Abstract 22:7-24

Subramanian, Lakshmi (2013) Criminalising the subject: law, social reform in Colonial India. „Profilaktyka Społeczna i Resocjalizacja” 22: 7-24.



The paper discusses the idea of a colonised subject that emerged out of the legal process and the social realities that gave it a social context. The colonized subject was at times reduced to a criminal category — and at other times even excised out of history; in either case, the process embodied the complexities and ambiguities of the role of law in the process of colonial power and its state project. This essay seeks to point to some of these instances and in the process make a case for revisiting the social history of law, or in other words for assessing the relationship of law to wider social relations. The colonial state had to compete with other sources of traditional authority and entitlement about the right to take life of oneself or of others. The paper refers to some specific instances of state intervention and of defining criminality, but not to project a sense of the exceptional about Indian society but to draw attention to precisely those areas of ambiguity that made colonial law a complex project fraught with tensions and ambiguities. The failure to condemn certain practices outright and the tendency to conflate religion with custom and tradition had the effect of pathologising India as the site of permanent difference and of condemning the Indian subject to an always deferred state of reform and improvement.



colonial India, law, subject, criminalization, sati, thugs, devadasi