature by the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference
Winner of the 2014 MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies