October
21
2018

Call for papers

Colonial Institutions and the Uses of Law in Early Modern South Asia

Call for papers deadline: 21 October 2018 

We invite papers for the one-day workshop Colonial Institutions and the Uses of Law in Early Modern South Asia in the framework of the Indian Ocean World in the 18th Century (IOW18) Workshop Series.

Event Date: 28 January 2019
Venue: Radboud University Nijmegen (Netherlands)

Organized by: Dries Lyna, Luc Bulten (both Radboud University Nijmegen) and Leonard Hodges (King’s College London), in partnership with Alicia Schrikker (Leiden University) and the Institute for Asian Studies (Leiden).
Discussant: Nandini Chatterjee (University of Exeter)

Law has long been recognised as one of the most important fields for understanding the creation and maintenance of the colonial state in South Asia. Historians have shown how both criminal and civil law were a means for subjugating and governing colonised populations, as legal codes and property regimes served to maintain the social order and legitimise the extractive capacity of the colonial state. Recent research shifted away from this top-down perspective, and close attention to the actions of indigenous litigants has revealed how local populations used colonial legal systems to serve their own interests, with a great deal of present-day work focusing on legal pluralism. Yet the vast majority of this literature has addressed the question of law and colonialism in South Asia through the lens of the British colonial experience, privileging a particular path with all its subsequent implications for how we conceptualise the trajectory of South Asian history. In addition, the strong focus on British 19th-century institutions seems to have blurred the possible influence of their early modern (or even pre-colonial) predecessors.

This one-day workshop seeks to complicate teleological readings of law and its relationship to colonial institutions and state-making by drawing on contexts beyond and before British domination in the subcontinent. By evoking the ‘uses of law’ we hope to capture both the constraints and opportunities the creation of colonial institutions posed for a wide range of people, whether colonial administrators, local elites, merchants, farmers or widows.

Central questions in this workshop are:

  • How did pluralistic settings affect the development of colonial institutions, and in what ways did these institutions appropriate and transform indigenous legalities?
  • How might local actors have sought to contest or benefit from particular colonial institutions?
  • And to what extent is it possible to capture indigenous agency when meditated through colonial institutions?

We therefore invite researchers to consider law in relation to 17th- and 18th-century colonial institutions, broadly defined, including courts of law, trading companies, religious missions and tax administrations.

Proposals

We welcome proposals from both junior and senior scholars with different geographical backgrounds, and comparative studies are certainly encouraged.

Abstracts (max. 300 words) should be sent to southasianlawradboud@gmail.com before October 22, 2018. Decisions on acceptance of presentations will be communicated no later than October 29, 2018.

For more information, contact one of the workshop’s organisers.