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Sinha, Nitin; Jha, Pankaj

Tracing Historical Forms of Servitude: Introductory Remarks and Elementary Reflections

Taylor & Francis online, 2022

South Asian History and Culture

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/19472498.2022.2050025
Abstract

History of domestic service in South Asia is beginning to attract scholars but a rich historiography around it is still distant and difficult. The forms of servitude are different across different times, places and contexts. The sources available to scholars for specific sites and moments in history are marked by extreme diversity of language, genre, concerns, and vantage points. Studies based on exploration of particular kinds of texts across dissimilar contexts make for a good beginning. Using insights from apparently disjointed explorations of servitude in uneven locales, we sketch a tentative template to study changing patterns of service relations and their articulations in the long duration beginning with the early modern period and reaching up to our own times. The study of domestic service yields empathetic vignettes of lives of domestic servants. They also yield insights on various forms of servitude and their centrality to social and economic relationships in a manner that can potentially upset the set historiographic paradigms of work, leisure, household, labour and ‘labour laws’ in the early modern and modern periods.