chapter  3
Of Law and Land: Producing Peasants and Landlords in Bengal
Pages 24

This chapter continues the study of administrative rule in colonies. While the previous chapter focused on the production of a Chinese urban labouring class, impelled by the joint forces of colonial aesthetics and capitalism, this chapter looks at the attempt to form and regulate agrarian classes in Bengal in the late nineteenth century. This was also impelled by similar forces to that in Kuala Lumpur, but with some variations. A colonial aesthetics centred on the acquisition of knowledge, to an almost ludicrously detailed degree, seemingly for the sheer value of knowing and controlling; and capitalist logics centred on orienting agrarian practices away from ‘customary’ goals towards the market. Both these forces or logics centred on the making of discernible agrarian classes with clearly outlined rights and obligations to each other, to the land and to or before government. The colonial government’s intervention into agrarian practices tried to extract wholesale the entirety of these relations, and all their informalities, hierarchies and complications, from their social and cultural contexts, reorganise all these relations and practices with the help of cadastral surveys, and place it back in local contexts.