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Framed, Blamed and Renamed: The Recasting of Islamic Jurisprudence in Colonial South Asia



A system should be formed, which shall preserve as much as possible can be done, their institutions and laws to the natives of Hindoostan, and attemper them with the mild spirit of British government.—John Bruce

Jurisprudence is the nexus where authoritative texts, cultural assumptions, and political expediency come together during a crisis. It is therefore not so much a thing or a system as it is an experience, an interpretative experience. Yet the practice of jurisprudence is very different from other types of interpretation because it is also an exertion of power. A legal interpretation is a decision which mobilizes coercive forces to immediately solidify the interpretation into a social reality. The administrative structure of courts and the legal rhetoric that flows through them disguise jurisprudence as ‘a system’ rather than revealing its nature as an interpretative experience; this disguise serves to heighten the authority of these exercises of power and to limit the ability to contest them to specialists.



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