ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Imagining Colonial Assam

The Figuring of ‘Wastelands’ in Its Making

The colonial state's categorisation of land as wasteland was not based on an ecological understanding. Such lands were, rather, identified on the basis of productivity. Wastes, therefore, connoted "untapped" "idle"; items to which value had not accrued because they had not been utilised for commercial purposes. This paper observes how value addition to land was central to the thesis on private property and how the idea justified colonial territorial acquisitions and classification of population in Assam. It also led to differentiating people on the basis of their habitat and land-use patterns. The colonial classification of wasteland and the colonial idea of the indigenous Assamese as lazy and indolent lay at the root of the colonial state's encouraging peasant migrations from outside Assam into arable lands in the province.

The author is grateful to an anonymous referee who gave valuable suggestions on the basis of which the paper has been revised.

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