Bhavani Raman

The Duplicity of Paper and the Problem of Attestation in Early Colonial Madras

This paper traces the relationship between graphic culture and the making of a colonial regime through the remaking of attestation practices. The emergence of forgery and perjury points to an unresolved crisis in the East India Company’s Madras government in the early nineteenth century. Attestation was essential to the Company’s juridical sovereignty and yet, the source of its greatest vulnerability to unauthorized duplication, as different sections of society grappled with this new ideology of governance. The paper
examines how proliferating duplicity and Company efforts to control it, created the basis and limit of a new evidentiary paradigm in the Madras region.

Raman is currently Assistant Professor of History at Princeton University, specializing in modern South Asian history. Her research focuses on scribal culture, education, and bureaucracy under East India Company rule in early nineteenth century South India. Her teaching interests include colonialism and language politics, textual practices in South Asia, postcolonial criticism of historiography, and historical anthropology. She joined the history department at Princeton in the fall of 2007. She is currently
working on a book based on her dissertation.