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Lines of the Nation: Indian Railway Workers, Bureaucracy, and the Intimate Historical Self

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"Lines of the Nation" radically recasts the history of the Indian railways, which have long been regarded as vectors of modernity and economic prosperity. From the design of carriages to the architecture of stations, employment hierarchies, and the construction of employee housing, Laura Bear explores the new public spaces and social relationships created by the railway bu "Lines of the Nation" radically recasts the history of the Indian railways, which have long been regarded as vectors of modernity and economic prosperity. From the design of carriages to the architecture of stations, employment hierarchies, and the construction of employee housing, Laura Bear explores the new public spaces and social relationships created by the railway bureaucracy. She then traces their influence on the formation of contemporary Indian nationalism, personal sentiments, and popular memory. Her probing study challenges entrenched beliefs concerning the institutions of modernity and capitalism by showing that these rework older idioms of social distinction and are legitimized by forms of intimate, affective politics. Drawing on historical and ethnographic research in the company town at Kharagpur and at the Eastern Railway headquarters in Kolkata (Calcutta), Bear focuses on how political and domestic practices among workers became entangled with the moralities and archival technologies of the railway bureaucracy and illuminates the impact of this history today. The bureaucracy has played a pivotal role in the creation of idioms of family history, kinship, and ethics, and its special categorization of Anglo-Indian workers still resonates. Anglo-Indians were formed as a separate railway caste by Raj-era racial employment and housing policies, and other railway workers continue to see them as remnants of the colonial past and as a polluting influence. The experiences of Anglo-Indians, who are at the core of the ethnography, reveal the consequences of attempts to make political communities legitimate in family lines and sentiments. Their situation also compels us to rethink the importance of documentary practices and nationalism to all family histories and senses of relatedness. This interdisciplinary anthropological history throws new light not only on the imperial and national past of South Asia but also on the moral life of present technologies and economic institutions.


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"Lines of the Nation" radically recasts the history of the Indian railways, which have long been regarded as vectors of modernity and economic prosperity. From the design of carriages to the architecture of stations, employment hierarchies, and the construction of employee housing, Laura Bear explores the new public spaces and social relationships created by the railway bu "Lines of the Nation" radically recasts the history of the Indian railways, which have long been regarded as vectors of modernity and economic prosperity. From the design of carriages to the architecture of stations, employment hierarchies, and the construction of employee housing, Laura Bear explores the new public spaces and social relationships created by the railway bureaucracy. She then traces their influence on the formation of contemporary Indian nationalism, personal sentiments, and popular memory. Her probing study challenges entrenched beliefs concerning the institutions of modernity and capitalism by showing that these rework older idioms of social distinction and are legitimized by forms of intimate, affective politics. Drawing on historical and ethnographic research in the company town at Kharagpur and at the Eastern Railway headquarters in Kolkata (Calcutta), Bear focuses on how political and domestic practices among workers became entangled with the moralities and archival technologies of the railway bureaucracy and illuminates the impact of this history today. The bureaucracy has played a pivotal role in the creation of idioms of family history, kinship, and ethics, and its special categorization of Anglo-Indian workers still resonates. Anglo-Indians were formed as a separate railway caste by Raj-era racial employment and housing policies, and other railway workers continue to see them as remnants of the colonial past and as a polluting influence. The experiences of Anglo-Indians, who are at the core of the ethnography, reveal the consequences of attempts to make political communities legitimate in family lines and sentiments. Their situation also compels us to rethink the importance of documentary practices and nationalism to all family histories and senses of relatedness. This interdisciplinary anthropological history throws new light not only on the imperial and national past of South Asia but also on the moral life of present technologies and economic institutions.

30 review for Lines of the Nation: Indian Railway Workers, Bureaucracy, and the Intimate Historical Self

  1. 5 out of 5

    Clod Winter

    very helpful book on infrastructure studies, history,and modernity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Val Anderson

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bu Aragon

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Ruud

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kamyar

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rizwan Niaz Raiyan

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zasha O'Brien

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cui

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

  10. 5 out of 5

    Petter

  11. 5 out of 5

    Simanta Achilles

  12. 4 out of 5

    Edward Smith

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amar Baines

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kavya

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lali Basu

  16. 5 out of 5

    Terri

  17. 4 out of 5

    Phạm N.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Adam LoBue

  19. 5 out of 5

    Aice Galon

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susana Vázquez Vidal

  21. 5 out of 5

    Grace Xia

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jackson Walker

  23. 5 out of 5

    Abdulla

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ali Shehzad

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chinmay

  26. 5 out of 5

    Upasana B

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nikita

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sreya Dutta

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bharatbhooshan Tiwari

  30. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

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