‘Petitioners from the Meanest Cast: Petitions and the Early Colonial City in South India’ by Dr. Aparna Balachandran

Aparna Balachandran (Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Delhi) presented her research entitled ‘Petitioners from the Meanest Cast: Petitions and the Early Colonial City in South India’ at the Sociological Research Colloquium.

When: Friday, 27th April 2018 at 3:00 p.m.

Where: Seminar Room (First Floor), Department of Sociology, University of Delhi 


My paper focuses on petitions sent by the inhabitants of Madras to the East India Company’s government there in the late 18th and early nineteenth century. Although early colonial petitions were unequivocally products of colonial rule that derived their distinctive form and language from colonial law, a reading of the petition archive is one of the only ways to historically understand the city of Madras as it was experienced by its less privileged inhabitants. The article looks at the delineation of the communal selfhood of subaltern urban communities through petition narratives, arguing that the variety and innovativeness displayed by petition writers is both testament to the acceptance of colonial legality and to the agency of native subjects in negotiating with, and appropriating the language and rationale of the colonial legal regime.

About the Speaker

Aparna Balachandran teaches history at the Department of History, University of Delhi. She is the co-editor of Iterations of Law: Legal Histories from India ( OUP, Delhi 2017). She is presently completing a monograph on urbanism and law in colonial Madras under East India Company rule.

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