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Title: Police Matters: Law and Everyday Life in Rural Madras, c.1900-1960
Authors: Kumar, Radha
Advisors: Prakash, Gyan
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Archive and Memory
Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
Everyday Life
Legal History
Spatial History
Subjects: History
South Asian studies
Modern history
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation uses the lens of policing to examine how the state and its law shaped everyday life in the Tamil countryside of Madras Presidency, southern India during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. Arguing against the image of a police institution barely present in the countryside, except on occasion to put down riots through a spectacular display of force, this study draws upon a wide range of sources - including judicial records, government reports, newspapers, films, and previously unexplored police surveillance registers, to contend that the colonial and postcolonial Indian states exercised quotidian authority over subject-citizens through their police. Through a close study of routine policing practices - walking the beat, recording a crime, interrogating suspects in custody, and managing public assemblies, this dissertation proposes, first, that the police were integral to the governmentalization of the state. The Madras police overcame their numerical disadvantage in the vast reaches of the countryside by drawing upon colonial knowledge that categorized Indian society into reified communities. Through a calibrated and near-continuous policing of communities, the colonial state penetrated rural society, ensuring the expansion of settled agriculture, the development of a productive labour force, and the circulation of people and commodities, an achievement that would have been considerably more challenging had the state's efforts been directed towards managing individual subjects. The Tamil countryside, far from being a bastion of traditional hierarchy, was actively shaped by colonial institutions. Second, this dissertation demonstrates that through the police, the state performed everyday violence on its subjects at the moment of law enforcement. State coercion was accomplished as much through the ostensible abuses of police authority as through legally sanctioned acts of police violence. Further, since police violence was intertwined with judicial procedure, it was invariably sheltered from judicial penalty. Therefore, subject-citizens negotiated police authority more effectively in the realm of politics than through the judicial apparatus. While in colonial India, these politics were limited to the liberal public sphere and, more locally, to channels of rumour and gossip, in postcolonial Madras, electoral politics offered an avenue where citizens could negotiate coercive state authority.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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