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Leviathan or paper tiger state making in the Himalayas, 1740-1900

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  • "State making in the Himalayas, 1740-1900"

  • "This dissertation is based on a range of previously unstudied archival sources. It reveals the fragmented nature of power in the Himalayas through much of the eighteenth century. This was the time when a coalition of families identified as House of Gorkha began to consolidate its control in the region. Unlike the other South Asian states of the eighteenth century, the Nepali state did not grow by focusing on military power but by the intertwined strategies of literary and religious patronage, the creation of genealogies and legal codes and the politicization of ritual and rank. The hierarchical distribution of privileges and exemptions shaped by family, clan and gender relations generated regimes of power that over time developed into a state system and established Nepal on its path to monarchy. Sensitivity to dispersed sites of power such as the household, family and clan enables us to understand the nineteenth-century processes by which legal codes came to be invested with great authority. This is especially true of the compilation called the Ain of 1854. Scholars of legal history have compared it to the British Indian Legal Code of 1837 and 1861. My research demonstrates instead that it was a document, which projected the political-juridical claims of the House of Gorkha over laboring groups and its right to collect income from fines. In other words, the struggle to define "moral law" using the Ain was intended to establish clear claims of one group to the labor and fealty of others. The House of Gorkha pushed for social differentiation through the Ain. The concept of justice in that code was status-differentiated. The eminence of the family and clan mattered for this reason. In turn, the eminence of a family rested on the successful management of marriage relations. Thus social relationships were not trans-historical fossilized entities but fully sensitive to the political-economic flows of the period. In historically plotting the lineage of one such state in Nepal, my research urges nationalist and post-colonial historians of South Asia not to treat colonial and national boundaries as being impermeable to history."

  • "Leviathan or paper tiger state making in the Himalayas, 1740-1900"