Panel presentations followed by roundtable discussion
Many regions in Asia have once been governed by (colonial) regimes from outside. How did these regimes attempt to gain grip over the gamut of diverse Asian societies, and connect to different indigenous governing cultures? What has been the role of officials, local intermediaries and power-brokers vis-à-vis governed people in this process? How has colonized Asia been governed?
This panel will seek answers to these questions. By perceiving both Asian and European colonial empires and states in Asia from ca. 1700 to present from a similar perspective, it aims to bridge gaps crossing regions and time, and come to a fuller and more theoretical understanding of how imperial and modern colonial bureaucracies tried to govern. It specifically seeks to identify similarities across Asia in formal and informal governing techniques.
As shown in Peter Crooks and Timothy Parsons’ Empires and bureaucracy in world history (2016), any large empire that has ever existed faced similar difficulties of governance in imposing rule, managing extraction (collecting taxes) and infusing local societies with imperial dogmas. As the outreach of governments and the influence they have had on subjects and citizens were delineated by these difficulties, identifying them is of great importance.
Part of state bureaucracies’ weaknesses might be explained by difficulties in communicating directly with subjects and citizens, and dichotomies between policy and practice in diffusing ideas concocted by technocrats in a metropole over the empire, colonial state or nation. Therefore, informal procedure, when bureaucracy does not work, should be investigated as well. For this panel, we want to pay close attention to the interaction and tensions between central and local bureaucracies, and to the role of local power brokers through which metropoles mediated their agendas. Placed on the crossroad between empire and local society, the activities of these local brokers should reveal both metropolitan ideologies as well as the resilience of incorporated regions.
By comparing research on fiscal state building and paper culture in India, mapmaking and the production of geographical knowledge in Mongolia, and taxation as a governmental tool in Indonesia, this panel will delineate an innovative first step to establish a wider understanding of colonial statecraft and governance in modernizing Asia. Eventually, the panel will help to reflect on historical and contemporary societal problems and questions of governance bureaucracy, both in and beyond Asia.
This panel will be continued in a roundtable.