Home > Book Summary > Book Summary, Manu Goswami, Producing India from Colonial Economy to National Space

Book Summary, Manu Goswami, Producing India from Colonial Economy to National Space

As the title indicates Manu Goswami traces the production of India. The term production is well fit here especially since the author focuses on the dynamics between colonial policy, their consumption by locals and the emergence of a reaction to colonial policies. This is a really nice book, well written and covers the time period in an easily readable and thorough manner. It attempts to specifically mix the global trends of the times with local conditions and is critical of the post-colonial nationalism that emerged out of colonialism in a way which does not undermine their achievements. His methodology is especially oriented against the trend of national methodologies where the borders of the study stop at national boundaries, instead Goswami traces global threads and trends into local and regional events and shows how they came together to produce India by 1950.

In several fields, pedagogy, transport, economics, knowledge, production, ideology, the British implemented policies, they had a locval effect, people reacted in their new epistemologies and these were directed against british all under changing global trends on economic nationalism, and capitalism. Ultimatley resulted in protests and convergance of local theology of hinduism foundaional myths and liberal economics and modern ideas of progress fusing into anti-colonial movement. Muslim had different experiene of founding  India.


“It suggests that social spaces—colonial and national, political and economic, material and imagined—do not emerge from self-evident geographies, nor do they exist in mutual isolation. Rather, they are co-constituted through the complex “superimposition and interpenetration” of socioeconomic structures, state practices, cultural forms, and collective agency on multiple spatiotemporal scales.”(6)]

To engage Indian nationalism  particular locations should be placed in their global context. Nationalism has a simultaneous particular and universal character in the modern era.

Move from pre-colonial, to colonial space, from colonial to national space. Colonial practices had multifaceted consequences, among which were the creation of new ways of thinking of the self and of others, of history of space, of economics, of pedagogy, of unity. One of the more problematic consequences of national colonialism is that the Muslim group was cast as an outsider and dissenter in Indian society.

“However, these works have paid less attention to the ways in which broader social processes and institutions—
such as the dynamics of the interstate system, the expansive logic of capital, the institutionalized tie between nationhood and statehood—shape the political-economic and discursive structure of nationalism. By relegating nationalism to a discursive domain, these works repeat, rather than overcome, such classical dichotomies as objectivity/subjectivity and universality/ particularity.” (15)

Nationalism is singular and particular in its space but it is global as a trend. Focusing on nationalism as singular or as natural and deeply ingrained in reaction to unnatural or unauthentic colonialism hides how nationalism was a result of modern processes of (anti)colonialism and was not a return but a movement somewhere else.There is an internalist methodological bias in studying nationalism which cuts it off from its global context and the movement of human social values over longer periods of time. (20)

Anti-colonial nationalism, a product of colonialism or does it overcome it? Chaterjee thinks it a tragedy that anticolonialism falls into the same colonial practices. Can they be overcome? Is there going back? But in any case chatterjee risks projecting nationalism as an all European project when in fact it was very loal, but emerged out of interaction, it was absolutely Indian.

(27) the work goes both historically and geographically deeper. Takes space and time seriously, spatialized history. Relational production of all spatial places. Also focuses on global sentiments of modernity and on the transnational and structural determinants of nationalization.

Chapter 1:

India was under the East India Company which had a diverse and non coordinated set of arrangements with different regions.  There was no map of india, no common currency and no follow up. In 1857 queen victoria changed allthat and England became directly responsible over India. Partly because of waning British power, partly because of closure of European markets, and partly because of changing political ideas of colonialism the brits came in to modernize India while maintain its traditional specificities. The tension between stated policy of maintaining tradition and modernization led to discrepancies in the lives of Indians. There was a move from mercantile to colonial capitalism. The very practices that promoted homogenization also promoted differentiation within Indian society.Tension between britain trying to appear as natural and benevolent ruler and mercantilism and free market ideology.

