ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Water and Waste: Nature, Productivity and Colonialism in the Indus Basin

Water and Waste: Nature, Productivity and Colonialism in the Indus Basin

This article explores differing uses of the term 'waste' in late 19th and early 20th century British irrigation administration in the Indus basin. The article compares the term's usage within the framework of professional engineering and within the framework of British property law and village administration. Differing concepts of 'waste' point towards deep-seated conflicts in British thinking about the relationship between the state, nature and the social body of Indus basin society. While engineers saw control over a wasteful nature as the key linking technical experts to a society composed of individual producers, revenue administrators saw the existence of unproductive land, labelled as 'waste' (or commons), as key to a vision of society as composed of village communities defined not by their roles in production, but by 'blood' and genealogy. The article explores how the tensions between these conceptions of 'waste' and community shaped the long-term development of irrigation.

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