|Title:||Riot, religion, remembrance: The partition of India and its aftermath, 1947-1997|
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Consulting Curator, University Museum
Faculty Fellow, Center for the Advanced Study of India
University of Pennsylvania
The Guggenheim Award allowed me to complete a dissertation through the University of Chicago's Department of Anthropology. A book manuscript drawing on the dissertation is in final preparation. It is entitled The Idea of India: Partition, Migration and Time in Bengal 1947-1997. An overview of the book is below. Other publications that have been produced, directly or indirectly, as a result of the support I received from Guggenheim follows after that.
This manuscript operates at three interrelated levels. First, it is a study of the Partition of India in 1947, the population displacement precipitated by it and its contemporary consequences. The Partition and 'its' population displacement have been understudied over the years. Although there has been some redress of late, the focus of these recent studies have typically been on either i) the "high politics" of the Partition, ii) the Panjab 'wing' of the Partition, rather than on Bengal, or iii) Hindu-Muslim relations. This thesis focuses attention on the experience of Partition at a more 'popular' level and, moreover, highlights the process in Bengal. More precisely, attention is given to the upper-class, upper-caste Bengali Hindu bhadralok who were displaced by the Partition, from East Bengal to Calcutta, typically.
According to Partha Chatterjee, Indian nationalism is characterized by a distinction it draws between an "inner" realm of cultural authenticity and spirituality, and an "outer" realm of modern governance and material relations. I take his argument as a point of departure and examine the protean nature of this relation between the "inner" and the "outer" over time and in various contexts. How is the inner domain constituted before Partition, and during the peak of the nationalist movement? How are the inner and outer reformulated during and after the Partition, especially in the context of the displacement of the (East Bengali) bhadralok, and their consequent loss of status? I suggest that Partha Chatterjee's post-structuralist presuppositions do not allow him to see the ways in which these relations of difference, in the nationalist movement, are overlapping.
At a second level, the manuscript explores how representations and practices of, in particular, temporality are deployed in the process of constructing (or contesting) the inner/outer dichotomy. Like any collectivity, the bhadralok construct and engage various (often intersecting or 'articulating') 'temporal imaginaries.' Through time (and in both senses) the bhadralok represented themselves as the brokers of India as a nation: they would, they thought, bring together the modern and the authentic, the universal and the particular, by virtue of their very bhadrata (bhadra-ness, or "respectability"). Yet the very moment of national emancipation was accompanied by dislocation -- of persons, of narratives, of nationalist identities -- undermining the bhadralok's claims to be central to, indeed the flagship of, Indian nationalism. Here again I ask, in what ways did they rework their sense of inner/outer, and of their own centrality in history? How do they interpret and respond their own sudden losses? I examine the temporal aspects of the nationalist claim and, moreover, its overlapping relations with aspects of both everyday life and broader activities of polity building.
At the third and most theoretical level, the book explores the relationships between human agency, human consciousness, and human science. Following R. G. Collingwood I argued that cultural (re)production should be seen as a product of human agency. Human agency refers to the capacity of people to formulate and pursue their ideals and, in doing so, effecting and affecting social reality. Agency entails the possibility of choosing between different courses of action, and in the course of action altering their own content. Thus, a focus on human agency yields an analysis which foregrounds forms of action rather than states of being. This, however, is not to say that the consequences of action will follow any(one's) particular 'blueprint' or agenda, for there are always unintended consequences and unexpected events to be contended with. At this third level, the dissertation argues for the viability of R. G. Collingwood's notion of a scale of forms for social analysis generally and for an understanding of the (displaced) bhadralok in particular. The scale of forms is a unique notion of system, in which the system's 'parts' have overlapping and changing relations with each other. The scale of forms analysis offers advantages over the poststructuralist account of the relation between action and meaning, with its tendency to focus on systems of meaning as inherently unstable (i.e., apart from human action) and characterized by relations of "absence" and "opposition."
Ghosh, Gautam. "Outsiders at Home? The South Asian Diaspora in South Asia." In Everyday Life in South Asia, edited by Mines and Lamb, 326-336. Indiana University Press, 2002.
Ghosh, Gautam. "Introduction: Citizens of Partition." Partition, Unification, Nation: Imagined Moral Communities in Modernity, edited by Gautam Ghosh. Special Issue of Social Analysis 42(1) (1998): 3-16.
Ghosh, Gautam. "God is a Refugee: Nationality, Morality and History in the 1947 Partition of India." Partition, Unification, Nation: Imagined Moral Communities in Modernity, edited by Gautam Ghosh. Special Issue of Social Analysis 42(1) (1998): 33-62.