Paul Staniland, Adnan Naseemullah

Indirect Rule and Varieties of Governance

This article reexamines the venerable concept of indirect rule. We argue, drawing on evidence from colonial and postcolonial South Asia, that indirect rule actually represented a diverse set of governance forms that need to be clearly distinguished. Using a new typology of varieties of governance, we show that colonial governments established suzerainhybrid, and de jure governance, in addition to direct rule across territories, based on the incentives and constraints of the state. The repertoire of governance forms narrowed and changed but did not disappear during decolonization, showing that the postcolonial state had powerful reasons to maintain forms of heterodox governance. Dramatic shifts, alongside enduring continuity, challenge a simple narrative of path dependence and the adherence to tradition, instead showing that governments have made conscious choices about how to govern. We conclude by discussing the implications of these arguments for broader understandings of state power.

Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions

The University of Chicago