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Title:Naogaon and the world: Intoxication, commoditisation, and imperialism in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, 1840-1940
Author(s):Chattopadhyaya, Utathya
Director of Research:Burton, Antoinette
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Burton, Antoinette
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Barnes, Teresa; Brennan, James; Ali, Tariq
Department / Program:History
Discipline:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Bengal
British Empire
Naogaon
Ganja
Cannabis
Commodity
South Asia
Colonialism
Abstract:Beginning in the early nineteenth century, the British Empire began extracting regular revenues from the production and trade of cannabis goods in its South Asian territories. The agrarian production of cannabis was scattered across the subcontinent and subject to local market dynamics. With the expansion of British imperialism in South Asia, cannabis transformed from a disparately cultivated substance to a systematically produced small-scale commodity. Naogaon in eastern Bengal was at the heart of this transformation as the single largest cultivation zone of ganja in colonial South Asia. Cannabis-cultivating homesteads in Naogaon participated in an imperially constituted market for cannabis by expanding their agrarian frontier and responding to changing regional and transcolonial influences. Between 1830 and 1917, the imperial state’s approach to Naogaon changed from an extractive one to one of direct control. Social and economic relations of production changed in Naogaon as peasants made claims upon the colonial state to protect themselves from oppressive levels of debt, culminating in the formation of the Naogaon Ganja Cultivators’ Cooperative Society Ltd. in 1917. The Cooperative Society won a monopoly award from the British government that allowed it to control all sales of Rajshahi Ganja. Arguably the most successful cooperative in colonial India, it redistributed its profits annually into public infrastructure, allowing it to displace its prosperity onto the body of a collective. The consumption of cannabis, across different classes in colonial society, changed in the period according to ascriptions of status and quality to it. Such ascriptions were deeply rooted in religious and everyday spheres of meaning. Many marginalised lower-caste consumers in agrarian eastern India articulated alternative meanings of ganja through newer invented traditions around the figure of Trinath. The Trinath movement was constructed as undesirable and morally corrupt by officials of the colonial state. Trinath devotees, on the other hand, were able to legitimate their relationship to ganja or siddhi by drawing on established syncretic themes without challenging any other religious sect. Instead, Trinath texts reveal a studied focus on upper-caste Vaishnavism for its critique of the relationship between ritual and cannabis. Later, in the interwar period, the British Empire’s legislative and administrative approach to cannabis changed from studied tolerance to prohibition and criminalisation, culminating in the passage of the Dangerous Drugs Act in 1930. However, the itinerary of the bill, and explicitly the idea of total prohibition through criminal law, did not begin in Geneva at the League of Nations. British officials had responded to Indian indentured workers smoking ganja in Trinidad with an attempt at total prohibition in the 1890s. The failure of total prohibition there set the tone for the future debates on cannabis and law in international fora, bring back to India, legislative histories that took shape in lateral transcolonial contexts.
Issue Date:2018-07-12
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/101814
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Utathya Chattopadhyaya
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-27
Date Deposited:2018-08


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