Against Indolence: ‘Paupers’, ‘Public-Works’ and Philanthropy

Sanjay Sharma

in Famine, Philanthropy and the Colonial State

Published in print July 2001 | ISBN: 9780195653861
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081653 | DOI:

Series: SOAS Studies on South Asia

Against Indolence: ‘Paupers’, ‘Public-Works’ and Philanthropy

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This chapter describes the scale and extent of famine relief by the colonial state, and explores the genealogy of the categories used to classify relief-seekers. Official policy at first sought to employ the able-bodied on relief works at fixed wages per day. The issues of the debate on the policy of wage-reductions are explained, with the author pointing out how the debate also illustrates several aspects of the emerging colonial bureaucracy. The chapter also discusses the colonial state’s responses to indigenous methods of charity which were deemed too ‘personalized and ritualistic;’ and more formal, rational, and utilitarian forms of charity were established. The colonial state’s drive towards the institutionalization of charity led to the further de-legitimization of the indigenous élite already under all sorts of new pressures under the colonial regime.

Keywords: famine relief; relief-seekers; wage-reductions; colonial bureaucracy; relief works; institutionalized charity; indigenous charity

Chapter.  25343 words. 

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