This essay explores how the British imperial archive of cannabis addiction in the mid-nineteenth century was shaped by ideas of religious devotion, ordinary leisure, and anxieties arising from revolt and rebellion. It asks how cannabis was discursively constituted as ubiquitous in India and subsequently cast as a conduit to anti-imperial violence in narratives of imperial counterinsurgency. In colonial India, British imperial strategies of knowing the plant’s intoxicating power indexed together several devotional and laboring bodies, among whom the figure of the Indian rebel occupied a unique globally legible location. Revisiting the popular reportage and writing on the Indian Rebellion, this essay argues that cannabis was materialized through the rebel’s body as the rationale for victory, loss, and disorder to ultimately inform and reveal how the reproduction of race and gender shaped the insurgent and counterinsurgent logic of cannabis use under empire.

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