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Strategic Reserves of the Modern State: Frontier Governance in South Asia and the British Empire, c.1760s-c.1950s

April 5 @ 12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

Fellow seminar with Tathagata Dutta, CHAT Dissertation Fellow and PhD Candidate in History.

About the talk:
The talk is an overview of a dissertation-in-progress–Strategic Reserves of the Modern State. The core of the dissertation involves the study of frontier making in eastern South Asia into Burma by the British Empire and to comparatively evaluate the process with frontier governance in the Thirteen Colonies and subsequently the USA. Although there were differences, it is the dynamics of empire as constituted by the British Empire and its successor forms of dominant socio-economic order that unites the histories of frontier governance in South Asia and North America. The 1763 Royal Proclamation which tried to set the Appalachian Mountains as a frontier for the Thirteen Colonies in North America was replicated a century later in South Asia with the creation of the Inner Line through the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873. Spaces beyond the Appalachians and the Inner Line were ostensibly meant to be preserved for indigenous peoples beyond the pale of colonial rule. Yet in both cases the frontiers kept extending until reaching geographical limits or checked by a rival power. The indigenous peoples in both North America and South Asia’s eastern frontiers were restricted to ‘reserves’–into islands of ambiguous sovereignty. This dissertation seeks to unpack the functionality of keeping such spaces of ambiguous sovereignty where colonial/settler colonial state laws did not protect the inhabitants yet full extractive powers of the modern state could be deployed. Finally, this is a history of inequities that post-colonial states inherited from the mechanisms of empire. Inequities that created similar structural violence on three seemingly disparate groups: the Rohingya in Myanmar (Burma), the Miya in India, and Native Americans in the United States. Through a combination of archival and ethnographic research methods I aim to place South Asia in context of broader historical changes of the British Empire and emergence of post-colonial states which inherited colonial modes of governance.


April 5
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm


Center for the Humanities


Fung House
48 Professors Row
Medford, MA 02155 United States
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