Mr Ved Baruah
BA (First Class Honours) (2005), University of Delhi
MA (2007), St. Stephen’s College, Delhi
MPhil (2009), University of Delhi. Dissertation title: “Empire’s Dreamy Visions: Nineteenth Century British Opium Enterprise and ‘Writing’ the Kania Asomiya”
Working Title: “Opium-eaters and Opium Peddlers: Cultural Manifestations of Opium in Northeast India and its Echoes in a Transnational Age, 1750–1950”
My doctoral project examines British and indigenous discourses on opium-eaters and opium-eating in colonial and modern Assam. It seeks to construe opium’s role as a cultural commodity that came to exemplify the lived experience of colonialism. The difference(s) between representations of opium-eaters in Britain and its colony-specific reconfigurations—the contrast between the creative Romantic genius of Europe and the indolent, degenerate and profligate Asian native—provide an apposite starting point and bring to fore critical issues like morality and inequity (the good human), industry and idleness (the good worker), indigene and alien (the good subject). With specific focus on Assam as a site of production and consumption, this project will study how British opium policies brought social and economic changes in indigenous ways of living and affected colonial and modern identities in north-eastern India.
It is within the purview of the contrasting range of European and Indian attitudes to, and images of, opium-using and opium-users that this project seeks to study what the drug tells us more widely about colonial discourses and practices and its postcolonial effects. Put differently, how a traded commodity, operating within the dynamics of profit and loss, lends itself to being appropriated as an important socio-cultural and political discourse for the purpose of colonial rule.
Inquiry into how opium has affected Indian colonial history necessarily raises questions concerning what meanings have been attributed to the use of opium as an “article of pleasure” in Indian cultures during pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial times. It also necessitates an inquiry into how metropolitan discourses saw the drug move from a position of “article of pleasure” to “oriental vice”. Literary representations of the drug in fiction will also inform the conceptual frame of this study.
The project involves examining archival material at British Library as well as major archives in India with an emphasis on government records. These will be supplemented by British as well as native accounts (variously in English, Assamese, Bengali and Hindi) in the form of literary texts, local histories and journals. Secondary material relating to production and trade of opium and its effects on polity and social life, across the disciplines of history, economics, social and cultural anthropology and literature, will be studied concurrently.
Teaching and Editorial Experience
Seminar Tutor, ‘HS1105: The Making of the Modern World, 1750-1970’, SHARE, Cardiff University.
Tutor, ‘India and the Raj: 1600–1947’, Workers’ Education Association (WEA), South Wales.
Editorial Consultant (Full Time), Oxford University Press, New Delhi (Aug. 2011–Mar. 2012). Also, Part-time/freelance (Oct. 2007– Jul. 2011).
Lecturer in English and Postcolonial Studies (Fixed Term Contract), Shillong Engineering and Management College, Jorabat (Sept. 2009–Apr. 2010).
Consultant Editor, Vikas Publishing House, NOIDA (Sept. 2009–Jun. 2010).
‘Revelling and Rebelling, Maddening and Meddling: Manifestations of the Assamese Opium-eaters’ Defiance of Colonial Power and Authority’, Department of History Working Papers Series, University of Essex, forthcoming.
‘Book Review: The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia’, NEWFrontiers: Journal of North-East Writers Forum, February 2010.
‘Screening Reality: The Remains of the Day as Fact, Fiction and Film from a Postcolonial Perspective’, in Manju Jain (ed.), Narratives of Indian Cinema, New Delhi: Primus Books, 2009 (paperback 2013).
Conferences and Presentations
“How Opium Changed the Face of the Globe: The Empire of Ideas and the British Opium Trade in India” (tentative title), Exchange Conference, Cardiff University, 28–29 June 2012.
“‘Romancing History’: John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman and A.S. Byatt’s Possession”, Rethinking Empire, Reimagining History, International Seminar of the History Department, Cotton College, Gauhati University, 12–15 December 2009.
“Home(s) for the Postcolonial ‘Everyman’: The World of Kureishi, Kunzru and the Singh Twins”, Annual Seminar, English Department, Shivaji College, University of Delhi, New Delhi, 14–16 September 2008.
Member of the Organizing Committee, ‘Past the Post: New Literatures in English in a Globalized World’, International Conference organized by the Department of English, University of Delhi (Feb. 2006).
Co-organiser and Panel Chair, ‘Voice of Humanities Conference’, Cardiff University, 21-22 March 2013.
‘British Opium Policies and Cultural Manifestations in Colonial Assam, 1840–1890’, Colonial/Postcolonial New Researchers’ Workshop, Imperial and World History Seminar, Senate House, University of London, 4 February 2013.
‘How Opium Changed the Face of the Globe: The Empire of Ideas and the British Opium Trade in India’, Muck and Brass: Money and Finance in Victorian Britain Conference, Leeds Trinity University, 10 November 2012.
‘Opium-Eaters and Opium-Peddlers: Opium’s Romantic Legacy, British Policies and its Cultural Manifestations in Colonial Assam’, New Researchers’ Workshop: Histories of Material Life in South Asia, 1500–1900, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, 27 September 2012.
‘Revelling and Rebelling, Maddening and Meddling: The world(s) of opium-eaters and their defiance of power, authority and normativity’, The Rude Body: International History Conference for Postgraduates and Early Career Historians, University of Essex, 14–15 September 2012.
‘Empire's Dreamy Visions and Indolent Indians: Opium in the 19th Century and the Exchange of Commodities, Ideas and Histories’, Exchange Conference, Cardiff University, 28–29 June 2012.