A Region in Time: The Underdevelopment of 20th century Hyderabad-Karnataka

A Region in Time: The Underdevelopment of 20th century Hyderabad-Karnataka
Swathi Shivanand


This thesis is a regional history of Hyderabad-Karnataka. It studies the processes of region-making in the period of twentieth century in South India by focussing on the consolidation of linguistic regions in Hyderabad state, the dissolution of the Asaf Jahi regime, the creation of the linguistic state of Mysore/Karnataka, the consolidation of Hyderabad-Karnataka as an ‘underdeveloped’ and ‘backward’ region within the new state and the implications of these designations on the material and affective lives of the region’s inhabitants.

In its account of Hyderabad state, the thesis shows how the register of development was deployed by majoritarian Hindu discourses to consolidate the notion of an oppressive and backward Muslim state, and later to press for its disintegration along linguistic lines. This was vainly contested, the thesis shows, by the developmental state in Hyderabad which highlighted its efforts at effecting improvements in the fields of agriculture, industry and education and undertaking large-scale irrigation projects such as the Tungabhadra dam. Yet it is this impression of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region as backward because of its history as a constituent region of the Asaf Jahi state which informed its reception into the Kannada state.

In its account of Karnataka, the thesis demonstrates the ways in which the contemporary linguistic state has functioned through the mode of marginalisation—of Hyderabad-Karnataka’s histories within narratives of the new state; of its peoples within governmental structures of bureaucracy and within political representations; and of the region’s interests in favour of the needs of nation and capital.

By bringing together the histories of multiple spatial entities, this thesis proposes regions as the appropriate spatial scales for an interrogation of the territorial, political and affective histories of developmental regimes. By studying the discursive modalities through which designations of ‘underdeveloped’ and ‘backward’ are consolidated in the case of Hyderabad, and consequently Hyderabad-Karnataka, the thesis draws attention to the intertwined operations of Hindu majoritarian discourses, of linguistic homogeneity discourses and of nationalist history writing projects within a regime of development in twentieth-century India. Finally, by detailing the experiential lives of migrants from Hyderabad-Karnataka in Bangalore, the thesis studies the ways in which people appropriate spaces such as the city and village through affective and rights-based registers and co-opt as well as challenge notions of backwardness They do so even as their lives are overdetermined by structural inequities of extractive regimes. Through the course of the thesis, the effort has been to explore and elaborate on the discursive edifice that sustains and perpetuates backwardness within developmental regimes and the various challenges that are posed to it.


Swathi Shivanand

PhD defended at

Not yet defended; submitted to Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


Social Sciences


South Asia