CONFÉRENCE DE RADHIKA SINGHA – Vendredi 13 mai 2016 à 17h

Habituality in crime

Preventive policing in colonial India 1871-1924

Discutants :

Daniela Berti (CNRS – Centre d’Études Himalayennes)

Fabien Provost (Université Paris Ouest)

Vendredi 13 mai 2016 de 17h à 18h30

Amphithéâtre Claude Lévi-Strauss Collège de France – Site Cardinal Lemoine 52 rue du Cardinal Lemoine Paris 5e

La conférence aura lieu en anglais.

Pour prolonger cette conférence, un repas convivial aura lieu (à la charge des participants) au Restaurant Kathmandu 22 Rue des Boulangers, 75005 Paris

Inscription obligatoire pour le dîner (avant le 7 mai 2016)



This talk examines the laws, paperwork and protocols of colonial preventive’ policing. In the reconstruction of rule after the 1857 rebellion in India, a dual but intersecting pathway emerged for dealing with those suspected of habituality in crime: the bad livelihood provisions of the Criminal Procedure code and the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. The first involved a judicial proceeding, not a trial for a specific offence. On the basis of evidence of ‘general repute or otherwise a magistrate could demand ‘security for good behaviour’. Failure to provide this security, could result in jail terms ranging from a year to three years and long term liability thereafter to police surveillance. Under the Criminal Tribes Act there was no reference to the courts at all. To bring a particular community or a section of it under the operation of the Criminal Tribes Act a provincial government had to declare that its members persisted in non-bailable crimes .This resulted in a regime of roll-calls, surveillance and forced restriction to a locality. In contrast therefore to the English Habitual Offender Act (1869) and the Prevention of Crime Act (1871) which focussed mainly on the ex- convict, these provisions created an immensely more flexible and wide-ranging field for police surveillance.

‘Habituality’ in crime became the subject of debate and discussion in India at the same time that the figure of the recidivist began to dominate anxieties about crime in Britain and and Europe. I have suggested that similarities and comparisons should be drawn, not by focusing on the Criminal Tribes Act alone, but by examining the construction of habituality in the general law as well and in the institutional context of the jail. Yet I conclude by suggesting that in the aftermath of World War one it was indeed the Criminal Tribes Settlement, which along with borstals for juveniles, allowed the colonial regime to claim a treatment- oriented dimension for its police and penal regime and to place itself in the current of international discussions about penal reform.

Pour tout renseignement : provost.fabien [at]