Yael Berda, Sociology

Citizen and Suspect: How colonial emergency laws shaped political membership in India, Israel & Cyprus

Tue, 12/03/2013
438 Robertson Hall
Event Category: 
Job Talk
Graduate Students

Please join us on Tuesday, December 3, for a practice job talk with Yael Berda, PhD candidate in Sociology, to discuss "Citizen and Suspect: How colonial emergency laws shaped political membership in India, Israel & Cyprus."

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Abstract: Emergency legislation and powers that suspended civil, political and economic rights were a primary tool of governance and control of population throughout the British Empire. I explore how the colonial governments in India, Israel and Mandate Palestine employed emergency legislation, creating and adapting innovative practices of surveillance, enforcement and control of population movement. These technologies of rule circulated and proliferated throughout the colonies as colonial officials became “experts of emergency,” their use peaking in the years before the planned partition of the three colonies.

In order to employ the emergency regulations effectively, the administrations had to classify population not only according to racial, ethnic or religious traits, but also according to a second dimension – the relationship of the person to the state. This categorization of populations ranged from loyal subjects and collaborators, to suspicious persons, to those of doubtful loyalty and, finally, enemies of the state. In some cases, the classification conflated racial or ethnic origins with suspiciousness and created the classification of “dangerous populations”.
I argue that the practices of classification and surveillance developed in the colonial states, were later used against minorties after Independence,

I explore the classification of populations and how these techniques were used to administer and enforce emergency laws, forming practices of surveillance and control of population movement. These classifications enabled the surveillance practices evolved from the Foreigners Acts and Rules in India. Similar blacklists, exit permits, and restriction and detention laws diffused throughout all three colonies, and were adapted into permit regimes in the early years of independent. Focusing on India, I trace diffusion of documents, legal templates, technologies and expertise of emergency between the three colonies. I argue that these legal technologies, which the colonial state instituted against hostile subject populations, were then used by administrations in the independent states against minorities minorities, not only for purposes of security and surveillance. As racial categories and classifications based on loyalty and suspicion converged. but to block claims to citizenship by administrative means.

Yael Berda is an Israeli lawyer and a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Princeton University. Born in New York City and raised in West Jerusalem, Yael has been highly engaged in social justice activism and politics in Israel.  Yael graduated from the faculty of Law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and pursued her Masters degree at the department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University. Her masters thesis looked at the bureaucracy of the occupation in the  Occupied Palestinian Territories. Yael is currently working on her dissertation project which exaamines the legal construction of political membership in Israel, india and Cyprus. It is an effort to trace how British Colonial administration shaped the practices of routines of the independent states, in which partition plans were concieved as a solution to intercommuncal conflict. She pays particular attention to the role of emergency laws, classification practices and targeting of suspicious populations. Working with documents from archives in India, Israel, Cyprus and the UK, Yael offers a comparative analysis of the administrative legacies of the British empire on Citizenship, population management and the exclusion of minorities and the diffusion of those practices in a transnational persepctive.  Her work has been recognized and supported by grants from SSRC, The National Science Foundation, The ACLS, The Ford Foundation and others.