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Presented By: Center for South Asian Studies

CSAS Kavita Datla Memorial Lecture | The Law That Refuses to Die: Preventive Detention in Early Colonial India

Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto

Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto
Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto
The British East India Company crafted the earliest freestanding statutory provision in the world for administration detention. The regulation, Bengal Regulation III, 1818, empowered the executive to seize and hold individuals indefinitely without trial. It acquired a long afterlife in legal codes in the British Empire beyond India. In postcolonial India, it has taken on many different incarnations.

Curiously, very little is known about this regulation. Why and how was it promulgated and why did it take the form it did, given that in the Company’s colonies, the executive was unfettered by legislative checks and the jurisdiction of habeas corpus was severely circumscribed? This paper will first account for how and why the early documents pertaining to this regulation disappeared in plain sight in the colonial archives, journeying to the upland edges of the Northern Circars. Dr. Raman will then show how the recuperation of events that led to Bengal III, 1818 challenges our understanding of administration detention as a paradigmatic expression of the constitutional guarantee of personal liberty and draw out the significance of this history for theories of emergency and the normalization of wartime law.

Bhavani Raman is Associate Professor at the Department of History at the University of Toronto. Raman’s research and teaching focus on histories of colonialism, especially as it pertains to questions of law, administration, and Tamil worlds. Other than a monograph on paperwork and writing in Tamil South India Document Raj: Writing and Scribes in Early Colonial South India (University of Chicago Press, 2012 and Permanent Black 2015), she has published on recordkeeping and property, ethics and elementary education, migration and return in the Bay of Bengal, and the history of Tamil Studies as an interdisciplinary formation. She is currently working on two projects, one, on early colonial security laws in South Asia and the second, on history of hydrological infrastructure in the city of Chennai, India using historical maps.

You may also watch this event on Zoon. Register for the webinar at: https://umich.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcpde6rqTIsGNAyak3IbHP32bla9e3VfZ55#/registration

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto
Bhavani Raman, University of Toronto

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