Apr 1, 2021
Comparative Studies in Society and History
Abstract While the colonial and contemporary economy of Bengal's Himalayan foothills is most often associated with the tea plantations of Darjeeling and the Dooars, the small farms of nearby Kalimpong were also a key space in which colonial agents and missionaries worked to “settle” the mountainous terrain. Focused on Kalimpong, this article traces the trajectory of one technology of settlement, agricultural extension, from the late 1880s to the early 1940s. It highlights agricultural extension's racialized and gendered politics, as well as its implication in a long-term project that merged material (i.e., food) provision with social reproduction (i.e., childrearing, kin-making). Agricultural extension created a patchwork of relatively biodiverse small farms that historical and contemporary accounts describe as a “green belt”: a socio-ecological outside to the plantation monocultures that dominate the hills. British governors attempted to use non-plantation space for multiple ends. In this sense, their work might be termed “biopolitical,” in that it was geared toward supporting and amplifying the life chances of certain human bodies and certain botanical species. Through a series of experiments, colonial agents made calculated choices about which of these forms of life should be made to flourish, and which might be allowed to perish. Importantly, settlement, as a set of intertwined projects, did not unfold in a coherent or deliberately sequential manner. Settlement was, and continues to be, a sedimentary process.