Ruling the Rimlands: Frontier Governmentality along the Edges of Empire

By Benjamin Hopkins
Submitted to Session P4949 (Networks of Circulation and the Exchange of Ideas in Modern Afghanistan, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
This paper examines the forms of colonial authority along the external frontier of British India, looking specifically at the Frontier Crimes Regulation which was the basis of administration along the North-West Frontier. This Regulation, first promulgated in 1872, laid the groundwork for a distinct form of governmentality the colonial state deployed along the limits of the imperial project. There, as elsewhere along the extremity of British rule including mandatory Iraq and Palestine, colonial Nigeria and Kenya, as well as South Africa, indigenous inhabitants, which were invariably characterized as ‘independent’, were ruled by their own ‘customs and traditions’. Such forms of rule excluded them from the modernizing influences of the colonial state. As such, their story complexifies our understanding of the colonial project. Rather than simply being a copy of the Westphalian states then being constructed in Europe, the colonial state was a hybrid, deeply entwined with the local political topography and culture but at the same time productive of new forms and norms of politics. Many of these originated along the frontier and were reingested into the heartlands of colonial authority – and onward to the metropolitan center. The margins made the metropole.