Following Richard Burton: Religious Identity and Difference in Colonial Sindh
Richard Burton, soldier, ethnographer, translator, philologist, and colonial intelligence-gatherer spent the early years of his career in Sindh and was the first and primary colonial ethnographer of Sindh. Burton was clearly attracted to the ecumenical complexity of Sindhi religious practice but was hostile in his descriptions of Sindh’s Hindus whom he viewed as a corrupt and scheming “race,” subjecting the Muslims of the province to their tyranny. The article examines how Burton’s racialised ethnographies of Sindh cast Sindh as distinct from “India” and Hindus as outsider immigrants to the province. Paradoxically, Burton’s narratives also created Sindh as the space par excellence of the negation of religious categories. However, this categorisation of Sindh also highlighted it as a space distinct from India. In conclusion, the article shows how the idea of Sindh’s separate identity maintained a strong afterlife in colonial Sindh, rearticulated in certain key contexts.