Monday, October 9, 2017

Condos on violence & legality in colonial India

Mark Condos, Queen Mary, University of London, published "License to Kill: The Murderous Outrages Act and the rule of law in colonial India, 1867-1925" last year in Modern Asian Studies 50:2. Here is an abstract:
In 1867, the Government of India passed one of the most brutal-minded and
draconian laws ever created in colonial India. Known as the ‘Murderous Outrages Act’, this law gave colonial officials along the North-West Frontier wide powers to transgress India’s legal codes in order to summarily execute and dispose of individuals identified as ‘fanatics’. Arguments for the creation and preservation of this law invariably centred around claims about the purportedly ‘exceptional’ character of frontier governance, particularly the idea that this was a region that existed in a perpetual state of war and crisis. Far from being peripheral in its impact, this article explores how this law both drew upon and enabled a wider legal culture that pervaded India in the wake of 1857. It argues that this law was a signal example of British attempts to mask the brute power of executive authority through legalistic terms, and was also evocative of a distinctly ‘warlike’ logic of colonial legality.