Discipline and the Other Body

Correction, Corporeality, Colonialism

Discipline and the Other Body

Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: Published: May 2006

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, History > World History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Discipline and the Other Body reveals the intimate relationship between violence and difference underlying modern governmental power and the human rights discourses that critique it. The comparative essays brought together in this collection show how, in using physical violence to discipline and control colonial subjects, governments repeatedly found themselves enmeshed in a fundamental paradox: Colonialism was about the management of difference—the “civilized” ruling the “uncivilized”—but colonial violence seemed to many the antithesis of civility, threatening to undermine the very distinction that validated its use. Violation of the bodies of colonial subjects regularly generated scandals, and eventually led to humanitarian initiatives, ultimately changing conceptions of “the human” and helping to constitute modern forms of human rights discourse. Colonial violence and discipline also played a crucial role in hardening modern categories of difference—race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and religion.

The contributors, who include both historians and anthropologists, address instances of colonial violence from the early modern period to the twentieth century and from Asia to Africa to North America. They consider diverse topics, from the interactions of race, law, and violence in colonial Louisiana to British attempts to regulate sex and marriage in the Indian army in the early nineteenth century. They examine the political dilemmas raised by the extensive use of torture in colonial India and the ways that British colonizers flogged Nigerians based on beliefs that different ethnic and religious affiliations corresponded to different degrees of social evolution and levels of susceptibility to physical pain. An essay on how contemporary Sufi healers deploy bodily violence to maintain sexual and religious hierarchies in postcolonial northern Nigeria makes it clear that the state is not the only enforcer of disciplinary regimes based on ideas of difference.

Contributors. Laura Bear, Yvette Christiansë, Shannon Lee Dawdy, Dorothy Ko, Isaac Land, Susan O’Brien, Douglas M. Peers, Steven Pierce, Anupama Rao, Kerry Ward


Discipline and the Other Body provide[s] the reader with a significant understanding of the relationship between the modern colonial state and its subjects.” — Trevor Getz, H-Net Reviews

“[T]his volume is an excellent and unusual exploration of colonial structures of power and their relationship to the bodies of their subjects, as well as the dialectics between violence and cultural distinctions between genders, races, and sexualities.” — Sasha Newell, International Journal of African Historical Studies

“The wide geographical and chronological scope of the collection allows it to suggest broader conceptual patterns than a narrower selection would have done. Taken together, these essays provide an important framework for thinking not just about empire, but about the historical construction of difference and division.” — Susan E. Amussen, Itinerario

“This is a marvelous collection of essays which readers will find interesting and instructive in shaping narratives of the meaning of the colonial politics of the body.” — Clare Anderson, Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

Discipline and the Other Body offers a brilliant and multifaceted exploration of the ways in which colonial power worked with the human body. Covering a great variety of colonial contexts, the contributors bring to light the connections between what Michel Foucault called biopower and the lived experience of colonial violence.” — Timothy Mitchell, author of Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity

“Here, finally, is a collection that forces us to think broadly and comparatively about the relationship between colonial power and the body, about the very interventions and invasions that made colonialism so embodied a practice. This volume will allow people like myself to teach colonialism in a way that bridges culture, politics, and gender in powerful ways.” — Luise White, author of Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Steven Pierce is Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial History at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Farmers and the State in Colonial Kano: Land Tenure and the Legal Imagination.

Anupama Rao is Assistant Professor of History at Barnard College. She is the editor of Gender and Caste: Contemporary Issues in Indian Feminism and a coeditor of Violence, Vulnerability, and Embodiment.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Discipline and the Other Body: Humanitarianism, Violence, and the Colonial Exception / Anupama Tao and Steven Pierce 1

Defining and Defiling the Criminal Body at the Cape of Good Hope: Punishing the Crime of Suicide under Dutch East India Company Rule, circa 1652–1795 / Kerry Ward 36

The Burden of Louis Congo and the Evolution of Savagery in Colonial Louisiana / Shannon Lee Dawdy 61

“Sinful Propensities”: Piracy, Sodomy, and Empire in the Rhetoric of Naval Reform, 1770–1870 / Isaac Land 90

The Raj’s Other Great Game: Policing the Sexual Frontiers of the Indian Army in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century / Douglas M. Peers 115

Problems of Violence, States of terror: Torture in Colonial India / Anupama Rao 151

Punishment and the Political Body: Flogging and Colonialism in Northern Nigeria / Steven Pierce 186

Footbinding and Anti-footbinding in China: The Subject of Pain in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries / Dorothy Ko 215

An Economy of Suffering: Addressing the Violence of Discipline in Railway Workers’ Petitions to the Agent of the East Indian Railway, 1930–47 / Laura Bear 243

Spirit Discipline: Gender, Islam, and Hierarchies of Treatment in Postcolonial Northern Nigeria / Susan O’Brien 273

Selections from Castaway / Yvette Christianse 303

Bibliography 317

Contributors 347

Index 349

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3743-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3731-7
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