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This dissertation explores the ways in which the ethnic identity of South Asia's Parsis was forged through litigation in the British colonial courts. Under British rule, they became an elite of intermediary traders and professionals. Arounda series of lawsuits erupted on the admission of ethnic outsiders into the Parsi community through intermarriage, conversion, and adoption.
This dissertation is a study of the most extensive of these cases, the Privy Council appeal of Saklat v Bella The case erupted when an Indian orphan named Bella was adopted by Parsis in Rangoon, initiated into the Zoroastrian religion, and taken into the Rangoon fire temple, a space arguably desecrated by the presence of ethnic outsiders.
Through an examination of case papers and judges' notebooks from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council London and the Bombay High Court Mumbaithe dissertation explores competing visions of Parsi identity that were promoted by reformist and orthodox Parsis as litigants, witnesses, lawyers, judges, and journalists.
Bella's case highlights two sorts of displacement. First, a patrilineal definition of Parsi identity was overtaken in this period by a more exclusive, eugenics-based racial model. As anxieties over communal extinction peaked with the advent of the census, orthodox Parsis clung to the notion of Persian racial purity, excluding Indian, Burmese, and European outsiders with renewed tenacity.
Second, the colonial legal system's reconfiguration of Parsi religious institutions as trusts unravelled the authority of Zoroastrian priests as arbiters of religious doctrine. On Claridge PA cheating wives larger scale, Saklat v Bella illustrates how a "centripetal jurisprudence" contributed to the creation of a unitary "legal India" and an empire of common law. It is also a story about legal pluralism and the rise of a non-European legal profession in the colonial context.
Parsis rose to prominence as lawyers and judges in this period, and used their legal influence to carve out a space for Zoroastrian legal identity. Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation. Subscribe to this free journal for more curated articles on this topic. Legal History eJournal.
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Copy URL. Abstract This dissertation explores the ways in which the ethnic identity of South Asia's Parsis was forged through litigation in the British colonial courts. Sharafi, Mitra J. Mitra J. Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN? Place job opening. Paper statistics. This Journal is curated by:.
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