CHS organises a lecture by Janaki Nair

Event From Date: 
Wednesday, 18 April 2018
Event End Date: 
Wednesday, 18 April 2018
Event Title: 
CHS organises a lecture by Janaki Nair
Event Details: 

Centre for Historical Studies

School of Social Sciences


organising a lecture on


An Inheritance of Loss

The King's Debt, Women's Wills and Public Charity in Princely Mysore


Janaki Nair

Jawaharlal Nehru University


18th April, 2018, 3pm

Room No. 326, Committee Room, CHS, SSS-III


An Inheritance of Loss: The King’s Debt, Women’s Wills and Public Charity in Princely Mysore Abstract: In 1845, the banker Damodar Dass of Srirangapatnam loaned a large sum of money to the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III of Mysore. For the next seven decades, until the unpaid debt was turned into public charity, the multiple claims of Damodar Dass’ heirs to this inheritance furrowed the brows of the colonial state and Mysore government (especially after 1881) alike, to produce a luxuriant archive. Occupying the foreground were the legal dilemmas posed by the transition from direct to indirect British rule in Mysore, involving the fate of kingship, debt, reciprocality, and masculine honour. Other legal dilemmas concerned the fraught relationship between scriptural and customary law and, in particular, the portability of customary law between regions that were unevenly exposed to Anglo-Indian legal regimes.

The cacophonous claims to the unpaid debt also reveal the important ways in which a new moral order was being shaped, whether in defining the new relationship between the colonial regime and the princely state, (or later its bureaucracy), or in calling into question the status of four female heirs – Devaki Bai, Jamuna Bai, Subhadra Bai and Mahalakshmi Bai -- for whom the rectitude of kinship alone could not suffice in support of their claims.

Fortunately, the archive itself contains the potential of disturbing the univocity of this statist discourse. For we may recover a third narrative involving the ‘small voices of history’: thereby we may recover important insights on the promise of abstract versus embodied personhood. What hopes did this era of profound transformation hold out for women of the non-domestic sphere, such as Ulsoor Narsee? What , moreover, can all these women, whose lives involuntarily collided with authority, be heard to say about the truth of their times?


About the Speaker: JANAKI NAIR teaches history at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her recent books include Mysore Modern: Rethinking the Region Under Princely Rule (University of Minnesota Press, 2011; Orient Blackswan, 2012) and The Promise of the Metropolis: Bangalore's Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2005, 2006). She has also published in several national and international journals, and is a regular contributor to public discussions on contemporary Karnataka/India.