Economic & Political Weekly, December 26, 2009 vol xliv no 52
BOOK REVIEW "Landscapes and the Law: Environmental Politics, Regional Histories and Contests over Nature" by Gunnel Cederlof.
Debates on India’s colonial legacy have understandably been vexatious. For long, historians tended to emphasise ruptures or searched for neat demarcations between the colonial and the colonised. The British, such studies maintained, not only decisively effected dramatic transformations in pursuit of domination and extraction, but unfolded their presence in the continent as a singular, united and internally consistent project. Recent turns in scholarship, however, have sought to unsettle these elegant and avowedly uncomplicated assessments of colonial intentions or their varied impacts. Such revisionist scholarship, in contrast, has overwhelmingly characterised the colonial encounters as resulting in messy, liminal, ambiguous or hybrid outcomes. In effect, the colonial project rather than being assembled as a series of obdurate boundaries with sharp edges is now argued to have functioned osmotically; with strategies for empire made up of fluid calculations and many an outcome realised through intricate political blends. Landscapes and the Law is, undoubtedly, a significant and compelling addition to this revisionist mood.
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