Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space

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When did categories such as a national space and economy acquire self-evident meaning and a global reach? Why do nationalist movements demand a territorial fix between a particular space, economy, culture, and people?

Producing India mounts a formidable challenge to the entrenched practice of methodological nationalism that has accorded an exaggerated privilege to the nation-state as a dominant unit of historical and political analysis. Manu Goswami locates the origins and contradictions of Indian nationalism in the convergence of the lived experience of colonial space, the expansive logic of capital, and interstate dynamics. Building on and critically extending subaltern and postcolonial perspectives, her study shows how nineteenth-century conceptions of India as a bounded national space and economy bequeathed an enduring tension between a universalistic political economy of nationhood and a nativist project that continues to haunt the present moment.

Elegantly conceived and judiciously argued, Producing India will be invaluable to students of history, political economy, geography, and Asian studies.

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Manu Goswani is an assistant professor of history and East Asia studies at New York University.

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Producing India: from Colonial Economy to National Space

By Manu Goswami

University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2004 Manu Goswami
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0226305090


The unprecedented expansion of the scope and scale of the colonial state followed the brutal repression of the rebellion of 1857-58 and the formal incorporation of colonial India into the British Crown. The post-1857 colonial regime was the locus of a spectacular restructuring of political-economic, administrative, and military structures that wrought a profound transformation in the spatiotemporal matrices of everyday categories of understanding, political-economic institutions, and modalities of state power. Committed to spreading its authority evenly throughout the territory, to filling up the geographic space of colonial India with its authoritative presence, the post-1857 colonial regime made territorially comprehensive claims to rule. Territorial consolidation involved the attempted monopolization of regulatory powers by an increasingly centralized apparatus, the development of an elaborate, hierarchical bureaucracy that surveyed, mapped, and measured both land and people, the deepening and widening of the administrative and military reach of the state, and a determined reinvestment in epistemic modalities of rule.

Bernard Cohn-the historian par excellence of the political imaginary of the colonial absurd-has elaborated a central paradox constitutive of the post-1857 colonial regime. The officially enunciated policy of nonintervention in local social practices, expressed in Queen Victoria's proclamation of 1858, was belied by the development of institutions and practices with an invasive, tentacular reach. The post-1857 colonial regime simultaneously sought to modernize the social body and keep intact its imagined traditional lineaments, what Victoria identified as its "ancient rights, usages, and customs." Following Bernard Cohn's pioneering analysis of the co-constitution of a distinctive "colonial sociology of knowledge" and modalities of rule, historians and historical anthropologists, working within diverse conceptual frameworks, have taken as their point of departure the gap between the stated policy of preserving existent practices and the proliferation of disciplinary regimens that profoundly reworked sociocultural practices in multiple arenas. The focus on colonial epistemologies and modalities of rule has more recently found fresh impetus in the burgeoning literature on colonial governmentality that has animated recent historiographical debates on late colonial India. My analysis of the making of a distinctive colonial state space in the post-1857 era builds on the many insights proffered by these intersecting literatures, especially the dense articulation between colonial sociologies of knowledge and modalities of rule. Yet it also departs from the currently ascendant literature on colonial governmentality in two interlinked respects. First, it explicitly focuses on the structural contradictions rather than discursive tensions of colonial practices and political rationality by specifying the dynamic relationship between the political-economic and epistemological coordinates of late colonial rule. Second, my account breaks from the "internalist" focus of the literature on colonial governmentality that neglects the global field of spatial-economic restructuring within and against which novel institutional and disciplinary forms took shape in late colonial India. By broadening the spatial referents of dominant approaches to the colonial state and economy, I attempt to specify the historicity of colonial space and show the "interpenetration and superimposition" of apparently distinct spaces (imperial and national, political-economic and ideological) within a specific global field.

Building on Henri Lefebvre's conception of the state as a "spatial framework" of power (281), I delineate in this chapter the complex ensemble of institutions, practices, and ideologies that marked and made colonial state space and underwrote the transition from mercantile to territorial colonialism. The making of a colonial state space was inseparably part of a broader imperial scale-making project, one that sought to secure and maintain a Britain-centered and globe-spanning imperial economy. The territorialization of colonial state power in the decades after 1857 was premised on, enabled by, and constitutive of the expansion of a Britain-centered global economy. I take as my point of departure an often-noted yet underdeveloped (in both a historiographical and theoretical register) aspect of the late colonial state: the fact that its spatiality literally and institutionally exceeded state territorial boundaries. A constitutive aspect of the colonial state lay in the institutionalization of a disjuncture between political and economic structures, between the space of the production and the realization of value. By exploring the making of colonial political-economic space in a specific global field, I seek to specify the radically relational character of sociospatial formations and to historicize such categories as national and colonial, and internal, domestic versus external, international economy.

