An Endangered History: Indigeneity, Religion, and Politicson the Borders of India, Burma, and Bangladesh

ISBN : 9780199493081

Angma Dey Jhala
344 ページ
156 x 234 mm

An Endangered History is an account of the little-studied region of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of British-governed Bengal, from the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts lie on the crossroads of India, east Bengal (now Bangladesh) and Burma (contemporary Myanmar). An area of lush rivers and fertile valleys, it has historically been celebrated for its haunting natural beauty and religious heterodoxy from the chronicles of Mughal governors to the ethnohistories of British colonial administrators.

The region is composed of several indigenous or 'tribal' communities, whose transcultural histories defied colonial and later postcolonial taxonomies of identity and difference.

In particular, this book focuses on how British administrators used European knowledge systems, whether from botany, natural history, gender and sexuality, demography, and anthropology, to construct the autochthone groups of the CHT and their landscapes. In the process, British administrators and later South Asian nationalists would misunderstand and falsely classify the region through the reifying language of religion, linguistics, race and, most perniciously, nation in part due to its unique, and at times perilous, location on the invisible fault lines between South and Southeast Asia. In this manner, this book argues that the colonial archive serves not only to exhume a long forgotten regional past, but also to illuminate a dynamic interconnected global history. It hopes to reestablish the vital place of this much marginalized border region within the larger study of colonial South Asia and Indian nationalism.


Introduction: Border Histories and Border Crossings in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bengal
Chapter One: 'Promiscuous' Planting: Francis Buchanan's Botanical Explorations of 1798
Chapter Two: 'Beware Oh Petticoats! There Be Leeches in These Parts': Reading Gender, Indigeneity and Tribal Authority in T. H.
Lewin's Archive, c. 1864 - 1875
Chapter Three: Measuring Tribal 'Otherness': Colonial Enumeration, Religion and Governmentality, c. 1876-1909
Chapter Four: The Administrator (as) Anthropologist: Reinventing Tribal Chiefs as Indian Princes in J. P. Mills' 1926-1927 Tour Diary, Report and Proposals
About the Author


Angma Dey Jhala is an associate professor of history at Bentley University, near Boston, Massachusetts. Her work focuses on modern South Asian history and religion, with a particular emphasis on politics, gender, material culture, law and indigeneity in nineteenth- and twentieth-century India. Her monographs include Courtly Indian Women in Late Imperial India (2008) and Royal Patronage, Power and Aesthetics in Princely India (2011). She has also edited Peacock in the Desert (2018), as well as published her work in leading journals of South Asian studies.