South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - The Internal Frontier in the Colonial Imagination: State-Making, Forest Landscapes and the Dialectics of ‘Opening-Up’

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

Throughout the colonial period, the concept of ‘frontier’ was frequently used but remained undefined and lacked logical consistency. This paper attempts to chart out some long-term processes through which certain territories in central and eastern India became ‘internal frontiers’.


It outlines how the earliest travel accounts of colonial officials enframed densely forested areas as spaces of ‘wilderness’ with their associated dangers to human life and endeavors. Simultaneously, the idea of putting such spaces on a different administrative footing took roots whereby the operation of normal laws and regulations (both civil and criminal) applicable in normally administered areas were withheld from these forested landscapes. In 1833, the colonial state constituted the South West Frontier Agency which recognized the existence of an internal frontier.


The paper discusses new discourses of sovereignty wrought by the colonial state. It examines the moral need to suppress practices such as human sacrifice which provided the ideological justification for increasing its net of control over forest polities. The inter-linkages between the terms ‘Agency’ and the imagery of internal frontier are explored.


Finally, the paper outlines the practices of observation and appropriation prevalent in nineteenth-century colonial accounts. It argues that the ostensible reason for the representation of Bastar as a space full of untapped and ‘locked-up’ resources was the need for a ‘spatial reorganization’. The thrust on ‘opening up’ clear from the mid-nineteenth century onwards could be explained in this paradigm.

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1 - The Internal Frontier in the Colonial Imagination: State-Making, Forest Landscapes and the Dialectics of ‘Opening-Up’



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Send Email for The Internal Frontier in the Colonial Imagination: State-Making, Forest Landscapes and the Dialectics of ‘Opening-Up’