The analysis that follows emphasizes the internal relations between the territorialization of colonial state power in colonial India, the expansion of a Britain-centered global economy, and the initial consolidation and later unmaking of Britain's hegemony. To claim a historically specific internal relation between processes that have been either ignored or analyzed as distinct and autonomous does not reciprocally imply that either the Britain-centered global economy or colonial state space was a unitary formation. Indeed, a chief analytical burden of this chapter is to elucidate the ways in which both colonial state space and the Britain-centered global economy were multiplex and contradictory force-fields.

The first half of this chapter develops an analytical vocabulary attuned to the overlapping political imaginaries and material geographies that helped forge a distinctive colonial state space. Toward this end, I appropriate key concepts and categories from Henri Lefebvre's theorization of the production of an uneven and differentiated global space-time and the relationship between state and space. The second half of this chapter elaborates the organizing categories, ideologies, and institutions that forged a distinctive state space in the post-1857 period. I argue that the territorialization of colonial state power contained an immanent contradiction: the very practices that homogenized sociospatial relations also produced internal differentiation and fragmentation. The territorialization of colonial state power in the post-1857 period occurred initially under conditions of the expansion and consolidation of a Britain-centered global economy. However, the rise of nationalist, neomercantilist, and state-centric models of development in diverse regional contexts from the late 1870s challenged the self-evident status of a Britain-centered global system of financial and economic liberalism. The reconfiguration of political-economic space along self-consciously national developmentalist and statist principles, during the late 1870s and 1880s, not only entailed a crisis for Britain's global hegemony but made the contradictions of colonial practices both more apparent and acute. The concluding section of this chapter discusses the shifting forms and targets of colonial state practices in the context of the challenges posed to Britain's hegemony during the 1870s and 1880s by the intensification of interimperial conflict and the ascendancy of nationalist forms of territorial-economic regulation. The contradictory logic of colonial practices together with these global developments enabled, as subsequent chapters elaborate, the radical resignification of popular understandings of space, temporality, and economy.


We are confronted not by one social space but by many-indeed, by an unlimited multiplicity or uncountable set of social spaces.... No space disappears in the context of growth and development: the worldwide does not abolish the local.. . . Considered in isolation, such spaces are mere abstractions. As concrete abstractions, however, they attain their "real" existence by virtue of networks and pathways, by virtue of bunches or clusters of relationships.... Social spaces interpenetrate one another and/or superimpose themselves upon one another. They are not things, which have mutually limiting boundaries and which collide because of their contours.

-Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 1978
In a densely philosophical work, The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre opens with a wide-ranging critique of territorialist, ontological, and discursive conceptions of space. Against conceptions of space as a pregiven container, a physical-geographical location, a neutral backdrop of social relations, an ontological horizon, and a discursive effect, Lefebvre argues that space is a constitutive dimension of social relations, that it is at once a central "field of action" and "a basis for action." This relational and processual conception of space resonates with sociotheoretical understandings of social structure as simultaneously the locus, medium, and product of social relations and collective agency. Space, in this view, is not the static "container" of social relations, nor is it opposed to, much less ontologically privileged over, time and historicity. Rather, Lefebvre emphasizes the temporal dynamic of spatialization as a matrix of social relations and as an intrinsically historical phenomenon.

This account of space-as-process, of its social and historical embeddedness, fundamentally differs from narrowly representational and ontological perspectives. Lefebvre self-consciously differentiates his theory of social space from, for instance, Foucault's metaphorical and representational perspective. His account also challenges transhistorical conceptions of space whether in the form of Heidegger's phenomenological ontology or Durkheim's sociologization of Kantian categories in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, where space and time are posited as basic categories of thought but in a way that elides their historical constitution. Despite substantive differences, these perspectives bracket in common the sociohistorical production of space and the historical specificity of particular spatial practices, representations, and formations. Recent analyses of colonial and postcolonial space, much of them grounded in an explicitly Foucauldian perspective, have likewise elided the production of space in favor of an exclusive focus on spatial representations or conceptions of space as a discursive effect and site for the articulation of power dispositifs. I turn to Lefebvre's account of modern spatiality here for the insights it provides into the uneven and differentiated character of global space, the reciprocal liaison between spatial practices and representations, and the dynamic relationship between the modern state and space.