Against space as completely discursive and interpreted as foucault, but also against it as eternal and external. Space is built and acted in. (based on Lefebvre) (35)

Capitalism itself is contradictory and multiple space-time forms. Not one driving logic. Vs Marx.(37) Against historicist ignorance of orthodox marxian assumptions, local results of capital between internal inconsistencies in capitalism and success of resistance mechanisms., (40)

Expansion of british influence in india as transfer to crown from east india company, as shift in ideology to free trade and need to invest surplus labour into land. New logic focused on producing new space to occupy, territorial colonialism, old mercantilist logic focused on payment of tribute.

move from laissez faire to governemnt intervention. India could not be governed without it. This method of state gaurantees on financing public works was extended from railways elsewhere. So state guaranteed private companies 5% returns on railroad.importance. “Technological innovations in communications networks deepened the state’s infrastructural capacity and, by accelerating the circulation of capital, enhanced the integration of colonial India within the broader imperial space economy.”

Tragedy of the commons repeating  itself in India. “1860s and 1870s, natural resources such as minerals,
mines, timber, and the like and all uncultivated land, drainage runs for irrigation tanks, public space in towns, villages, and cities, seashores, and riverbeds were delimited as state property. Among the most dramatic instances of the authoritative appropriation and delimitation of land as state space concerned the institutionalization of
the novel category of state forests.” Locals were uninformed and their land and source of sustenance was taken from under them. (seems like british state had recurrent patterns of action from home to abroad)

British investmeent in irrigation ad railways targeted the North. This flipped the traditional centers of prosperity and created growth in north  but iimpoverished south India. Transportation was meant for goods not people, so short distance travel was as expensive as long distance. It  cost just a much to transfer coal to manchester as it did from Delhi to Jaipur. “distinctiomn between port cities and inland centers. British glorified certain cities and let others languish. Railways not used to transport people, but for long-distance transportation of goods.”(61)

India actrively turned into consumer. Since all product went to britain then britain sold back to India.The creation of the economy of the indian state occured by british hands and in specific directions to serve the UK. “The spatial morphology of the transportation system, the structure of railway rates, and the location and planning of large-scale irrigation works
privileged export-oriented agricultural production.” (62) Local markets were closer to imperial markets than to each other. So homogenization into global economy  but difference.

“respectively, the image of colonial India as made up of bounded village republics acquired a selfevident
status.” (64) but obviously it wasn;t like that,  there were major cities as centers of commerce and an imperial system under the Mughals, villages became what they were and what Ghandi later saw them to be, Romantic, untouched and isolated because of british development.

Colonial state contradiction, should care for tenats but exports all economic produce leading to rise in land prices and famine, but combating it by more laws which were aaimed at returning india to an ideal state it never was at, when the problem was actually the sate itself. Separation of politics from economics.Production of value is national, realization of value was imperial. Economic disparity of scales and returns.1894 crisis of british hegemony reverberated into the changing role of india in the UK. Also due to shift in economy in the world from imperial territorial capitalism to nationally protected economies.

India had a deficit to britain and surplus to other coutnries, in 1890 it became a center piece for the survival of british colonial aspirations and key to the local british economy, and an international tool for economic manipulation.

” Rather, the multiple relations and processes subsumed under the singular rubric of the “global” must be conceived as taking effect within and shaped by local, regional, and everyday spaces and relations. It is through the intersections of multiple geographies that specific spaces—colonial and national—acquire both their singularity and interdependence
in the modern global era.”(72)

Chapter 2

beginning with law and demarcation of India as a single fiscal unit under one system of accounting. moving to producing knowledge oriented around colonial state. Moving to using these numbers to actually map out space and divide cities villages towns etc… (80)The knowledge fo standardized economy was taught to locals. This created a standardized India, but it also gave the subject power of negotiation with the British citizen. (84)

consolidation of state money as the unit of currency all over India. UK forced silver standard ruppee of India and bank notes while local currency and exchange systems of debt and credit were more robust. Finally incorporated into economy after much time. spacial shift from previous cities which issued currency to bombay and calcutta which were closer to british centers of govt.negotiation on currency between local forms and European custom. Not one sided imposition.Inability to cash sterling pound locally due to british policies more than anything, non-transferability between circles, domestic ruppee, and no central bank. (107)

Chapter 3

legitimation of colonial rule based in civilizing influence of railways.(119)

