Dr. Navyug Gill (PhD, ’14) Publishes Article in ‘Past & Present’

PhD alum Dr. Navyug Gill has published an article in the journal Past & Present. Gill completed his dissertation, “Labours of Division: Peasant Castes and the Politics of Agrarian Hierarchy in Colonial Panjab,” in 2014 under the advisement of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor Gyanendra Pandey. Gill is now Assistant Professor in the Department of History at William Paterson University. Read the abstract of the Past & Present article below along with the full piece here: “Accumulation by Attachment: Colonial Benevolence and the Rule of Capital in Nineteenth-Century Panjab.”

A persistent theme in the emergence of capitalism is the displacement of peasants from the countryside into industrializing cities, with regions not undergoing such a transition usually deemed semi-feudal, proto-capitalist or pre-modern. Instead of separations, however, Panjab was the site of an altogether different dynamic of accumulation based on forging a series of novel attachments. This article begins by tracing the East India Company’s conquest in 1849, and the development of an ostensibly benevolent land revenue settlement based on surveying, measuring and calculating agrarian potential. Next, it examines how this process generated a set of natural and human contingencies so that certain castes were fixed to parcels of land, and expected to pay increasing rates while cultivating global commodities and conducting exchanges in cash. To make sense of this difference, it then contrasts the archive of settlement work with Karl Marx’s narrative of primitive accumulation, to explicate the conditions and limitations of its universality. Together this demonstrates how caste-based peasant agriculture in Panjab was a new phenomenon implicated in a modern yet distinctive rule of capital. In a broader sense, this offers possibilities to rethink the politics of comparative analysis as well as the alterity of capitalist transitions across the colonial world.