Of particular importance in this regard is Lefebvre's analysis of the space generated by the expansive and universalizing dynamic of capitalism, that is, "abstract, homogenous space." Akin to the commodified form of labor power, "abstract, homogenous space" has a formal, quantitative, measurable, and interchangeable quality; it is "produced and reproduced as reproducible." The formation of a global abstract space, like its dialectical twin, "empty, homogenous time," hinges on specific material and ideological foundations that condition its appearance as abstract and homogenous. There is a strong resonance between Lefebvre's emphasis on the appearance of space as abstract as a historically specific misrecognition rooted in the phenomenological experience of capitalism and Walter Benjamin's reading of "empty, homogenous time" as the utopian self-presentation of capital and associated teleological images of progress. Lefebvre and Benjamin, in common, seek to embed the appearance of abstract homogenous time and space in social processes of reification and a specific experience of modern space-time wherein, as Lefebvre argues, the "conflicts and contradictions," that is, the "heterogeneity," of social space do not "appear as such." Lefebvre's claim that ontological and representational understandings of space reproduce rather than challenge the ideological self-presentation of capitalism accords with Benjamin's critique of a traditional historiography that uncritically replicates the closed and evolutionary self-presentation of capital by ignoring the heterogeneous character of temporality.

More specifically, Lefebvre locates abstract space-time in the "capitalist trinity," that is, the production and circulation of land (rent), labor (wages), and capital (profits) and the generalization of form-determined capitalist social relations (282). On a concrete terrain, it is fashioned through the attempted imposition of a formally similar grid of property relations and property markets across diverse contexts through the aegis of a regulating state agency, and the statist mobilization of space whereby each states "maps out its own territory, stakes it out and signposts it" through the creation of juridical-political grids, territorialized administrative structures, built environments, and economic complexes (341-42, 278-82). Of particular importance to the issues central to this work is Lefebvre's characterization of modern capitalist space-time as simultaneously "global, fragmented and hierarchical" (282).

Lefebvre deploys the category "global" here not in a physical-territorial sense but in a qualitative sense. The making of a global space-time is not reducible to the physical-geographical expansion of capitalism alone. Rather it signifies the formation of relations of interdependence, as differentiated from external linkages or interconnections, between multiple spatial scales (e.g., local, regional, imperial) and temporalities (e.g., the multiple temporalities of everyday life, the different temporalities of capital accumulation, including short-term financial, medium-term industrial, and long-term infrastructural). The global whole becomes increasingly present, Lefebvre suggests, through internal relations at the "micro level," the "local and localizable," and the "sphere of everyday life" (366). This conception of global space-time rejects the attribution of methodological and causal primacy to any one spatial scale in an a priori fashion (88). It marks a sharp departure, for instance, from world-system theory that privileges the global scale as causally determinative in the modern era. Lefebvre emphasizes that global space produces rather than subsumes, generates rather than negates, the local, regional, and national.

The local does not disappear... it is never absorbed by the regional, national or even worldwide level. The national and regional take in innumerable "places"; national space embraces the regions; and world space does not merely subsume national space, but even precipitates the formation of national spaces through a remarkable process of fission. All these spaces, meanwhile, are traversed by myriad currents. The hypercomplexity of social space should now be apparent . . . [it] means that each fragment of space subjected to analysis masks not just one social relationship but a host of them. (88)
Lefebvre does not specify the "remarkable process of fission" that subtends the proliferation of multiple spatialities and temporalities within and against a global space of coexistence. However, the principle of the "interpenetration and superimposition of social spaces" suggests that the very appearance of national, regional, and local spaces as bounded and mutually exclusive depends on a dense network of overlapping, intertwined, and dynamic interrelations.

