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Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge Paperback – August 19, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0691000435 ISBN-10: 0691000433

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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Studies in Culture/Power/History
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 19, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691000433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691000435
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #300,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Bernard Cohn's interest in the construction of Empire as an intellectual and cultural phenomenon has set the agenda for the academic study of modern Indian culture for over two decades. His earlier publications have shown how dramatic British innovations in India, including revenue and legal systems, led to fundamental structural changes in Indian social relations. This collection of his writings in the last fifteen years discusses areas in which the colonial impact has generally been overlooked. The essays form a multifaceted exploration of the ways in which the British discovery, collection, and codification of information about Indian society contributed to colonial cultural hegemony and political control.

Cohn argues that the British Orientalists' study of Indian languages was important to the colonial project of control and command. He also asserts that an arena of colonial power that seemed most benign and most susceptible to indigenous influencesmostly lawin fact became responsible for the institutional reactivation of peculiarly British notions about how to regulate a colonial society made up of "others." He shows how the very Orientalist imagination that led to brilliant antiquarian collections, archaeological finds, and photographic forays were in fact forms of constructing an India that could be better packaged, inferiorized, and ruled. A final essay on cloth suggests how clothes have been part of the history of both colonialism and anticolonialism.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on September 2, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a collection of five previously published essays that explore aspects of British colonialism in India during its five centuries of involvement there. This collection originally published in the 1980s and 1990s offers insights into how the English collection, organization, and systematization of knowledge about Indian society led to a belief in the Indian inferiority and therefore absolved the empire of guilt about the colonial status it placed the Indian subcontinent under. In essence, the British constructed a mythical India that deserved, and was even raised through the cultural hegemony and political control emphasized by Great Britain.

In this decidedly challenging book Bernard S. Cohn, a longtime professor at the University of Chicago, lays out a model for understanding empire using the British construction of India as an example. He views it as fundamentally an intellectual and cultural phenomenon. Like the work of Edward Said, Cohn helped to establish the modern conceptions of colonialism with this important study. The first major section deals with language, both that of command and that of subservience, as the British asserted control over India in the eighteenth century. Gaining a knowledge of the many languages of the region, and codifying the people who spoke them under a single English language, enforced the sense of control the empire exercised over their daily lives.

Likewise, the imposition of law—both British precedent and Indian practice—under a single legal system ensured suzerainty over the colonial population. Through the use of legal mechanisms, Cohn finds that the British not only established order in India but also established legitimacy as the rulers of the vast “other” of the population.
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4 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Isabel Mascarenhas on December 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
A very interesting and important book. After reading it, we begin thinking about the Colonial Theater in a different way.This book analyses the interconnections between the Empire and India and the Indian's influences to the Rag. People who studies about these subjects MUST read this book.
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