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LAW AND IDENTITY IN COLONIAL SOUTH ASIA

“A model of how social history stands to gain from a fuller use of legal sources.”
C. S. Adcock, American Historical Review

“An invaluable contribution…arguably the most important work to date in [Parsi studies].” 
Simin Patel, Law and History Review

“ … formidably intricate story of legal change … the author has achieved something remarkable. A community and its laws are explained.”
Raymond Cocks, Journal of Legal History

Winner of the 2015 J. Willard Hurst Award
for best book in socio-legal history, Law and Society Association


LAW AND IDENTITY IN COLONIAL SOUTH ASIA
Parsi Legal Culture • 1772–1947

by MITRA SHARAFI


This book explores the legal culture of the Parsis, or Zoroastrians, an ethnoreligious community unusually invested in the colonial legal system of British India and Burma.

Rather than trying to maintain collective autonomy and integrity by avoiding interaction with the state, the Parsis sank deep into the colonial legal system itself. From the late eighteenth century until India’s independence in 1947, they became heavy users of colonial law, acting as lawyers, judges, litigants, lobbyists, and legislators. They de-Anglicized the law that governed them and enshrined in law their own distinctive models of the family and community by two routes: frequent intragroup litigation often managed by Parsi legal professionals in the areas of marriage, inheritance, religious trusts, and libel, and the creation of legislation that would become Parsi personal law.

Other South Asian communities also turned to law, but none seems to have done so earlier or in more pronounced ways than the Parsis.

Read an excerpt here, at Bombaywallah

MITRA SHARAFI is an associate professor of Law and Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, with an affiliation appointment in History. Her work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals and has been recognized by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council in the USA.

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