The "hypercomplexity" of global space-time and the radically relational character of spaces, as elaborated by Lefebvre, present a challenge to dominant contemporary analyses of "globalization" as a process of homogenization and to those that conceive global space as a homogenous unity. In contrast, Lefebvre suggests that global space is hierarchically organized and internally differentiated in the specific sense that the relations between particular spaces-metropole and colony, urban and rural, local and national and the like-are shot through with power inequalities and unevenness. By conceiving unevenness as constitutive of global space, this formulation counters approaches that conflate the structural tendency of capital toward homogenization with its actual historical realization. Such approaches reiterate, as Lefebvre observes, "extreme" forms of "reductionism," itself generated by the contradictions of capitalism, that entail the "reduction of time to space, the reduction of use value to exchange value, the reduction of objects to signs," the "movement of the dialectic" to a transhistorical "logic," and "social space to a purely formal mental space" (296). In contrast, he foregrounds the dialectic between the homogenizing orientation of capital and its uneven historical actualization:

Abstract space is not homogenous; it simply has homogeneity as its goal, its orientation, its "lens." And, indeed it renders homogenous. But in itself it is multiform.... Thus to look upon abstract space as homogenous is to embrace a representation that takes the effect for the cause, and the goal for the reason why that goal is pursued. A representation which passes itself off as a concept, when it is merely a... mirage; and which instead of challenging, instead of refusing, merely reflects. (287)
A critical understanding of capital as not natural, unitary, or impelled by a unilinear logic demands equal attention to capitalism's own history, namely, its contradictory historical forms and the multiple space-times it generates.

A conception of capitalist space-time as a global, differentiated, and hierarchical totality also underscores the limits of the enduring conceptual grammar forged by Althusserian Marxism and its strong echoes in a range of self-understood poststructuralist perspectives, that is, the notion of distinct economic and non-economic spheres and levels of determination. The division of the social world into economic and non-economic spheres/levels is economistic not in the last instance but in the very first. By relegating capitalism to a distinct economic domain and focusing on the external rather than the internal relations between apparently distinct and mutually exclusive spheres of the "social," "political," and "economic," such perspectives reproduce the forms of reification associated with capitalism. They not only frustrate attempts at developing genuinely transdisciplinary categories of analysis adequate to the task of grasping a differentiated global totality but obscure the lived interdisciplinarity of social life.

Finally, of particular importance to the issues at stake in this work is Lefebvre's account of the role of the modern state in shaping social space, establishing the spatiotemporal matrices for everyday life, and naturalizing everyday state epistemologies. Echoing Max Weber's classic account of the state's monopolization of legitimate violence over a delimited political-geographical space, Lefebvre argues that the modern state is a "spatial framework" of power marked and made by the foundational violence it directs toward things and peoples in space. His portrayal of the "fetishization of space in the service of the state" directs attention to the diverse modalities through which the modern state inscribes its authority in a continuous body of bounded territory and constructs specific spatiotemporal and institutional structures (21). These include the demarcation and mapping of boundaries; the appropriation and designation of natural resources (forest lands, oil, mines) as sovereign state space; the expansion and interpenetration of society by institutions such as the army, schools, bureaucracies with their distinct temporal rhythms and spatial practices; the formation of vast networks of communication and infrastructural complexes such as roads, railways, bridges, canals, post offices, and the like; forms of economic planning wherein the unit of development is delimited by state territorial boundaries; and the construction of capitals, monuments, and museums, which constitute places of collective, state-mediated memory and commemoration. Yet rather than a unitary, homogenous configuration, state space is shot through with contradictions. The contradictions internal to capitalism and the multiple ideologies, practices, and institutions that comprise state space continually beset, undermine, and constrain the attempted homogenization of state space and the naturalization of everyday state epistemologies. These include, but are not limited to, the contradiction between exchange-value and use-value, production and consumption, work and leisure, need and desire, dominant and dominated spaces, and that between the mobility of capital and the generation of value through the fixing of capital and geographies of allegiance within particular spaces.


Excerpted from Producing India: from Colonial Economy to National Space by Manu Goswami Copyright © 2004 by Manu Goswami. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction
1. Geographies of State Transformation: The Production of Colonial State Space
2. Envisioning the Colonial Economy
3. Mobile Incarceration: Travels in Colonial State Space
4. Colonial Pedagogical Consolidation
5. Space, Time, and Sovereignty in Puranic-Itihas
6. India as Bharat: A Territorial Nativist Vision of Nationhood, 1860-1880
7. The Political Economy of Nationhood
8. Territorial Nativism: Swadeshi and Swaraj
Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index

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