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

Laura Bear

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June, 2007
Cloth, 360 pages,
ISBN: 978-0-231-14002-7
$60.00 / £41.50

"A most worthwhile read." — Ian J. Kerr, American Historical Review

"This fine piece of scholarship deserves to be read by all those who wish to contribute to the field of historical anthropology." — Manish K. Thakur, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Lines of the Nation is a substantial contribution to the study of the railway in South Asian history and society." — H-Travel

"Lines of the Nation is a beautifully crafted ethnographic history, steeped in personal and railway archives and in the oral accounts of Anglo-Indians who live the racial predicaments of colonial and contemporary India. Laura Bear shows deftly the potencies of a colonial past that emerges in the pedigrees they seek to establish and in the intimate interstices of Anglo-Indians families whose anxieties about national and racial belonging shape the ways they draw on colonial differences as they draw away from them. This is a story of an unruly colonial past that permeates their relationship to the documentary state and to the living archives through which they make their precarious place in the present." — Ann Laura Stoler, Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies, New School for Social Research

"This is the first systematic and theoretically sophisticated analysis of the cultural life of the Indian railways. Lines of the Nation gives us a compelling story of how railways were introduced, expanded, and managed in colonial and postcolonial India. Laura Bear shows convincingly that railways not only were at the heart of colonial and postcolonial state formation but also were central to debates on public morality, caste, and the anxieties of race, blood, and self-making in the Anglo-Indian community, India's premier railway caste. An important book that breaks new ground and deserves a wide readership beyond South Asia." — Thomas Blom Hansen, author of Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay

"Laura Bear's tremendously informative and insightful study of the Indian Railways is an important reminder of the value of historical anthropology to the present. Bear's story of the problems that arose, and the opportunities that were created, during and after the construction of one of the world's most extensive railway networks will give policymakers and citizens alike plenty to ponder. Meticulous in its archival research and evocative in its ethnographic descriptions, this is a delightful and thought-provoking contribution to the debate." — Akhil Gupta, University of California, Los Angeles

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About the Author

Laura Bear is lecturer in anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is the author of the novel The Jadu House: Intimate Histories of Anglo-India.

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