Ananda Abeysekera’s essay entitled “The Loss of Kingship and Colonial and Other Uses of the “People” in South Asia,” will appear soon in Academia Letters
Synopsis: In this essay, I briefly take up the question of loss by way of the question of the loss of kingship in the aftermath of colonialism in two instances of South Asia. Given the word limit, I do so with a brief reading of Gananath Obeyesekere’s The Doomed King (2017) followed by some comments on Anastasia Piliavsky’s Nobody’s People (2020). Even though these two texts are by anthropologists, given the subject matter, they are very much interested in the question of history and power. In reading these two texts, I attempt to note briefly how the modern category of the “people” begins to raise its head in colonialism, if you will, in the wake of the destruction and loss of kingship. My remarks are hardly exhaustive on the concept of the people, but its specter—in terms of the continuing reproductions of the colonial and postcolonial relation between people’s “agency” and “responsibility”—is pervasive in both the humanities and a multitude of political discourses about law, foreign policy conduct, etc.