Uneven Terrains of Struggle: Caste, Class, Gender, and the Everyday Experience of Law in Colonial South Asia, 1849-1940


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation focuses on young girls and women from “lower-caste” communities and their encounters with colonial legal structures in the context of the changing material and social conditions of everyday life in rural South Asia. It situates the lower-caste female subjects’ experiences with the law in the broader history of their movement and circulation in connected systems of marriage and trafficking in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through a close reading of civil and criminal disputes related to marriage/cohabitation practices, kidnapping and related offences, together with administrative, census, and police records from the province of Punjab, this study re-frames and re-assesses the question of the female legal subject’s agency that rests on the idea of strategic negotiations with the law. “Uneven Terrains of Struggle” introduces new ways of thinking about lower-caste girls’ and women’s capacities for action and decision-making that were shaped by their experiences with violence within and outside colonial legal spaces.