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Colonial legacies and repertoires of 'ethnic' violence: the case of Western India, 1941-2002

Desai, Manali (2009) Colonial legacies and repertoires of 'ethnic' violence: the case of Western India, 1941-2002. Journal of Historical Sociology, 22 (2). pp. 147-179. ISSN 0952-1909

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1467-6443.2009.01346.x


The post-colonial state is held to be a weak state whose ease of capture reduces its capacity to suppress violence. The focus on the state, however, risks neglecting the ways in which violence is deployed to render the state weak in popular perception. This perception in turn legitimates claims for a foundational shift in the basis of power. In this paper, the concept of "repertoire" as first used by Charles Tilly, is used to analyze continuities and discontinuities in the development of the "ethnic riot" in urban, western India. As an "extreme" case in which riots have shown considerable durability over time, it highlights a key point, namely, that riots can form part of a strategy of power by simultaneously projecting themselves as popular insurrection and constructing a perception of the state as weak. The persistence of this repertoire, it is further argued, derives from the historical specificities of colonial state formation which promoted an ethnically imagined and hierarchized polity, as well as political struggles which weakened alternative forms of community.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2009 The Author
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2010 16:59
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2021 00:39

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