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By Nicholas Dirks

The many years among 1970 and the tip of the 20 th century observed the disciplines of background and anthropology draw nearer jointly, with historians paying extra cognizance to social and cultural elements and the importance of daily adventure within the learn of the prior. the folks, instead of elite actors, grew to become the focal point in their inquiry, and anthropological insights into agriculture, kinship, ritual, and people customs enabled historians to strengthen richer and extra consultant narratives. The intersection of those disciplines additionally helped students reframe the legacies of empire and the roots of colonial knowledge.

In this selection of essays and lectures, history's flip from excessive politics and formal highbrow heritage towards usual lives and cultural rhythms is vividly mirrored in a scholar's highbrow trip to India. Nicholas B. Dirks recounts his early research of kingship in India, the increase of the caste procedure, the emergence of English imperial curiosity in controlling markets and India's political regimes, and the advance of a quandary in sovereignty that ended in a rare nationalist fight. He stocks his own encounters with files that supplied the assets and bounds for study on those matters, eventually revealing the boundaries of colonial wisdom and unmarried disciplinary views. Drawing parallels to the best way American universities stability the liberal arts and really good examine this day, Dirks, who has occupied senior administrative positions and now leads the college of California at Berkeley, encourages students to proceed to use a number of techniques to their learn and construct a extra worldwide and moral archive.

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It was with this privileged experience of premodern history that I set off on my journey to the modern archive. Even though by then I had shifted my own historical interests from the eighth and ninth centuries to the eighteenth and nineteenth, I still had ambivalent feelings about this shift of focus. Given my interest in precolonial state and ANNALS OF T HE ARCHIV E 3 1 society—specifically in charting out the nature of kingly authority and caste relations in southern India immediately prior to the onset of British colonial rule and then tracing its transformations over the first colonial century—I was keen to find documents that existed before the modern colonial state and its entire apparatus of documentation.

History was already monumental, most particularly in the elaborate and sometimes enormous temple complexes that yielded surface after surface for textual inscription, but also in the use of precious metals to insure the permanence of the text (though its very preciousness meant there was always the temptation for textual meltdown). In one sense history in this premodern moment could only be monumental, for the myriad other texts that must have been etched on the evanescent surfaces of palmyra palm were consigned to certain obsolescence 30 AUTOBIOGRAPH Y in ways that meant that if history was to last, it had to be written on, or as, a monument.

This history further shows that the main contest at the level of the state—and for that matter the archive—was between imperial and colonial states; theology did not so much disappear as become appropriated by the hidden political history of modernity. As such, the state of record for modern history was the same imperial state that appropriated both the colonies and, in the end, Enlightenment sensibilities too. 16 The state also became the instrumentality through which historical documents became meaningful ANNALS OF T HE ARCHIV E 47 as the primary and authentic record of the past.

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