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Dishonoured by History: 'Criminal Tribes' and British Colonial Policies

Meena Radhakrishna (Author)
Synopsis In this path-breaking study, Meena Radhakrishna traces the history and implications of a piece of colonial legislation 'the Criminal Tribes Act. She examines the changing notions of crime and criminality over a period of time, and shows how traditional prejudice against gypsies combined with realpolitik on the one hand, and with science on the other, to feed into the category 'hereditary criminal'. Focussing on the itinerant trading community of Koravas in colonial Madras, Dr Radhakrishna studies in detail the process of its forced sedentarisation in a police and missionary-run settlement. Here the community was means to be reformed, albeit more through wage work than evangelism. The study shows how inspite of severe and repeated ruptures from its past, the community survived and has forged a strong contemporary trade union movement. The archival sources used in this study establish the community to have been an honourable and useful part of sedentary society in the past. However, through a careful analysis of its present oral culture and folklore, Dr Radhakrishna shows that its members have lost memory of that history, and share the widespread belief of the community's earlier, dangerous criminality. An extraordinary book that casts light on a problem that the denotified tribes continue to face even today.
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About the author

Meena Radhakrishna

Meena Radhakrishna, a sociologist and has been Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

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Bibliographic information

Title Dishonoured by History: 'Criminal Tribes' and British Colonial Policies
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2001
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 812502090X, 9788125020905
length xiv+192p., 23cm.
Subjects History