By Mathew N. Schmalz
Looks at Western understandings of South Asian religions and indigenous responses from precolonial to modern times.
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Additional resources for Engaging South Asian Religions: Boundaries, Appropriations, and Resistances
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Beverley, H. 1872. Report of the Census of Bengal, 1872. Calcutta, India: Bengal Secretariat Press. Boorstin, Daniel. 1983. The Discoverers. New York: Random House. Census of India. html. Accessed October 20, 2004. J. ed. 1854. Report on the Census of the North West Provinces of the Bengal Presidency, Taken on the 1st of January, 1853. Calcutta, India: Baptist Mission Press. Cohn, Bernard S. 1996. Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India.
Clearly, in their efforts to know something about India and its people, many in the British public turned to the abundance of information contained in these reports. The scientific quality of these texts lent them a popular authority as scientific discourse became increasingly valued and authoritative. The ideal of “science” for census officials figured centrally from the very first comprehensive census. In his Report of the Census of Bengal, 1872, H. Beverly, Inspector General of Registration for Bengal, described the process of and results from the first systematic and comprehensive census of British India.
Overall, therefore, some of the authors of the census of 1872 admitted its limited classificatory abilities while bowing to the government’s requirement to construct categories and sub-categories. They arranged these, in the case of religions, with a logic of religious evolution and, in the case of races and nationality, with a logic of both genealogical bloodlines and Manu’s ritual status. If the 1872 census reflected the importance of the natural scientific paradigm in the effort of the British Indian government to know its subjects, its emphasis on two classes of information—“religion” and “nationalities, races, and tribes”—demonstrated the narrowing of their epistemic regime by the last third of the nineteenth century.