Organizer: Anand A. Yang, University of Utah
Chair: Philippa Levine, University of Southern California
Discussants: Anand A. Yang, University of Utah; Douglas Peers, University of Calgary
All the papers on this back-to-back panel share a common interest in analyzing the interrelated processes of the construction of colonial boundaries and the variety of ways in which people resisted or transgressed these boundaries. They are also linked together by their shared concern in examining and mapping the workings of the processes as they impinged on and were confronted by a variety of groups. And all the papers, except one, focus specifically on various aspects relating to the colonial military. Although all the panelists are interested in looking at the discursive sites and practices of colonial power and knowledge, they will concentrate more on looking at the actual applications of colonial discursive practices and their relation to indigenous society.
The first panel looks at the initial efforts of the emerging colonial state in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to deploy its technologies of power to discipline space and people. The three presentations will focus on both the efforts of the rising colonial power to control and colonize indigenous society as well the attempts to accommodate, thwart, and resist these efforts. Whether the locale is Delhi or the focus is on Himmat Bahadur or the initial generation of Indians who journey to Britain, the papers will show how colonial boundaries were fixed literally and metaphorically at the macro- and local-levels, and how these were redrawn, reinterpreted, reproduced, or resisted by different Indian groups.
The second set of papers shifts attention to the workings of the same processes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this session too the interest is in tracing the colonial state's efforts to intrude into and reshape indigenous society on the one hand and, on the other hand, to show the acts and practices of accommodation and resistance that these efforts generated. A paper on the formation of the Company Army reveals the complex process involved in enforcing local discipline even as the technology of colonial power has to confront and accommodate local imperatives and conditions. The other two papers in this panel concern Indians abroad whose experiences in combat and in foreign settings necessitated the establishment of additional boundaries of control and provided additional opportunities and moments for compliance and transgression.
At home and abroad, in discourse and in practice, colonial rule constructed and colonized boundaries, disciplinary lines of separation and control that were transgressed in a multiplicity of ways by a variety of individuals and groups.
The Delhi Frontier, 1200-1800
Jos Gommans, Instituut Kern, Rijks Universiteit, Leiden
By focusing on the logistics of nomadism, trade, and military maneuvering, this paper will address the pervasive tension between disruptive mobility (based on extensive grazing areas) and orderly settlement (based on large irrigation projects) in the larger Delhi area. This janus-faced feature of Delhi is also highlighted in the contrasting tone of the literary and oral traditions of the 'wild' tribes living in the neighboring jungles (e.g., Mewatis and Bhattis) and the well-known chronicles written at the central palace. I will attempt to explain this area's role as a political center in the context of its location along the extensive frontier area that separates the semi-arid zones of Central and Western Asia from monsoon India. I also intend to reexamine the notion of a strongly centralized Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire. Thus, my paper will broadly review the checkered history of the capital of South Asia from the coming of Islam to the early British colonial period.
Himmat Bahadur for Hire: In the Service of Awadh, Maratha, and the East India
William R. Pinch, Wesleyan University
At first glance, the meaning of the title will be obvious to those familiar with the political and military history of Gangetic north India during the transition to British colonial rule. Himmat Bahadur was a commander of troops whose services were for hire, and whose considerable military and political skills, not to mention his instinct for useful intelligence, rendered him a highly valued ally. In the 1760s he controlled the revenues of the Doab on behalf of the Awadh state; by the 1770s and 80s he was playing the role of king-maker in and around Delhi, serving among others the Persian adventurer Najaf Khan and the Maratha commander Mahadji Sindia; by the 1790s he was instrumental in affording the Maratha Peshwa control over Bundelkhand, only to hand that pivotal province over to the East India Company in 1804. Thus at varying stages of his career, he served the interests of most of the major powers of northern and central India.
The object of the present paper is to examine key moments in the military and political career of Himmat Bahadur, and more importantly, to juxtapose what is revealed of him in established state sources in English as well as Persian, Hindi, and Marathi, against quasi-hagiographical accounts of his life as both a valiant warrior and great ascetic. Such an investigation will not only give us a fuller picture of this remarkable man but will also reveal a great deal about the culture of arms during the transition to colonial rule, in particular the ways in which status and group identity were a function of military accomplishment. The paper will also serve to shed light on an important phase of the complex history of soldier asceticism in northern India. The aim here will be to try to perceive how Raja Himmat Bahadur Anupgiri Gosain, as he usually referred to himself, understood his role in society as both an ascetic (albeit an unusual one) and as a military man, and how he perceived the rise of the uncompromising modern state, whether in the form of the Maratha rajya or the English East India Company.
A Counterflow of Imperialism: Indians in Britain, 1780-1850
Michael H. Fisher, Oberlin College
The early British empire has often appeared as a unilateral expansion of Britons across India. Nevertheless, a range of people circulated from India to Britain, against the flow of imperialism. While the influence of India-returned British "nabobs" on English society has been in part explored, less attention has been paid to the smaller stream of Indians who entered British society during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This paper will examine Indians from several classes who emigrated from India and settled in Britain. Indians entered British society at all levels. The two most numerous group to come to London consisted of lascars (sailors) and servants. Despite official and unofficial British efforts to ship lascars out of England as quickly as possible, a surprising number remained in England for considerable periods. Similarly, an extensive body of Indian servants worked in England. As we move up in social class, numbers decline but visibility increases: middle and upper class Indians left more of a mark as individuals on English society. Through a combination of case studies and more quantitative analysis, this paper will examine the role and influence of Indians of several classes in Britain during this period.