Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772–1947

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Cambridge University Press, Apr 21, 2014 - History
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This book explores the legal culture of the Parsis, or Zoroastrians, an ethnoreligious community unusually invested in the colonial legal system of British India and Burma. Rather than trying to maintain collective autonomy and integrity by avoiding interaction with the state, the Parsis sank deep into the colonial legal system itself. From the late eighteenth century until India's independence in 1947, they became heavy users of colonial law, acting as lawyers, judges, litigants, lobbyists, and legislators. They de-Anglicized the law that governed them and enshrined in law their own distinctive models of the family and community by two routes: frequent intra-group litigation often managed by Parsi legal professionals in the areas of marriage, inheritance, religious trusts, and libel, and the creation of legislation that would become Parsi personal law. Other South Asian communities also turned to law, but none seems to have done so earlier or in more pronounced ways than the Parsis.

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Colonial Parsis Go to Court
Two Patterns
The Inheritance Acts
The Matrimonial Acts
The Parsi Chief Matrimonial
Religious Trusts and
Libel Race and Group
Law and Identity

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About the author (2014)

Mitra Sharafi is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, with an affiliation appointment in history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She holds law degrees from the University of Cambridge (BA, 1998) and the University of Oxford (BCL, 1999), and history degrees from McGill University (BA, 1996) and Princeton University (PhD, 2006). She served as a Research Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, from 2005 to 2007. Sharafi's research has been supported and recognized by the Institute for Advanced Study (through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council. Her book manuscript was the winner of the Mellon-sponsored 'First Book' workshop at the University of Wisconsin in 2010–11. In 2007, her dissertation (also on Parsi legal history) was awarded the Canadian South Asia Council's Dissertation Award Grand Prize.

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