Just when one thought that studies on colonialism has reached a significant milestone, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya’s book brings in a timely message that a comprehensive analysis of the colonial state is yet to be put down on paper. In his book The Colonial State: Theory and Practice, Bhattacharya claims that this has always been a subject that has been shoved aside to the scholarly margins and therefore, now, merits greater attention. He exposes the gulf between the ‘dissatisfied theory-minded’ scholars and the theory-averse ‘authors of historical narratives’ (p. 2), and promises to redress this gulf by weaving together ‘the discourse of state theory and the narrative of state practices’ (p. vii). Though it might sound quite a challenge, he manages to pull it off to a brilliant extent, while upping the appeal by studying the colonial state from a non-‘statist’ dimension. He does this by focussing on the interactions of the ordinary people with the colonial state, as well as bringing to light the stories of the informal interest groups and their identities within the formal boundaries of the colonial policies and discourse. A bold attempt, with excellent touches of comparisons drawn from other colonies across the world, this book immerses the readers in an inquisitive aura, and leaves them grappling with delicate but satiating conclusions on the numerous facets of the colonial state of British India.
March 2017, volume 41, No 3