ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Jon E WilsonSubscribe to Jon E Wilson

The Domination of Strangers: Time, Emotion and the Making of the Modern State in Colonial India

Historians and anthropologists have recently stressed the decentralised and fragmented nature of the power of the colonial and postcolonial state. Such perspectives, most recently articulated by Akhil Gupta, forget that state power often operates through precisely such a critique of the chaotic nature of government in the present, which it contrasts with the unified, coherent institution it attempts to create in the future. The language of fragmentation is a product of modern governance. This article traces the origins of modern state practices in India to the anxious efforts of colonial officials to govern a society they had little emotional connection with. The estranged relationship of colonial officials with Indian social practices allowed them to produce a "progressive" form of rule that lived in the future, and abandoned any attempt to meaningfully engage with India's present day.
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