Scholarship on modern South Asia, even in accounting for the fragility and capriciousness of colonial authority and exploring tensions between popular sovereignty and politics on the ground, tends to regard colonial or national states and institutions as the sole repositories of formal sovereignty. A nuanced understanding of the historical and contemporary political, social, and cultural terrain of South Asia requires a broader conceptual framework that accounts for the multiple idioms and practices of sovereignty in the region and their legacies up until the present. This introduction seeks to hack through the rigid and monolithic concepts of stateness that shape colonial and postcolonial thought about political sovereignty. The special section as a whole provides empirical examples and conceptual reflections that broaden scholarly understandings of genealogies and modalities of modern sovereignty in South Asia, and in a comparative framework stretching across world regions, scholarly disciplines, and periods.

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