Journal of Indian Law and Society in association with the NUJS Constitutional Law Society organized a lecture by Dr. Uday Chandra on “Liberalism and its Other: Primitivism in Colonial and Postcolonial Indian Law” on January 23rd, 2014 at NUJS. Following is the recorded audio version of the lecture:


The paper has been published in the Law & Society Review, Volume 47, Issue 1, pages 135–168 (March 2013). The paper can be found here.

Abstract for the Talk:

Liberalism is widely regarded as a modern intellectual tradition that defends the rights and freedoms of autonomous individuals. Yet, in both colonial and postcolonial contexts, liberal theorists and lawmakers have struggled to defend the rights and freedoms of political subjects whom they regard as “primitive,” “backward,” or “indigenous.” Liberalism thus recurrently encounters its primitive other, a face-off that gives rise to a peculiar set of dilemmas and contradictions for political theory and law. In what ways can postcolonial law rid itself of its colonial baggage? How can the ideal of universal liberal citizenship overcome paternalistic notions of protection? How might “primitive” subjects become full and equal citizens in postcolonial societies? To explore these dilemmas and contradictions, I study the intellectual trajectory of “primitivism” in India from the construction of so-called tribal areas in the 1870s to legal debates and official reports on tribal rights in contemporary India. Through a close reading of these legal provisions for tribal peoples and places, I explore the continuing tension between the constitutional ideal of liberal citizenship and the disturbing reality of tribal subjecthood produced by colonial and postcolonial Indian states.


Audio Lecture by Dr. Uday Chandra

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