The Currency of Kinship: Trading Families and Trading on Family in Colonial French India
In the French colony of Pondichéry, French and local actors alike drew on the shared idiom of kinship to strategically advance their political and commercial agendas. Recent scholarship has shown that the structures of family underlay early modern European state building and imperial expansion. This essay deploys this insight in the colonial context, to examine how indigenous families in the Tamil region entered into the European colonial project. For native commercial brokers, involvement with European newcomers could actually strengthen local family ties. Simultaneously, French employees of the Compagnie des Indes were eager to insert themselves into Tamil networks and did so by deploying public and inscribed performances of kinship.