Kings, Jurists, Ascetics and Outcasts: Discontinuous Histories of ‘Sovereignty’ in South Asia

Speaker Bio:
Prathama Banerjee is a historian at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. Here research interests lie in the areas of political philosophy, literary studies and cultural history. She is the author of Politics of Time: ‘primitives’ and history-writing in a colonial society (Oxford University Press, 2006) and Elementary Aspects of the Politcal: histories from the global south (Duke University Press, 2020, forthcoming).

In this presentation, Dr. Banerjee, looks back, as a historian of modern South Asia, into the far past and asks: what does a deep history of sovereignty look like in this part of the world? Does the term sovereignty – defined as the power to institute and suspend law – adequately capture the diverse and dispersed regimes of rule that south Asia has seen through centuries? Where indeed does law reside in this history? How productive is it to focus on the state and processes of state formation in this inquiry as has been the convention among historians?

She proposes that to understand the nature of sovereignty in south Asia we must attend to the changing relationship between social authority and political authority. Questions of state power and the law must become a constitutive part of this inquiry into the ‘social constitution’, requiring us to set aside the social/political and society/state binaries constitutive of modern thought. She also proposes the ‘anti-social’ as one important category animating this inquiry – indexed by the ascetic, the untouchable, the forest dweller and counter- intuitively the Brahmin himself, the legislator and classifier of society who rivaled the king’s claims of sovereignty and immunity. She ends by briefly reflecting on the contemporary implications of this long history and the importance as well as difficulties of breaching periodization protocols of history as a discipline.

Date: October 7, Wednesday
Time: 6:00 pm -7:30 pm
ID: 93705517120
Password: 498845


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