Cover of Labors of Division by Navyug Gill
Labors of Division
Global Capitalism and the Emergence of the Peasant in Colonial Panjab
Navyug Gill

January 2024
264 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503636958
Paperback ISBN: 9781503637498



The peasant has long been one of the most durable figures in modern history and the site of intense intellectual and political debate. Yet underlying much of the literature is the assumption that peasants simply existed everywhere, a general if not generic group, traced backward from modernity to antiquity. Focused on the transformation of Panjab during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this book accounts for the colonial origins of global capitalism through a radical history of the concept of "the peasant," demonstrating how seemingly fixed hierarchies were in fact produced, legitimized, and challenged within the preeminent agricultural region of South Asia. Navyug Gill uncovers how and why British officials and ascendant Panjabis disrupted existing forms of identity and occupation to generate a new agrarian order in the countryside. The notion of the hereditary caste peasant engaged in timeless cultivation thus emerged, paradoxically, as a result of a dramatic series of conceptual, juridical, and monetary divisions.

Far from casting them as archaic relics, this book ultimately reveals both the landowning peasant and landless laborer to be novel political subjects forged through the encounter between colonialism and struggles over culture and capital within Panjabi society. With this history, Gill brings difference and contingency to understandings of the global past in order to rethink the itinerary of comparative political economy and imagine alternative possibilities for emancipatory futures.

About the author

Navyug Gill is Assistant Professor of History at William Paterson University.