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Fear, Violence, and the Making of British Power in India

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This paper explores what may be called the ‘dark underside’ of the ideologies that sustained the British Raj. It argues argue that the British in India were obsessed with a fearfulness and an unreasoning belief in their own vulnerability as rulers, and that these enduring anxieties precipitated, and justified, an all too frequent recourse to violence, joined with an insistence on untrammelled executive power placed in the hands of district officers. This paper traces how these systemic anxieties and concerns about the security and stability of the colonial regime were inscribed into the very foundations of colonial power through an examination of one of the most spectacular and violent examples of colonial panic in the nineteenth century: the suppression of the so-called ‘Kooka outbreak’ of 1872.

This talk is part of the Centre of South Asian Studies Seminars series.

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