An Endangered History is an account of the little-studied region of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of British-governed Bengal, from the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. The Chittagong Hill Tracts lie on the crossroads of India, east Bengal (now Bangladesh) and Burma (contemporary Myanmar). An area of lush rivers and fertile valleys, it has historically been celebrated for its haunting natural beauty and religious heterodoxy from the chronicles ofMughal governors to the ethnohistories of British colonial administrators. The region is composed of several indigenous or 'tribal' communities, whose transcultural histories defied colonial and later postcolonial taxonomies of identity and difference. In particular, this book focuses on how British administrators used European knowledge systems, whether from botany, natural history, gender and sexuality, demography, and anthropology, to construct the autochthone groups of the CHT and their landscapes. In the process, British administrators and later South Asian nationalists would misunderstand and falsely classify the region through the reifying language of religion, linguistics, race and, most perniciously, nation in part due to its unique,and at times perilous, location on the invisible fault lines between South and Southeast Asia. In this manner, this book argues that the colonial archive serves not only to exhume a long forgotten regional past, but also to illuminate a dynamic interconnected global history. It hopes to reestablishthe vital place of this much marginalized border region within the larger study of colonial South Asia and Indian nationalism.
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