Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India

by Bernard S. Cohn

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Cohn argues that the British Orientalists’ study of Indian languages was important to the colonial project of control and command. He also asserts that an arena of colonial power that seemed most benign and most susceptible to indigenous influences–mostly law–in fact became responsible for the institutional reactivation of peculiarly British notions about how to regulate a colonial society made up of “others.” He shows how the very Orientalist imagination that led to brilliant antiquarian collections, archaeological finds, and photographic forays were in fact forms of constructing an India that could be better packaged, inferiorized, and ruled. A final essay on cloth suggests how clothes have been part of the history of both colonialism and anticolonialism.

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