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Empires of ViceThe Rise of Opium Prohibition across Southeast Asia$
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Diana S. Kim

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691172408

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691172408.001.0001

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“Morally Wrecked” in British Burma, 1870s–1890s

“Morally Wrecked” in British Burma, 1870s–1890s

Chapter:
(p.91) 4 “Morally Wrecked” in British Burma, 1870s–1890s
Source:
Empires of Vice
Author(s):

Diana S. Kim

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691172408.003.0004

This chapter focuses on Burma in the 1870s. It traces a twenty-year process through which the British colonial state came to define a crisis of “moral wreckage” caused by opium and introduced an opium monopoly, while enacting an unprecedented ban on Burmese opium consumption in 1894. The chapter argues that the ideas and everyday work of on-site officials guided British Burma's reforms by constructing an official problem of “moral wreckage” that posited opium consumption as causing the ruin of 11 percent of the indigenous Burmese population. This specific narrative and number had a distinctive genealogy within the bureaucracy, which the chapter traces using a diverse range of records that capture the multilevel nature of paperwork that administrators generated across the colony's jail and prisons, as well as departments for excise, customs, public health, and finance relating to opium. It thus shows how these actors haphazardly produced a particular strand of colonial knowledge that claimed privileged authenticity based on direct observation and physical proximity that guided the introduction of the 1894 Burma Amendment to the 1878 All India Opium Act and the creation of opium consumer registries.

Keywords:   Burma, British Burma, Burmese opium consumption, moral wreckage, colonial knowledge, 1894 Burma Amendment, opium consumer registries

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