Representing Colonial Authority: The Visual Environment of Walter Sherwill in 1851

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This essay discusses how the idea of colonial science gained cultural dominance during the early 1850s. It explores the visual construction of a ‘tribal’ identity amongst Santals in the Rajmahal Hills of Bengal (now Jharkhand State) by Walter Stanhope Sherwill, a revenue surveyor and geologist working with the British East India Company. In the article I argue that Sherwill constructed a representational framework that would subordinate these new inhabitants of the Damin-i-Koh, itself a colonial district invented to ‘improve’ (according to utilitarian ideology) the forested frontier that came between the Company and its de-territorializing mission. The article focuses on the discursive production of colonial scientific authority in 1851, a pivotal year in terms of the increased visibility of ‘India’ in Britain. I develop an understanding of the processes through which the Rajmahal Hills and its Santal population were enframed within imperial discourses of de-territorialization.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe British Empire and the Natural World: Environmental Encounters in South Asia
EditorsDeepak Kumar, Vinita Damodaran, Rohan D'Souza
Place of PublicationNew Delhi
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)13: 978-0-19-806970-6
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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