The quick adoption of locals to train transportation challenegd initial british rhetoric on natives as shy and immobile. Train transport was a high class affair in Britain so it was a surprise that in India it was third and fourth class tickets which provided 90% of the revenue, in many ways India and the space between colonizer and colonized is what produced this mobility which moderns could say is progressive. (121) Homogenization created by trains accentuated calls for social distinction in trains by Indians and respect for local customs.With the homogenization of train routes there came the inequality inherent in capitalism. The laboureres for this masive work were created by the railroad project itself as it rendered landless many peasants. (123)

production of work pragmattc knowledged created a sociology that gave favour to some indians over others by narrating their history and their utility for work. If it started with background of labourer, it became the function of labourer. Was it then accepted by locals? (124)location of railway determined by military strategy and anitary concerns. of British. Should be highground for defense. opposite reacitons one saw homogenization and nation building the other undermining tradition and destruction of morality. (141)

Trains turn from method of colonial capitalist expansion of infrastructure to finally a vector by which secular pilgrimage can be take to discover Indian identity. Appropriation of trains by anti-colonial and nationalistic movem,ent,.

Chapter Four

Codification of space coincided with territorialization of space, new lexicon was introduced to create understanding of the new spaces. In tanem to the material process there was an ideological process going on as well. (145)

The teaching of consumerism through humanism.(147)

hierarchy of education with masses getting useful knowledge not higher education. Teach measurement in school to increase and standardize revenue collection. (these were later used to prove that britain was exploiting India)old knowledge is fictitious new knowledge has to be provided from scratch. Replaced land measurement with new ways of valuing land by soil type, made a whiole series of jobs redundant. (149)

Efforts by europeans to teach local experts their ways of measuring because they knew the land. Interesting mix. the need for local data collectors met by schools in villages,(152)

Chapter 5

maps situate the place of india in the world and its borders. Maps became crucial in cementing the place of India and its borders. (158)

common theme, the creation of inequality by intention to homogeneity.reaction by local that they wanted the sciences accessible to all and in in the Indian language and linked to national needs not british ones. (163)

India n anti-colonial movement emphasized indian unity, but that unity itself was of a colonial logic which didn’t exist befotre britain arrived. So the construction of India was initiated by British actions which were then coopted by the local population. Ghandi sees a pristine ideal village untouched by the railroad, others see the progress inherent in western technology but both these things belong in the colonial narrative not the old Indian one. This doesn’t mean they are any less potent but just an academic observation.

The formation of indian identity by relying on pre-colonial historical texts as well as the colonial imposed boundaries of belonging.(167)

Bharatu the first King of India, India as Bharat with borders coinciding with colonial boundaries. Use of mythology and religion to support nationalism, but it  was used in ways which built on existing colonial divisions and were territorial in a very modern manner.

Chapter 6

Supposedly ancient history in 1860-1870 had no relation to the epistemology of the pre-colonial historical naration in Puranic histories. These were within a divine timeline and space was different and politically different as well from modern concepts. In contrast the anti-colonial histories are quite modern and they react to the experience of colonialism such as wage labour etc… Even though they claim a link with the past they are part of the present.

Global period of nationalism, where making history meant making a national space, because the historical discipline did not exist outside of state boundaries. Variety of historical studies, this is a really nice chapter. Last traditional history told as religion, then british, then Indian in British style loss of ancient method of historiozation in religion.

Development of public space of publicity. Especially the press which mltiplied. The habits of the middle and upper class were to emulate british standards. (Want to keep poor class Indian as source of authenticity?)rxn to or because of colonial state? positives of colonialism? parallel to Lebanon/Syria where private non-religious sschooling as rxn to public empire schools. but schools were for a purpose like british but instead of for commerce they were for military conscription.

State came in and hundreds of presses proliferated and then ULK placed rules to limit them.Seminal text of shiva prasad bridgin european history and puranas to give an account not yet conformed by nationalism and not in the ancient traditions. (176)

inversion of enlightenment progress to a narrative of decline. (182)Establishment of history of great ideal ancient time, Mulsim arrival signaled decay..Formation of the Indian individual through his knowledge of Indian history.

Internal divisions became more detailed as maps of india and geographies were distributed. These internal divisions were racists, prejudiced, and stereotyping of other people but they did not necessarily stem from colonialism or so argues author, rather they stem from the institutional realities of everyday life which colonualism had implemented and therefore separated people functionally.(192)Transformation of India as repository of many different peoples as put forth by British to India the land of the people of Bharat not many where others should be kicked out.

