Accepted Paper:

Trade, war, law, and the creation of knowledge in early colonial Bombay  


Jessica Price (Cornell University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how knowledge of "others" was created in the pluralistic society of early colonial Bombay. Through a series of historical case studies it engages with STS debates on colonial science, and challenges what defines a "centre" or a "periphery."

Paper long abstract:

This paper is a study of correspondence from the English East India Company in Bombay during the 1670s and 80s. It posits that the everyday interactions the English had in the course of running a factory were forms of data gathering about their neighbours in Bombay. This information influenced the choices the English made about how to include people from outside the Company in the running of Bombay, and shaped power relations in the region.

During this period, members of the English East India Company's factory mingled with Brahmins, Hindu traders, Indo-Portuguese soldiers, Catholic padres, and Mughals. The level of amicability between these people and the English shifted according to the demands of trade and defence, and sometimes even relations between allies could be strained. Incidents in markets, ships, and court rooms, however, provided information that shaped the company's understanding of the community in which they lived, and altered their decisions regarding property, their garrison, and the law.

By looking at how the English interacted with south Asians and other Europeans to produce new knowledge, this work enters a conversation about "hybrid" forms of knowledge in the early East India Company, typified by work like Winterbottom (2016). It also contributes to a broader discussion about the creation of knowledge in "trans-national" contexts. Like Raj (2006) and Bleichmar (2012), this paper challenges our understanding of what constitutes a "centre."

Panel V08
Exploring relations of authority