From Reflection to Refraction: State Administration in British India, ca. 1770-1855 (2011)

The American Journal of Sociology, 116(5): 1437-77 (March 2011) [Link]

Abstract: Most scholars think state administrations vary because rulers attempt to maximize resource extraction given pressure from interstate competition and as constrained by the social structure of the societies they govern. This perspective cannot account for variations in British colonial tax administration in India from ca. 1770 to 1855. The British organized land revenue collection and administration as a whole through two different schemes. Both systems initially adopted a rhetoric of revenue maximization, but neither was decisively better matched to Indian social structure. Instead, administrators interpreted a seemingly opaque Indian society by understanding themselves as fundamentally similar to or different from Indians.

  • 2010 Leo Lowenthal Prize for Best Graduate Student Paper, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley.
  • 2011 Best Graduate Student Paper Award, American Sociological Association Political Sociology Section.
  • 2012 Charles Tilly Prize for Best Article, American Sociological Association Comparative and Historical Sociology Section.