India as mother, land etc. Becoming female.(200)

Construction of the self is accomplished in negation to  the other.Development of India as mother also reflected the insecurity with respect o land as it was being disappropriated.

Chapter 7

National economy as separate from colonial economy became crystalized in 1870 on because of increasing compettion in global economy against britain so that the global economy no longer corresponded to the british economy and because britain intensified local exploitation highlighting the differences and uniqueness of India.(210)Economy was main unifier to fight colonial rule.

Dependency theory in 1870 India dayum(211)

Either criticize classical economics itself or use it to show how the UK is acting unnaturally in India.In place of the UK model a new indian national economy was posited. (215)

if colonial capitalism was exploitative, it was thought national economies would disrupt the exploitation found in capitalism by fixing capitalism within a bounded sphere. This was an expression of the sentiment of the times as seen by German and Japanese and French rapid economic growth. The role of the state was to caretake of the economy and people living inside it.(221)

Colonialism disrupts an existing an fully enclosed and functioning economic space. The narrative of a national economy was provided by the new middle industrial class.

Use of new british statistics whichwere standardized and developed and in which new accountants were taught to measure in order to criticize imperial policy. Drain theory posits that UK acts not in the interest of India but is draining india for itself, only a national governemtn can protect a national economy.

Indian Drain. Britain doesn’t see it as drain, laws in Europe do not apply in India, and finally set out to repudiate the drainclaim. Whaich side is correct? Is there any benefit in colonialism? Nationalists fought back using “objective inteligibility” against the british objetions of progress as magical. (231)

Swadeshi nationalism of hinduism and Institutional nationalism of the INC. Both modern.(235)

first mass based resistance movement against anti-colonialism. Pioneered methods of passive resistance against british. Covered how they were reacting within moder and colonial effects were calling for perceived starting point which never existed. India congress brought elites and unity swadeshi bought mass and more extremism.(243)

Chapter 8

Establishing the institutional alternatives to british institutions and the formation of the state foundations. Conformation of international support and Indian local ideas.(248)

Indian locals began buying indian, making indian schools, teaching indian students. The establishment of a state for and by Indians.

Institutions which were alternATIVE TO BRITISH INCLUDED TEACHING, AND MANUFACTURING, AND PRODUCTION OF KNOWLedge. This produced a generation of more extreme activists who intensified the resistance against the British and infused into the old nationalist rhetoric leftist and marxist flavours which departed from the economic and capitalist nationalism. Later on this would lead to outright communism which rejected nationalism outright in some thinkers.(251)

The hinduization of Indian nationalism.(260)

swadeshi extremism as reflecting global nationalism up to 1914. Interacted withj local hindu religion and colonial experience.(262)

Swadeshi powerful critique of colonial differentiation, but produced differentiation of its own. Especially against muslim.

How could swaraj which was about unity be welded to swadeshi which was hindu.(269)

Swadeshi undo what colonialism did, but return to ideal not  what existed before they didnt know that. Creation of Ideal India.(272)

Swadeshi was for nationalization of capital not its abolishment.

Discord between ideology of naturalism and harmony and the economic industrilization pursued. (275)

post-colonial state, result of democracy and rational centralizaed state planning.


book married togetehr indian particular reaction to global trends and movements, moved beyond the national methodology.(282)

Class Notes:

IR is to foreign policy what anthropology used to be for empire.

This is a good book which combats the automatic categorization of IR on the spread of the state as natural, free, and easy. The very category of national space, economy, law, standardized currency is a particular historical form, a result of a specific historical process which often involved force.

Today we think of space not of place. Territory is technical, place is symbolic and personal, space is moral and broad. Anthony Appea a famous African philosopher argues that africa is seen as a single space but is filled with different places.

This book helps explain why although Africa and Asia were both colonized, they are different at present, because colonization takes specific historical forms in different places.

Presentation, Kavi:

Railways initially were thought of by british as simply to transfer commodities because the native was thought to be immobile (like the british peasant). When its use exploded as a transportation tool, the brits then enforced several laws thinking it would have an equalizing influence, but this also backfired again.

