Okimoto Room, E307
Free and Open to the Public.
Tanika Sarkar (Jawaharlal Nehru University), "Between Faith and State : Colonial Personal Laws in the Long Nineteenth Century"
This lecture explores the intertwined processes of colonial state- formation and Indian community- formation in nineteenth century India. While there are excellent studies of the making of revenue, property and criminal laws under colonial rule, the focus on Personal Laws that governed marriage, ritual, faith and caste according to Hindu and Islamic scripture and custom has been rather narrow. Historians have read them in the light of state activism alone at the point of law making. I argue that they require a much larger canvas if we are to adequately grasp their long-term implications. We need to attend far more seriously to Indian controversies in the emergent public sphere which impacted state policies, and which also eventuated in rethinking gender, family and social justice in ways that far exceeded the letters of law. This also allows us a fresh look at aspects of the colonial state in the context of this specific legal sphere. I argue that in this realm, the state critically abridged its sovereignty with consequences that still remain with us. I will first outline their broad parameters to discuss their possibilities and constraints as the state grappled with the issues they raised. I will then revisit the well known history of widow immolations to flesh out my argument.
Tanika Sarkar is an acclaimed historian of women’s histories and social movements in colonial and post-colonial India. She retired as Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, and is the author of numerous books including but not limited to Bengal 1928-34 : The Politics of Protest( Oxford, 1987), Women and Right-Wing Movement: Indian Experiences (Zed Books, 1998), Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion and Cultural Nationalism (Indiana University Press, 2001 ), Rebels, Wives, Saints: Designing Selves and Nations in Colonial Times (Seagull, 2009), Caste in Modern India: A Reader (Permanent Black, 2013), and Words to Win: The Making of a Modern Autobiography (University of Chicago, 2014). She has published widely in numerous journals and edited book volumes. Her more recent research focuses on the 19th century cultural nationalism and also the rise of the Hindu right in India with particular attention to its implications and impacts for women.