ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Darkness and the making of the rule of law: Colonial India, 1750s-1820s


Sinha Nitin - Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, Germany


24 – Timely Histories: A Social History of Time in South Asia


 The making of the ‘rule of law’ in colonial India has been thoroughly studied through the frameworks of colonial impunity (‘despotism of law’), regulative and institutional hybridity involved in colonial legal systems, and legal pluralism. Spatial distinctions, development of personal law systems, and cultures of jurisdictions have undergirded our current understanding on colonial legalities. This has led to a vibrant debate on the nature of the colonial state itself. In this paper, I wish to widen the debate by looking at legal temporality. What were the temporal concerns in the making of the colonial rule of law? In particular, the paper will look at the role of darkness in the institutional development of policing in early colonial Calcutta. Through a close analysis of those institutional practices, the larger point is to understand the role of darkness in the making of the rule of law.