N: Controversy over the teaching of History. Is European account of history, not just account but method, so as opposed to setting it in a long tradition of gods or the bible it is set in historical sciences of what the past is and how it connects. Is this better than the Indian history telling, it can be said to be more real or factual in that it is empty of religion, but I would think some would protest to this claim. So UK did play a rtole in building India but it was interactive with locals, so Sarkozy is still an asshole when he says france brought africa into history as if it did so by itself and everything went to plan. What are there benefits of colonialism? Can’t talk about that. She presents a nice account which is critical and more accurate, but it is undetermined in its historical narrative, she doesn’t tell us how to use the data she presents, what are the consequences of this rereading of history? It can be used to defend britain or colonialism or to attack it.

African infrastructure was built to serve European economies. On independence all African countries are indentured to Europe at a structural level. They poay back Europe for the infrastructure, but their economies are still linked. You have to build a new economy from what you inherited it would be silly to tear down the railroads that the brits installed just because they serve a foreign economy, or is it silly?

History is not meant to give us positive and negatives of colonial legacy, colonialism just happened, it is historical contingency and we have to deal with that inheritance. The search for positive effects of colonialism is a European guilt thing.

When states take land they do so in the backdrop of no prior ownership arrangements and as state having right to all land., These are both mistaken and illusions of the western centric model of land ownership. Is there something weird about the way Europeans divide land that seems to shock everywhere they go in the world?

Modernity is not a European export. If left on its own capitalism is international, the different communities would have taken their own paths to modernity. Rather the European version advantaged the European states, it wasn’t modernity really as much as conquest. Capital flattens space, whereas colonialism created hierarchies. In any case modernity is the result of the interaction of local and global. (Frangieh reading on how modernity was produced in the colony). European countries actually sett the colonies back, India was far  more prosperous before 1700, and could have gone on to be better but the European process had a negative effect implementing backwards policies and actively underdeveloping the colonized states. So for sure India had a more robust economic system especially in terms of currency and banking. European vector of modernity creates a specific form of modernity and calls it the modern example even while it is setting countries backwards. Still we find some domestic classes who do benefit like the bureaucracy and military and administrators, so Europe reshuffles everything and some domestic winners do exist.

N: The history that Gandhi and other post-colonial leaders refer to is shown to be false in this book, does this undermine their message? How does a post-colonial critical historian deal with inheritance? If the colonial narrative is false, yet it was used to found the post-colonial state does this undermine the existing state? Why are reformation projects rejected by prof, why not destroy the damn railroads?

Europe had a solid state which helped society only in 1800, with time the rest of the world might have caught up, but Europe trapped it in a system for its own benefit.

N: Discussion and theory must be linked to material context, they cannot be separated. Show me which events led you to formulate the theory because the events themselves will tell me the theory. I like this approach.

Distinction between people(specific) and population(all).

Goswami adds that the state also has the function or power to define and classify discourses, places, relations and events. The state classifies. This gives us our understanding of our time, this is novel in our period , we only appreciate or notice thins when they change, when the labels change we notice them, otherwise we wouldn’t have and this is the case for the classificatory power of the state.

One such word that has changed is citizenship, no one has use this phrase in American politics since Kennedy. This is because the citizen is no longer exists after Raegan, the relationship of individual to state is no longer that of the citizen, doesn’t reflect realities of the day. In this vein the ideas that people hold resonate with the state actions. It is a mix between state behaviour and people’s ideas of the state and how they link. the state creates and reinforces the ideas  or shapes and changes them. Ideas adapt to material context, and material context stems from ideas. The policy almost never plays out in the way taht the state intends, always unintended consequences.

Alright so colonialism is neither good nor bad but we can look to the past for arrangements that worked and some which did not work. The colonial arrangement worked in promoting certain outcomes, maybe facilitating technology transfer. So I guess we could look at what worked and what didn’t in the relations between Europe and other countries which they tried to “help”. Granted that outcomes were “accidental”  but looking at historical process can we not learn anything about the present? Relations to MNC, what is good governance, what is possible to perform in society like public schools, But that is different from saying that France civilized, they just put in place European ideas of what was good or inferior. So it is a complex issue of dealing and learning from the colonial legacy.

Categories: Book Summary
  1. March 4, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    You really care!!!!

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