Behind the Mask: The Cultural Definition of the Legal Subject in Colonial Bengal (1715-1911)

By: Anindita Mukhopadhyay

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The colonial state deployed its most powerful ideological and operation rationale–the Rule of Law, on the indigenous elite at the turn of the nineteenth century. Behind the Mask investigates the deeper area of class antagonism between the privileged and underprivileged classes as they faced the colonial state and its different ideas of legality and sovereignty in colonial Bengal. It explores the ambiguity in the bhadralok–the educated middle class– response to courts and jails. The author argues that the discourse of superior ‘bhadralok’ ethics and morals was juxtaposed against the ‘chhotolok’ – who were devoid of such ethical values. This enabled the bhadralok to claim for themselves the position of the ‘aware’ legal subject as a class – a ‘good’ subject obedient to the dictates of the new rule of law, unlike the recalcitrant and ethically ill-equipped chhotolok. Mukhopadhyaya underlines the development of a new cultural language of morality that delineated the parameters of bhadralok public behaviour. As the ‘rule of law’ of the British government slid unobtrusively into the public domain, the criminal courts and the jails turned into public theatres of infamy – spaces that the ethically bound bhadralok dreaded occupying. The author documents how the colonial legal and penal institutions streamlined the identities of some sections of the lower castes into 'criminal classes’. She also examines the nature of colonial bureaucracy and highlights the social silence on gender female criminality.

Title: Behind the Mask: The Cultural Definition of the Legal Subject in Colonial Bengal (1715-1911)

Author Name: Anindita Mukhopadhyay

Categories: India, History, Culture, and Politics,

Edition: First Edition

Publisher: New Delhi, India, Oxford University Press: 2006

ISBN: 0195680839

ISBN 13: 9780195680836

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition: New

Jacket Condition: New

Seller ID: 019669

Keywords: Cultural Definition Bengal India