The Journal of Asian Studies

Research Article

Bandits and Kings: Moral Authority and Resistance in Early Colonial India

Anand A. Yang

Abstract

This paper traces a side story to the well-known tale of the poligar rebel Kattabomman, who was hanged in 1799 for his refusal to accept the authority of the emerging colonial state in south India. Specifically, it draws on the story of seventy-three poligars who survived the brutal Poligar Wars and were transported to Penang in Southeast Asia in 1801, an episode that highlights the workings of the coercive power and moral authority of the new regime in early colonial India. The paper illustrates the variety of forms that resistance to the regime took and the extent to which the colonial state in south Asia strengthened and was strengthened by the rising British Empire across the Indian Ocean. The poligars' lives in exile are reconstructed as a story of their struggle for status and dignity in a settlement where they were initially lumped together with convicts brought there from Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay.

Footnotes

Anand A. Yang (aay@u.washington.edu) is the Director of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and Golub Chair of International Studies at the University of Washington, seattle.

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