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Punjab ReconsideredHistory, Culture, and Practice$
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Anshu Malhotra and Farina Mir

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780198078012

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198078012.001.0001

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Being Middle Class in Late Colonial Punjab

Being Middle Class in Late Colonial Punjab

Chapter:
(p.320) 11 Being Middle Class in Late Colonial Punjab
Source:
Punjab Reconsidered
Author(s):

Markus Daechsel

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198078012.003.0049

Whilst a ‘middle class’ identity is easily discernable in contemporary Punjabi culture, it is far harder to pinpoint in colonial Punjab. The political economy of the pre-Partition province was structured around considerations of stable landownership, military recruitment, and the production of cash crops. This framework encouraged the growth of a substantial service stratum in administrative and commercial centres, but also imposed strict limits on the extent to which this new social constituency could feel and speak as a ‘middle class’. The emergence of social and religious reformism in vernacular print-culture — which is often identified as the crystallization of a new middle-class-ness in other parts of India — was in the Punjab part and parcel of this straightjacket of elite control. A middle-class could emerge in late colonial Punjab, but unlike its later manifestations in the age of development, it could only ever exist as a divided, tortured and self-hating formation.

Keywords:   middle class, Punjabi culture, political economy, religious reformism, print culture, colonial Punjab

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