Arudra Burra: What is “Colonial” about Colonial Law?’

Manipal University Centre for Philosophy and Humanities invites you to a talk by Arudra Burra 
Title:‘What is “Colonial” about Colonial Law?’
Date: Friday, 4 5:15 pm
Abstract: A number of historians of late-colonial India have recently expressed doubts about the adequacies of the term “colonial” (and its contrary, “nationalist”) to describe aspects of rule in that period. In this paper, I attempt to articulate the theoretical concerns which lie behind this discomfort. I argue, first, that the presumed opposition between
the colonial and the nationalist makes it difficult to describe what Maurice Duverger called conflict “within a regime” as opposed to conflict “about a regime”. I also argue that at least some of the laws and executive decisions of the late-colonial state are better explained as arising from the nature of institutions such as the bureaucracy and judiciary whose functions cannot be entirely explained in terms of their role in serving imperial aims. Finally, I question the role of the term “colonial” in contemporary political debate – for instance when some contemporary law or policy is criticised as being a “colonial legacy” or a “colonial inheritance”.
Arudra Burra is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi. He has a PhD in philosophy from Princeton University and a JD from the Yale Law School. His primary research interests are in moral, political, and legal philosophy.

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