The Pre Twentieth Century Gorkha State Essay

1104 words - 4 pages

The pre-twentieth century Gorkha state can be thought of us segmentary in Aidan Southall’s sense as opposed to a unitary state, which is more common in modern twenty first century western states, as vectors of power and identity, as expressed through political sovereignty and ritual suzerainty, don’t overlap. A core component of segmentary state is the incorporation Karl Marx’s proposed Asiatic mode of production, in which the king maintains a fixed core with peripheral domains in order to enforce the political sovereignty over a wide area. Similarly Southall maintains that religion encompasses a flexible periphery and thereby is an expression of ritual suzerainty, amongst the Gorkha states however the ritual domain is restricted to a central geographically fixed area. According to Southall political sovereignty remains geographically fixed where as amongst the Gorkha political sovereignty tends towards flexible movement of borders and territory.

Southall defined the segmentary state, as “one in which there is a central kinship and many peripheral rulers” , this is similar to Karl Marx’s model of the Asiatic mode of production. Put forward by Karl Marx in 1858, the Asiatic mode of production is one of oriental despotism, in which outlying villages pay tribute to the central core domain. Among the Gorkha the Asiatic mode of production is expressed from his ability to collect revenue from local “big men”. The Alur express political sovereignty through prestation of elephant tusks, lion and leopard skins and cattle to the ruler during key occasions.

Although political sovereignty refers to the ability to coerce a population through the use of political means such as the military, political sovereignty was expressed among the Gorkha’s however through a system of taxation. Political sovereignty amongst the Gorkha is expressed not as a core fixed domain as put forth by Southall, but instead as a flexible boundary in which the ruler was viewed almost a landlord, assigning or auctioning rights regarding land to subjects. The rights to the land were agreed upon through a contractual agreement and could be renewed or renegotiated annually during the Dashara festival. The subjects, which could therefore be considered tenants of a sort would then supply the ruler with surplus in the form of taxation and could be submitted either through revenue collectors or as in the case of the local ‘big men’ individually. Moreover as these boundaries were flexible occasionally tenants would find themselves forced to submit taxes to two separate rulers, when their domains overlapped, membership within a polity was therefore as shown not restricted to one ruler.

Southall maintained that ritual suzerainty “extends towards a flexible changing periphery” . Whereas amongst the Alur ritual suzerainty is expressed through the hiving-off process, in which the King sends off his sons either through a system of banishment or staged kidnapping to act as extensions of Kings...

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