Theses Doctoral

“A Readable, Interesting State”: The Annual Administration Reports and the Making of the Modern Indian State (1855-1935)

Iyengar, Prashant Srivatsa

This dissertation investigates the constitutive effects that practices of large data collection and knowledge production have upon states and subjectivities. It does so by tracking the career of the oldest genre of colonial reports in India, titled the ‘Annual Administration Reports’(AARs). For an 80-year period (1855-1935), every province was required to produce an ‘annual report’ organized under sixteen broad topics. I argue that these AARs played an instrumental role in shaping both the modern Indian state and colonial subjectivity in three ways.

First, the heavily statistical mode of narrative that came to be employed by the AARs turned India, and Indian labor, into what Heidegger terms a ‘standing reserve’, available for ready capitalist expropriation. It is through these reports that India came to be rendered available externally as a ‘colony.’

Second, shortly after the launch of the AARs, and because of its design, it began to appear that a singular, standardized state existed across the entire territory of India, engaged simultaneously in the same activities. Third, the uniform space of the state that these reports rendered, facilitated the rise of anti-colonial nationalism in South Asia. The earliest nationalists across South Asia rose to prominence by reflecting on, comparing, and critiquing the information contained in these regional reports.

In developing these arguments, my dissertation presents both a novel site and a new approach for inquiry into knowledge production, state formation and colonial subjectivities.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Mitchell, Timothy P.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 15, 2023