RJ Sabbatical: Exception and emergency - British imperial governance in Asian frontier tracts

Gunnel Cederlöf has been awarded Riksbankens jubileumsfond’s Sabbatical grant for 2022. Her project ‘Exception and emergency - British imperial governance in Asian frontier tracts’ is a historical study of an economically and politically key region in Asia under the pressures of global empires and colonial governance which conditioned the roots to the modem states.

The study targets the small polities in the strategic frontier areas of British India's North-eastern Frontier, the kingdom of Burma and Qing China's Yunnan province in the 19th century. It investigates their encounters with imperial forces and their responses to the governing measures enforced upon them. There were simultaneously moving imperial frontiers of conquest, and a practice of the small polities turning into permanent frontier tracts under administrative exceptions. The project aims at establishing the British imperial pragmatic and provisional mode of operation, which depended on circumstance and place rather than on imperial principles or legal statutes.

The project combines and synthesises into a monograph the results of two major research projects. It thereby contributes the necessary revision of imperial history by integrating the Northeast India-to-Yunnan region for the purpose of investigating governance under exceptional conditions. This is a major spatial revision of the analytical field since it crosses the dominant Area Studies separations of South, Southeast and East Asia. It is an empirically rich study that includes work a wide range of historical archives.

During two years and as part of the project, Cederlöf will be an Affiliated Scholar to the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge.