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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 11:16 06/11/2007
Journal Abstracts #283: June 11, 2007

Modern Asian Studies

Journal Name: Modern Asian Studies: Volume 41 - Issue 03 - May 2007
Print ISSN: 0026-749X Online ISSN: 1469-8099

Research Articles

Customs of Governance: Colonialism and Democracy in Twentieth Century India (pp441-470)
RAJNARAYAN CHANDAVARKAR (University of Cambridge)
'Who is stealing electricity' at Tis Hazari?-the principal magistrate's court for the city of Delhi. The mystery, it turned out, had a simple solution. It implicated a large proportion of the 1500 lawyers' chambers in the court buildings. According to the Vice-President of the Delhi Bar Association (Criminal), the problem arose because the Delhi Vidyut Board 'had installed electricity junction boxes in the premises and has not given any regular connection to individual chambers. Hence, most lawyers had to make their own arrangements'. By this, he meant that the lawyers resorted to tapping electricity from the board's supply lines to run their lights and fans, their refrigerators, air-conditioners and computers. Speaking on behalf of the criminal lawyers, and lending a certain adjectival force to their professional description, their Vice President admitted that it was true that 'earlier, we were stealing electricity. But now we have taken up the matter with the DVB and have shown our eagerness in seeking regularised connections'. It was almost as if he expected that their eagerness could be entered as a plea in mitigation.

Race Matters: Orientalism and Religion, India and Beyond c. 17701880 (pp471-513)
SHRUTI KAPILA (Tufts University, USA)
In tracing the history of the concept of race, this article revises the conventional view that race acquired significance only after the mid-nineteenth century in colonial India. Instead, it situates the history of race in the connected realms of enlightenment science in both the metropolitan and colonial worlds and in the public sphere of Indian print culture. From the 1770s onwards the emerging 'science' of race was intimately related to orientalism and was salient for civilisational concepts, above all, religion. Precisely because it was a capacious concept that encompassed both cultural and biological ideas, race became an inescapable category for world-comparative distinctions between human types and religions, but it also held implications for the role of empire. Phrenology was a popular dimension of this set of ideas and found votaries among both imperial and also Indian literati of radical, conservative and liberal political opinions. The Calcutta Phrenological Society became an active site of debate on these issues. Yet in the popular realm of vernacular print culture analogous notions of physical typology and distinction (particularly samudrikvidya) remained distant from such concerns. As a form of 'insurgent knowledge' samudrikvidya was part of the techniques for the reconstitution of an Indian selfhood. Race then was not only a powerful concept, but also one that was remarkably mutable in its meanings and uses from the eighteenth century onwards.

Guns, Slums, and "Yellow Devils": A Genealogy of Urban Conflicts in Karachi, Pakistan (pp515-544)
Karachi is a city of migrants and an important commercial hub, which provides Pakistan with a window on the world. But Karachi is also a deeply fragmented city, plagued by an acute urban crisis that takes roots in the failure of the development plans that successive Pakistani governments have delegated to foreign experts. The transnationalisation of the Afghan jihad, in the 1980s, also fuelled social and ethnic antagonisms in the city and contributed to the proliferation of violent entrepreneurs and ethnic parties. Both criminal elements and ethnic activists contributed to the ever-increasing fragmentation of urban space in the city, and to the multiplication of ethnic enclaves controlled by private militias. This extreme fragmentation of the city has benefited local jihadis and foreign terrorists who have taken shelter here since the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. However, Karachi will never be a "sanctuary" for jihadi militants, due to the hostility of local ethnic parties, whose activists see themselves as enlightened secularists at war with the most retrograde elements of their society and their foreign allies.

Hindi Dalit Autobiography: an Exploration of Identity (pp545-574)
SARAH BETH (University of Cambridge)
Several powerful constructions of Dalit social and political identity are now circulating in very influential ways within the public sphere in North India, as various groups including both the Bahujan Samaj Party as well as Hindutva organisations compete to assert their influence over how these identities are defined, who they include, and what they mean. In this context, the rise of Hindi Dalit autobiographies as a source of Dalit cultural identity becomes especially important in North India, as they contest traditional conceptions of the Dalit community as 'untouchables' and attempt to re-inscribe Dalit identity in positive, self-assertive terms. However, Dalit autobiographies retain certain ambivalences, as the authors struggle to reconcile their low-caste identity with their current urban middle-class status, and more recently, as their claims to represent all members of the Dalit community are challenged by Dalits of the younger generation.

Indian Labour Immigration and British Labour Policy in Nineteenth-Century Ceylon (pp575-602)
ROLAND WENZLHUEMER (Centre for British Studies, Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin)
During most of the nineteenth century, the economy of the British crown colony Ceylon depended almost exclusively on the export of plantation products. After modest beginnings in the 1820s and 1830s, coffee cultivation spread on the island in the 1840s. During the 1880s, the coffee plantations were superseded by plantations of a new crop-tea. Both cultivation systems were almost pure export monocultures, and both relied almost exclusively on imported wage labour from South India. Thus, it is surprising that labour immigration-a process vital to the efficient functioning of the plantation economy-received practically no government attention for the better part of the nineteenth century. Migration between South India and Ceylon was free of government control, support or regulation. Instead, certain functional equivalents-such as the kangany system-organised immigration and coordinated supply and demand. Only very late in the century, when the kangany system had revealed a number of dramatic organisational weaknesses, the Ceylon Government started to get directly involved in labour and immigration policy.

From Land to the Tiller to Land Liberalisation: The Political Economy of Gujarat's Shifting Land Policy (pp603-637)
NIKITA SUD (University of Oxford)
Land is a metaphor for power, wealth and status. Independent Gujarat's initial mass-development strategy centered on agriculture but the emphasis was on productivity and efficiency rather than land redistribution or social justice. A state apparatus and socio-political set-up dominated by elite landed upper and middle castes and classes ensured this. Primary fieldwork-based research shows that by the mid-1980s, with a growing acceptance of ideas of liberalisation at the national and international level, the elite consensus on land began to shift. This shift must also be placed within local socio-economic developments that had propelled dominant landed groups into agro-industry and small scale industry in the last third of the twentieth century. Gujarat's elite still wanted to control land, but they did not want the state to regulate land use or continue emphasising the diluted but powerful rhetoric of land to the tiller. The rightward shift of all political formations in Gujarat after 1985 and the growing importance of the upper caste-middle class merchant-trader-builder-small businessman dominated Bharatiya Janata Party further facilitated the moves towards a shift in land policy. Continuing changes in Gujarat's land policy are determinedly moving towards the complete liberalisation of land.

'An Untouchable in the Presence of Brahmins' Lord Wavell's Disastrous Relationship with Whitehall During His Time as Viceroy to India, 19437 (pp639-663)
The release of Peter Clarke's biography of Sir Stafford Cripps in 2002, with much of its focus on the protagonist's time in India, meant that a thorough reappraisal of Lord Wavell's time as Viceroy to India was clearly needed. By giving an impartial account of Wavell's relationship with Whitehall during his time as Viceroy this article will also focus on such significant events as the 1945 Simla Conference, the 1946 Cabinet Mission and Wavell's dismissal in late 1946/early 1947. It is hoped that by the end of this article readers will be able to judge Wavell's overall performance as Viceroy and decide for themselves whether he deserved to be replaced by Mountbatten or not.

Modern Asian Studies (2007)
Copyright ©2007 Cambridge University Press

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