Organized Panel Session
Current social science literature on colonial state building has neglected the role of the precolonial polity and the significance of political processes in shaping various forms of colonial administration. This gap in scholarship perpetuates an overly deterministic view of how colonial administration affects the development of the colonial state and its institutions. Our panel presents and extends the debate on the origins of colonial institutions through the comparative historical cases of British administration in South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Caribbean. We examine how colonial administrators and local elites engage in the remaking and unmaking of native institutions to condition varieties of colonial governance. In shedding light on the parameters of the precolonial polity, we discuss the roots of the land revenue system in India, and the transformation of the legal-administrative system in Malaysia to reconstitute the path dependent analysis of colonial legacies of state building. In exploring the adaptability of colonial administration, we discuss patterns of collaboration in colonial discourse on native land rights in Pakistan, and strategic incorporation of “native” actors in Hong Kong and Jamaica. This cross-regional analysis of British colonial administration furthers a comparative approach to varieties of colonial rule more specifically, and contributes to literature on comparative state formation more generally.