Brian Cannon

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Ph.D. Candidate

My dissertation, "Claiming Caste: Land, Water, and Hierarchy in North India, c. 1660-1965," offers a revisionist history of arid-zone South Asia read through the lens of revenue-free land grants maintained by subjects of the Marwar state over three long centuries.  Pushing against top-down models of surplus extraction and donor-focused socio-political patronage that dominate the historiography of land grants in South Asia, I employ materials from Marwari, Hindi, and British colonial archives to focus on recipients’ claims to - and contests over - this singular category of inheritable, tax-free land.  With an equal attention to the routine famines, precarious access to sources of water, and resultant migration that together defined the harsh ecology of the greater Marwar region, the work joins environmental, economic, and social history to argue for the durability of a land regime that deeply influenced political economy and social hierarchies from the early modern period to the present.  Research for the project was supported by fellowships from the Fulbright-Hays program and the American Institute of Indian Studies.  


M.A., University of Pennsylvania
B.A., Cornell University

Research Interests

Caste, social organization, and kinship; histories of land and labor; desert ecology and political economy