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Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Vinayak Chaturvedi(Author)

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Initially inspired by Antonio Gramsci's writings on the history of subaltern classes, the Subaltern Studies authors adopted a "history from below" paradigm to contest "elite" history writing of Indian nationalists. Later the Project shifted away from its social history origins by drawing upon eclectic thinkers such as Edward Said, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. This volume is the first comprehensive balance-sheet of the project, presenting a collection of the most important writing from the last two decades and focusing the key debates between the main scholars in the field. The collection begins with the original manifesto of the Subaltern Studies project, by Ranajit Guha. In the following contributions Partha Catterjee and David Arnold, two of the founding members of the Subaltern Studies collective, examine concepts from Marx to Gramsci embedded in the writing of Indian peasant history. Critiques of the Subaltern project from C. A. Bayly, Rajnarayan Chandavarka, Rosalind O'Hanlon and Tom Brass set the terms for the controversies around which the book is organized. Marxist and deconstructionist tendencies cross and clash in the exchange between O'Hanlon, David Washbrook and the Subalternist Gyan Prakash. Sumit Sarkar charts the contemporary direction of Subaltern Studies in its movement away from a set of Marxist concerns, and Dipesh Chakrabarty and Gyanendra Pandey respond with a spirited defence of these new directions, criticizing not only Marxism but the whole idea of history as Eurocentric. The volume concludes with an interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on the future of the Subaltern Studies project and its vexed relationship with Marxism and Feminism

Vinayak Chaturvedi is a Professor of History at the University of California in Irvine.

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Book details

  • PDF | 320 pages
  • Vinayak Chaturvedi(Author)
  • Verso Books (31 May 2000)
  • English
  • 4
  • Society, Politics & Philosophy

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Review Text

  • By George on 25 September 2008

    This book can be methodologically quite challenging, and is therefore unlike the general Subaltern Studies series which are historical works. This collection of writings includes many important theoretical works that critique the Subaltern Studies series and its attempt to locate the subaltern.Following Subaltern Studies Vol. III subalternity has been understood as a position of critique that resides within elite discourses. A resistance that contests the forces that subordinates it. Therefore the location of subaltern identities depends upon poststructuralist critiques and the concept of difference. Thus the subaltern's `will` is to be found in the gaps, absences and silences of traditional historiographical narratives.By reading colonial records against the grain, the subaltern historians have sought to locate the myths, ideologies and resistance of the subaltern which traditional historiography had sought to erase and repress from their narratives. Through this process Subaltern studies attempts to challenge the elite bias and the eurocentric nature of traditional historiography. Rosalind O'Hanlon has offered perhaps the most concise critique of this attempt to `recover the subject`. O'Hanlon has argued, this absence of the subaltern within historical discourses has led to a simple reversal, by the subaltern historians, who thereby insert narratives into the silence and omissions of elite narratives. Which constitutes a process of ``filling up`: of making an absence into presences. As such the attempt to recover the experience of the subaltern is viewed as a deeply problematic reconstruction. This reversal (or Deconstruction) that attempts to formulate a history of the subaltern's own, is, according to O'Hanlon, in constant danger of recourse to essentialism. For the subaltern studies project seeks to affirm an essence upon which to establish solid ground for truth claims, much in the way that feminist historiography attempted to appropriate a women's history.Critiques of subaltern studies have focused on its failure to solve issues of representation or adequately provide evidence for its reading against the grain methodology. Whilst the subaltern studies methodology does not provide affirmative truth, this trait is inherent in the deeply problematic nature of the discipline of history. Nevertheless, the subaltern historians do succeed in challenging a number of features of traditional historiography and by reading against the grain, open up new possibilities that can challenge the political nature of traditional historiographical knowledge production.


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