|Title:||The Production of India: Colonialism, Nationalism, Territorial Nativism, 1870-1920|
Department of History
New York University
My project recovers the multiple and densely intertwined processes by which the conception of India as a bounded national space and economy was brought into being historically. From the moment of its emergence in the late nineteenth century, Indian nationalism assumed the existence of an already given national space, namely, India as Bharat (the Hindu-Hindi term for the nation). It also assumed a spatial correspondence between the imagined nations' history, culture, people, and economy. Previous studies of Indian nationalism have presupposed rather than examined the historical production of conceptions of India as a bounded national space and economy. They have ignored both the radical historical novelty and the enduring ideological imprint of nationalist categories. The Production of National Space traces the global, socioeconomic and cultural transformations that made possible conceptions of India as a bounded national space and economy, ca 1858-1920. By exploring this previously unexamined question, it provides a new account of the emergence and contradictory character of Indian nationalism.
Moving beyond the so-called "cultural turn" in studies of colonialism and nationalism, I locate the production of a nativist nationalist project in the profoundly uneven character of colonial space as lived and reworked by both elite and subaltern colonial subjects. The production and experience of colonial space in multiple arenas----including the racialized experience of railway journeys, the deepening of socioeconomic and regional inequalities, the generalization of novel experiences of space-time, and the intensified commodification of land---transformed both the socioeconomic geography of colonial India and popular understandings of temporality, space, sovereignty and identity. The lived experience of colonial space, in tandem with key global shifts, spawned a dynamic process of the appropriation of colonial space as national space during the 1860s and 1870s. By the turn of the century, the conception of India as a bounded national space became deeply engraved in everyday interpretive frames and practices from the consolidation of specifically Hindu renderings of India as Bharat in vernacular scholarly debate and pedagogy to the formation of an insurgent nationalist political economy to the new repertoires of collective contention authored by the swadeshi movement. Indian nationalists sought to overcome the problem of unevenness through the wholesale nationalization of socioeconomic and cultural space. In this regard, the Indian nationalist project was irreducibly part of a global dynamic between processes of capitalist restructuring and nationalization in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century era.
However, an unacknowledged tension between a universalistic conception of national development and a particularistic, specifically Hindu understanding of nationhood haunted the realization of the self-understood goals of the nationalist project. On the one hand, nationalism sought to forge a lived equivalence between an imagined national people, economy, and space. Yet, at the same moment, it privileged the criterion of territorial origin in defining nationality. As a result, Hindus were identified as the original, organic core nationals with an immediate, organic and natural relationship to the imagined nation. Within this territorial nativist vision of nationhood, Muslims were regarded either as a foreign body within the internal space of the nation or, as the particularity defined against the self-understood universality of nationalist discourse. Territorial nativism was not an atavistic throwback; it did not posit a primordial religious content as the basis of nationhood. It was grounded upon a specifically modern and historicist understanding of the interrelations between history, territory and identity, one that continues to besiege the nation form as much as contemporary Indian politics. More than 50 years after the realization of independence, India remains the locus of a desperately felt, and increasingly bloody, argument. It is the very idea of India as a bounded national space and economy, as first elaborated in the late nineteenth century, which has made possible both a language of national unity and engendered terrifying violence and social conflict.
By placing Indian nationalism within and against the lived experience of colonial space and broader processes of global restructuring, this book renders visible the material and transnational coordinates of particular national spaces. In so doing, it shows that social spaces----colonial and national, political and economic, material and imagined---do not emerge from self-evident geographies, nor do they exist in mutual isolation. Rather social spaces and imaginings of space are co-constituted through the superimposition of socioeconomic structures, state practices, collective agency and everyday experiences on multiple spatial scales and temporal horizons.
Goswami, Manu. Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space,2004,
University of Chicago Press.
Goswami, Manu. "From Swadeshi to Swaraj: Nation, Economy, and Territory in Colonial India," Comparative Studies in Society and History, October, 1998.