Prof. Dr. Radhika  Singha
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Prof. Dr. Radhika Singha
Käte Hamburger Kolleg "Legal Unity and Pluralism"
Room 7008
Servatiiplatz 9
48143 Münster
T: +49 251 83-22686

Radhika Singha was a Fellow of the Kolleg from January 2023 to December 2023.

  • Vita

    Radhika Singha received a doctorate in history from the University of Cambridge with a thesis on British criminal justice and public authority in North India around 1800. She taught Modern and Contemporary Indian History at Delhi University, Aligarh Muslim University and Jawarharlal Nehru University, Delhi, where she retired as a professor in 2021. She was awarded numerous fellowships from various universities, including Yale University, the University of Cambridge and Lichtenberg Kolleg at the University of Göttingen. She serves on the advisory boards of the journals “Crime, history and societies” (CESDIP Paris) and “Modern Asian Studies” (Cambridge). Her research interests include the social history of crime, criminal law and policing, colonial governmentality in relation to labour and human mobility, identification practices and technologies, as well as borders and border-crossing in South Asia.

  • Research Project

    The Deportable and the Not-So-Deportable: Vagrancy and ‘Foreignness’ in Colonial India, 1864-1946

    I want to examine the Foreigners Act III of 1864 in colonial India for the link it created between ‘foreignness’ and ‘deportability’. An Act formulated in universal terms operated through a highly differentiated notion of sovereign rights: as between civilized states, and ‘backward Asiatic’ polities, and between Britain as the paramount power and the Indian princely states. The colonial regime also had to negotiate the foreignness of British residents in India. The linking of ‘foreignness’ to deportability had an overlap with colonial perceptions of crime and vagrancy. An enactment meant to deal with threats to peace and tranquility began to be used to deport peddling bands described as ‘Foreign Asiatic Vagrants’. The corollary to the eviction of the undesirable foreign vagrant was the statist imperative of settlement for ‘vagrants’ who had to be accepted as British Indian subjects. Provincial governments were given enormous discretion in the use of the Foreigner’s Act. ‘Foreign’ as a category of colonial governmentality functioned therefore within a plural ecology of sovereignties, jurisdictions, laws, rules and ordinances. This paper explores the idea that an international order of sharply defined nation states took shape by World War I not only from immigration and emigration law applied at international borders, but also from a plurality of everyday police practices based on the inclusion or exclusion of people from internal jurisdictions.

  • Selected Publications

    Singha, Radhika, The Coolie’s Great War: Indian Labour in a Global Conflict, 1914-21, London: Hurst, 2020. 

    Singha, Radhika, Punished by Surveillance: Policing ‘dangerousness’ in colonial India, 1872–1918, in:  Modern Asian Studies 49 (2015), 241-269.

    Singha, Radhika, The Great War and a ‘proper’ passport for the colony: border-crossing in British India, c.1882-1922, in: Indian Economic and Social History Review 50 (2013), 289–315.

    Singha, Radhika, Passport, ticket, and india-rubber stamp: `the problem of the pauper pilgrim’ in colonial India ca. 1882-1925, in: Fischer-Tine, Harald/Tambe Ashwini (Ed.) The Limits of British Colonial Control in South Asia, Spaces of Disorder in the Indian Ocean region, London: Routledge, 2008.

    Singha, Radhika, Settle, mobilise, verify: identification practices in colonial India, in: Studies in History, 16 (2000), 151-198.

    Singha, Radhika, A Despotism of Law: Crime and Criminal Justice in Colonial India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998.