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Nisveta Dedić. Current Debates. Seminar 1, reflection 1. 4th of February 2014
The book “Founding an Empire on India’s North-Eastern Frontiers” is an overwhelming read; it almost seems as if the topic of the book, which is defined by fluidity and dynamic ecological conditions of north-eastern Bengal, is reflected in the structure of the text. The text does not aim to give a totalizing account of the polity-forming process and questions the conventional history writing within the frames of nation states and essentialized categories of colonizer-colonized. Having an interest in philosophy of law, I mostly followed the thread of subject formation in bureaucratic practices, since it offers a unique insight in how the mercantile corporation the East Indian Company (EIC) moulded common law with custom-based local practices to create a civil bureaucratic apparatus and how a corporate bureaucracy driven by heterogenous interests differs from centralizing tendencies of state bureaucracy. Thus my reading of the text was primarily read through my interest in legal history, but the text also pushed me to question my preconceived separation of legal history from ecological conditions. What seem as stable legal categories in codified law, such as legal subject, private property, legal and/or political rights of subjects, came under serious questioning in the region characterized by drastically shifting landscape and consequently livelihoods depending on it, which renders the European cadaster-like land assessment quite irrelevant.
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