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Week 8 Meridian notes

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Neville Panthaki

1. Castes of Mind by Nicholas Dirks Nicolas Dirks, an anthropologist and historian of India, examines how knowledge about castes were transformed under colonial rule he traces ththdevelopment of historithl and anthropological scholarship produced by a series of British officials and Indian intellectuals from the early 19tury to the middle of the 20 century in creating this intellectual genealogy, Dirks challenges existing ideas that the caste system was a traditional practice of India, instead, he argues that the idea of castes was used to create the image of India as a traditional society by creating knowledge about Indias caste system, British colonial officers were able to justify the continuing existence of colonialism caste as a phenomenon became an instrument for characterizing Indians as inherently unable to rule themselves in comparative sociology and in common parlance, caste has become a central figure of speech for India, metonymically indexing it as fundamentally different from other places, figuratively expressing its essence a long history of writing had identified caste as the basic form and expression of Indian society caste has been seen as always there in Indian history, and as one of major reasons why India has no history, or at least no sense of history caste defines the core of Indian tradition, and caste is today the major threat to Indian modernity, even if we concede that it helped pave the way for the modern or realize that it has been exacerbated by modern institutions theories of caste are not only about society but about politics and history as well essential difference between East and West, between the recent histories of India and Europe, would lie in the invention of the modern nation state in 18ury Europe, which went hand-in-hand with the construction of a new form of civil society in India caste, so colonial sociology had it, always resisted political intrusion; it was already a kind of civil society in that it regulated and represented the private domain, such as it was; but a society based on caste could not be more different from modern Western society, for caste neither permitted the development of voluntarist or politically malleable social institutions, nor did it work to reinforce the modern state; indeed, caste actively resisted modern state even more than it did old, for the modern state opposed rather than supported dharma social identity was importantly political, as too were the contexts in which different units became formed, represented, and mobilized and politics took on its shape and meaning in relation to local and regional systems of power in which headsmen (of lineages, temples, villages), gurus (leaders of sects and monasteries), warrior leaders, chiefs, and kings were figures of central importance, with authority over constituencies that from certain perspectives could look and act like caste groups the transformations of Indian society under British rule, as also the contemporary concerns of comparative sociology, are the products not only of a 19ntury orientalism but also of the colonial intervention that actively removed politics from colonial societies neither British administrators nor orientalists were able to go to India and invent caste through sheer acts of will and rhetorical fancy, however useful caste was as a social mechanism to assist in the management of an immensely complex society what orientalism did most successfully in the Indian context was to assert the pre-colonial authority of a specifically colonial form of power and representation, thereby playing a critical role in disguising the politics of caste Colin Mackenzie hired and trained a group of Brahman assistants who helped him collect local histories of kingly dynasties, chiefly families, castes, villages, temples, monasteries, as well as other local traditions and religious and philosophical texts in a variety of Indian languages on his initiative and with his own resources Mackenzie also played an important if contradictory role in the rescuing of south Indias pre-colonial historiography unlike most of his contemporaries he did not disparage or dismiss out of hand Indian historical accounts or sensibilities, nor did he assume that his Brahman assistants were mere informers, acknowledging frequently and generously the extremely important role played by his assistants in defining as well as transcribing the sociology of knowledge in pre-colonial peninsular India caste was the site for detailing a record of the customs of the people, the locus of all important information about Indian society this information, which the colonial state felt increasingly compelled to collect, organize, and disseminate, would thus become available for a wide variety of governmental initiatives and activitiesrelating to almost every form of executive action potential subjectivity of Indian subjects was not suppressed outright but shifted into the cultural logic of reproduction implied by terms such as custom and tradition, which in India meant castes at same time, under colonialism caste became specifically Indian form of civil society, the most critical site for the textualization of social identity but also for specification of public and private domains, rights and responsibilities of the colonial sate, the legitimating conceits of social freedom and societal control, and the development of the documentation and certification regimes of the bureaucratic state it seems clear in the Indian case that the forms of casteism and communalism that continue to work against the imagined community of the nascent nation state have been imagined as well; however, they have been imagined precisely thorough and within the same historical mechanisms that in the colonizing nations of Europe and America were far more securely harnessed to the project of state formation and they have been imagined with such success that when people think of India, they must now insistently be reminded that Indias postcolonial condition is not its pre-colonial fault 2. The Legacy of the Mutiny by Thomas R. Metcalf this classic account of 1857 mutiny argues that nature of British rule changed when Indian soldiers revolted against their British superiors Metcalf links the emergence of liberalism and the ideas of English thinkers and writers John Stuart Mill, Thomas Macaulay, and Jeremy Bentham to the emergence of a particular type of colonialism in which Indians were seen by liberal Britons to be responsive to self- improvement, social reform, and education so that they might at some point govern themselves the violence of the mutiny challenged these liberal ideas, and after 1857, Metcalf argues, colonial ideologies became much more focused on preserving what many felt were Indias traditional practices this turn toward tradition, ironically, depended on Britons envisioning Indians as their racial and social superiors the Viceroy, Lord Canning, though deeply stirred by events of the Mutiny, never succumbed to passions which issued in indiscriminate vengeancefrom the beginning he remained calm and acted with deliberation in May he severely reprimanded Colvin at Agra for issuing a proclamation which allowed the Meerut mutineers to return unpunished to their homes, and in the autumn he lamented the unauthorized act at Delhi which enabled the King to escape with his life www.notesolution.com
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