'A State of Affairs which is Essentially Indefinite': The Linguistic Survey of India (1894-1927)
Historians of colonial India have argued that cartography was central to colonial power in India; maps came to define the British empire's authority in the subcontinent. The effectiveness of imperial geography made India a concrete entity for both British colonialists and Indian nationalists, for whom India came to be a single and coherent geographical entity whose boundaries coincided with those of the subcontinent. This article argues that the geographical imagining of India in the Linguistic Survey of India (1894-1927) was in conflict with these colonial and nationalist mappings of India. It complicated the notion of India as a single, coherent, self-referential geography, and in doing so it centralised India in a global linguistic geography. Its cartographical exercises were at odds with the colonial state's investment in a particular geographical image of India, and with the canonical nationalist geographical imagining of India as a multilingual entity as expressed in the Report of the State Reorganization Commission of 1955.